Bryony's Blog

Spring in my step!


The little snippets of growing salads I bought from Sainsburys some months ago and planted in the greenhouse have done really well. In spite of the very cold spell in February they are now big enough to pick several good-sized leaves from each lettuce. Apart from that, I have done no gardening at all for weeks except made a small start on pruning our roses. This takes quite a while as we have dozens of them ranging from a tangle of ramblers to climbing varieties on the trellis and a load of shrub roses. I take my time as I feel it's worth taking a bit of trouble as you reap the rewards in June. One thing I am very bad at is feeding them - maybe this year will be different!

The shepherd's hut is coming back to life after the bleakness of deep winter and the daffodils are beginning to flower around it in the meadow. If the sun shines this week I shall venture down with a large mug of coffee and stare out at the countryside and fields. I'm going to take our little bar-b-q down there with a view to cooking some fish or lamb chops to eat with our salad leaves.

I made this heart warming soup this morning, having cooked a small piece of smoked gammon last night.

I always cook ham with a few onions, carrots, stick or two of celery, leeks if I have them, parsley ditto and a few grinds of pepper corns. I don't add any salt because sometimes (usually in fact) the ham is salty enough. When the stock is cold the next morning I remove any fat and start to make a soup.


Having skimmed the fat off the ham stock I threw in one large potato which I had peeled and chopped into smallish pieces together with a small pudding basin full of frozen peas. Once brought up to the boil I let it simmer until the potatoes were soft - about 15 minutes. I added a handful of fresh mint leaves and then blitzed the soup in the saucepan with my hand held whizzer.

Next I added a good 1/2 pint of milk, whizzed again and tasted for seasoning. It did in fact need some salt but it was really nice and so easy to do.

You can add any vegetables you like to ham stock: dried orange split lentils is a favourite, sometimes with a tin of tomatoes in with the mix - but if you do, always add a teaspoon of sugar to counteract the acidity in the tomatoes. A plain soup with just potatoes and a couple of cloves of garlic is another good one to try. Or carrots and the juice of a large orange...or some fresh coriander leaves...or leeks and more potatoes. It is such a good basic stock to use, so get cracking!



It's quite extraordinary. Only this morning I said to Jimmy, I wonder if Oscar and Gwynneth will be back again this year. In case you have forgotten (and I shall forgive you if you have) O and G are wild mallards. The first time they appeared in our garden was at the time of the Oscars when Qwynneth Paltrow won her first award. Ma suggested they should be named accordingly, hence Oscar and Gwynneth Poultry. They have come into our garden regularly every year since to raise a brood and each March i await in trepidation in case something dreadful has happened to them in the interim. Then, Bingo! This afternoon, there they were, bold as brass, waddling across the lawn as if time had stood still. Once I have learned how to upload photographs onto my new Apple PC I shall be able to post their pictures. Ain't nature wonderful?