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leap year food

leap frog biscuits I’ve been researching, and the only leap year specific food I found was a South African pudding that looks suspiciously like queen of puddings, renamed.  What’s that all about? a once every four year day, and nothing special to celebrate it?  Well, what we say in this family is, if there isn’t a tradition in place that you like, make your own.  And so I give you:

leap day biscuits 

(A.K.A.  fennel shortbread)

225g salted butter

110g sugar

225g plain flour

110g corn flour

1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds

green food colouring (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170 C/ 150 C Fan Prep some baking sheets with baking paper or the like

Cream the butter and sugar together and add the food colouring if using – I used 1 tsp of green and they only came out with a hint of green after baking, but I probably would just leave it out next time.

Add in the flours and fennel, mixing until you have a ball of dough. Roll out on a floured surface and cut out the shapes you desire. – I went for frogs because.. you know.. they leap?
besides which cutting out frogs means you can have something as mad as a box of frogs.

 

Bake for 15- 20 minuits. Allow to cool a little then finish of on a drying rack.

We shall have this biscuits after our main course of toad in the hole. More leap-minded food.

It’s such a slow, ongoing process, this home improvement thing,  particularly with other calls on our time – namely the sheep and chickens, work, wanting to go out cycling and other jollies, and dealing with serious health issues (himself – stable now).  However we have now made a bit more progress in our kitchen – the previously blanchmange pink alcove (was it a window or a chimney?) is now a mostly white alcove, sporting a new bespoke (we made it) free standing unit with reclaimed wood counter.

 

No mean feat.  The alcove had a huge layer of cement and many, many coats of gloss paint on it, all designed to hide the water feature behind…  The incredible damp was dried out, the mud removed and  the stonework repointed, the original brick hearth was found – yes it was a chimney – the original one we assume since the kitchen has another one, complete with the remains of a (sort of ) filled in bread oven, and a lot of soot. The chimney had to be insulated and capped off  – more so than the previous owners efforts with a plank and a bit of fibreboard (no wonder there were so many drafts).

IMG_3787

a delicious combo of horrid pink and horrid damp

 

We had a bit of a break then, re the health issues and a think about what we are doing, decided we like what we are doing, and picked up home improving again.

Just before Christmas the aforementioned water feature made an appearance.  It turns out if the gutter becomes blocked, the rainwater overflows and pours directly into our house wall – the walls being somewhat not straight – and the water turns up as a mini waterfall in the kitchen at the back of the alcove – hence the slight yellowing of the clay paint.  This has been going on for decades, hidden behind the cement and gloss paint barrier.  So we shall solve this problem from the outside and repaint then.

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reclaimed wood, diverted from the log pile

And now we have a nice open fronted unit – open so the damp can continue to dry out, and I have put my nicer pans there (the more disgraceful ones can hide in a cupboard). I love the counter – made from reclaimed wood from a packing crate.  It looks shiny as I have just treated it with Danish oil, with built in wood stain.

frogspawn

Looking through the years of recording, this is the earliest yet – which makes sense since it has been such a mild (and wet) winter. I hope they haven’t leapt in (see what I did there? ) too soon.

The records:
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 2/2

other than mincepies

mincemeat pinwheels

mincemeat pin-wheels

It is a shocking concept, but some folk don’t like mincepies.  True.

The good news is, there are many other ways to use mincemeat, and whilst some are a lovely festive alternative, others are really useful when it come to using up the leftover mincemeat after Christmas if, like me, you make large quantities.

mincemeat pin-wheels

Pre made puff pastry sheets

mincemeat

1 small egg, beaten

a little milk

a little icing sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180 C fan.  Prepare a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.

Unroll the pastry and spread a layer of mincemeat all over, about 1 piece of fruit thick, leaving a small border round the edges.  Roll up loosely(they need growing room),  rolling the long side.  Paint the edge with milk and press the ends in. Slice into 1 cm ish slices and move to  the baking sheets, pushing into a vague circular shape.

Mix the egg and remaining milk and paint the tops and sides with the mixture.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the pastry has risen and is golden and the mincemeat is bubbling.  Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar.

mincemeat flapjacks

4oz demerara sugar

4oz golden syrup

40z butter

8 oz oats

1 tablespoon of mincemeat

4oz demerara sugar

4oz golden syrup

40z butter

8 oz oats

 Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan, and grease or line a 9” square cake tin.

Melt the sugar syrup and butter together in a pan, gently, until the sugar has dissolved. 

When the  sugar mixture is ready stir in the oats and mincemeat, then pile the mixture into the tine, spread out evenly and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before cutting.

mincemeat loaf

4oz butter

6oz sugar

2 eggs

8oz plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp milk

3 tbsp mincemeat

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour and baking powder, and milk.  Stir in the mincemeat.

Pile into a 2 lb loaf tin, and cook at about 180C for about an hour, or until it springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

 Allow to cool a little then turn out, and try to let it cool completely before eating it all!

mincemeat and clementine pavlova ….or mess

make a standard meringue pavlova base, pile high with whipped cream, scatter with mincemeat and fresh peeled clementine segments.  Alternatively make microwave meringues, break up and mix with whipped cream, mincemeat and clementines.

Untitled We went to visit Cotehele Estate today – a favourite place in the summer with its quay and mill and old house, with amazing kitchens, but in winter it is largely shut down, and for a lesser fee you can visit the gardens and the tea rooms (!) and go and look at the long long flower garland they put up every winter. For the first time, we remembered to go and see it Untitled
I didn’t realise just how vibrant it would be, dried flowers are, in my mind, beige. But this was just beautiful. All grown on the estate.

Untitled

beetroot hummus

beetroot hummus
If, like us, you like to prepare a halloween feast full of revolting themed foods, a sure winner is beetroot hummus.  A lurid colour, but all natural, and actually very very tasty.

beetroot hummus

250g cooked beetroot

480g cooked chickpeas (~225g dried pre-cooked weight)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tbsp dark tahini (although it works without tahini – add more lemon juice and olive oil)

a good slug of olive oil

Peel the beetroot, if necessary. Then blend everything, and season to taste, adding more oil to get a smooth spreadable texture.

pink apple juice

Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsIt’s juicing time of year again, and this year the apple juice is pink Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

This is because we have had our first harvest of the variety ‘redlove’.  It make for  good garden apple tree as the leaves are dark the flowers dark pink and the fruit dark red. As a juicing apple it is interesting as the flesh and juice are also red, and only a little added to the press makes the juice a beautiful shade of pink.

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As usual, we pre froze the apples, and in this picture this is how they look once defrosted – a little sad, but it does help with the juicing, you can practically squeeze them by hand after a brief freeze.  The other variety of apple we use is an unknown apple that the previous owner grew from a pip. We call this variety ‘bejeezus’, as we have found it is not particularly good for eating or cooking, but ideal for juicing resulting in juice sweet enough to drink without added sugar, that is also good for making wine and cider with too.  This year we shall probably have it as juice, as the cider stocks are still high.  Why we call it ‘bejeezus’? because once we realised we were going to freeze and press these apples, less care is needed when picking, and our method is to hook the shepherd’s crook around branches and shake the bejeezus  out of the tree, resulting in apples raining down hard, (and sometimes painfully) – making a fast harvesting process.  Mr CIG was a little surprised the first time I did this, and hadn’t shared my plan with him, but  he ducked fast…

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