Pic of the week.

From little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

Oak trees, my favourite of all trees, mainly because of the oak tree at the bottom of the garden where we were put to get some fresh air as babies and my first memories of the leaves rustling in the wind, the shapes of the leaves, the changing colours.

I wonder how old this magnificent tree is? We are going to take a tape measure and find out.

Bejewelled Biscotti

I was rummaging through my cupboards and came across a few opened packets of nuts including almonds and automatically thought of that lovely Italian biscuit called Biscotti.

I used the recipe from Easy Baking by Linda Collister as a base and went from there.

Easy baking was published in 2008, a small compact little book, that is an absolute darling. No longer in publication and when Son no.2 was home I went to look for a recipe and simply could not find it in my collection – it will turn up one day,, but knowing how difficult to find this book is. I ordered two, one for me and one for him to add to his collection of books, not that he has many, but as a budding pastry chef, this is one that simplifies the ingredient list into a doable recipe therefore making it easier to practise or just turn out a few biscuits or cakes in times of need or want. I recommend it.

Firstly I pan roasted a collection of nuts, almonds, hazelnuts and chopped mixed nuts that I had in my collection. The recipe indicated oven roasting but I think pan roasting is much more controllable and there is nothing more disappointing or expensive than forgetting for a moment your nuts that are roasting in the oven and finding them too far gone and slightly blackened and bitter.

Next I had purchased the first of the seasons candied peel up at the market, so portioned about 75g out and chopped that up into tiny jewels.

Made the mix up according to the recipe which involved whizzing a few nuts into a fine powder to add to the flour and baked the mixture into two long sausages, allowed them to cool and then with a serrated knife cut on the angle and baked again.

If I am honest I think I should have baked them a little bit harder. They are just under the hardness of a shop bought biscotti.

But you live and learn and they are still extremely delicious, perfect for a pick me up with a hot drink in the afternoon.

Home made yoghurt.

Let me start by talking about the elephant in the room that is Covid. I am not a political animal in any sense of the word but it has seemed to me that it makes sense to be as self sufficient as is possible, so as not to have to go to the shops for items and risk contamination, along with not wanting to be part of the panic buying brigade. My cupboards, freezers and allotment are amply supplied, having as a child been very curious about Nan’s cupboards always full of interesting tins, dried fruits, sugars and flours, there were butters, cheeses and bacon in the fridge, a chest freezer in the hall full of ice cream, fruit, meat, fish and vegetables. There was a brick built shed strung high with net sacks or plaits of home grown onions and sacks of potatoes along with an allotment in her back garden of veg with three apple and one plum tree my war time mentality of food security was triggered at a very early age. I might explain that Nan had been bombed out twice in Liverpool and evacuated with four very small children in tow while her husband was serving in India. I suspect food security became very important to her too.

Not wishing to go into supermarkets at the present time we are living off our wits and stores, so when I noticed that hubby was running out of yoghurt I had a look at the Greek yoghurt tub that he favours and found it to contain a live bacteria. I promptly ordered some full fat milk off the milkman (we wash the bottles with soapy water as they come into the house) and examined the yoghurt instructions on my instapot.

Firstly I scalded the milk and then let it sit for a couple of hours to come back to room temperature, whisked 3 dessertspoons of yoghurt into it and put it into the instapot and hit the yoghurt button and walked away.

Eight hours later,… we had this lovely thick yoghurt.

Next I separated some kitchen towel, scalded that with hot water and lined a colander with it, then poured the yoghurt into it and allowed the whey to drain. I didn’t do this for long, maybe half an hour, I think you can strain it for a lot longer to make a very thick yoghurt if you wish to.

And then potted it into some glass jars that had also been scalded with boiling water.

To be placed into the fridge, where it will thicken up even more. 4 pints made 1.5 litres. (I love to mix imperial with metric!) Apparently the shelf life for home made yoghurt is about two weeks, I shouldn’t think we will have any left after a week. I might even get some fruit out the freezer and make some blackcurrant compote to accompany it. Or even make blackcurrant and yoghurt ice cream, or maybe I’ll need yoghurt in my new to me BIR curries, Oh the possibilities…

Cookbook of the month – Indian Restaurant Curry at Home

It has been my intention for many a long year to learn to cook British Indian Restaurant curry, known as BIR recipes. But for some reason maybe it was time constraints or an inability to find a way forward in how to learn or simply we have a very good Indian restaurant, that is absolutely delicious just up the road I haven’t done so. I think the main area was that I wasn’t sure how to start and at that point did not know that BIR recipes were even a thing.

Then one day I was tootling around youtube, and Misty Ricardo’s you tube video’s came into view and I was fascinated. This was exactly what I was looking for. I spent the next few evenings looking at his videos and then purchased his recipe books Indian Restaurant Curry at Home, versions 1 and 2 by Richard Sayce so as to read and experiment further.

Firstly I gathered my spices and made a mix powder as instructed.

And then made a gravy which has a vast amount of onions in. You seem to make gallons of gravy but this is okay as it freezes very nicely.

I chose the chicken bhuna recipe as it said this was a good recipe to start with.

Initially you poach your chicken breasts in spices and then you cover them with a sauce in which they can happily remain which means they keep flavourful and moist.

Once these two stages are complete and I recommend a spare afternoon to achieve them, you can leave the curry making until required. To get the levels of flavour required you need to make single portions or scant double portion. Otherwise you won’t achieve the repeated caramelisation, followed by the addition of the gravy and repeated at least twice more to achieve the many layered flavour profile of what you enjoy at your local good Indian restaurant. If you watch the videos of Misty Ricardo he will be able to explain much better than I.

It was an absolute blast to learn this and tasted extremely authentic. Well, authentic in a British Indian Restaurant kind of way, which after all, was exactly what I was looking for. I will be using this book this month and it will be interesting to see where it takes me in my understanding of this particular cuisine.

Pruning the blackberries.

The blackberries have been throwing very vigorous new canes out all summer. I’ve been carefully stepping over them or brushing them to one side as I’ve gone around the plot.

But the time had come to trim back our thornless blackberries.

So firstly I tied all the new canes together in the centre using some garden string, being careful that the string did not cut into the delicate new growth canes.

This gave me the space to chop back all of the old canes. At this stage it is easy to see which canes had fruited this year.

And this is difficult to see from this photograph, mainly because there is still so much green around. I tied the new growth into two wires that had been stretched between posts. I am very pleased with this plant now, we should get some good fruit next year, its neighbour has not done very well, so has been chopped back to the base.

Next I pruned the blackcurrants, I still have the apple, pear, gooseberries and blueberries to do, but for that I need to read up a little first.

Pic of the week.

I thought I would start to share my photo of the week on a Friday. There are no special rules, it may be taken with a mobile or a ‘proper’ camera. I’ll try to explain why I love it, if it inspires me, or creates emotion in me. It may not even be from that particular week! It may come from a place that is vibrating within me just at that moment, but the pic may be from long ago.

Sunflowers nearly ready for winter.

Planted and nurtured for the small birds to enjoy throughout the winter. A couple of heads have been taken to my Dad’s and he has placed them so that he may enjoy the birds finding the seeds during the winter from the comfort of his armchair in the living room. I always feel a little meloncholy as the summer growing season changes to autumn and then winter. I think it is the sadness of seeing all the vibrant verdant growth shrivelling up and turning brown. But within that I am pleased that the sparrows will find these seeds and they will nourish them through the short dark days of winter. Or the mice will find them and then terrorise my greenhouse where I hold no such compassions, it then becomes me verses the mice. Whatever way, it is natures way and for that I love this pic. Taken with an old iPhone on portrait mode, so a shallow depth of field, slightly spruced up in photos.

Tidying the plot.

It’s that time of year when all your tidying up needs to be done before the harsh winds of winter. Fortunately with crop rotation it tends to come in stages. We’ve already tidied up where the potatoes have been, we have a lot of long rooted weeds in that section inherited from the previous owner so we intend to redig and riddle again at the end of the season. We are slowly getting on top of it.

This week we are digging over the pumpkin patch and corn on the cob section. We have made a good start and I see it being completed in the next few days.

But what have we here? A digger on the plot next door but one!

This did make me laugh! I don’t think I have ever seen that before. They have just taken over the plot which has been left in a very poor state for several years by the previous owner. Well at least they have got rid of the shrubs and weeds, I hope they haven’t chopped up the root systems too finely!

Last of the Tom’s

It became apparent that we had blight in the greenhouse, which of course does tend to happen towards the end of the season, although it has only happened to us twice as we are very careful to use the same watering cans in the greenhouse and different ones on the plot, to try and prevent the spread of blight spores, which to be honest are everywhere. But we had a damp late summer at times so we had been expecting it.

We tried clearing out the odd affected plants, but its like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, it doesn’t really do any good.

So I stripped the plants and we had a fair few green and red toms left. During the peak of the season we were getting one KG of ripe tomatoes about six times a week for four weeks, so we’ve done quite well out them, our freezers are heaving.

Harvested the last of the cucumbers (breathes sigh of relief!) These were only fed with tomato food and contrary to popular belief they do quite well with that feed, well enough for us anyway. I wouldn’t have wanted any more fruits out of those plants.

Not so many chilli’s this year. Probably because all of the plants had blocked out most of the light. But we got a few, so I’m happy. We do make our greenhouse work hard.

And this is the greenhouse cleared out. The end of a season which is always a moment in time to reflect. Overall it has been a good summer in the greenhouse, I just wish I could have spent a little more time enjoying it all.

So to that end, I’ve cleared out the beds and there are bunches of spring onions in the fridge. And because of the risk of Covid and how we really don’t like going to the shops including supermarkets at the moment, I’ve planted some lettuce, peas, radishes and coriander.

It will be interesting to see how we do. I’m hoping for green salads at Christmas and fresh radish along with pea tops for salads and stir fries and lovely fresh coriander for curries. Well a girl can dream. What will probably happen is we have some very well fed mice!

A socially distanced photograph.

I hadn’t seen Son no.2 since the day before my Mum died three months ago. He’d had to leave as he was moving to a new job and we both felt the wrench knowing as we did how close it was to Mum’s time. He was truly supportive using What’s App even though he too was knackered. A truly sad time for both of us.

My son works in the hospitality sector and we all know that this is a high risk occupation, so with hubby’s and dad’s health, he has kept away. So with the news that the second wave was well and truly on its way we decided to go and see him to deliver a few items that we had for him, knowing that we don’t know when the next time may be.

But there were conditions. There was to be no hugging. No son to hug for me. Masked up, outside and for a short time only. We adhered to all of these and then I had a moment of inspiration and asked for them to stand in a staggered formation and to take their masks off for a moment and smile. This pic makes me more happy than you might ever imagine.

‘My men, three generations’.

Harvesting continues.

Do you remember the fierce storms we had a couple of weeks ago, which included high winds, thunder and lightening. The next morning after a particularly stormy night hubby wandered up to the plot, fearful that the greenhouse would no longer be standing, it was, but he found the pear tree had shed what appeared to be most of its fruit. He came back with a carrier bag full of skinny pears, fortunately I know that pears don’t ripen until they are picked so I kept them in a big bowl on a sunny table and sure enough they gradually ripened and we have been using them to eat or in pies or crumbles. Funnily enough, I noticed at the greengrocers a few days later a huge amount of these very same skinny pears at a ridiculously cheap price, I pointed them out to my Dad and said, ‘those are windfalls’ to which he agreed.

Slowly the apple tree

and pear tree

have been filling out. And low and behold these are the best pears we have ever grown.

I picked them all yesterday, gave half a dozen pears and four apples to my Dad who had enjoyed some of the wind fallers previously and had proclaimed them very juicy, so he was very happy to receive these fully grown versions.

and kept the rest for us, some to eat now, the rest in my fridge to eek out to my Dad and ourselves during the next few weeks, having no freezer space at the moment it’s the best I can do. We plan to make smoothies with some of the tiniest apples and I still have apple cider vinegar left over from last year so that is not such a priority this year.