April, ’tis a funny month. One never knows what one is going to get. As is Easter, one never knows whether it is going to be early or late. And within that differentiating spectrum I have always held dear to my own premise that the majority of the allotment must be done by Easter bank holiday Monday. One can always pick up plants for the garden at home and mow the grass, but to catch up on seed sowing and digging at the allotment, well that is a task in itself. There are many that use the full moons as their aid memoir to allow that slight trigger in the brain to remember tasks. And so it was with me, I looked at that this month, but then the next day after a full moon was cold and harsh, so I again stuck to my Easter regime. Whatever works for you is what I say.
It has been a struggle, but we have got there. But there have been changes. We have decided not to grow parsnips, carrots, garlic and onions from now on. These all require hand weeding, as does leeks and beetroot but they are worth it to us. Although we love these vegetables, we know that the wear and tear on us is simply not worth it, no matter how delicious they are.
So instead, we have put in a couple of rows of raspberries, a much more worthwhile crop I am sure you will agree and also I’m growing from seed some globe artichokes. Globe artichokes are most interesting to grow, they are like fingerprints, you never get the same plant twice, some fruits are spiky, some round leaved, some larger and some smaller.. successful plants are then grown on and used for cuttings. In my last plot I had quite a selection of them, it’s time to try my hand at this again.
And then apart from the usual vegetables, plus a couple more broccoli and purple sproutings to try I have gone with some herbs. We will see how well I do with those.
But the new potatoes are in, always a good start.
The kale keeps on going. A good veg in that hungry gap. Any veg at this time of year is one we are most grateful for and one I don’t tend to crop too much early on, lest I get tired of it.
And we have a delicious late cropping purple sprouting, I must check last years notes to find out which it is. I love a purple sprouting, something to look forward to in that hungry gap of the year.
The chives are growing, the mint is sprouting, spring is on its ways.
The insomnia is in full flow tonight, it is 5.15 a.m. and I’ve not had a blink of sleep, the trouble then is I just have to have a nap in the afternoon otherwise I will keel over and so it all begins again. Covid eh!
There is good news for me at least, because I am an unpaid carer to Dad, or maybe its because I have quite a few health problems of my own, whose to know they don’t tell you why, I’ve been bumped up the list and was vaccinated yesterday. It is a big relief to get a vaccine, bearing in mind I have been self isolating for over a year now because of hubby with only a brief respite to look after Mum before she died and to console Dad as best I could before we went back into lockdown at the start of January and then the winter blues on top of all that. It’s not been a good year. I feel all creativity has died in me, which is terrible really, but I just feel absolutely worn out, which is I suspect a type of depression and I’ll be very glad in three weeks time when I can walk around without so much anxiety when someone passes me.
I do have plans to start wandering into various towns and cities nearby on a regular twice weekly basis just as soon as I can and am making a list of coffee shops that I wish to visit as well as other interesting shops or galleries. I think Covid has taught me not to take things for granted and that life is for the living. So gallivant I shall go. Even if its just to go to Coventry Market and pick up some lovely fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a bunch of pinks or daffs that have been stacked high to sell for not much money from the pretty iron and glass circular flower stall.
Then hopefully this depression will lift and my creative spark shall return. I have plans to make another quilt this year, the fabric is sat in my sewing room, I think as the days lighten it might be time to start work on that. You would think that having been locked in we would have sorted out the sewing room, but apparently not. I think we were quite happy in many ways to just stare at the coal fire and try to relax.
I continue to make nice treats for hubby and Dad and last weeks was a lovely cinnamon and apple pie. They are lucky boys!
I treated myself to a three month cookery book subscription from Willoughby book club this Christmas. I’d been hinting for nearly three years that this may be a good Christmas present for me, but no one had taken me up on the idea so in the end I decided life is far too short, especially in the middle of a pandemic, and treated myself to it. The first book that landed through my door was a little meh. So I was a little disappointed after having waited to indulge myself for three years, but the second book was Wow, oh Wow. Although I received the American version which is in Farenheight, so I am not sure what that is all about and the spine was damaged…
The book itself was from a restaurant in London and although I had never been to that particular restaurant the style of food was very familiar to me having nested in London for several years. I adore the use of pistachios and almonds along with scented floral or citrus oils in cakes, to me they add so much more interest than a gooey icing. Along with interesting pastries both sweet and savoury of a middle eastern styled nature and i’m your gal. I remember on one of my very first trips into London many, many years ago to attend a Loop workshop (Loop being a lovely knitting shop in Islington) our mid morning treat was some lovely middle eastern styled cakes filled with pistachios and almonds and they were absolutely heavenly. Coming from the middle of Warwickshire it was not something that I was used to, but having lived in London I became aware of just how popular this style of cooking is and I can completely understand why, it is just so damn tasty.
So that night, I nestled into my bed, reading glasses at hand and started at the beginning of Golden Sweet and Savoury Baked Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey and Co, which I found out is the American version and the version you’d be looking for is The Baking Book by Honey and Co. The only difference being seems to be the usage of F or C for temperature.
Anyway I settled in and I started at page one and it was a delight. Their back story was lovely and as I read further I could feel myself drifting into the shop to watch the jams being made in the Dead of Night and the chapters that came next were filled with exactly the sort of thing I would want to eat at First Light whilst rushing off to work or for Mid Morning Elevensies on my day off, quickly followed by chapters on High Noon Lunch for the hungry office workers and Tea Time for mums and children after school and After Dark just because it was delicious. And mostly I wanted to bake them all, they reminded me of so many places I have visited and eaten at and yet my own repertoire of eastern baking has remained quite small.
But another thing happened at about two in the morning after I’d been reading the book and absorbing their recipes and stories for about two hours, I knew there was one person that would absolutely love this book, it was just so her, from the jam making to the bread baking and use of nuts in her buns and cakes and so I did a little bit of googling and by a process of elimination I assumed she had not bought this book but she had actually been to Honey and Co some years previously. So I bought her a copy! And that one simple act has given me so much pleasure because she did indeed love the book I sent and my instincts were right. I’m sure we will both get many years of laughter from this book as we share our trials and tribulations of trying new recipes.
I love a pistachio cake, I quite like it when it has been dipped in chocolate and then warmed so that the chocolate just warms and one has to eat it with a fork lest one gets messy fingers and the chocolate just glues the lips together in a delicious sounding smack, to be taken with good strong coffee in-between art galleries on a days excursion in London. So when I saw the recipe for Blood oranges and Pistachio cake I knew it was the first one to try for me. Sadly I had no blood oranges, so its not quite as pretty as it could be, but then they are not quite as pretty as they could be for more reasons than that.
It was going well until we realised that the muffin tins would be a bit small and I had to make a quick decision as to what would be okay and I found some cake tins that I don’t think I’d used for many a long year. Hubby and I rescued everything out of the muffin tins and it looked to be going well.
But in our haste to transfer the ingredients we had forgotten to butter the cake tins before putting the mix of sugar and cornflour topped with an orange slice.
So when I went to tip them out, it left every single orange slice stuck to the bottom. I just hope Paul Hollywood isn’t judging these, I would be thrown out of the competition!
But they tasted so good. I will be making these again, and maybe a few without the orange so that I can dip them in chocolate and relive a few old memories.
Yesterday I had a really emotional day, not in a good way. I’m not sleeping, when I do sleep its only for an hour and then accompanied by weird dreams and then I want to sleep during the day. Lockdown has really gotten to me. I also found out that although the area we live in has a relatively low infection rate, the area Son no.1 lives in is sky high and parts of it are now being tested for the South African variant.
I check our local daily rates regularly and I noticed that they have just started a blip upwards, mmm. Not good.
So I ordered a delivery from Tesco with all the wonderful fruits and vegetables that we have been missing.
Then I cancelled it.
Then I had another breakdown.
After my breakdown I watched Coronation Street, I haven’t seen it for 15 – 20 ? years.
It hasn’t changed, i’m thinking some of the actors don’t seem to age as fast as I am.
Then I started to clean the oven.
This never happens…
I go and lay down and think ‘buggar it’ and order a huge selection of fruit and veg from Morrisons via Amazon.
I’m pretty stressed about it.
But it has been fifty days and if we get away with it and we do another fifty days I may be vaccinated by then.
And who knows it may become a new thing for us to go much longer between shopping trips. I am sure sometimes supermarket shopping can be used just as a form of entertainment.
Maybe shopping seven times a year could be a thing. Easily doable with the supplementation from the allotment in the summer.
We shall see.
But tomorrow we shall have a pancake day a week early to use up all the tired looking lemons and limes in the fridge. Hubby is very much looking forward to it.
And in the shopping being delivered tomorrow I have squirrelled away two sirloin steaks, prawns and ice creams.. to have our own little valentine celebration to show the man I love just how sorry I am that he has to put up with me having breakdowns during lockdown.
Having run out of all bread it was time to make a big batch of buns. I’m into buns at the moment or batches, rolls, baps or whatever the slant of your dialect dictates them to be. I like getting just one or two out of the freezer at a time, letting them defrost overnight and then warming them so that they are perfectly fresh.
Today I wanted something tasty, something savoury to cheer up what might be getting quite dreary. Although so far we have managed to keep most meals reasonably cheerful.
But today I wanted Punch.
So I started off a couple of rounded teaspoons of commercial yeast with a little water and a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar, when frothy I added to 1000g of strong Canadian white flour with a hydration of 72% warm water and about 10g salt. Let it whirl on the dough hook of my Kenwood for ten minutes and then let it prove whilst I rummaged in my cupboards.
Where I found a small jar of sun dried tomatoes and in the fridge a small jar of olives that had been started and next I found some freshly picked rosemary from the plot, but not too much. Perfect I thought and gaily chopped everything fine and mixed into the well risen dough for its second prove.
Next I made 18 buns which weighed 4oz exactly, let them rise and then popped them into a very hot oven, turning it down to just under 200c for 25 minutes.
Oh they smelled so good.
The flavours were wonderful, and the hint of rosemary had real longevity, it stayed with you for ages.
Forty days without the distraction of a grocery delivery or shopping trip. Even though I know we are more than capable of going for much, much longer on this journey, I would welcome the joy of gazing and smelling of fresh fruits and vegetables that are so abundant in our grocery shops and supermarkets. But more than that I would not welcome Covid, so we remain strong, if not a little taunted by the idea.
The last post I wrote about the AstraZeneca vaccine only being 8% effective in the older generation proved not to be correct, such is the speed that false news can travel in this day and age. All is well where efficacy in the older generation is concerned. We have however passed 100,000 deaths. This leaves all of us very sad indeed.
In good news for our little family, Dad and hubby have both had their first jabs and in both cases next day complained about pain in their vaccination site, I am taking this as a good sign that the vaccine is doing its job.
Our fridge continues to do a fantastic job, but we really are at the end of fresh tomatoes, we have a few carrots left, lots of onions, sack of potatoes and the allotment. We also have a good selection of meat and vegetables in tins and the freezer from my Brexit stash, so all is not lost. So to cheer us up we rescued the smoked salmon out of the freezer to make us a cheering lunch with home made coleslaw from our own cabbage and a little beetroot which we ate with a slice of homemade bread.
We try to eat fresh vegetables in some way or another every day, I think this is so important, but along with that we are taking our multi vitamins, vitamin D and fish oils supplements to try and keep us in fine fettle.
I decided to have a look through my cookery bookcase and found these two beauties. Are we not fortunate to live in a country that the potato is a staple of our diet. There is just so much one can do with it and I feel it is so much more nutritious than wheat or rice and I think far tastier. These two books have given me fresh inspiration for our suppers, but it is the humour of Potato Pete and other little ditties that have given me the most pleasure. I shall share some with you. Until the next time, stay safe.
So the pandemic continues, earlier today the signs were encouraging, since then there maybe a problem in the over 65’s with the AstraZeneca vaccine with only an 8 percent effective rate and Boris is implementing strict new border controls. Read into this what you will, but it looks like its not going as well as we had hoped.
Our food stores are going well, I’m starting to miss things like lettuce and cucumber but we still have a small amount of fresh fruit, tomatoes and lots of onions, along with a sacks of potatoes and the milkman delivers. One of the items I have been very grateful for was when we got back from London, we replaced the fridge and freezer with two high end fridge/freezers from John Lewis. Put together they look very much like a large American freezer, although they don’t have the ice making capabilities, but we bought an ice machine at the start of the first lockdown to combat that particular problem. I’d become tired of my large larder fridge which was on its last legs anyway. Getting down to it at the bottom and the back resulted in groans because of stiff backs and knees, and this is wonderful with the top half being the fridge comprising of two very efficient salad drawers, (so I have four altogether!) and various other compartments and the freezer in the lower half. It is so easy to see everything.
The electronic temperature controllers are superb, it has literally extended the life of salads, tomatoes etc by weeks. I’ve reduced the temperature in the fridge to 2c after reading that every degree lowered in a fridge can extend the life of vegetables and fruits by one week, and there is never any freezer burn and tomatoes, peppers, lettuce etc remain stable and in good condition. It’s been an absolute god send.
Of course we do have the plot.
And we are able to shop that as regularly as weather or inclination allows. The roots are a little small, but still very tasty, the carrots will need to be lifted soon as the carrot fly larvae seems to be enjoying them and I’ll need to prep them and freeze them, but the beets and parsnips are standing well. The leeks look better for a bit of cold weather as do the brussels. The kale is doing well, but then it always does and we have taken to having green smoothies nearly every day to give us a vitamin burst of fresh vegetables.
We quite like kale, carrot, tomato, orange juice and chestnuts from Crackly Woods all whizzed together with a big dollop of local honey. It goes down well as a second breakfast! We have nearly finished the rainbow chard, so I will have to let that recover, but it has been splendid in stir fries as has the kale and we are waiting for a second flush of purple sprouting. We have about five small cabbages left, which is good as it is one of Dad’s favourites and 3 large pumpkins left in store.
Dad has been enjoying my home cooking and has eaten everything I have presented which has included many different pies, cottage pies, stew and dumplings, lamb hot pot, meat free roast dinners, various other roasts and most recently lasagne. Lasagne! I hear you cry. Yes, I know. He enjoyed it very much I believe, but has asked if he can have a serving of cabbage with it next time. That did make me giggle, ‘of course Dad, whatever you want’. He has particularly enjoyed the chicken and turkey pies with leeks, having never really eaten leeks before and has adored with a capital A our roast pumpkins… I don’t think he has ever had them. So I make sure his meat free roast dinners are plentifully supplied with roast pumpkins, roast potatoes, mashed potato, carrot and swede crush and both brussel sprouts and cabbage along with a home made yorkshire pudding and lots of good gravy. I think they are his favourite meal. I think he is quite shocked that he enjoys with such gusto a meat free meal. Which has made life simpler in providing him meals that suit his doctors dietary advice. Hubby and I spent the afternoon yesterday batch cooking for him and made another 17 meals, so he has 37 meals ready in our freezer. I like to keep ahead of the game, especially as my stores will get lower and we are trying to go as long as possible without contact with anyone.
My walk from Lands End to John O’Groats from The Conqueror website is going much slower than I had imagined. Mainly because the world and his wife walk down my lane, so I have taken to walking at night, which has been quite nice, but the rain and the snow put me off. It’s no worry, I’ve given myself 18 months to complete, so I’m sure I can catch up, when the infection rates drop.
And lastly we bake treats. The last of the desiccated coconut and ground almonds made these delicious little macaroons. Most of them are in the freezer to be dished out very occasionally. They were a good way of using up some egg whites that I had left over from making a custard to make a vanilla and blackcurrant ripple ice cream, which was really very good and worthy of our home grown blackcurrants.
They were made in a baking pan for tiny treats that Noelle had suggested from Lakeland, I’m so pleased I bought this lovely tray, I am sure it is going to come in very useful.
Tomorrow I must revive my sourdough, as I’m just about to run out of bread.
I hope everyone remains safe and well, until next time.
Well that was an interesting December, Christmas, New Year. I think I hit the most massive slump which I am still in. But fingers crossed it all comes good in the end.
I prepared vegetables from the plot, made my Dad a full Christmas meal for him and my eldest brother, which seemed to go down well, made Christmas cakes, christmas pudding and mince pies. I think these activities kept me sane and I just wish there could have been more of them and we could have had the family Christmas we had planned and promised my Dad. But like so many of us we just had to do the best we could.
Now, as the virus cases continue to rise, I think we will be heading for even stricter measures. It’s no wonder really, even in my small home town people think that it is perfectly acceptable to queue up for coffee as though it were a vital food source that will indeed keep them alive. The queues get longer and tighter and with this new highly infectious variant, how can they be sure that they are doing enough to stay safe. Well you can’t as the increased number of cases testifies.
The last time I had contact with a supermarket, was when Dad bought me a salmon to fillet to make Gravlax for Christmas on the 19th and then I did a quick top up shop at the greengrocers on the 21st, the Monday before Christmas.
Not too shabby considering I only fillet a salmon about twice a year!
Here’s a quick tip, save the bones and head and poach in the oven in water for 10 minutes and then pick it over, it is surprising how much fish you can find, easily enough for two very decadent poached salmon sandwiches for a very fine lunch or the doings for some very grand fish cakes. Waste not, want not, as my grandmother would say.
So it is 21 days since I last went to the shops. Fortunately I have a milkman and hubby washes the bottles with soapy water as they come into the house and decants the eggs into our pottery chicken. We also buy sacks of potatoes from him, we can leave them for a few days after bringing them in, so they are hopefully covid free.
We are not doing so bad, we are at the last of the lettuce and tomatoes, the bananas have been eaten, we have a few apples, oranges and lemons left. Loads of tomatoes and vegetables in the freezer along with meat and fish, a draw full of onions in the fridge and enough flour to last a couple of months at least. Today I made a large lasagne from a ragu I had made a couple of months before and then I made a beautiful blackcurrant ice cream from our home grown black currants picked in the summer and a fresh custard I had made this afternoon, we are not doing so bad. The egg whites shall be made into macaroons as I have found some desiccated coconut and I’ll even be able to decorate them with some chocolate that hubby remembered we had. And if all else fails there is the tinned fruit I stashed for Brexit. Fortunately the pandemic came at the same time that there was so much nervousness about Brexit and I’d made sure our store cupboards were well stocked.
We seem to have had some difficulty with our seed delivery for the allotment this year. I’d wanted to start my leeks off, but unfortunately that is not to be. I hope they arrive in the next couple of weeks.
The allotment is giving us brussel sprouts, parsnips, purple sprouting, kale and rainbow chard along with the odd cabbage. At least we are getting all of our vitamins.
I might even break out a war time recipe book, to see what hidden gems I am able to unearth.
I’m not going to lie, the last six weeks have been a bit of a struggle. I think Covid has really got to me and knowing we were going back into a lockdown and then doing so practically finished me off along with a sinus infection that was quite painful and I think laid me lower than I realised. But within that there has been some good stuff. So I’m just going to give you and me some much needed edited highlights.
First of the brussels.
I’ve nearly finished the Christmas cards, apart from the odd stragglers. You know the one’s, they come to you in the middle of the night and you suddenly scream a name, whilst at the same time shamefully wondering how you could have forgotten them. To be honest I’d been thinning out my Christmas card writing over the last few years as it all became a bit too much and then popping some money into the charity of my choice to compensate. But this year after losing Mum and Auntie B, it doesn’t seem right and reaching out to people, through text and telephone and Christmas cards seems a much more natural way of doing things. The importance of family and friends has never felt so necessary to me. This comes from the voice of a hermit who is more than happy not to see anyone for weeks on end and is quite happy entertaining herself, so its a bit of a turn around. But the joy I’ve had is beautiful, I reached out to an old college friend that I hadn’t seen for over ten years today, and she literally screamed with delight. That was a great hour long conversation.
Dad’s and my eldest brother’s Christmas Day dinner has been prepared and is carefully packed up in the freezer. Turkey with all the trimmings and I do mean all, turkey both light meat and dark, sausages wrapped in bacon, extra bacon, roast parnips, roast home grown pumpkin, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, home grown brussel sprouts, carrot and swede mash and lots of lovely gravy all packed up in large foil containers which they just have to pop in the oven and then help themselves from. That should keep the wolf from their door and there is enough to easily last for two days. It took us hours to prepare, for some reason we are quite out of practise, but it was very nice to have a turkey sandwich for supper!
Of course the plan was to have Dad over for Christmas dinner, but what with Covid and hubby’s health we just cannot take the risk. So we, in as much as we are able, took Christmas to them.
We have nearly finished the wrapping of presents, so apart from decorating the Christmas cake along with the making of the pudding and finding more decorations to put up we are pretty much there, btw, lighting the Christmas tree mid November was inspirational and is a habit I intend to pursue every year. We love its sparkling prettiness in the deep dark days of winter, I very much want to keep it up until March, but I’m not sure if hubby will let me get away with that.
Dad and I went to measure the Oak tree only to find there were two. I’m calling this pic parent and child. We estimate they are 120 and 80 years old. I’d love to plant an Oak tree, it’s one of my things to do.