Category Archives: Blogging

Ham Hock and Kale Soup

IMG_0447.JPGOn Saturday we made soup. It was a joint effort. I stared out into the garden (it was a cold day inside and out as misted window panes were being finally replaced and so it was like living in a barn as the saying goes)  and noticed that there was still a small cluster of dwarf kale plants in the raised bed. Continue reading

Growing and Eating Salsola Agretti (aka Salsola Soda)

In which a post mysteriously appears on my old blog, slightly obsessive in detail but that’s me!

salsola agretti steamed

Salsola agretti, opposite leaved saltwort, Friars Beard is a joy of a vegetable to discover if you are like me, always looking over the fence – in this case the internet fence  – and seeing what people eat in other countries. I don’t think I could ever fit a rice paddy in my suburban garden and I don’t really have space for growing melons and other ground hungry plants much as I would love to try, but this plant, which kept appearing here and there on my Instagram feed, really took my fancy so I tracked down some seed and read as much as I could and looked for photos and based on what I found I had a go at growing it last year. I have to say I love it. Continue reading

Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden

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This is the noonday sun on the last day in August.  Today is the first of September, the beginning of the new year in my head.

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In my kitchen there is a box of meringue fingers studded with toasted hazelnuts from Normandy – a gift to Brian from my sister, Brian likes them crumbled up on top of fresh fruit with yoghurt as a dessert.

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And there were also some very useful indeed sachets of yoghurt starter enzymes (another thoughtful gift from my sister)  for when your old home made yoghurt has gone a bit beyond being used to seed a new batch. Still wondering why no one in the UK stocks these. Lakeland stock EasiYo, all the way from the Antipodes but not these made in Europe. Funny old world….

asier gurk pickle

Pickled Danish cucumber, the asie gurk, from seed sent me by the lovely Misky,  grown by me outdoors here at home in pots with local manure to help them along, peeled and brined and made according to this recipe  and then lovingly waterbath processed by Brian. I don’t think I would make them without his help as I don’t like handling hot jars, damp with boiling steam from the oven.

I use the pickle juice to thin down our current salad dressing, which is a tsp of dijon mustard mixed in a little home made yoghurt and does a very good impression of a mayonnaise with no oil worked into it. The cucumbers are a joy and a delight and much nicer (variety name : the Langelands Giant) than many of the other varieties I have sampled this year. So many cucumbers are full of seeds and surprisingly bitter, these ones have always been sweet and crisp.

I left a tray of my own home saved angelica seed at the Community Garden at Blaise, where I do a bit of volunteering,  hoping it would germinate and the magic of the place has made it happen already. It is supposed to need a period of cold before coming up and this has taught me that books are not always right.

IMG_6992 I was delighted! I suspect not many people have the patience to grow it, it can take up to three years to get stems large enough to candy, or even that much interest in candying and eating it I got there this year having waited patiently for several years and felt great personal satisfaction and one of these days will make some buns or some icecream and use the angelica I candied at home.

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Angelica archangelica coming into flower earlier this year.

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Candied stems drying, they will keep for ages now.

If you want to know how to do it, you could pop over to my acquaintance Dan at the Apothecary’s Garden as I learnt the basics from him.

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Here is my little old mushrooming basket, given to me by my dear friend Hazel, who passed away many years ago now, I remember her when I pick it up and carry it with me, as I carry her in my heart always. Here it is filled with tomatoes and herbs and some wild blackberries, calendula flowers and cucumbers, and a fairy lights chilli plant coming home from Blaise Community Garden.

 

Apples are falling off the tree before ripening for some reason and the pear tree has long spindly branches and too many pears so I took a whole lot off the other day and bottled them and hope the pear tree won’t break too many more of its branches. I need to get a lesson from someone in pruning.

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A squirrel has had most of the nuts off the red hazel but has left me a symbolic handful

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and here is the eternal game being played out by my hairy friends and companions, another good prompt to get out of the house and breathe fresh air.

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Life is an Upside Down Paddling Pool

Zeb in the Pool

Did you ever read a book called “There must be a Pony!” by Jim Kirkwood? This is Zeb the dog’s version of the moral of that story. We turned his paddling pool upside down because it was full of slime and leaves and needed emptying out and left it on the grass. He came back from being clipped and rushed out with his squeaky toy to play in it. When he realised there was no water in it and it was upside down, he jumped in anyway and proceeded to roll his ball up and down the sloping sides. A very fine game and a good life lesson about being flexible and having fun when and where you can and not taking yourself too seriously –  playing in an upside down paddling pool is maybe as good as it gets.

Kefir Rimacinata Bread

Kefir Rimacinata Bread I was invited to join in a post by Karin recently to create ‘a bread worthy of Götz von Berlichingen, the Knight With the Iron Hand’. and so far I have come up with a Kefir Rimacinata Bread – which might just have a bit more bite and oomph and hopefully would appeal to such a forceful character.

I made this bread using the milk kefir variety of levain as per the formula below, (if anyone using BreadStorm wants the .bun file please let me know in the comments and I will email it to the email address you use to comment with, as I have now purchased the desktop version of the software as I like it so much).  One could easily use yoghurt and yeast instead and leave out the date syrup if not using the milk kefir.

crumbshotIt yields a warm and lightly lactic sour golden loaf with a soft and slightly chewy crumb and a nice thin crust with a bit of bite to it. Excellent with marmalade, Swedish fish paste or almond butter, just as it is without toasting –  and I am sure you could slap a couple of slices together with some mortadella, Black Forest Ham or cheese from the breakfast table and pop it in your chain mail pouch as you go off to pillage somewhere,  or sling it in your saddlebag for a horseback sandwich as you gallop down dappled country lanes – it is a reasonably robust loaf.

If I get a chance I will make a yeasted version of the dough and put it in a pullman and see how it works as a pullman loaf for square sandwiches and toast, but I quite like miche profile sandwiches these days !

A note on the flour and some links that might be useful if you haven’t come across this flour before:-

When I was doing the Mellow Bakers project I went on a quest and found the flour In Bristol, imported and always stocked by Licatas in Picton Street. I made my version of a Semolina Rimacinata Loaf then with toasted sesame seeds and sesame seed crust and the quality of the crumb made me think this is a bread for Götz’s breakfast, not as fluffy as a traditional white sandwich loaf but not as heavy and hearty as a full-on multi grain bread.

This particular flour is not that easy to get hold of because it is an import. Celia @ Figjam and Lime Cordial is also very fond of this flour and regularly uses it in her baking. Sally has used it very successfully too, have a look at the Bewitching Kitchen’s Semolina Sourdough Boule.

Euan, aka signor biscotti, writes about the differences between semola di grano duro rimacinata and the semolina sold in the shops in the UK and demonstrates that you can make a lovely bread using pudding semolina in Pudding Semolina Bread on his blog and writes eloquently about the confusion surrounding the word semolina, as he says the word semolina  ‘…is used to refer to a number of different things’.

However, I had a quick look this morning and found this brand  Divella Semola Rimacinata  online from Matta’s International Foods; there may well be other online stockists and suppliers or if you have an Italian Delicatessen in your town or city, it is always worth asking them or as Euan suggests, have a go with the semolina you can buy in the supermarket!

Guten Appetit Herr Götz! Hoffentlich haben Sie etwas Leckeres zum Frühstück von Karin und ihren Freunden gefunden! (my school German attempt at saying, ‘Hope you find something tasty for your breakfast Mr Götz from Karin and her friends’)

 

Kefir Bread with Semola Grano Duro Rimacinata (weights)

 

Method

  • Make a  kefir based levain as per formula above with flour, kefir, water and date syrup. You can make a kefir preferment without added sugar but it takes longer to ferment and is not as vigorous. Optionally add a spike of dried active yeast to speed everything up.
  • Mix the levain 18-24 hours before preparing the final dough.
  • The preferment should be  bubbling vigorously at the ideal point to mix the final dough  but can be mixed successfully if it has started to separate providing it still looks bubbly and not a pool of slithery gunk. Use your nose and your judgement on this!

Dough mixing notes:

  • Mix final dough using a stand mixer or by hand. These notes are for mixing with a stand mixer:-
  • Melt and allow butter to cool.
  • Use room temperature water to mix dough unless you are planning to retard the dough after mixing in which case cooler water is appropriate.
  • Mix levain and water together first. Hold back 50g of the water to start with.
  • Mix the flours together before adding to the dough if you remember.
  • Mix on slow speed till no visible flour is left and the mixture looks sticky and is beginning to come away from the sides of the bowl.  If it forms a big lump round the dough hook, add extra water.
  • Leave for 15 minutes for the flour to absorb all the water and start to develop. If it looks very tight, add up to 50 ml more water
  • Sprinkle salt on the top of the dough and mix in at low speed.
  • Dribble the melted butter in and mix till incorporated.
  • Turn dough out and check that is is quite soft and beginning to develop.
  • Place in a bowl and cover.
  • Prove for  2.5-4 hours depending on room temperature. I stretch and fold the dough twice during this time.
  • When dough has increased in volume by about half and shows good aeration on cutting, scale and shape as required.
  • The final prove is quite slow if you are relying on the milk kefir alone to raise the dough. On a warm afternoon it needed another four hours or so before it was ready to bake.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven with steam at 220 C for about 40 minutes and reduce the oven temperature  by 10 degrees or so for another 20 minutes of the bake if you are baking a large loaf like this.

 

 

In My Kitchen March 2014

Sunrise with Pigeon

Sunrise with Pigeon

Here we go, I have a collection of stuff to share and what better place to put it than in Celia’s In My Kitchen series? Visit Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and join in by the 10th of the month, any month and have some fun seeing what everyone is sharing.

At the moment  it is not sunrise but the evening of the last day in February, there is the lingering smell of fried haddock in batter and chips from the Fish and Chip shop on Henleaze High Street, next to the Post Office and the Garden Centre. But you will have to imagine that… suffice it to say it has no particular health benefits but is quite delicious and as the temperature dropped to a miserable 4 C today plus windchill I felt it was a perfect supper, as if I need an excuse!

Pot Stickers Steaming and Rattling on the Hob!

Pot Stickers Steaming and Rattling on the Hob!

Is that a crispy bottom I see before me?

Is that a crispy bottom I see before me?

Other delights on the kitchen table have included my first attempts at pot stickers and wontons – I can’t think what inspired me to make these? Maybe something to do with a certain Sydneysider… and the fact that we have a fantastic Chinese supermarket in Eastville where you can buy dumpling wrappers and fresh won ton skins, Jimmy’s satay sauce, fresh choy, tofu, Chinese vegetables, mysterious things lurking in freezers and more.  The supermarket even tweets as @WaiYeeHong and does online orders, so it is a treasure trove of good things. We are quite spoilt in Bristol.

I could get into this making dumplings lark...

I could get into this making dumplings and wontons  lark, Celia is right, it’s very soothing…

Pork and ginger wontons in broth with choy and spring onions

Pork and ginger wontons in broth with choy and spring onions

I also attempted Fran @ TheRoadtoSerendipity‘s breakfast, on the principle that one should try everything at least once (maybe not tripe but you know what I mean)  I thought maybe if I eat her breakfast I too will be full of get up and go and zing and maybe find myself on a beach in Tasmania, magical thinking, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis etc etc … so the other morning I ground up buckwheat and turned it into porridge, dolloped tahini and date syrup and some dates on top and ate the whole bowlful. I stopped half way through and added salt. Not sure why, but there you go.  I have to say, I zinged around all day and felt most loving towards humanity and not at all hungry until at least 3 pm. On the minus side it was a bit too like school semolina in texture, though I did enjoy the taste, so I think I will move on to buckwheat granola production to use up the rest of the bag of buckwheat.

Buckwheaty goodness and dates and stuff

Buckwheaty goodness and dates and stuff

I made two small batches of marmalade. Each year I follow a different recipe, it kind of makes it a bit more interesting. This year I used Vivien Lloyd‘s crystal clear instructions to produce a very clear set marmalade. Looks very smart! I bought her e-book and also watched her video on YouTube and asked her questions on Twitter too!

Organic Sevilles which my local veg box from Leigh Court Farm added into my box on request

Organic Sevilles which my local veg box from Leigh Court Farm added into my box on request

Seville Marmalade made to a Viv Lloyd recipe

Two different recipes of Vivien Lloyd’s here, the one on the right has a little molasses in and a chunkier cut. It isn’t quite dark enough for Brian’s tastes, who likes that Oxford Style made with lots of brown sugar.

For those of you who like fancy salts and peppers, I have to confess I have got through one jar of this espelette blend from M&S and gone back for a second. It goes very well on kale chips – (I know it is a bit last year to like kale chips, but I am often at least five years behind the trends, slow but steady, that’s me).

I was sent some special lemons and a jar of quince jam from Carla’s trees in Rome and you can see them peeking out here along with a jar of kefir lurking in the background.

Espelette

I have a other few gifts to show you as well.

Fans of QI and Stephen Fry may know what these are. I was sent these as a thankyou for doing some editorial work for an old friend. They are very handsome but I think I need a party of people to help me empty one of those bowls as they are quite substantial.

Everything you need for mate tea

Everything you need for mate tea

Here is a beautiful old brioche tin from my friend Elaine, who goes to France on her holidays most years and found this for me. I am going to make brioche in it very soon but at the moment I just enjoy looking at it!

Antique Brioche tin

then there is a little round of creamy kefir cheese, made from St Helen’s Fullfat Goat’s Milk and sea salt. St Helen’s Goat’s milk is my milk of choice these days, it is mild and ‘ungoaty’ in flavour and I use it in preference to cow’s milk, particularly for kefir. It makes perfect little cheese rounds as you can see.

Goats Milk Kefir Cheese

I made ful medames loosely following Hodmedod’s recipe, though I used less sugar, and using their dried English grown fava beans.  I haven’t tried their cooked range as yet. They also have split fava beans with no skins, perfect for making falafel. They are a wonderful new company and I hope they do really well. Part of food security for any country is growing our own food and this company grows all its beans and peas here in the UK.

Ful medames a la Hodmedod

Here is a mystery photo of something in my kitchen reflecting the outside world, you might know what it is …

Can you figure out what this is?

Can you figure out what this is?

I was only going to spend half an hour doing this and time is ticking away so I am going to retire downstairs to the sofa and grab a cup of tea and an ultra healthy oaty bar from the freezer. These are based on Carl’s recipe for his son which you can find here and they are very wholesome indeed, having no added sugar (I don’t count the dark chocolate Callebaut chips) and no fat at all. I polish my halo every time I eat one !

It’s been fun doing this, i don’t normally namecheck so many companies and businesses, but once in a while it is OK I hope. Anyway you don’t have to click on the links, just thought if you were interested you can find out a bit more if I put them in.

I hope you find something you like here and don’t forget to visit Celia’s blog and see all the other kitchens this month!

Carl Energy Bar

PS In my rush to get my tea I forgot these two images that I really wanted to put in the post, so bad form I know to add after publication but here goes…

From Emily Sincerely I got this surprise handmade card  for Valentine’s Day this week !

Thank you Emily! xx

Thank you Emily! xx

and this is what it had inside … I think she (and Proust!) are spot on!

Beautiful Quote from Proust

Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.

 

For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-