Bryony's Blog

THIS MORNING'S SUNRISE - THERE'S NO NEED FOR WORDS...

(26/10/10)

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yesterday's lunch

(25/10/10)

Yesterday dawned freezy cold and frosty - the chickens' feathers were soaked having spent yet another night on the tiles, (or rather on the roof of the coop) but still produced four eggs between them. By midday it was sunny and warm enough to have drinks in the garden with some friends who came for lunch.

I decided to do a simple roast leg of lamb. Normally I buy a shoulder but as we were going to be seven all with healthy appetites, the shoulders on offer were a bit too small - the leg was large enough and far easier to carve. I like getting things ready well in advance (how anal is that???) and picked some rosemary on the way back from the hens. I wanted something simple and tasty so limited the flavours to spiking the meat with the herb and slivers of garlic. I chopped up a couple of onions and two sticks of celery, seasoned the leg with salt and pepper and put it into a large plastic bag. I squeezed the juice of a lemon on top of the meat followed by a good slug of olive oil, sealed the bag and rubbed the meat thoroughly through the plastic. It was then left in a cool spot ready to tip out of the bag onto a baking tray and into the oven. The celery and onion will caramlise during cooking and once the meat is cooked and resting, pour on some vegetable stock or water, scrape off the goo and make a simple but delicious gravy.

Veg was simple: I peeled/chopped/de-seeded the following: purple and orange sweet potatoes, some fat organic carrots, red onions, red, orange and yellow peppers torn into large pieces, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. These I roasted alongside the lamb.

Potatoes: I peeled and finely sliced about 1 1/lbs of floury potatoes and put them in a shallow dish. I used just over a large tub of creme fraiche and mixed it with enough milk to make it runny like single cream. I dotted garlic over the sliced spuds, poured over the creamy mixture and grated a little nutmeg over the top. To add insult to injury (it was a special lunch after all) I dropped on a few bits of butter. Into the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour was all it needed.

For pudding I made a crumble with some beautiful russet dessert apples from a nearby farm. I peeled and sliced them and sprinkled them with a little demerara sugar. For the crumble I made a mixture of large porridge oats, ground almonds and a little plain flour. The proportions were hap-hazard but if you work out approximately half oats, then just over a quarter of almonds and the rest in flour you should be okay. I pour out what I think will give a sufficient cover to the fruit rather than bothering to weight everything. Then I grated in half the quantity (approximately) of the dry ingredients of slightly salted butter. I rubbed everything together as best I could and then mixed in about two tablespoons of demerara sugar. Next I grated the zest of half a lemon on top of the raw apple and spooned over the crumble mixture. Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the fruit cooked. You may need to turn down the oven and let it cook a further ten minutes. Serve with CUSTARD! Or vanilla ice cream...or clotted cream...or all three. You will die happy and full!

Believe it or not, we still had an appetite for something during the X factor. I re-heated the left over potatoes, cut some tomatoes in half and put them into a shallow dish, dotted with butter and salt and pepper and baked them in the oven as the spuds were heating. When we were ready to eat, I poached some eggs and served it alongside the other veg. Washed down with a chilled Sauvignon, the day ended pretty well.

SORRY IF YOU HAVE TRIED TO CONTACT ME AND I'VE NOT RESPONDED...

(22/10/10)

I understand there are still some difficulties in contacting me - it looks as though your message has gone through but somehow they have got muddled in the ether and are floating around on the interweb.... My troubleshooting friend is trying desperately to unravel the problem which hopefully should be resolved soon. If you have sent an email in the past and would like me to answer - I would be interested anyway to see what you have to say! - please could you be patient and then maybe send it again in a week or so? Thanks v. much.

BACK TO THE KITCHEN...

QUINCES

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We were given a beautiful basketful of bright, downy, golden quinces by some friends and I turned them into beautiful, pale pink jelly and also some chunky quince jam. I looked up recipes for pickled quince and found one on the internet by Nigel Slater. I had better not write it on my blog for fear of breaking copy right rules, but it is easy to look up if your are interested. Insofar as the jelly and jam are concerned, I carried both out in the normal, straightforward methods mentioned in previous blogs.

A FROG HE WOULD-A-WOOING GO...

(16/10/10)

Mike the gardener was busy clearing the runner beans in the raised beds today when he got the surprise of his life: a huge toad was preparing to snuggle down for the winter in the soft, warm soil. I rushed in to get my camera but he had vanished. Mike looked under the nasturtiums and parsley and found him burrowed under the marjoram. He didn't mind being man-handled by Mike thank goodness and posed like a real pro. He was such a handsome beast I nearly tested the theory and gave him a kiss - the frog/toad that is! Now I shall never know...

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Last weekend Mike worked like a Trojan and managed to rake the flower meadow and sowed the special seed mix, together with some annuals so that we have some colour the first year. It looks pretty bare and ugly at the moment but after a shower last night, in under a week things are beginning to stir and there are small signs of life.

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He has mowed a path between the original grass and the new meadow in between the new fruit trees. I am going to erect a couple of arches across the path up which I shall grow some roses, leaving the grasses and wild flowers to grow wild around the base of each support.

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GAME IS BACK IN SEASON...

(06/10/10)

PAN-FRIED, TENDER BREASTS OF PHEASANT IN APPLE SAUCE

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The season is now up and running for eating wild game - only the brave will attempt to eat Squirrel Nutkin's cousin...

For this easy dish you will need (this is for four)

4 pheasant breasts, skinned
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2-3 small sweet eating apples - Russets would be perfect - peeled and sliced finely
1/4 pint of single cream
1/4 chicken stock - fresh or made with concentrate and some water
calvados (apple brandy)
salt and pepper
a little oil
ditto butter

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Heat a shallow frying pan and pour in a tablespoon of oil - olive/sunflower, whatever - and when hot, add the chopped shallot. Cook on a moderate heat for five minutes, stirring every now and again, and then put in the pheasant breasts. Cook these gently for about three minutes and turn them over.

Add about 1/2 oz of butter and scatter on the sliced apples and stir. Allow to simmer gently for about five minutes, turning the breasts again. When the apple is nearly cooked and soft, add a splash of calvados - about two tablespoons - and the chicken stock. Simmer for a couple of minutes by which time everything will be cooked. Pour on the cream and season with salt and pepper, stir and simmer for a further minute. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with some finely chopped parsley.

Boil some fluffy potatoes and mash them with a little milk and butter and lots of salt and pepper and serve alongside something colourful like spring greens.

PICTURES AFTER THE RAINS....

(04/10/10)

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YES, WE HAVE NO (UNRIPE) BANANAS!

(04/10/10)

EASY PEASY BANANA BREAD

I only enjoy a banana when it is bordering on green - or if ripe, then baked with rum, orange juice, sugar and loads of double cream. As usual, there are always some soft, browning relics in the fruit basket which are still infinitely edible but not appetising. I'm also not a huge fan of carrot or banana cake for that matter, but rather than putting them on the compost heap - such a waste - I made this 'bread' which ended up being actually really nice.

You will need:

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2oz soft butter - unsalted if you have it
5oz sugar - I used caster but you can use half demerara if you like
8oz self raising flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
zest of an orange (optional)
good pinch of salt if using unsalted butter, slightly less if using salted.

Heat the oven to moderately hot - I cook in an Aga and when I put the cake in the oven I slid in the cold metal baking sheet to reduce the temperature.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs and fold in the flour, spice, orange zest (if including), salt, spices and mashed banana. Mix well.

Butter and dust with flour a 1 1/2 loaf tin and pour in the mixture. Bake until the top is golden and cracking. Pierce it with a skewer or sharp knife and if it comes out clean, the loaf is cooked. Mine took about 35 minutes but I have to confess there were some slightly burned bits! This didn't affect the moist texture inside, thank goodness. Remove from the oven and let it cool a few minutes before taking it out of the tin. Cool on a wire rack and eat sliced with some more butter.

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CREATING A FLOWER MEADOW

(01/10/10)

Today is a very important day: Mike the Gardener has started to create our very own flower meadow, something of which I have dreamed for years.

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We are turning half of the field into a bees' paradise which, hopefully in two years' time, will be a wonderful addition to our garden. I'm sure we are cutting corners/not doing it 100% as it should be done, but nevertheless we are trying to start from scratch. Mike has hired a digger to scoop off the surface to about 4" in depth, removing the rich top soil, grass and noxious weeds.

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We are planning on doing a curving meadow alongside the hedge, missing the hives (who will remain in a natural grassy area), curving and winding by the newly planted fruit trees. My intention then is to keep a mown path and an area by the blackberries, which will be strimmed. Once the skimming is done, Mike will scarify the earth in readiness to sow the special seed mix I ordered from a firm in Suffolk. I followed their advice as to which seed mixture would be best for us. I can't remember which one it was, but when it arrives I shall tell you on my blog. We are also going to plant the spent bulbs from old tubs and pots in the hope that they will grow well with fresh earth and room to breathe, along with out-of-date packets of annuals. Probably most will die, not germinate or will be eaten by birds, but if one grows it's better than none at all. There are also loads of self-sown foxgloves and alchemilla mollis plants all over the garden, which I shall lift and plant in the now beautifully damp, crumbly soil - thanks to the last few days of rain.

Fingers crossed that it will work!

TODAY'S LUNCH...


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Mike loves fishing and has a boat, but he actually never eats fish! He very kindly brings us some of his catch fresh from the sea and this morning he arrived with three beautiful mackerel. Some of the fennel I planted hasn't bolted and I shall cook them with this, some lemon juice and white wine - possibly wrapped in foil. I haven't decided. I shall also make some creamy carrot soup as I have the remains of a roast chicken, with which I shall make some strong stock.

Bon appetit!

UPDATE ON THE MACKERELS

(01/10/10)

The weather today has been positively deluvian: wet, windy and cold. In spite of this, I released the chickens to have free run of the field while Mike worked, letting them scratch and eat bits and pieces in the newly exposed mud -anything to keep them moving and active. In the end, after two hours, they gathered together in a mournful group, so I shut them back in their run with some corn as a treat. Still, in spite of the inclement weather the darlings produced four beautiful eggs.

When it came to lunch and the mackerels, as against baking them in foil and because of the horrid bones I decided to fillet them. I also removed as many of the offending bones as possible. It wasn't as difficult a task as I had imagined and once I had sharpened my knife it didn't take more than 20 minutes to deal with three plump fish. I ended up with 12 strips which I rinsed under cold water, dried on kitchen paper and dipped in flour, beaten egg and freshly made toasted breadcrumbs. I shallow fried them in a little butter and oil, starting skin side up and flipping them over for a further two minutes. We ate them with some lovely crusty brown bread and butter and loads of lemon juice. You could make these tasty fish fingers with almost any firm fish.

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