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!  

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!