Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chiffon pink and purple velvet

I may not have made it to the Chelsea Flower Show last week but I have been enjoying a 'gold medal' display at my local iris field!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A question for you...

What do a teaspoon, potato curry and a five pence piece have in common?

They all turned up in my compost heap yesterday! Well, strictly speaking the potatoes were not curried when I found them. The thin skinned, firm fleshed, tiny new potatoes were growing happily from a potato discarded months ago. Was it cruel to curry them? I guess mint and a knob of butter might have been sufficient. 

Too late, and anyway they were just the inspiration I needed for dinner. I’d had a long day in the garden. I’d planted out my sweetcorn, celeriac and celery, dug over some compacted soil, sown some more salad and potted up some more tomatoes (why did I sow so many?), culled barrow loads of weeds and now I needed comfort food!

..and a scattering of fresh coriander.

P.S. I am not the only one who has been taking advantage of a serendipitous dinner. A fox has been cruising past lately, picking up his supper 'to go'. Just four chickens left and my heart in my mouth every time I take the register at night!

Monday, May 12, 2014

May diary

Sunny and blustery. The ground beneath the wisteria is strewn with petals, brutally torn from their elegant racemes. I feel the same disappointment as that of a child whose carefully threaded beads have slid, unstoppable, off their string.

There have been a couple of blackbirds on the lawn all day. Dad is run ragged, dashing to and fro scooping up beakfuls of food. Baby, who is as big as daddy, unabashed, sits and squawks, waiting for the next morsel. Mum’s keeping well out of it!

Ah, what a gentle and soothing timbre; rain falling on my studio roof. Rain falling on the garden. Rain filling up the pond and water butt. Gentle, caring droplets, dancing around my seedlings encouraging them to sing. 
There’s a tap-tap-tap on my window. I can see the tail feathers of a long-tailed tit but its scraping beak is blocked from my view. A quick look outside and I can see it’s pulling spider egg cocoons from the window frame to build its nest. Spider silk and moss most perfectly crocheted together.

Galloping romping May. Boundless greens yelping from the hedgerows. Daubed with towering chestnut blooms and spattered with dizzy cow-parsley.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Last Chance Hotel

This time last year I took pity on a handful of my mother's limp, discarded cauliflower seedlings. I tucked them up in my veg patch… and largely ignored them.

I had not anticipated how much cauliflower we would be eating, tonight, tomorrow, the next day and the next day and….. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

'Out with the old, in with the new'

We’ve just got a new pig!

Which has got me thinking about the highlights of the old pig.... so before I pare our final delicious slivers of air dried ham here’s a snapshot.

Six months ago I was faced with 'pig' laid out before me on the kitchen table, head, shoulders, loin, legs, trotters, everything, the possibilities were endless sausages, bacon, chorizo, brawn, ham...

Dealing with a pig requires a ton of salt, a sharp knife, an uncomfortably chilly working environment and for hams and chorizo, a frustrating wait of several months. 
I found the whole process definitely lacks the finger-lickin’ bliss that goes hand in glove with an afternoon cocooned in a warm kitchen whipping up sticky cakes. But frankly I’d swap a constant supply of air dried ham for an iced bun any day. 

I simply followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s guidance and it couldn’t have been easier. 
Very approximately... debone a hind leg, leaving just the knuckle protruding- easier than than you think with a really sharp knife. Rub inside and out with salt then resurrect your needlework skills with a nice bit of blanket stitch to sow up the joint. (Sadly not as photogenic as an iced bun!)

Completely cover the ham in a box of salt, weight the lid and leave in a cool place for a couple of weeks to cure.

Wash and dry the ham, rub all over with vinegar then wrap tightly in muslin.

Hang in a cool, well ventilated place for a few months until it is firm but not rock hard. Mine swung from the garage rafters, (encased in chicken wire as a deterrent to vermin and hungry cats and only moderately impeding access to the bicycles, ouch).

The only mistake I made was to do one leg not two.... but I can rectify that this year!

P.S. If you're wondering what happened to that box full of salt, it makes a very good weedkiller, more on that later.