Thursday, 18 June 2015

Clematis make lovely cut flowers

Just wait a couple of days for the flower to firm up after it has opened, before cutting, and invariably the clematis will last well in water.  This is the vase made up Monday.  The roses are nearly over, but the clematis is doing very well.  One started to flounder yesterday morning, so I snipped the stem and changed the water, plus one drop of bleach...

Wednesday, 17 June 2015


This is the mid June bake from Jane Mason's the Book of Buns, p 30.  They are a light tasty stick/bun which will be eaten here with tapas and soups, and no doubt one sneaked into a salad packed lunch for hubby...

They came out light and fluffy, herby with a nice crunch from the coarse sea salt, which I had brought back from our Sicily Holiday.  The crystals are hard and square and stand up well above the olive oil glaze on the buns.  You can also see the layers where more oil, salt and fresh oregano from the garden were spread.  The dough itself has no salt in, and there is quite a different mouth feel as a result.

You start with a predough, for one day it was on the work-surface, but for the next 24 hours it went into the fridge as it is really warm at the moment.

The recipe gives clear instructions, and a note to say there is no salt in the dough!  After a jolly good knead, it is left for its first proof under a layer of olive oil and clingfilm.  Sort of reminds me of my youth, on beaches in Mauritius, when you would sunbathe with just oil...

You then start to make the salt and herb layers.  The recipe suggest rosemary, but also gives alternatives.  As I have some roasted red peppers with rosemary to go with these, I thought a different flavour would balance this out, so chose some of the shoots of majoram which are just peeking into flowers.  A few days more and I would have to wrestle the bees and hoverflies for get to them!  Don't worry there are several clumps of different types in the garden...just because the bees love them.

You do this layering, folding into three as you would do for a piece of paper going into an envelope, three times.  As the dough is quite soft and a little tricky to handle, I took full advantage of using both the long side and short end of the work-surface.  As it had been a problem with the dough sticking to the work-surface, I decided to do the final rise on the piece of clingfilm I used for the first rise, with a little oil brushed on..this really worked well for me.  Maybe I should have been much more generous with my flouring of the work-surface first time round.

After another hour resting under a tea towel, it was time to get out the pizza wheel and get cutting the dough into little fingers.

As I lifted the sticks onto the parchment lined tins, I realised how long they were, and cut them into two.

 They are delicious, and quite different from any other bakes I have made.

As I was making these I have been listening to the radio, and wondering what the future for Greece will be.  I expect that there are many Greek people making their bastounakia today who will be also be extremely worried about their future.

Monday, 15 June 2015

In a Vase on Monday

As a garden and flower lover, I love to look for inspiration.  Although I have been picking flowers from the garden since I was a little girl, I still prefer the informal bunches I make.  I do love to look at the artistic and elaborate arrangements in competitions, but this is not my style.

I've been encouraged by looking to see what other people have posting, Rambling in the Garden is a favourite.

Today the garden yielded so much, that again it is two little vases:

Can a pewter tankard be a vase?  Of course, but with no beer, or maybe beer is good for flowers?
Rose Crown Princess Margareta, Blue Centaurea Montana, Geranium Ibericum, and the 'Chelsea Chop' of the sedum.  They were just the right green, and helped to keep the roses firmly balanced in the mug.

One of my favourite places to place a small bunch of flowers is by my Terracotta Soldier, which I brought all the way from China hand luggage, many moons ago.

The next arrangement is really just to try some blooms to see whether they hold, and how they will perform perfume wise.

Self seeded love in the mist, Centaurea Montana Alba, sprigs of parahebe, but the petals are already falling, Rose Princess Ann, Astrantia Major, Clematis, name not known, leaves and flowers of various Heuchera, Valeriana officinalis, and Dicentra Eximia commonly called Fringed Bleeding Heart, and I almost missed the two leaves of Hart's tongue fern.

Tomorrow is my Old Friend Rita's Birthday, but lucky for her, she has been whisked away by her daughter for a little holiday.  I have just heard this, which is why I had made two posies, one to take over to her with a card.

More roses and other blooms

Two roses coming out for the first time this year, at the weekend were absolutely full of scent

 Gertrude Jekyll

Munstead Wood

The garden is full of bees and bumble bees, and they just love the drifts of Astrantia.  Close up you can see so much detail.

Another plant much admired by Fiona on her visit was the tall majestic plant which grows close to the end of the garden.  I really could not remember the name at the time, but I knew that it had a really beautiful smell.  It is Valariana Officinalis, also known as Allheal, Set Well, Fragrant Valerian, Heliotrope, Cat's Valarian.  Some people say it smell horrible, but I can only smell vanilla cherry, it may be that it is crushed stems rotting which smell bad.  It is supposed to attract cats, well we have had one or two calling recently, but it may be the baby birds they are after.  I love the foliage and also the intricate pale pink flowers, and with its perfume the small clump of Valariana, quite as tall as me, makes sitting down in the gazebo reading, or even sitting on the pebbles weeding them a real calming occupation!

Buns and Loaves

With only a couple more recipes to catch up after this, I thought I should at least make the first lot of buns on the list.   With these light mornings, its an early start for me, because despite pretty good blackout linings, the sunshine peeping along the edges of the curtains brings to me life, and calls me to either start baking or going down the garden.

I had cornmeal in the cupboard, and just sufficient molasses left in the bottom of the it was Cornmeal Buns on p 149.  I used white flour for these, as I wanted to take some round for Marie Claire and Steve.

Again I found the dough very tight and hard to knead, so I had a little bowl of water by my side, and kept dipping my fingers in it.  Not only did this keep my hands clean, I could add just a little water each time until I could feel the dough just as I wanted it.  I am working through a bag of Very Strong White flour, and maybe it is just that the gluten is so much stronger in this one.

They finished off a lovely golden brown colour on account of the molasses.  The smell in the house when they were baking was divine.  Normally my sense of smell gets overcome and goes into 'what smell mode?' when I am completely surrounded by it, but as I was mainly in the garden with the timer, then each time I came into check the buns, I really could smell the wonderful aroma.  

That was the Sunday morning early bake, when I was completely astounded to find Mr S in the kitchen just a few minutes after I had weighed the ingredients.  Our whole Sunday was full of activity because of this early start and we even set out from the house at around 9 am for our walk up through the Town, through the park and back home.  It was the two Castle Run and we clapped the first runners through by Castle Farm Recreation Center.

A brilliant quick 'summer pudding' type desert, without all the made in individual portions, came to me on the spur of the moment, just as I was clearing away from the main meal yesterday...

Take a delicious sweetish bun, in this case one of the Cornmeal Buns.  Slice down as if you are slicing a loaf into about six thin slices.  Place them in two glass desert dishes, dribble on the cooking juices of some fruit you have poached earlier, in my case this was some lovely cherries bought on Thursday.  Resist a teaspoon or so of your choice liqueur or other tasty alcohol, top with poached cherries or other poached red summer fruit, and top with cream, yogurt or creme fraiche, whatever you have.  The puddings  looked delicious, but we were so tempted that there was no photocall.  Even Mr S who normally does not like summer pudding very much, said it was superb.  I love summer pudding, after all it is fruit held together in a blanket of bread...and I love bread!

Saturday's  bake had to be one from James Morton's Book 'Brilliant Bread'.  I remembered him from the Great British Bake Off in 2012, and have just had his book for two days, borrowed from the Library.  You can really hear his voice in his writing.  I know I am going to love this book, and will most probably buy this one, if I get to the end of my  renewals on line, and get to the point of having to take it bake in to renew this.  I call this the 'prove you have not dropped this in the bath, lost it, or sold it on ebay moment!'

My first recipe was Honey & Walnut Loaf.  Absolutely delicious.

I decided to divide the dough into two, to have smaller slices, and to have a 'spare' in the freezer.

We had a couple of slices each for Sunday Morning breakfast and since I love walnuts, love sunny bright sunny mornings, love birdsong, love have a leisurely breakfast with hubby, even though it was 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it was a perfect start to the day!