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.

 

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