Saturday, 26 July 2014

Late Summer Garden

 We've been sitting in the Gazebo at the end of garden, with cool drinks.  Under the large conifer it is about the coolest place there is.  In a pot the the Hydrangea Paniculata Silver Dollar has excelled itself.  I think I shall have to put in some stakes to help take the weight of the large inflorescences.  

I bought this plant about three years ago, and as I usually do keep some speciments in pots, planting them into larger pots each year, and move them around the garden.

Up against the conservatory this Clematis Viticella Purpurea Plena..the name says it all:  purple full flowered clematis is the best it has even been.  Each morning this week, as we breakfast, I have watched a large & fat light brown slug slither on the glass or eat round a leaf just close.  This morning, we were a little later, or maybe it knew I would be out with my slug catcher hat on!  And each day the squirrel manages to enter the net and get more pears!

The little chilli plant found it just too hot, so it is now on the table in the shade.

It was the leaves which attracted me to this Stachys 'Sharan Pink', and now it is looking really pretty in flower.  I think this will one which I shall try to propagate.

Close by another pink flower is flourishing in the heat: Achillea Lilac Beauty.  Again I bought just one plant last year, but will be sure to divide this up and have more repeats throughout the border.

One plant which I have had for many years, and which I think is so very useful as it can be planted at the front of the border, with pretty leaves from early spring, and now at this time sturdy but still delicate flower spikes, and later the seed heads covered with frosts seem to glow in low winter light.  Although Astilbes generally prefer damp conditions, here they are getting a good baking.  But we do have a heavy clay soil.  This dwarf chinese astilbe:  Astilbe Chinensis Pumila is one that I get down to admire...and cut to use with a mixture of other flowers and foliage for my posies indoors.

Another plant which ought to be in the soil, but which I potted up into a larger pot a few weeks ago, is doing well:  Leycesteria Formosa Golden Lantern.  I used to have a good clump of the green one in our last garden, and our bantums used to love the berries and Jet use to manage to fly up and bring branches down, whilst the plumper bantams used to peck at the berries.  They used to do this with the grapes too!  This and several other shrubs including Gerturde Jekyll has been used by leaf cutting bees.  A couple of weeks ago I watched a bee flying with a large piece, but did not manage to find where it went to!

The agapanthus, well the blue one is flowering, and the white one is still in tight bud

and under the purple acer I found the first of the cyclamen poking up, quite early this year...maybe some will be falling down the large cracks!

I normally keep my geraniums in pots, but this year put a few into the border.  My camera seems to cry shy of showing just how vivid these blooms are..I'm not sure of the name, which I have lost, of this one which I bought as a cutting a couple of years ago from one of the many 'Open Gardens' which we visit.

Bringing this picture up reminds of some of the plants which I shall be getting rid of, because they just do not perform and one of them is the day lily behind the has never flowered in its three years there, and another on still with full sun, which is too much beloved of slugs!

This week's posy

Sempervivums in flower

Its too hot to garden..well it is for me.  When it is a little cooler later on, and if I am not too full after dinner, I shall go down and prepared some pots with a well draining mixture ready to replant some sempervivums.

Maybe its the hot weather, or maybe its because they are three years old, but many of the sempervivums have flowered.

The flowers are quite varied

I've even picked some to bring inside

I like the variety of colours and form

And even the bees love visiting the flowers, but its ready to catch the little plants and push them into gritty soil.  I've some 'new' old bonsai bowls to plant up like this little one, which I tried to make into a miniature landscape.  Penny came round with one as a present and I picked up another one in one of the many local charity shops.

Khorasan and ginger cookies

What does one do when it is so hot?  Baking maybe, but only first thing in the morning.....

I haven't done much baking recently, except of course for the weekly loaves. A slice of melon, some yogurt laced with delicious compotes, fresh berries from the garden, that is all that is required this hot weather.  But then one starts to get used to the heat, and Mr S just remembers things like biscuits, cakes etc....I happened to leaf through Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard last night with nothing particular in mind.  Something must have worked in my mind overnight, and I woke up at 7 with a fancy for a ginger biscuit.  There was a recipe for Spelt and Ginger Cookies.

With all my stash of flour, I was surprised that I had no spelt flour left, but I did have some of my Kamut/Khorasan flour left after making a sourdough a few weeks ago. To think of it, I have been making quite a bit a spelt bread recently!  This is from my recent order from Shipston Mill.   I adapted the recipe.  Also I only had 25g stem ginger in syrup and made this up to 50g with crystalised ginger.  The goat's butter I use is salted, and with the mixture being a little dry after mixing, I added a tablespoon of the ginger syrup from the bottom of the jar.  The proof of the 'pudding' is in the eating, this comment/cliche slipped out of Mr S's lips as he glanced at the biscuits as we prepared breakfast together.

The biscuits were delicious, and very quick to make and also bake.  They are more cookie than biscuit, as they have a softish texture in the middle, unlike the well know make which I would rather dunk than worry about cracking front teeth!

We had a couple with coffee after a salad lunch.  The flour has a nutty flavour and a pleasant texture and I read that it has more proteins, lips, amino acids, vitamins and minerals than modern wheat..but how much more?  well with the internet, we can get these much information!

Here is the recipe:

Khorasan and Ginger Cookie Recipe 

Set the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200C, line 2 large baking sheets with baking parchment.

Put a small pan onto the digital scales, with a tablespoon in it.  Zero it, then you can weigh exactly

50g golden syrup

Add 50g ginger either preserved in syrup or crystallised or a mixture
and 50g of any butter you have

Warm these gently until the butter melts

Pour the lot into your mixing bowl, and onto the scales

Add 50g golden caster sugar, and
50g light soft brown sugar

Add one yoke from an egg, and beat the lot

Put the bowl on the scales again, with the sieve, and into this measure
150g kamut flour,
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of ginger

Sift the lot, and chuck back in any siftings of flour.
Stir to a smooth dough, I needed to add some liquid as the mixture did not stick together, so I used the syrup from the ginger, about 1 tbsp.

Put small balls, about 15g with space to spread.  I got 12 on each tin, and then also 5 on a smaller tin.
They need space to spread.  They puff up as they bake for about 8 minutes, and then collapse leaving a crazed surface as they cool.

Leave them on the tin for a few minutes, then move them carefully with a palette knife to a cooling rack to finish cooling off.  They are soft when they come out of the oven and firm up as they cool.

What I like about Dan Lepard is that in his book, he explains about techniques and gives little snippets of information, which makes good reading even when it is too hot to bake!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Savoury Friday Bun Day

As I bumped into a local baking buddy:Tony, in Town at the weekend, we talked about our baking, so have posted this up for him.  If you wish you could have a quick look at  my sourdough made with Khorasan also known as Kamut Flour made a few weeks ago, which I wrote about in May.

Fridays are usually 'home' days.  Baking is often top of the list, and fits round other activities pretty well.  Sometimes thinking ahead to the weekend leads to inspiration.  I knew that the current week's bread loaves would not be quite the right thing for Saturday Lunch, so started early with a long process focaccia.  By using my rye sourdough starter and white flour, the dough ended up a nice golden colour.  As it was rather warm, after the first rise, I set the dough in the fridge so that I could bake it more conveniently later in the day when it was cooler.

I've made sage and hazelnut focaccia from Ursula Ferrigno's The New Family Bread Book, on a number of occasions, and being a 'nutty' person, love the flavour combinations.

I used the oil I had left over from baking the peppers to dress the top of the bake before going into the oven.

Which gave a good colour and delightful taste.

I tried three flavour combinations for the 'buns':  all with a base of braised red onions, then two with roasted red & yellow peppers and tomatoes, another with spinach, and a third with baby courgettes from the garden.  I suppose these are a type of calzone.

This just shows that one can grown vegetables in a couple of pots:

So from the pots to the pan in seconds

Then onto 'squares' of dough layered with red onions, and slices of goat cheese,

finished with with an egg glaze, fennel seeds and rock salt.

The roasted pepper and tomato were sealed in as I thought the juices would be contained.  These would be great for a picnic, and certainly we had an easy supper in the end, as I made us up a large plate of various salady things and we had a courgette 'slice' with it.

As D usually hopes for a sweet bun when he comes home from work on Fridays, I made a batch of scones, so could have one with some of the blackcurrant jam I had made that day with berries from the garden.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Bright Flowers

I did not expect the Grevillea Canberra Gem to flower this year...but maybe the weather was just right.  The plant is flourishing in its pot.  The flowers with its intricate shape is beautifully contrasted against its sharp green foliage.  I read that Phosphates are a no no for these types of plants, so wonder what I ought to feed it with.

Another bright flower in the garden is from some self seeded hardy geraniums, again no name.

We spent the morning, until it got too hot, pottering at the end of the garden under the shade of the tree.  Well not quite pottering, the lower branch of the large conifer which was brushing against the shed roof was looped off.  This needed D to climb up on a ladder, so first we cleared all the 'potting' area, swept up etc.  The Bamboo behind the gazebo also got a good cutting back and thinning.

A quick shift around of a couple of plants, with a big root ball and plenty of water, as I thought my new Knautia Macedonica Thunder & Lightning would look better behind the  ophiopogon planiscapus niger, yes that the name for the little purple grass like plant.  I had to look that one up!  I had a lovely clump at our previous home, and brought a few pieces here, and now have a good patch.    I love the shape of the serrated green and cream leaves, and hope it will prefer this site with full sun.