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

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Faucaria Bosscheana in flower

For several days this little succulent has been opening its blossom at about 4 p.m., then closing again by 6 p.m..  I wonder which little insect comes out at that time to pollinate it in the wild.  Is this usual in its normal habitat?  The wonders and mysteries of nature.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Holiday Reading

We had the most wonderful dog, pretty, intelligent, loving..its just over 7 years since she died.  We loved her to bits, and still have reminders of her around the place.

At first anything doggy would bring tears to my eyes, but now I remember all the happy exploits, foibles and games we had.  I started this blog after we lost her, so there is nothing I can lead you back to, but then maybe with all the walks, I would not have had sufficient time to start a blog.

One of the books which D borrowed from the library and which I read  on holiday was Edward Stourton's Diary of a Dog Walker.  It was very entertaining and reminded me of the many of the aspects of having a dog.  The book is due back to the library today.

Its so amusing and well written, that I have already bought a copy, to give as a present.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Gunnerside Valley Walk

Immediately behind our cottage the path led to a Valley which used to yield a handsome profit for the landowners.  There are extensive remains from the lead mining industry.  We walked up the East of the river and returned on the Western Path.  Nothing could have quite prepared us for what we saw.  This is one of the best walks I've been on.  We had great weather, and the whole day in front of us.
One of the first really delightful sights as we approached the edge of the wood were two beautiful young stoats playing in the sunshine.  There were less than 5 metres away, we were in the gloom of the wood, and froze as we watched them gamble over a fallen wall, looking into all the crevices, it felt like 10 minutes, but we worked out it was only about 3!

We stopped by the little stream for the first half of our lunch, and soon I was looking at all the various types of vegetation, which including really small achemellia mollis.

Further up the hill, I had to venture a few feet into this culvet to see the various ferns.

 We stopped at this little stone bridge for the second part of our lunch and a drink.

 The heather was pretty, and sheep were grazing the pasture.

The red grouse were flying around too.

The mining left scars on the hill side.

and as we reached the end of our walk the valley became more tame, with fields closed in with stone walls with barn built to shelter animals and hay for the winter months.

Souvenirs of a delightful Yorkshire Holiday

We don't do much for either Christmas or Birthday presents, but I do put a little cash in my purse, and look out for treats for myself when on holiday.  Perhaps it is because I do not venture far and do much browsing type shopping when at home, or do not invest much time to that activity, but when I go on holiday sometimes even D spots something which will tickle my fancy.

Lots of wool, and a few other bits and bobs....

a set of heart shaped biscuit cutters, but I would have loved a wooden cake press!

A pair of socks now completed from local yarn, and my little piece of rock from Gunnerside Valley.  The colours will remind me of the heather and rocks.

This pair of socks with wool bought on our Frome Holiday, were finished during this holiday, and were carried around ready to find a place to pose them amongst the ferns, but it had to wait till we got home and here there are with one of my ferns in the lovely little pot found by Penny, and my piece of Yorkshire rock.

Angel's Share Bakery

During a chat with the lady from the knitting shop in Hawes, I happened to mention my love of baking, and asked about local bakeries.  I not only left with yarn, but also a recommendation to visit the local well known bakery in Richmond.

Again another glorious and sunny day, and the was car parked up somewhere on the outskirts, so that we would walk and admire the architecture,

we crossed the river and approached the revamped redundant railway station.  Of course D loves both baked goods and railways so it that was the first visit in the town.

The whole station feels vibrant, the central part has a large seating area, and around there are some interesting outlets selling ice cream, cheese, beer and of course breads produced on site.
Angel's Share is tastefully decorated, and lit, and their produce lovingly displayed.

I think I shall have to try their combination of flavours for my next batch of Amaretti!

We could not resist one of the fat rascals, though I think they were a little heavy on their raising agent, felt on the tip of the tongue and teeth when eaten, otherwise a nice addition to our picnic in the Castle.  By the way my scone recipe which has won  first prizes several times has no additional baking powder!

We stocked up on goodies to take home including one of their wholemeal and rye loaves topped with linseed...guess what my weekly bread was this good as I would say. Usually I find shop made bread a little on the light and fluffy side with no substance, but Angel's Share Lancer loaf was just right, but I would have given it a further 5 minutes in the oven!