Hello Stranger!…and Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

Here I am, trying to ignore the elephant in the room again (ie the not blogging).  Honestly, I write blog posts all the time in my head, I just forget to actually, properly write them….and to take photos.  Oh well.IMG_20150701_112936The garden is ticking along nicely, although it’s wilting in the high temperatures we’ve been getting here in the South.

IMG_20150701_112946

I was lucky enough to be taken to Hampton Court Flower Show last week.  I’d love to write lots of fabulous things about it but the honest truth was we spent most of the day complaining, like true Brits, about how hot it was. We rushed through the Country Living tent, stopped briefly at the roses (the only photos I took, and on my phone), dashed (or in our case, slowly dragged our sweating bodies – nice!) past the show gardens before relaxing in the Allium Restaurant with its air conditioning for lunch, and attempting not to stare at the poor lady who had collapsed in the heat, and was being attended to by St Johns Ambulance.IMG_20150701_113010We then stepped back outside into tropical temperatures, decided we were too Northern in blood to cope and went home.IMG_20150701_113014I did buy gin though and some AMAZING pies from Simple Simon’s Perfect Pies that were the best pies ever.DSC_0158In the garden the fruit is ready to go.  I managed to steal some of the cherries from the birds and mice for the first time in years, they could have done with a few days longer, but I know the pesky pigeons will strip them in an afternoon, just as I’m about to pick them, as that always happens and I decided not to wait.  The variety is Lapins and I planted the tree when we moved here after also planting the same variety in our old garden and being amazed be the fruit flavour.IMG_20150703_143131

There are alpine strawberries, pink gooseberries, blackcurrants and soon the redcurrants will be ready.  In the veg patch I have lettuce, spring onions, peas, spinach, chard, radish, courgettes, beetroot and I’m sure lots more that I can’t remember right now.

Although I don’t have any photos to pretty this up, I have discovered the most amazing recipe for ice cream and wanted to share.  It came about as I had a jar of lemon curd as a freebie and I wanted to use it up as it’s been in the store cupboard for months.  The recipe is pulled from a number I found on-line and merged together to work for me and what I had in at the time.  I usually make a custard base for my ice cream but I enjoyed this method and taste so much, I’m going to adapt my usual Blackcurrant Ripple to something similar.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

1 jar of lemon curd (approx 320g)

500ml – 600ml double cream (the cartons come in 600ml here, so I used the entire thing)

200ml (ish) natural yohurt

3 tablespoons honey

1 lemon (juice and zest)

meringues…..sorry, no exact amount.  I bought a shop made box of 8 nests and used 4 per batch of ice cream

Method

It’s all a bit taste as you go along and alter, but I found that the exact amounts didn’t matter too much (ie I think I might have used more like 250ml yoghurt as my cartons come in 125 each).

Pop your ice cream maker in the freezer as per its instructions (mine needs to go in the day before).

Whip the cream.  Fold in the yoghurt, just over half of the lemon curd and then add the lemon zest and honey.  Taste and add the lemon juice and check it tastes nice (add more honey or extra lemon juice, if you like).

Gently pour into your ice cream maker.  Once it’s nearly ready, tip in your gently broken up meringues or fold them in by hand just before putting your ice cream into a freezer container.

As my ice cream maker produces quite a sloppy mix, I pop it in the freezer at this point and then once it’s stiffened up a bit, I swirl through the rest of the lemon curd.  If I add it when it’s too soft, it just sinks to the bottom of the container.  There is always the chance I forget this last stage, then you don’t get those delicious swirls of sherbety lemon curd running though the ice cream, which is a bit of a bummer..

The boys have declared this the best ice cream yet so that says it all!

I’m off to visit Hever Castle today so no doubt it’ll rain all day for the first time in weeks.  Still, I’m really looking forward to a day chatting with friends and imagining Anne Boleyn strutting her stuff in the rooms.

Advertisements

Sweetcorn…

We have just eaten the first of the sweetcorn from the garden.  I waited, patiently, for the silks to turn totally brown before picking the first ears, although I couldn’t resist the odd nail into kernel test (you’re looking for a milky liquid to squirt out, if it’s clear they aren’t ready yet) but I know from my impatient past that if I do the nail test too often, it make’s it easier for the earwigs to move in and I do not like earwigs.DSC_0186 I planted the variety Lapwing this April, starting them indoors for planting out after the last frosts.  Only 10 of the plants survived a rabbit attack and instead of the usual 4 per row in my raised beds, I crammed them together in 2 rows of 5.  As this is quite a small area for wind pollination to take place, I gently stroked the top pollen onto the silks each time I passed the plant and in doing so (I like to think!) that I made sure there were no missing kernels (each individual silk has to be pollinated in order to form a kernel, hence the idea that you need to plant in large blocks, ideally 4 x 4 minimum).DSC_0189

If there’s one crop I will always make room for it’s corn, the taste is so amazingly delicious, so much better than anything you could buy.  I’ve mentioned in the past how even my oldest, Felix, will eat a fresh cob of corn and one of his worst nightmare vegetables is frozen or tinned sweetcorn.  As we’re away on and off over the next week or so, I decide to freeze the remaining cobs so they don’t go past their best.  I simply didn’t have time to blanch them and one recommendation I found is to leave a couple of leaves in place and freeze the corn raw, so this is what I’ve done.  I’ll be interested to see how they taste once cooked directly from the freezer.

That’s all 🙂

We’re having a heatwave…

I started writing this post on July 16th, but the title still stands, we are most definitely still feeling the heat here in the UK.  It’s left the grass brown and the flower borders are struggling, but I have managed to keep the patch vaguely watered and the greenhouse gets a daily dose.DSC_0017 Earlier this month, I was very lucky to be invited along to the Hampton Court Flower Show.  I took some photos on my iPhone, but they aren’t great quality so I’ll skip posting them.  I really enjoyed the show, it’s the second time I’ve been….my main thoughts are there are less show gardens than I expected and they are quite difficult to see after midday, due to the crowds, we were lucky to get around most of them pre-lunch and then zoom through the flower tents afterwards, which are a real treat.  I bought some plants back, mostly for the boys

DSC_0022 C got a new succulent for his room, I was told that if we snap off the flowers, let them dry out for a couple of days then push them into soil, we’ll get new plants, so we are certainly going to try this.  I’d also bought the boys fly catchers, but these have gone into the bathroom so I remember to keep them watered (with rain water only), otherwise I’m sure they’ll be dead in a week.  The grass on the left is ‘bunny tails’ which has, as the name suggests, little fluffy tufts of grass heads on medium stalks.  It’s gone into the giant planter that has sat empty for months, along with herbs but that deserves a post of it’s own.DSC_0034 My crazy mixed bed where I threw all the reminder of the flower seed packets in has been dominated by self-seeded poppies.  They grow all over the garden and I’m making a point of removing the heads so I have a little more control over where they germinate next year.  They are nice, but not quite the shade I would choose.  I prefer darker reds, these are more of a pink hue, still, they do add colour when there isn’t a lot else going on.

DSC_0027The same bed is now full of marigolds (Indian Prince) which also self-seed all over the garden.

DSC_0188These are top of my ‘cut flower’ list so I don’t mind at all, they look a little scruffy in the photo as I’ve just been away for a few days, so the poor garden has dried terribly and no-one has been picking or dead-heading the plants.  You can see a single cornflower trying to push through, and there are nigellas as well, out of shot.
DSC_0195The only flowers I specifically planted that have made it are zinnias (just about to flower) and cosmos.  This chocolate colour was not expected though!  I was sure I’d be getting hot pinks but this might be another self-seeded number as it originally appeared in the gravel and was transplanted to its new spot in the raised bed.

In the next week, I need to get any winter veg started and hopefully we’ll get to eat the corn, potatoes, courgettes and broad beans that are nearly ready.  I HAVE to get some work done outdoors, but the heat is getting to me and I’d rather not go out there unless I have to.

DSC_0061I’m also up against it with my sewing work.  I’ve managed to finish and list this ‘gardening’ apron, but there is so much to get done for the busy season that is Autumn/Winter in the shop.  Too many things and not enough hours, but then isn’t that always the way 🙂

 

Blackcurrants Galore…!

I’ve just spent the majority of the day dealing with this year’s blackcurrant harvest.  If I could only grow one berry bush, this would be it, I love the smell when you brush past the leaves and I can’t think of a nice flavour.

DSC_0152

Last year, I took picking time as an opportunity to also prune the bush, removing older stems to make way for newer ones.  In doing so, I think I rather over-pruned and was a bit worried about how much fruit I’d get this season.  I needn’t have worried, there was plenty, even with my rather rubbish attempt to net the plant that had still allowed the birds to remove half the berries.  Altogether, there was at least 3 kg of very ripe fruit.

DSC_0163

So, what to make?  I’ve got more Cassis and jam than I know what to do with, so we’re back to blackcurrant ripple ice cream again, which is YUMMY so I’ve put aside 1.2kg to make two more batches.  I then searched for new ideas of what to make.  Ice cream always leaves me with left over egg whites, so the obvious choice was a Pavlova.  I found a great recipe here, but used my normal method for the Pavlova itself, which is largely taken from Nigella and is as below.

Blackcurrant Pavlova

4 egg whites

225 g caster sugar

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Blackcurrant Puree (see later in the post)

300 ml double cream

200 ml half-fat creme fraiche

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until it is all incorporated. Sprinkle over the vinegar and vanilla extract and whisk again. Mound onto the prepared parchment forming a fat circle approximately 20cm in diameter, with a slightly raised ridge around the edges.
  • Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/gas mark 2/300ºF and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours.  You are aiming for a crisp outside but a soft, mallowy inside.
  • Turn off the oven and open the door slightly,  let the meringue cool completely before removing.

It’s at this stage that I departed from the recipe I linked to above.  It advises gently stewing the berries with sugar and serving the mixture both marbled with whipped cream and some on top.  I did stew the fruit, as advised and tasted it, it was too tart for the boys (M is away at the moment, so it’s just me and the boys for a few days) so I added more sugar then left the topping in the fridge until needed.  On second tasting, I decided that they wouldn’t like the seeds either, so I actually used some of the puree I’d pre-made for ice cream instead.

  • For the topping, mix 300 ml double cream, whipped and 200 ml half-fat creme fraiche (folded gently into the whipped cream) and marble through some blackcurrant puree.

Blackcurrant Puree

600g blackcurrants

60g caster sugar

dribble of water

Method

Mix the above in a pan and gently heat until the berries are very soft.  Cool a little, then push the mixture through a sieve to remove all the pips, resulting in a thick puree.  Taste and add more sugar if required.

(you would only need a fraction of this for a Pavlova leaving more than enough to be mixed into a 4 egg, custard ice cream base mixture, for a ripple ice cream)

DSC_0166

It didn’t look nearly as pretty as berries dripping over white peaks of whipped cream, but oh it was yummy, a total success and probably a new regular favourite, if I can bear the amount of sugar added to the egg whites to make meringue without my teeth aching in protest!

The rest of the berries were made into puree that has been packed in the freezer for ice cream at later dates.

DSC_0160What else?  I made walnut and seed bread using the No Knead method.  It was nice, quite a heavy loaf as I had to use wholemeal flour in place of granary and the ratio was more wholemeal than white, as opposed the normal half and half I would go for.  As I was also planning pizza for tea, I found myself sifting some Wessex Mill Honey & Seed bread flour I found in the cupboard, so that I could use the plain, white flour left behind for pizza base.  It was quite interesting (I thought) to see what has been added to the mix….the little squares are of honey.  I felt guilty ‘wasting’ such lovely artisan flour, but there you go.

DSC_0161The boys were happy though as they LOVE getting to choose their own pizza toppings.  C’s always looks the prettiest with its mix of vegetables, F and I both tend to pile ours high with pepperoni, and in my case, anchovies.  Yum.  Incidentally, I tried making the cauliflower base for M a couple of weekends ago (as he generally doesn’t do carbs, especially flour) it’s been doing the blog rounds so I’m sorry, I’m not sure who did it first but this is the version I used.  It was good, really quite passable as an alternative to a regular flour base and one I’ll be doing for myself in future.

All we need now is some rain for the poor garden.  Although I water the veg patch and greenhouse each day, I leave the rest to survive on its own and to be honest, it’s starting to look very parched.  Roll on those thundery showers we keep being promised!

 

 

April Planting…

DSC_0046

This post started with the title ‘Early April Planting’ but I kept forgetting to publish it – sorry about that!

Moving on with the sowing  lists, as the weather is really quite agreeable I’ve started:

Cucumbers Burpless Tasty Green (I totally forgot to buy any other variety seed)

Courgettes Black Forest & Zephyr

Melon Edonis

Sweetcorn Lapwing

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Gem/Rolet, Queensland Blue, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1 

Peas Twinkle & Purple Mangetouts

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered

Beans Barlotti

I’ve had to reluctantly set mouse traps in the greenhouse.  I’ve tried the live and let live method but the little critters are taking over the veg patch and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow anything without them eating it (the Alpine strawberries) or stealing the seed (any kind of pea or bean), so I’m taking action.

I’ve also started some Thai Basil, Lemon Grass, Parcel, Mint and Coriander (the last two, using seed saved from last year), all in the greenhouse.

The wild garlic planted in giant pots is doing well, it has self seeded all over the floor so I’ve transplanted the seedlings into a pot and I hope to move the lot under the trees, where we recently removed the lower branches to open up the space and allow for a fence.  I already have some bluebells in there and would like to eventually add wood anemones.

DSC_0048 DSC_0053

As it has taken me so long to actually publish this post, it’s now Easter morning (hence the cute guinea pig made by the fabulously talented ‘Miss Bumbles‘ at the top there).  Lucky me, I got a Heston Egg, and very nice it is too.  Sadly the sunshine we’ve been enjoying has given way to rain today, so my photos are shocking, it’s so very dark even up here in my studio (with its wall of glass).  I’ve promised the boys a (in house) egg hunt and then I’ll be cooking a big roast lunch, I should really get on with it!

Happy Easter 🙂

DSC_0135

Getting Ahead For Christmas…

Now we are under that 1 month marker, I’ve started putting things into the freezer for our Christmas Lunch.  It’s only us this year (which has never happened before) so we are having goose and as I don’t fancy spending the day on my own, in the kitchen (our house is sort of open plan-ish so I’m exaggerating here, plus I do actually like cooking, but I plan to spend the morning drinking champers and watching the boys open gifts!), I also had quite a few things about to go out of date, so I figured I’m make up what I could, at this point.

DSC_0026

I’ve talked about this before, but bird of any kind means that bread sauce and the Foster family recipe stuffing balls HAVE to be made.  I also figured that as I regularly make flavoured butter rolls for the freezer (anchovy and capers to go with broccoli, mummmmm) I didn’t see any reason not to make a roll of brandy butter, so I can chop slices off to eat with mince pies as well as some for the pudding on the day itself.  Oh and I also made rum sauce and some 18th Century Chestnut Stuffing, courtesy of Delia, as these, too, freeze really well.

I’ve posted all the recipes before, but ages ago, so here they are again:

Brandy Butter

110g Unsalted Butter

1 Raw Egg Yolk

350g Sifted Icing Sugar

2 Tbls Brandy

Rind of 1 Orange

Cream together the butter, orange rind and half the sugar.  Beat till fluffy, add egg yolk, the rest of sugar and brandy, beat again then chill.

(I have frozen mine rolled in baking parchment, then foil in a long sausage shape, so I can cut off discs to use as and when needed).

Rum Sauce

60g Butter

60g Plain Flour

570ml Whole Milk

50g Caster Sugar

6-8 Tbls Dark Rum (or more!)

Place the butter, flour and milk into a saucepan.  Using a balloon whisk keep stirring the whole time, heat over a medium heat until thickened.

Turn the heat down, stir in the sugar, heat slowly for 10 mins, stirring all the time to ‘cook’ the sauce.  Next, stir in the rum and cover the surface with cling film to stop a skin from forming until ready to serve (needs to be served warm so you can reheat in the pan, or in a microwave, if needed)

DSC_0028

Great Gran Foster’s Stuffing Balls

110g Fresh white breadcrumbs

50g suet (you can use vegetable or beef)

1 x Egg

Fresh or dried thyme (my family all use dried, but I actually prefer fresh)

Lemon rind and juice of half a lemon

Basically mix all the ingredients together, with seasoning, and roll into small balls about the size of a walnut.  Cook for about 30 mins, I usually pour a little oil over then to get them started.

Bread Sauce

1 Lrg onion

15-20 Cloves (depending how ‘clovey’ you like it, less if you’re not keen)

1 Bay Leaf

1 Pint whole milk

2/3 Loaf of white bread, crusts removed and blitzed into crumbs (I used to just cut it roughly with a bread knife into smallish bits when I was a student)

Knob of Butter

Seasoning

Grate of nutmeg, if you fancy it

You basically peel and cut the onion in half then stud with the cloves (I stick a fork in the skin and push the cloves into the holes) add to the milk, with the bay leaf, bring to the boil, take of the heat and leave for at least an hour to infuse.

When you are ready to serve, reheat the milk, remove onion, cloves and bay and add the breadcrumbs (add more milk of needed, or more breadcrumbs, it should be quite thick).  Let it heat through slowly for a while so the bread swells and goes mushy, then season (and grate nutmeg if using) and serve with a blob of butter on top.

My version of Delia’s 18th Century Chestnut Stuffing (I’ve linked to the original at the beginning of this post)

100g Fresh breadcrumbs

200g Cooked Peeled Chestnuts (I use Vacuum packed pre-prepared)

Parsley – good handful

1 Lrg Onion ( diced  and softened in butter and stone cold if you plan to freeze stuffing raw)

330g Sausage Meat (I just use a pack of sausages as I like organic)

100g streaky bacon

Good grating of nutmeg

Use a processor to pulse the breadcrumbs, parsley, chestnuts and seasoning together (not too small) remove and place in a large bowl.

Now use the processor to dice the onion, cook this on a low heat until soft (about 8-10 mins).  Add to the bowl (allow to go completely cold first, if you plan to freeze the stuffing raw) along with the diced bacon (I cut with scissors directly into the bowl) and sausage meat.  Squelch together with your hands and use to stuff the neck of the bird, or cook in a separate dish.  I freeze it raw, ready to de-frost and cook when needed.

Deer Apron Cut Out Shadow

All the above was done with me flouncing about in my new deer apron (made for The Shop).

On a linked note, you would not believe the debate in our house over goose verses turkey for the ‘big day’…..we are all for goose (including my youngest, who is a vegetarian but likes to have a say) except my oldest, who keeps shouting for turkey.  I keep changing my mind, but have to finalise it as the Ocado delivery is booked and I could do without forgetting to remove one from my basket and then find myself paying for both!

I’ve just noticed that it’s snowing on the blog – hurrah! I always get excited when that happens 🙂

Holidays…

Where does this photo look like to you?

IMG_20130809_140716

You see, I immediately thought of Yorkshire (there is no bias here…honest…it’s not that I compare EVERYWHERE to my beloved home, really it isn’t) but the meadows of wild flowers, both in variety and look, totally reminded me of the meadows ‘up Dale’ back home; only they are, in fact, half way up the volcano of Haleakalā in Maui Island, Hawaii, which is where we have just returned from our holidays.

I was pretty gobsmacked when we discovered a lovely lavender farm, at the foot of the volcano, especially as the landscape was a total contrast the the more dry coastal areas we were staying in (or the tropical lushness of the wetter areas of the Island), but when Yorkshire appeared, shortly followed by Scotland (gorse and pine style trees) before turning into Lanzarote (dry lava rocks), I was too busy enjoying myself with the scene changes to get car sick, winding up the mountain road.  Always a bonus.

IMG_20130809_131232

At the top, apart from the amazing views we discovered these beauties.  Instinct (and common sense) said to not touch them but as one was directly next to the car, C gave a nice pose to give an idea of the height.

IMG_20130809_132800

The flowers gave off a heavenly honey scent and on finding a sign in the observation center, we discovered they are Haleakala Silverswords, which only grow on this mountain in Maui, on the dormant volcano at heights over 7,000 ft.  (sorry about the bad photos, I only had my camera with me).

IMG_20130809_132811

I am positive I also read that they live for up to (and often beyond) 50 years and only flower once, then die, which seemed rather sad as quite a few of these majestic triffid-like plants were flowering on our visit.

DSC_0047

Our holiday in general was awesome.  We had time in San Francisco, where a visit to The Exploritorium shop had me over-excited by a book on ‘Vintage Education Charts from the 19th and 20th Centuries’ (‘The Art of Instruction’ – bet you can buy this on Amazon), 

DSC_0036

partly because it contains some of the charts I own myself (by Jung-Koch-Quentell), bought from the UK Etsy seller Bonnie and Bell.  I just can’t get enough of these, I had to stop myself from buying more as they are quite an investment plus they are large, so you need good wall space to display them.  The book itself has beautiful, full page illustrations.

DSC_0052

I also bought a box of postcards.

GOPR5118 GOPR5162 GOPR5025

We then spent some time in Yosemite, doing all the tourist stuff, including river swimming, walking in the valley and visiting the Sequoias.  We are now quite glued to the news of the wild fires threatening these beauties along with the Hetch Hetchey reservoir that provides nearly 85% of San Francisco’s water.  There is a huge emphasis on how natural wild fires are and how needed for the re-generation of the woods, but obviously this fire is now out of control and threatening homes as well as water and power supplies, so I do hope they get it contained soon.

DSC_0041

I always have mixed feeling when returning from a long break.  Normally I am quite pleased to see the house and sleep in my own bed etc, but I was feeling a bit glum after this one, we really did have a lovely time, especially in Hawaii.

DSC_0046

I was cheered this morning by my Graze box.  It is a summer holiday special and had a little pop out bear inside and the usual yummy treats.  What to eat first?  I think the boys have already claimed the flapjack and popcorn 🙂