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20180330_171217Tired of paying extra for rubbish chocolate just because it is egg shaped?

Want to avoid the ridiculous amounts of packaging that surrounds Easter eggs?

Forgot to buy Easter eggs ?

Still want to consume silly amounts of calories ?

Well then, I bring you :

hot cross bun fudge

55g butter

250ml semi-skimmed milk

600g white sugar

300g soft dark brown sugar

397g tin sweetened condensed milk

100g dried mixed fruit and peel

1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Line a 25 cm square tin with grease-proof paper.

Melt the butter and milk together then add the sugars and bring to the boil for four minutes.  Add the condensed milk, then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 20 minutes.  If you wish, you can test the mixture for readiness by dropping some in cold water – should instantly form a ball, or measuring the temperature – 118C.

After the 20 minutes remove from heat and beat the living daylights out of it for about 10 minutes. – Add the fruit and spices.  Pour into your prepared tin.  Cool enough to mark the top into squares – makes 36 really big lumps.

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frogspawn

The frogs have decided it is spring, or at least two  of them have – and we have frog futures.  I spotted the first lot on Saturday.

It certainly has felt a bit spring like lately – driving me out of hibernation and back working in the garden,  but I guess frogs don’t watch the weather forecast as we have a week of very cold from the East – and I suspect the frogs will have to love again..

but to continue my observations re climate change according to the local frogs in a local pond:

2007 14/2
2008 8/2
2009 13/3
2010 21/3
2011 26/2
2012 25/2
2013 9/3
2014 18/2
2015 20/2
2016 02/2
2017 01/02
2018 03/02

Just about on schedule then.

soup
It’s October, yet the  gluts continue to roll in, so here is another glut busting soup.

tomato and courgette soup

1 kilo ripe tomatoes

1 kilo courgette

2 onions

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp plain flour

1 litre stock – I used water and 2 tsp swiss marigold

I chopped the veg, none of this skinning and deseeding of tomatoes malarky – it all goes in…. then melted the butter and cooked the onions a bit, then threw in the courgettes and tomatoes, cooked a bit more then added the flour, stirred around and in goes the stock.  All cooked up until everything is soft, then once again the stick blender goes in.  A little seasoning adjust and done.  *does cheffy hand slap*.

It does make 6-8 portions, so some lurks in the freezer – but not for long as it makes a tasty easy lunch.

mixed spice

spice

It seems that Autumn happened all of a sudden, snapping quickly from summer to the next season, instead of the usual fight, days on and off.  We are getting lovely sunny days, but they feel like lovely sunny Autumnal days.  I have started to light the fire in the evenings, and it wont be long before the veg glut dwindles… saying that I still picked a heap of beans and ten courgettes today.  A good problem to have. The apples were ready very early this year, and to add to the Autumnal feel, I am doing my usual apple processing in the kitchen – Devon apple cake has been baked, and the mincemeat has been mixed, brandied and awaiting festivities in a few months time.

It was only as I was assembling the ingredients that I realised we are low on mixed spice, as the mincemeat needs a lot. I headed out to the village shops to get some – but there was none available.  It is a gripe of mine that ingredients that I feel are essential, are no longer available and instead the baking section of local supermarkets contain such must-haves as ‘ready made frosting’ and various sprinkles and sugary cartoon stickers.

*cough*

*climbs down off soap box*

Anyway, I wasn’t going to drive to another town to track it down.  Thinking about it, I was reminded that when I posted the mincemeat recipe, I had been questioned by someone from another European country about what ‘mixed spice’ actually was.  You grow up using something you don’t question it really – but I guess is makes as much sense as ‘pumpkin spice’ means to me..  something we are not familiar with in the U.K.

I decided to make my own, as it turns out I keep all the separate spices in anyway.  In fact it makes total sense to make my own, to give a sort of turnover of some of the less used spices, keeping them fresh and tasty.   Any anyway, the shops didn’t have any.

mixed spice

3 tsp ground allspice

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground ginger.

And mix.  Even better if you ground the spices yourself, probably, but using ready ground spices works.

The mixture was loads more scented and flavoursome than the ready mixed stuff, not making sense, as it was only assembling ready prepared spices – but I suspect many packet versions have cheap fillers – coriander and the like.

I used what I needed for the mincemeat, and stored the rest in an air-tight jar. And the kitchen smelt delicious.. the mincemeat tasted delicious.  No going back for me now.

 

runner bean soup

runner bean soup Runner bean soup doesn’t sound that good does it?  It sounds healthy and earnest .Turns out it makes a very nice soup.  I was talking about it to friends and they said ‘how do you get rid of the taste of runner beans?  Which left me a bit lost for words.. because I like the taste! That’s why I grow them.

So after sparrowagedon whereby the sparrows ate all the flowers.. then I netted the beans – which stopped the sparrows, until the flowers grew through the nets.. then the beans and nets got very tangled and under pressure until I cut the nets… fortunately they were just old torn nets left over from the hen runs, but I wont be doing that again.
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The beans kept on flowering and the sparrows got bored – or perhaps they had raised their young and didn’t need the extra food?  And I am now completely overwhelmed with beans.  I have come to the conclusion that I am glad sparrows are no longer in such short supply and we can share and I will accept that in future I will get my beans later on in the summer.

runner beans

yes, I pick this much every day

 


Now it is September and feeling autumnal, but the beans are still coming in in heaps – Every meal comes with beans, and we are still enjoying them, and freezing the surplus, and making pickle, but still they pile up.  Which is why I experimented with the soup. And it is a winner – really quite tasty.   I am sure this would work well with frozen beans too.

 

runner bean soup

500g runner beans – prepared as you would normally – I disgarded really stringy ones.

2 onions, diced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons of flour

1 litre of stock – I used 2 teaspoons of Swiss marigold veg bullion and water

1 clove of garlic, peeled.

I melted the butter and cooked the onions until soft, while I prepared the beans.  Then in went the beans, a quick stir around, then the flour ( which looks like a bad idea, but it works), stir around , and then the stock.  I threw  in the garlic,  covered and simmered for 20 mins or so, until the beans were soft and the garlic clove squishable.  In with my trusty stick blender and then a taste for seasoning – but between the butter and the stock, no more salt was needed.

Ideal for the forthcoming colder weather.

bee1 I like to garden alongside nature – in a way that does minimal harm. So I am delighted at all the wildlife living around the place, we have frogs and newts, and a resident hedgehog. I saw a deer in the fields.  It’s worth fighting the slugs off my veg without the use of chemical warfare.bee2

This year, I’m doing it alone, and have my new veg beds – I thought if I got one up and running that would be a win, – I managed last year but was on autopilot, now I am about seeing how viable it is and how well I can do it.  As it goes, I wheel-barrowed compost from our heaps, up the lane, and into the garden and have beansmanaged to establish Three beds.  The beans have never looked finer – I have managed to fight the slugs off with nightly collections, and all plants survived.  I did notice the flowers weren’t setting, which was odd, as we have bees.

Then the plant really took off and were covered with red flowers….only in one day they all vanished.  Gone.

I established it is the sparrows.  Once in decline, we have loads of them around here.  I have never had a problem with bean flowers being scoffed by sparrows before – if you have the solution, let me know.  I was despondent for a couple of weeks, then realising each time a new flower appeared, it was swiped, I decided to try to net them – problem is the flowers will grow through the netting, and the plant leaders wind thought.. we may never get the net back.. if we get beans we may never reach them – slugs are safe in there, weeds are 20170714_144831growing… it’s all not ideal.  I may have to rethink it for next year.  Or not have runner beans.  Which I cannot imagine…

In other news, the rest of the gardening projects appear to be working, the courgette mountain is upon us – despite strong winds snapping one plant in two – the usual – sowing more courgette plants than we need, planting them all out – well I had space in the new flower cutting bed, so I bunged them in.  A glut is never actually a problem.20170715_120351

We have had lots of raspberries – despite the raspberry bed being completely overgrown, we should get lots of blackberries (ok I perhaps ought to cut the brambles out of the flower beds…) and despite me fighting those dang sparrows (shakes fist) nature still seems to like my garden – Whilst taking a peek at how the compost heap was doing – it is very satisfying to observe waste being turned into lovely compost….(ok maybe that is just a nerdy gardener thing…) I found a clutch ( .. is clutch the right word?) of  grass snake eggs – well I am pretty sure that’s what they are as the UK’s only egg laying snake, and we have found grasssnake shedded skins in the area.  I’m quite pleased, so carefully tucked them back in – as the snake lays them, then abandons them, depending on the heat of the composting to do the work.  Kind of OK about not seeing them though.

I mentioned above my new venture – a cutting garden.  Because flowers bring me joy, but hot house flowers flown in do not, so best to grow my own – so far I have only planted a few plants and harvested gladioli, sweet peas and marigolds – and have been experimenting with some of the established perennials I have growing in the garden. I plan to set aside an area for growing spring bulbs too.  It’s been hard to actually cut the flowers…. as they look nice in situ – but having an area meant for this means I don’t see it as ruining a flower bed, but harvesting a crop20170720_082545

and the flowers do bring me joy.

I have decided, if I am going to justify my habit of buying fabrics, hoarding clothes that need a little alteration, and such, then I need to make some actual time to do some sewing.

The idea fits in well with the fact I am on a bit of a budget, I like recycling and well.. I may have mentioned it… I like fabric….

So, the plan is to carve out that time, and actually get on with.

To kick start me, an easy project, un-beiging a beige jacket.  It’s a perfectly good jacket, light-weight, ideal apart from… it’s beige.  20170628_160829I don’t know why I bought it… ok actually I do, I was brought up with the idea  that buying ‘neutral’ colours was a good choice, as then the item will go with everything..  Good idea.. apart from the fact that I like colour. So I have a tendency to put down the colourful thing in a shop, opt to buy the sensible, then never wear it because it is…sensible.

See how neutral it is? I took this picture inside the greenhouse (it was a rainy day, ideal for project) and it blends into the stone wall…..bleuh….

So to resolve this issue, I decided to dye.  Studying the label I established that the main outer of the jacket was cotton but the faux fur, lining and zip  (and maybe the stitching.. that can go either way) were synthetic and would not pick up the colour. So I had to choose a colour that would go well with the faux fur etc. I went for dylon emerald green.  (cos you know… I do like green…) Then I weighed it and tried to estimate how much of weight was in material that would pick up the dye… Then shoved it into the washing machine.

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And it worked, I like the contrast with the fur and buckles, the stitching does show but it’s fine.
I love my ‘new’ jacket 20170703_092833