Monday, 12 October 2015

In a Vase on Monday ..New Vases

The apprentice is now on her own journey.

Yesterday I received this on facebook....

Izabelle enjoyed your 'in a vase on Monday' so much she started her own 'on Sunday' one. Here's her first vase (bought today in a charity shop) with garden flowers...    

Veronica Wastell's photo.

To be correct the first one bought by Izzi, maybe the first one was the one given by Grandma last week?

The composition is lovely, and I wonder whether she took on board some of the tips I passed on, or is it a question of DNA?

During an afternoon spent pottering in the garden yesterday, mainly replanting some overcongested sempervivums, using my new lovely wooden dibber, my eye was caught by two pale pink blooms.  As I thought they would be spoilt by a probable overnight frost I cut them and brought them into the house.

The colour of Izzi's vase had been on my mind, and I was searching the 'dark recesses' of my mind, over the washing up this morning, when my eye fell on the very large jam pot, which stands as an ornament on a Kitchen shelf.

Yes that would be the one I would use for many reasons: it was blue and white, and there was a link between this pot, Izzi and I, a very tenuous link, but a link non the less.

When I first moved to Kenilworth, with very few friends, a lovely real 'lady' from the WI became good friends with D and I.  She has a lovely little dog Dudley, and they both come over from time to time, for jam and scones and tea etc.  In addition to the famous scone recipe which was given to me by Jean, and which has won me many prizes, Jean gave me this lovely Jam Jar.  I am in the habit of passing small jars of jam to her,  and she had seen my bowl and mug in the same design.  One day when I took over some jars of jam for her, she gave me the jam pot.  The potter is Laurence McGowan who has his studio in Wiltshire.

The connection between Jean and Izzi is that Jean gave Izzi her first soft rabbit as a Newborn's present.  Now Izzi has an extended family of rabbits!  I think I should take the dahlias round to Jean this afternoon.

For myself I picked a few blooms from the climbing Shropshire Lad.  Close up the blooms show the soft and peachy petals.

Supporting the blooms is some Pittosporum Tom Thumb, which is the dark purple one, and the two tone green and cream with a few pink 'freckles' is the Garnettii.  The vase is a simple, very well loved, and useful vase brought back from Japan by my father many years ago.

Cathy who is hosting this has a lovely collection of Dahlias this week, so do go along an see her entry, and others.                                                                        

Friday, 9 October 2015

Cotswold Pudding and Pie at Kenilworth Market

I love to visit the weekly market in Kenilworth on Thursdays.  For a small town we are very fortunate to have some excellent stalls...

I first wrote about Cotswold Pudding and Pie on this blog back in 2008, and have had over 1100 hits since.  Miles turns up come rain and shine, except for the odd week when he is on holiday, or sadly when he injured himself on the cricket field, with loads of goodies: excellent pies, ham, bacon, sausages, and cheeses.  He carries a really excellent selection of cheeses...but now we stick mainly to goats' and sheeps' milk cheeses.  I just love the white and blue waxed paper he uses to wrap the cheeses in...and what inside is what it states on the packaging:  Scrumptious, delicious, delightful, divine etc.

This week he had quite a selection of cheeses for me to choose from.  I came home with a chunk of Smoked Goat's Cheers, and some Blue Riddlesdale Cheese...So it was lovely soup, made with watercress, pea, parsnip, with chicken stock etc, then Home Made Rye Bread and Cheeses, and grapes.

Making 2000 year old bread

When two different people, at opposite sides of the world send you a link on the same day, to the British Museum site showing Giorgio Locatelli making 2000 year old bread, you get that strange feeling, that fate is pointing a finger!

We've been to Pompeii and Herculaneum several times, and I was very interested in the Bakers' premises, and have seen one of the carbonised loaves of bread.  I searched my blog for my entries for when we were on Holiday In Sorento back in September 2010, but I had not written up very much at all...having intended to go back and update.  With a little bit of searching I found the about this one of the bakeries.  They had their own mills to grind the wheat, they were made of basalt, and I have heard it say they were turned by donkeys.

Just thought I would put in this lovely mosaic...I imagine the doves eating the spilled grain, but here they are raiding a jewelry box..sure there is a metaphor here for innocence being compromised with jewels!

Just as now, they found evidence to show that people also baked at home, even though there were many largish commercial bakeries.

I varied the recipe given on the British Museum site a little, as I felt the salt was very high.  I even used my special salt from our holiday in Sicily from the area where Romans harvested salt from ancient salt pans.

Overnight I allowed 125g spelt flour, together with 200g water, and 3g dried yeast to develop in place of the ferment given.

With 400g stone ground organic spelt, and 400g wholemeal flour on the workbench, I added 12g salt, 10g Diax, as I was not sure what 'gluten' in the recipe meant, and gradually worked in about 520g water into which I had disolved 6g dried yeast, as well as all of the overnight ferment.

I gave it the kneading, and just the one rising as given in the video, then used string which I had soaked in water to prevent burning, and cut the top into wedges.  I wanted some smaller loaves so made two with the quantity given.

Here they are cooling on the rack.    I had put one of my little heart cutters, covered with foil and weighed down with a little stone.  But only on one of the loaves.

I had thought maybe the string and loop was used to hang the loaves up whilst they were cooling, but found out that the crumb is still very tender at first, and it started to pull through the loaf.  Once cool the string stays in place.  Having seen bread shops all round the Mediterranean, and also very old paintings...I think maybe the loops were there so that several loaves could be hung up on poles in the shop, and also carried together by the delivery men, strung on poles.  I also wonder whether the loaves were hung up from the ceiling in houses so that mice and rats could not get to the bread overnight.

Anyway, many thanks to Debbie in Kenilworth, and Lizzie in Australia for your Facebook suggestion and link.  It has been great fun making these.  If Debbie is back tomorrow from one of her many forrays with Keith to interesting parts, I shall deliver one of the loaves to her!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Haworthia Tessellata in flower

I first acquired this little succulent last year at the Shrewsbury Show.  Sometimes the leaves appear full and plump, and sometimes more flat...whatever its condition, it is fascinating to look at its leaves from the top surface.  Sometimes it is called Star Window Plant, which is completely apt.

From the initial one rosette I now have three.  The first rosette has sent up flower spikes, but I have pulled the stem out.  The latest one I have left...and it must be about the longest flower stem in proportion to the plant that I have seen.

70cm long, and it is still growing

The individual flowers are quite delicate and have a green lines...

The plant is in full sun, which is why I think the leaves are a little shrunken.  I shall move it to a little more shaded area and see if the leaves plump up again.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Meloui is a delicious pan cooked small bread, made with semolina, and with a careful technique of folding, forms a delicious flat bun or 'pancake' with flaky components.  Jane Mason collected this recipe when she went to stay with friends in a little house on a beach in Morocco.  This is the latest Bake from the Baking through The Book of Buns on Facebook, which brings me bang up to date.

We've been to Morocco twice, and looking back at our photographs, I found the one which shows some breakfast breads we had at a 'farm hotel'.

I know that one of the guides was really proud of the semolina flat breads in the basket, and now I am sure that they must have been Meloui.  I think it was his Mum who had made them.  We had a selection of freshly prepared breads, orange juice and orange blossom honey, and dates from the farm.  Wish I had asked to go and see the kitchens.  Many people still speak French in Morocco, so I have enjoyed speaking with Moroccan stall holders.  This is just one of the pictures of the many Toroudant Bread Stalls, which I took.

I am a bit of 'pest' sometimes, as before I make something, I like to find out a little more about it, and get influenced to change things a bit, and sometimes veer astutely from the recipe or technique.  Mostly I have been straight forward and not researched until after I have baked as far as The Book of Buns is concerned.  However I was tainted in advance of baking the Meloui.  If you want to follow the technique as per Jane Mason, then only look at the technique on youtube after you have made your first batch.  I am sure there are many ways of making buns, after all just how many techniques and shapes are there for scones in England?

I had a bag of organic semolina flour from Shipton Mill, which I had been using to spread on baking sheets, and coating muffins, but now I would be able to use it in a bake and taste its lovely flavour.  Of course, there is white bread flour too, as well as the semolina.  For the filling instead of butter or olive oil, I used my lovely Wharfe Valley Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil.  I found that by smearing the worksurface in a little oil, I could stretch out the dough, fold and shape it easily.  I ought to have made a second fold to make them a little less high...but then there is nothing like hands on and making ones own mistakes, to arrive as the perfect shape!  My special Huckaback linen towel which I use for covering my bakes is now soaking in some detergent to remove the oil..

I did not use anything like the amount of oil stated in the recipe, so if using oil, put about half in a shallow dish to dip into, and top up if necessary.  But then maybe the remainder would have been used in the frying pan if following the recipe.

A careful rolling with the rolling pin means that you keep the circular shape, something I got better at towards the end.  I chose to use a griddle rather than a frying pan, as I wanted to keep the oil to a minimum, and had room to cook 6 buns at time.

Penny and little Daniel arrived during the rolling up process so they were my first tasters.

As soon as the last one was off the griddle we sat down together in the conservatory, with honey, butter, strawberries from the garden, blueberries and a nice drink.  The Meloui are really delicious, and so much like the ones we had on our trip from the cruise ship.  We had one each warmed up again for breakfast.  This time I put some runny honey in a little dish, and dipped 'peelings' of my bun into it.  With their swirls and layers....they make lovely tactile finger food for breakfast or with mid morning coffee.