Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One thing led to another...

This weekend, no sooner had I tried to snatch ten comatose minutes on the sofa with a glass of wine than I was seduced by an annoyingly chirpy but captivating demonstation of rosewater distillation on television. Perhaps I should get out more often. 

Something had obviously chimed in me, next morning I found myself gathering rose petals and googling marshmallow recipes. Because once you’ve made rosewater you have to use it to make marshmallows don’t you?  And once you’ve made marshmallows you need a bonfire to toast them over.  

I have forbidden bonfires for the past few weeks because several courgette plants, of a wandering habit had self seeded themselves in the bonfire spoil. Gardening doesn’t get easier than that. Their round, yellow fruits are delicious, sautéed in olive oil or whizzed up in soups. The remainder were tucked in the freezer before the fire was lit.

My rosewater was not very fragrant, I have since learned the best is “triple distilled”. The marshmallows were yummy, and while there was a bonfire smouldering it was silly not to take advantage of it’s heat....
Bonfire Beets with Anchovy Dressing
Serves 4
4-5 beets of roughly equal size (about 1 pound or 450 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Anchovy dressing
2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
Light the bonfire! Alternatively preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C)
Wash and dry the beets well, leaving the roots intact and twisting off the leaves while taking care not to damage the skins. Place the beets on a double layer of heavy-duty aluminium foil, large enough to wrap them securely in a package.
Drizzle the beets with the olive oil, and scatter the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste over them.
Wrap the foil tightly around the beets and pop the package into the hot embers of the bonfire, remembering it’s location!
Leave for about 1½ hours, until the beets are soft when pierced with a sharp knife. Alternatively bake for about an hour in the oven. Remove the foil package and vent to release steam.
For the dressing: Mix together the Greek yogurt and crème-fraîche. Stir in the anchovies.
When cool enough to handle, rub the skins off the beets and chop them into large chunks. Serve warm or at room temperature with the dressing on the side for dipping.

from "The Painted Garden Cookbook" by Mary Woodin (Running Press)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pictures from my palette

The nooks and crannies of cavolo nero and the magenta splashed pods of borlotti beans are a watercolourist's dream.
"He must have a poor eye for beauty who has not observed how much of it there is in the form and colour which cabbages and other plants of that genus exhibit through the various stages of growth and decay." William Wordsworth

Monday, September 19, 2011

To all you Radio 4 Archers' Fans..... you know who you are!

Well, I for one have been tuned in to the Archers’ for as long as Angela Piper has been playing Jennifer Aldridge (if being rocked in a pram to the signature tune counts!), so I was thrilled when a few months ago, Angela asked me to provide some illustrations for her new cookbook.  
And here it is at last, Jennifer Aldridge’s Archers' Country Kitchen, written by Angela Piper (published by David & Charles), a fascinating scrapbook of recipes and musings gleaned from the many and varied kitchens of Ambridge. 
Take a trip down memory lane with dishes from Doris Archer, Nelson Gabriel and Marjorie Antrobus, try out Clarrie's frugal family fare or pull off an impressive supper that Jennifer might serve with a flourish to out-class the (related only by marriage!) Carters.  
I've already made a start on Jean-Paul’s Green Tomato Jam.  My outdoor tomatoes have stubbornly refused to ripen during our "typical" British summer but thanks to the frenchman's flair they are now well on their way to being transformed into a delicious condiment.  Cinderella shall go to the ball!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Autumn arrived this week in the form of punishing gusts and heavy downpours. It has left the garden teetering towards the horizontal; picking raspberries is now a hands and knees job and a row of bean poles has been completely flattened.

The chickens too are looking disheveled, like battered feathery hats that have been languishing at the bottom of the dressing-up box for too long. Major Johns, the cockerel, is running around half-naked, minus his glossy tail feathers and his fluffy black breeches, accusing me with his beady eye, of having hidden his trousers.

I’m only glad I staked the dahlias well. They’re standing impeccably straight and tall, commanding the flower border like stout matrons in gaily coloured overalls. A big bunch of their starry blooms, purple, deep coral, magenta and party pink accompanies me in the kitchen while clad in my coloured apron I deal with piles of beans, raspberries, cucumbers, plums and crabapples.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

......talking of quick and easy snacks, someone has just snaffled a whole row of lettuce seedlings with impressive stealth and speed.
Who me?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Still wondering what to do with the last of the plum crop?  ...and wondering what to do with the kids in the last few days of the school holidays?  Here's a quick and easy recipe from my Painted Garden Cookbook (Running Press)

Hot Cross Kebabs

The origin of this recipe was a hastily engineered dessert of leftover hot cross buns and a bowl of freshly picked plums. As a rule, anything served on a stick generates an extra level of expectation in our house, and this yummy treat of warm, juicy, spiced plums and toasty currant croutons did not disappoint. 

Serves 4

8 large plums

1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 hot cross buns

1/4 cup (60 ml) sunflower oil

Plain Greek-style yogurt for serving

Preheat the oven 400º F (200º C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Halve the plums to remove the stones, and then quarter the flesh. Combine the plum quarters in a large bowl with the maple syrup and the spices, and stir to coat evenly.
Cut each bun into 8 cubes, then toss the chunks in another large bowl with the sunflower oil. Thread the pieces of plum and bun on 4 metal skewers, alternating between 2 pieces of fruit and 1 piece of bun.
Place the skewers on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle over any remaining spiced maple syrup, and bake for 10 minutes, turning once, until the plums look juicy and the bread is golden-brown. Allow to cool slightly.
Serve the kebabs, scraping every last drop of gooey syrup off the parchment, with a dollop of creamy Greek-style yogurt.