Saturday, 30 August 2014

Plum and Vanilla Bean Jam

Next to Christmas, this is the busiest time of year in the kitchen.  The orchard fruits all seem to be ripe at once so it's jam making time.

I had just enough dark plums to make a small batch of jam. It's always fascinating to see what colour the final product will be.

Plain plum jam is delicious but I like to add extra flavour to the pot.  This time I added a whole vanilla bean, split in half so the seeds would ooze out as the fruit cooked.

I can't wait to have a bit on a scone or slice of toast.  If you've never made jam before, plum jam is a good place to start.  Plums are rich in pectin, beautiful in colour, and often can be collected for FREE...give it a go! 


Friday, 29 August 2014

Plum Clafoutis

As you will remember, my friend Arthur gave me a bag full of beautiful, ripe plums yesterday.  The first thing I did was photograph them.  The second thing I did was Google 'plum recipes'.

One recipe suggestion kept popping up... Plum Clafoutis!  Now, those of you who are foodies will have already had a clafoutis or two, but I've never even SEEN one.  This was uncharted territory for me.

I certainly had sufficient plums and the remaining ingredients are store cupboard staples so I decided to give clafoutis a go.  

If you would like to bake this seasonal treat, CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE. It's quick, easy, and only requires ingredients you will already have in your pantry.

Now you must excuse me,  I have a bowl of warm clafoutis to eat.  Oh, did I say, this IS my breakfast but most normal folks would have this for dessert.  I poured some cream over my bowlful - but vanilla ice cream would be delicious, too! 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Gifts from the Allotment Neighbours

I was in one of those awkward positions, backside in the air, head inside a kitchen cupboard when I heard someone call my name.  I shouted 'What?' in reply but with my head inside the cupboard I don't think I was heard. 

The voice called me again and I backed out of the cupboard to see Arthur, one of my allotment neighbours, smiling at me over the top of the fence.  In his hand was a large bag filled with blackberries and a courgette.  

'Do you like kale?'  he asked.   I replied in the affirmative and Arthur disappeared from the top of the fence.  When he returned he had another bag filled with plums, two kinds, and this beautiful curly kale.  

Arthur disappeared again and when he returned he handed me the BIGGEST leeks I've ever seen in my life! (Please note: that is my fully grown foot in the photo for comparison)  'These were grown by Mike', he said.  Well, I was stunned!

So was the little Dust Bunny.  He took one look at the giant leeks and quickly slipped off to the far side of the garden.  I think he thought they were going to eat him.  My kitchen is filled with the most beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables.  Now, what are we going to make with them?  

Thank you Arthur and Mike for the very generous gifts.  We will enjoy every bite of them. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Compromise and Marble Cake

I don't know how it happened but I married a man who doesn't like chocolate cake!  Andy likes chocolate cookies, chocolate candies, and hot chocolate but not chocolate cake.  I, on the other hand, love it!

Fortunately, we've found a happy compromise with Mary Berry's Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake.  This is a beautiful cake and very easy to bake.

As with all Mary Berry recipes, you know you are going to get simple to follow instructions and clever techniques.  

For example, how to turn one big bowl of batter into two different flavours! 

There is just enough chocolate to make me happy and moist vanilla cake for Andy.  Click HERE FOR MARY BERRY'S MARBLE LOAF RECIPE

Of course, I haven't mentioned the best part about making this cake - you get two delicious bowls to lick!  

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Dahlia Update - Part II

Dahlias are divisive.  You either love them or hate them.  I confess, they weren't a flower I liked very much...until I saw John's patch.

Now I can't wait for dahlia season to come so I can see all those brilliant blooms.

With ex-hurricane Bertha threatening to take down every plant in her path, I grabbed a few snaps before the worst of the wind struck.

There were so many different colours, shapes, and sizes I had to show the photos to you in two instalments.

If you missed Part I, you can find it by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks again to John for letting us enjoy his beautiful dahlias....

As for Bertha,  she wasn't nearly as fierce as we had expected her to be, thank goodness!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Great Expectations or The Tomato Harvest

Spring fills a gardener's heart with such excitement and expectation.  You plant your seeds and tend them judiciously in the hope of great things to come.  Small tender plants are tucked into beds, watered, fed, and de-slugged in anticipation of having delicious things to eat.  After two or three months, more or less, you harvest your crops.

Or in this case, CROP.   This is my tomato crop for 2014! 

Actually, I lie.  I ate the first cherry tomato as soon as I picked it, overcome with the excitement of it all.

The situation is not as grim as I paint it.  There are lots of little green tomatoes slowly ripening on the vines.  It's just so hard to be patient. There's nothing for it but to water, feed, continuously de-slug them....and wait.