Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meet Wallis

Wallis thinks he is the big man (he weighs just 14 ounces full grown) and he struts like he owns the world.
We called him Wallis because when those beautiful feathers came in they reminded me of a Tiffany lamp and so (hoping for a hen) he was named after 30's icon Wallis Simpson.
Sadly, Willow then named her hen 'Gromit' thus forever tying the pair to 'Wallace and Gromit' the ugly clay figures from a cartoon.
Ah well, my mum reckons Simpson was tarty strumpet anyway!

The Autumn jobs continue here. Today I'm harvesting the last of grapes for jellies and jams. The crop suffered with the strange weather we've had this season, hot and dry spring followed by a damp, grey summer and we lost quite a few to mould.

Still, there's enough for jam if not for wine and the chickens are loving the pulp from the jelly bags.
There's going to be lots of weird purple chicken poop for the compost next week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Perfect piccalilli

I'm fed up with chutney.
Each year I use all the odds and sods from the plot, chop them up, spice them and cook them in vinegar til they're completely unrecognisable and when they disintegrate into a brown, smooshy mess, stick it in a jar.
Chutney tastes pretty good and is generally well received but it seems a shame to to reduce all that colourful, crisp veg down to gloop.
  So this year I made piccalilli instead.
The beauty of piccalilli is that the vegetables are raw. You don't cook them at all and they retain their colours, crunch and vitamins. 
You take 2kg of chopped veg (I used cauliflower, onions, peppers, nasturtium seedpods, chard stalks, cucumbers, green tomatoes, immature tiny pumpkins, carrots, bulb fennel and purple beans) layer with salt and leave overnight.
Next day, rinse the veg and drain,
Make the sauce.
Mix (all heaped teaspoons)
6 of cornflour
2 of turmeric
2 of colemans English mustard powder
2 of ground ginger
2 of all purpose seasoning
1 of smoked paprika
make into a paste with some vinegar taken from 1.2 litres
Heat the rest of the vinegar with 300g sugar and 100g honey to boiling.
Thin your sauce with a little of the hot vinegar then put the sauce into the saucepan and stir.
Boil for 5 minutes or so then remove from the heat, fold in the veg and spoon into hot sterile jars and seal immediately.
Allow to mellow for a good six weeks before eating.

 For the vinegar I tend to use whatever I have...wine or cider, sometimes pickling. I find brown malt vinegar a bit strong but if it's all you have then so be it.

I use jars from instant coffee because they have plastic lids....metal lids react with the vinegar. If you only have metal lids put a wad of cardboard in between the cellophane cover and the metal.

And I know American readers will be stressing about the lack of a waterbath and the inclusion of cornflour but truly, piccalilli has been made this way for centuries! 
It's delicious (even though it looks a bit radio active in the picture) Give it a go.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Best Beans

This year I grew two different types of  'new to me' beans.
They were so good that I think I'll be sticking with just them for a year or two.
 First, the beans drying in the picture are 'Frost' or 'Pea beans'. A very old variety they have a multitude of uses. You can pick and eat the young, almost empty pods like mange tout. A little later you use them as french beans. Wait another while and use the beans out of the pods and they taste like peas! Wait again for them to change colour and use as fresh beans and at the end of the season shell and dry for winter soups and stews.
With their half cream half brown colouring they look awful pretty in a jar too!
I just love them. I only had three beans from a friend to try and they grew so well we've been eating them all summer.
The other bean I grew was 'cosse violet'. Beautiful and tender and untouched by pests these will also be regulars at the plot from now on. They lose their vivid purple colour when cooked (reverting to fresh green) but they're so tender you can eat them in all their purple glory, raw in salads.
No pictures I'm afraid.....I've just bunged the most recent picking into a batch of piccalilli so you'll just have to trust me....with these two varieties there really is no need for any other bean on my plot!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mabon Blessing

At this time of equal light and dark,
And of ingathering,
May you find balance and abundance in your life
And wish some of your good fortune upon others.
Blessings to you x

I copied this blessing from a generous friend who also writes a blog. I know she won't mind because she states on her blog that anyone is welcome to copy and share anything they find there.
Refreshing attitude isn't it?
Might copy that too.
So to those of you in touch with the seasons I wish you an excellent harvest to share with  generous and inspiring friends.

Top Find....

Autumn is definitely here now.
The leaves on the long suffering conker trees have browned and fallen and the die back is well underway at the plot....
 And just round the corner, near my daughter's school, we've found a group of walnut trees!
Each morning, when Wurzel walks her to school he picks up another few pocketfuls of this wonderful free bounty. I can't imagine how we've never noticed these trees before except that they appear to be young so maybe this is the first year of real production?
Anyway...160 walnuts are now drying in my dining room.
Walnut loaf anyone? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A mixed flock...

.....means it's easy to know which hen laid which egg!

From the left; 
Hattie (welsummer) 
Racey Lacey (wyandotte bantam) Millie (pekin) 
Lola (serama)

We no longer have any hybrid birds so egg production is slowing down now for the winter.
Soon we'll get none at all until spring. I've read on the internet that some folk crack eggs into little bags and freeze them so I might give that a try.
I hate to buy eggs, especially since companies who claim to be particularly concerned with animal welfare keep being exposed by undercover journalists....check out 'Happy Eggs' and see what I mean.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Okay, My bad.....

I have been neglecting my blog.
I have excuses, London riots, summer holidays, computer problems, a busy life, writers block but at the end of the day I know it's just me, it's my bad.

So, to get back in the habit, I'll be doing things a bit differently for a while. Instead of saving up a nice selection of pictures and things to tell you about I'll just aim to put something up most days....just one thing, or maybe two.
For today, here are some images from our summer holiday by the sea. I think they pretty much speak for themselves, we had a blissful time!
And, just for once here is a picture of me. I hate to have my picture taken but it has been pointed out to me that loved ones far away that read this blog want to see me so, here it is.