May Sampler


Monday, 31 May 2010

What a lovely May it has been. Everywhere green, green greeness splashed with bright colour.
Quite an eventful month too, a lovely outing with my daughter, an exciting general election which had me glued to the news channel for several days, several trips to the doctor's with my 'sports injury', a few sleepless nights due to pain (it's much better now), some exciting parcels and two bank holidays which meant two extra wine nights!

I've been looking through my archives and find I am liking how this blog is turning out very much indeed. When I began in January I was afraid of two things. First I thought it might end up looking like other people's blogs. Of course I am very inspired by all the lovely blogs I read but I'm so very glad that The Quince Tree seems to have found its own identity, its own style and look. Secondly, I was worried that I would find it hard to find things to blog about. This has turned out to be the easiest thing in the world! I'm actually finding it difficult to stop at the moment, there just seem to be so many things I want to show you all. Gosh I am looking forward to June and its many blogging possibilities.

Here's my May Sampler. You can find all my monthly samplers on the sampler page. I hope you like it :o)

Minty Cookies


Sunday, 30 May 2010

I love mint chocolates. My favourites are the double cream mints that Thornton's do but I like an After Eight too. It seems odd to be eating them in May. They're very much a Christmas thing for me but I did want to try the recipe for After Eight chocolate chip cookies in Sarah Raven's new book Food For Friends and Family so I added a packet of After Eights to my online grocery order.

For readers outside of the UK these are After Eights. They are a 'wafer thin'  chocolate, about 2 inches square (5cm) filled with mint fondant.

I can't give you the exact recipe because of copyright laws, in fact I'm not even sure I should be showing photos from books at all. Although I see similar photos on blogs all the time.

The recipe is a simple cookie made by creaming equal quantities of light brown soft sugar and butter, then adding an egg, flour and chopped chocolate plus the chopped mints.

They spread.

Do as the recipe says and wait for the cookies to cool and firm up before transferring from the tray to a rack with a palette knife. If you try and move them while they are still warm and soft you will end up with messed up broken cookies which you will have to eat. Just saying.

They are very very good. Thin and delicate and minty-chocolatey. The recipe suggested I would get about 12 cookies but I got 20 large cookies. I used half a packet of After Eights and am now wondering about the possibility of After Eight muffins....

Cook Book Heaven


Thursday, 27 May 2010

 The postie's been bringing me parcels again! I do love the postman.


Well obviously I was MEANT to have the book, it matches my blanket!  How fabulous is that cover ? The grey squares are actually silver.
I hadn't come across Sarah Raven's cookery books before finding her Garden Cook Book in the library recently. I posted a pic a few posts back. Am I glad I know about them now? I most certainly am!

BEAUTIFUL, beautiful, beautiful. Gorgeous photography by Jonathan Buckley and never have I seen so many recipes I want to try RIGHT NOW!





The book is divided into four seasons each with a selection of recipes for

snacks & canapes
soups & accompaniments
vegetable sides
cakes, biscuits & sweets

The Summer section has extra recipes for picnics and for barbecues, and the Winter section has extra recipes for Christmas food.

(click on this photo see a larger version)

Here are just some of the recipes I want to try

popcorn and pumpkin seeds with chilli and lime
ginger and mixed seed salad
After Eight chocolate cookies
split pea and mint croquettes with minted yogurt
crostini with pea and basil pesto
warm courgette, cumin and goat's cheese salad
chicken and black pepper Boursin kiev
raspberry ripple ice cream
summer berry bellinis
potato puttanesca
elderberry robb
curried prawns with lentils
pumpkin and apple soup with chestnuts
chorizo lentils and sausages
caramelised sesame shortbread
toffee apple pie
parmesan, stilton and black olive cheesy sticks
warm lentil, squash and feta salad
Jack Daniel's hot chocolate
chocolate and mincemeat brownies

I bought my copy from Amazon. Have you got the 'wanties' yet?



Wednesday, 26 May 2010

I love getting parcels- don't you? I've been having my groceries delivered by Ocado for the last few weeks because I can't drive at the moment (my sports injury don't you know), even that excites me! I buy books frequently from Amazon, there are two on the way to me any day now and I have a parcel from Sweden coming soon too. Online shopping- love it!

 I've been thinking about having a Riverford meat box for ages. I kept popping onto the site to see what was in this fortnight's box and imagining what I'd cook with the contents. Well, I finally took the plunge and set up a regular fortnightly order of a large meat box. Oh my goodness it is a bit pricey! It is all organic though which I like although it isn't essential to me, just as long as my meat has been pastured I'm happy. What I really love about these boxes is the fact that someone has chosen what should go in it for me.
I have access to an excellent butcher but I have to drive there and I always get the same things-mince, sausages and chicken. I was in a meaty rut.

A big parcel for me!

And this is what was inside.

I just love the 'taster' idea. This fortnight is is harissa and next time it will be mini black puddings!

The box contents vary each fortnight but they seem to always contain a chicken and another roasting joint. There always seem to be sausages, bacon and mince too. All good staple family fare, just what I need. But on top of those things there are some seasonal cuts and sometimes a ready prepared product. These are the kind of things I don't often buy. This time I have neck of lamb, a couple of chicken breasts and kofti meatballs. There's a deli-type item too-this time it's some nice looking ham and next time it will be paté.

I have a plan in mind for my meaty loot.

Kofti meatballs served with a sauce made of yogurt, hummus and the harissa paste.
Scrag end of lamb will slow-cooked with lemon and barley-a recipe from River Cottage Everyday.
 2 chicken breasts -these I will probably save until the next box comes which is apparently going to contain chicken fillets, then I can serve the five of us. Or I might stretch them to feed five by making a stir fry, a chicken and veg pie, a risotto or a pasta dish. They could be a nice diner à deux if C and I ever get the opportunity for such things.
Beef mince- This will make two meals for us. I'll probably make a big pot of meat sauce for the freezer to serve with pasta or to make into chilli. Or perhaps I'll make burgers with half of it and sauce with the other half.
Sausages- I've split these into two bags as there are 2 lbs. We'll have one bag this week in a spicy tomato and bean stew and the rest next week  in a pasta sauce or maybe crumbled on pizza.
The beef which is topside we will have on Sunday. I shall poach it in wine as suggested on the helpful meal planner that came with the box. Topside gets a bit dry when roasted I find. I anticipate leftovers for another meal.
The chicken will be roasted the following Sunday and again there will be leftovers for another meal plus a big bowlful of stock for soups and risottos.
The ham is sliced nice and thin just right for sandwiches but I may serve it with salad and baked spuds.
The bacon will get used in main meals- bacon and egg tart perhaps or pasta sauce.

That's 12 meals at least. That will comfortably see us through a fortnight and beyond as we will be eating at least two fish meals plus a couple of veggie or 'less meat' meals. In fact it represents considerably more meat than we usually eat.

These are the kofti meatballs which we have just eaten for our dinner. Delicious was the verdict from everyone. They are a blend of lamb and mutton flecked with crunchy sunflower seeds and spices. There were 20, so only 4 each, but with the sauce I mentioned above, some cucumber raita, carrot salad and garlic toasted pitta it was an ample meal.

I am looking forward to working my way through my lovely meat box :o)

The Quince Tree In May


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

It's Quince Tree time again.

The blossoms are all but gone and in their place are tiny infant quinces just beginning to swell behind the dying flowers.

Look how big the leaves get.

Not all the flowers make it to fruition.

: :

The lolly factory continues to produce icy treats.

These are blackberry and apple.

These will be strawberry and banana.
By the way, I've just discovered that these lolly moulds are available at Amazon although they haven't got many left. I notice the price has gone down since this morning when I ordered another. Get 'em while you can!

: :

Do you know the Swedish clothes designer Gudrun Sjödén? The postman has just brought me her latest catalogue. I haven't bought anything from her yet -a wee bit expensive for me but I do love her stuff. She has an interiors range too with bee-yoo-ti-ful tablecloths and bedlinen. Here's a little look.

By the way, the mystery flower in my previous post is London Pride (saxifraga umbrosa). The flowers are tiny, less than half  a centimetre across and it wasn't until I took the photo that I realised they had those red and yellow spots on them. The marvels of macro digital photography!

Weekend Colour Supplement


Saturday, 22 May 2010

Sunshine and colour everywhere this weekend. Hooray! Enjoy it while you can.

I wonder if you can identify this flower?

I'll be showing you pics of my redcurrants over the coming weeks as they gradually turn from green to red and finally to jelly!

The Sarah Raven catalogue. Thinking about some Autumn colour.

Jane Brocket's new quilting book, lent to me by my mum.

I'm not a quilter- too much preparation for me, I prefer the immediacy of crochet, but what fabulous colour inspiration for any crafter!

Golden focaccia with red onion and rosemary. Not authentic, just my usual white bread dough stretched out to fit a baking tray. I oiled the tray first, splashed more olive oil over the surface, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and black pepper. My, it was delicious, crisp on the outside, soft inside. I shall be making it again tomorrow.

Summer fruits lolly- a bag of defrosted frozen summer fruits blended with some orange juice (I squeezed 4 oranges) and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. Sieved to get rid of the seeds then frozen in lolly moulds.                

Lovely library book. That cover has given me an idea for a blanket...

The perfect drink for a sunny Saturday.

Ice Lollies


Thursday, 20 May 2010

If the weather forecasters are to be believed it's going to be ice lolly (popsicle) weather this weekend.

 I remember buying a 99 with a flake or maybe a Rocket or Fab lolly from a van just like the one in this picture ( it's from a Ladybird book). The trouble is that the ice cream van that comes to our little patch never seems to make it as far as our cul-de-sac. We can hear its chimes (Colonel Bogey is the current tune), but seeing it is another matter. It is a source of great frustration to my children particularly my daughter.

To combat whining and whinging about lack of iced treats I make my own. Not only are they easy to make they are MUCH MORE BETTER in every way. Cheaper, tastier and sooo much healthier for the kids. I use fruit, fruit juice, yogurt and milk in my lollies plus a bit of sugar. Remember that freezing dulls sweetness and so a bit extra is needed.

To make lollies you need some sort of mould. Lakeland have various kinds. You can improvise with empty yogurt pots but you'll need to find a way of getting the stick to stay upright.

I've been making chocolate lollies this morning. Easy peasy.

3tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
4oz ( ½ cup) of sugar
1 pint (2½ cups) of milk

Whisk together in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat.

Whisk for about 4-5 mins until it becomes thick and glossy. Then pour into your lolly moulds. Don't forget to put the sticks in. Allow to cool then pop them in the freezer.

Tomorrow I shall remove the lollies from their moulds and put them in a large plastic tub in the freezer so that the children can help themselves from it easily. Then I shall fill the moulds with a different kind of lolly.

The possibilities are endless. Try these ideas.

Peaches and cream -Blend a tin of peaches, a spoonful of sugar and a couple of big dollops of yogurt or maybe real cream.
Pineapple and Coconut (shown in picture below)- Blend a tin of pineapple, a handful of coconut and a couple of dollops of yogurt or some coconut milk.
Raspberry (or blackberry, or blackcurrant) and Apple - Blend raspberries with apple juice and sugar. Blackcurrants need to be cooked with sugar and sieved before blending with the apple juice
Strawberry and Banana- Strawberries and banana blended.
Summer berries -Blend a mixture of summer berries with some fruit juice or yogurt. You may need to sieve out the seeds.
Chocolate coated lollies -Dip the frozen lollies in melted chocolate and return swiftly to the freezer on a baking tray to set. Try rolling in sprinkles or chopped nuts as well.
Fizzy lollies- I haven't tried this yet but try blending some fruit with lemonade or ginger beer.

It'll probably rain all weekend now I've posted this. Sorry!

Weight Loss Wednesday


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Or more accurately Weight Gain Wednesday. Yes, I have regained the pound I lost. I also have neglected my exercise regime big time. Excuse - on Wednesday May 5th I woke up with a painful shoulder. I've had problems with muscle spasms in my neck in the past. The doctor couldn't be sure but thought it was probably due to some of the exercises I had been doing most likely the abdominal crunches which made my neck hurt when I was doing them. You see exercise is BAD FOR YOU.

Over the next week the pain got worse and had also affected my left arm and hand (I'm left-handed). I was getting very little sleep as the pain was so bad. After another trip to the Doc's and some strong drugs I wasn't much better. However, I am gradually getting better, sleeping well and pain-free during most of the day. First couple of hours in the morning are the worst. I can't drive though so thank goodness for online supermarket shopping.

Anyway all this has naturally made my resolve to only eat at mealtimes fly out of the window (it doesn't take much) and consequently I regained that pound. I am trying to get back on track and reluctantly mulling over the idea of counting Weight Watcher's points in order to get myself disciplined. I am trying to fit in some short walks on top of the school run and now the weather is improving that is a pleasure not a chore.Yesterday morning was so beautiful. The may blossom is coming out and I love that. I love the creamy curds of flowers and their sour scent.

So onward and upward, I'm back to square one but ready to start again :o)

Thank you all you lovely people for your comments on my blanket!! I was bowled over by your response and on Flickr too. I must say the sunshine yesterday showed it off at its most vibrant. Now I really must finish my blue ripple blanket before I forget how to do the pattern.

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