Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Bouikos with Feta and Spring Onion

When I am at friends, I love looking at their book shelves, and having had lunch at Honey & Co, Vicki pointed me in the direction of her new Book.  I wrote down the recipe in my 'Knitting Note Book'....

Yesterday I had a Pilates friend round for a soup lunch after class.  Roz invites me from time to pick blackcurrants and have lunch there, so this was a 'return' visit.  I made up a great pot of carrot soup, but which also had onions, celery, leek, fresh ginger and fresh coriander.  Although I also had a really good loaf of seeded bread, I thought a little starter in the warm sunshine would be just the ticket.

I knocked up a batch of bouikos 

I adapted the recipe as I did not have any sour cream, and used half milk and half sheep yogurt, the barrel aged feta and the cheese were sheeps, and the butter was goat's.  I used chives from the garden.  Cows milk products would be fine, but we both feel so much better without them.

Then patting down the dough I followed my quick sketches

and using the palette knife, made little triangles

and as the recipe said, eat fresh, and they freeze well at the raw stage, but thaw for 30 to 40 mins.

They went into the oven, at Gas Mark 7, and I refreshed them for a few minutes at No 4, whilst I was pouring a couple of sherries, and dishing out the olives.  With this gorgeous warm weather we sat in the garden...but I forgot to take the cooked pictures...I shall update with the cooked frozen ones when I get round to baking them.

The Bouikos are a really great little starter...and I will make more to stash away in the freezer.  Of course, I am going to play with the flavourings though this one with nigella seeds and chives was delicious.  I think they are a little like super cheesed up scones, but made with plain flour.  I think maybe half plain and half self raising flour would be worth trying.

I am getting just like my Mum...she used to have dinner parties with several courses, and was well organised planning the dishes and making them in advance.  

Good Read

Many many years ago, as part of my Open University Degree and for just a few months, I was introduced to fossils.  In museums I am drawn to them, but I do not have the type of mind to remember all the names etc.  I just love the fossilness of fossils.  I can spot them easily on the beach, or even amongst pebbles on walks.  I collect a few, and they end up for a few months in my stone dish, then into the garden.

I like a good read, and when the subject can add a layer of interest with its social and historic context, all the better.  Tracey Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures is well written.  I read the first part slowly taking in every little cameo.  I read all the way to London, and being so well looked after in London, and having a couple of peaceful hours in bed in the morning, whilst Vicki was at the Gym, I finished the book.  

The place of women in society is sympathetically traced, we have gone a long way since then.  I so enjoyed  the description of Lyme, so that is now on my list of places to visit soon.  

I was pleased to have found such a good book to read.  Another one which I pulled off the shelves at the local library.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Visit to London

Straight off the train at Euston, I was met by my dear friend.  The first thing we did was to go down to the Underground Station where I bought my Oyster Card.  I'm sure they have been going some time, but this was my first time in London when no cash would be accepted on buses, so I needed my own Oyster Card.  I feel quite proud of my card.  I wonder if there is a way to find out how much cash is left on it?  I've just checked and there are many ways to do this!

Vicki took me to one of her favourite new places not far away.  She had been clever and booked us in, otherwise they were turning people away.  At first it was pretty noisy inside so we opted for a pavement seat for coffee and cake, but moved inside when it was time for lunch.

We shared a Mezze and then I had chicken parcel with a salad, and Vicki had a fish dish.  Their dishes are delicious, and their cakes and bread are great with wonderful ingredients.  I often wish I could have the recipe and replicate something at home, and Honey & Co have produced their own Cookery Book.  Vicki had a copy back at the flat so I have copied down a couple for me to try.

It felt really warm in London, and I found the underground rather hot, so was pleased that I had layers on, which I shed along the way.

During the afternoon we visited Jack's grave where we did an autumn tidy up.  Squirrels had buried over 20 huge conkers, and as Vicki does not like spiders, took a few home to place in each room.  Well it might be an old wives tale, but I think Vicki will feel that Jack is helping to keep the spiders away!  I placed them in my pocket with a hole in it, so I had to fish them out from between the lining of my coat.  I must really repair that hole!

On Friday we had a trip out to the Antiques market at Bermondsey, and as we were heading towards the Centre of London, I got this shot of the Shard, as we were making for the Fashion and Textile Museum.

Also on the way, I kept stopping to view the various warehouses on the south side of the Thames, now converted to maybe more salubrious uses.

Along the way we asked a Postman where the Fashion and Textile Museum was, and I was completely surprised when he did not know where it was, since it turned out to be only a few metres from where we were standing on the same road.

No photographs were allowed, but I did take this one of a Sandra Rhodes Handbag in the Shop.  I like the pattern.

The exhibition: Chanel to Westwood was fascinating, and I was amazed at some of the pieces from the 1920's and 30's and can see where some of the current trends originated from.

On our way we passed just by the Shard

We walked a little further to Borough Market, where we were impressed by the displays of fruit, veg, fungi, etc.  It is quite a temple to food, and there were many outlets where you could pick up food to eat there and then, which we did do and then found a spot overlooking the Thames to eat our lunch.

We had great views and watched a sailing boat pass through Tower Bridge

On the other side we walked around the Tower to see the poppies

Vicki cooked a particularly delicious supper, starting with a dry sherry and smoked anchovies on toast, followed by roast duck, and roasted pumpkin and a watercress salad.  Followed by delicious petit fours which I made up with small cut pastries which we had bought during the day.

Saturday saw us put our best foot forward for a walk on Hampstead Heath just a short way from the flat.  We had been across a couple of days previously, but approached it from a different angle.  There was a bad foot, the one with a blister on heel, which meant that we took a bus a little way to make our walk to Kenwood House a little easier!  I found Hampstead Heath charming, just like the countryside in London.  People were out walking, running, sitting on benches chatting, walking dogs, children were cycling, and there are even a few swimming lakes!

What a wonderful place: Kenwood House has recently been refurbished  and I loved the building, and its paintings and furniture.  Just imagine, the details on this full length portrait, carpet and stocking and shoe....

and a decorative edge of a small table.

I arrived back safely from my trip to the Capital...and spent the next day pottering in the garden!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Beetroot Chutney Recipe

It must be the season of purple preserves...fig jam, elderberry cordial, and now perhaps one of my top five chutneys.  I find Beetroot chutney is great way of getting some bright colour onto winter cold plates.  It goes really well with some our favourites: goat's cheese, chickpeas, cold meats, home made coleslaws, avocado and other salads.

It makes just the ideal Christmas present for friends who like preserves.  Maybe give the jar with my recipe for Boxing Day salad.  Great with cold turkey, ham etc., and no need to boil up beetroot to add that depth of flavour to something like a Russian salad, just mix in some cold diced salad potatoes, and other cold cooked veg, a little mayo, and a good quantity of this chutney.  Well my Dad always used to add beetroot to Russian salad.  A Swedish friend said that it was just like the salads they make in Sweden.

I've made Beetroot Chutney for at least 10 years.  Of course I always planted several rows of beetroot when I had my allotment.  Yesterday I could not resist the bunches at the market.  The leaves signaled freshly dug globes.  This year as it is still so warm, I did not feel like having the oven on for a couple of hours whilst they roasted, so instead they got 15 minutes in the pressure cooker.

With various books out on the table and other searches,  I found that my recipe from last year was about the best.   I made a variation to one the spices, inspired by Nigel's Salter comment in his Book 'Tender', that cumin could be included in any beetroot dish, deciding to add this to the chutney this year.

Of course you can scale up or down....

Beetroot Chutney Recipe 2014 

1Kg cooked beetroot, skinned
400g red onions
500g cooking apples, cored
250g raisins
750g cider vinegar, I use Biona Organic cider vinegar
350g soft brown sugar
1 tsp cumin
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp salt

Pour the vinegar into the preserving pan, then add the spices.   While this is heating up chop the red onion finely and pop that into the vinegar on the stove. They chop the cooking apple,  and add that together with the raisins, sugar, spices and salt to the pan.  Bring to the boil again, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  From the start to the end, stir from time to time, to make sure that the bottom does not catch, and that all the vegetables mix in the sauce. Then simmer the whole lot for about 30 minutes.

Whilst this is going on, there is time to chop the beetroot.  It is easy to make a nice neat small dice, the size you will want it on your plate.

Add the beetroot to the cooking pot, and continue the occasional stir, whilst on a gentle simmer, until the veg to sauce balance is to your liking.  I simmered gently for about one hour.

Pot up into sound jars which have been well washed and dried out in the oven.  You must use vinegar proof lids.  As you ladle the chutney into the jars, press down with the back of a teaspoon, to remove trapped air, and be sure that there is liquid to the top of the veg.  Only leave a small gap at the top of the jar, about 1/2 cm, beneath the lid.  Wipe the jars and label.  This time it yielded 8 x 340g jars, and a little 'tasting' jar.

Keep in a cool dark cupboard, best after 6 weeks, and wonderful up to 2 years thereafter!  Once opened if you are not likely to eat it up within a couple of weeks, I recommend keeping it in the fridge and use within a few weeks, but I suggest that after one month, you either don't like it, or have forgotten it was there, and have opened a second one by mistake!

It would make a wonderful Ruby Wedding Anniversary Present for the couple who has it all.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Blooms in the Garden - September 2014

I just love to amble down the garden and see what is in bloom.  I'm not a gardener with wonderful plans, sometimes things work beautifully, sometimes they don't.  I have a box with labels of plants I once planted, and which are no longer in the garden for many reasons.

I love form, flowers, leaves, shapes and if I enjoy them individually for a year or two I am grateful. Others I have had for many many years, and make sure that they are lifted, divided, moved if failing, and somehow they continue come up beautifully for me.  I realise that much can be made by their juxtaposition with others, which is my excuse for the movements I make.

I have some plants that I fall out of love with, and it is with great joy that I dig them up and consign them to the bin.  Sometimes it is because they become diseased, or get ravaged by inclement weather, others, it is just because something else comes along and take centre stage, or ought I to say shaded out?

One of the favourite things I like to do, is to pick a posy from the garden.  This September has been strange.  On one hand it is almost as if it is still summer, the rose bushes are starting on new growth, and I can see roses on the table in November at this rate.

On Monday I picked this posy.  The Michaelmas daisy is the give away that it is September.  This clump comes from a small piece given to me by my then new friend Penny nearly seven years ago.  It is now ready for dividing, well next spring will be the best time.  I have no name so it is the 'Penny Daisy'.  Other flowers and greenery are Rose Claire Austin which is finally blooming nearly white rather than yellow as it had been during the summer.  I sent an email to Austin's and they advised that it was probably a climatic thing: 'too much sun'.  Pittosporum Garnettii, Anaphalis Margaritacea, Iberis ex Betty Swainson, white carnation 'Memories', Lysimachia clethroides.

The following day, I picked this one, far more autumnal in colour

Rose from my not very climbing Crown Princess Margareta, Pittosporum Tom Thumb, Euphorbia x Martinii Ascot Rainbow,  Hypericum of some sort, brought in by birds.  The seeds are very large, and gradually go from pale cream, through red to black.  The evergreen shrub with small leaves, has lost its name, but I shall be on the hunt for this.

Flowering well: hardy fushia which I have had for over 20 years, name lost.  I nearly lost this plant too from neglect, so next spring, will take cuttings, and rejuvenate it.

Dwarf Stellar Pelargonium Golden Ears is flowering its socks off.  The single orange blooms on deeply cut bronze and lime green leaves are great.  This plant is over three years old.

I've been watching the insects, this tiny wasp is hopefully helping to control the many blackfly in the garden at present.  The stems of the Achillea 'Lilac Beauty', host green ones,

several different types of ladybird are in the garden too