Tuesday, 11 August 2009

August giveaway........

That time again, folks! This is a crochet ripple afghan I made a while back, but have found I don't need and have never used it. So, rather than it sitting at the back of the cupboard, I thought I'd try and find it a new home. It's 40 " square, so a good size for snuggling under on the sofa on cold winter nights :) Fully washable, in ice cream colours, really pretty. If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning, leave a comment on the blog, or e-mail me on Julian.Dean1@btinternet.com.

Thanks, and good luck!

Quote from Perch Hill

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is Perch Hill, by Adam Nicolson - the story of how he and Sarah Raven found and bought Perch Hill in Sussex. I found this quote very close to my heart:

"....if we were honest, that we should have waited to buy a place with more beautiful buildings but there we were, we couldn't say that now. This would be lovely in the slow unnoticed growth of the place around us. Forty years later, as we died, we would look at it and say "that was beautiful". Life would be over, having been lived. The moments of revelation are all there is. This is all there is. This will be the undernote of my life: the making with a purpose, not the drifting of a survivor.Make, and you will be happy"

Fruit scones

These are nice and quick and easy, and I often make a trayful when I have the stove up for several things at once to make best use of the heat - they literally take five minutes to make. The best scones are unsweetened, and made with milk and no egg, to my taste. I don't brush the tops with egg either. They do need a really quick oven, though, to get them to rise quickly - too long and slow a cooking will make them a bit tough. The best sconens I ever tasted were my granny's scones, fresh and floury from the range oven; she made them square, shaping the dough gently into one big square, then cutting down into smaller ones - this way, no dough was left over to re-roll or re-shape, for like pastry, the dough loses its lightness the more it's handled. Another option is to make a large round and cut it into segments. Today, though, I opted for big round ones, and the little squiggly bit left over was consumed warm from the oven whilst the others cooled on the rack - cook's perks LOL
this is my recipe:

1lb self raising flour
4 oz butter
good handful of dried fruit of your choice
milk to mix - fresh, sour, buttermilk, whatever is to hand

Sieve flour into bowl and rub in the butter. Add dried fruit and give a good stir to distribute evenly, then mix to a stiffish dough with the milk etc. Knead very lightly for a few seconds just to get the dough to come together, then shape and cut. Place sones on a heated tray, then into a quick oven until well-risen and brown on top - shouls take no longer than 10 minutes at the most. Cool on a wire rack.
Served buttered, with hot tea and a good book!

Colour in the early autumn garden

Some of the flowers out in the back garden at the moment - still lots of colour about, which is nice. Sunflowers have done really well, so looking forward to harvesting a good amount of seeds for various uses.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

I certainly can't improve on the poem, and wouldn;t insult Keats by even trying, but thought I'd show yousome of the mellow fruitfulness that is in the garden. Definitely a tinge of early autumn here, especially the morning light. My very favourite time of year, just as it's tipping over from late summer ot early autumn.


Our television is gone - from the sitting room to an as yet unspecified place upstairs, never to come back down LOL. I've been hinting on and off for years, ever since we got our first house about having no TV, but MrL so fed up with all the rubbish too now, that it's been banished from this room. EJ and The Bean have one each in their rooms, but rarely use them, apart from games, DVD setc, but we'll need to run an ariel extension up and round if they want to watch programmes - not a big job and fairly easy, so will get on with that for them. Ofcourse, another step down the non-electric road for us too.......... In the meantime, p&q reigns supreme in the sitting room apart from the steady ticking of the clock. Bliss.

Rabbit pie and sauerkraut

- but not on the same plate!!
I was lucky enough to get a couple or rabbits given at the weekend, and both went into pies, one left for the freezer. After skinning, I simmer the rabbits whole in cider and water until just tender. Cool, then remove the flesh and chop into chunks. meanwhile, fry an onion in some butter until softened, then add flour for thickening; amke sauce up with cider and stock, dash of white wine, mustard, black pepper. Add cooked meat, simmer a few minutes, then into pie dish and top with buttery pastry; bake in a hot oven until golden brown. We had ours with mash and cabbage. Simple food, but very good, just right for late summer/early autumn. To stretch the meat further, you could add more vegetables - carrots, mushrooms, leftover veg in the fridge, etc, and ring the changes by using a mash topping instead of pastry, or a savoury crumble mix.

The two skins are in a bucket of alum and brine starting the curing process now. My other projects yesterday were picallili and sauerkraut. I make picallili every year, but it's the first time I've tried sauerkraut, so interested to see how that goes - I've never tasted it either, so looking forward to trying it. One monster cabbage down, one to go................
The pictures show the pie ready for the freezer and the sauerkraut underway.

I made these today, using up some donated marrows and overgrown courgettes - both are well worth making, and lovely with freshly made scones.

Marrow & ginger jam

3lbs marrow/courgettes, peeled and diced
juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/2 oz ground ginger, or more to taste
3 lbs sugar

Put marrow in a large pan with a little water and cook until very soft; drain well. Return to pan with the rest of the ingredients, heat slowly to thoroughly dissolve the sugar, stir well, then bring to a rapid boil and boil to setting point. Pot and cover as usual into clean, hot jars.

Marrow & ginger curd

4lbs marrow, peeled and diced; cook this over a gentle heat until a puree. Weigh puree, and for every 1lb of puree, add 1lb of sugar, 8 oz butter, 5 eggs and juice and zest of 2 lemons, 1 tsp ground ginger.

Stir everything together in a heat proof bowl and cook gently over a pan of simmering water until thickened; don't let the mixture boil. When adding the beaten eggs, add through a sieve. Pot and seal in hot jars as usual. Keep in fridge.

Below is part of tomorrow's kitchen activity - the first of the windfalls from the Devonshire Quarrenden tree. They've been washed and had a first sorting; tomorrow I will set the best of them for eating, then decide what to make with the rest. I got stung by a wasp feasting on one of them, for my trouble...........

Be prepared........

........and expect the unexpected! Living the sort of life I do, when people get to know that you cook a lot and preserve, make, sew, etc, you very often find yoruself with unexpected gifts that can take on a variety of shapes and forms, not to mention amounts! One such gift last week was two giant cabbages, the biggest I've ever seen; also, one marrow, 4 very large overgrown courgettes and two rabbits. Now, when you get presented with things like this in the food line, you really do need to be able to drop things quickly and deal with them as soon as you can if they are likely to go off - it's a crime to waste food, so I find I need to be adaptable and put other things on the side for a while, while I deal with the priorities - fresh food being one of them. The rabbits were dealt with pronto, the marrow and courgettes and cabbages have kept fine, but I'm dealing with them today. Another thing that needs to be watched is your own harvests, so you can get the produce in at its peak and deal with it straight away - the picture shows my spectacularly laden damson tree (Merryweaather) as at yesterday. I check the fruit daily to make sure I can get it when it's exactly ripe for picking - fully ripe but beating the wasps to it! Once picked and in the kitchen, fruit needs to be dealt with, so things will get set aside whilst I stone the damsons for jam, wine, bottling, etc - probably most of a day's work, I should think. Same with the apples which will be ready very soon, although I need to get out and pick up the windfalls too.
I've often come home to find boxes and bags of stuff on the doorstep, or a pheasant hanging from the back door....... so often need to make the extra effort to get it processed/ used and stored away, even if it means working later into the evening than normal. Nature's bounty mustn't go to waste, especially if someone's taken the time, thought and effort to give it to you, and the unexpectedness keeps me on my toes.........LOL

Monday, 10 August 2009

Food security..........what can I do?

There's a huge amount of interest right now about the food security of the UK, with the publication today of DEFRA's paper on the subject; Farming Today on Radio 4 had an article this morning, as did the Today programme. This from the Independent for a quick overview:


I've been doing a lot of reading and listening on the subject, and find it sad that things have been let get into such a state before action is being considered; whether this consideration will actually translate into proper and useful action remains to be seen.

I await further developments with interest, but something needs to be done, has needed doing for a *long* time and needs to be done fast. Why wouldn't they listen to those who knew/know, over the past 20 or os years? A lot of problems could have been prevented or addressed back then or in the intervening years. Common sense and a sense of urgency and importance seem to have all flown out of the window together..........
So - what am I going to do about it? Well, mainly carry on as I have been. Now, I'm no saint, but it's always been important to us as a family to buy British and local to me ever since I first had my own house. We grow what we can at home, and supplement it with bought in foods; yes, I buy bananas, lemons, tea and coffee, etc, but for vegetables, always in season and British, almost without fail, and as local as possible. Fruit is more problematical, especially apples in the summer, but I do buy them, but try to make an informed choice.
The era of cheap food is over, in money terms; the era of cheap food in terms of the environmental damage caused by global markets, air freighting and importing should have been over many moons ago, but wasn't. However, it is being tackled now, and I shall watch with interest. I suspect there will be many bandwagons about to be jumped on, and much rubbish spouted on the net, so selective reading will be the order of the day as usual!In the meantime, my money will remain firmly where my mouth is literally, and I'll continue to support British farmers and producers and back them to the hilt.

It is all tied up with climate change, global warming, droughts and the current environmental crises; hopefully it can start to be tackled with tied up thinking. If people make more of a connection between food and the environment , *their* environment and realise that the whole planet depends on co-dependence, then we might just get somewhere. The food security issues are just as frightening to me as the peak oil and climate change ones - not just here in the UK, but for every country.
I'd like to be part of this solution and not part of the problem.

By the way, the picture above is of an apple OH picked form our Deonshire Quarrenden tree in the garden - seems our apple crop has its own seal of app(le)proval LOL