Sunday, 10 April 2011

More spring garden plants

Should I describe my garden as a 'Cottage Garden'? I just love plants, and seem to find places for them. Sometimes I have to move them, or get rid of less choice ones to put in my latest acquisitions. I love to propagate and swap and give them away. When I walk around the garden, I can often remember when I first acquired them, and if they come from a friend's garden, then they are a lovely reminder of them too.

At the last evening meeting of the Kenilworth Gardening Club we had an excellent speaker talking about gardening with shade. So with this in mind, I walked round the garden finding some of the plants he mentioned like this Epimedium, and have made a mental note to pot some up for sale later in the year.

I know a couple of friends who would like some cowslips, so will pot up some seedlings for them. I originally grew these from seeds, which were planted in my garden, three houses back. We always seem to move during the hottest and driest parts of the year, but I have managed always to bring a few specimens with me.

These Anemone Blanda, I bought from a market in Kings Lynn not long after moving here, and have managed to encourage the seeds to germinate, and they brighten up the spot under the plum tree.

All these early flowers attract all manner of flying insects into the garden, from honey bees to all forms of bumble bees, and hover flies. Yesterday I saw the first orange tip.

Sunday Morning Ride out

As we were having breakfast this morning...Mr S suggested a spin out in the car. We had been meaning to go to the outdoor market at we sallied for. No market, it is held on Saturdays, so having our NT cards on us, we drove round to Charlecote Park, and after a look round the garden centre, joined the early entry into the park and gardens, and found a stone bench to sit down and look across the Parterre, which is just coming up to its best with a wonderful display of tulips.

We walked through the woodland garden, then went back to the car, and having spotted that Charlecote Water Mill was open, decided to drop in there.

John Bedington the miller, whom I'd spoke to soon after coming to Kenilworth, was there supervising the milling. I used to get my flour from Shipston Mill, so maybe I have a new local supplier. I have brought home two bags to test bake. It seemed that there was a large band of helpers from other mills there, learning on job, and also dressing the stones by hand. It was wonderful to feel the wheat as it came down the shute from the stones above, warm and silky smooth, the bran having been ground down finely.

On the top floor, which we climed up via a very steep ladder, to which the sacks of grain are hoisted, and from where the grain it poured into storage bins, which feed down to the stones below. I couldn't resist telling John that my great great Grandparents were millers in Lincoln, their mill at Wrawby near Brigg has been recently restored. When my Uncle Noel took me there to explain some of the family history, it was not open to the Public, but I would love to go there some time to see it working.

Baking for Friends and adapting recipes

Although I love baking just for ourselves, it is really nice to have friends round for tea. This time seven knitters or rather on this occasion, ladies crocheting some squares...came round. There was loads of chatting, and some crocheting, and a little knitting....then being a glorious day it was also out into the garden.

I wanted to bake at least two of three items gluten free. The biscuits pictures above, I adapted from Popina's Book of Baking. It is based on her Pineapple, coconut and lemon biscuits. If they were made with butter and normal flour, and slightly different other ingredients as per her recipe, then I think they would be different, but equally nice. They are light, tasty, with chewy pineapple bits. The quantity makes 36 good sized biscuits, so I was able to take some round for Julian.

When there were just three left, and we had been pudding less for about two days, I was inspired to make a quick dessert, which was so good, that it would be worth making these biscuits again just for this. I would freeze some biscuits just to have some put buy to make it up again.

Firstly Dessert using the biscuits:

For two people: Crumble three biscuits using fingers. Share about two of them between two pretty stemmed glasses, splosh over a little calvados. In a separate bowl whip up a small tub of double cream, I used goats cream, due to cow product intolerance, you could use normal cream. Then stir in the remainder of the biscuit into the cream. Put about two tablespoons of cooled poached apple on top of the biscuit mixture in the glasses, top with the whipped cream mixture, then decorated with some pretty pieces of poached apple.

This desert is 'assembled', all you need is cream, biscuits, cool poached apples, pears, maybe mangoes, peaches, apricots, and some liqueur. Malibu or a pineapple liqueur would go well. You could use Pineapple instead of the apple, but then I think it would overwhelm the subtle pineapple flavour in the biscuits.

Gluten Free Pineapple, Coconut and lemon biscuits

See Popina for her ingredients, and method for making preserved pineapple.

I used the following for my Mauritian Sunshine Biscuits

100g Pure Sunflower Spread

2 Eggs

100g white caster sugar

70g Demerara sugar, (we have a few acres where sugar is grown near to Moka)

180g crystallised pineapple rings which I bought from the Thursday Market in Kenilworth (the above soaked overnight in 1tbs rum, the last of my Mauritian Rum, and 1tbs lemon juice to plump it up)

Finely grated rind from 1 organic unwaxed lemon

120g Dessicated coconut

250g Doves Farm Gluten and Wheat Free Self-raising flour

Cream Pure and sugars, till fluffy. Add Eggs bit by bit, mixing well in between. Stir in Lemon zest, coconut and pineapple. Sift the flour high to add lots of air, then fold half into the mixture, then the rest.

Place generous teaspoonfuls onto baking trays, lined with parchment, leaving room to spread.

Take a wetted dessertspoon and flatten them slightly.

Bake in a pre heated oven, Gas Mark 3 for 25 mins until golden. Cool on a baking rack, and store in a sealed container for up to a week....I think three days.

Since I used my Mauritian Rum, and the main flavours say Mauritius: Pineapple and Coconut, I call these my Mauritian Sunshine Biscuits.

The second Gluten Free cake I made was on the pack of Gluten and Wheat Free Self-Raising flour blend from Doves Farm. I am sure that it would be equally good, and maybe even better when using butter, and normal flour.

Lemon & Poppy Seed Sponge, slightly adapted

125g self raising flour

100g Pure Sunflower

125g caster sugar


3 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

Rind finely grated from an organic wax free lemon

1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds

Lemon juice and icing sugar mixed, for the topping

Place everything in a bowl, and beat really well, pour into a greased lined 500g baking tin. Bake at Gas Mark 5 for 45 mins.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

When cool, spread thick icing mixture on the top, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.

I also bakes some scones, and must try my hand of making some with gluten free flour.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Auricula Clouded Yellow wins Best in Show

Once again, the hours of careful positioning of the auriculas, taking them into the conservatory, and then out into the garden, when it gets too hot, then back under protection when it starts to rain has paid off. This one variety seems to be at its best at show time, the others coming rather later. Even our visiting lecturer from Pershore College was thoroughly impressed. I was so pleased not only to win best in class, but best in the whole show....hence the cup! I would love to have an auricula theatre to show them off to their best, outside where the temperatures are just right, but shaded from strong sun, wind and rain....For now on this glorious sunny spring day, I've moved all the plants into the shade at the end of the garden.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Blists Hill Open Air Museum Revisited

A few weeks ago, we took ourselves over to The Ironbridge George Museum, for our Sunday out, taking Jenny with us, as well as a nice picnic. Mr S and I had been there over 15 years ago, and the Blists Hill Victorian Town was the one we had visited, and the one we opted for, as it was a lovely spring day, and nice to be outside. Mr S is normally 'couped up' with no sunlight during the working week, unlike myself, and it was lovely to be able to be outside but pop into the various buildings along the High Street. There are many more building there now, and it easy to spend more than one day there. As our tickets cover us for a year, and except for stopping to admire the bridge, this means that we shall certainly return to visit some of the other museums.

Highlights of the day:

Visiting the Draper and Milliner Shop, where Mrs Phillips in full Victorian Mode was entertaining and informative. Mrs Phillips runs the shop, and also is the dressmaker and milliner, and in the ship she also makes costumes on a hand sewing machine, following traditional patterns.

Getting a cone of chips cooked in dripping, and eating them as we walked round the brick and tile works.

Singing hymns in the Mission Church, after having had a drink at the Pub....the small organ was belting out the tunes, as well as some wonderful singers!

Eating hot currant buns from the Bakery. In this picture, the bakery hand is cleaning up at the end of the day...the oven has been cleaned, and a small amount of dough is resting, ready to be incorporated into the next day's batch.

The old iron mongers, other cottages, and the forge were all peopled by costumed guides, working, and also happy to explain things to visitors. There is so much to see and do, and learn.

Spring in the garden

Time marches on: over the last few weeks, I have taken a few pictures, and it only today that I realised that I had not downloaded for some time. I made a mental note of the frog spawn arriving one morning in the pond, of the first bumble bees, etc. but on which date? ...but I do know that yesterday I spied my first Peacock of the season, but did not take a picture!

Yesterday, Mr S and I spent the morning cleaning the outside of the conservatory. Over a couple days earlier I had cleaned the inside, including taking down all the tensioned concertina blinds where I found, oh I'll admit it, several seasons of dead hover fliers and other little flying insects. I had not realised they were there, until I saw the back of the blinds. So now the light levels in the conservatory are about as high as they can get, and we are back to having dinner, and any other meal there, and can gaze out on the garden, and watch spring unfurling. I need the light to keep away the winter blues, and even in the cold weather, sit out there with a rug and sometimes a blast from the heater, but when the sun shines it can be really cosy there.

Completed Housewife

No that' s not me, I am very much a work in progress, but a housewife is something to keep all one's sewing kit together. I started this sewing project in January at our WI sewing Group. I have now ditched the old black sponge bag I was using. It is much easier to find my sewing items, and when I start a project, I shall be able to get all the items from my larger box, and keep them in one place for the duration. This project has stretched my sewing abilities....and for the first time, I have sewn in a zip. I used the fabric from my stash of Panache by Moda. I hand quilted the outside following whatever took my fancy going round the shapes. Last year I had made a needle case at our group, so made up a similar shape around which to wind the tape which holds the roll together when it is closed. I had made up a small scissor keep, for my very small scissors, which has been a great help when I have 'lost' them, As the little pointy ends are very sharp and might cut through the fabric, I made a reinforced holder to fit the smallest pocket.
I loved the little blue beads which just finish off roll prettily.

When I went to the quilt course, I took the roll, and it was much admired....I think there will be several more made. On our tour of the show at the NEC, Mandy spotted the pattern, and bought it!