Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Courgette Chutney

So good, I needed to make it twice this season.  For two reasons:  firstly we have already run out of it, and secondly I wanted to check my recipe, and write down the exact method.  Again this is an original recipe, which really hits the spot to liven up dinners, cold cuts, and is fantastic in cheese sandwiches.  The full recipe and technique will be on my other blog: Mrs Mace Preserves.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Limoncello Babas

Since my last birthday, I have gradually been claiming my six special treats.  This was my fourth one, and I was promised a dessert item for the weekend.  Even though I love baking, its a treat for someone else to make something, as the taste and smell is so more intense if you have not been immersed in it during the cooking stage.

I had to make myself scarce, but I guessed that since yeast was asked for that it would be a special dessert.  I even started to think that it may have been rum baba, since it was shown recently on one of the Bake Off master classes.  I love rum babas, I have since I know not when.  I made the big ones in rings many years ago for dinner parties, and when in Italy or France or anywhere where there is rum baba in patisseries or in restaurants, it is almost certain that I will 'plump' for them...which could explain why I am plumper when I get back off my hols.  I am a bit of a purist, but am starting to be more flexible...I had not thought of making rum babas as we have only 4 dariole moulds of the right size..but they did show the babas on the master class baking in varying sized moulds.  Mr S baked them in a large muffin tin tray.

The main course cleared, this is what was brought in

This is the first yeasted item Mr S had made, and he chose to make Limoncello Babas from The Hairy Biker's Big Book of Baking.  They were sensational.  Well just one for one serving, with some cream on top, its just about the best desert I have had.  This is the recipe halved, and I think the whole would easily make 15 portions.

A mouthful yielded the tender poached sultanas, soft sticky lemony crumb, with a delicious soft candied peel...

It was sweet of Mr S to suggest that I take one round for Marie Claire.  I too had thought of it, but we decided not to say anything.  I rang to check that she in, they just deposited it, with the suggestion that it be eaten straight away for desert.  About half an hour after I got in, I had this phone call with gushing praise, and when I said that it was Mr S who made it, MC just could not believe it and said she was giving him permission to go onto Masterchef!  MC asked for the recipe.

We've now used quite a few recipes from this book, and there are many more to try out.

Fungi Season continues

Monday morning I am frequently 'at home', and look out for a visit from Penny.  Also with her, this week was little Daniel, her little grandson, for whom I keep the little miniature strawberries, and he can just about toddle down the garden and we are encouraging him to pick them himself, maybe next time.

Penny brought me an early Christmas Present: a Bundt tin and a long cake tin.  So I think some festive baking recipe research is now on the cards.

Penny had noticed this clump of fungi as she got off the bus, so of course, on her way out, we went to have a look, and I took these pictures which shows the interesting pattern which reaches down the stem.  I believe they are Shaggy Pholiota.

On my way back, I showed a neighbour the pictures and he said that a large tree used to grow there many years ago.

Just smelling the roses

Its nearly the end of October, its dark when hubby arrives home from work, so I pick the roses to scent our home.  I am also so pleased that the squirrel is eating things other than my rose buds!

Today a big bunch again of Etoile de Hollande

 And a few Grace stems.  I see picking roses at this stage as dead heading three days early.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Weekend Roses in October

Another bunch of Etoile de Hollande.  The squirrels have stopped coming into the garden and eating the rosebuds at last.

Fungi Season

Along the bed by the patio.  What are these?  Are they edible?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Coventry Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Exhibition

I joined the guild a couple of years ago, but found that spinning affected my hand adversely, and I even went to a local group for a lesson recently, and still had the same problem.  However this does not mean that I am any the less interested in this sphere.

Trish loves her yarn, and her art, and thought I would like to visit this year's exhibition.  I enjoyed and was amazed by the large range of items.

This necklace made of  Dorset buttons, has inspired me to get out my bag of bits and hoops and the book I bought, and get some 'mini' weaving going. What a coincidence too that Dorset Buttons were 'woven' into the story of the book which I am reading at the moment:  Burning Bright by Tracey Chevalier Book.

Knitted Flowers

Part of the collection of Dog's Fur Yarn

A jumper of many parts

and finally I recognized the work of Theo Wright and much admired his scarves.

The sheen on this silk one caught the low autumn sunshine beautifully.

There were so many other fine if not finer exhibits, and lastly I want a great woven throw in the raffle.

Not the last roses

First a quote which is so apt, given the really strong winds yesterday:

Wild is the music of Autumnal winds
Amongst the faded woods

William Shakespeare

It was so noisy, that yesterday Nicki and I withdrew from the conservatory to chat in the living room.  From the conservatory I was watching the plants take a real pounding in our normally very sheltered garden.  I was so pleased that I had picked some of the roses from the Etoile de Hollande Climbing rose.  It past mid October, and the roses are blooming.  There are still more buds to pick for this weekend.  It did not perform at all well during the summer, and what buds did come were soon eaten by the squirrels!

The blooms are really so perfumed....

Monday, 20 October 2014

New Plants in the Garden

Bought as a small rooted cutting earlier this year, the Salvia Involucrata Bethellii is adding a touch of the bright exotic to the late autumn garden.  I have just read that it is not very hardy.  As I have no greenhouse, it will have to take its chances, but I may get some horticultural fleece to swathe it with.

I have finally dug up some large old plants which I have been starting to 'resent'.  They are gone and I am pleased with the gaps left, so I shall be thinking about what new types of plants I want to grow.

I have been having Fothergilla envy for about five years, and have decided that life is too short, so have acquired one for myself.  Every few weeks I visit my 'Honey Man' in Kenilworth to collect several jars, and always enjoy and admire Pat's garden.  She has many large tubs arranged around her courtyard garden, and her Fothergilla usually stands out in Spring and in Autumn, in Winter the wood has an attractive upright shape.  After doing my research I found one I wanted, not too vigorous with blue green leaves during the summer, which would look lovely in one of my tubs.

I found a nursery growing Fothergilla Gardenii Blue Mist through the RHS plantfinder on line.

The nursery is some way away, but not so far, that I could not drive there on my own.  At first I thought a gardening friend come be able to come, but Trish had a big show on the following day.  I had scanned Chris Pattison's website, and had added further plants to my list.  After several wet and inclement days, Friday turned out the perfect day for a drive along country roads.  The hedges near the nursery were woven with old man's beard, and the autumn colours were coming through.

There were several customers and with only Chris there, I felt pleased to be left walking along the paths and poly tunnels looking at shrubs which I had listed or which just caught my eye.  You can see almost every stage of plants growing, from small cuttings to beautiful large specimens, ready to be planted in some large estate garden.  When I did have Chris's help, I felt that I was being guided and advised by a very knowledgeable plants person.  I agreed that a couple of my choices, given the information that Chris gave me, were best dropped.  If I went again I would take some wellies, as the paths were a little difficult to walk along in shoes as the water from several rainstorms over the week had not drained completely away.

There were trolleys of little cyclamen being germinated.  Chris and I had an interesting talk about their journey plant collecting in Europe last year, and our joint love of cyclamen.  Next time I wish to germinate cyclamen, I shall adopt his method....until now, I have just spread the seed along my stone garden and hoped for the best.

I couldn't resist this little beauty, and was not surprised that it is related to the Grevillea Canberra Gem which I acquired earlier this year.  It is Grevillea Lanigera Prostata.  It is compact with almost succulent type leaves, rather than the spiky sharp leaves of the Grevillea Canberra Gem.  The  plant is in full flower, and likely to continue thus until the spring.  I have it just outside the conservatory where I can admire the blooms, and I hope it will be happy with the protection of the wall, though I shall bring it in should the weather turn very cold.

To plant in the shade by the gazebo, a shrub with a heady scent Sarcococca Confusa, a sweet box to scent the garden in early spring.

and another one for Summer Scent, the single flowered Philadelphus Belle Etoile.

for the sheer beauty, colourful leaves and hopefully scented flowers, the Mahonia Wagneri Mosei

this is what I read about this plant:

Mahonia x wagneri `Moseri', a hybrid from aquifolium stock that has an amazing repertoire of leaf colour. It is as though it has been programmed to play a slow-release version of autumn effects all year. `Moseri' is yellow in spring, turns coral in summer and darkens to cock's-comb red as other leaves start to fall. This is a connoisseur's plant and it is hard to find because it is not easy to propagate.

Of course I had to get a fern, which I think will add that special something to my posies. 

Polystichum Setiferum 'Bevis'
Finally the last plant which caught my eye from afar due to its light airy nature, was this little beauty,

Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Little Star'

It was un named in the bank of plants, and there were only two I think.  When Chris printed out a new label for it, I recognised the 'myrtus' part.  This Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Little Star', is now the third plant from the Myrtle group in my garden.  I shall have to coset this one too!

So Christmas has come early, these are my presents to myself for 2014.  Well we have seen the first of the Street Christmas decorations up in Birmingham this Sunday!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Croissants made with goat butter

Is life too short to make croissants?  Maybe, but when I get a husband frazzled by a hard week at work, worn down by a similar virus to the one which has been afflicting me, who says he is fancying croissants, and who cannot touch cow's produce, it is worth it!  He didn't want brioches, or anything with nuts, yes I'm the very nutty one!

At first I thought I would not be able to make any in time, as it takes more than one day to make them.  But I wanted to make an effort and got out my books and notes from the last time I made them at the beginning of last year.

I just worked out that if I started then late on Friday evening, rested the dough overnight in the fridge, and started the lamination with butter this morning, I would get some ready for at least Sunday morning.

Saturday 7 am, take the dough and bashed cold butter, and start the lamination.  Of course, cow's butter works just as well.  For 600g flour, I added 50g sugar, and used the ratio of 250g butter which is less than Paul Hollywood's recipe but the amount recommended by Andrew Whitley, but he does not use any sugar!

After breakfast, do the folding and turning etc.

An hour or so later, cut and shape the croissants, and freeze most for future weekends.

For the ones I was freezing, I left off the egg wash, lay them on a baking tray cover with cling film.  As soon as they are hard, I'll pop them into a bag, and they will separate easily when I need to take a couple out.  

I had written that for a breakfast, I'd take them out of the freezer the night before, leave them lightly covered in the fridge overnight, and at about 6 take them to room temperature for their final prove if they are not fully risen.  Well that might be OK if was quite warm.  We had to have breakfast at 10.  So another time I would just let them rise, covered with a bag, on the kitchen counter overnight.  They were just as good as freshly made and baked.

Egg wash and bake, and hey presto freshly baked croissants for breakfast.  I have enough for several more breakfasts, and since they keep for 6 months, will be spacing them out.

These four came out of the oven a 2 pm ready for tomorrow morning.  I layered the trimmings with a topping of chocolate in one little quiche dish, and apricot jam and almonds in another for me..nice tea time treat.

Kenilworth Flower Festival

Last weekend The Kenilworth & District Churches had a Flower Festival celebrating Harvests of the World.  We visited the churches over two days, so had tea and cake twice!

Each venue approached their continent in a differing way.  So much work and research, fund raising and organisation went into making this a terrific weekend.  I took so many pictures but here are just one from each church and a banner from the Methodist Church

 I visit the Methodist Church quite regularly for lectures and also other classes, although I have never been to a service there.  They have some lovely needlework banners, in the modern idiom to suit their building

 St Barnabas Church UK & Scandinavia

 St Francis of Assisi - Asia

 St Nicholas Church - Africa

Methodist Church - Mediterranean

United Reform Church - South America

All Saints Leek Wootton - India

Leek Wootton had so many fabulous displays, and also they had a scene with Mother Teresa kneeling by a bed with a mosquito net praying for a dying person.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Another Good Read

This is the second book by Tracy Chevalier that I have read within a few weeks.  At first I read the book slowly, pausing to appreciate the well chosen words, to make up the picture in my mind, to feel for the characters.  I did not want to finish this book quickly, even though I wanted to know what would happen, I did not skip to read the end and then to go back and read the in between bits.  

I picked up the book, read small sections, then thought about it, and a few hours later, read a little more etc.  I loved the bits about finding yourself in a different country, to be amongst strangers.  I thoroughly empathized with that, the time that letters took, well for me they took over a week or two, rather than several months.  I felt the differences in food, housing, culture etc.  I enjoyed the bits about quilting, which reminded me of the bits of started quilts which I have never finished and which are stashed away somewhere.  

I finished the book a few days ago, and already have Tracy Chevalier withdrawal symptoms.  To meet that, I've booked another one from the library, and will get out the Video of Girl with the Pearl Earring out to watch again, though it will be interesting to read the book and compare it with the film.

Present from Daisy

Whilst in the middle of our knitting morning, there was a ring at the door.....

It was the postman with a parcel....

Just knowing it was there, was balm to my frazzled soul....

It sat in the hall until one minute after my friends left....

Taking great care with the scalpel, what with one finger already bound up with a  plaster, I found a healthy looking specimen.  It was well boxed, wrapped up, and had survived its journey well

Daisy, who writes a delightful blog, has sent me my first Epiphyllum.

I have followed Daisy's instructions, and potted it up.

Purple Delight Epiphyllum potted up

I have read up how best to look 'Purple Daisy', and I think for the winter it will be in the bathroom, and in the summer it will live hanging from the Gazebo Roof.

Thank you so much Daisy