Sunday, 25 January 2015

Krentenbollen Last bake in the old oven

During the week, I was catching up with back bakes from the book of buns.  Mr S was going to have a very early start Friday leaving just around 6 am, and needed a flask and something to eat.  Leafing through the book, I read about Krentenbollen which it says is practically the national dish in The Netherlands.  As  I am also planning various routes around Amsterdam for Vicki's and my visit there later this spring, thought it would be ideal one to try.  We even talked about this, and made a note to find a bakery on our route.

With 400g of flour, and 400g of fruit they are indeed very fruity.  The fruit was soaked in sherry, and with the grated orange and lemon peel, you end up with a big sausage ready to cut up into 12 buns

The explanation and techniques for shaping are so easy to follow.

Delicious with a cup of coffee.

Today however, when I was about to bake our little pizzas for lunch, I found that my oven just would not rise beyond the simmering level of flame.  After various booklets were leafed through, panels removed from the oven, the internet explored, and  the previous experience of having been told that the cooker was discontinued in 2001, and no spares are held, the conclusion was that a new cooker is needed!

In the meantime remembering the earlier Pirozhkis, the pesto, pumpkin and mozzarella covered dough was made into parcels

and were dry fried on the top of the cooker

so we were able to have some lunch after all.  These four were the 'remainders'.

Lachenalia aloides 'Romaud'

One of the pots of Lachnalia bought a couple of weeks ago is showing its blooms beautifully.  There are so many more to open up.  I love the purple blotching on the stems.  With a delicate perfume too, and able to take the low temperatures they are an ideal plant for the conservatory, though when it threatened to go down to well below freezing, I brought them into the house for the night.  One of the leaves has rotted off, so I think I ought to water from the bottom.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Pirozhki is one of the January recipes from The Book of Buns by Jane Mason given out on the Facebook page.  Again I felt that nervous mental tremor when I am about to do something out of my comfort zone.  So for me, feeling the pressure to keep up with the bakes has led me to making some very delicious bakes that I would have otherwise missed out on.

Even Mr S laughed at me when I said what was in them...what two carbohydrates?  I tend to have that rule when planning meals, for example we never have chips and bread and butter.  Now I know there are people for whom fish and chips are just not right without the bread and butter, and maybe making a 'butty' at the end of the meal.   But then I guess if your total carbohydrate input does not increase, ie each portion is small that is OK.  If fact maybe I have been missing something all these years!

The dough is made up with milk and eggs, so is fairly nutritious.

The filling in this recipe is along the lines of a Polish Pirozhki, though I read with interest Jane's comments that these are found all over Eastern Europe, Central Asia and into Greece, and there must be so many types of different fillings.  My little addition to the filling recipe of onions, potatoes and dill were some extra dill seeds.  I so love the flavour of dill.

You just roll out small portions of the dough, and gather it up around the filling,  and leave to rest, seam side down.  I used a little semolina flour on the outside, as I like its grittiness. After resting again, into the frying pan.

I used just sufficient oil to stop sticking, and used two frying pans at a time.  You really need to leave room or they will stick together.  There were four pan fulls.

I felt the edges needed a little more balanced them..

I allowed some to cool ready for chilling.

 The rest were taken to the Monday evening art class, where colour was the theme of the day.  On Tuesday I reheated some to have with a big bowl of soup for lunch.  Really different and delicious.

We made our own colour wheel, and then a still life.  I chose some lovely tulips from a huge bunch, and a lovely art deco vase.  I chose to use a naive style...this allowed a little time to play...

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Classic cake for the weekend

Having made my Strawberry Jam, I went on to make a Victoria Sandwich.

 I was very careful to make it in time, so that it was cold enough to fill with jam, and be cut ready for when D got back from work.

He says that often I say not, it has to cool, and am just a bit tease with my maybe this is one of my improvements for this year.  Lets hope it continues!

Just finished another good book by Tracy Chevalier, this one set in France: The Virgin Blue.  Quite apt at this time of religious intolerance, it really portrayed well the conflict between Calvinists and Catholics.


Another bake from one of my two new bread baking books by Jane Mason.  I loved the technique for getting the shape.  To think that you prove the buns with the slit upside down, then turn round just before the go in the oven.  The shape reminds me of pain maison from Mauritius.  I was thinking of this just as I was about to get my camera out, so found a shell I once picked up on a beach in Mauritius when I was a little girl to also star in the picture.

When I make them again, I would dissolve the yeast in the water with the malt syrup, then pour it into the middle of the flour.  Rather than add the ingredients together.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

New Classes

There is something wonderful about drawing.  I've always admired it, and tried to copy little things,  mainly around my calligraphy, but have wanted to do something original.  What better than having lessons?  I'm having weekly lessons with Helen Clues  at the Gecko Studio and Gallery in Old Town, Kenilworth.

For my first Art Lesson, we were given a wonderful array of mushrooms, and with some trepidation at making the first mark using graphite pencils, and some good guidance, two hours later I have a couple of trials.  My first one which I had only noticed that I dated 2014 after I took this photograph, but since changed.

and my second much larger one when I started to feel less inhibited

I'm already looking forward to the next art classes, each time something new....Helen is an inspirational teacher

Monday, 12 January 2015

Easiest Buns in the World

Mix all the ingredients, put in the fridge overnight or even two days, I made mine with half spelt and half stone ground wholemeal, threw in some sunflower seeds, pumpkin and linseeds, and it works!

Just put spoonfuls straight onto a baking sheet

and put in the oven.  That about all you need to do, no kneading at all, and no work surfaces to clean.

This was one of this month's choices from the Book of Buns, by Jane Mason, bake along on facebook.  I baked half one day, and left the dough one more day just to check that it was OK to do so.  Yes it is, and the texture of the crust and inside is different and interesting compared to kneaded bread.  They also freeze and reheat beautifully.

The recipe is available on line in Self Raising Flower's blog

A cure for the January Blues?

I've been toddling along quite nicely, no January Blues whatsoever.  Then I thought a little retail therapy might insure the high spirits.  So I planned a little road trip, to keep my driving experience updated, to a plant grower.  I went through recent RHS magazines, the internet etc to choose some plants, did my research etc.

After sending the boy to work on the bus, I set out this Friday on my trip across country to Cotswold Garden Flowers.  The weather was bright and sunny, but the first obstacle was a closed bridge which entailed a long detour.

I loved walking perfectly alone through the numerous poly tunnels looking at the pots of growing plants.  Even the outside beds in their winter garb were interesting.  There was a friendly cat who kept jumping up and wanting attention, and several lovely plump chickens finding a corner to use as a dust bath.

Finally I found Mandy and we had a great chat about some of the plants.  She had placed some gorgeous snowdrops that she had found, quite new and unique in her garden.  I tried to buy them, but they were definitely not for sale at this time, so good luck to her and I hope they bulk up soon.

I had chosen to go to Cotswold Garden Flowers because the RHS plant finder had listed them as my closest supplier of Lachenalia.  I had thought of growing these in the conservatory as they are winter flowering, with a full dormancy during the summer.  I realise you can buy the bulbs but that the season for that is the Summer and I just could not wait.

I chose a couple of different ones:  Lachenali Aloides Quadricolour and Lachenalia Romaud.  If I 'fall in love' with these, then I shall see what bulbs I can acquire during the summer.

Then it was the case of a girl in a candy store, well me in a Plant Nursery.  I bought a couple of hardy geraniums: Blue Sunrise which has golden foliage, and Rozanne which has been voted plant of the centenary.  They are both dormant but I have Mandy's assurances that they are good sturdy plants.

Outside in their display of potted up plants, my eyes caught Mahonia Soft Caress.  I love the form and the fact that there are no prickles, with the red stems and soft foliage a great combination, I am really looking forward to the sweet smelling yellow blooms.

I already have and love my clumps of dark purple Ophiopogum, so was delighted to find a green and white variegated form called Little Tabby.

Continuing the theme of winter greens, and also my love of sedges, when I saw a lovely large specimen of 'Carex Oshimensis Everest' growing in a stone urn swaying in the wind, catching the low winter sunshine, a nice specimen just had to come home with me.  It is already potted up in a larger pot, and lightning up these dull winter days.

A large oriental poppy Patty's Plum will be in the summer border, and lastly a little beauty to join my aeoniums in the conservatory: meet Cristata Sunburst.  What a great name, it also looks fabulous against my deep maroon and plain green aeoniums.

If there were any vestiges of January Blues, they were blown away, and I had a nice Sunday afternoon pottering around the garden, planting and repotting, and dreaming of what beauties will soon start sprouting in the garden.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Coventry Cathedral

We were considering what to do on a spare day, when D mentioned that he was yet to visit Coventry Cathedral.  Ah!  I did want to look for Anise seeds, so a trip to combine the two was just the thing.  The sun was low and bright and brought out the wonderful details of the coloured glass.

To the side of the High Altar, in the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane, there is an interesting and beautiful wall mosaic deigned by Steven Sykes.  I was looking at a part of it

and then saw that the design has been worked on a kneeling cushion

I am so pleased we visited together, we walked around pointing out different choice views.  However, we got  tickets which allowed to visit any number of times this year, so decided to leave more for another visit.

Bollo de Hornasso and seeking Anise seeds

Another of the recipes in Jane Mason's Book of Buns, which on 'Baking our Way through the Book of Buns' on facebook, is the one for December.  Its fun baking the same recipe together,  as I feel that have fellow bakers to discuss the finer points of the recipe with, and also commiserate if there are any problems.  This foggy and freezing Sunday just seemed the right sort of day for baking these buns and filling the house with delicious smells.

One of the ingredients is Anise.  Ever since this recipe was chosen, I have been in search of this spice.  Through Google and a large book on spices I've learnt quite a bit about this one.  Its the spice used to flavour aniseed balls, though I read that the centre is a rapeseed, which reminds of my mother who really loved these little sweets, and she often asked for these to be taken over to Mauritius when I or anyone else from the UK was visiting.

I went seeking seeds and I find jems.  Two I knew already: two friends who put themselves out to seek this one for me, thank you Penny and Vicki.  I also went into all types of shops seeking the little anise, and met and chatted with people.

Finally on a trip to Coventry, I found a wonderful Market Stall full of Eastern Promise.  The stallholder had lived in North Africa and also Barcelona, and now has set up shop here.   There were lovely marzipan fruits, even better than the ones we saw in Sicily!

It was as good as any spice stall I have seen, forget the short journey and the cold outside, you could be somewhere in the Mediterranean. I felt that I had been on a voyage.

Anise was not the only item I bought!  But I have quite a large packet, and if friends locally would like a sample, they just need to ask.

As with many recipes when you are given options I am faced with a dilemma: to use a lot of crushed whole spices, or a smaller amount of ground spices, especially if I have not used the spice before.  As usual I made a compromise using some which I blitzed in grinder, and a few whole ones to check the effect.

Just as I check my photographs

I find a touching connection:  The lid was on a small jar of honey which I bought from a group of young people raising funds for their trip to Sierra Leone.  I had quickly put my hand in my lid drawer and was about to ditch it and get a fresh new one, but on second thoughts chose to keep this one.