Category Archives: Dog Walks

Carl Legge’s Foraged Nettle Permie Pizza

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If you have been reading this blog for a long time you might recall a post or two in which Mr IronFingers and I went out nettle picking. If I pick nettles I have to wear two pairs of gloves and make a huge song and dance about it. If the bag so much as brushes against my skin once it has nettles in it, I scream – just in case – a bit like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. If a nettle looks at me, I quiver abjectly. Mr IronFingers on the other hand laughs at nettles and grasps them firmly and then pops them in the bag. He who is hopelessly allergic to all berry fruit and their little tiny hairs does not react to nettles at all, how strange is that?

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Cheese and Lime Pickle Sandwiches

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Sunday 26th January Midday

It is blowing and raining cats and dogs outside this Sunday morning and I feel like a post and a chat but I have been doing lots of things that are kind of the same as always and have no novelty to offer you. But on the off chance you might miss me (well a little) I thought I would just write a diary post and spruce it up with some glamorous bread photos, shot at 9.30 yesterday morning when the sun deigned to pop out and do its thing.

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We also managed to get down to the beach and have a sunny dog walk before the mysterious twisty wind thing started up, so be assured we are making the best of this wild, wet and windy January.

A gratuitious toast with quince jam made last January now appears for no other reason than that I like taking photos of jam with sunlight shooting through it…

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While I was eating the above, Brian was ransacking the loaf for sandwiches. It was a bread eating sort of a day.

P1070103To the subject of cheese and lime pickle sandwiches. Lime pickle is a passion in this household. To be specific Patak’s lime pickle. It comes in at least two varieties, medium, which I can eat and hot, which I can’t. Brian smiles a wolfish smile when he eats the hot sort and says, with a little smirk, “What do you mean, it’s hot!”  “Ha!” is what I say.

Cheese and pickle (after bacon sandwiches with brown sauce) are his favourite, being a traditional sort of a chap – they make perfect picnic food for taking to the beach and eating in a stiff breeze while you watch scary dark clouds race towards you and people turning and marching briskly towards home.

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After a few bakes in tins, I have gone back to the bigger loaves for sandwiches and toast, because I think the crusts taste nicer when the whole of the outside of the loaf is exposed to the heat of the oven. Tinned bread, while servicable, and fitting better in the freezer always has a softer, even dare I say it, sweatier quality about it.  If you have never tried a sesame crust to your loaf, you should give it a go just once. I have tried various ways to get the seeds onto the loaf and have reconciled myself to the simple truth that they will fly about a bit, but the end result is worth a little bit of sesame chaos.

I roll the dough in the seeds, once I have shaped it  but before the final prove. I don’t spray the loaf with anything first and make sure the sides of the ball of dough are coated in seeds too to allow for the rise of the loaf. You can then either prove the loaf right side up or sesame seed side down in a floured cloth in a bowl or in a banetton. I buy large bags of sesame seed from Bristol Sweet Mart, worth looking for larger bags if you get a taste for something like this.

This particular loaf was half the date kefir recipe to be found here but you could use a more traditional sourdough style bread like the Hamelman one pictured here, or indeed any bread recipe that you are confident with that uses a proportion of wholemeal (wholegrain USA) flour.

I have also recently tried varying this recipe to use barley malt syrup, which is probably more readily available to people and you get a bread with that distinctive ‘English’ malted taste. I personally prefer the date syrup, but I am contrary that way.

This loaf weighed around a kilo. I baked it hot at 220C for all of 50 minutes and didn’t turn the oven down at all. It developed a very dark rich crust and the crumb was perfectly baked.  A complete joy of a loaf!

So together with some good cheddar and Patak’s pickles life couldn’t be simpler or finer.

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We also made a second sandwich using the damson relish I made last autumn pictured above.

I am increasingly making more relishes and chutneys and less jams. This one is good enough to eat on toast all by itself but I can’t remember which recipe I used. I think probably Pam Corbin’s one in Preserves.

So my next project is to hunt out a good medium lime pickle recipe and see what we can do while lemons and limes are relatively inexpensive here in the UK…

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On getting close to this tree swept onto the beach by a recent tide, Zeb realised it wasn’t a bone and left in disgust…

If you need an excuse to say hello (please say hello!) you could tell me what  you like to put in your cheese sandwiches?  Or have a quick moan about your weather… Misky tells me they had a twister in her part of Sussex yesterday.  I wonder if we had a mini one in the garden. There was a strange moment when the sky went very dark and the wind blew one way across the garden and then the next minute it went the other way…. apparently we do get waterspouts in the Bristol Channel and there was one round this time last year.

UK National Fungus Day

Bread in Morning Light

Sunday 13th October 2013

Some bread out of the oven cooling in the early morning sunshine.  The one in the front is in reality very small but because of the way the camera works it looks quite big. Thanks to the kefir and whatever yeast (fungus) we use we have bread and can make our own as human beings have been doing for a very long time now.

Fungi and bacteria work with the building blocks of the living world to create and destroy. The more we learn about how they work the more amazing they turn out to be. Maybe we should have a National Bacteria Day too?

Here are some of this autumn’s crop of fungi photographs, taken at Westonbirt, Glos and in the Forest of Dean, which is on the other side of the Severn Bridge, but on this side of the border with Wales. It is a good year for fungi in the UK, so have a go at seeing what you can see, or go to an organized walk or a talk, lots around ! This is the first UK Fungus Day and I think it is a great idea!

I have had a stab at identifying some of them but as ever warn people not to go by my identification as I am not a mycologist. I used to be quite reasonable at identifying about a dozen or so of the edible fungi, but as the years pass I have got out of practice. If you go on a fungi foray with a group or a self-styled forager be sure to ask them how they learnt their trade and ask lots of questions. In these straitened economic times, people turn to all sorts of ways to earn a living and foraging and ‘teaching’ foraging is one of them.

For most of us, wild fungi are not an essential part of our diet, but rather a treat, a flavour, an aroma, something maybe that one wouldn’t desire if not driven by media hype and an urge for different experiences.

I am not saying don’t or that it is wrong to want to taste and touch new things, just be extremely careful. There are cases of poisoning each year, usually well-documented in the press, of people who eat the wrong fungi, or the wrong berries or plants.

What is fun and completely safe however, is to go out and take photographs and look for them. We are sticking to that this year unless we see the ones that I know I can id positively.

And not to create any confusion, we didn’t bring any of the fungi depicted here home with us, only took their photos. Please do not ask me to identify your fungi finds!

larch Boletus Brian Kent

I am pretty sure this is the larch boletus, with its spongy underside.

Yellow Stagshorn Calocera viscosa

and I think this is Yellow Stagshorn( Calocera viscosa) – because it was growing on wood but it’s not one we see very often, it is very small and delicate but has this outstanding glowing colour.

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Haven’t looked this one up yet…

…and finally the most glamorous one we have seen this autumn which I think is a magpie inkcap but I haven’t found an image exactly like it so who knows?

magpie inkcap?

One of the hardest things is keeping the dogs out of the field of shot, as anything that interests us, interests them and we don’t want them to eat the fungi either!

Anyone want to tango with a wet poodle?

Anyone want to tango with a wet poodle?

So for those of you who miss him, here is your small friend Zeb, following an exciting jump into a mud bath on the edge of a small pool which contained a stick of desire that he had to have, (just had to).  We are taking him and his sister to the beach this coming week. I forsee many early evening baths.

Where’s my Lunch?

Wild garlic flowers

Down in the woods where the garlic and the bluebells line the banks of the Trym the unnamed stream runs under a little bridge; there you can find  a couple of fledgling grey wagtails – Motacillia cinerea – who are working extremely hard at the business of being baby birds.  This seems to consist of a lot of sitting and squeaking and keeping a very close eye on your parents and flying into the scrub when there is too much noise and activity on the banks.

Our little woodland is so well used with all the enthusiastic dogs running around that I am quite honestly surprised and overjoyed to see these babies. The wagtails offer a flash of colour from their bright yellow underparts as they trek up and down the stream all winter, looking for insects and other food and are surprisingly unbothered by the dogs and the visitors.  I think I wrote once before that maybe these particular birds have learnt to associate mammals with their food source, as flies congregate round fresh faeces, and that they see the dogs as part of their food chain, who knows? We have had them visit the garden once or twice and always for that reason.

It isn’t an easy bird to photograph, unlke a nice sedate swan or duck, the adult very rarely stands still and even when it is stopped for a moment on a stone or on the bank, its distinctive long tail is bobbing up and down.  The grey wagtail has grey upperparts and a yellow vent, a broken eye ring and a white supercillium.

The one most of us see in the cities in England is the pied wagtail, which turns up quite often on city streets, in car parks, and shopping centres with its distinctive black and white plumage.

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I have seen grey wagtails like these on flat roofs behind office buildings, but there always has to be a big puddle or something like that there. They are birds of the water’s edge feeding on flies, mayflies, beetles, crustacea and molluscs according to Wikipedia – I wonder if they eat the leeches that live under the stones.

jo's effortThis was my best effort, what is politely called a ‘record shot’ because it allows you to identify the bird with reasonable certainty but it certainly won’t win any prizes! My camera is simply not fast enough to catch them on the move. I have just added it as a thumbnail so you can click on it to see it bigger if you want to see it.

I asked Brian to have a go at taking some photos yesterday and these are the results. He used a Canon EOS IV. way too heavy for me. The birds are surprisingly well camouflaged against the stones and the lichens and the rippling water as it runs over the rocks.  It was easiest to photograph the babies as they stood quite still, the parent’s head is almost impossible to get in focus, most of the time, her beak was stuffed with flies and food and that also creates a blurred look to her head.

At one point three primary school groups appeared to do pond dipping as well. It is all go down there!

Grey Wagtail Fledgling

“If I stand here I will get some more food soon”

Grey Wagtail fledgling on branch

“Or maybe I should stand on this branch, I am sure I will get some food soon…”

Grey Wagtail Fledgling Calling for Food

“Hang on!!!! HANG ON!!!!  come back!  I am here – where’s that food?”

Adult grey wagtail feeding baby

“Nooo-oooo – don’t leave me!!!!”

Adult grey wagtail feeding baby

“Give it to me now, give it to me, give it to me….”

I forgot this one, which shows the male’s black bib more clearly, I think both parents feed the babies.

Male Grey Wagtail

And so it goes, parental responsbilities eh?

This post is for Rose who tweets and photographs birds but I hope you like Brian’s photos too!

There is a nice bit of film here of a pair that has nested in a lock from BBC Nature.

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“The gist. It’s always the gist, isn’t it? We’re left with so little to go on. Only the present is full enough to seem complete, and even that is an optical illusion. The moment is bleeding off the page. We live on the precipice of our perceptions. At the edge of every living instant, the world shears away like a cliff of ice into the sea of what is forgotten.”
Ivan Vladislavic
from Double Negative