Monday 31 August 2015

~~~Bank Holiday Conundrum~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ what do you think this is?  Please post your best guesses in the comments box, below.  I'm looking forward to reading them!

There are no prizes, although I am considering a give away in the near future, so keep a look out for that ~~~

If you are on Facebook, I'd love it if you would give the page a "like" over there. The more the merrier ~~~ click here ~~~ for more regular posts ~~~

I will not reply to the individual guesses, but will announce the closest, and declare what it is, in a week or so.  Shall we have a giggle now ~~~


Sincerely yours

Saturday 29 August 2015

The Haphazard Baker Strikes Again ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ this is a cautionary tale with a moral ~~~ when making a dish for the first time, read the recipe all the way through. Simple.  You won't always get away with it, although I scraped through this time.

The incident happened the other afternoon when I was whiling away a moment or ten {as you do} on Pinterest, I came across a recipe for Peaches and Cream Scones which you can find here and I pinned it on one of my Good Things To Eat series of boards.  Now, as it happened, I had a punnet of slightly over ripe nectarines on hand, but was missing some of the ingredients called for in the recipe, so I Googled "Peach Scones" and came up with quite a few, all slightly different, recipes. In the haphazard style that only I can imitate, I muddled them all up to suit the ingredients on hand and off I went to the kitchen to bake these delicious sounding treats.

I was in a bit of a rush, and in gathering my information I failed to notice one major difference in the 'wettest' recipe, {see below}.  My plan was to do what I normally do {and also imitate the image on Pinterest} with a large round cut in triangles. I read a lot of recipes and methods, and figured they all ended up the same way.  Not so. Mixing ingredients on a mean average from across the recipes, I ended up with a very wet dough that I was supposed to dollop into muffin pans, or into spoonfuls on the baking sheet. What I did with my very wet heap of dough was plop it en masse in the middle of my baking sheet to make one of those circular scones you cut in wedges.  My clue that something was not right should have been when the knife would not mark out the desired wedge lines. O~er!

I put it in the oven, Gas Mark 6, for 20 minutes, but after 15 minutes it was growing rather rapidly across the tray. O~er! again.

Too late now ~~~ so, Onward and Upward, as they say ~~~

I adjusted the temperature {slightly lower} and turned the pan. I put it back in for another 15 minutes, now way over the anticipated 20 minutes, but eventually I took it out, a great big patty looking more like a loaf of bread than a scone ~~~ oh, well ~~~ not quite as planned, but it is cooked, and it is very, very delicious.

You can just make out a couple of the score marks.  This is how it looked once cut into wedges ~~~

Ready to eat, with honey and butter, for tea.

I did make notes as I went along, and this is a list of ingredients I ended up using after reading three or four different recipes. The thing about scones, unlike with cakes such as a Victoria sponge, you have a little more flexibility in what you add or leave out ~~~ as the Giant Peach Scone has proved ~~~

2 cups plain/all purpose flour, sifted
1/3 cup golden granulated sugar
1 slightly rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg {optional, to taste}
6 tablespoons butter or baking spread
2 large eggs, beaten
2 small pots vanilla flavour Activia yoghurt {about scant 2/3 cup}
1 cup of fresh nectarines {or peaches} skinned and diced.

In a bowl place sifted flour, baking powder, sugar, and nutmeg. Chop in the butter and rub lightly until resembling fine crumbs. Add the beaten eggs and yoghurt. Bring together, then cut in the diced fruit.  Mixture will be wet.

*according to one recipe, you now drop this wet dough by spoonfuls on to a greased baking sheet or into greased muffin pans and bake at 375 for 18 ~ 20 minutes.  This is where I went astray ~~~ and ~~~
I plopped it all on one large heavy, greased baking sheet and formed into a circle and baked at Gas Mark 5, 375*F for 25~30 minutes, keeping an eye for the last few minutes or so.

So the moral of this cautionary tale is to read your recipe right through to the end!  In this case, all's well that ends well!

Bon Apetit!

Until next time
Sincerely yours

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Simple Summer Supper Dish ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ although I have not had any vegetables from The Garden this Summer, I am blessed that there is a small, seasonal fresh vegetable stand just a few moments walk away from my Cottage.  I can buy in season, fresh picked, home grown vegetables that are the next best thing to my own produce, so I can still have that 'Plot to Plate' experience.

A few days ago, on the Country Living {UK} Facebook page, I found a recipe for a simple Courgette and Tomato Bake. Two evenings ago I made it and it was quick, easy, and delicious.

Last night, I made an adapted version to accommodate what vegetables I had on hand.  It is so delicious I just had to share it with you.  Serves 1, so adjust accordingly.

In a heavy saucepan, warm a tablespoon of olive oil {or cooking oil of your choice} and slowly soften for 10~15 minutes without colouring:
1 thinly sliced small onion,
2" piece of leek,
1/4 green pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 small aubergine, 1 cm dice
1/2 courgette {zucchini} 1 cm dice
8 pods of Broad beans, podded
salt and pepper to taste

Add 1 crushed clove garlic and cook for a further minute.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour mixture into an oven proof dish with a tight fitting lid. I used a tagine. The lid isn't tight on a tagine, but the design means the juices do not evaporate. I think it is better than a tight fitting lid!
Arrange two large, sliced tomatoes over the top of the mixture, sprinkle lightly with Golden Caster sugar {optional, but tomatoes benefit greatly during cooking from the addition of a small amount of sugar} and bake at Gas Mark 5 for about 30 minutes, or until tomatoes are cooked and there is a lovely liquor in the base.
Remove the lid, strew with a chiffonade of fresh basil {preferably from the pot you have on the kitchen windowsill!} Sprinkle on 30 gr of grated cheese {I used vegetarian Parmesan~style cheese}  Return to oven for 10~15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Serve immediately, with fresh, crusty bread to soak up all the delicious liquor.   Eat a plate of this and you've had all of your five~a~day and a bit more on one sitting ~~~

Bon App├ętit !

Part cooked and Layered Vegetables in Tagine base ready for the oven

The Tagine ready for the oven

Almost finished! Strewn with basil and sprinkled with cheese ready for finishing

Finished dish ~~~ cool slightly before serving with crusty bread to mop up the liquor

Of course, you can add other vegetables that you have to hand. Shelled fresh peas, or sliced green beans, French beans, sweetcorn niblets, baby beetroot, even a handful of baby spinach; right at the end of cooking ~~~ I love these sorts of recipes you can adjust to whatever is on hand, don't you?

Until next time~~~
Sincerely yours

A couple of people have asked me for my recipe for Courgette {Zucchini} Chutney.  Here it is. I hope you enjoy eating it as much as I do!

6lbs courgettes/zucchini
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 lb tomatoes, peeled and chopped {I have used the equivalent of chopped canned tomatoes, well drained, in an emergency}
1 lb onions, chopped
2 lb sultanas
grated rind of 4 large orange
4 lb sugar
1 pint malt vinegar
1/2 oz ground cinnamon

1. Chop courgettes/zucchini into rings and sprinkle with salt. Stand in a colander over a bowl, or in the sink, to allow the juice to drain off. Rinse well and dry.
2. Put all ingredients in a preserving pan and simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened. Chutney is ready to be bottled when a wooden spoon drawn across the surface to make a channel does not fill up with vinegar.
3. Pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal immediately.

Store for at least 1 month before eating. This is delicious with cheeses, game, and turkey. It makes a great addition to any gift hamper, and I often find the empty jars returned to me in the hopes of a refill!

Sunday 23 August 2015

The Wonder of Texture in The Garden

Gentle Reader ~~~ today I'm going to share some pictures that show the diversity of textures in the garden.  Some of them are quite mind opening, and I must warn you that, although there are no images of spiders, there is a very unusual web, so if you are squeamish about such things, well, you have been warned! {it is odd, I do not like spiders at all when they accost me in the house, but in the garden I'm reasonably okay with them ~~~ up to a point!} It is the last image, although other webs do appear earlier, and is just two images below the poppy, so you can stop as you approach the end if you need to ~~~

When I lived in Iceland, in those heady, distant days of 35mm 'real' film {which I miss greatly but find is now impossible to get developed without a great fuss and bother} I took an amazing number of photographs {I guess that was when my camera first became a natural extension of my right arm} which you can see a small handful here on Flickr.  That was when I first became aware of the infinite complexities of texture in nature.  In Iceland, it was mostly the rocks and water in many shapes and forms that captured my attention, but now, in the garden, it is the textures of leaves, stems, barks, and so much more that inspires me.  Texture is everywhere, it just took me a while to realise this.

When I moved into the digital age, two things happened.  First, the sheer size of the SD card capability, how many images this tiny miracle of science could hold, just blew me away {and I continue to be blown away as the capacities just get bigger and bigger}. No longer did I have to carry four or five spare rolls of film.  No longer did I have to worry was I loading a previously exposed roll of film by accident. No longer did I have to fret that I was on a photo shoot and I didn't have film in the camera {I think we have all been there and done that, sometimes the embarrassment and horror is worse than others though, such as the time I climbed a glacier ~ very red faced two hours later when I came to change the film that wasn't in the camera}; and second, the cost.  No longer costing around £10 per film to process and print, but I can peruse my many shots in the computer dark room, eliminating the blurred, out of focus, bad compositions, and any other disappointments, without having to pay to process unwanted frames, printing out only the ones I want to. Brilliant.

So, the more photographs I took, the more I saw, and slowly I suppose I found macro photography, which I now love and is my most favourite form.  I am a great admirer of the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and find her work influences me to look at things from a different angle too, so I spend a lot of time pushing my lens into the thick of things, finding that which can remain unhidden unless you go around with a magnifying glass! Not such a bad idea, actually ~~~

Across the seasons, the textures change, as flowers become seeds, as water freezes, as sun flickers and shadows are formed ~~~ nothing stays the same, and that is why my camera is always ready to capture these changes as often as I can ~~~

Here are just a few images to show the diversity of texture in the garden ~~~ {due to bad weather, and wanting to share as many different textures as possible, some of these are previously published by me} ~~~

Fine ridges and details on the flowers and leaves of a Morning Glory

Silvery, shiny, slippery frost encasing the decaying leaves of Autumn frozen for the Winter 

Fuzzy snow falls, dusting everything with white magical gowns

Feathery Fronds of Ferns Fibonacci and Fractal

A sea of frothy flowers of the Alchemilla mollis 

Fuzzily hairy leaves of the Mullein 

Incredibly fine and wispy hairy interiors of the Foxglove 

Ridges and prickly hairs of a courgette with a perfectly veined flower

Perfectly formed spider web covered in dew

Dew so big that the camera focuses on that, the web remains unseen, crystals magically hang in the air

Textures and colours of the bark of an apple tree

A very hairy and colourful poppy bud

A particular favourite poppy breaking bud is full of many textures

Crystals of dew form on the Alchemilla mollis

Crystal jewels glisten across the garden

Dew snared on grass seeds

A magical and mysterious picture

The same seed head, snared in a web, but taken a day earlier before the rain

A ripe, rosy red, shiny and glossy rose hip

Poppy seed heads ~ now they are plentiful and make great stamps too!

Frost~kissed tips of the Alchemilla mollis in Winter

Frost even enhances the lid of a compost bin!

Multi textured centre of a pollen covered poppy

Snared by a web, a single bloom from a Verbena Bonariensis, with a tiny dew drop

When I found this spider web, it pretty much blew me away. It is like a cellophane, or glassine sheet, wrapped around a spent buddleia spike, and it is pretty much completely waterproof and stretched taught, especially underneath. It is full of spiderlings, and probably the most spectacular texture I've seen in a long time.  Just think that Mamma spider spun a protective waterproof tent for her babies.

A spectacular spider's nest looks like a glassine case of protection
Mamma spider was nervously dancing about, behind a leaf, while I took it. Shudders ~~~

I could have shared a hundred pictures and more, but then, I fear, I would have lost you in the metaphorical mire!  I think you get the idea, though, that we are surrounded by all this wonderful texture, some of it so small we might easily miss it, such as the fine hairs on a stem, or the tiny grains of pollen on an anther.

Until next time ~~~

Sincerely yours,

Sunday 16 August 2015

In Raiment Bright She Comes Again ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ do you feel it? Do you see it? Autumn is slowly seeping into the world once more.  For the last four years, she seems to be sweeping in, wearing her golden cloak with highlights of orange, red, and rust, earlier and earlier. For weeks now, I have sensed her magical presence.  Having been deprived {thankfully} of the searing heat of Summer, I welcome her with open arms {although some small vestige of Summer would have been both useful and welcomed}

Across the Shire, farmers are bringing in the crops; ancient farmsteads stand with full fields of baled hay awaiting Winter storage ~~~

Across the Fields to Farmsteads and Baled Hay

The sun is noticeably lower in the sky, and although Autumn is not officially meant to arrive for a few more weeks, we are now eight weeks past the Summer Solstice and the changes are felt. The nights are drawing in and the days are shorter, the evenings longer. Curtains are drawn across the west facing window of my cottage earlier than a few short weeks ago, closing out the darkening skies and sealing in the cosiness.  More books are being read and already I feel the need to eat more hearty soups and stews than the lighter salads of Summer. The clouds that scatter and scud occasionally give glorious sunsets at which I marvel in their diversity ~~~

how quickly they shift and change in colour ~~~

Red Sky At Night ~~~ Shepherd's Delight

and in a moment, the blaze is quenched as the sun sinks into the wide Atlantic deep.

The bounty of the garden and the hedgerows is shifting up a gear ~~~

Ruby Red Apples Ripen in the Warm Sunshine of Late Summer Days

and we are all out foraging and feeding from the bounty we are given ~~~

My Fierce Competition!

Soon there will be blackberries, for the brambles are sprawling and bursting forth ~ the flowers nearly spent and green berries waiting to turn to those juicy, deep purple berries of deliciousness ~~~

Tight buds taken a few weeks ago

How delicate the petals and the colours.

Each sprig of blooms promises of many berries to come.

I'm ready for my close up now.

Gorgeous colours!

The "Arty" Shot!

A lone berry ripens, but soon many more will follow.

Earlier, I forgot to share the Angel's Fishing Rod Dierama pulcherrimum
photographs, so here is one now ~~~ gently bobbing in the breeze and all dripping with early morning dew ~~~

One of my favourite flowers in the garden are the Japanese Wind Anemones. This is the time of year they begin to fill the borders where the Summer flowers are faded past their best and the ruby red hips of roses have not yet reached their glory ~~~ Here are some of the early flowers {this year I have observed that there are, sadly, not as many blooms as normal, but the plants are nearly six feet in height. They have never been so tall, so I wonder what is going on?} ~~~

The Whirling Dervish

So, Dear Friends, I sign off this lovely, gently sunny Sunday morning, for there are things to be done today that I must not put off ~~~ and it is such a lovely day it will be hard to put my mind to tasks at hand ~~~ oh! fiddle~dee~dee! ~~~ the weather is too fine to spend indoors, so the garden wins today ~~~

Until next time ~~~
Sincerely yours