school dresses, jeans & patchwork evenings

Life has been busy lately and my very shoddy patchwork is my way of re-claiming some slow-pace, relaxing time for myself. DSC_4464

I’m using any scraps of material that appeal to my eye and hand-sewing large squares very simply together. Patches of Ruby’s first red gingham school-dress is being added to some sixties style fabric leftover from an apron I made for her; there are scraps from an old dress of mine that had too many holes even for gardening, a stripy apron that even I had to admit was too torn for use but that I’d loved and a few baby dresses. I like mixing the prettiness of some of these fabrics with patches from old worn jeans.

DSC_4455

They’re all sewn together in my very basic style, the idea being that I can mindlessly sew while listening to music or watching TV in the evening. My patchwork is growing very slowly (the busy work stuff again) but I’m hoping that eventually it’ll be big enough for a small throw that I can back with fleece and that Ruby can snuggle under to watch a film or read a book.

DSC_4461DSC_4459

I was prompted to start my patchwork a few months ago after reading an interview with Emma Bridgewater in ‘Country Living’ magazine. I’m very partial to her hand painted mugs and jugs and was inspired to read about the quilt that she’d made for her daughter, Margaret. Made out of much-loved bits of fabric collected over the shirts from scraps of her late mother’s purple sarong to old shirts from Provence belonging to her husband, Matthew Rice, the quilt had a similar homely charm to Emma’s lovely earthenware.

emma bridgewater patchwork

But what I really loved about Emma’s quilt was the memories entwined in it. Emma said that she’d sat sewing the quilt, which is finished with the words, “Keep very cosy, darling Margaret,” while watching favourite films over the years. When she looks at it she can hear the soundtracks from those films as well as treasuring the memories of her loved ones wearing those clothes.

Hoping that one day Ruby will be kept cosy by a mixture of her first school dresses and my old aprons. Sewn together by her shoddy but enthusiastic Mum using the pin cushion made from an old yoghurt pot that Ruby made for me at Rainbows for Mother’s day.

DSC_4456

Thanks to Chava again for pics taken when she visited (all apart from the pic of Emma Bridgewater from Country Living feature). My camera has recently completely given up. I’m hoping to buy a new one very soon – so my amateur pics will be back shortly!

 

 

 

 

 

summer 2014 & why I bother

I’ve just been picking damsons as the sun rapidly fades and bats start to swoop around the garden. It’s been such a gloriously sunny day, happily spent in woodland having fun with friends but the cool of the evening is a reminder that Autumn is around the corner. The PE kit scattered around the house and the name labels that still need to be sewn on school dresses are a reminder that the school holidays are nearly at an end.

And I’m feeling nostalgic already for those hot first weeks of the summer holiday when Ruby and friends played in the paddling pool and I picked blackcurrants to make Cassis. When we still had the week in Brittany with our family lying ahead, our bellies not yet fattened by copious crepes and far too many croissants. I don’t want to forget about any of it, not the camping by a river in Herefordshire, kayaking down the Wye, or the rainy days at home when we made a huge chocolate cake and went swimming. Even the day we were all forced to sit on the pew because every available chair was being used in the construction of a huge den.

Amidst all this, my garden has been getting wilder by the day, providing a great setting for lots of play while providing the ingredients for plenty of meals, so many of them scoffed outside.

2Uw20pIeWIsM8OPsb9bCi3eyWw-UbFCRm_R0E0CNm00

They may not be to everyone’s aesthetic taste but I’ve even savoured the sheer good looks of a variety of vegetable flowers this summer - partly from curiosity (I’ll keep quiet about the laziness) I’ve had flowering carrots, leeks, swede and a parsnip forest this year and found them all rather beautiful.

l: DSC_4484 DSC_4477

DSC_4483DSC_4479

Which brings me to why I bother. Writing, that is. A lot earlier in the summer, Sarah of the lovely gardening/cooking blog The Garden Deli invited me to join in a blog hop started by Elizabeth of Dig In about why we write. I have to apologise for being so tardy in joining in, but thinking about the whole process of blog writing has set me thinking. Especially as I’ve just taken an unplanned blogging break over the last month or so.

I’ve had a lot of work to do, and like many working Mums, in my efforts to savour as much time as possible with my daughter (she’s nearly 7 and I’m conscious that these carefree, innocent days of summer holidays are so fleeting and so precious) much of this has been squeezed into evenings. So blogging time seems to have vanished.

Yet I look back at some of my blog posts about last summer, and I’m so glad that I kept a record of our time rock-pooling and making potions on the beaches of the Lyn peninsula.

DSC05432

The crab linguine was delicious too. And it’s lovely to glance back at my crazily wild garden through the seasons and years.

DSC_0449

 

So here’s my first answer:

Why do I write what I do?

I was already writing on a freelance basis for a number of magazines but looking to generate more work when I started blogging and initially I thought it made sense to have somewhere to refer make to when generating new work. Gradually though I began to discover many fascinating blogs, became interested in the virtual communities and loved ‘meeting’ people who seemed as passionate about growing and cooking food as myself. I gleaned all sorts of bits of info, from new healthy recipes to cook with my daughter to how to attract more bees and butterflies into my garden.

Increasingly my blog became both an indulgent pleasure and something of a diary. While I love writing about things I’m interested in – from cheese-making to medieval bread – for magazines, when writing my blog I can choose to focus even more on whatever I’m particularly enthusiastic about that day. Whether it’s making lip-balm, meeting buffalo or reviewing lovely books.

DSC_0307

Often my passions are bizarrely linked of course, which brings me to:

How does my writing process work?

My ideas for magazine article can often pop into my mind at random times; booking swimming lessons for my daughter combined with enjoying reading about the criminal activities of Mr Toad in the Wind in the Willows to her led to my Take a Dip on the Wild Side piece for GreenParent. So obviously my blog posts may be triggered by even more bizarre bits and pieces. Being amused by post-it notes in my daughter’s book led to Bread and Jam for Ruby and while cycling or walking I’m always spotting edible goodies in hedgerows that lead to much cooking and writing activity.

ZjztvfMwGKi33KrPJA95PVmwUMhXrrEyiEDSm_kauw4,IgYrYuJLREhfrjAdItVkDIB00SYjaYKvW3-VgLt1uYc

As for the actual writing, I agree with Sarah of the Garden Deli that writing the first paragraph of anything is always the hardest. I may have progressed ( a teeny bit) from my student days of scoffing a whole packet of hobnobs while struggling to churn out an essay but I still reward myself with a mid morning espresso pot or a potter around outside to pick some raspberries when I’ve got past the tricky bit.

What am I working on?

Well, I have lots of lovely unhomogenised full-fat milk in the fridge which I really need to turn into brie in order to write an article very soon. Then there’s the sloe gin piece. While I’m looking forward to finishing reading an inspiring book about living off the land, A Little Piece of England, ready for a review. Lots more ideas rattling round in my befuddled head too.

All of which will happily distract me from those school labels and collecting the PE kit …

And now I’ll pass the blog-hopping baton onto Chava, a great photographer who’s taken the best of the pics in this post (including the veggie flowers/seedheads) and who writes a beautiful vegan food blog at Flavour Photos. Chava’s cooking and recipes are wonderful, equally tempting whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or carnivorous. Delicious too I can confirm, having enjoyed several bring and share vegetarian suppers with her.

shaken berries

Wild strawberries, redcurrants and raspberries are all plentiful in our garden at the moment. Tempting me to grab a handful as I walk past on my way to plant purple beans or to pop outside with a bowl before eating my breakfast granola. And Ruby is telling me she’s ‘fed up’ of the regular strawberries that have been our dessert most evenings for the last two weeks.

axexUL-u6suwdjh_60fRzThvvD7pPpWlxz7BPEwofDw

DSC07650

While I’m definitely not fed up of red berries, it’s perhaps time to do a little more with them than pour on the cream. Redcurrant cordial beckons (how lovely to drizzle on to vanilla ice-cream or use in salad dressings as well as for a summery drink) but first I’ve made something even easier.

DSC07619

We’ve had such amazing summery weather lately, it’s seemed more important to savour it, whether it’s pottering around the garden, sneaking into the hammock on a lazy weekend afternoon or eating outside.

DSC07597DSC07601DSC07605

 

Or making sure that warm evenings are not all about dusk gardening; remembering to sit with a drink and enjoy the golden glow of the hay field next door and the changing look of the garden as the sun sinks and a bat starts to circle the house.

You may think I’ve spent a little too much time doing the above if you saw the parsnip forest (I’ve left them to go to seed, enjoying the flowers until my squash are ready to plant in their place) or the wild growth around the redcurrants. But the parsnip flowers are very pretty and there’s a definite hum about them suggesting the honeybees are appreciative of my tardy ways. While my wild growth is doing a good job of protecting the redcurrants from greedy birds, keeping them hidden like little jewels in an unkempt forest.

DSC07615

Shaken berries (or currants) seem to be popular in Scandinavia, and it’s a wonderfully simple way of drawing attention to their jewel-like beauty. Trine Hahnemann inspired me to try them when I read the Nordic diet and Diana Henry reminded me in her wonderful recent book, a change of appetite.

You can use any sort of berries/currants - I used a mix of wild strawberries (cultivated strawberries don’t work brilliantly in this) redcurrants and raspberries but will be trying blackcurrants too when they’re ripe.

These berries are meant to be shaken, not stirred, so I’d recommend using a deep sided baking tray. My first attempt was in a container with shallow sides which encouraged me to do the opposite.

300g berries/currants

75g raw cane sugar

Rinse the fruit but don’t dry. Spread them out on a large tray and sprinkle with the sugar.

DSC07620

Leave for a couple of hours until the sugar has dissolved, shaking from time to time.

DSC07637

Pour into a sterilised jar (I used one straight from the dishwasher) and they’ll keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge. Great with mascarpone for a summery dessert – the juice makes a lovely, easy syrup to sweeten the mascarpone – these make a tasty breakfast too with thick, Greek yoghurt or labneh.

DSC07646

Would love to join in Four Seasons Food, co-hosted by Louisa of Eat Your Veg and Anneli of Delicieux, with this month’s theme of The Colour Red hosted by The Spicy Pear and to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season.

ssbadge300fsf-spring

salald, edible flowers & higgidy pies

I have to admit that the words pie and salad are not often paired in this house. Pie and mash, yes regularly. Pie and steamed veggies even. Salad, flowers and pies, not really. But thanks to some totally delicious and very summery pies that I was sent recently by Higgidy and a selection of salad seedlings from Sarah Raven we’ve been turned.

Imaginative fillings such as Sweet Potato & Feta with pumpkin seeds, Chicken & Smoky Spanish Chorizo Pie had something to do with it. Then there’s the fact that the side dish was very handily growing just by the back door.

DSC07348

The mizuna, red mustard, rocket and red & green lettuce seedlings were sent to me by Sarah Raven back in April, with fab seed markers and a feed to encourage healthy growth. The idea was that I would grow my own side salads to accompany the pies that would follow in June.

DSC07465

Some of the seedlings were planted in a little area next to my strawberry bed, but I have to admit that the ones that fared best were planted in a pot right next to the back door. Sheltered, against a sunny wall and very handy for watering they also provided handy leaves for lunchtime sandwiches before the arrival of pies.

I don’t normally buy pies, although I’m very partial to a home-made chicken and mushroom, buffalo and kidney or wild greens and ricotta version. As these turned up when we were just back from holiday and I had lots of work to catch up on, they were particularly welcome.

DSC07517

Pies that taste like properly handmade pies too, but with lovely fillings I hadn’t thought of. As well as including classics such as the Little Smoked Bacon & Cheddar Quiche (Ruby’s favourite).

DSC07515

There are some great, imaginative ideas for side dishes both on the pie boxes (Warm White Bean Salad to go with the Chicken & Spanish Chorizo Pie, Moroccan spiced Carrot & Orange for the Sweet Potato & Feta) and on the Higgidy web-site. Because I was looking forward to an easy supper, and I returned from holiday to a garden full of edible flowers, I popped outside and then tossed the following ingredients together for this salad to enjoy with my pies:

Garden Salad with Edible Flowers

DSC07510

 

A few handfuls of mizuna, rocket, red mustard, lettuce (grown from my Sarah Raven seedlings)

Purple & red radish sliced

A handful of flat leaf parsley tips

A few fennel fronds & pea-tips

Salad Burnet (for a cucumber-ish flavour)

A handful of edible flowers – borage, violets, chop suey green flowers, chive flowers, calendula)

DSC07451

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

4 tablespoons local rapeseed oil

A little sea-salt

 

Very glad I have a few pies still in the freezer – the first new potatoes are nearly ready and I’m thinking already of tossing a few with sorrel & butter to scoff with a Chicken & Chorizo pie.

With thanks to Higgidy and Sarah Raven for providing me with delicious pies and salad seedlings.

 

 

accidental colour & slug-fests in my june garden

We spent the first part of half term in Wales and my morning walk down to the village bakery took me past hedgerows bursting with purple foxgloves, ferns, red campion and sunny yellow buttercups. I was guilty of overusing the word ‘lush.’

Now we’re home, there may be fewer ferns and foxgloves (and glorious glimpses of sea), but lush is still the word that keeps springing to mind. Along with slug-fest that is.

DSC07501

DSC07502

I’ve been hardening off lots of seedlings in and alongside my cold-frame and before we went away I was in a rush to plant them out. Some have fared better than others during the rainy days we were away; courgettes are doing fine, whilst French beans have been munched away so only their stalks remain.

I’ve been loving wandering in the garden and across the fields in the gentle after-rain warmth, enjoying the feeling of freshness and the shimmering droplets of water caught by ladies mantle:

DSC07470

Slugs and snails have been similarly enjoying a wander around my garden. Salad leaves are being munched and the peas are nibbled as fast as they appear:

DSC07494

Blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry and raspberry bushes are heavy with fruit, inspiring me to dream of summery puds to come over the next few months. The rain is plumping up the strawberries well too.

Weeds from the field next door are also enjoying the great growing conditions but the comfrey I’ve planted along the field edge and around fruit trees is giving the weeds some fierce competition. And adding lots of nutritious layers to the compost heap.

DSC07499

Even with all this growth, there are still some bare batches. Namely, around Ruby’s tree-house. We’ve cleared quite an area of nettles and docks and, inspired by our Welsh hols I’m thinking of encouraging more comfrey, ferns and red campion to spread wildly in the area behind the tree-house and around the pear tree.

DSC07536

In the meantime, I’m loving the colour elsewhere, and very grateful as much of it is accidental – from self-seeded calendula to splashes of orange poppies (that have kindly picked a spot next to nicely clashing purple aliums), chop suey greens that were meant to flower last Autumn and walking onions that choose their own places to roam.

DSC07478

DSC07527DSC07476DSC07525

Joining in once again, with Lizzie Moult’s fab Garden Share Collective.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix1

griddled asparagus with halloumi & myrtle berry oil

DSC07387

The sun is shining, the kitchen doors are flung open all day and it’s definitely the weather for griddled asparagus. I may live up a Cotswolds hill but all this glorious sunshine and simple meals enjoyed outdoors is making me crave Mediterranean flavours too.

I still have a long wait for home-grown asparagus – in fact I was starting to worry that the asparagus I grew from seed last year had disappeared during the winter. Happily thin little spears have started to appear, but I need to wait a couple of years until I can harvest from these plants.

Living not far from the Vale of Evesham, there’s a plentiful supply around here of locally grown asparagus though.

DSC07377

My favourite is from a farm in the next village that I love cycling to for extra veg (especially at the moment when the garden is so lush but there’s still a wait for lots of Summer crops). The asparagus is freshly pulled, in large crates that I choose from – excellent value too as it isn’t yet graded or washed.

DSC07376

I love it simply steamed with olive oil or butter but today it seemed like the weather for griddling. While the griddle pan was hot I couldn’t resist adding slices of halloumi too; with a drizzle of olive oil and some good bread it made a quick but delicious lunch.

The olive oil was sent to me from Marina Colonna, a Masseria (farm) in Italy that looks lovely – I had a peak at the film here. The extra virgin olive oil is fruity and full of flavour in its own right but I’ve also become very inspired by their flavoured oils. I love the fact that they’re flavoured with fruit and herbs grown on the family farm and they’re also more unusual than any flavoured oils I’ve come across before.

DSC07370

Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Natural Zest of Organic Oranges or Lemons is going to be delicious drizzled over simple, summery grilled fish but how about olive oil with natural zest of organic citrus Bergamia or cardamom flavoured oil? The olive oil with natural rose essence is earmarked for a Middle Eastern inspired cake with ground almonds, while the truffle oil is heading for pasta and risotto. I’m definitely going to try some of Marina Colonna’s own recipes here too – really fancy the octopus with mandarin oil and when my broad beans are ready some will be heading into the broad bean puree with chicory and toasted bread.

Anyway, back to my lunch. Hardly a recipe, I simply heated the griddle pan, brushed it with olive oil and griddled thin spears of asparagus for a few minutes. Next into the griddle pan went slices of halloumi for 30 seconds or so each side. The myrtle (I’m thinking I must grow some!) oil was drizzled over both and I added a few basil leaves. As I had some leftover bread, this went into the griddle pan too. Delicious.

DSC07403

And nicely quick to cook, so it didn’t keep me too long from this:

DSC07353DSC07394

Would love to link up with the fab Simple and In Season hosted by Ren Behan and Louisa of Eat Your Veg’s Spring Four Season’s Food (great for healthy, family friendly recipe ideas) which she co-hosts with Anneli of the lovely Delicieux.

ssbadge300fsf-spring

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...