Friday, July 15, 2011

Pickling walnuts - part 2

Once the walnuts have done their briney stint for a couple of weeks, drain them and spread them out onto a tray lined with absorbent paper and leave for a couple of days to dry out.  They will turn black.  This is normal.  They will also stain anything they come into contact with.  Including your hands - in fact you will look as though you have been on a 100 a day nicotine addiction for the last 10 years if you handle them without gloves.

Once they blackened they are ready to be pickled.

In a large saucepan (large enough to accommodate all the walnuts) bring to the boil the following pickling liquor:

1 litre of malt vinegar, or a red wine vinegar.  Use something with some colour to keep the dark colour of the walnuts.

to the vinegar add:

500g of sugar
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of cloves
1 large cinnamon stick
2 cms of grated fresh ginger

One the mixture starts to boil, add the walnuts and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or until the smell of vinegar makes your eyes bleed. (that may just be me though so don't worry too much).

Bottle up into clean jars while still hot.  Bottling while the vinegary syrup is hot negate the need for excessive sterilising of jars.

These will keep for years, and are apparently very good with cheese.  I have tried them but was not overly struck on the flavour, but I do know someone who really likes them so that's their presents sorted for the next few Christmases.

Dry spell + Downpour = GLUT


So what is a person to do with 15 kilos of courgette and another 20 of deformed patty pan squashes?

Light the Rayburn and get cooking......

... from left to right ratatouille, patty pan squash Thai soup and squash and veg soup.

 Winter larder is stocked up, some soups in Kilner jars, some boiled down to thicken as sauce bases for Thai curries, and several tubs of ratatouille for the freezer.
As well as the pickled walnuts now in jars ready for Christmas.

Now the sun is out the greenhouse is starting to produce ripened fruits too, today's harvest is a one person serving of green pepper, aubergine and assorted varieties of tomatoes.

They are going to be my dinner tonight, chopped and fried with a bit of garlic to go in my risotto.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Week 27 - Light

Two for the price of one here, 'light' as a feather, shot against the last rays of sun 'light' through the window...

Nocturnal Visitor

Our house is really quite old, a couple of hundred years old, and as such it has some interesting quirks.  One of which is a lack of foundations.  The house sits on compacted dirt about 50cms deep before it hits the bedrock of the volcanic range we are part of. 

When we bought the house, it had no bathroom.  Like ninety five per cent of the houses around here, inhabited or uninhabited seems to make no difference.  Houses constructed in the 1800s had no bathrooms, and so as the houses here are mostly owned by farmers who know lots of things about cows and wheat, they have no interest nor desire to engage in any DIY skills, and so each house gets decorated once a generation and very few bathrooms were ever fitted.  Kitchens mostly consist of a wood burning stove of some description, or if really modern a bottled gas cooker, and a table and chair.

When we decided to include all the mod cons in our house, including a fitted bathroom, we had very little choice in its position.  It went in what was once a dirt floored cellar, a 'cave'.  To counteract issues of damp, we created a platform floor, constructed from treated outdoor decking, sitting on a series of beams that sit on a series of impermeable membranes, that sit on the original dirt floor, that is actually half a metre lower than it was originally to accommodate the new floating floor structure - and that took some digging out I can tell you, lots and lots and lots and lots of wheelbarrows of dirt were wheeled outside. 

The upshot of this is, the floor is in effect free standing, it does butt up agains the walls but is not fixed to the walls in any way to allow for movements in the lime stone walls, and flexing caused by heat or cold.  And so we have gaps.  Some quite significant gaps.

And we get a few of these nocturnal visitors popping up through the gaps to hang out with us....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Week 26 - The photographer

OK - how to photographer the photographer without just taking a picture of myself in the mirror with a camera to my face.

And if I pose somewhere and someone else takes the photo then it is not 'my' photograph...

Oohh the trials and tribulations of trying to portray yourself in a photograph.

So here is my answer:

and for anyone who knows me they will know how appropriate it is for me to portray myself through shoes, because shoes are my vice.  I have a lot of shoes, not that namby pamby 'lot of shoes' that people say when they own 15 pairs stuffed under the bed.  I own A LOT of shoes - shoes that require three bookcases and a room of their own in fact.  Even with having had a cull of shoes when we moved to France, and a recent cull to free up some space for books on my bookshelves ready for the end of the month big car boot sale, I still own in the region of....   (big breath)  ........ 150 pairs of shoes! 

Yes that's right, 150 pairs.  I own a lot of shoes!

So here is what you have:

shit kicking cowboy boots - for my equestrian love and take no crap from anyone, but with a soft side, baby blue soft leather.

retro sandals - because I am a bit of a vintage chick at heart

high tech running shoes - for my new keep fit and healthy treadmill lifestyle

bead espadrills - because I am a bit of a hippy at heart and who can resist a bit of floral beading, not me for sure

and a pair of sturdy boots - for those jobs that just have to be done, and I will get on and do them, from gardening to roofing..

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The scariest storm ever....



I DO NOT like hail stones the size of golfballs!!

These fell in a storm on Tuesday night.  I had just come in from my 5km walk, running ahead of the storm all the way, listening to the thunder rolling in from every direction, without a flash of lightning nor a drop of rain.

Then these things appeared out of the sky....

... and covered the ground.
Splashing down in the pool......
.....bouncing off the roof of the terrace.

Smashing a tube of our solar panel....
...and smashing through the guttering.....

.....and smashing up my cold frames.
 A couple of hours later, they had not even melted away....

... they also knocked huge amounts of apples of the trees, you can see why, the hail stones are the same size as the poor little apples.

June's C of Cooking - Wheat and Dairy Free Chocolate Cake

Especially for my wheat intolerent friends:

Wheat and Dairy Free Chocolate Cake


3/4 cup of rice flour
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of good quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup of good quality hot coffee
1/2 cup of soya or rice milk
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a large mixing bowl, sift all the dry ingredients, in a separate bowl, beat the egg well then add in the rest of the liquids ensuring that you mix the hot coffee with the colder ingredients before pouring over the egg.

Then pour into a well in the centre of the flour, beating well all the way until you get a thick dark viscous cake mix.

This mix can make one large sponge cake, or 12 cupcakes.  Use a springform tin, greased then floured or paper or silicone cupcake moulds.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool and decorate as you wish.

Oooops - forgot the photo! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Today's harvest

Poor Brendan, as the weather hots up and food finally starts to appear in the garden I feel another supermarket embargo coming on.
Today's harvest gives me: 5 quail eggs, 4 chicken eggs, some raspberries, 1 yellow tomato, a clump of swiss chard, some patty pan squashes and some courgettes - of course!

Tonight's menu based on my harvest and store room staples:

Courgette and tomato tart (on pre rolled flaky pastry) - thinly sliced peeled courgette and ripe red tomatoes arranged on pastry then seasoned with salt and pepper and a drizzle of sun dried tomato flavoured olive oil
Crab and grated carrot salad in homemade mayonnaise with garlic and ginger
Tuna and cucumber with home made mayonnaise with paprika
Courgette bake - thinly sliced courgette with bechemal sauce made with some frozen pheasant stock, topped with hamburger cheese - because that was all I had in the fridge, and some dry bread toasted and whizzed up for breadcrumbs mixed with dried parsley
Silesian sausages - a polish deli treat courtesy of my lovely mummy :)

To make mayonnaise, take a small bowl with a narrow base so that you can whisk into the bottom easily, and separate two egg yolks (discard the whites or freeze into ice cube trays for use in meringues or something).   Add a teaspoon of dried mustard powder, salt and pepper and start whisking - if you are using an electric whisk support the bowl on a teatowel because you need two hands for this.  Very very very slowly add about 250ml of oil, not oilve as that is too strong flavoured but a grape seed oil or similar, whisk each drop that you add into the egg and mustard powder emulsion, don't be tempted to rush or it won't work.  Just before the last of the oil goes in, add a teaspoon of vinegar, not malt but any pale vinegar, I use apple cider or raspberry because it adds another depth of flavour to the mayo.  Then trickle in the last of the oil, at no point stopping the whisking, and you should end up with a lovely thick yellow mayonnaise - which I should have photographed but had dumped into my tuna and crab bowls before I remembered.

And as for the raspberries - well I scoffed them with some yoghurt and cereal for my breakfast.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 25 - HOT

and it certainly is.

By the time I was back from my walk this morning at 10, it was 27°C, and now we are hiding in the house because the temperature is up to 38°C.

Hence today's photo for this week's theme of hot - my poor tomato plants in the greenhouse, struggling to cope with the heat in there.

River seems to be enjoying the heat, adopting her favourite position of belly up in the sun on the doorstep.

June's C of Creation - Crochet Baby Blanket / Lap Throw

Finished the baby blanket that I have been crocheting for my friend's imminent delivery.

I used a thin grey lambswool in conjunction with a thicker cream wool to create a neutral toned chunky blanket.

This is a super easy pattern, that crochets up very quickly in pretty much any sort of wool you would want to use, just adapt the size of your hook to the wool as required and keep going until you get the size you are after.
I used 400g of each wool to create a chunky blanket 120cm by 150cm.  Gauge is not vital, just sit back and crochet away in front of the TV and a couple of evenings later you will have a lovely textured throw.

Shell Rripple Throw

Stitches used : SC = single crochet, DC = double crochet, CH = chain
Shell pattern : work 2 DC, ch 2, 2 DC in next stitch

Chain 112

Row 1 : (DC, ch 2, 2 DC) in 4th stitch from hook (the first shell - the first 3 skipped stitches count as the first DC in the shell pattern), * Chain 2, (skip next 2 stitches, sc in next stitch, ch 3) 7 times, skip 2, sc in next stitch, ch 2 skip 2, work shell in next stitch, repeat from * to end, working shell in the last stitch.  Ch 3, turn.
Row 2 ; Work shell in chain 2 space of the first shell, * dc in next ch 2 space (ch 3, sc in next ch 3 space) 7 times, ch 3, dc in next chain 2 space, work shell in ch 2 space of next shell, repeat from * to end.  Ch 3, turn.

Rows 3 and 4 are the main pattern rows, repeat these until you have reached the size you are after or run out of wool, finishing on a Row 3.  At the start of each row the chain 3 acts as the first DC of the shell.

Row 3 : Work shell in chain 2 space of the first shell, * (ch 3, sc in next chain 3 space) 8 times.  Ch 3, work shell in chain 2 space of next shell, repeat from * to end, Chain 3, turn.

Row 4 : Work shell in chain 2 space of the frist shell, * dc in next chain 3 space, (ch3, sc in next chain 3 space) 7 times, ch 3, dc in next chain 3 space, shell in chain 2 space of next shell, repeat from * to end.  Ch 3, turn.

The shell pattern creates a thick ripple the length of the blanket.

I did not add a fringe as I intend this for a baby, but it does lend itself to fringing in the chain 3 loops at the ends of each row.