You are getting two posts today, what joy I hear you cry! I have lots of Frenchy pix and I also wanted to share my asparagus recipe as there is so much of the lovely stuff about right now and it just tastes so damn good.
so here is a food market in a village in France. Gorgeous goodies set out for all to touch, taste and choose. Fabulous fresh goodness, no plastic wrappers, no 'eat by' instructions, no supermarket fancy lighting and piped in irritating music.
Food at its finest.
Handmade food with the artisan's touch. Sellers ready with a sharp little knife to slice off a piece and tempt the passer by. hmmm i can taste things in my mind, I can smell the spicy aroma and taste those garlic laden sausages.
Local specialities, things that are different, something that looks as different as it tastes. A treat to the senses.
We all know these, the old favourite, the taste of summer. Red berries bursting with flavour, fresh and local, no plastic boxes and imported from glass houses in a foreign land. Just picked and thrown in a crate for you to take your own.
The asparagus season in full swing, there are so many sellers plying their wares. Piles of the veg tied up in string, it is everywhere.
I love asparagus, read on for my favourite way of serving it.....
I've always read about Hershey's Kisses. Those chocolate delights thatare just so very American.
We could never get them in this country. They were that elusive treat only available on screen or in print, never actually 'there', never really here.
Well lookee here at what Asda had on promotion the other day, whoopeeee Hershey's Kisses, the real McCoy.
All those memories from adverts, films, book mentions. It was America all in one choccy little package.
We bought a packet (of course we did, should have bought two) and fairly gobbled them up.
America came to Ayrshire.
So to all of you in America, here are some Kisses from Scotland.
Coffee + friendship what could be better.
You can put the world to rights over coffee. It doesn't have the 'mad moment' connotations of plans made while in vino. coffee chat, coffee ideas, coffee plans always seems just a tad more realistic.
It is down to earth, it is boosting, it is warming of hands and tummy too. Whether you are curled up on the sofa gabbing over cake crumbs, huddled in a cafe on a rainy Monday morning comparing notes on a dull weekend or even basking in sunshine at a French pavement cafe - there is just something so special about having a cup of steaming hot coffee with a friend.
There are of course risks involved. Just like anything else there is a downside that must be faced.
There is the 'Too much of a good thing' syndrome. Yep, the dreaded one coffee too many and a caffeine rush that has you feeling the hairs growing out of your head and standing to quivering attention. Has you wincing at sunlight and jigging on the spot like the floor has turned to fire.
There is also the dreaded moustache moment. Now this one happens to me all the time. I really should put my foot down, come over all demanding and say 'No Chocolate' when I ask for a coffee. You see the chocolate, no matter how little there is, just seems to gravitate towards me and adhere to my upper lip rather like the proverbial shit on a shoe. I can never seem to walk out of a coffee shop without that little brown grin of no confidence just peeking from the corner of my mouth, or, God forbid, the full Marx brothers experience lip line.
It's not as if I don't delicately wipe my mouth, lick my lips and try to remove evidence of my wanton addiction to the cappuccino stuff. It just seems that the minute I've done cleaning up my smile I will take that final sip and be done for. I usually don't notice my smile addition until I have done some shopping, talked to a few people and then got into the car. It is at this point that I'll look in the rear view mirror and go 'Yeeeauch!' (or words to that effect).
So today when I meet Lis for coffee I shall say no to the chocolate, or I'll stir it all in, or I'll drink away from the damn stuff, or I'll flick it off like a ten year old boy - or I'll have forgotten all about this and I'll enjoy every mouthful. I'll love the chat and the planning, the ideas and the friendship. Then I'll walk outside and smile with a lovely splat of chocolate just peeking from the corner of my mouth.
Why change the habits of a lifetime......
It has been a hectic week of Christmas here on Walton's Mountain. Yes I know we have now stepped lightly into the month of March, but I am still firmly in December, the 25th to be precise.
The book continues and recipes are tried out every day. Made, photographed, sampled and tried again. Last week's sprouts have (thankfully) given way to jelly, mince pies and, wait for it, the biggy, the star of the show, the turkey.
Yes folks, I cooked the turkey this week and Idgy and I have been eating the damn thing every which way ever since. Even the cats are groaning at the sight of yet more left overs.
Notes on turkey;
Never cook a full sized turkey when there are only two of you in the house.
Turkey does not disappear with eating, it just gets bigger within the fridge.
You will gain nasty Nigella Lawson habits of creeping in and out of kitchen at night and standing bathed in the romantic glow of the fridge finding yourself spreading mayonnaise on yet another slice of turkey.
There is no such thing as a fresh approach to left overs, whatever you do it's still bloody turkey.
Wrapping daughter's turkey sandwiches in a paper hat with a cracker joke tucked inside is funny on day one, but even she won't laugh by day three.
When you start dreaming of rows of golden turkeys roasting in the sun on a tropical beach - that's it, you've lost the plot!
I have lost the plot dear reader, I have lost the plot.......
Why the photos of clementines. Well it is the same clementine in both photos. This demonstrates one of two things;
1. I am the worlds laziest home keeper and leave fruit lying around on the window ledge since before Christmas.
2. I am an artist at heart and see the aging of the fruit as a thing of beauty to be treasured and cherished.
Go on, guess which one I'm plumping for! Hey I like that clementine, it may be wizened and shrunken and not quite the juicy beauty it once was, but it smells great and makes a good air freshener.
So my two weeks of Christmas cookery are over. Today I shall make cocktails, what fun, I will think of you all as I raise a glass at the end of the photo shoot and drink the props.
Have a great weekend.
Here's the love potion I mentioned yesterday. Based on one used in the middle ages with coriander and rosemary that between them were meant to stimulate the senses, add vigour and give you thoughts of romance, love and even fidelity (what more could a gal want!) , this is sheer simplicity to make.
Start with any white wine and pour about two glasses into a jar. Add 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of coriander seeds.
Give it all a good shake and place in the fridge for a couple of days to let the flavours develop and get that potency going. So now is the time to do this one girls!
On Monday evening simply strain off the herbs and spices and decant into a pretty bottle and enjoy with your intended.
Have a great night!
I made this (and the Red Hot Love Bites) on tv yesterday with the help of Colin and Justin who are just amazing and so very, very funny. Honestly thought anything could happen, and it certainly did. Live tv is full of fun, laughter and surprizes. Click here to see the show The Hour .
Also met Zoe Ball yesterday, what an amazing woman, she is so nice and down to earth and looks just gorgeous. Off to see her at the Sticktly Come Dancing show at the SECC this weekend, can't wait.
* * * *
By the way, check out my shop page for the brand new "Sew Easy Scenters" 12 page pdf download of patterns, instructions and herb info for making all those cutesy scenters I used to make, from Mouse Mates and Country Carrots, to Heart Warmers and Hot Pots. Price is a mere £3.50.
Have a great weekend.
This has been a week of coffees and chats. Catching up after all the madness and limbo-land of the holiday period.
Friends who are Mums are suddenly reappearing from the woodwork. Kids back at school or nursery and at last a moment appears for that cuppa and catch-up.
Where did the time go? Was it just a few weeks ago that we were all chatting madly about Christmas stockings, what are you cooking and who's coming round?
Now it's all 'God I feel fat', 'Must join the gym', 'must be a new me' and 'how many calories are in that?'.
The whole fit/gym/calorie thing will last anther few weeks I reckon before it starts to run out of steam in favour of 'Wonder where we can go on holidays this year' and things like that.
Of course the holiday plans then pop up that thorny question of weather/fashion and yes you guessed it, back to the diet and calories yet again. Can you really plan on a 30 degree basking by the beach break and have the thermals, scarf and comfort food mindset?
While pondering over the cappuccino the other day a friend asked me where I want to go on holiday this summer. 'Oh I'll go see friends in France' I said. 'Sounds nice, but what's your dream holiday?'.
Well this got me thinking.
A ranch holiday in Montana, with cowboys, gorgeous horses, sunshine and great scenery. There are picnics and BBQs, there is even dancing involved and fabulous sunsets, and cowboys, did I mention those? Always had a yen for a cowboy.....
A hot air balloon ride, at sunrise over amazing countryside. I'm thinking maybe a warm climate here and maybe a glass of champagne.....
A cruise down the Nile, but no scaffolding and crowds of tourists at the pyramids etc. It's very much an Agatha Christie scene but without the murders..... Same applies to The Orient Express.
A tropical beach, white sand, palm trees dancing in the breeze, and a slim gorgeous tanned creature lying in the sun - aha you spotted me!
Stepping off a plane at an amazing destination. Warm air on your face and hope in your heart...
Meanwhile back at the ranch.....
Those pastries look stripily tempting. Oh but think of the calories, the gym, that fubulous holiday. Sod it, cowboys like a curvy girl.......
Bright zesty lemons, how zingy, bright and colourful, cheerful and sunny. Not Novemberish at all are they?
So why the lemons you ask. Well lemons were going cheap this weekend so I bought some to make things with.
What is she doing here? lemons squeezed, juice removed.
Oh God, now she'ss blitzing the poor things. Is there nothing more grim than a foor processor in action. All knives, speed, cutting - eugh, worse than a halloween movie.
The outcome of the bladed massacre. Lemon smash.
It gets worse, now she throws us into a lake and heats the water up.
Has she no compassion, doesn't she realise it's boiling in here. Who asked for a sauna?
What now! Poured into a net and left to hang, to drip, drop by drop into a bowl.
Next morning we're exhausted, spent, all juice gone.
The reason for all this lemon mayhem, you tell me.
What was I making?
All ingredients are shown in the pix, just lemons and water.
Answer tomorrow and a prize to the winner.
Yellow, nice colour, specially at this time of year.
Fresh fruit, so good for you, think of those five a day, think of smoothies. Imagine crunching into that apple or pear, taste the flesh, feel that juice running down your chin...
Now look at this image.
Hmmmmm, now this image is not having you lick your lips in anticipation, this, alas, was a cook craft mission gone wrong.
Yesterday was a day spent in the kitchen. Idgy baking cupcakes (successfully, but no photo as they would make my fruit efforts look even less tasteful) and me trying out different bits and pieces. This was a mission in fruit crisps. Alas it looks more like an essay in 'how not to.....', or a 'Let's see what we can cremate today'.
Things would have been fine had I not forgotten that the damn crisps were in the oven in the first place. It wasn't until 7pm that I had that niggling feeling at the back of my mind, hmmmmm what was I to remember, I'm sure there was something I had to do?
And then I remembered, I opened the aga and there they were. Aah how sweet, burnt offerings welded to the wire rack.
Trial and error.
Must try harder.
I will not be defeated by a fruit!
Kitchen items should be useful and practical, should do the job they are meant for. It is so nice when you find something that goes that bit further, does a bit extra.
Yesterday I found this baking mould in the local antiques shop. It is for "Corn flour blanc-mange by Brown and Polson's".
Old fashioned, quirky, still useable and just pretty, I like it. I like the outside with it's old recipe where it instructs us to "stir well for 10 minutes (by the clock)" and "to re-heat gently, in mould, if desired, before the fire" - sounds like you have a stern but kind lady cook looking over your shoulder and telling you what do do. A big lady in an apron, she takes no nonsense but has a big booming laugh and a ready smile when she puts food on the table.
The inside of the mould is shaped beautifully, almost like a porcelaine snowflake, or flower set in milky white ice. I feel I could display it on it's side or upside down showing the text.
One day I shall follow the recipe and make the pudding. In the meantime I imagine it's past. Where did it usually sit, who used it in the past. Did it make a family favourite, or was it one of those puddings that produced groans all round?
I've put it on the dresser in the kitchen. Can you spot it amoungst all the knick knacks. Oh dear, one day I really ought to clear these shelves and reorganise a bit. It's always so easy just to chuck something up on those shelves just to put it out of the way but hopefully still within sight and reach. Problem is, things get there and don't move on. What was tossed there as "might need it again soon" is often times there forever and never used again because I can't find the damn thing.
Ah the joys of organisation, wish I had it.
Coffee in cafes, just something that must be done here in france. Strong coffee too, this is un grande cafe creme, but it has 2 shots of coffee inside. Geeez after a couple of these guys you almost have wings!
This is the stuff that powers the nation . Men in street side cafes with ciggies and strong coffee, and talk, talk, talk.
Even the sugar cubes have coffee cups on them.
Oh, there are other uses for those cute sugar cubes - Stonehenge.
Enjoy your morning coffee today.
Okay I know I have used these photos before, but just couldn't resist.
I love macarons and always bring a little box back from France with me. They are the most delicate and colourful and flavoursome little nibbles. Now gaining in popularity worldwide, and available very probably at a shop near you.
So why am I reusing my Macaron photos? Simple, my Amazon fix just delivered a book on how to make them.
Oh boy, oh boy they look amazing. There is full information on the how to, ingredients, flavourings and pairings. Aaaaaah entrancing, yummy photography, oh you can almost taste them and feel them crumble in your mouth.
Anyway for obvious reasons I am somewhat unable to make full use of the book via the kitchen just yet. All I can do is read, digest (oh the very thought) and know I will be ready for the moment I can walk again and hit the aga with a vengeance.
So what is this marvelous book - "i love (this is just a heart shape not the word love) macarons" by Hisako Ogita, published by Chronicle Books. It is an 80 page paperback and has all you need to know to make these delightful delicacies. If you are a fan and like a cook book head for Amazon, I bought mine from their 'used' section for just a couple of pounds. Well worth it for the mouth watering photos alone.
My only consolation in the fact that I can merely look but not bake just now - no calories in the looking!
Tell me about a good book you have on your self. Cookery, novel, gardening, whatever. I love books and I love to hear about them too.
Have a great weekend, and if you are lucky enough to have a macaron, think of me.
Herein madness lies - chocolate. Two weeks ago, in fact just before Easter, while I was lying here on the sofa mindlessly watching that box in the corner, i kept seeing these adverts for a Chocolate Tasting Club.
Hmmmm interesting, a Chocolate Club. This was tempting, who needs an apple in Eden when they could have the mere thought of a big box of yummy choccies. Apparently you could just phone up to get the first box and pay on arrival and decide if you wanted to carry on.
You don't seriously thought I could resist that one did you. A mere phone call away. Oh no, i was in there like Flynn as the saying goes.
Well yesterday my box of choccies arrived. They looked a treat and came complete with a menu that would leave most choccie boxes well in the shade. These guys have names like Hazel MacNutty (wasn't she in the lower fourth?) and have their own little stories to tempt you to guzzle. Really as if you need to be talked into it when you have them there in front of you.
First things first tho. Before i could even get my gnashers into the ganash centres I had to make a phone call. I called the company and cancelled my membership right away. I paid the intro offer price and metaphorically ran for the hills.
The nice chap on the telephone didn't rey the hard sell or anything, somewhat surprising in any sales call. Instead he sounded hurt, as if I was giving him a personal slight in not wanting to spend £17.95 per month on a box of choccies. I almost caved, I felt a heel for backing out.
But I had to back out, way too addictive for me. Too much of too good, oh and a bit too much money too of course. I had to do the backing out and burning of bridges before I tried a chocolate. I just knew that if I sank my teeth into Caramel Hush, or any of her friends, I would be lost. A good selling technique if you think of it. Send the box and charge a really low price for it. Let the punter try and they will be hooked. They know their product is good and have the appropriate confidence.
You even get score cards to give feedback on the all out yumminess. Of course I am being generous in my marking, I shan't be sending it in. I won't give myself the chance to be a club member, a marker of chocolates.
I know where evil lies, the calorie monster lurks and tries to get me at every turn.
At least I have my great big box of choccies to nibble on just now and then. I can also congratulate myself on resisting the big temptation of a monthly box of this richness. Pity I didn't have it in me to resist this lot in the first place.
Nobody is perfect.
No self respecting town in France is without its Boulangerie and Patiserie, for bread is as we know is the very stuff of life. The bread in France is a delight, it is a meal in itself and no French meal is ever taken without it.
Many of these bakery shops are also bulging with the sort of creative confectionary that really can only be found in France. A land where the simplest bakery is held in high esteem, and a land where the imortal words 'Let them eat cake' would be accepted be they true or not.
Yes, the French really do 'do baking' and they do it with style, style, style all the way.
Their artistry, for that is what it is, an art, makes you want to celebrate these confections. They are not merely the accompanyment for a cup of tea or coffee. They are the stars of their own show and they commant respect.
The seriously strange thing is tho, that these toothsome treats do not cost the earth. They cost a few pence more than a Marks and Spencers strawberry tart, a mass produced sugar rush that holds not a candle to these delightful delicacies.
You know you are in France when the smallest town bakery even has its own name printed in gold on the chocolates that decorate its cakes.
Hmmmmmm, yes, France really does make exceedingly good cakes.
PS News from sofa - Have decided to use time to good purpose and write a book. Might just be me that reads it, but what the hell, must do something.
Must stop eating everything I can reach from my command station
Okay, okay I hold my hand up and confess, I am an addict, a book addict. There I've said it, it is out there in the open, tho you just need to open my front door to see that I really am addicted to books.
Anyway I have proved my addiction yet again. No sooner had I written on the blog yesterday that I was going to organise a book clearout and sale than the posty arrived clutching a little packet from Amazon. As ever the sight of a booky shaped package has me fairly salivating and just itching to get in there and see what wordy goodness awaits. Well yesterday I was not disappointed.
I will admit that I bought 'The I Diet' by Gino D'acampo really because he is just so darn cute, I like his recipes on TV, he was great fun on 'I'm a celebrity' and come on, that sexy Italian voice. All this aside why was I buying a 'diet' book. Well I wasn't really. This is a recipe book and it also has calorie and fat content listed per recipe and if you want you could eat the recipes in a format to fill either 1500 calories per day or 2000 calories per day.
It is written as Gino talks, frank, simple and fun. There isn't any fiddly time consuming performances, so loved by TV chefs, this is just simple cooking but well thought out on the health front.
There are hints and tips scattered here and there. For example, I didn't know that you should use Buffalo mozzarella for salads etc (that's the one I usually buy) but use the cows milk variety for cooking. The Buffalo stuff contains too much milk and will spoil what you are making.
If you like flavour and food and not faddy dieting just healthy eating with easy recipes, this is definitely for you. It is 100% for me at any rate.
I've got the girls coming round for supper on Thursday night, so I'm going to do some of Gino's antipasto ideas and adapt a pasta dish 'pasta e piselli' too.
Sounds as if you guys are as keen on books as I am. I am working on a list for you. Betty commented to suggest I do an excel sheet and organise it all on that. Now girls, lets remember who we are dealing with here, computer numpty and general hopeless case with technology. Having said that, I shall give it a go!
There are magazines too, including Martha Stewart's Living, Jean D'Arc Living (in Danish but bought for the stunning photography alone), a few Marie Claire Idees (French), Victoria, Selvedge. Someone asked if I have any books on knitting, only one on making the most amazing knitted flowers. I can't knit so don't have any others. Anyway I shall pull these guys off the shelves and start sorting them out for you. Let me know if there is anything you are particularly looking for, I might just be able to help.
Ok, off to browse the bookshelves, I may be some time........
Good morning out there in the land of non-dieting, getting fit and healthy eating.
Oh it is never as easy as it is cracked up to be is it? I was doing fine last week, was really pleased with how I had cleared the house of fatty fodder, filled the fridge with fresh and healthy and got out there running every day last week. Ah going too well really wasn't it. I always allow myself some wine at the weekend and I am even allowing just a little of my beloved French bread.
Well I was fine on Saturday, all in moderation. Idgy was away with her Dad and I was on my own and doing well. Not so on Sunday.Went to visit Mum who is fading before our eyes. No longer the person I knew so very well and loved, no longer the scourge of 'Countdown' with a keen interest in all things sporty and someone who never missed the News. She doesn't watch TV anymore, doesn't read, has nothing to pass her time. By some cruel trick of the decorator, there is a huge clock fastened to the wall in her room, right in front of her bed. What hell to see every minute tick by when you are doing nothing at all. What along,long day that must make.
Anyway as ever the visit was a bit of a strain. My heart lurches from a despirate urge to 'make thinges right', a longing to gather Mum up in my arms and take her away, away from what is happening. As ever the visit is short, they are getting shorter as Mum is always tired and wants to sleep.
I leave upset, I drive home feeling crushed, now guess where I ended up. Yep, the fridge was my friend on Sunday night. Hands up, I admit it. It may have been filled with nice healthy food, but let me tell you, by Monday morning it was almost empty.
The huge pot of yummy cabbage soup that was meant to last a few days, hhhhmmmmmm didn't last long. Oh, and I found a whole loaf of French bread in the freezer.
I raided Idgy's crisp stash too. I lay on the sofa and stuffed my face, I am not proud of myself.
I have to look on it as a 'slip up' and get back on the health kick. Monday morning found me running again and eating 'normally' I am trying to not get hung up on this, must move on. Just felt I had to come clean and admit it to you here.
We are all human, we all fall off the proverbial wagon for one reason or another.
Healthy eating,not the dreaded D word. Oh yes, it's that time of year again, jeans too tight and a definite muffin top emerging.
When I was over in france in October I bought the most amazing pair of pink cord Levis from a vintage clothing stall. Okay they were tight, but hey I was in them and they rocked! It wasn't until I was back there at new Year and Ann mentioned the jeans, hmmmm the jeans I thought. Well yesterday I dug out the jeans and I had a sneaking suspicion that Levis and me would not be in complete harmony. Yep, that zip was not for budging. Okay lets be honest here, I couldn't even get the top button done up so the zip didn't even come into the equation! Something MUST be done, and now!!!
So that's it, I am back to my 'Downer Diet' - slow down the eating and cut down the food. 'Simples' as that furry fiend who compares meerkats would say.
It was 2 years ago at this time that I first started losing weight. and over this time I have lost a lot (4 stone), however this Christmas/winter I have munched my way through too much chocolate, way, way too many crisps, and dare I say my biggest failing French bread. With snow on the ground for 3 weeks the running was a no no as well.
Enough! I am back to the running and back on my Downer Diet. The fridge/freezer has been mucked out, as has both the pantry and kitchen cupboards (deary me, some seriously out of date items lurking in there, salmonella lurking in every corner!). They have been cleared of all offensive goodies and tempting treats. No more crisps and biscuits, no more yummy bread.
I'm still allowed the odd treat, two squares of my beloved Lindt Chili chocolate and of course my cappuccinos at the cafe, but I am limiting myself now to three per week (Pete could go out of business!). Wine only at the weekend. This is how I did it before, just a rethink really and a bit more effort in the kitchen. I do miss my bread tho, that can be another little treat at the weekend!
I've laid out those pink jeans on the chair in my room. I shall try them on every week. They are my goal, my aim. I long to wear them with pride and not look like a mini pink elephant or a pumped up prawn. I am focused, I am a woman on a mission...........
Healthy eating yes, scampering about the kitchen while watching while some micro-person in pink leotard and sparkly eyeshadow does the splits on TV and tells me to 'feel the burn' is quite another.
Off to run, and while running I will be thinking of , hmmmmmm French bread with butter, croissants, crisps, cake, cake, cake. A girl can but dream...................
'Let them eat cake', may not have been said in quite the most politically correct manner back in the French revolution, but nowadays when you see those French goodies set out for your delectation, well one really has to
Not just those fancy creamy creations, the pastry has its place too. Fragrant, crispy and drizzled with a snowstorm of icing sugar. Perfect for that cup of coffee you've been thinking of having this morning.
Oh but these are works of art in their own right. Even the tiny chocolate wafer has delicate gold printing with the name of the shop. What price an M&S cup cake now eh!
To me this shows the french at their finest. A country that has attention to detail down to the finest of arts. Display is important, packaging means a lot. Service not only with a smile but with cheerful chat and Gallic charm.
I will admit to sampling more than my share of fabulous cakes over the past week. Ann and i have been on a mission to find the best delicacies every day and carry them home in triumph to savour in the evening with a cup of coffee beside the roaring fire.
So when you see those delightful little cake boxes being carried around town along with the ubiquitous baguette, just imagine the goodies hiding inside. The finest of France just there at your fingertips, patissier perfection.
Okay, reality check, back to my mug of coffee and a chocolate biscuit now. how times change, c'est la vie!
Rowan berries, they are everywhere I look just now (my view is somewhat limited out here in the country) which is great as there were hardly any last year when I wanted to make some rowan berry jelly.
No such problem this year, more than enough to go round. So the other day I set off round the lane armed with my big basket and a pair of snips, also had small assistant in the form of Idgy.
Berry picking is such a relaxing and enjoyable pursuit. Well it is when the berry trees are not all on the other side of the damn drainage ditches. Keen readers will know just how big our drainage ditches are when they recall how I managed successfully to wedge (and write off) my jeep in one back in February.
No dainty ditches round here, oh no, ours are big and deep and muddy. Picture the scene if you will. Idgy leaps over the ditch and snips at the berries with gay abandon. And before you get carried away, no she is not wearing an outfit somewhat reminiscent of the 'Sound of Music', dirndl skirt and natty headscarf cunningly run up from the curtains. Get real, we may be out in the sticks, but my gal is trendy - jeans and trainers all the way. Moi? Well of course I am in full berry picking regalia of ball gown, tiara, slingbacks and feather boa.
With Idgy jumping the ditches and me grabbing overhanging branches, we soon have a basket-full of gorgeous red goodness. But berry picking is an addictive sport, just as you think you are finished and ready to drop the snips and call it a day, you will see yet another tree, this one laden with berries far bigger and redder than those you already have. You must have 'just a few more'. Okay, okay I did want those few more, and I was determined to get them. 'No, no I'll do it, I'll get them' I insist to my helper. She turns round to head back up the lane. I lurch (ain't no grace and charm here) over the ditch and start topping up the basket. This is fab, I can't stop, I keep snipping. There is a distinct sinking feeling, what the hell, carry on. BIG mistake, that sinking feeling was the bank of the drainage ditch collapsing under me. You guessed it, feet flying, back we go, scrabbling desperately to get a grip, but no, I'm over, it's done. Flat out in the mud at the bottom of the ditch with the full basket upended on top of me. Help I shriek, or words to that effect. Idgy who is up the lane a bit can't even see me as I am in the bloody ditch. She rushes back just as I emerge clutching the berries to my chest and looking like the swamp monster. Does my girl rush to the aid of her errant mother and help her out of the ditch. No, she sits down on the lane and laughs her head off. Then she leaps up and tells me no to move or I will lose all the berries that are piled around me. Next half hour spent rescuing the berries.
So here is my recipe for rowan berry jelly. So easy to make if you have managed to capture the wild and dangerous berries first..............
I used just under 2 kilos of rowan berries (should have been full 2 kilos had the ditch not grabbed me)
1.5 kilos of cooking apples, roughly chopped with skins on
450g of granulated sugar for every 600ml of juice you get
Throw all the fruit into a huge pot and just cover with water. bring to the boil and simmer away till it is all soft and mushy, about 20 minutes.
Pour into a jelly bag (cheesecloth, muslin etc, not tea towel) and let it drip into a non metallic bowl overnight.
Measure your juice and put it back into the pot, now add 450g of sugar for every 600ml of juice that you have there.
Simmer over a low heat for about ten minutes till sugar has dissolved. Now zap up the
heat to a rolling boil for about five minutes until your setting point has been reached.
Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.
This is a really tangy jelly with a sweet and sour sort of taste. Great with meat dishes, but just perfect on hot buttered croissants too, yummy.
Was it worth being upside down in the ditch (again), you betcha!
Have a great weekend
As you will know from last weeks 'Yum Run' I have been foraging whilst running in the mornings. Well this week I have been lusting after the rose hips that are dotted along the stream. I see them every morning and watch them ripening before my eyes. Yesterday after school Idgy and I went rose hipping (just a couple of hippies I guess!) and brought back a big basketful.
Now what could I do with this bounty of goodness? Rose hip and apple jelly of course. The only drawback on this is chopping up the rose hips themselves. I now have a lovely blister as proof of my efforts, ho, hum, the jelly tastes great tho'.
1 kilo apples
450gm rose hips
about 1.3 kilo preserving sugar/granulated sugar
Chop the apples into quarters and put in a big pot with enough water just to cover them, now add approx 300ml of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the apples soften.
While this is happening you can chop those rose hips. In hindsight I would put an elastoplast on my finger before chopping to avoid the nasty blister I now have!
Toss the rose hips into the pot with the softened apples and simmer for another ten minutes or so.
Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes before pouring into a jelly bag (cheesecloth/muslin bag) and hanging over a non-metallic bowl to drip overnight.
Now before you are all thinking what a paragon of virtue I am with all this preserving and gosh what a star. I am not, I am a twit who gets it wrong. Not only did I remove half the skin on my hand with blisters, I completely messed up on the jelly bag.
Last year I made a great little jelly bag out of muslin. Unfortunately on a clear out earlier this year I chucked it out. In panic last night I knocked up a new bag, and because I didn't have any muslin I used a thin tea towel. Don't do this, tea towel was just not thin enough, read on........
Now in the morning you should have a nice bowl of jummy juice that has dripped joyfully from your jelly bag. I didn't, I had a mere puddle, well okay, I had 300ml of the stuff.
You have to measure your juice and pour it back into the pot. now add the sugar at a ratio of 400g of sugar to every 600ml of juice.
Now in my case because the damn jelly bag was too thick and didn't let thew juice drip through properly I only had 300ml of juice and therefore only had to add 200g of sugar. All in all this made me a pathetic single jar of jelly!
Anyway back to the recipe bit; Stir the sugar until it disolves completely and boil fast to setting point (105 C/220F), about ten minutes.
Now pour into prepared warmed jars and seal. Or in my case have 6 jars lined up and only have to use one of them!
And here we have it, gorgeous, yummy rose hip and apple jelly. Okay so I only have one jar of the stuff so must treat it like gold-dust, it is still just perfect.
I am eyeing up the rowan berries now....................
Just look what I found on my run yesterday - yummy field mushrooms, just perfect for soup.
A raid on the garden produced onions, potatoes and celery, a good start.
Seriously basic stuff this;
a few potatoes
stick of celery
Chop it all up and start by cooking the onions in a little olive oil. Add in all the other bits and pieces and some chicken stock.
Cover and simmer for about half an hour.
What could be easier. Maybe not the most appealing of soups in the looks department, but oh how yummy.
Finished off with a blob of creme freche (ok I didn't have that in the garden) and a chunk of French bread.
Hmmmmmmm it was the perfect lunch.
May wine is a tradition in Germany where the herb Sweet Woodruff grows in profusion. This delightful herb grows in the shaded woodland and carpets the ground with its tiny star like flowers.
I started with 4 tiny plants 3 years ago, and now have a gorgeous starry blanket with enough of this fragrant beauty to fill sleep sacks and heart warmers all year long. Apart from being so delightfully pretty woodruff has a secret, when dried it has the relaxing scent of new mown hay.
In Germany it is widely used to flavour jellies, sweets and drinks. The taste is almost honey-like with a touch of aniseed. The May Wine is lovely and just a little Pimms like, perfect for the start of summer.
large handfull of sweet woodruff
1 bottle German wine - Hock etc
1/2 cup sugar
1 basket strawberries
sprakling water or Cava
Dry the woodruff overnight in oven with door open just a crack
Pour wine into large jar and stuff in the woodruff
Leave this in the fridge for a week to soak up the flavours
Strain the wine and disgard the herbs
Mash up strawberries with the sugar
Mix into the wine and pour into a large jug
Top up with either sparkling wine or sparkling water
Serve in the sunshine with family and friends.
It was Simon's birthday yesterday, so I took a jug of May Wine up the lane and we all sat in the garden sipping sunshine and enjoying the day.
Enjoy your day whatever you are up to.
Had a few comments and emails re the nettles soup l mentioned on Monday. Yes it is good old Stinging Nettles that are used. You pick the young and tender nettles and just the top tips of them. They are less stingy at this time, in fact they shouldn't sting at all, but best to wear a pair of rubber washing up gloves to be on the safe side. When you have a good basket full tip them into a colander and rinse them out.
Now grab a hand full (whilst wearing those glamorous rubber gloves!) and chop them up. When all are chopped just throw them in the pot to cook as per recipe on Monday.
Re taste, yummy, like a spinach soup but sweeter and softer. Not so strong. More a cross between spinach and parsley.
Hope this helps. I really should have said it was stinging nettles on the recipe.
You can use nettles as you would spinach. Just wash the nettles and toss them into a pot and simmer with lid on. You don't need to add any water. When nearly tender add about 2 oz of butter, plus lemon juice and salt and pepper. You can also add a tablespoon on chopped herbs like thyme, chives or a little mint. Serve hot.
So go on, get out there and gather ye stinging nettles before they can sting you back!
Last night l did one of my pay back dinners to even up the score on all the lovely food l seem to guzzle at friends houses. I decided to go for a Spring and herb theme so started my day by picking nice fresh new young nettle tops for soup. This is the only time of year to get just the right new nettles so make the most of it. Here is the recipe l used for my Cream of nettle soup.
1 lb potatoes
1/2 lb nettle tops
1 1/2 pints of chicken stock
salt and pepper
Boil potatoes, drain and set aside. Chop the nettles and toss into large pot with the butter, stir until wilted down. Now add the cooked potatoes and chicken stock with your seasoning. Bring to boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Whiz with your blender and then stir in your creme fraich.
It was a Spring Supper so l went for daffodils and candle-light.
Even did menus.
The main course was pork tenderloin with sage and a mustard and sage sauce.
I marinated the pork with a dry rub of dried sage and salt and black pepper. For the sauce l used 8 fl oz of double cream and half a teaspoon of dried sage and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Heated cream to boiling and reduced by half. Pan fry the medallions of pork and pour over the yummy cream sauce.
The potatoes are just a slight variation on your usual mash. I used red skinned potatoes and boiled them with their skins on. Then drained and roughly mashed a bit. Add olive oil, butter and salt and pepper and that's it.
Pudding was Idgy's homemade chocolate brownies (they were fab!!) with my lavender-honey cream. The infused cream makes a lovely different topping to your desserts.
5fl double cream
1 tablespoon flower honey
1 teaspoon dried lavender
Bring to the boil and stir as it reduces by about a third. Set aside to cool. Strain and put in fridge. Whip till fluffy and serve on pie, brownies or anything you like. I sometimes use this as an icecream mix and put it in the icecream maker.
So that's it, thought l would share part of my lovely evening with good friends and nice easy food. A nice start to the week.
Last week on the Chris Evans drive time show on Radio 2 they were making chocolate cakes in mugs. Well my mouth was watering as l listened so l was determined to have a go. It being the Easter holidays and weather a tad wild, what better way to while away 5 minutes in the kitchen with kids!
I downloaded the recipe from the BBC web site so here it is for you.
4tbs self raising flour
4tbs caster sugar
2tbs cocoa powder
3tbs sunflower oil
3tbs choc chips (optional)
dash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (mine was a tad small - High School Musical not best choice!)
Double cream, creme fraiche - optional for serving
Put all the dry ingredients into your mug and mix like mad. Now add the egg and mix again. Then add the milk and oil and really mix like mad, get that oil everywhere in the mug. Now add the dash of vanilla extract, choc chips or any other little extra you can think of.
Put mug in microwave and cook for 3 minutes (in a 1000 watt oven).
Now you are meant to let this cool and tip it out on to a plate. No chance, Idgy and l were in there like starving dingos, the cake didn't stand a chance. Yummy!
So if you still have the kids around and are looking for a quick treat that gives them something fun to do, go for it, make a cake.
Big thanks to Radio 2 for having this fab recipe on their show.
Clear desk, clear head? Well l don't know about that, but it certainly made my day easier allround once l had a clear space to work on. Ok it took a while to clear it all, but yes l felt better working on 'space I even put everything away in its correct place before l started. So thanks Nan, this idea seems a good one. I will clear again this morning before l start and aim to keep it this way........
Now on to something really yummy, my COUNTRY CARROT SOUP, into comfort food, if so you will love this.
bunch of thyme
2 sprigs of lemon balm
stick of celery
half an orange
homemade chicken stock
Sweat your onion, garlic and celery in a little oil. Then add in all the ingredients listed above. Everything can be just roughly chopped. You only need to squeeze in the orange juice and throw away (compost bin of course) the peel etc. Add your chicken stock (or stock cube and water) and let the whole thing simmer for 20 minutes, or until everything is tender.
When everything is nicely cooked just get in there with a potato masher and mush it all up. I personally think this is nicer for this recipe than using an electric whizzer which makes everything completely smooth. You want little pieces of carrot etc in this, a real farmhouse feel.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, add water to the consistancy you like.
Now sit back and slurp, seriously good.
I was passing the village fruit shop the other day and came accross these HUGE cooking apples. Just had to buy them for some jelly making.So I'm afraid it's recipe time again, l just have to share this lovely lavender jelly with you. It is fabulous with roast chicken and also on those cold chicken sandwiches next day. So easy to make, l have become a fiend in the kitchen with my jelly making these days!!
APPLE JELLY WITH LAVENDER AND THYME
1.1k cooking apples
600ml white vinegar
5 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme and lavender
Roughly chop the apples (just leave on skins and cores etc) and put into a pot with the herbs and 600ml of water. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes (or until all squishy and pulpy) add the vinegar and boil for another 5 minutes.
Pour into a jelly bag and let hang over a bowl to drip overnight.
Disgard pulp and measure the liquid in the bowl and return to your pot with 450g of sugar (not jam sugar, just the normal stuff) for every 600ml of liquid.
Heat gently til sugar has disolved then boil rapidly for about 10 minutes til the setting point has been reached.
Scoop off any scummy stuff on top then let it cool a bit before you stir in the chopped up lavender and thyme. You need to do this so that the little herby bits will be evenly distributed and not just float to the top of the jars.
Pour into jars (stir again to keep those herbs mixed well) and seal.
yummy and just look at that colour!
So there you go, a bit of kitchen therapy for you this morning.
We have been berry picking in the garden today, a real mixed bag (or basket!) of strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, blackcurrents, goosberries and red currants. As usual Idgy and l managed to eat rather more than went into the basket, but at the end of the day we had enough for 6 good jars of our VERY BERRY JAM.
2 kilos of mixed berries
1 kilo sugar
Lemon Balm leaves
Thyme flowers and leaves
I strip the leaves and flowers off the Thyme stems and finely chop the Lemon Balm. With me everything just gets chucked in my old jam pot and bubbles away looking strangely volcanic and giving the Aga an extra coating of sticky gunk here and there.
We couldn't wait to try out the results on some lovely fresh scones. Diet, who mentioned diet, l shall just have to run further tomorrow!
Don't be fooled into thinking l have spent all day being a domestic Goddess, no l have been busy being creative in HQ as well. High time really as l have these huge fairs coming up in November and really must get some serious stock making done. Today l was working on a couple of new items that l want to get onto the site this week, you'll have to wait till tomorrow to see the photos tho, as they are on my other camera.