Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Holiday Velo Vintage Ride

I had a bit of a shock yesterday when someone said 'It's only two weeks until Christmas.'  Yikes!  Really?  


I don't know why I was surprised by this revelation.  I've posted most of the Christmas cards and decorated the Christmas tree.  The holiday Velo Vintage bicycle ride has come and gone... 


No denying they were in the holiday spirit....


And decked out in their finest togs...


You can keep your noisy Christmas parades, this is the way to start the holiday season.


And after that brisk ride, everyone is invited to join them at the pub...


Where you can get a closer look at the beautifully decorated bikes...


And the superbly groomed handle bars of both kinds.


They certainly know how to bring on the festive season in style! 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Day Glo Orange

The afternoon light of an autumn day always looks golden and beautiful, but this afternoon was strange.  We were just about to get some rain and the combination of heavy cloud and oblique light turned the leaves of this shrub a bright 'Day Glo' orange.  


Just in time for Almost Wordless Wednesday...


This colour is why every garden should have at least one Smoke Bush...


Also known as Cotinus coggygria.   

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Perfect Autumn Day

It is mid-November, you know winter is coming but today there was no evidence of the harsh weather to come.  It was one of those once-a-year days when the weather was perfect, the foliage was perfect, and we had the time to enjoy it all.


This is what we used to call 'Indian Summer' when I was a kid growing up in the mid-west.


You know all this colour is on borrowed time.  One good gust of wind or a heavy shower will certainly bring all of these leaves down.


So before it all blows away,  let's take a minute to enjoy all the beautiful shades of the season.  I took these photos in our garden early this morning as the sun began to climb higher in the sky.


When was the last time you saw daisies blooming in November?  


Who knows how long this will last?  If you believe the weather forecast we are due a change.  


We'd best make the most of this absolutely perfect day.  

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Garden House

Once again I missed wordless Wednesday.  Let's just pretend I got it right and enjoy some of the photos I took at The Garden House this week.











CLICK HERE for more information about THE GARDEN HOUSE and their fabulous acer glade.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Forde Abbey

Today we had a lovely day exploring the gardens at Forde Abbey near Chard in Somerset. 


I was especially impressed by the walled kitchen garden. 


The scarecrow was all dressed up for Halloween.


There are 30 acres of garden to explore and that fantastic house!


Click HERE  to find all the information you need to plan your day out at Forde Abbey. 


Monday, 17 October 2016

Sour Cream-n-Cinnamon Muffins

Here's a little treat I quickly knocked together using that last, little bit of soured cream one always finds lurking in the fridge.  They are just the thing to enjoy with a hot cup of tea on a chilly autumn afternoon OR as a lazy breakfast.

Sour Cream-n-Cinnamon Muffins



Heat the oven to 375F/190C.  Line a six hole muffin tin with paper liners and set aside while you make the batter.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter - softened
1/4 cup caster or granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Mix together the butter, white sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream.  Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir together until just combined.  Add the brown sugar and stir enough to just swirl it into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, sprinkle over some cinnamon and sugar before placing the tin into the oven to bake.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.


Let the muffins cool in the tin for a while before turning them out.  Enjoy!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Blackberry and Apple Crumble

Blackberries, the hedgerows are full of them and so are the blackberry bushes on our allotment.  In Britain, it is a national pastime scrumping apples, foraging for berries, and making that most autumnal of treats blackberry and apple crumble.



In the past, I've been out in the country foraging for berries but this year we have our own thanks to the previous plot owner.  They are lovely, plump, and juicy.  Best of all, I don't have to dodge the traffic to pick them.  Time to make that crumble.

To make the filling:

300 grams (about 6 medium) apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
30 grams of butter
30 grams of sugar
150 grams of blackberries

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Now pour in the apple slices and gently cook them for about five minutes or until they just begin to soften.  Add the blackberries and cook for a few more moments.  When the apples are just about tender and stained a lovely colour with the berry juices, remove the fruit from the flame, pour it into a baking dish, and leave to cool a bit while you make the crumble topping. 



For the crumble topping:

100 grams oats
100 grams plain flour
100 grams sugar
100 grams butter

Rub all the topping ingredients together until you have a nice crumbly texture, rather like rough bread crumbs.   Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling.  (Go ahead and sneak a bit of crumble ... you know you want to... I always do.)


Place the baking dish on a tray lined with baking paper before placing it into a pre-heated oven to bake - 170C/350F.  Bake until the crumble topping is a light golden brown and the juices are bubbling up around the edges of the dish, about 30-40 minutes.



I like my crumble served warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream.  Some folk prefer a rich custard on the side.  Down here in Devon, crumble is often topped with a big dollop of clotted cream.   It's up to you... enjoy!


Monday, 3 October 2016

First Pears from the Plot

Pears are a tricky lot.  Unlike apples, they don't let you know when they are ready to be picked.


Gently cup an apple ripened on the tree and it will settle into the palm of your hand, release its hold on the branch, and allow you to take it away willingly.


Pears will stubbornly cling on until the bitter end, or so it seems.  I really am no authority.  This is first year I've ever had home grown pears to pick and I haven't the foggiest idea how or when to harvest them.  I've been told there is a 'horizontal test' for ripeness.  If a pear releases itself from the tree when held in a horizontal position it is ready to be picked.  These four pears passed the test.  


Just because they came off the tree it doesn't mean they are ripe.  Oh no, they are still hard as bullets.  Now comes the really tricky part...knowing when to eat them!

Friday, 30 September 2016

FREE ROSES for Your Garden!

It is a well known fact that I am a greedy gardener.  Once I find a plant I love I just want more and more.  This is especially true when it comes to some of the more delicate coloured roses like this one,  Chandos Beauty.  Yes, she has a few holes in her but it is nearly October.


Earlier this summer, I was deadheading the roses and had a thought, since I was pruning off bits why not try to root some of the cuttings.  


Now, I am not going to tell you that my success rate was great.  Half of the cuttings died...but half LIVED!  Not only did they live, some are actually thriving!  The Chandos Beauty cutting already has a new flower bud.


If you have a special rose in your garden and you'd love to have more, why not try to root some cuttings.  It's pretty easy really,  here are the How To's taken from Gardeners' World.com:

You can take cuttings from any type of rose you choose, but just make sure you select long, strong, healthy stems from this season's growth, not old wood.
Make the cuttings 25cm long, cutting above a bud at the top to remove the shoot tip and below one at the base. Leave one leaf at the top and remove all the lower leaves.
Dip the base of the cutting into rooting hormone mixture. Insert several cuttings into a large pot of gritty compost.
Water well, place the pot in a shaded spot and leave until cuttings have rooted. Keep the compost moist. Pot up rose plants individually when well rooted, probably next summer.



Thursday, 29 September 2016

First Poly Tunnel Harvest

Life is a funny thing.  What you like and what you think you like are often two different things.  Take our poly tunnel, for example, it was already on our allotment when we got the plot and I cursed it for being a blot on the landscape. Now it is one of my favourite things.



In the beginning, the poly tunnel was full of weeds, dried up tomato plants, and every kind of bug you can imagine.  The infestation was so bad that a bite on Andy's arm required a trip to A&E for treatment.  Now it is filled with vigorous young plants.  Today I harvested my first crop, this lovely chard.  It will be interesting to see how far into the autumn-winter season we will be able to enjoy fresh vegetables from the plot.  

Friday, 2 September 2016

Fried Apples

There are some dishes that aren't pretty but, boy, are they good.  This recipe for fried apples is one of those of dishes. 



This time of year all sorts of apples are ripening and falling from the trees.   It really doesn't matter what kind of apple you use.  I used two different kinds of apples from my little espalier apple trees in my back garden.  One kind cooked down into a rich pulp and the other held on to it's 'slice' shape, combined they were delicious. 



This is the perfect recipe for using up those less than perfect apples, you know the kind, windfalls with a bruise, a bug bite, or any other kind of blemish.  So collect a few apples and let's get frying:

FRIED APPLES

1 1/2 to 2 cups apples - peeled, cored, and sliced  (I used 5 medium apples)
2-3 Tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 or 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (adjust according to tartness of apples)
1 or 2 Tablespoons white sugar 
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Melt butter in a medium frying pan. Toss the apples in the lemon juice.  Add the apples and cook until most of the butter is absorbed by the apples.  The apple slices should be JUST tender, not completely cooked.   Add the white and brown sugar, cooking until the sugars have become syrupy.  Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle over the cinnamon and stir to distribute the cinnamon.  Serve hot!



Fried apples are lovely over french toast or pancakes or served warm over vanilla ice cream.



For an extra special treat, spoon fried apples over a warm scone to make a delicious short cake.  Don't forget the cream!  

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Don't Forget the Apples!

I don't know how it happened but apple picking time has come around already. It took me completely by surprise.  It shouldn't have, the apples on the little trees in our back garden are ALWAYS ripe on the last day of August or the first day of September.


Of course there is always one 'cling on' in every crowd, that one last apple which refuses to let go.


So... in the next day or two I'll give him a little wiggle to see if he is ready to let go.  


In the meantime, I have plenty of apples to enjoy.  If you have apple trees don't forget to test them in the next day or two.  You may need to do some picking too. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Chocolate Courgette Cake

Some people call them zucchini. Some call them courgettes, when they get big they are marrows.  Whatever you call them it's that time of the season when everyone who has even one squash plant now has a glut of fruit. 


No matter how you try, you can't eat them fast enough and they JUST KEEP COMING!  Here's a recipe we used to make in the States where zucchini would take over the world if you give them half a chance. 


CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE 

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C.  Butter and flour a square cake pan and set it to one side while you make the cake batter.

1 cup plain all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 medium eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup grated courgette (aka zucchini or marrow)


Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir them with a large spoon to combine them.  Add the eggs, oil, vanilla, and grated courgette and stir until all of the ingredients are well combined.  Do not overmix .... this batter doesn't need to be beaten.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Leave the cake in the tin to cool.  


Now, you can simply sprinkle some icing sugar over the cake and serve it or you can add this simple but delicious chocolate icing. 

CHOCOLATE ICING

1 ounce butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1-2 Tablespoons milk
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) icing sugar

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add the cocoa powder and cook over low heat for about a minute.  Remove from the heat, stir in the milk.  Add the icing sugar and beat with a spoon until the icing is smooth and glossy.  Pour the warm icing over the cake and gently smooth it out to the edges of the cake. When the icing has set a bit you are ready to serve.  

I suppose there are worse problems than having too many zucchini...especially when you can have CAKE!