Monday, 30 September 2013



I'm not sure what it is about autumn that I love so much. Maybe the colours, maybe the quality of the light, maybe the sense of completion. Whatever it is, it makes me very happy!

DS took the photos for this post.

Saturday, 28 September 2013


Slightly intimidated by the size of the apple harvest, and with a wary eye on the rapidly ripening pear crop, DH and I have invested in a juicer. We planted the pear tree when we moved in ten years ago, but it's only during the last few years it has started producing more than a few pears. 

Pears don't keep so well, and so although I stewed lots, we ate quite a few and I baked with some, we always felt that we wasted too many. Neither of us are very good at spending money, but after a lot of discussion we decided that we could justify a juicer.

It looks like it would be at home in a chemistry lab! Its gleaming chrome looks a bit out of place in my frankly homely but muddled kitchen. I was very surprised how easy it was to use. I started off by using up some of the smaller apples which are too fiddly to peel. It only took a few minutes to turn them into this:

Hmmm. Not really what I had envisaged. After a bit of brain-cudgelling my chemistry A-level kicked in and I filtered the murky liquid through a tea-towel. The filtrate (good word!) does actually look like apple juice:

Our apples are cooking apples so the juice is sharp, but mixing it with pear juice should sweeten it. In the meantime I am rapidly filling up the freezer with pots of golden juice.

Edited to add: Pear juice did indeed work really well with the sharp apple juice. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The apples are in!

In our garden we have an old, gnarled apple tree. I have no idea how old it is; our house was built in the 1950s on the site of an orchard, so it is quite a venerable specimen. I love it; it provides blossom in spring, shade in summer and apples in autumn. After last year's dire harvest due to bad weather I have been watching with anticipation as the apples have been swelling and growing. 

Yesterday was officially designated apple-picking day! This is a major event for our family. We all join in and take turns with the fruit-picker thingummy jig. Everyone else tries to catch any fallers, or sorts out the good from the bad. This year, maybe because of the late spring, the fruit is good quality but small. Between us we managed to pick 25kg of fruit and we left quite a lot for the birds.

So now the fun begins! During the week I bravely defrosted the freezer ready for the onslaught of stewed fruit. Some fruit has gone to our long-suffering neighbours, but there is only so much I can palm off onto other people. There is also only so much apple crumble that we can eat, so we have splashed out on a juicer. We thought about this long and hard, as they are not cheap. In the end I think it will be worth it; we also have a pear tree which will need harvesting soon. The pears don't keep so well, so at least this way I won't waste any.

Yesterday evening we had our first baked apples which I stuffed with sultanas, cinnamon and brown sugar. They were baked in an ovenproof dish with a little water at 180C for half an hour. Yum!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Tomato ketchup

Me: "I've made some tomato ketchup!"
DH (caught on the hop and incapable of lying): "Oh....(long pause)... should be interesting..."


Before - free with my veg box!
 The recipe is here!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Extreme crochet!

Back in August I embarked on a large crochet owl basket. What I didn't realise, was quite how large this particular bird would turn out to be! According to the pattern, it should take 500g of any super bulky yarn. Well, I am about half way through and I have already used more than that! Here is the beast, which I think will be challenging the European Eagle Owl for the title of largest owl:

There was no way I was going to lug that around on holiday, so I have been crocheting up a few snowflakes:

This one hasn't been blocked yet. It is from a free pattern available here, and I used a 2mm needle. From the sublime to the ridiculous!

I realise that blogging has been a little sparse lately. There has been a lot going on, both at home and at school, and I have been short of head space. I am adjusting to the new normal; service will resume shortly!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Going through the mincer...

Back in the January sales DH and I bought a mincer. I had fantasies about roasting a large joint, and producing delicious cottage or shepherds pies the next day. It all fitted in with the lifestyle I would like to lead. Unfortunately the reality is rather different!

On Sunday I slow-roasted a shoulder of lamb with garlic and rosemary. It was very tasty and went down very well. So far, so good. Yesterday I boiled up the bones to make stock. Very domesticated. Today I unpacked the mincer for the first time. It didn't have any instructions, but, hey, I am a modern woman and I fitted it all together:

The first problem was that it didn't clamp onto my work surface, so I faffed around finding a wooden-board it would fit onto. Then came the actual mincing. It was much harder work than I anticipated - I would develop biceps if I did it regularly. Eventually I ended up with what looked like a pile of mince on a plate. Result! I had enough for a small shepherds pie. So I made gravy with the lamb stock, and added it to the mince. 

Now, up to this point I was feeling very smug. Roll over Mrs Beeton! Unfortunately as soon as the gravy hit the mince it collapsed into a pile of what can only be described as mush. I did add the mashed potato and served it to my unsuspecting and long-suffering children. They are used to being experimented on, and are usually tactful in their responses. However, this time they didn't hold back. We abandoned it in favour of cheese sandwiches!

So before I consign my mincer to history or the top of a cupboard, does anyone have any suggestions on how to use it properly?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Eden Project

It's taken me longer than I anticipated to get around to this post; but it will take longer than a few weeks for the memories of the Eden Project to fade. We were all completely blown away by our time there; even my cynical engineer of a husband!

DH took a lot of the photos!
Pioneered by Tim Smit, who was also the visionary behind the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Eden is set in a disused clay pit. It has been transformed into a place which celebrates life on Earth and encourages visitors to think about sustainability. The two biomes each house mini-ecosystems, one of Mediterranean plants and one of the rainforest.

We went into the Mediterranean biome first, which is the smaller of the two. It still took our breath away!

This tiny little chap is a "Dorset Naga" - the one of the hottest chillies in the world. It is slightly strange to think that it was bred in a country once notorious for its bland cuisine!

This specimen was growing in an iron cage to protect passers by. Once we had finished strolling through the Mediterranean countryside, we wandered over to the rainforest.

The biomes are both impressive, but the Rainforest Biome is huge. It is large enough to contain the Tower of London, and holds around 16,000 different plants! When we first walked in we were hit by the heat and a wall of moist air. Huge trees towered above us and tropical butterflies flitted by. It was difficult to know what to look at first. There are amazing plants around every bend of the path:

A stream cascades through the middle of it all.

There is even a giant helium balloon, which the gardeners use to tend the tree-tops. What a cool job that would be!

Once we had dragged ourselves away from the biomes, it was lunch time! Eden has a large stage area, which was being used for den-building. While I trekked back to the car for the lunch, (half an hour round trip!), DH and the kids built us a den to eat it in! Tens of thousands of butterflies fluttered around the stage:

This collaborative piece of work, (which my children decided they were "too old" to contribute to), was designed to draw attention to the plight of butterflies.

After lunch we explored the Core building, which in an interactive education centre with loads of buttons to press!

The far wall is covered with fridge doors with the requisite fridge magnets. I couldn't resist!

One of things I really liked about Eden was the collaboration between art and science. At the centre of the Core building is a 70 tonne "Seed":

Made from a single block of Cornish granite, which took two years to find, it has 1800 hand-carved "bumps" and had to be lowered into place with one of the biggest cranes in the world. It is very tactile; we all ran our hands over it. I managed to restrain DS from climbing it!

We finished our visit by investigating the gardens. There was a lot for the children to do. They particularly enjoyed the "barefoot trail" which involved walking through lots of different textures such as bark chips and mud! There was a sensory garden which included my favourites, dahlias.

Eden is not a cheap day out, but we paid with supermarket loyalty vouchers and took a picnic. The canteen is worth a visit, it is not over-priced and is an adventure in itself. 

We all absolutely loved our day. It is a very inspiring place, and reminded me of the incredible diversity on this planet we have been entrusted with.