Friday, December 12, 2014

Bah, humbug!

"On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, 
as in those fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels.." 

Charles Dickens 1812-1870


Amidst the jangling consumerism that has hijacked Christmas I am as content as Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird to simply enjoy the garlands of berries that festoon the view through my studio window.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Popping out for some veg

Recently I heard the inspirational Camila Batmanghelidjh interviewed on the radio.

Peppered in with more serious matters she mentioned that when she meets anyone for the first time she always categorises them in her mind as a vegetable. 

Well, we all have our own eccentricities! 

Don't you think she screams "aubergine"?
(Yes I know it's technically a fruit)

I was on the train home from London last night doodling fellow travellers. As I looked up and down the aisle I could well have been filling my basket at the greengrocers… 

What do you think of my selection?

Monday, December 1, 2014

A nip in the air

This autumn has been so mild, I still have geraniums in flower, salad leaves in the greenhouse, the odd rose determined to bloom and the occasional raspberry to pick.
But last week we had our first overnight frost and that always feels like the beginning of winter.  

The dahlias were blackened, their starry bursts of colour and peppery scent reduced to a memory. The sunflowers suffered shipwreck, although I won’t be cutting them down just yet. They’re still popular with the birds who twizzle round the broken masts pecking every last kernel from their stripy casings.

This weekend it was considerably warmer. Damp hung in the air neither falling nor ceasing, merely shifting the world quite beautifully out of focus. So I put on my boots.

I cut down the dahlias and gave them a good mulch. I squelched up to the veg garden. I put wood ash round the shallots and garlic, picked celery and pulled carrots and rescued some very overgrown beetroot... which would surely still be fine for chutney?  

In its favour the frost has eradicated the caterpillars from my brassicas. Like a gruesome game of pass-the-parcel I was beginning to tire of preparing cabbage only to find ugly forfeits tucked into the outer leaves.  

I’d also had my eye on some rose hips for weeks. There are still plenty in the hedgerows, enough for me and the local wildlife I concluded. 
So after an hour with my secateurs I’m all set to make my secret ingredient... and to contemplate those burly beetroot!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Anyone for a game of Scrabble?

For over one hundred competitors at the World Scrabble tournament in London, that was the perfect way to spend a rainy November weekend. 

For me, in between showers, I stored away my summer squash. 
I’m not sure my letters would have got me very far in the tournament but hey, I do like to have an ‘s’ up my sleeve for plurals! 

Disclaimer - 
No jiggery pokery or photoshop was used to create these contorted fruits, they just grow like that!

Officially a courgette, ‘Tromboncino’ can be eaten small and young, just like any other courgette. What a shame though. Rather, leave them to scramble away until the autumn and you will reap massive, thick skinned fruits with tasty dense flesh and just a smattering of seeds in the bulbous end. 

Stored in the cool and dry my crop will keep us in soup all winter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


…by A.A. Milne

"I think I am a Muffin Man. I haven't got a bell, 
I haven't got the muffin things that muffin people sell. 

Perhaps I am a Postman. No, I think I am a Tram. 
I'm feeling rather funny and I don't know what I am — "

I think I am a squirrel. I haven’t got a nut
Perhaps I am a butcher with lots of meat to cut.

I have one and a half pigs lying on my kitchen table. Mostly chopped up by a real butcher. Errr, kidney, ears, heart, tongue? Freeze now, worry later. Wot, no snout?

No I think I am a chef.

Deboned a huge ham and minced up great slabs of slippery liver to made lovely garlicky country pate.

I think I am a sous chef, 
Working for the chef.

Put a couple of trotters and that big ham bone (from the pig with a limp) into the biggest stock pot I own and simmered overnight for broth.

Perhaps I am a vet who is visiting for a limp.

Deconstructed the pig’s knee joint as I was straining my stock. 
Aha, found a cluster of bone spurs - little bony growths that inhibit the smooth movement of the joint.
(I would not ordinarily have been so fascinated but I have just illustrated an arthritic knee for a cookery book.)
Froze pots and pots of stock and supped restorative broth for lunch.

No I think I am a seamstress.

Off to the Haberdashers to buy muslin to wrap up an arthritic ham for air drying. 

I’m feeling rather funny and I don’t know what I am!

Friday, November 14, 2014

In my Farmhouse Garden

“The garden is never dead, growth is always going on and growth that can be seen, and seen with delight.” 
Canon H. Ellacombe  (In my Vicarage Garden and Elswhere. 1901)

Flecks of buttery yellow and russet, splashes of crimson and sherbet greens. 
Poised against the grey sky, the sagging bunting is reluctant to loose its grip 
but is already being elbowed out by next spring’s cheeky pink buds.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Easy peas-y soup

Sometimes the sluggard in me triumphs.

I didn’t want to head out into the rain to tug at caterpillar riddled greens or scrub muddy roots.

I just fancied a nice comforting lunch. 

Instead I slunk to the freezer for inspiration and in the frosty depths found the tail end of last year’s pig, 
(no, not literally the tail... bacon stock and gammon) and a bag of peas. 

I whizzed the peas into the stock, threw in a handful of gammon scraps and some fresh thyme. Delicious. 

Only 99% smug though. I really should have grown the peas!