Saturday, 30 October 2010

Jam today- jam tomorrow

Just a quick post to get you stirring those pots and pans over the weekend- I lost this on the recipe- page but here is again !
Happy Halloween !!

Apple Jam .
I have just planted three small apple trees this spring .The trees are all the size of a stout umbrella.One of them, called " James Grieve" is described in the blurb on the label as a " good cropper".
No mistake there-the poor umbrella carried 16 apples this year. To celebrate I decided to make some apple jam.( Instead of eating it in one go in an apple pie). The recipe is French and pretty tasty.Here it comes.

Confiture de pommes ( French Apple Jam ).

1.2 kilo apples 
1 kilo sugar
1 sachet of pectin powder ( 8 grammes) - ( brand Tate and Lyle or other make ).
1 packet of vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 Big bowl of water with the  juice of 1 lemon squeezed into it.
4 clean jam pots with screw-on lids
1 Big pan ( so the jam can boil but cannot boil over )
1 Wooden spoon.

How to make the apple jam  :
Quarter the apples, peel and core them, then chuck every apple quarter into the bowl with water and  lemon juice. This will keep the apples white/ green/ yellow (so they don't get brown and horrible ).
Once you have cored and peeled and quatered all the apples , stage 2 is getting all the apple quarters thinly sliced, then in thinly cubed.Think 1 x 1 mm !
Chuck the tiny cubes all in the big pan, add the sugar, the sachet of pectin ( don't breathe in, it will make you cough ) the vanilla sugar, and the cinnamon.
Stir the whole thing through- ( this can be a bit heavy going ) till you have a thick gloop.

Put it on a medium heat and cook for at least half an hour, stir with the wooden spoon. Don't go and do something else and leave it bubbling away.
Test if the apple is "done " ( = soft )- this can take quite a bit of time.( so say make it at least 40 minutes).
In the meantime - put your oven on 150-180 degrees Centigrade .Boil a kettle with water.
Spoon the apple jam into your jars.Screw the lids on the jars, put all the jars in an oven tray in the now warmed up oven.Fill the tray with the jam-jars up to 2  centimeters with the boiling water.
Close the oven and let warm up for 5 or so minutes. Then let the jam-jars completely cool down in the oven.
This seems to help with getting the pots to not spoil and the jam be OK.

Plum Jam .
Have a look if you have no plum tree if you can find some plums pretty cheapo in the supermarket. I never knew I had a plumtree till I saw some plums on the ground in the back of the garden last year- it had planted itself. Nature is fantastic sometimes.  This recipe is pretty easy.Practically hands-free.
Plum Jam .
1 kilo plums
1 kilo sugar
1 sachet of pectin powder ( 8 grammes) - ( brand Tate and Lyle or other make ).
 4 clean jam pots with screw-on lids1 Big pan ( so the jam can boil but cannot boil over )
1 Wooden spoon.

How to make the plum jam  :
Wash the plums, halve them , and take the stone out.
Once you have washed, halved and stoned the plums, chuck the plums all in the big pan, add the sugar, and the sachet of pectin .
Stir the whole thing through till you have a thick gloop.
Put it on a medium heat and cook for at least 10 minutes, stir with the wooden spoon.Let it come to a nice " rolling boil" as they call it.You will recognise what they mean by it when you see it.The boiling masse will boil and boil and rise slightly.That is why you need a big pan by the way.
Check if the jam is "done " by putting it on a cold saucer you put in the fridge earlier and let it cool down on it- when you push the jam with your finger it should crinkle a bit.
Put your oven on 150-180 degrees Centigrade .Boil a kettle with water.

Spoon the plum jam into your jars.Screw the lids on the jars, put all the jars in an oven tray in the now warmed up oven.Fill the tray with the jam-jars up to 2  centimeters with the boiling water.
Close the oven and let warm up for 5 or so minutes. Then let the jam-jars completely cool down in the oven.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Time for Tea and Scones

There is nothing more enjoyable after a long hard day , than to curl up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and to bite into a freshly made scone, lavishly buttered and covered in home- made jam.
Absolute heaven!
Baking scones  is a piece of cake- it's super easy . Have a go! It's  best when you bake and eat them the same day (and with the recipe here below you probably won't have any left for the next day anyway! )..These are guaranteed fail-safe.Perfect for a rainy dark afternoon by a lovely open fire.

120 gr raisins
2 cups of cold tea.
450 gr self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
120 gr butter
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons milk
home-made jam ( see recipe page )
clotted cream or - if you cannot get this- butter.
 How to make the scones:
Soak the raisins in the cold tea.Put the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl and rub them together till they resemble bread-crumbs.Beat the eggs and milk with a whisk in a separate, second bowl, drain the raisins, and add them to the eggs and milk. Add the eggy mixture to the flour mixture .Add a pinch of salt.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.Butter an oven-tray and sift a fine layer of flour in it- a fine dusting will do.
Stir the egg and flour mixture well, till it becomes a soft dough. Roll the dough out on a floured work-space like your kitchen table- it should be about 2 centimeters thick.Use a glass or cup to cut out 10 circles , brush the top of the scones with a bit of milk, and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 12 minutes.

Let them cool down a bit, then cut across the middle, put some home-made jam on the scone, then on top of that some clotted cream.
If you have no clotted cream, butter the scones, then put a dollop of home-made jam on them.

Eat and enjoy !!! A quick and easy recipe so you can get baking this weekend!
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The fun is in the journey- seed-catalogues in autumn - and a "before" and "after"

When the wind starts to blow and the rain starts to fall, it's a great time- to snuggle up warm and to start planning the garden for next year.
I have spent may happy hours at breakfast this year with the seed-catalogues of  Mr Fothergills , Thompson and Morgan and Bakker , deliberating what to grow and making lists - what to buy.
I don't have buy everything I want to grow - I save the seeds from the plants I grow myself .I let the seeds dry , then save the seeds in brown paper bags with a label and description .

This year I had a big project on- the front garden.
Let me show you the before-picture. It was an enormeous evergreen conifer , a tiny bit of lawn, and a whole hedge of Leylandii that had got out of hand.


The conifer never stopped growing- and eventually it became too hard to wrestle yourself out of the car if you wanted to get into the house.
The Leylandii- I thought they were cute as they made the house look like a little cottage lost in an enormeous forest. But my neighbour was not happy and complained about evergrowing darkness, depression and headaches, roots, drains and poor soil, - those trees just had to go.
We swallowed deeply and called a tree surgeon with mountaineering skills.

That was very traumatic.I looked at the emptiness when the mess was cleared up and nothing sprang to mind.
Then I started to read my beloved seed-catalogues .Eventually I came up with a plan.
I did this : I planted a row of evergreen laurels where the conifers had been.Eventually this would provide some privacy throughout the year again. I also planted three rambling  Rosa " Albertine" against the fence.
In front of it a hedge of Rosa Rugosa- a trouble-free vigorous shrub with wonderfully scented roses and enormeous red rose-hips in for autumn colour.
This is the first rose on those little sticks of wood that are supposedly rose-shrubs. I watered the sticks  every night for about 3 months.
Then I came up with a symmetrical design  with an apple tree in the middle- for the area where the enormeous conifer had been.

I dug up the area and made raised beds from leftover wood.
I grew quite a few perennials and a whole lot of annuals as well, which were all growing away all over the house and in the garden shed.
Vita Sackville-West used to say, "grow a new plant from seed every year- surprise yourself"- and I grew
two annuals you can see below- which I never grew before - Nicotiana Sylvestris  and Nicotiana Landorfii.
The soil where the Leylandii had been  and which was full of roots, was thoroughly rotovated by yours truly's beloved partner till it was soft as eiderdown.

After the beds at the front were finished it looked like from this 

to this:

then later like :
                                                              and even later like this:
                                                              Dahlia" Bishop of Landaff".

The beds to the side where the leylandii had been and what had been rotovated  and first looked  like this :

                                                           looked later  on in the year like this :
                                                             and then even later like this :

                                                                    and then even later in the year like this :

                                              and like this ( above is Nicotiana Langdorfii)
                                                  (Above is Nicotiana Sylvestris)
The wind is blowing and the rain is falling , it's time to start planning the garden for next year.
What new plants are you going to grow??
Happy deliberating  and planning !!The fun is in the journey!!


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Halloween shortbread biscuits

Don't you just love a biscuit every now and then ? Shortbread biscuits are just about the easiest to make. And the good thing is, everybody loves them ! Just fill the house with the smell of home-baking , feel all cosy while it is raining outside and have at the end of it all a whole jar full of biscuits. What's not to love? If you do not want to put on the pounds, you can always make jars and jars of biscuits to give away!!
So why not bake some for Halloween ?
I followed more or less a recipe by Robert Carrier.
All you need is :
-150 g  butter (room temperature )
-250 g flour
-75 g caster sugar
So below are your ingredients.

How to make your shortbread biscuits :
Pre-heat the oven ( 170 degrees Centigrade).
Cream the butter and sugar together in a big bowl, then add the flower through a sieve, and knead the whole mixture through ( by hand is easiest ) .Keep some kitchen-roll nearby as you definitely will have quite buttery hands afterwards and then off course the phone will ring !!!!!.
Put a sheet of aluminium foil in a rectangular oven-dish and butter and flour the foil.
Then pat the dough into the dish and make it nice and even with your hands.Cut it carefully with a butter-knife so it is a proper rectangle.
Pre-cut rectangular biscuits from the dough by tracing horizontal and vertical lines on the surface of the dough.
Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
Leave to cool a bit ( 2 to 3 minutes) then cut the rectangular biscuits completely. If you leave the cutting bit too long, the biscuits will become too brittle and you will not be able to cut them.
Now you can do some decorating if you want. My effort was not that great but I suppose you could write
H-A-P-P-Y-H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N (  one letter per biscuit) like below.

Well,.I did say this stage was not 100% a succes.......
And then the best part is next- eating - or giving away.
Get a Killner-jar and put the biscuits in carefully. Close the jar, and put a nice gingham ribbon and a label with " Happy Halloween" around it.
Hey presto!

There is a PDF with the label- let me know if you want this !!
Happy baking !!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

brrrrrrrr it's cold out there..!

I was scraping off the ice of my car this morning- it's definitely time to get out those woolly hats, scarfs, and gloves- and if you haven't any yet, get yourself some wool and get knitting- it's great fun !!!!
The scarf I am working on has a cable stitch, a bobble stich and a diamond pattern- all inspired by a  Boden scarf which I was too mean to buy- so I decided to knit one myself.
You can get your inspiration from anywhere- there are no rules !!!!

                                                 scarf at the beginning

You can get lots of how-to-knit books in second-hand bookstores- and cheap wool from charity-shops!!!!

It just takes a bit of time-...but have fun!!!!!!Happy knitting !!!!!
More links about fantastic scarfs and knitting on two great blogs  centsational girl and
The inspired room
By the way, I will post a tutiorial about how to make this scarf in a few days- so get yourself some wool in the meantime!!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Before and after- garden chairs and table.

My kind neighbour has a low boredom-threshold regarding furniture .This results quite often- to my delight- in unexpected windfalls for me!!Bless her!!
She gave me 6 of these garden chairs in bits with the screws and all the dovels and whatever they are called-so I put them back together again. They were in need of a bit of paint or make-over, that was all. What colour to go for? Go the Cath Kidston route and go for pale blue? Standard white- the classic and slightly boring solution ?? I could not decide on colour and put them aside for a bit to have a think.
I already had a table which was old and pretty but without chairs. That table I had rescued from an old couple who wanted it "chopped up for firewood"  .They were quite suprised I wanted it .
Here is one of the chairs in the " before " stage.
In the end I decided for Cooking Apple Green from Farrow and Ball.Not as glaring in the full sun as plain white , and a nice rustic and gentle colour.
Below the "after" pictures.

I was pretty pleased with the result. Apart from putting the chairs together, cleaning and scrubbing them, and giving them a couple of coats of paint , that was IT.
Whay kind of project are you working on ??
I look foward to your feed-back!!

I am linking this to Feature yourself Friday

Plant plenty for perfect enjoyment

This is the time to get down and dirty with the bulbs and the bulbplanter.
Have a look around and see where you can get a bargain- and plant, plant plant till you can plant no more.
Then sit back and enjoy - well , it will take a couple of months but it will be worth it......
You will be able to run through fields and fields of daffodils, with your hair streaming in the wind, enjoying the bounties of spring, hand in hand with your loved one, laughing and runing into the perfect sunshine....well maybe I am getting carried away a bit........ but the hard work is worthwhile.....

I managed to get 20 kilos of daffodils for £ 15,- in a country-style farmers/ horse-lovers outlet ( called SCATS- my almost favourite shop in the world, after charity shops) but you can also look in farm-shops- they often have avery affordable garden section as well- ,  just have a look if you can find a bargain- planting daffodils in spades works verry well!!!


Autumn Colour Decorations - table setting- Fall or Autumn decorating

Stuck for ideas for Fall or Autumn decorating - need great ideas for Autumn entertaining,   table decoration or table decoration ideas?? Necessity is the mother of invention- and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is the prefect time of year to add some colour to your table-settings with all the colours Nature has to offer right now.
Just add a gingham ribbon ( maybe a nice table runner )and pronto.
You can't go wrong !!
Enjoy your Fall decorating !!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Present from the Autumn Fairy

Presents for free

Don't get stressed and worried - Christmas is still far enough away. But while you are pottering around and making fabulous jam from all the fruit you can pick , ( see the crafts page ) think gift baskets and make your own. It will save you a heck of a lot of money and it really is fun.

Basket/ box/ hay ( for the rustic effect), two pots of your own jam, pretty ribbon-
then you're done- and....another present ready.
Easy !

How to make the basket will be on the ideas and recipes page. Have fun and give it a try !!