Tuesday, June 26, 2007

lacey leaves


The filigree leaves of my cabbage and cauliflowers are irritatingly pretty. This evening, I counted 12, fat, juicy caterpillars feasting happily on the luscious rain sodden plants. A few years back I grew brassicas, it took a day or two to realise where the beautiful display of cabbage white butterflies come from. I'm now wondering why I didn't get the net curtaining out, as usual by good intentions failed me.

On a more positive and fruitful note, the broad beans are ready for picking and I'm pleased to say, pest free. True to  tradition, these will be munched with pancetta, garlic, parmigiano and plenty of fresh herbs and olive oil. The excellent food magazine Waitrose Food Illustrated has some tasty broad bean recipe suggestions worth trying.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

snail gazing


Evie's latest obsession is capturing snails. This obsession has meant we have numerous snails of all shapes and sizes  living a gluttonous life on our green scraps in a container outside. At one point the box came inside and the biggest and fattest became a permanent fixture on Evie's hand.

I am convinced this very snail keeps wondering back towards the house. Is it asking to be purged? I did sprinkle some oats into the box and have contemplated adding a handful of fresh thyme and rosemary, securing a net over the top and purging them for a feast with garlic and toast -  not for the snails but for us. Do they taste great? I have seen the purging process on a recent food programme and I'm getting more curious the more often I see Mr fatty approach the door...


summer pudding


I've discovered a PYO fruit farm just outside Norwich which sells the most delicious strawberries, loganberries and gooseberries. Unlike most strawberries, these ones are grown in grow-bags raised off the ground, so are a perfect height for picking, especially 3 year olds.

With this batch of red fruit I've made a summer pudding and with the gooseberries, I think I'll make a crumble or fool. Summer pudding has to be one of the tastiest fruit puddings and one of the simplest to make. I'm sure it's not everyone's idea cup of tea - eating soggy white bread drenched with fruit syrup, but to me, it's so traditional and summery and perfect with a hefty helping of double cream.

I used frozen blackcurrants, red currents and raspberries along with some fresh raspberries, loganberries and strawberries. Using frozen fruit is ideal as they produce more juice then fresh fruit, it was also easier as not all of the fruit is in season yet. I don't think the bread I used was really stale enough, a two day old pre-sliced, white sandwich bakery loaf is your best best. Using those pappy, bagged loaves is pointless, they go moldy before they go stale due to the amount of preservatives in them.

I've got no idea about quantities, you basically need enough fruit to fill the pudding basin you are using. Using glass bowl is best, you can then see if any of the bread is still white and not yet fruit drenched.

I think I roughly used:

  • 1/2 lb hulled and halved strawberries

  • 1/2 Ib fresh raspberries

  • 1/2 Ib frozen raspberries

  • 1/2 Ib frozen blackcurrants

  • 1/2 Ib red/white currents

  • 1/2 Ib loganberries

  • 1 white loaf, sliced with crusts removed

  • 2-3 tablespoons of caster sugar

Gently heat the blackcurrants and add the sugar and a little water. Then tip in the frozen raspberries and remaining currents and gently mix.
Tip in the rest of the fruit and check for sweetness and quantity of juice - you need a quite a bit.
Line your chosen pudding basin with the bread, overlapping the slices.
Once you're happy with your bread layout,  take it out remembering the order it goes back in and dip each piece into the pan of  fruit.
Put the bread back in the bowl, juice side down.
Once all the bread is lining the bowl, tip in the fruit and top with more bread.
Find a suitable sized plate and place it on top of the pudding followed by a weight.
Refrigerate for  8 hours or overnight.
When ready to eat, run a knife around the pudding, place a large plate on top, turn upside down and shake until it drops on the plate.
Eat with as much cream as your guilt will allow.



Saturday, June 23, 2007

artichoke fest


The above box of artichokes is waiting to be dealt with. If you have ever dealt with artichokes, you will know that it's not a quick task.

When I worked at Yetman's Restaurant, Ali, Shirley and I would great the arrival of Desmond's artichokes with both glee and glum knowledge that the succulent little globes would take a while to blitz through. We would call it the 'artichoke fest'. If we were lucky and the weather was being kind, we would sit on the grass in Ali's beautiful cottage garden surrounded by beagles, bowls of water, rubber gloves, endless lemons, very sharp knives, vegetable peelers and chopping boards.

As I remember, we would often have a conveyor belt system going on, one person peeling, two people trimming.  I tried to entice Stu into helping me deal with the first batch I did last week, I failed and did it alone...

The artichoke's I have are from Wiveton Hall, a blissfully idyllic farm on the North Norfolk coast between Cley and Blakeney. These artichoke's, like last weeks, will be preserved in herb infused olive oil and should keep indefinitely ready for eating with salads, stuffed with lemon and pancetta or heaped on top of toasted ciabatta and goats cheese. The recipe I used to preserve them can be found here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

cupboard love



Here I am running up the steps of our virtually finished stairs. No
longer do we need to climb the ascent on the uneven, narrow planks as
now we can leap up on the deep, thick and sturdy oak treads.
Grandparents, you can almost rest,  just the balustrades needed now...

Enough about the steps, how sleek does this beautifully curved, hand
crafted, tailor made, store-cupboard staircase look? Stu, you're bloody brilliant.
Every single piece of space under the staircase is being ulitised. The
cupboards open with a gentle push so reveal totally disorganised badly
ulilised cupboard space (my fault).

So, this week the house has had a new lick of paint inside, some of the
kitchen cupboard have doors on for the first time in 3 years , the
stairs are pretty much finished and the yellow balau decking is being
laid at the weekend.

Here's a taster of the new not-so-yellow balau decking planks (it's the stuff on the left...)


Thursday, June 14, 2007

exposed cupboards


The cleverly concealed cupboards built under the staircase are now exposed again revealing all the dust and clutter I forget I collect.

The reason for the removal of the fascias is that they are now in the safe hands of Donny the lacquerist (?) who will transform them from grubby MDF to a bright and dazzling matt white surface.

... another step closer to 'getting there'.

lips the colour of the sky


Ever since I wrote about our stunning April the weather has been far from seasonal. Even as I type this, it's chucking it down - big flashes of lightning and  grumbles of thunder. Tonight I'm not too worried about the rain as I arrived home just before the storm hit and today I planted some plants and seeds so these will certainly benefit from the soak even if my washing won't.

I was pleased to have been in Cley yesterday when it was sunny having just missed a local storm. I sat with the girls in Fran's garden watching them watching a tortoise whilst eating blue paint the colour of the sky.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

alliums and others


My two and only alliums grown this year are nearly over - gone to seed. I knew I should have gone shopping for bulbs early in the autumn instead of leaving it to the very last minute. I was lucky to find the two I did; a big giant stemmed purple pom-pom and the beautiful, firework schubertii.

This year, in a few months if not sooner I'm going to purchase a
bulk load. I was looking online the other night for some bulb varieties
and foud a site selling 50 odd bulbs for £24 - not bad.

Alliums on mass look fabulous, they never fail to please. I've
realised through my first year of 'border' gardening that I have a lot
to learn but have learnt a bit. Next year I will buy more of the same
varities instead of lots of many different varieties. And having walked past the deeply packed groups of plants and over flowing flower beds in Waterloo Park (Norwich) today, I've realise that's what I have to do.

The flower beds are stunning (apparently some of the longest herbaceous borders in the UK...ummm?) with clusters of achillea moonshine, artichokes, sage, fennel, poppies, alliums to name a few. The park also has an old bandstand and large, renovated pavilion. I found this photo of the wisteria clad pavilion terrace on flickr, it sort of sums up Waterloo Park.


Monday, June 4, 2007

a step closer...


Over the past week Stu's been making the oak treads for our staircase and yesterday, to my excitement (and safety) he has almost finished them.

They look fantastic and having something new and improved in the house has spurred us on. In fact, when I came back from Mum and Dad's after a tearful and frustrating day with Dad's new iMac's hard-drive crashing, causing me to loose an important spreadsheet, I was so comforted and
pleased to see the solid treads fitted that I failed to notice that Stu had also painted a kitchen wall in a colour called 'squid ink'. I then noticed a borrowed copy of Kevin McClouds Colour Palette book on the table and it all made perfect sense.