Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Whole Hosta Leaves

Holeless leaves on my Hosta courtesy of copper tape.  This hosta, name unknown, left by the previous owners, has been repotted several times, and each year I vowed that I would throw it away, as every leaf became damaged by mid season.

Last autumn I bought a roll of copper tape from Waitrose, and during December put it around the pot just below rim level.  I even emptied the hosta out of its pot, to make sure there were no slug lurking in the bottom.

My friend Liz Watson has a lovely collection of hostas given to her by another 'enfuriated' gardener, and all of her pots on her shady patio, have tape around them and were much admired at the last open garden.  She did mention that you have to wipe the tape from time to time, because the tape can become compromised by splash up of soil, and the little slugs and snails soon find this out.

Monday, 27 June 2016


I have a friend Dasiy Debs who not only enjoys gardening and blogging but excels at the wonderful art of embroidery.  I have another friend Debbie, who loves visiting historic places and often sends me links to interesting information on face book.

Recently Daisy has posted a picture of her exquisite embroidery, straight from life, of a gillyflower.  This is the old fashioned name for what we now call pinks and carnations.  This reminded me of the time I spent as a volunteer in the new Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle.  I remember the day they hoisted in the marble statue and set it up in the middle of the fountain.

Yesterday there was jousting at the Castle, and Mr S and I decided to have a walk over there.  We do this most times there is something on at the Castle and love to have a chat with the 'enactors' who are spending the time in the tents, cooking, and living, and putting on shows.  I usually take pictures and have posted about this from time to time.

This time I took a few pictures of some of the wild flowers in bloom along the way,  I thought the first clump of wild knapweed reminded of a carnation.  This clump was so good, that I shall return to gather a little seed as I think it would make a rather nice garden plant and it was being visited by bees too!

The Gilly flowers were doing their best after very heavy downpours of rain the previous day and in Kenilworth Castle Gardens captured some of the gillyflowers:

In a corner of one of the beds, the Sweet Williams were putting on a good Show.

In a Vase on Monday- Roses

May I post this and legitimately link it to Cathy's meme?  Today she is putting her feet up after opening her garden, and has posted about this.

The Vase is a jug, the flowers are in it, but I took them for a friend.  Well when I say a friend, Helen was my teacher for a few weeks, and at several workshops:  mixed media painting, mosaic and buttons.  I am posting on Monday!

Mr S and I had walked down to Helen's  launch night for Open Studios a week or so ago.  We had spied a lovely love token which we wanted to have to mark our anniversary, and which will have pride of place.  I made a beeline, and made sure a little red sticker was added, and left the piece for others to admire, and I do believe that Helen received several commissions because of this.

Saturday saw torrential rain storms, and I had promised to collect the piece then.  In between the torrents, I ran into the garden and picked these blooms, dethorned the roses and made a hand tied posy.  Both of us are suffering from hayfever at the moment, which has meant few flowers in the house.  I have so missed joining in with Kath's meme, that I thought  I would take these roses for Helen, but first photograph them for my vase this week.

Princess Ann, Gertrude Jekyll and Munstead Wood Roses, with a little alchemilla mollis, leaves from my pot grown Hosta which this year is without holes as I put some copper tape round the neck of the pot, and some Valarian

Sunday, 26 June 2016

June Garden Update

It been a rather strange year weather wise...and over the last few days we have had some torrential downpours, where within ten minutes our patio has been under water, but ten minutes after it has stopped raining, everything is clear again.  We have had hail too, and some of the delicate blooms are battered and bruised.

Starting at the bottom of the garden in the shady area, I've left the wild yellow poppies to do their thing.  They start to flower early in the season, and the bees love them.

Just up from the gazebo the Valeriana Officinalis is in full bloom, and the scent fills the garden.

The flowers are perfumed and stand above the other plants on their tall wiry stems.  Close up, you can not only appreciate their beauty but the complexity of their structure.

The roses are doing particularly well this year.  Ghislaine de Feligonde

Princess Anne with its lovely glossy and healthy leaves, somewhat overwhelmed by the Astrantia.  Once it has finished flowering, I shall be splitting it up, and replanting as as to give the rose a little more space.

Grace, which having first been grown in a pot for two years, is not spending her third year in the garden, surrounded by love in the mist!

and Munstead Wood with its glorious maroon many petaled blooms:

The climbing rose are all doing well but need to be tied back and have their summer prune ready for the next flush of flowers.

This is a plant given to me by my friend Diane last year: Stachys Byzantina or Lamb's ears, and it is just coming into flower

I bought a collection of Penstemons last year, but this is one I was given by the Handyman at my last place of work.  It flowers its socks off each year, however hard I cut it.

I've had two superb foxgloves in the garden this year, and most likely there are big bumble bees visiting in between all the showers, or even taking refuge in the blooms:

I love this pale pink poppy.  I got it from Waitrose last year but I think the label is somewhere in the garden.

After flowering early on the year, the Fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist is living up to its name with its lovely blue green leaves:

In this pot I have collected some offshoots of some little plants and they are coming on nicely:

In the front of one border, I'm pleased to see that the Hardy Fuchia Tom West is showing some pretty colours.  I shall be taking some cuttings of this.  Over the years I seem to like one plant over another, and this year I have increased my little collection of Hardy Fuchias, after a talk at the gardening club.

I'm growing them in pots this year, and love the way the light shows up the stems on this one:

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Do Good Loaf

After my experience with getting a banneton which was not the size described and far too small for 1Kg of dough, I decided to emulate my baking friend Eddie Bromilow. He had baked his 1Kg dough from another recipe in two loaves which he described as 'one for now and one for the freezer!'

There is something quite exciting about receiving new toys which you have bought yourself.  My two new bannetons arrived on Friday.  They are beautifully made, and have two little cloth liners, so there is the opportunity of getting 'ridged' loaves or plainer ones if you use the cloth liners.  The first thing I did was wash the liners thoroughly with lots of clean water, wash and dry the baskets, and given them several layers of cornflour wash.

My friend Tony arrived Friday afternoon with my order from Shipton Mill.  Its great having a baking buddy close by, as we put in a joint order, and manage to get free delivery for our supply of flour that way.  Tony was impressed by the baskets.  I was in the middle of baking my standard, wholemeal and rye loaf, with dried yeast, and when they came out of the oven, and out of their tins, they were much admired.  I had refreshed both the wheat and the rye sourdough starters, so he went away with both, as his wheat sourdough had become 'sick'.

The Do Good Loaf was developed by Dr Clive McCay at Cornell University in the 1940's. We haven't yet as a group baked the Do Good Loaf, but I was itching to try out the new baskets, and this was a recipe I fancied trying.  I scaled up the ingredients to make 1000g of dough as given below.  However its became even better as I added a couple of handfuls of soaked sunflower seeds!

Its well worth working through the printed recipe in Jane Mason's Book for the 700g loaf.

 I have upsized the loaf, and changed some of the timings and used the fridge, so that baking this bread works for me, giving the following:

For 2 Bannetons:

90g wheat starter, 90g stoneground wholemeal flour, 90g water were mixed at about 2pm, and left on the counter

At about ten pm the following were added

180g white flour, 290g stoneground wholemeal, 285g milk, 2 tbsp wheatgerm, and 10g salt.  I also added 1tsp diax malt flour which I got from Bakery Bits.

It had a good knead for about 10 minutes, then it was  popped back in a large bowl, covered, left for half an hour, had the drained seeds mixed in, then it was put it in the fridge for a slow overnight rise.

At around 6am I took it out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

At 8:30, it had risen a little more, so then out it came from the bowl, divided into two, and shaped to fit the new baskets.

At about 10:45, I put the oven to warm to Gas No 7, turned out dough onto the lined tray, and was very happy on how easily they came out.  The cornflour coatings really worked well.

I thought it was ready...put I ought to have tried the 'probe' test described on page 13 of the book!

About 30 minutes in the oven, and they were done.  I could see from the tear near the base that the dough needed a little longer proving.  Jane Mason gives lots of troubleshooting tips in her New Perfecting Sourdough Book.

The loaves had not completely cooled by the time we were ready to sit down for lunch..but Mr S said I was too much of a tease, so I relented and we had it with soup, and some delicious Ribblesdale Blue goats cheese.   Maybe one of the best tasting loaves I have eaten.......

Friday, 24 June 2016

Tate & Lyle: Just because the words don't say so.......

As a enthusiastic preserver of fruits and other lovely things, a baker of meringues and other sweet things, I know that Cane Sugar is the only one that really works.  I was dismayed when earlier this week I bought a couple of bags of Tate & Lyle Granulated Sugar.

The old design in the nearly empty bag says it all CANE SUGAR, and someone cutting the canes.  Well maybe most sugar cane is cut with a combine harvester these days, and for this I am pleased, as I know from observation that this is a horrible job.  It also had an English Address, and said Produced in the UK.  What they meant by produced I do not know, well maybe bagged only, since the sugar is imported mainly from countries such as Mauritius, and maybe other members of the old British Commonwealth.

Recently the market has been sourcing its granulated sugar from sugar beet, well this may be OK for sweetening tea and coffee, but I much prefer the Cane type of Sugar.  Even Waitrose stopped stocking Tate & Lyle Granulated sugar in favour of the beet variety.  I contacted them and had no satisfactory reply, with the lady on the help desk said that other customers were happy with this.  I would much rather import sugar from countries, where they not only grow, but process the sugar, and come up with a lovely range from the deepest darkest moscavado sugars, large crystalled demerara to white refined icing sugar and caster sugar, than send aid!

The New Bag does not mention Sugar Cane at all, and says "Packed in the EU".  I was really pleased to be assured by Tate & Lyle that the sugar is still cane sugar.  This is the answer I received:

Tate & Lyle sugar is cane sugar. We recently undertook research with some of our consumers which revealed the need for a simple and engaging design to help consumers understand Tate & Lyle’s different sugar types and their functions. As a result, we reviewed the full range of our products and decided to change some of the product packaging, which included removing the word ‘cane’ to make room for other information on the pack. For example, we now call our caster sugar “caster baking sugar” so that we know it is appropriate to use for baking. We are grateful for your feedback regarding the confusion that removing the word ‘cane’ from the pack has caused, and re-instating it on the pack is something the marketing team are now looking in to.
Secondly, we label our products ‘Packed in the EU’ as we have three cane sugar refineries in Europe – the Thames refinery in East London, Sidul refinery in Lisbon, Portugal and a refinery in Brindisi in Italy. The majority of our products available to buy in the UK are packed at our Thames refinery. Very occasionally it might be necessary to move the packing of a product to a different refinery, and the ‘Packed in the EU’ label allows us this flexibility. 

I hope that very nealy all the produce Tate and Lyle market in the UK is produced at the Thames Refinery.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Garden Visits

June is the month where many gardens are at their best.  We had several gardens open in Kenilworth, and it was nice to see that three members of the Horticultural had open gardens.  I did a little stint in Bob and Liz Watson's garden, and hopefully we will have attracted some new visitors to our meetings.  I enjoyed all the gardens I visited, and was impressed by the Bomb Shelter in one of the open gardens which was built during the second World War for residents of Field Gate Lane.

In Liz's garden I was impressed by this little succulent like plant with yellow flowers, which seemed to seek out the shade.  How strange: one would expect plants with succulent type leaves to enjoy the sun.  It is called Chiastophyllum oppositifolium.

Liz and Bob's garden is full of interesting plants and every little space be it in full sun or shade has just the right plant growing.  The pale lemon flowers of this plant brought light to a shady corner.

Recently, at the Horticultural club, we have been racking our brains on how to increase our revenue to help meet the increasing costs of speakers and their travelling expenses.  We have of course been inviting rather good speakers and this has been thanks to the generosity of some of our members.  Some of us have started to open our gardens to club members, with invites to our garden on a specific date, with tea and cake included!  One of our members even opened her garden recently where were celebrated the Queen's 90th Birthday with a special tea.  These events have been very popular and a good way of sharing gardening knowledge, and also getting to know other members whilst admiring the gardens and chatting.  I have picked up many ideas I would love to put into practice for all the visits

This week at Barbara and Mervyn's garden we had a wonderful tour and were enchanted by the wonderful selection of herbaceous plants, with roses and shrubs, and even a little chamomile lawn.  Geraniums are to the fore at this time of the year, and this one: Elke, in their front garden, was a clear winner for me on the day.  The foliage is attractive, and for a geranium that keeps on flowering for weeks when dead headed, this was well admired and also photographed by several of us.  With a white margin on the petals and strong pink veining, the  blooms really stand out.  Barbara and Mervyn have many excellent geraniums, and I think she may be asked to give a club a talk one of these days!

Here and there in the garden were lovely clumps of Erigeron karvinskianus...and guess what?  I came home with a little plant.  Mr S has always admired this one, so I just had to get it didn't I?  Barbara and Mike had propagated some of their plants, and had a little sale, and I believe all of them went home to other members' gardens, with quite a tidy sum going to the gardening club.  When I go out and see this one also flourishing in garden I shall remember this lovely afternoon, and Barbara and Mervyn's garden.

Khorasan Breakfast Buns

Its quite some time since my recipe for Khorasan Breakfast buns was first published on Shipton Mill's site.  Today I just felt like baking them again...but I had to cycle out to Mick Smith's to get half a dozen jars of honey.  The buns don't need that much, its just that I like to have a little stash in my cupboard, as we have a little each day, and we did not have any runny honey left.

I had another set back when making these...I ran out of fennel seeds so had to go out and get some more.  For the final trial, I was faced with having to throw out all the ingredients as I cracked an egg over the whole of the ingredients including the honey, and the egg was off!  

Usually I crack the eggs one at a time into a dish, then decant them or separate them as required by the recipe.  Recently I had been watching all the chefs and Mary Berry just crack the eggs straight in, and was beginning to think I was far behind the times.  I shall go back to my old ways again.  The free range eggs were bought from Sainsbury's and were well within date...but I guess one bad egg over many years isn't too bad.  The whole lot went into the recycling bin, and everything washed down thoroughly..with a little bleach before I started up again.

Here are the buns cooling on my new cooling rack...its larger than my very old ones, has a finer grid, and cost just £3 from Sainsbury's this week.

Apricot and Pistachio Conserve

Was I inspired by the pretty apricot roses and greenery in the garden....maybe!  Several jars of my Apricot and Pistachio conserve are waiting to have their labels stuck on.  If you want the recipe just go over to my other blog: Mrs Mace Preserves.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

In a Vase

I used to love joining in with Cathy for in a Vase on Monday...but then things got hectic, and it was easier to just look at the flowers in the garden, maybe cut for the odd vase, without taking pictures and posting.  I have, when time has permitted looked at what others have come up with.  This week Cathy's vase was very cool and calm.

Last week I visited a Friend's Open Studio event, and when she said how much she loved my vases which I put up on my facebook page,  this revived my spirits, and yesterday when I went out to deadhead the flowers, I came in with some, perhaps too many.

The apricot coloured rose Grace is doing beautifully, as is the very dark red rose Munstead Wood.  I've had many blooms on the climbing Etoile de Hollande, and now fully deadheaded and fed, I hope it gathers itself for another good show in a few weeks time.

As well as blooms I am also really attracted to the seed heads.  This year the self seeded acquligia have performed beautifully, so I thought to include their seed heads, and one from the Patty Plum poppy,

This has been the first year in which this poppy has bloomed, but I am not sure I like the colour of the bloom, or it may be better moved to another part of the garden with different coloured plants around it.

Then I spied that the love in the mist was going to seed, and its red stripe picked up the red of the rose.

I had been working hard at dead heading the centaurea, but must have missed some, as in the evening, we had gold finches visit and eat the seeds.  It was a delightful sight, so I may leave a clump just for them.  Also in the vase is alchemilla mollis, and a stem of yet to flower sedum, a clump of which was subjected to a late Chelsea Chop.

The astrantia continue to delight me, and the bees and hover flies too!

I realise that by making up a vase on a regular basis one does develop a certain elegant style.  After a break, looking at the pictures now, I realise that I picked too much, and could have done better.  However better to do than not do at all!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Lincolnshire Plum Buns

Lincolnshire Plum Buns are the newest bake, set for mid June from Jane Mason's The Book of Buns, on our facebook page.  I could imagine that this recipe was specially set in the book for me...but I did not know Jane when this book was first published!

The pancheon that sits on my work top was made a very long time ago, and has been handed down the generations.  Since my Grandma and her ancestors came from Lincolnshire, I imagine there were many a Lincolnshire Plum Loaf  mixed in this one.  I can also imagine Grandma making Plum Loaf into buns, as her children and grandchildren, living nearby,  seemed to know when she was baking, and she loved making buns because each person would have their own very own little 'loaf'.  Recently at my Aunty Prue's 'wake', we had sliced Lincolnshire Plum Loaf, and I thought how delicious it was then.

Found on page 95 of The Book of Buns, this recipe asks for 300g of dried days of yore, any allusion to plums in cakes referred to 'dried vine fruits', but I wonder if people dried bits of locally grown plums to store during the winter and used that in boiled puddings?

The fruit is soaked overnight in tea, which makes them lovely and plump.  I used organic raisins, and the drained liquid was then put into the batch of wholemeal and rye bread made up the same day.  Waste not want not?

During the morning on Friday, Keith came over for a chat and coffee, and watched me shape the buns...but sadly they were rising rather slowly, and had not been baked as I had expected, before it was time for him to leave.  Must remind Keith to come in the afternoon next time!  He even helped with the washing up before he left.  Do you think I should take him a couple round when I see him for the open gardens this afternoon?  I did take some for Roy when I took round his loaf later in the day.

These buns are really delicious...the next bun to be sliced had so much fruit in, it made this one look like a 'Skinny Lincolnshire Plum Bun'.  Mr S was impressed by the Friday Buns and we were able to sit outside on the patio to enjoy our Friday Meriender when he got home from work.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Austrian Rye with rye sourdough starter

This is our third bake...the first one using a rye sourdough starter, and one chosen this time by Nigel Bamford.  I did have one's days advance notice, so managed to get my rye sourdough out of the fridge.  It had lain there for several weeks, and had separated out.  I was a little nervous so read up on Jane Mason's guidance on looking after the sourdough.  I decided to refresh it by taking 50g of the sourdough, adding 150g organic wholerye flour, and 300g water.  The rest in the jar tasted quite acidic so I decided to ditch it...well it went down the drain rather than into the ditch!

By the morning I had a lovely fresh smelling lively sourdough starter.  I read the recipe one more time, and decided to omit the coriander and cumin seed, and stick with the caraway in the loaf, and anise seeds on the top.  Even when I reread the recipe and contents I made the mistake of thinking they had not been included the anise seeds in the ingredients....but it is there in black and white!  Pointed out to me by several friends on our Facebook page where I am picking up so many tips.

I suppose I did not quite follow the timing of the original recipe...but in this instance this worked for me.  Looking at my timings they were more or less spot on with the recipe, but managed the whole loaf in one day, rather than over two, with baking late on day one, rather than mid morning day 2.  We had a freshly baked loaf waiting for us for breakfast.  I left it on the cooling rack wrapped up in a cloth.

100g sourdough starter, 20g dark rye flour, 25g wheat flour, and 20g water

I measured all these and put them into a bowl at 8 am, covered it and left it on the kitchen counter till 4pm, ie about 8hrs.

40g dark rye, 215g strong white wheat flour, 100g milk which I had previously warmed and allowed to cool completely, 50g malt syrup, 5g salt, and 1tsp caraway seeds.

These were added to the refreshed starter above, and given a good knead for ten minutes 'The Bertinet Way', shaped and put straight into a well buttered tin.

One of our group on Facebook had placed a link to this method.  It is one of the kneading methods I have used for friend Vicki first introduced me to Bertinet over ten years ago, and even bought me one of his little plastic scapers when she went on one of his baking courses.  It has proved to be the best scaper I have had.  The method is also really useful when my hands are hurting, and very amazingly a bout of kneading helps to exercise my hands and restore their flexibility.

I shaped the loaf as I would shape a standard loaf, and left it to rise in the tin, on the counter, at room temperature.

I was going out to our WI meeting, and the look of the loaf before I left at 7 told me that another 2 or so hours on a coolish summer day would be fine.  Resting time was about 5 hrs. When I got back I preheated the oven to Gas No 8, and when warmed, put in the loaf, and after 10 minutes turned the temperature down to No 6.  Forty minutes in all, with the last ten having to cover the top with a little foil to stop the seeds from burning, gave a lovely bake.

This morning I had a slice with butter and raspberry jam for my breakfast....delicious.  I'm not even sure I can taste much sourness, but it is in perfect balance with the malt.

Next time I'll replace  half the white flour with wholemeal, and presoak the seeds in the milk, and double up the quantities to make two loaves.  I know that Roy would love one of these loaves.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A pile of pittas but only some with pockets

This baking challenge is the second bake from Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough.

I'm not sure whether it is me, the recipe, or my starter...but I was not too happy with these Pittas.  To be frank I have only make pitta with fresh yeast just the once, and this was several years ago.

The recipe says make eight pieces 2.5mm thick.  I think either the number or the thickness is wrong here as with just over 1Kg dough you would end up with pitta the size of tea trays!  Anyway I made smaller ones about 5mm thick, and seeing how they turned out I think they should have been a little thicker.

I preheated trays, and watched the pockets bake...some inflated a little and other remained stubbornly flat.  The oven was at maximum heat!  Then the last batch went in on a cold tray...and they puffed up.

  It was only fifteen minutes after the last lot had gone in so I do not think it was because they had had much longer to rise...they were the last to be formed.

The hummus I made was delicious...but the pittas...I don't even think that I shall try to get better at baking these.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Why no 'In a Vase on Monday'

I've been busy, and Mondays especially...then there has been the pollen.  Both Mr S and I have been affected by hay fever this year, and bringing more flowers into the house would just have tipped us into the very uncomfortable zone.  With local honey each day, year round, we are usually on top of things, but I have been having posies inside mid week including a lovely bunch of Lily of the Valley.

Instead a few shots showing the best plants in the garden.

And finally a little bug watch...a Maybug or Phyllopertha horticola, first time I've noticed this one in this garden.