Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sarah's Layer Cake Quilt

Sarah, Imogen's daughter, has just made her first quilt, a complete delight.  She chose a Layer Cake Selection which, she said, reminded her of the fabrics her grandmother had had, which makes it all the more charming. 

I have not noticed Layer Cake fabric packs anywhere (being blinkered most of the time), but looking it up on the Moda Bakeshop site, I see that there are 42 10" squares in each pack. I don't know why, but this particular pack reminds me of a Punch and Judy show, a Helter Skelter, or a circus  from  a watercolour painting or on the box of an old jigsaw!

Imogen and Sarah with Sarah's First Quilt

There are some much better photos on The Faerie Godmother Blog  Sarah says she's set to continue with her quilting,  she has some great ideas planned for the next one! and she has opened my mind to the possiblities of pre-cut packs

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Talented Friends

I'm so privileged to have such talented friends, here is some work from three of them who haven't appeared in this blog before.

Isabel made this lovely little vase especially for the sweet peas we grow each year.

Here she is on a painting day, she taught Art for a number of years,  a versatile and well-known potter, she is also a talented watercolour artist.

How many people get a hand-drawn postcard? Thank you, Caroline.  Both she and her husband travel with their sketch books. Very different styles, both brilliant. See more on An Eye for Detail. Perhaps we'll see more of Caroline's water colours on there soon?

A much more long term prospect are Pat's beautiful bonsai trees, grown by her from their beginnings.

These photos were taken on rather a dull day, Pat was about to move house and find new homes for these growing works of art. I loved them all so much I didn't want them to escape my photographic clutches!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Those Careless Mammoths

Image from Wikipedia

In yesterday’s newspaper...

Woolly mammoths killed off by climate change after ice age

Climate change rather than the hunting skills of early Man killed off the last of the woolly mammoths, a study has suggested.

It was thought that mankind or the impact of a giant comet led to the demise of the ice age beasts around 20,000 years ago.

But the Durham University study, the most comprehensive to date, found woolly mammoths were forced from their grassland habitat by the spread of forests as the climate warmed after the last ice age. Modern species could experience a similar fate if global warming was allowed to continue, it warned.

Prof Brian Huntly said: “We believe that the loss of food supplies, from productive grassland was the major contributing factor to the extinction of these mega-mammals”

And the quick as a flash reply in today’s letters page, sent by Ella Hatfield, from Skipton, North Yorkshire.

Mammoth energy use.

Oh, the wicked mammoths killed off by climate change. They brought it upon themselves with their profligate use of light bulbs. When will the world ever learn?

Thank heavens for our wonderful sense of humour!!!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Blackbirds have Flown.

Walking into the garden yesterday evening the scent from our night-scented stocks was wonderful, (and today the bees are loving them), but there was no rustling in the hedges, the last blackbird had flown.

I’m pretty sure that the blackbirds have reared three broods this year, and until a few days ago an extremely well grown youngster was keeping the male bird very busy with it’s incessant demands for food, I was becoming pretty well-trained myself, rushing out with bird seed when the squeaking got too urgent.

Ready to leave the nest

The blackbirds always stake out their claim (they are very territorial) to our garden early in the year. I believe they are one of the earliest garden birds to start nest-building. There has been a pair nesting somewhere in our small walled garden every year for the last 15 years and they give us so much enjoyment. Sometimes the sparrows join them to nest in the ivy, because of the high walls we are very rarely visited by cats, who have to come accross the roof to gain access. Sad to think that Summer is coming to an end.


Saturday, 14 August 2010

'Bread and Butter' Pickles

Evidently this has been a ‘good’ year for cucumbers. I used to wonder why those people who grew them were so generous with their crop, now I know. I can't believe how fast they grow. 

This morning I set to, to make some ‘Bread and Butter Pickle'  I used a recipe I had noted down a while ago.

4 quarts sliced cucumbers  (I took 32fl oz as an American Quart)
6 medium White onions, sliced.
One-third cup salt.

3 cups sugar
20fl. oz white vinegar,
3 teaspoons mustard seed and one and a half teaspoons each of ground turmeric and celery seed

I used my ancient Magimix for the slicing of cucumbers and onions, but I’m not sure if the result isn't a little too fine.

Mix the salt with the sliced vegetables and leave for a couple of hours, drain off the liquid that comes out, rinse with cold water and drain again. Press with a plate with weights on top to extract as much water as possible.

In the meantime make the pickling liquid.

Dissolve 3 cups of sugar in 20 fl. oz white vinegar, adding 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric, 1½ teaspoons celery seed, and 3 teaspoons mustard seed.

When you have drained and rinsed the cucumber and onion, add them to the boiling pickling liquid, and bring back to the boil

Have ready hot preserving jars and a pan of hot water, big enough and deep enough to take the filled jars. Pour pickle into hot jars (I had enough for 3 1-litre jars and about a cup full over). Fasten the spring clip jars, if using screw-top Kilner jars loosen the caps by a quarter turn. Immerse the jars in the hot water and bring the water temperature up to 88Âșc in about 10-15 mins and then hold that temperature for 10 minutes. Bale out some of the hot water and remove the jars onto a wooden surface to cool, tighten screw tops immediately you remove the jars from the water. Check for a seal when completely cold.

I am becoming more successful using the clip top jars now I use the faster sterilisation method, i.e hot contents, hot water to start with.

Two more recipes, very similar, but the last one is from a Good Housekeeping Recipe Book,   does not call for heat sterilisation, and is for more manageable quantities.

But first the recipe from a most excellent book from North America called ‘Putting Food By’, mine a Fourth Edition was printed in 1991.

“Short Form” Bread and Butter Pickles

6 quarts thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about fifteen 6-inch)
6 medium onions, thinly sliced
½cup pickling salt

1½ quarts white vinegar
4½cups sugar
½cup whole mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed.

The method is exactly the same as the previous recipe. Allow several weeks for the flavour to develop, may also be made with crisp young zucchini.

Bread and Butter Pickle from Good Housekeeping.

3 large ridge or smooth skinned cucumber, sliced
4 large onions, skinned and sliced
45ml (3 level tablespoons) salt

450ml (¾ pint) distilled vinegar
150g (5oz) sugar
5mls (1 level teaspoon) each of celery seeds and mustard seeds.

Same method, cook the vegetables for three minutes in boiling vinegar mixture, pot while boiling hot, into hot jars and cover immediately. Done.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Raspberry and Gooseberry Curd

After tasting the delicious raspberry curd at Audley End, English Heritage, a while ago I thought I’d love to make some. But although I ‘googled’ it there didn’t seem to be many recipes and no agreement in the ones there were, so I thought I’d base my attempt on a Gooseberry Curd recipe which I have used for quite a while.

I used 2lbs of raspberries, cooked over a gentle heat and sieved, but really I don’t know why I cooked them as they could have been sieved raw. Dissolve 12oz sugar in the puree, using a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, then add 6oz butter, cut into smallish pieces and 4 beaten eggs (put these through a sieve so there are no stringy bits), heat until just below boiling, stirring often as it comes up to heat and thickens. A spoon should leave a trail in the curd when it is thick enough. It took 40 minutes to get thick enough, by which time I was a bit fed up, so this morning I thought I’d make a little experiment with a small amount of the curd. I put it in the microwave and let it boil briefly, it did not curdle.

I used a large pyrex bowl over boiling water to thicken the raspberry curd

Swap 2lbs of gooseberries for the raspberries to make gooseberry curd. I like to bake the gooseberries in the oven until they are tender.

Ready to put in the freezer

Fruit curds can be kept for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but for longer storage I decant into little tubs and freeze it. Unfortunately it tastes delicious when it’s frozen, so it’s still not safe from moments of greed.

Raspberry curd is excellent rippled into Greek yoghourt, as is Gooseberry Curd. I have deliberately boiled gooseberry curd (with no signs of curdling) after it has been in the freezer to thicken it slightly for a tart filling, using a lemon tart recipe, where it works really well.

Why not use raspberry or gooseberry curd instead of lemon curd in this recipe for Lemon Curd Ice Cream, which although it’s been about for years has stood the test of time and is easy and delicious.

Add to about 350g-450g fruit curd, 300g of thick Greek yoghourt and 300ml double cream, fold it all together and freeze. If you need to sharpen it up add the finely grated rind and juice of a half or whole lemon. The original recipe suggested you froze it in a lined loaf tin and sliced to serve. Why not?

I haven’t tried to make it with just Greek Yoghourt and fruit curd, but to cut the fat content it would be worth a go.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Artisan Market ,Catherine Hill

Today I finally found time to go to the Artisan Market on Catherine Hill, Frome, and I was not disappointed! Held on the first Sunday on the month it's a showcase for local talent. I stupidly forgot I had my camera in my bag until we were nearly at the bottom of the hill so haven’t got as many photos as I’d have liked.

This photo is taken from St Catherine's website.

The traders I liked best were ‘felt so good’ where there were delicious looking felt bags just right for birthday and Christmas presents for the girls in your life and my complete favourite Miss Havishams Attic – to die for collection of vintage inspired cards and ephemera.

Here is her business card, but she explained that she had corrected her original spelling to fall in line with Miss Havisham of Great Expectations. Her web page is lovely, sprinkled with fairy dust as you move your cursor!

I didn’t expect to find food at the market, but there was a baker with the most fantastic looking bread, local farm shops and a cheesemaker were there, locally produced hot food available, and unbelievably a vendor called the anti-cupcake company selling whoopies and brownies. I’ve forgiven her her name (I love making cupcakes) because the produce looked so good. She was trading outside her mum’s shop,’ bonbons’ at the bottom of the hill.

Whoopies at the 'anti-cupcake company'

Strawberry cupcakes from Pandie Cakes

Seasonal flowers too!