Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Forde Abbey

Today we had a lovely day exploring the gardens at Forde Abbey near Chard in Somerset. 

I was especially impressed by the walled kitchen garden. 

The scarecrow was all dressed up for Halloween.

There are 30 acres of garden to explore and that fantastic house!

Click HERE  to find all the information you need to plan your day out at Forde Abbey. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Sour Cream-n-Cinnamon Muffins

Here's a little treat I quickly knocked together using that last, little bit of soured cream one always finds lurking in the fridge.  They are just the thing to enjoy with a hot cup of tea on a chilly autumn afternoon OR as a lazy breakfast.

Sour Cream-n-Cinnamon Muffins

Heat the oven to 375F/190C.  Line a six hole muffin tin with paper liners and set aside while you make the batter.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter - softened
1/4 cup caster or granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Mix together the butter, white sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream.  Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir together until just combined.  Add the brown sugar and stir enough to just swirl it into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, sprinkle over some cinnamon and sugar before placing the tin into the oven to bake.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Let the muffins cool in the tin for a while before turning them out.  Enjoy!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Blackberry and Apple Crumble

Blackberries, the hedgerows are full of them and so are the blackberry bushes on our allotment.  In Britain, it is a national pastime scrumping apples, foraging for berries, and making that most autumnal of treats blackberry and apple crumble.

In the past, I've been out in the country foraging for berries but this year we have our own thanks to the previous plot owner.  They are lovely, plump, and juicy.  Best of all, I don't have to dodge the traffic to pick them.  Time to make that crumble.

To make the filling:

300 grams (about 6 medium) apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
30 grams of butter
30 grams of sugar
150 grams of blackberries

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Now pour in the apple slices and gently cook them for about five minutes or until they just begin to soften.  Add the blackberries and cook for a few more moments.  When the apples are just about tender and stained a lovely colour with the berry juices, remove the fruit from the flame, pour it into a baking dish, and leave to cool a bit while you make the crumble topping. 

For the crumble topping:

100 grams oats
100 grams plain flour
100 grams sugar
100 grams butter

Rub all the topping ingredients together until you have a nice crumbly texture, rather like rough bread crumbs.   Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling.  (Go ahead and sneak a bit of crumble ... you know you want to... I always do.)

Place the baking dish on a tray lined with baking paper before placing it into a pre-heated oven to bake - 170C/350F.  Bake until the crumble topping is a light golden brown and the juices are bubbling up around the edges of the dish, about 30-40 minutes.

I like my crumble served warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream.  Some folk prefer a rich custard on the side.  Down here in Devon, crumble is often topped with a big dollop of clotted cream.   It's up to you... enjoy!

Monday, 3 October 2016

First Pears from the Plot

Pears are a tricky lot.  Unlike apples, they don't let you know when they are ready to be picked.

Gently cup an apple ripened on the tree and it will settle into the palm of your hand, release its hold on the branch, and allow you to take it away willingly.

Pears will stubbornly cling on until the bitter end, or so it seems.  I really am no authority.  This is first year I've ever had home grown pears to pick and I haven't the foggiest idea how or when to harvest them.  I've been told there is a 'horizontal test' for ripeness.  If a pear releases itself from the tree when held in a horizontal position it is ready to be picked.  These four pears passed the test.  

Just because they came off the tree it doesn't mean they are ripe.  Oh no, they are still hard as bullets.  Now comes the really tricky part...knowing when to eat them!

Friday, 30 September 2016

FREE ROSES for Your Garden!

It is a well known fact that I am a greedy gardener.  Once I find a plant I love I just want more and more.  This is especially true when it comes to some of the more delicate coloured roses like this one,  Chandos Beauty.  Yes, she has a few holes in her but it is nearly October.

Earlier this summer, I was deadheading the roses and had a thought, since I was pruning off bits why not try to root some of the cuttings.  

Now, I am not going to tell you that my success rate was great.  Half of the cuttings died...but half LIVED!  Not only did they live, some are actually thriving!  The Chandos Beauty cutting already has a new flower bud.

If you have a special rose in your garden and you'd love to have more, why not try to root some cuttings.  It's pretty easy really,  here are the How To's taken from Gardeners'

You can take cuttings from any type of rose you choose, but just make sure you select long, strong, healthy stems from this season's growth, not old wood.
Make the cuttings 25cm long, cutting above a bud at the top to remove the shoot tip and below one at the base. Leave one leaf at the top and remove all the lower leaves.
Dip the base of the cutting into rooting hormone mixture. Insert several cuttings into a large pot of gritty compost.
Water well, place the pot in a shaded spot and leave until cuttings have rooted. Keep the compost moist. Pot up rose plants individually when well rooted, probably next summer.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

First Poly Tunnel Harvest

Life is a funny thing.  What you like and what you think you like are often two different things.  Take our poly tunnel, for example, it was already on our allotment when we got the plot and I cursed it for being a blot on the landscape. Now it is one of my favourite things.

In the beginning, the poly tunnel was full of weeds, dried up tomato plants, and every kind of bug you can imagine.  The infestation was so bad that a bite on Andy's arm required a trip to A&E for treatment.  Now it is filled with vigorous young plants.  Today I harvested my first crop, this lovely chard.  It will be interesting to see how far into the autumn-winter season we will be able to enjoy fresh vegetables from the plot.  

Friday, 2 September 2016

Fried Apples

There are some dishes that aren't pretty but, boy, are they good.  This recipe for fried apples is one of those of dishes. 

This time of year all sorts of apples are ripening and falling from the trees.   It really doesn't matter what kind of apple you use.  I used two different kinds of apples from my little espalier apple trees in my back garden.  One kind cooked down into a rich pulp and the other held on to it's 'slice' shape, combined they were delicious. 

This is the perfect recipe for using up those less than perfect apples, you know the kind, windfalls with a bruise, a bug bite, or any other kind of blemish.  So collect a few apples and let's get frying:


1 1/2 to 2 cups apples - peeled, cored, and sliced  (I used 5 medium apples)
2-3 Tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 or 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (adjust according to tartness of apples)
1 or 2 Tablespoons white sugar 
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Melt butter in a medium frying pan. Toss the apples in the lemon juice.  Add the apples and cook until most of the butter is absorbed by the apples.  The apple slices should be JUST tender, not completely cooked.   Add the white and brown sugar, cooking until the sugars have become syrupy.  Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle over the cinnamon and stir to distribute the cinnamon.  Serve hot!

Fried apples are lovely over french toast or pancakes or served warm over vanilla ice cream.

For an extra special treat, spoon fried apples over a warm scone to make a delicious short cake.  Don't forget the cream!