If Life Gives You Green Tomatoes TWTW # 92

Greetings from my kitchen, where in between typing these sentences I’m making Green Tomato Chutney. It’s 8am and the smell is amazing boiling down the mix of tomatoes, apples, onions and sultanas to a thick pulpy mix.

This is a little bit of therapy, making something from home grown produce that will take well over an hours to prepare, but will keep me going in chutney for some time. More details below.


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I decided yesterday to pick the remaining tomatoes on the allotment to avoid them getting blight – the weather conditions have been right for this the past few days and I don’t want to lose the crop waiting for it to ripen when I could do something with it. It was worth doing too, as I had over 3.5 kgs of tomatoes. I separated off those that will ripen on the window sill and the rest are going to chutney. The recipe I’m using is here. I ended up with 9 full jars which is good going.

In addition to the tomatoes we’ve also been picking more patti-pans and squashes on the allotment this week. Otherwise things are at a bit of a crossroad between seasons where winter crops are growing but not ready yet and summer stuff is coming to an end.

I’ll need to think about my seed order soon too. I got a little caught out by shops being closed due to Covid this year, so am thinking I’ll be order all in one go instead of spreading them out over time from different suppliers like I have in previous years.


After some six weeks of delay by BT they finally got around to turning on our fibre connection this week. I can’t actually say things appear any faster, although theoretically when I test the line the download speed is about four times faster than before. I suspect where I’ll notice it is uploading files as that has increased by an even greater degree. The speed of the wi-fi has of course not changed, so unless I’m hardwired into the router that will determine the speed of most things.


I’ve had some work to do this week. An unexpected commission from a client that I’ve been working on between other things. It reminded me that I need to do something about the library of technical documents that I’ve been building over the last few years. It is all electronic and not stored in the same place, some split across different computers and folders. Ideally I’d like it all in one place as reference materials for future projects, but I need to take some time out to drag it all together, and also to make an appropriate structure for it to sit in. It’s not been top of my list of priorities, but it’s a pain when I need to look for something and it’s often stored in a folder of a project where I lasted worked on it.


I took quite a lot of photos this week, but they were on film, so I can’t share any of them just yet. I have at least posted the roll off for processing, so hopefully there’ll be something to share next time. They’re all standard colour 35mm so no more infrared yet. I also bought a new battery for one of my old film cameras, and am planning to use that next.


When you look at the face of the guy in this video preview and read the title you’re expecting something different to watch actually happens next:


 

I’ve been reading the Pandemic Kitchen Newsletter this week. You can subscribe for free and I’d recommend it if you are at all interested in cooking. There have only been a couple of editions so far, but you can look at the archives before subscribing if you’re not sure.

I’ve also been finishing the audio book of James Holland’s Battle of Britain. It’s a really good listen with first hand accounts taken from diaries written at the time and starting back with the allied retreat from Dunkirk, through to late 1940.


Schools return this week in most of England. Or at least they do at the time of writing. Given the way the government has handled the whole thing, you have my sympathy if you’re a parent wondering whether you and your children will be safe or are just simply trying to work out exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing! The whole eat out / lose weight; stay home / go to work; algorithm results / teachers results; government approach to organising the proverbial couldn’t be more farcical if it were a situation comedy. Thinking about it, you also have my sympathy if you’re a writer of political comedies and are constantly being out done by the real thing as opposed to the fiction you are trying to write.


That’s it for this week, and if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading. As always stay safe and take care.

If Life Gives You Blackberries & Apple

If life gives you blackberries and apples, make stewed blackberry and apple.

We’ve been enjoying a healthy crop of blackberries for a few weeks now, but the bramley tree has only just started providing ripe fruit (apples are ripe if they come off the tree in your hand with no effort – if you have to tug leave them be).

On Monday this week we had both, probably the last of the blackberries and the start of the apples. So I rinsed off the blackberries and put them in a pan with a little water (about a tablespoon) just enough to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning and some of the bramleys – peeled, cored and cut into small chunks. Add sugar to taste – always a difficult thing in our house, Ann likes them really sweet, I like them a bit tart – and simmer over a low heat until the apples start to break down and get soft. Serve warm or allow to cool, with whatever you choose; custard, ice cream; both or chill and serve for breakfast as a compote.

If you have more time you could of course make jam / jelly, chutney, cakes and about a million and one other things.

If Life Gives You Blackberries, Make Crumble TWTW # 88

If last week went quickly, then this week seemed to hang around a lot longer, different things happening but mostly mundane stuff, not a week of excitement. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t feel like time was passing very quickly?

Austin Kleon wrote about how the coronavirus has changed the perception of time.

Time is running out for me to see comet Neowise though. I’ve had a few tries this last week, and although I’m pretty sure I did see it one evening, the light pollution is so bad here it’s hard to be totally sure.


My tomatoes have turned good, finally producing some good fruit and in reasonable quantity. On the allotment the tomatoes are a little bit further behind but there is still a good lot of fruit forming.

 

I also harvested our first cauliflower from the allotment this week, not huge but a reasonable size. We had it with some broccoli spears (also from the plot), cooked with some pine nuts and herbs and served with some pasta and feta cheese.

My remaining time on the plot this week has been spent watering and weeding.


Work has been quiet this week, no short notice commissions like last week, but the end of the month so the usual round of billing and admin to do. With it being so quiet at the moment, it doesn’t take long to do.


I’ve been reading a couple of Mick Herron novellas this week (The Drop, The List & The Catch). They’re in the Jackson Lamb series and fill in the gaps between the full books which I’ve enjoyed reading recently. I’ve also been catching up on National Geographic articles from the last couple of months.


My friend David had some poetry published this week – it’s rather good in my opinion, gritty but good. If you’re interested you can read it here.


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My Mum has some really good blackberries at her house at the moment and I harvested about half a kilos worth which I turned into a blackberry crumble mid-week. Just perfect served with some ice cream when it comes out of the oven. Even better it lasts for a couple of nights. Looking at the blackberries there might even be enough for round 2 this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week, another short one. My week ahead is looking quiet. I have to take Wilson back to the vet for his repeat bloods, but otherwise not appointments at the moment. Whatever you are up to take care and stay safe!

Suspicious Puddles TWTW # 79

Hello and welcome to the sunny south coast of the UK where that strange orange orb in the sky has been slowly roasting me all week.

I’ve mostly been at home – but things have been pretty quiet, although there are a couple of high spots to share and things to talk about. How’s your week been?


I received my developed film back from the processors, both this photo and the one above are from that roll. I opted for negatives and a transfer to USB stick (that I supplied) as this seemed like the cheapest option, and I didn’t want to waste a lot of paper on potentially poorly taken photos when I could print the best ones at home anyway. This was probably a good choice, as it would seem I have (or the camera has) a slight tendency to underexpose frames – I’m going with operator error until I have any other evidence to the contrary – and in most cases I can tweak these things afterwards if I need to.

A little bit like I have with this image.

I’m already part way through my second roll and for the most part I’ve enjoyed this little return to “analogue” photography and will probably keep going.

I think in some ways I prefer the immediacy of a digital camera and the ability to take many frames of the same thing with little worry as to the cost, until you get the image you were looking for. That said the challenge of having a limited number of exposures and thinking much more about the image you want before you press the shutter release is also a bit of a thrill. There will be more film in my immediate future.


I finished reading Maigret’s Pickpocket and also read The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peter’s (a Brother Cadfael mystery). The Maigret was excellent, one of the better ones and although I enjoyed the Brother Cadfael it wasn’t one of the best. I’ve yet to settle into anything else.


Don’t Worry I Live With All These Books


I spent a bit of time doing the conversion from winter mode to summer mode in the potting shed this week. This essentially means moving out the remaining tender plants into the garden, taking down the bench they were on and setting up for tomatoes and other things. This year I have some tomatoes but also some lettuce and beetroot in tubs. These are doing exceedingly well and we have had our first harvest of beetroot leaves and lettuce alongside some broad bean and coriander pesto on pasta. We’ve been eating broad beans pretty much continuously for a couple of weeks now, and the main crop are coming to an end, but we have some “spare” plants that I put in tubs in the garden that will also give us a second crop in another couple of weeks.


The tale of Ollie and Dollie, a pair of pigeons that befriended a family on lockdown


The water leak on the car has also now been fixed. The garage got the part and fitted me in on Thursday morning and the bill was less than they thought it was going to be. I’ve hardly driven the car anywhere since but it seems to be okay – no suspicious puddles on the floor of the garage – but I haven’t given up carrying the big bottle of water in the boot quite yet.


Work has been very quiet this week. I’ve had a couple of things to do, but jobs that only really take a half-hour or so to do. I need to be mindful about where this leaves me. The government says that I am not eligible for the self-employed income support scheme, although I’ve asked them to explain exactly why because I’m not clear on their reasoning. So I’ll be needing to find some income of some kind if my existing work doesn’t pick back up. All of my talks for this year have now been cancelled – quite rightly – either by me or the organisers as clearly they can’t go ahead under current conditions. Some of the talk formats will also need to be reconsidered – those that involve produce tasting for example – as they are also no longer practical in their current method of delivery. At the moment I’m not sure it is worth spending a lot of effort on as things could change so much before the next talk that I have provisionally booked in January 2021, but it will be slowly burning away in the back of my mind in the meantime.



Well that’s about all from me for this week. It’s looking like it’s going to be another quiet one in ongoing sunshine. Stay safe wherever you are.


Ladybird Weather Bomb TWTW # 23

img_20190622_173753_897I’ve worn a tie more times in the last two weeks than I’ve worn all year. When I left full time employment I said that I would rarely wear one again and I’ve pretty much stuck to that, but two funerals in two weeks. If you’re interested there’s a quick tie origin story here.

Sadly it is funerals and weddings that bring families together these days. I realised this week that there are some members of my family that I’ve not seen since the last family funeral and some a little longer than that. It’s good however that we can all gather and pick up where we left off, it is sad though that there is always notably one person missing.


I harvested the last of the broad beans this week, now they are all either in the fridge, freezer or my stomach. I do like them and make sure that I grow more than enough to keep a supply of them for several weeks after they’ve been cleared from the allotment. I’m not sure what I’m going to be putting in that spot now that they’ve gone. Possibly some more salad crops or maybe next years purple sprouting or kale. Need to get it dug over first.


It’s been a good week work wise. Something got in the way of a site visit last week that was postponed to this one, and then it looked like thunderstorms might put pay to it for a second time. It went ahead however as the predicted weather didn’t come to pass, and so it satisfies one aspect of some work for a client. It also lead to an interesting conversation that lead to a request for a proposal. Which if it is agreed will be a new client. I didn’t have a lot of time to complete it in but managed to get it done and submitted by the deadline of Friday. They say they want to make a decision on who they are going to instruct for the work early this coming week, so fingers-crossed!


img_20190622_205000841This arrived from Elliott & Thompson books on Saturday for a review. I have a little bit of a professional interest in algae, so I’m looking forward to reading it. The full review will follow in due course.

 

 

 

 


Speaking of weather, you’d better make sure that it’s not ladybirds on the weather radar.


And then there were two. The disaster prone buffoon and the moron who tried to destroy the NHS. Oh joy.


Inside Neil Gaiman’s rural writing retreat.

Posting the link above reminds me that I haven’t written about watching the Amazon adaptation of Good Omens. It is so good, and I thoroughly recommend it. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the original book, but if you have it’s a joy to see how some of it translates to the screen. It is very much a fitting tribute to the late Terry Pratchett. Go watch it.

Oh but just to be clear it’s on Amazon and not Netflix as these people thought.


Well that’s about enough from me for these week. Be careful out there.

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.

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.