The Insects Are Biting TWTW # 25

This week was the 11th year that I’ve had my current allotment. I was trying to find a photo or two of what it looked like when I took it on, however there seems to be a gap in my photo library around that point – I’m guessing that they’re still on whatever phone I had at the time, and are in our loft. I did however find this short video which was taken around the 26th July that year. Things have certainly changed since then.


As the year clicks past the half-way point, it’s been hot, the insects are biting and it certainly feels like summer. I’ve had no meetings this week, but lots of client work to do and so far I’m on top of it.


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I’ve read three books this week (although two of them were rather short). David Hewson’s “Devils Fjord”; Georges Simenon’s “The Flemish House” and Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid”. They were all good, but I probably enjoyed Devil’s Fjord the most.


The allotment is doing really well despite the heat, we’ve had a really good crop of potatoes and the summer vegetables are starting now. I’ve picked more gooseberries than I can count and I’m planning to make some gooseberry chutney, but for now their in the freezer as I really don’t fancy working in a hot kitchen in this weather to make it, plus I need to get some ingredients. Pickled gherkins are also on the list, which are a little easier to do, just as soon as I get enough to fill a jar or two.


I wrote and linked last week to pieces about Kindle licenses and e-book DRM in general, and then this piece was linked to in Robin Sloan’s excellent newsletter. It isn’t anything new or that I didn’t really know about – although I wasn’t aware of what happened with copies of 1984 and Animal Farm. Kind of ironic that it would be books by George Orwell that it happened too.



How To Grow Your Own Medicine Cabinet.


 

Shaking It Up Some – TWTW # 22

It’s been a busy week that has been changing quite fluidly throughout, not a day passed where what was originally going to happen did actually come to pass. I had meetings and appointments cancelled, a funeral to attend that I hadn’t planned and the weather generally disrupting proceedings throughout like an interrupted cricket match. We got there in the end however, although the knock-on effect is that this week is a little busier than originally planned.


That said, there’s not a tremendous amount to write about. I did make some broad bean falafels, and I read “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula Le Guin. The former were very tasty and the latter was a reread. I last read the Earthsea series when I was at school, about 11 or 12 years old. It stands up well, and if you are one or know an 11 or 12 year old I’d recommend it.


Much of the news cycle this week has been around the election of a new leader of the conservative party and by default the political leader of our Country – our Prime Minister. From the soundbites it sounds very much like whoever it is they will be putting the needs of their party above those of the Country.


I’ve been listening to Jonny Miller’s new podcast this week. I’m quite selective when adding new podcasts to my feed, as I often don’t manage to listen to all of them each week anyway. Adding a new one is a time commitment that I don’t often have. In this case I’ve listened to the first two episodes and I think I’ll hang around for the next one, and see how it goes.

I’ve also added Joe Minihane’s Floating podcast to my list this week, which I really enjoyed, and although there’s only one episode so far, it’s another one that I’ll keep at least until the next episode.


That’s it for me – hopefully more to talk about next week.

Broad Bean Falafels

img_20190612_140126_355I’ve had a really good year on the allotment with broad beans (fava beans). I overwinter my crop, so plant them in late October or early November and this year I’ve been harvesting since late May and they’re still going strong.

They make a nice vegetable on their own, particularly when they’re young and sweet, and they freeze well, but it is also nice to make other things with them.

I was looking through some of my recipe and gardening books and came across a recipe for broad bean falafels in Alys Fowlers excellent book “Abundance” (affiliate link). Her book is really about storing of produce, but it does contain some excellent recipes too.

I made this video following the recipe in her book, it’s really easy so worth a go yourself.

Dough Monster – TWTW # 18

This week feels like it’s been full of lots of good things, it’s been fairly busy but in a good way, and yet I’ve had time to spend on some of the things that I love.

It’s also been blessed by being mostly warm and dry for the better part of the week, with a little rain at the weekend to help the garden and the allotment along. I can’t complain.


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It’s been a week of books this week. It started on Monday went I had to go into town to run a few errands and I popped into the library to look for a book that my other half wanted to read. They didn’t have it, but by chance I was looking to see if they had any Maigret books on their shelves – I always look, but am usually disappointed – and they had two. I’ve mentioned it before but Maigret has become a bit of a thing for me, and these two (Maigret, Lognon & the Gangsters and Maigret & the Reluctant Witnesses) didn’t take long for me to read. I had a reasonably long journey on Thursday and finished the second one on the train. I’ll take them back this week and see what else they have.

I also received a surprise from E&T Books – “The Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt. I’ve reviewed a few books for E&T and this one came in the post and I am about halfway through. I’ll post a separate review when I’ve finished it. Finally Nigel Slater’s latest cookbook “Greenfeast” came. This is actually a two part set, and this volume covers Spring and Summer. Autumn and Winter is out later this year. It’s a lovely book, although I haven’t had a chance to indulge properly yet!


On Tuesday morning I was walking the dogs along the creek when we chanced upon a Hedgehog. Haven’t seen one in a while, and a little surprising that it was out so late (they’re mostly nocturnal). Normally this isn’t a good sign, as it means they are staying out to find food, but this one seemed to healthy enough and was of a good size so I left it be.


The Marshes of America’s Space Programme


The Day I Tried To Love Ticks


The Bitter Truth About Starbucks Coffee


The Poetry of Painting: how to paint loss and life


On Puerto Rico’s ‘Forgotten Island,’ Tesla’s Busted Solar Panels Tell A Cautionary Tale



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Had a bit of a bread adventure at the weekend too. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread for a while. Well last week we had a bit a of a lack lustre starter mix, that although it turn out a nice loaf, it didn’t really seem to rise all that much. Anyway, as is my habit, the leftover starter went into the fridge in a Kilner jar for the next time. On Saturday morning I noticed that the starter in the jar was rising at quite a fast rate (normally there is very little or no rise when it’s in the fridge). When I checked on it a little bit later in the day it had risen even more, and was into the lid of the Kilner jar.

I thought that I should take it out of the fridge and release some of the pressure from the jar, which I did and the jar open with a loud pop, and the starter started to ooze over the edge of the jar.

I decided to use some of this to make another loaf, so I measured up my ingredients and put the remaining starter back into the fridge (where it has been behaving itself since). I must have made a mistake with the measurements however, as the resulting dough was very wet. Too wet to do anything much with, so I had to add extra flour, which I did and kneaded in, and then put to one side for a final rise.

It worked out okay in the end, even though I’m still not sure how this happened I got a good loaf out of it.

TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.

It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.

I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.

My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.

Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.


I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


I’ve also  got  the  (re)review  of “Under  The  Rock” coming  up next weekend with the chance to receive a copy of the paperback.



Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.


Spiced Easter Buns (Hot-Cross Buns) Made In A Breadmaker

Ingredients:

Water 240ml
Butter (melted) 50g
Sugar 50g
Egg (beaten) 1
Salt 1 tsp
Strong white bread flour 540g
Fast Action Yeast 2tsp
Ground Sweet Cinnamon 1 tsp
Nutmeg 1/4 tsp
Mix dried cherries and raisins 150g

I make these using my breadmaker to do the heavy lifting of mixing and rising the dough. You could use an ordinary mixer or make the dough by hand. The dough needs a first rise of about an hour (preferably somewhere warm), and then a second rise of about half-an-hour. Full details in the video below.

You can either make a cross in the top of the buns with a serrated blade before you glaze them or make crosses with a simple mix of icing sugar and water applied using a piping bag once they’re cooked.

 

The Week That Was # 2 (Experiments With Sourdough)

I’ve been wanting to do some sourdough baking for a while now. I already bake quite a bit of our own bread (mostly in a breadmaker), and regularly make pizza bases, rolls and other things and I wanted to give sourdough a try too.

I got a starter (you can make your own but I opted for the slightly easier option) from the Wild Baker and it arrived earlier in the week. I feed it (with flour and water) a couple of times and then it was ready to go.

There are a couple of quite long pauses for rising etc. in the sourdough process and I think next time, I’ll shift things around a bit so that these happen overnight rather than try and squeeze things all into a day-and-a-half.

That said the resulting loaf was fantastic (see above). Great tasting and a definite success. It’s always good when cookery of any kind goes well, but this was especially pleasing.


It’s been a pretty chilly week, with temperatures dropping below 0°C on most nights. This had meant that my home office has been a little inhospitable some mornings and so I’ve moved to our lounge to work.

I’ve been assisted by the dogs to keep me company (and warm), although I must admit they have been a little more distracting than normal. I assume that this is as much the change of routine for them as it is for me.

I’ve been asked by a potential client for a proposal for a piece of work, so I suspect that most of the coming week will be taken up in pulling that together. They have ambitious plans so it’s good that potentially I’ll be a part of that work.


I’m between books at the moment, but a quick visit into town to post a parcel took me past the secondhand bookshop.

I always try and leave more books with them than I take away, and this time I succeeded, although I have to admit to be quite pleased with the ones I found.

Caramelised Onion and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is a lovely cuddle of a soup. Sweet and warming.

You’ll need:

  • A medium to large butternut squash
  • Two medium white onions
  • Demerara sugar
  • One to one-and-a-half pints of vegetable stock
  • Large bunch of parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Take the squash; peel, de-seed, and chop into small pieces. Place into a roasting tin with some olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, give this a good mix to ensure the oil, salt & pepper is covering the squash. Put into a preheated oven (gas mark 5), and roast until soft, turn once or twice. It should take about 20 – 25 minutes to cook.

While the squash is roasting, peel and chop the onions. Saute these over a medium heat in a pan with a little olive oil, as they start to brown add a large knob of butter. Once the butter has melted add enough brown demerara sugar to just cover the onions. Lower the heat and allow the onions to caramelise in the sugar. Make sure to stir regularly and don’t allow the sugar-onion mix to burn on the bottom of the pan.

Once the squash is roasted and soft (you can test with the tip of a knife), add it to the onion. Pour in enough vegetable stock (probably about a pint) to cover both and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the mixture is cooking, wash and coarsely chop and large bunch of parsley, and then add to the simmering mix.

Remove the soup from the heat and pour into a liquidizer (you may need to do this in batches) and blitz until smooth. Alternatively blitz in the pan with a hand blender (being careful not to splash yourself with the hot mixture)!

Return the now smooth mixture to the heat, and bring back to the boil.

Serve with crusty sourdough or bread of your choice.

Once cool this will keep in a refrigerator or can be frozen to enjoy at a later date.

Caramelised Onion, Feta & Beetroot Tart

At the weekend I was down on the allotment and dug the last of the beetroot from the plot (I wanted to dig over that part of the plot in preparation for the new growing season). There were quite a few good ones, but not quite enough to pickle or store for the longer term so I decided to make a tart with them.

I used a sheet of ready-made puff pastry (because that’s what I had), and greased and lined my quiche dish with it, as it takes approx half the sheet of pastry I cut the remainder into strips to add to the top of the tart once the filling was in.

I cut up two medium sized onions and gently sauteed them in a little olive oil, as they were browning I added some butter and once that had melted a tablespoon of brown sugar and allowed them to caramelise on a low heat.

I boiled the beetroot, and removed the skins and then sliced roughly into chunks.

Once the onions were ready I added them as a layer to the bottom of the flan and then tipped the beetroot and some roughly chopped feta on top.

I whisked up a couple of large eggs with approximately 100ml of milk seasoned with pepper and added this to the flan. Then topped off with the remaining puff pastry strips.

Cooked for about 40 mins at gas mark 6, until the milk / egg mixture had solidified. Served with some mixed green veg.

Making Christmas Puddings (Gluten Free, Virtually Fat Free and No Added Sugar)

It’s that time of the year when baking and making turns to Christmas.

I doubled up the ingredients in the video, but here they are to make a approximate 2.5 pint pudding:

225g whole sultanas (minced)
225g whole sultanas
225g large raisins (minced)
75g large raisins
16 giant prunes (soaked for 48hrs, then stoned and minced)
100g walnuts & almonds finely chopped
250ml prune juice (from soaking prunes)
1tsp ground mixed spice
Zest of half-a-lemon
225g ground almonds or hazlenuts
125ml brandy or whisky
2 egg yolks beaten