Every Christmas, we buy a couple of bags of chestnuts and roast them for the chestnut stuffing we have with our Christmas dinner. I wish we had our own mature chestnut tree, but we don’t and I can’t think of anywhere locally that they are readily foraged, and the tree we planted is generations away, but chestnut stuffing is a Yuletide must. Mr CIG takes on this task. Of an evening, with the woodburner lit, he lines up chestnuts along the top of the stove, turns them to cook both sides, peels them – the shells go in the wood burner, the chestnuts into the freezer, until we have enough. Well that’s the theory – if there is something particularly gripping on the tv, he burns them and then puts the whole blackened coal into the burner…
Last December we were there in front of the fire, me knitting, himself burning chestnuts, when he pulled one out of the net and it had sprouted, no doubt confused by the warmth of our living room.
“Oh chuck it” says I ” once seeds sprout the starch turns to sugar or something.. it won’t taste right. Bung it on the fire”
He looked at me aghast ”but it’s alive!”
Some eye rolling and fun poking from me – because we are not vegetarian, do raise animals and birds for the table, but ignored, the chestnut was planted.
And here it is three months later. He named it Chester (more eye rolling from me). Mr CIG doesn’t water it of course.. but I do.
Chester is still somewhat confused, being in full leaf before his outside friends, I am hoping to move him outside to acclimatise come summer, and hopefully he will get a place in the new section of ‘woodland’ we hope to establish.
Think big thoughts, Chester, from little chestnuts do mighty sweet chestnuts grow…
Posted in being greener, general wittering | Tagged chestnut tree, Christmas dinner, seeds | 5 Comments »
Suddenly, after months of rain and general grimness, today was warm. I can’t get my head around it even being March yet, as winter seemed relentless.
But today saw many firsts of the year: I left the back door open all day, and took the propagator lids off in the greenhouse. We went for a walk, and left our coats behind, we ate our lunch outside, and then lay on the blanket in the warm sun. The chickens were dustbathing. We spent the whole day outside gardening, tending the animals, and cutting a mountain of wood into logs until it was time to come in for our evening meal. And of course, fair-skinned that I am, I caught just a little too much sun. Mostly though, it was good to see the season ahead finally.
A touch of spring warmth and the day is filled with achievements and plans.
Posted in being greener, general wittering, grow your own food | 2 Comments »
We quite often have pancakes for special breakfasts, and find a reason for special breakfasts fairly often!, but a evening meal of pancakes is for pancake day. We gather with friends and family, each bringing their batter and fillings: lemon and sugar, mushrooms and garlic, nutella and brandy, butter and syrup and so on. We take it in turns to cook and flip pancakes, and share all the toppings and eat and laugh and eat some more until full. Then usually eat one more.
standard pancake batter
1/2 pint of milk
4 oz flour
blend, leave to stand if you have the time in hand, and cook in the normal way, with a little oil. Simples.
I quite often make them just a little bit thicker, with less milk, and sometimes I just make up the batter without measuring it.
Fluffy blueberry or strawberry pancakes
1/2 pint of milk
frozen blueberries or wild strawberries or other fruit.
Separate the eggs and beat the whites until stiff (enough to be able to hold the bowl over your head without resulting in bad hair day). Mix the egg yolks, milk and flour until smooth. Fold in the whites carefully, without knocking out all the air.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and put spoonfuls of mixture in the hot oil, and flatten out slightly – how big you make them is up to you – I have a special little ladle I use just for this.. Now sprinkle a small handful of your chosen fruit into each pancake (this works out better than adding into the mix as they all seem to clump together and you end up with some very high fruit pancakes, some fruitless). Once one side is cooked turn and cook the other. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Serve with icing sugar, or maple syrup. These pancakes are also delicious without the fruit – especially if served with maple syrup and bacon.
There are so many other types of pancakes – from crepes and galettes, to poffertjes, pikeletts and drop scones. Never yet met a pancake I didn’t like .
Posted in recipes | Tagged pancakes | 2 Comments »
Happy chance… well ok, I planned it.. found us in Cardiff at the weekend, putting us in an ideal position to buy Welsh cakes from the market. And in an amazing feat of bravery, we held off eating the until we were home and could share with extended family.
We like a mooch around Cardiff, particularly the old covered arcades and the market, which has a great looking fishmongers, butchers and veg merchants. Not being there to shop for produce, I had to make do with buying a lovely new Chinese filter cup, and then happy chance again (ok I had googled for loose tea shops) the tea stall, Gurmano Teas where I had a little tea buying based accident.
Home then and we had all the right equipment – filter tea cup, lovely tea and Welsh cakes to mark St David’s day properly. Happy chance indeed.
Posted in general wittering | 1 Comment »
It’s official. Spring has sprung.
By official I mean – according to our frog population – and they are the experts, although the snowdrops and helebores know a thing or two about it.
Interestingly, although this winter has seemed hideous long and wet, I guess because it hasn’t been that cold, the frog spawn moment is at the early end of the scale; I’ve been recording the first sighting in the same pond over some years:
A bit of warmth, a bit of sunshine and spring seems possible again.
Posted in general wittering | Tagged frogspawn, spring | 4 Comments »
Just a tad blowy last night! – We cancelled plans to go out and glad we did as the reports were full of traffic chaos, flooding where we had planned to go and trees down.
Luckily for us the only damage was the greenhouse being blown over – definitely an ex-greenhouse now. A fence in the hen run is down, and some big branches off of next door’s massive leylandii. A big scots pine is down next door across the allotments, but missing us
Was quite scary last night hearing the wind howl down the chimneys and battering the windows, and mystery clunking noises from outside. Glad we got away with so little.
So now some clearing up of glass and looking around for a new greenhouse.
Posted in general wittering, smallholding | Tagged greenhouse, storm | 8 Comments »
These biscuits are very high in cocoa and make quite a strong, bitter chocolate, which contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the ganache – definitely for adult tastes, heart shaped for valentines day
bitter chocolate biscuits with ganache filling
225g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 large egg
for the ganache:
200g black chocolate
200ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180 C ( or esse ‘hot’ !) Rub the butter cocoa and flour together, then add the sugar and vanilla and mix well. Then add the egg and mix until you have a dough that leaves the bowl clean. I tend to do this using a stand mixer, but it can easily be done by hand.
Roll the dough out to about 5 mm thick and cut using a cookie cutter. Arrange on a lined tray with some space between to allow for a little spread and cook for about 20 minutes, until firm. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the ganache, bring the cream to simmering point and then add the broken up chocolate and stir well until all the chocolate is melted and mixed in. Allow to cool enough to not drip off the biscuits.
Blob a small amount of ganach on a biscuit and sandwich with another. Allow to set.
Posted in recipes | Tagged biscuits, chocolate, ganache, valentines | 2 Comments »