Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top up Thursday

For alliteration purposes I am sure that this should have been Tuesday, but never mind.

You know those days when you put your hand on something and it is empty, like the salt cellar or the milk jug, well I am having one of those days, so far the counter top wash bottle has been empty, the coffee pot, my bottle of facial cleanser, the milk carton and the bleach spray for the bathroom - sensing the theme here - so I am having a top up day.

With everything now brimming over with its intended contents I can get on with more fun things, like finishing my rosehip tea.

Having dried out the rose hips overnight on a tray in the warming oven, I gave them a rough chopping with one of those double handled herb chopping knives - I have only used this a couple of times so I do have to justify its position on the knife rack!

Then seive them through a fine mesh seive, like sifting flour, you will be surprised at the amount of fibres that come off the rosehips - these can be irritating so best to deal with them now.

I found another of my bargain finds lying around in the barn, a stoppered glass jar with a rubber seal, and I have to say the rosehips are a pretty addition to my sideboard too.

They smell utterly divine - shame I can't photograph that for you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mental Arithmetic and Rose Hip Tea

I am out walking the dog this morning and feeling, well, not really in the mood for it to be honest.

So as I am strolling along it occurs to me to tot up my steps as there are various exponents declaring various numbers to be the ideal for a healthy lifestyle, and I don't own one of those new fangled type pedometer thingies.

On the basis that I average 1 mile per 15 minutes (as per those good old days on the treadmill in the gym!)

1 mile = 1.6 km

I walked for 1 hour therefore 4 miles = 6.4 km

6.4 km = 6400 metre

On average my stride is 50cm, therefore today I have walked 12800 steps.

No wonder the dog is looking longingly for home.

And what were all these steps in aid of - well the search for the elusive Rose Hips...

With a good stash of these in my foraging bag, back home to light the fire and get these drying.

I am just going to nip off the dried flower end, cut them in half and put them on a tray in the warming oven of the Rayburn for the evening to dry out fully.

They then need a seiving to get those tiny little hairs off the dried rosehips then storage in a clean dry glass jar for the winter.

To make tea, steep a large teaspoonful of dried rosehips in a large mug of hot water, preferably in one of those loose leaf tea whatnots or an empty tea bag.

Rosehip tea is supposed to be beneficial in building up your immune system and a way of staving off colds, it is also supposed to be good for flushing your kidneys and mild arthritis.

I also make a face wash akin to those I made earlier in the year with chamomile tea.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The down side of being organised

The day I cleared out the wardrobe and nattily arranged all my lovely wools and cottons, I also sorted out all the knitting and crochet needles.

Then, yesterday when I decided to crochet myself a lovely new foraging bag for all my pine cones, I could not find the crochet needles.

They were not where my inner nerd had decreed that they should be, so I was completely flummoxed. Where could they be? You know it took me nearly an hour to track them down. Somewhere in amongst all that frantic nerd activity I decided that the best place for them to be was in the embroidery box. Don't ask me the logic of that because I really don't know. They are now safely ensconced with the crochet cottons.

Anyway while trawling around the web looking for inspirational crochet patterns I was astounded at the number of recycled material patterns there are around now, for rag bags and rag rugs.  I am utterly jealous and utterly entranced - Inpsiration has struck!

Well almost - I don't have any crochet hooks big enough, my largest is the No8 currently in use making my new bag.

So - take a piece of oak.

Introduce it to a mini drill, some sanding paper and then a smear of floor varnish, and there you have a HUGE oak, handmade crochet hook ready for some rag rugging.
Will have to experiment with the hook to see if it needs to be bigger but that is a good start for now.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

The last green tomato recipe I promise

Green Tomato and Ham Soup

Fry in a little butter:

200g ham or 150g bacon
1 small onion diced
2 cloves of garlic

When the onion is golden and soft add:

1 litre of chicken stock
8 medium green tomatoes
2 medium red tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
salt and pepper to season

Boil it all together for at least 30 minutes, then using a stick blender whizz it up to create a thick green gloopy soup. To finish and just before serving, stir in a dash of tabasco sauce.

It is turning cold here, another ground frost last night, and just a few cabbages left in the garden now, oh and some potatoes to dig up, and some more beetroot - er I think that's it now.

It is heading fast and furiously into fire lighting in the studio and handing out in there time. Hurrah. With the recent amount of time spent gardening and dealing with the harvests I have not had much chance to get any sewing done so looking forward to getting stuck in to some of my outstanding projects.

Yesterday was a lazy day, the puppy went home leaving behind some bereft kittens and a moping Border Collie, we played a game of Monopoly (which Thea won AGAIN) and then a bit of knitting in front of the TV, once again trying to finish off some projects neglected over the summer when you don't much feel like knitting winter woolie hats!

Now it is Monday morning, I have spent it so far dealing with outstanding emails and correspondence from the weekend, a quick stroll with the dog in a minute and then when I get back from work I am shutting myself away with my fire in the studio.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vegetable cakes - Chocolate Beetroot Brownie takes on Green Tomato Cake

Carrot cake is of course a given, but this year with my domestic goddess cap pulled firmly down on my forehead I am experimenting with other exciting sweet veggie cake options.

In the blue corner, the defending title holder, - Chocolate Beetroot Brownie, and the new contender for the title, in the red corner - Green Tomato Cake.

Chocolate Beetroot Brownie

Preheat the oven to 180°C, and in an oven dish place 250g of quality cooking chocolate, I use a mix of milk and dark patissiere chocolate, and 250g of unsalted diced butter.  Put the dish in the oven to melt the chocolate and butter rather than wasting energy using a double boiler on the hob.

Whisk together 3 eggs and 250g of sugar, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract then the melted gooey chocolate and stir together.

Add 300g of cooked beetroots after whizzing them into a puree in a food processor - you could grate them but it depends on how keen you are on pink fingers for days afterwards.

Into the mixture sift 100g of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and 25g of cocoa powder, fold a few times but don't over work as this can make your brownies a bit tough.

Then bake for 20 minutes, checking with a skewer before taking out of the oven (insert a skewer and it should come out clean without chocolatey goo on it when the cake is cooked).

Leave in the tin to cool fully before turning out onto a wire rack.

TOP TIP - leave the chocolatey mess lying around and little fingers come and clean it for you.
Green Tomato Cake

In a large mixing bowl beat together until smooth:

2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 cup veg oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Into the mixture sift:

3 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional - I detest it so I don't use it but it was part of the original recipe)

Beat the mixture together creating a stiff cake dough.


1 cup of pecans or walnuts (I actually used almonds because the walnuts are not ready for picking yet)
1 cup raisins
2 1/2 cups of chopped green tomatoes

Pour the mixture into a greased cake tin - springform if you have one.

Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of dessicated coconut, and bake at 180°C for 1 hour.

Righto - off to tend to my green tomato and ham soup - recipe to follow......

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Puppy sitting

Today (Friday) we are puppy sitting.

And its raining, raining very hard in fact.

I think that means I will have to light the Rayburn when I get home from work and try out another couple of green tomato recipes.
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Harvest time

Today is a deluge, but yesterday was glorious with a capital 'G'.

So we got to digging - first some carrots...

.... then some beetroots....
..then some onions...

....then some potatoes.....

...then some kohl rabit (bored of digging now so hunting for above ground harvests)...

... found some more beans drying out nicely, and the last few patty pan squashes....

...and for the grand finale - the grape harvest!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A DIY project today

And a bit of history.

When we bought our house the main chimney breast in the kitchen had been backed in some rather fetching green linoleum stretched out between batons.

Of course we removed it as a matter of priority before installing the Rayburn into the chimney.

Because I am the one coat queen and have no patience whatsoever for decorating (you'd think a renovation project would be a baaaad thing for me to take on - and you'd be right), when I ripped the lino and its batons off, there were all these little wooden posts left sticking out of the wall.  They had obviously been concreted in place and really I should have cut them off with a saw flush against the wall, filled and plastered over them.

Instead I have stuck nails and hooks in them and am left with a random assortment of hanging things hanging up behind the Rayburn.

I call it kitchen kitsch, Brendan calls it clutter.
I like it - it stays!

Unfortunately it does seem to gather a lot of dust, a LOT of dust, particularly over winter with the fire going.

Today I gave it all a major clean, everything off, washed, dusted, wiped down, dried and now rehung.

In amongst all my lovely kitchenalia I have some vintage pieces, a moulinette, a chestnut pan, a potato ricer and a juice squeezer found at car boots here in France.

Anyway, when we ripped off the lino we discovered a niche in the wall, that, after asking the neighbours we discovered is for salt.  We had originally thought that these were proofing spaces for bread making, but they are acutally for keeping salt dry.  I  use the little convenient cubby hole for keeping the matches handy for lighting the fire, and also for a couple of candles for when the electric goes out in winter.

Today I cleaned it out, got a bit of plaster courtesy of my ever helpful hubby and set a piece of roof slate in there as a shelf.  The white gunk on it is the PVA glue I am using to seal it, not yet dry.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Starving Horde

OK so today I made another quiche, some more sausage rolls, a pizza, some refried potatoes, a tart, then another tart and as if from nowhere (actually school) the starving hordes descended and ate me out of house and home.

Hiding upstairs now while they devour the contents of the cake tins.

I am hoping that they don't hear me up here and decide that they are still peckish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

With a helping hand from Ferguson

Today it is lovely and sunny, and rather warm for an autumnal day, which goes some way to making up for the fact that it has dropped below freezing for the last three nights, in fact last night it got down to -5°c.

Meaning of course that things are dying off in the garden, first to go were all the pumpkin plants, all those thick stalks full of water have no chance when it  keeps freezing, consequently no champion sized pumpkins this year, but a plentiful crop nonetheless, now with their backsides drying in the sun before heading underground for winter storage.

The next thing to go were all the tomato plants outside.  Those in the greenhouse are all doing fine, although I am doubtful that they will all go red in there before the heavy frosts start.
And some things are remarkably resilient, have reseeded themselves and are going rather well already - radishes of course.

Took a third cut of my cut and come again broccoli heads today as well, and here are half of them boiled up ready to make a broccoli quiche slice for lunch.

Line a tin with some flan pastry, then add in the cooked florets of broccoli.

Make a basic quiche mix, a good way of using up surplus eggs, I use 5 or 6 eggs, 250ml of cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, lots of black pepper, a tablespoon of dried herbs usually parsley and 1/2 teaspoon of paprika.  I know that using cream does not make for a healthy quiche, but it does taste lots better.

Add the broccoli - if I had any spare bits of sandwich ham I would have added this too, but as the fridge is bare, veggie slice only on the menu.

Top with some slices of ripe tomato, then bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 180°C.

Serve hot or cold with salad for a tasty quick lunch.

And just to prove how hard my inner nerd worked - here is my wardrobe all aired, refolded, neatened, straightened and sorted.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Standing on ladders in jammies and wellies

Early morning mist after the first real frost of the autumnal season found me clambering up a ladder precariously balanced against the ivy covered trunk of the plum tree in a last attempt to get the few fruit left right on the edges of the thinest highest branches.

Of course the neighbour drove past at that point and of course he stopped to offer his advice.

I mean honestly, clad in my Mickey Mouse jammies, half way up a ladder, in Thea's wellies - did I look like I needed advice?

Plum Cake (with some added blackberries because they were there)

90g softened butter
90g sugar
pinch of salt
teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 eggs
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder/levure chimique
750g soft fruit

Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease and flour a pie dish.

Cream the butter and sugar together, add the vanilla, salt and eggs, then sift in the flour and baking powder gradually, whisking continuously.

Spoon out the thick cake mixture into the dish and press your fruit of choice gently into the top, aprictos, cherries and halved peaches all work really well in this, just use whatever fruit you have to hand and in season.

Bake in the oven until golden on top for about 30 minutes.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool, or alternatively - once again, drive like mad to the place you have been invited to with the hot cake on the back seat of the car and present to your hosts still in its dish, then hope that they will be so entranced with the flavour that they won't notice the unorthodox presentation.

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