Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Saffron Buns revisited

This is the second try at the Saffron Buns from The Book of Buns.  This recipe is on our baking challenge for the second half of September 2016....and my friend was arriving on Saturday, so what could be nicer that having saffron buns, clotted cream, and preserves after our walk around Kenilworth Castle.  I had the apricot and pistachio, and Jayne, having tasted the blackcurrant jam...even had a new jar to take home with her, together with a helping of cream and buns to share with G on Sunday.

I was going to bake these on Friday evening...but felt they were just not rising in line with my experience with other buns...I even left them overnight for a slow rise in the conservatory, and even in the morning, they did not seem to have risen significantly.  They went in the oven...and they were reasonably light, but not as fluffy as I would have expected.  For 300g flour, there is 90g sugar, and I wonder whether the high level of sugar retards the yeast growth, which also has 60g of mixed lard and butter to struggle against!  I also wonder whether the saffron also affects the yeast.  Next time I would reduce the amount of sugar, activate the yeast in a little of the milk and sugar, then add the rest of the milk in which the saffron has been infused etc.  For more details here is the link to my previous attempt.

In a Vase

Mondays seem to fly by and its not until later in the week, that I feel able to go into the garden and be inspired to cut some flowers.  Maybe it is because it is late in the flower cutting season, and this year I have not planted autumn flowering plants.  Tucked in a corner amongst my potted ferns, is a graceful grass: Hakonechloa Macra albostriata, growing in a blue ceramic pot.  We had seen this grass planted to great effect in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens last week.  I had first been introduced to this plant by a member of our gardening club.

After wheeling my bicycle back to the shed, I spotted some lovely berries on a self seeded Hypericum.  I had one in a pot several years ago, got rid of it, regretted that, and then several sprouted around the garden...That plant has rather insignificant flowers, but lovely berries, which start green, then get a red tinge, and finally turn a glossy black.

I've been sorting through my vases, and came across this soap stone vase given to me by my mother many years ago, but sadly it started leaking and I realised that the two elements were stuck together and not water tight.

I had tied the material with some raffia, and decided that the ends were worth bringing up and having a little peep...but now a different vase was required.  I had cut some other material, but felt that the arrangement was just ending up like one of those pots of stew, where you have thrown everything in where there is no distinct flavour!

The little elephant is a reminder that this weekend my dear friend Jayne and I spent a wonderful day together.  Jayne loves elephants.....

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Day out to Birmingham Botanical Gardens

I had decided a long time ago on a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens...it was to have been my birthday present, so before we collide into the next one, we set by today, for a visit.  Strange time to visit a garden, but then a good garden has treats for all times of the year.

The trees were magnificent, however with no start with autumn tints, there were none the less treats in store:  from magnificent cedars to dinky clipped bonsai trees, there was lots to see.  Looking down on the ground I found this lovely nut then looked up at a tree I did not recognise, which looked very different from our usual hazels trees: Corylus colurna, the Turkish Hazel.

Under some of the trees, autumn crocus were putting on a splendid show

In other areas the seasonal colours were being showcased by more tropical plants

The butterfly house was still open, and there were some really colourful and large butterflies sipping the nectar from the last of the flowers

In a cool greenhouse, one of my favourite little autumn flowers: cyclamen

and then still basking in the warm autumn sunshine, a superb bed of cacti and succulents, which I am sure will shortly be dismantled and taken under cover for the winter

This great looking shrub took my attention with its delicate white frilly flowers:  Crinodendron patagua, the Lily of the Valley Tree, from Chile

Of course there is always the one plant which I would have loved to have found for sale in the shop: guess what, it wasn't!  Great flowers but with a leaf so unlike our violets...this one comes from North America and is called Viola Pedata bicolour, the Bird's Foot Viola.  Must put this plant down on my next birthday present list!

Sourdough September ...Sourdough ciabatta

I have read in several places about Sourdough September...my effort baked today is Sourdough ciabatta, the recipe is on page 136 of How to Make Sourdough by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.  By the time it came to the last fold, and rest...I needed my rest, so the dough went out to the conservatory for the night.

It was lovely and plump and full of bubbles...and was easy to shape and bake around breakfast time.  From 500g of my Shipton Mill Flour Ciabatta Flour..three loaves: two for the freezer and one for now.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Pseudowintera Colorata Red Leopard

Pocket money this week spent on Pseudowintera colorata Red Leopard, an unusual New Zealand Plant...but still love Hebes...must go out and take some cutting of these.

I think I am passing into a Shrub phase...this one will be in a pot for a couple of years, close to the house, where I can admire its fascinating leaves.  I think it will look very good against some greyish hebes, cuttings now taken and potted up.

Quite an interesting plant, not just a pretty face: 

Horopito contains a substance called sesquiterpene dialdehyde polygodiali, otherwise known as polygodial that has a number of biological properties including antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiallergic and insecticide effects. Polygodial has been tested as a very effective inhibitor of Candida albicans. Horopito was used traditionally by Maori for a variety of medicinal purposes including treatment of: fungal skin infection, stomach pain, diarrhoea and as an analgesic. Early European settlers to New Zealand also used horopito for medicinal purposes.
Horopito leaves are used in cooking in a variety of ways. Horopito is now being used as a seasoning in modern New Zealand cuisine. Typically the leaves are dried and then ground to form a powder. The powder may be used wherever black pepper is used and applied directly to meats, mixed with oils, used to make condiments (e.g. with mustard), in vinegars, biscuits and even ice-cream.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Autumn Show

This is the first time I have not entered anything into Kenilworth Horticultural Club's Autumn Show.  Its not that I have not got anything worth while from the garden...but I have a lot on my plate at the moment, as well as being the Show Secretary, and for the first time lead judge on the Home Produce Section.

This year I was joined in the judging by my friend Diane Pearce.  She had put a lot of work into her preparations and had found a very good guide.  It was great fun, and thank goodness we finished with the chutneys and pickles...our tongues were tingling!  A really great batch of bakes and preserves, and a great deal of effort on the part of the contestants.  After the great sugar rush, it was time for me to write out all the certificates and cards!  Andrew Caine was our judge on the Plants, flowers, and vegetables sections.  Our deputy Mayor Kate Dickson gave out all the cups, cards and certificates, and it was great that both long standing members and recent joiners were successful.

After an interlude with refreshments the owner of our local nursery Hintons: Sarah Ridgeway gave an interesting questions and answers talk, and had taken one of my favourite shurbs...so I was not allowed to answer when she called out if anyone knew its name!  It was Ugni Molinae Flambeau, which is currently growing in a lovely pot.  Sarah took the opportunity to describe a couple of other lovely shrubs......and give a plug for the Heritage Open Day taking place at the Walled Garden on her nursery.  Of the two other shrubs rather interesting and new to me, brought by Sarah, to show and tell...I now am the proud owner of 'Red Leopard'.

On Friday we popped into the nursery to collect the leaflet on the heritage open days, and also had a stroll round, of course I admired one the shrubs Sarah had brought, and also admired the Loroptealum Chinese Fire Dancer which I had added to my list following the visit to Peter and Margaret Green's garden in Hunningham.  Sarah and her workers propagate and grow many of their shrubs, and there are quite a few there now which are in superb condition.

Saturday saw a very rainy start to the day, but with Mr S going out today, it had to be raincoats and sheer will for our visit.  I had not even thought to take my camera.  Please visit the walled garden at Hintons.  We bought some lovely vegetables from the garden, and were impressed by the work done to recover the abandoned walled garden in just a few years.

My pocket money for the week went on this fabulous plant: Pseudowintera  colorata Red Leopard, which I picked up on Saturday.    Another lovely well grown young shrub which will be spending the next two years or so in a pot...until it finds its final resting place.  This is a such an interesting plant.  The Mountain Horopito originates from New Zealand, an ancient plant, and I am looking forward to the flowers which come directly off older stems.  The underside of the leaves has an attractive greyish bloom too.  

What a show for the Autumn, and this will continue all through the year...no bare bones here!

Peperechas - a sweet bun with red topping from El Salvador

After our Summer Break our moderators on the Facebook page have set us a lovely welcome back bake.  It was Sonya's turn and she chose Peperechas which is given on page 142 of Jane Mason's The Book of Buns.

I wonder whether Kelloggs was inspired by these when they came up with Pop Tarts.  Peperechas is the slang word...the same as tart is the slang word for .....!

Jane Mason is a well traveled writer and has been inspired to bring us recipes from around the World, currently living in Central America.  Baking through the bun recipes is a bit like baking around the world in 50 bun recipes.

This might not have been a recipe I would have tried, as it does look rather sugar laden, but being in the group really does make one try!  I didn't have any mozzarella in the fridge, so I used some soft goat's cheese.  I then used my little bottles of food dye to come up with the right shade of dark red plum coloured sugar to match the jam.  The jam I used was from a recent batch of plum, which included lime and a little rum!  The recipe is very easy to follow, and I went and cut 16 buns out of my flat slab of layered dough cheese and jam and coverings, just because I had made the first cut down the middle rather than one third...but for us 1/16 was just fine...

So this Friday Bun day I invited Liz, a well traveled friend to come and enjoy tea and buns in the conservatory!  Sadly Liz has yet to go to El Savador so for her too this was the first taste of Peperechas.  They are delicious.

Having baked this sweet sandwiched bun, I feel inspired to devise a savoury version....I am sure they already exist, but it will be fun making up a more savoury dough, and finding interesting fillings: maybe cheese, smoked salmon and herbs?

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

In a Vase

Autumn pickings....the Hydrangea Vanille Fraise now turning pink, a red Mustead Wood rose, and a few little extras.  I missed in a vase on Monday, though made this arrangement and photographed it outside on Sunday morning!

A nice purple salvia, name lost....

Astrantia with its lovely pincushion blooms.

Made to measure tea cosy

I can hear one of my friends laugh at this...no its not dressmaking, or making of other bespoke garments...but a real essential if you like tea.  Its a tea cosy.  I introduced Marie Claire to the joys of tea made in a teapot with a teacosy, soon after we met.  This is the third cosy I have knitted for her.  The first one fitted a tall teapot which sadly met its fate when it fell onto a stone tiled kitchen floor.

Marie Claire's teapot this time is a round glass pot.  I had a nice grey brown aran weight yarn, which would blend in nicely with any tea stains and begged a length of red yarn from a knitting friend at the Almanack Knit and Natter group for a little red understated embroidery highlights.  The teapot had to come and stay here for a couple of weeks, as there were several fittings.

I had my brief...everything covered including the spout...so I made a heart shaped flap, which bends back easily for pouring.

Of course a base to keep the bottom warm, and shield any table, catch drips etc...knitted in the yarn doubled up.

When I thought I had finished I could see the red plastic strip of the handle along the glass, so knitted up and sewed in a 'fly' which easily tucks in and I had fulfilled my brief.  Yesterday I took it round, and there were hoots of appreciation!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Sourdough Onion and Olive Bread

This is the bake for the start of September 2016.  For just the two of us, I decided to make four smaller loaves rather that the one loaf from 580g flour, as per the recipe.  By allowing the dough to rise in a large oblong covered plastic tub, when it was popped out on the work surface, it was already the right shape to stretch out and then lay on the prepared onions and olives, and shape.

I wanted fairly rounded loaves, so used some oven cloths rolled up to help prop up the loaves during their final rise.  I used baking parchment, and when they were risen simply slid the loaves to separate them on the trays.

After rising within a large inflated plastic bag, they were quickly brushed with olive oil, but I forgot to slash them...and after baking, were left to cool.

The recipe is on page 110 of Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough.  I very much liked the dough on this one, and will use this mixture of wholewheat and white wheat flour for other bakes....

Most weeks I love to visit and chat with Jaye who runs a stall at Kenilworth Market carrying olives, antipasti and oils from mainly Sicily.  We sometimes see each other at other markets close by.  I used to buy a mixed tub of olives about once a month, but now that Mr S is enjoying olives, and I am cooking far more often with them, it is nearly every week!  After these loaves, I'll have to restock next week.  Jaye marinates the olives in herbs and they are the very  best.  What I love is that you can choose a few from each of her bowls, to make up a nice variety.

For Saturday lunch, with our varied salady lunch: roasted pepper, walnuts, beetroot, houmous, tuna, artichokes,  we enjoyed the remainder of the loaf...Mr S had a couple of slices with cheese for his supper last night.  The remaining three are in the freezer!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Hunningham Garden Visit

Last week with friends Liz, Sandra, Myra and Janet, we spent a delightful morning in the most spectacular of gardens in Hunningham.  Our hosts Peter and Margaret Green usually open their garden under the Yellow Book, and Liz thought this would be the ideal garden outing.  Liz arranged a private visit, and we were all so pleased with the wonderful range and quality of plants.

Just look at the faces...we were in thrall.  I spent most of my time admiring the design of the garden, looking at fabulous plants beautifully placed, and listening to our hosts description of plants, rather than take photographs.  

The Japanese Garden.....

with great hard landscaping, paths, and pagodas..

as well as the sound of bubbling water....

Towards the end of the garden, which has a fabulous borrowed landscape stands a large greenhouse, 

around which tropical type planting adds an exotic flavour

Even the conservatory was filled with more plants, including a blue waterlily, than I could take in visually in just the one visit.

I was particularly taken by the Cercidiphyllum Tree, with its columnar growth, which would suit a smaller garden nicely.  Here it is planted with rubekia...and each is enhanced by the other.

By the greenhouse, we were all taken by the superb specimen of Clerodendron Bungeii Pink Diamond.  It is perfectly hardy for them, but we all felt that with the trees, walls etc, there must have been a temperate micro-climate...

by their back door and growing in pots, was Loropetalum Chinese Fire Dancer a great shaped shrub which of course needs a little winter protection.  Also growing on their back wall was Abutilon Megapotamicum, with its lovely pendulous flowers late in the season.  I'm not sure whether it would pass through a harsh winter unprotected...but if I were to come across a plant I may be tempted!

Sourdough Batter Cake with fruit, sweet chestnuts, and hazelnuts

Another variation:  sourdough batter bread, made with white spelt flour,

with raisins soaked in rum, sliced sweet chestnuts, a little vanilla, and topped with hazelnuts and a sprinkling of demerara sugar.  Imagine a fruity bread..but with a spelt sourdough matrix.

This is a variant on the Cranberry and Blueberry version pf the batter bread.  Cranberries don't work for me, they are too sharp within this not paticularly sweet dough.