Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Saffron Buns revisited

This is the second try at the Saffron Buns from The Book of Buns.  This recipe is on our baking challenge for the second half of September 2016....and my friend was arriving on Saturday, so what could be nicer that having saffron buns, clotted cream, and preserves after our walk around Kenilworth Castle.  I had the apricot and pistachio, and Jayne, having tasted the blackcurrant jam...even had a new jar to take home with her, together with a helping of cream and buns to share with G on Sunday.

I was going to bake these on Friday evening...but felt they were just not rising in line with my experience with other buns...I even left them overnight for a slow rise in the conservatory, and even in the morning, they did not seem to have risen significantly.  They went in the oven...and they were reasonably light, but not as fluffy as I would have expected.  For 300g flour, there is 90g sugar, and I wonder whether the high level of sugar retards the yeast growth, which also has 60g of mixed lard and butter to struggle against!  I also wonder whether the saffron also affects the yeast.  Next time I would reduce the amount of sugar, activate the yeast in a little of the milk and sugar, then add the rest of the milk in which the saffron has been infused etc.  For more details here is the link to my previous attempt.

In a Vase

Mondays seem to fly by and its not until later in the week, that I feel able to go into the garden and be inspired to cut some flowers.  Maybe it is because it is late in the flower cutting season, and this year I have not planted autumn flowering plants.  Tucked in a corner amongst my potted ferns, is a graceful grass: Hakonechloa Macra albostriata, growing in a blue ceramic pot.  We had seen this grass planted to great effect in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens last week.  I had first been introduced to this plant by a member of our gardening club.

After wheeling my bicycle back to the shed, I spotted some lovely berries on a self seeded Hypericum.  I had one in a pot several years ago, got rid of it, regretted that, and then several sprouted around the garden...That plant has rather insignificant flowers, but lovely berries, which start green, then get a red tinge, and finally turn a glossy black.

I've been sorting through my vases, and came across this soap stone vase given to me by my mother many years ago, but sadly it started leaking and I realised that the two elements were stuck together and not water tight.

I had tied the material with some raffia, and decided that the ends were worth bringing up and having a little peep...but now a different vase was required.  I had cut some other material, but felt that the arrangement was just ending up like one of those pots of stew, where you have thrown everything in where there is no distinct flavour!

The little elephant is a reminder that this weekend my dear friend Jayne and I spent a wonderful day together.  Jayne loves elephants.....

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Day out to Birmingham Botanical Gardens

I had decided a long time ago on a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens...it was to have been my birthday present, so before we collide into the next one, we set by today, for a visit.  Strange time to visit a garden, but then a good garden has treats for all times of the year.

The trees were magnificent, however with no start with autumn tints, there were none the less treats in store:  from magnificent cedars to dinky clipped bonsai trees, there was lots to see.  Looking down on the ground I found this lovely nut then looked up at a tree I did not recognise, which looked very different from our usual hazels trees: Corylus colurna, the Turkish Hazel.

Under some of the trees, autumn crocus were putting on a splendid show

In other areas the seasonal colours were being showcased by more tropical plants

The butterfly house was still open, and there were some really colourful and large butterflies sipping the nectar from the last of the flowers

In a cool greenhouse, one of my favourite little autumn flowers: cyclamen

and then still basking in the warm autumn sunshine, a superb bed of cacti and succulents, which I am sure will shortly be dismantled and taken under cover for the winter

This great looking shrub took my attention with its delicate white frilly flowers:  Crinodendron patagua, the Lily of the Valley Tree, from Chile

Of course there is always the one plant which I would have loved to have found for sale in the shop: guess what, it wasn't!  Great flowers but with a leaf so unlike our violets...this one comes from North America and is called Viola Pedata bicolour, the Bird's Foot Viola.  Must put this plant down on my next birthday present list!

Sourdough September ...Sourdough ciabatta

I have read in several places about Sourdough September...my effort baked today is Sourdough ciabatta, the recipe is on page 136 of How to Make Sourdough by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.  By the time it came to the last fold, and rest...I needed my rest, so the dough went out to the conservatory for the night.

It was lovely and plump and full of bubbles...and was easy to shape and bake around breakfast time.  From 500g of my Shipton Mill Flour Ciabatta Flour..three loaves: two for the freezer and one for now.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Pseudowinetera Colorata Red Leopard

Pocket money this week spent on Pseudowintera colorata Red Leopard, an unusual New Zealand Plant...but still love Hebes...must go out and take some cutting of these.

I think I am passing into a Shrub phase...this one will be in a pot for a couple of years, close to the house, where I can admire its fascinating leaves.  I think it will look very good against some greyish hebes, cuttings now taken and potted up.

Quite an interesting plant, not just a pretty face: 

Horopito contains a substance called sesquiterpene dialdehyde polygodiali, otherwise known as polygodial that has a number of biological properties including antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiallergic and insecticide effects. Polygodial has been tested as a very effective inhibitor of Candida albicans. Horopito was used traditionally by Maori for a variety of medicinal purposes including treatment of: fungal skin infection, stomach pain, diarrhoea and as an analgesic. Early European settlers to New Zealand also used horopito for medicinal purposes.
Horopito leaves are used in cooking in a variety of ways. Horopito is now being used as a seasoning in modern New Zealand cuisine. Typically the leaves are dried and then ground to form a powder. The powder may be used wherever black pepper is used and applied directly to meats, mixed with oils, used to make condiments (e.g. with mustard), in vinegars, biscuits and even ice-cream.