Monday, 1 September 2014

Apple Picking Time

Isn't it strange how quickly things change.  One day it feels like high summer and the next day you feel autumn coming in.  It's overnight really, just that fast. 

It was that 'feeling' of change that made me think I should check to see if the apples were ripe.  When an apple just came off the tree and settled into the palm of my hand I knew it was time to harvest my little crop. 

I have a thing for apples.  I grew up in the part of Missouri where you could drive for miles and miles and see big apple orchards on either side of the road.  When the apples were ripe, we'd go to the fruit stands and buy pecks and bushels of apples. I'd eat one or two on the way home...Golden Delicious were my favourites. 

The larger orchards would have warehouses filled with apples ready to send to market.  The scent of all that fruit was intoxicating, so beautiful.  It all seemed rustic and romantic but apple farming is a serious industry.  Missouri's apple orchards yield about 46 million pounds of apples each season.  

Now I live in the Southwest of England.  In some parts of the county there are big apple orchards running along the side of the road.  These apples are for the cider industry.  When the cider apples are harvested there is an intoxicating scent in the air....even more intoxicating when the cider is pressed.

And my little crop...well, it wasn't as good as last year's.  We had a bit of a drought, a small problem with spider mites, and something kept pecking holes into the apples as they were ripening on the trees.  There are some good apples and some with blemishes that will need using immediately. Every apple smells delicious.  They all smell a little bit like autumn.  

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Grand Witches Tea Party

On August 25, 1682, three Devon women were hanged for being witches. Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles were the last women in England to be executed for the offence of Witchcraft.   Today, 322 years later,  the GRAND WITCHES TEA PARTY was held at Rougemont Castle in their honour.

This event was held to raise awareness and reignite the efforts to acquire pardons for these three women.  What better way to draw attention to this cause than by attempting to break the world record for the largest collection of witches in the world!  

Well, we had to go see who would attend.  There was every kind of witch imaginable....Warlocks with skulls...

and warlocks with tiny dogs.

Witches sheltering from the sun under parasols...

And witches having a sneaky cigarette.

There were big witches and little witches.

Everyone was dressed in their finest clothes and looking fabulous.  So let's take a look at the best dressed witches.  Look at this lovely teal cloak!

This rich purple cape stood out in the crowd.

This witch had a wonderful broom.

How fabulous are these shoes?!?

But the most clever and witty ensemble was worn by a French witch.  She was robed in this beautiful ivy covered cloak.

Underneath was a lacy petticoat,  stripy stockings, and a great pair of green Mary Jane shoes....


Great fun as this was, there is a serious side, too.  All witch trials were based on ignorance and bigotry.  Their crime was being different.  Back then simply owning a cat could get you convicted of witchcraft if the authorities believed the village gossips.  We'd all like to think we've come a long way since the time of the witch trials... I hope we have.  

Unfortunately, the world record for the most witches wasn't broken but they have all promised to come next year and try again.  


PS- The Great Witches Tea Party hits the national news!  READ ALL ABOUT IT HERE!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Plum and Vanilla Bean Jam

Next to Christmas, this is the busiest time of year in the kitchen.  The orchard fruits all seem to be ripe at once so it's jam making time.

I had just enough dark plums to make a small batch of jam. It's always fascinating to see what colour the final product will be.

Plain plum jam is delicious but I like to add extra flavour to the pot.  This time I added a whole vanilla bean, split in half so the seeds would ooze out as the fruit cooked.

I can't wait to have a bit on a scone or slice of toast.  If you've never made jam before, plum jam is a good place to start.  Plums are rich in pectin, beautiful in colour, and often can be collected for FREE...give it a go! 


Friday, 29 August 2014

Plum Clafoutis

As you will remember, my friend Arthur gave me a bag full of beautiful, ripe plums yesterday.  The first thing I did was photograph them.  The second thing I did was Google 'plum recipes'.

One recipe suggestion kept popping up... Plum Clafoutis!  Now, those of you who are foodies will have already had a clafoutis or two, but I've never even SEEN one.  This was uncharted territory for me.

I certainly had sufficient plums and the remaining ingredients are store cupboard staples so I decided to give clafoutis a go.  

If you would like to bake this seasonal treat, CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE. It's quick, easy, and only requires ingredients you will already have in your pantry.

Now you must excuse me,  I have a bowl of warm clafoutis to eat.  Oh, did I say, this IS my breakfast but most normal folks would have this for dessert.  I poured some cream over my bowlful - but vanilla ice cream would be delicious, too! 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Gifts from the Allotment Neighbours

I was in one of those awkward positions, backside in the air, head inside a kitchen cupboard when I heard someone call my name.  I shouted 'What?' in reply but with my head inside the cupboard I don't think I was heard. 

The voice called me again and I backed out of the cupboard to see Arthur, one of my allotment neighbours, smiling at me over the top of the fence.  In his hand was a large bag filled with blackberries and a courgette.  

'Do you like kale?'  he asked.   I replied in the affirmative and Arthur disappeared from the top of the fence.  When he returned he had another bag filled with plums, two kinds, and this beautiful curly kale.  

Arthur disappeared again and when he returned he handed me the BIGGEST leeks I've ever seen in my life! (Please note: that is my fully grown foot in the photo for comparison)  'These were grown by Mike', he said.  Well, I was stunned!

So was the little Dust Bunny.  He took one look at the giant leeks and quickly slipped off to the far side of the garden.  I think he thought they were going to eat him.  My kitchen is filled with the most beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables.  Now, what are we going to make with them?  

Thank you Arthur and Mike for the very generous gifts.  We will enjoy every bite of them. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Compromise and Marble Cake

I don't know how it happened but I married a man who doesn't like chocolate cake!  Andy likes chocolate cookies, chocolate candies, and hot chocolate but not chocolate cake.  I, on the other hand, love it!

Fortunately, we've found a happy compromise with Mary Berry's Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake.  This is a beautiful cake and very easy to bake.

As with all Mary Berry recipes, you know you are going to get simple to follow instructions and clever techniques.  

For example, how to turn one big bowl of batter into two different flavours! 

There is just enough chocolate to make me happy and moist vanilla cake for Andy.  Click HERE FOR MARY BERRY'S MARBLE LOAF RECIPE

Of course, I haven't mentioned the best part about making this cake - you get two delicious bowls to lick!