Monday 31 August 2020

A Hybrid Bake

 Hello Friends!

It's been the kind of weather that has felt better to be in the kitchen rather than outside of late, so I have been busy with my pots and pans, baking up a storm, no pun intended, with all the windfall apples.

My neighbours and I have one thing in common right now.  We all have huge amounts of windfall apples. We have tried offering them to each other, but we are all politely declining as we have mountains of our own.

One thing I dislike, and I know many of you do too, is food waste.  So, the other afternoon to use up the some of windfall apples I have, I baked an Apple Cranberry Crisp and an Apple Mincemeat Pie. After all, there's only so much apple sauce one can make, and it  was inevitable there would be something left over.

It turns out, it was the smallest piece of pastry and a tiny amount of crisp topping, so what could I do with them? Not enough to warrant freezing, and the oven was still hot.  I pulled out an individual serving size loose bottomed tin, rolled out the pastry and there was just enough to line it. I peeled and thinly sliced a small windfall and layered it in the pie crust, and gently patted the left over crisp topping over the apple.  I baked, on a tray, for about 25 to 30 minutes in a moderate oven until it was cooked and cooled in the tin. 

Et voila!  A hybrid apple pie crisp, or apple crisp pie.  it was delicious with a smidgeon of Greek yogurt, but will go equally well with your choice of sauce, and is good warm or cold.  I think it shows promise, and I shall make a larger one next time. I now have to come up with a name for it.  Maybe Hybrid Pie?  Do you have a suggestion?

The small, deep fluted tin I used was bought to make individual quiche.  I have yet to use the set for that purpose, maybe I will make some this week.  Quiche is always acceptable for lunch or supper in my cottage, and useful to have in the freezer.

As an aside, I am shocked to learn that almost all the shops in my nearest town have, apparently, done away with social distancing, have no staff on hand to guide shoppers, and now allow entire families in to shop.  It is, by all accounts, as if we turned the clocks back to early March and Covid never happened.

Until next time
Be responsible and stay safe
Deborah xo

Wednesday 26 August 2020

A Leap of Faith

Hello Friends!

I have taken a huge Leap of Faith and now the border in front of my patio and French window that looks out over the lawn sports a gaping gap, almost end to end, where the Pieris, buddleia, and Frances E Lester rambler bloomed of late.  They are still there, but greatly reduced in size as they were getting out of hand, blocking my view of the garden and keeping all the late afternoon sunshine off the low, raised borders that mark the edges of the patio and the lawn restricting planting choices. 

It's a risk I've had to take, a Leap of Faith, for I needed to open up the space so that I can find the original edges to the lawn border to enable me to get in and clean it.  It's hard enough weeding on your hands and knees to begin with, but even more difficult when you can't see what you are doing because of leaf laden branches on shrubs, or worse, being impaled on dagger like rose bush thorns. 

I know the rambler will be fine.  Most roses, delicate though they appear, are tough as old boots and respond well to a good pruning.  

The buddleia, well, we all know that they are nigh on impossible to kill.

It's the Pieris that worries me.  It was a gift from Dad's niece.  I have researched it well, and apparently they, like camellias, can take hard cutting back, almost to ground level.  It was getting leggy, all top growth and woody stems, so I've made the Leap of Faith and cut it right back, hard.  Very hard.


Now all that's needed is to clean around them, feed them, and tidy up the remains to make good shapes as they regenerate and regrow.

I had planned on making the borders deeper and having a little less lawn, but now I have found the stone edging, which has been hidden for years, I realise it's the original edging put in place by my Mum about thirty eight years ago, and I like it more than I remember, so am leaving it as it is.

Finally, the small, raised border will have better light and fair play for me to plant out the potted and patio roses and lavenders that I so long to see from my window.

Storm Ellen battered us, followed by an unprecedented second named August storm in under a week with Storm Francis. On the day in between I got out and did as much post Summer tidying up as I could manage, and picked another 2lbs of blackberries.  That's four pounds in two picks.  I have already enjoyed an apple and blackberry pie, and turned the rest into juice for making jelly.

I successfully avoided walking headlong into these lovelies and although I doubt they survived the recent weather I know more will have already taken their place.  It might be time to cut those seed heads if I'm going to use them this Autumn.

One of the great comforts during lockdown life has been rediscovering bread making. What a joy it is, to create something so simple yet so immensely satisfying as a loaf of bread.  Here's one I baked the other day, a rustic Farmhouse loaf.  Perfectly crusty on the outside and delightfully light and soft on the inside.  Absolute heaven toasted and slathered in unsalted Welsh butter with Marmite and slightly softened cheese on top.  Of course, you may prefer a different topping.

Then, there have been several bowls of windfalls after the storms.

Sometimes, these apples are Snow White red all the way through.  So pretty, and often the applesauce turns out quite pink, but not this time.

My favourite way to use these up is to make applesauce, but think I'd like to make another applesauce cake again, or an apple topped cinnamon cake. Delicious.  This time, I kept it chunky.

In clearing some corners, I found these.  Mum and Dad were given some garden centre vouchers about twenty years ago, and picked these garden ornaments.  I had forgotten all about them but am so happy to have found them, and I love how they are weathering.

It's funny, I have never been a fan of garden ornaments, but now I cherish these dearly.  I've cleaned them up, not too much, for I love the aging affect of lichen growing on things, and now they adorn the lawn, along with my Ddraig Goch.  I wonder what he dreams of?

Do  not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!  

He needs a small make over, and I think we can arrange that.

In honour of the turning seasons, I have brought out my Autumn Sunflower socks.  They're ever so comfy as well as looking pretty.  Almost too pretty to wear shoes with, but in the cottage of a seamstress, going barefoot, no matter how comfortable, is not a good idea at all.  

My Happy Socks! How can you not smile when you see Happy Sunflower Socks?

Until next time
Be responsible, and stay safe
Deborah xo

Friday 21 August 2020

A Retrospective of Summer Flowers

Hello Friends!

As I wrote nothing during the last month, I thought I'd take a retrospective look back at some of the photos of flowers I took while I was away. That's away as in not blogging, not away as in on holiday. Chance would be a fine thing.  I had actually planned my first holiday in over fourteen years this Summer. So much for that!  After this look at the Summer garden, it will be time to move into Autumnal focused writing.

We have had a few days that gave a promise, a gentle whisper, that Summer was here, but then she backed away allowing the all too familiar cold wind and rain, more reminiscent of Winter, to rampage across much of the United Kingdom.  April and May were dry, but oh, have we made up for the lack of rain?  Wind and rain, that familiar marriage of garden destruction followed in abundance, yet, nature never fails to amaze with resilience, and the most wonderful way of bouncing back, so in a few days all was on the mend as new growth burgeoned forth.

For the last fortnight, almost all of the United Kingdom has baked, roasted, and melted in scorching, record breaking heat, while in my corner of the world we have shivered, sitting under a blanket of heavy sea fog that kept us cold and wondering what's happened to Summer.  

As I type this, we are coming to the end of three days of an early Autumn storm, Storm Ellen, which lashed us, unexpectedly, with brutal winds and torrential rain.  Little is left in bloom now, and these are all photos I took before the storm.

What little food crops I had left are strangely flattened, even my strawberries succumbed, and there has been a basketful of windfall apples which have already been turned into applesauce.

I am thankful that I brought in the last of the Betty's Smile and popped them in a sweet little vintage, decorative, porcelain vase.

When I look at the corner where the Crocosmia are growing, it is a gentle reminder of the Summer that should have been.  All is not lost, for September and October can be fine months.

Lucifer stood bigger, bolder and brighter than anything else for weeks.  Sometimes, I look at the flowers and see fire breathing dragons with long, flowing tails where seed heads will soon appear.

In the same corner is my white lavender.  It is in need of much tlc, so I think once this flowering season is done I must take cuttings, for although small, it has good merit, is delightfully fragrant and a perfect addition to a tussie mussie.

Another Crocosmia, more orange than fiery red, and much smaller, but no less stunning sits in another corner, bringing flavours of Summer to the border.

Here's a particular favourite photo of mine of Lucifer

Nearby, the buddleia's purple flowers pop brightly, contrasting against the red hot orange, with a flourish of lime green from a nearby shrub. 

As the season slowly turns, so the turn of the Japanese Wind Anemones arrives in the border. Their long, elegant stems sway gracefully, even in the fiercest of gusts; the pristine, white flowers with their bright yellow centres looking like fried eggs atop the bamboo canes of a plate spinning act. I love this flower in my late Summer border.

Turning a corner, there are a few rich, buttery lemon yellow Evening Primrose in and around too, having chosen their own spots to flourish.  Seeds to be harvested soon, I hope.

The clematis finally put in an appearance, but I am sad to say that something has helped itself to bites of both leaf and petal.  Here are a couple of the better ones.

Well, I want to delete that last photo, but cannot find where to click! Piffle. {answers in the comments, please, if you know how!}

The mints are in full flower too, and I really wish I could share the heady, minty fragrance that scents the air in this corner, where Morning Glories also flourish.

A very pretty combination. I love purple, green and white together.  Simple and clean looking, and very pleasing to my eye.

I'm happy to say at the moment, although there are a few blips every so often, and there's a lot of stuff to work out and discover, I am getting on with this new Blogger platform better than I expected, especially given some of the things I have read.  I'll get there eventually, and will not be moving over to WordPress {which I find particularly tricky to use} but hope Blogger leaves things be for a good, long while now.

Until next time
Be responsible, and stay safe and well.
Deborah xoxo

Monday 17 August 2020

Baking and Berries

 Hello Friends!

This is going to be brief, but I have to write a blog and publish under the new format, more out of curiosity.  I haven't written for a while now, partly because I haven't felt up to it, and partly because this new Blogger is making me rethink my presence here, and maybe I'll go over to WordPress.  We'll see.

So, it's already annoying me by putting in extra spaces as I type. Heigh Ho!

Growing up, I remember Mum baking a delicious light fruit cake called American Tea Cake.  Several have asked me the provenance of the name, and the simple answer is, I don't know.  I haven't had it since Mum last made it years ago, and hadn't given it much thought, until the other day when I came across a battered and tattered handwritten copy of her recipe.  Of course, there were tears, but then I set about making it.  Here's the recipe. 

It is important to be using the same cup throughout.  In a mixing bowl add

2 cups SR flour
1 cup mixed dried fruit 
1/4 cup sugar
mix the above together, then add:
1 egg beaten, with enough milk to make up to 1 cup
2 oz unsalted butter, melted

Stir together, pour into a greased loaf tin and bake in a preheated, moderate oven for 45 minutes to an hour until cooked.

No need to use a mixer of any kind, it comes together quite quickly with a wooden spoon.

I used a set of American cups in a 2lb loaf tin, which was a bit too big for the amount of cake batter, so it came out a wee bit on the flat side, but is still good.  Mum used a teacup and a much smaller loaf pan.  It makes it a bit hit and miss, and open to interpretation, but the end result is good, and even better spread with butter!

Another bake is this one, I'm calling it the Kitchen Sink Tray Bake because I went through my cupboard gathering up things that needed using.  So, this one I used my KitchenAid bowl and put everything in together.  In went

3 eggs
5 oz SR white flour
4 oz SR whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teasp baking powder
6 oz sugar
6 oz Stork
14 oz dried fruit {I had currants, raisins, sultanas, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, and candied peel}
1 teasp mixed spice
2 tablespoons marmalade
milk for achieving dropping consistency.

Beat all together until combined.  Pour into a greased and lined 13 x 9 inch pan and bake for about 45  minutes on Gas Mark 4.  Cool in pan 10 minutes before turning out.

I am enjoying this cut in squares with hot custard sauce.

Blackberry picking season is here!  This is the time I always end up not being sorry that I left a large part of my garden to go wild, for I harvest pints upon pints of sweet, juicy, wild blackberries.  This is my first proper pick, and it's a pint and a half, so not a bad start.  Now all I have to do is decide what to make.  Apple and blackberry pie with apples from the garden, or a crumble, or freeze them to make some Blackberry Jelly?  Of course, I could defrost the raspberries and Loganberries to make a delicious Jumbleberry Jam too.  Decisions, decisions.

Well, dear friends, I said it would be short this time, but I am now within an inch of hitting the Publish button, then time will tell!

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well

Deborah xoxo