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!  

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Dahlia Update - Part II

Dahlias are divisive.  You either love them or hate them.  I confess, they weren't a flower I liked very much...until I saw John's patch.

Now I can't wait for dahlia season to come so I can see all those brilliant blooms.

With ex-hurricane Bertha threatening to take down every plant in her path, I grabbed a few snaps before the worst of the wind struck.

There were so many different colours, shapes, and sizes I had to show the photos to you in two instalments.

If you missed Part I, you can find it by CLICKING HERE.

Thanks again to John for letting us enjoy his beautiful dahlias....

As for Bertha,  she wasn't nearly as fierce as we had expected her to be, thank goodness!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Great Expectations or The Tomato Harvest

Spring fills a gardener's heart with such excitement and expectation.  You plant your seeds and tend them judiciously in the hope of great things to come.  Small tender plants are tucked into beds, watered, fed, and de-slugged in anticipation of having delicious things to eat.  After two or three months, more or less, you harvest your crops.

Or in this case, CROP.   This is my tomato crop for 2014! 

Actually, I lie.  I ate the first cherry tomato as soon as I picked it, overcome with the excitement of it all.

The situation is not as grim as I paint it.  There are lots of little green tomatoes slowly ripening on the vines.  It's just so hard to be patient. There's nothing for it but to water, feed, continuously de-slug them....and wait. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dahlia Update Part I

A couple of years ago I introduced you to John, the Dahlia man, and his wonderful flowers.  I thought it would be nice to revisit his patch and see what was in bloom.

With ex-hurricane Bertha scheduled to his our part of the country,  I hopped the fence with my little camera and grabbed a few quick snaps.  We aren't sure if Bertha will be as vicious as predicted but the Dahlias are sure to suffer even if we only get the torrential rains. 

So without further ado,  I give you the Dahlia Update for 2014, Part I.

I have no idea what the names of the flowers are.  John wasn't around to ask.

To be honest, I wouldn't be able to remember all the names if he'd told me. 

It doesn't matter what they are called, they are all incredibly striking and beautiful.

Come back again soon for the great Dahlia Update, Part II! 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Cheese and Onion Tart

You know how it is, you need to make lunch so there you are standing with the refrigerator door open, peering in and you see... NOTHING!   Well next to nothing; a box of eggs, a carton of cream, and a bit of left over cheese.   Then that little light bulb goes on, not the one in the fridge, the one over your head.  You have everything you need to make a Cheese and Onion Tart. 

Start with the pastry case.  I know, pastry can be a bit scary but I used this very easy recipe from River Cottage:

250 grams plain flour
125 grams butter cut into cubes
pinch of salt
75 ml cold milk

Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and rub it into the flour until it looks like bread crumbs.  Stir in the milk, a little at a time, until the pastry comes together.  Gather the pastry into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  

Turn the oven on to 180C/350F.   Roll the pastry out as thinly as you dare.  I like to do this between two pieces of cling film.  Line a 25 cm tart pan with the pastry.  

Line the tart shell with baking paper or foil and add 'baking beans'.  In my case they really are dried beans I use ONLY for baking.  Bake the tart case 'blind' for 15 minutes.  Then remove the baking beans and paper.  Dock the bottom of the pastry shell so it doesn't bubble up and return it to the oven to bake for about 10 minutes more.  The pastry should be starting to take on a little colour and look almost baked. 

While the pastry is baking, you can begin preparing the filling.

3-4 onions
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
140 grams grated cheese (I used Cheddar)
2 large eggs
300 ml cream*
salt and pepper

Thinly slice about 500 grams of onions.  Place a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onions over a low heat.  You want the onions to become translucent not actually brown.  Season the onions with some salt and pepper and a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs.  Set them to one side to cool a bit.

Grate 140 grams of cheese, I had cheddar so that's what I used.  Mix the eggs and cream together, add a bit of salt and pepper if you like.  Now you are ready to build your tart. 

Place half of the cheese in the tart case, distributing it in an even layer.  Add the onions and smooth them evenly over the top of the cheese.  Gently pour in the cream and egg mixture.  Then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the filling.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until it looks something like this:

Serve warm or at room temperature.  If you are of a carnivorous nature you could add bacon, sausage, or ham.  If you are virtuous you can reduce the filling mixture to half cream, half milk.  But we've already made something delicious from next to nothing so go for the cream and enjoy!  

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Laundry Line Anthropology

It is a fact long acknowledged by my friends and family that I am wired up wrong.  I mean, my thinking can sometimes be a bit unorthodox...probably because I have too much free time on my hands.  

For example, this morning while hanging out the clothes to dry, I came up with a slightly mad idea about using people's washing as a tool for studying human cultural differences - LAUNDRY LINE ANTHROPOLOGY.

Our laundry line shows a couple who have been together for some time.  They are generally: A) conservative,  B) middle class,  C) comfortable in their own skins,  and D) Have no children. 

A)  Conservatism shown in the cut and colour of the clothing.

B)  Clothing is from middle market vendors and is of a good quality.

C)  Clothing is neither trendy or stylish.

D)  Noticeable absence of children's clothing on laundry line.

One or both of these people  love gardens and wildlife as demonstrated by ample plants in the garden and the obliging butterfly perched on the linen. 

Next time you see a washing line full of clothing, give Laundry Line Anthropology a try.  You say I've forgotten to explain one of my theories. How can you tell they have been together a LONG time?   Because they are beginning to dress alike...but not at the same time, thankfully! 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Harvesting Chive Seeds or Going to Seed

Is it me, or does it seem like everything in the garden is blooming and setting seed a little too early this summer? 

I think my chives have 'bolted' so I've chopped them back and saved the dried flower heads to collect the seeds.

Of course, there aren't very many flower heads because I have a bad habit of picking the flowers and eating them as I stroll around the garden.  I must have been a rabbit in a previous life. 

With a little luck, the weather will cool down and the chives will put on another flush of growth.