On the Brink of Summer


Friday, 31 May 2013

Or am I tempting fate? 
But it is June tomorrow and today the sun is shining and it's looking good.
I don't have anything of significance to share today except that I have been meaning to post these pictures of my garden for a while. They were taken in the early evening when the sun illuminates the point of my triangular garden. I've been leaping up from the supper table to grab my camera and catch the light.

In the mornings the sun has a different view of the garden and the hedgerows beyond. It was making the most of the may (hawthorn) blossom the other day. This was my view from beneath the branches of the Quince Tree

And here is my flower of the moment, the deliciously scented rose frühlingsmorgen.

And here is May's sampler.

See you in June.

Excuses, Excuses


Friday, 24 May 2013

As you may have noticed I don't need much of an excuse to bake a cake or two.
Today I have several excuses:
1) It's Friday
2) It's the start of a bank holiday weekend
3) It's the start of half-term week
4) It's Tom's last day at school
5) It's George's last day at sixth form college
6) I now have only one school aged child

Six excuses warrant cake with icing. And a cherry on top.

They might take my mind off the howling wind which is wreaking havoc among my quince blossom.

A Green Day


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

 Ali is quite right, the power of green growing things to restore the soul is great. Not that my soul is in particular need of restoration, it was nonetheless good to wander under the damp skies and gaze upon equally damp plants. Despite, or perhaps because of the greyness of the day, the greens seemed to be positively glowing with chlorophyll .

Mind you, I did have my camera set on vivid. Ali wisely brought her proper camera while I regretfully made do with my little point and shoot.

We agreed about tulips -yes, we agreed about rhododendrons -no, we disagreed on the subject of euphorbias, Ali -yes, me -no and agreed that wandering around Hidcote was a good way of spending a damp morning.

It's also a good way of spending a sunny morning.

Quince Blossom with Robin


Sunday, 19 May 2013


The robin and I have been appreciating the quince blossom. There is a lot this year. I hope it all comes to fruition. It seems like a long time since I tasted quince jelly.

Kitchen Relay


Thursday, 16 May 2013

It was Charlotte who called it a culinary relay, where the weekly race to feed the family is won by the handing over of an ingredient from one meal to the next. Rose Prince in her book The New English Kitchen talks about rolling one meal into the next and Tamar Adler in her inspiring book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace  calls it 'catching your tail'.

 Part of it is about painlessly getting ahead by creating a store of ready-prepared ingredients. If I'm cooking rice or potatoes for supper I try to remember to cook extra so that I have the foundation of another meal under my belt. If I'm making pastry I make a double quantity and freeze the extra. I cook up bowls of lentils to store in the fridge for salads or stews. Unlike dried beans lentils are quick to cook and don't require soaking.. My answer to the 'oh but I can never remember to soak and cook dried beans' is to soak and cook a whole packet at a time and freeze them (or buy tinned). Vegetables can be prepared ahead, Tamar Adler has a lot to say about roasting vegetables ahead to use in the week. I find this works better with some veg than others, peppers and courgettes are good as are squashes and roots but roast cauliflower and broccoli did not work for me (or the rest of my family).

Another part of the kitchen relay lies in making use of the ends of things. I've long been a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles (and incidentally trifle is an excellent way of using up broken or stale cake, the ends of jars of jam and overripe fruit). I save gravy, leftover veg, crusts of bread, I religiously make the remains of every chicken I roast into stock, I pour drippings from any roast into little jars, use up the last bit of whipped cream in a sauce and if I were ever to have such a thing as leftover wine you can be sure I would throw it in my stew.

This week has been a fairly typical example of a kitchen relay.

I'd bought a squeaky bunch of curly parsley from the farm shop with vague thoughts of fish pie. I stood it in a Cornishware jug and admired it for several days before realising that it needed using up fast and fish pie was not going to take care of all of it. I made it into pesto with olive oil, garlic, walnuts and a heel of Shropshire blue.

I put the stalks into my stock pot along with the bony remains of our Sunday chicken.

The pesto was delicious on toast with a bowl of leftover fish-stew-without-the-fish. I often find myself eating leftover stews minus the meaty bits for my lunch.

I think I've said before that these days there is never much chicken left after a roast. Teenagers. There was enough, however, to make a pasty filling. I used the chicken fat saved from roasting to make a roux with flour, added a little of the chicken stock and the remains of a carton of single cream plus a splash of vermouth. This made a delicious sauce to which I added cooked leeks, the leftover chicken, some dried out grated parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.

The rest of the chicken stock was poured into plastic tubs and put in the freezer.

I bought lots of asparagus as I always do at this time of year. We like it simply boiled and buttered. This time I saved the good green water in which my asparagus had boiled. I also saved the tough ends and used the water and the ends to make soup with the addition of potatoes and single cream. This soup benefits from being sieved as the asparagus stalks are quite fibrous.

We ate it with a big dish of croutons made from leftover crusts which I tossed with bacon (bacon is my secret weapon for getting kids to eat things they think they don't like).

There was leftover cooked asparagus -I buy too much- I chopped it up, mashed it a little, stirred in a big handful of parmesan, piled it on toast and put it under a hot grill for a few minutes. Another delicious lunch of leftovers for me.

The kitchen relay works for me, it works because I like to cook with what I have. I'm not good at sticking to meal plans, or at finding recipes and buying ingredients to make those recipes. I find the necessary task of feeding people as creative and fulfilling as any artistic endeavour. For that reason I favour cookery books which suggest ideas, allow flexibility and encourage thrift. Books of recipes have been replaced on my shelves by books like An Everlasting Meal and The New English Kitchen, The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun, The Modern Cook's Manual by Lynda Brown, Food From Plenty by Diana Henry and Appetite by Nigel Slater, these all demonstrate how to cook with creativity, economy and grace.

May Posy


Monday, 13 May 2013

That's more like it. A riot of colour for May's posy.

But the most spectacular thing in my garden at the moment is the white blossom on my crab apple tree. It is smothered. I am sure there are more flowers this year than usual. The quince tree too is blossoming although not quite as blatantly as this.

What To Do On a Spring Day


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

 1) Take a trip on the river aboard the Betty B. The river is the Severn, the city is Worcester and the Betty B belongs to my aunt and uncle and is named after my grandmother. She is a narrow boat.

2) Walk through a bluebell wood.

3) Make a daisy chain.

4) Paint a bedroom (Katie's) forget-me-not blue and keep your fingers crossed that it stays looking clean and tidy

5) Roll the car windows down, put this in the cd player and drive to the farmshop for asparagus.

6) Count the dandelions on your lawn.

7) Admire the apple blossom.

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