Nov 172013
 

Close up of posy in pottery jug

November Posy

The weather forecasters are promising a drop in temperatures and frosts next week. This will put an end to some of the flowers still soldiering on in the garden, giving their all. We are usually lucky here: we live on a peninsula and so we’re surrounded by the sea; our frosts are mostly light and often late.

I took the opportunity to keep the summer going just a little bit longer and brought some of those flowers into the house.

Tussie mussies

My mum taught me how to make tussie mussies when I was little and I have continued to make them. I make them as a ‘thank you’, for birthday and anniversary presents, to mark the birth of a baby or just because…

I tightly pack and bind flowers, herbs and foliage to give a posy which will delight the eyes and nose.

Collecting and arranging my bounty

I wandered round the garden and collected my bounty. I was amazed at the variety that was available. I always put a single flower in bud at the centre and found a romantic pale pink rose for this.

Posy overhead viewThen I picked the rest of the ingredients: four stems of each. I found mints, rosemary, lavender, thyme, periwinkle, pinks, lemon balm, oregano, Japanese parsley, winter honeysuckle, winter jasmine, camomile, mashua, creeping borage, Californian poppy, yarrow, brassica flowers and fennel. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.

When the weather is warm I make the posy outside and often have bees land on the flowers I have picked. On this occasion it was too cold to stay still outside so I brought my goodies indoors.  I stripped the leaves from the bottom of the stems and then, starting with the rosebud, began tying in the stems. There is a symmetry to the posy as each group of stems are added in turn. Finally I put an outer layer of fennel stems to finish it off.

Usually when I make these posies, I am more discerning about what goes into them – a colour or scent theme or such like,  but this was to extend the summer and had a bit of everything in it.

Porth Llwyd Jug

Posy in pottery jug

I will change the water every day in the little jug it sits in. I love the jug, it’s gorgeous and a gift from Porth Llwyd Pottery from my friend Nina. The posy should last for 2-3 weeks by doing this and in this little corner of North Wales we will still have a little bit of summer.

What do you do to keep summer going in your house?

 Posted by at 19:06
Oct 202013
 

Apple custard cake Parisienne, slicedToday is the day to celebrate the wonderful variety and bounty that apples give us.

To help us celebrate, here’s a list of some of my favourite recipes.

Apple recipes

Apple cider vinegar
A doddle to make, very healthy for you and lots of fun. You can use damaged apples, or scraps. So this is a great way of using every apple you have.

Blackberry, apple & chilli chutney
Beware, this is addictive. You use two of the season’s great fruits. The more you make, the longer you can enjoy.

Apple, almond and date cake
One of my most favourite cakes courtesy of my mum-in-law. With some great examples of other people’s results from this recipe.

Apple custard cake parisienne
Crispy, spicy, custardy. It’s a joy to eat.

Apple wine
And what better way to celebrate than with this easy to make wine recipe?

I hope you like these, What’s your favourite?

 Posted by at 09:16
May 152013
 

Guanciale cross section view
Guanciale is the perfect preserved pork. It’s wonderfully versatile & tasty, easy to make, economical to buy & use and looks brilliant. What’s not to like about that? You can see what I made in the picture above: I’m so pleased with the result.

Guanciale means “pillow” in Italian, the reason should be obvious. My first taste was courtesy of my friend and Italian food mentor Carla Tomasi who sent me some from Rome. It was a revelation with a deep porky taste. It’s good raw, as a seasoning or a major ingredient in many dishes. When I got the Italian dry curing book Salumi for review (see here), I first searched out the recipe for guanciale. It’s ridiculously simple. The authors say it is:

…one of the most magical of the Big Eight cured cuts [and] some of the finest and most versatile salumi…

At the end of February I was fortunate to meet Huw Roberts of Oinc Oink our very local award winning pedigree Welsh pork producers. At their stall Huw had brought along some pig cheeks on the off chance that they might sell. They did.

I rushed home and got out my copy of Salumi. If you want to find out how to make your own guanciale, please read on…

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:24
Apr 022013
 

Evernote Camera Roll 20130322 220654

I love the way Twitter works. In particular how ideas get propagated: across the world in an instant and inspiring new networks of enthusiastic people. And also how physical things are shared too.

This kefir bread is the result of both such things. My apologies for the pics – they’re taken quickly on an iPhone and the bread didn’t last long enough for me to take anything posher for you.

I sent Joanna at Zeb Bakes in England some kefir. As part of her experiements, Joanna (a great baker) decided to make kefir leavened bread blogged by her friend Cecilia. Joanna has written a very instructive blog post about her experience. And Cecilia is a Kiwi (New Zealander) living in mid-west USA.

So, with all this helpful stuff to read, I had to have a go at this.

As you can see from the pictures, the loaf turned out very well indeed. It was a soft bread (apart from the crisp crust), slightly sweet with a background tang. It makes lovely sandwiches and toasts well (browns very quickly). We had it au naturel, with marmalade and toasted with cheese and it went well with all of them.

You need to think a couple of days ahead as you need live kefir milk to start fermenting a flour ‘sponge’. You then add this sponge to a bigger quantity of flour to ferment the final loaf.

I’ve tweaked the recipes that preceded this to use a higher amount of kefir in the sponge and reduced the water to match. To see my recipe, please read on…

 Posted by at 17:36
Mar 292013
 

Puntarelle plants one month from sowing

How to grow Puntarelle

In my last blog post, I showed you how to use this versatile vegetable. As promised, I’ll tell you how to grow them in this post.

We found these very easy to grow last year even with all the rain and lack of sun.

If you’d like me to show you how to grow them,  please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:16
Jan 102013
 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big

As many people found in August 2012, Seedy Penpals is a great way to share seeds with like-minded people. We all like to send and receive surprise treats: with Seedy Penpals you get to grow them too (and eat some). Follow the links at the bottom of that post to see the fun other people had.

Now it’s nearly time for the February 2013 exchange. If you already know about the scheme and just want to sign up, visit the ‘How it Works’ page and use the form that’s there.

If you took part in last year’s Scheme, I’ll email you to ask you to confirm that you want to take part in this exchange. Please look out for my email, or let me know you want to carry on by Tweeting  me. If your email address has changed since last time, please get in touch with me on Twitter or using the contact form on this website. Thanks :)

For those of you that are new to this, here’s a brief explanation…

Seedy Penpals is also a great way to

  • Meet and make new friends who share your interest in gardening
  • Find new blogs you may like
  • Share your experience of different plants and how to grow & care for them
  • Increase your knowledge about how to grow & care for plants
  • Save & share your favourite varieties
  • Protect plant biodiversity
  • Conserve and promote heritage varieties of plants
  • Make sure your surplus seeds are not wasted

Who can join?

Anyone who would like to join is welcome. You can be:

  • a complete beginner, or
  • someone who knows they have green fingers
  • young, or
  • more ‘mature’

We’d like to see:

  • bloggers or non-bloggers
  • Tweeters or non-Tweeters
  • UK & other EU residents only (due to seed export restrictions)

All you need to do is to read this about How it Works, fill in the form that’s there and sign up. Please read How it Works carefully, so you can be sure that you can participate in this way.

So what happens?

  • You read the Agreement and sign up
  • You encourage your friends to join too
  • In late January and late July of each year we match you up with a Seedy Penpal & email you
  • Penpal A will send to Penpal B, Penpal B will send to Penpal C (so it’s not a swap)
  • You get in touch with your Seedy Penpal to find out their postal address and any preferences they may have
  • In February and August you select and send to your Seedy Penpal some thoughtfully chosen seeds and any tips and instructions for sowing and care
  • You open your Seedy Packet and rejoice at your good fortune, sow what you like. Tweet your joy if you do that thing!
  • If you can, blog about your Seedy Packet and how your seeds are doing in the coming weeks and months. You put your link on the Seedy Blog so we can all see it. Add the Seedy Penpals Badges to your site.
  • Let us have some feedback about what went well and less well and give us suggestions for improvement
  • Look forward to the next Seedy Packet and encourage your friends to join.

So now, sign up

 Posted by at 13:28
Nov 162012
 

Peat Free Diet Audiobook Cover

Emma Cooper – The Peat Free Diet – Audio Book

Running time in excess of 2 hours

The Peat Free Diet (PFD) on Emma’s blog is a really useful resource for anyone interested in growing things. If you’re also interested in saving peat bogs by going peat free, then all the better: the book or audio-book is for you. Emma has packed a huge amount of comprehensive, detailed and well researched information into a neat little package. If you’re new to gardening or if you’d welcome a refresher, this will be a mine of handy & very accessible information for you.

Does it work as an audio-book though?

Yes, if you’re in the market for some enjoyable in-ear education. I can see (hear?) that this audio-book will be useful to commuters, exercisers and those who, for choice or physical need, prefer an audio presentation of material.

Emma’s diction and enunciation are very clear and crisp. I think that her speech will be clear on even the most dodgy set of earphones. The reading is fast enough paced so that you’ll not fall asleep without being so fast as to seem garbled.

Emma’s wry sense of humour also shines through her presentation with some dry quips delivered in characteristically understated style.

Emma produced the audio book herself and I think this shows in a couple of minor respects. The transitions between each track are slightly clipped at the end of one and the beginning of the next. Not so much so that you lose the meaning, but just noticeable. And on very few tracks the sound levels are not fully consistent between tracks. Again, not annoyingly so – just noticeable.

I think that this audio-book is a great piece of work by Emma. If you’re in the sort of groups of people I’ve suggested, it would be a great addition to your audio library.

Disclosure:
I count Emma as a friend. We’re regularly in contact and exchanging banter on Twitter and Emma has been to visit me here in North Wales. That said, I’ve called this review as I heard it and feel about it. I hope that helps.

 

 

 Posted by at 12:53
Oct 022012
 

The Foodie Penpals parcel Kim sent to me

This is my third Foodie Penpals parcel. This month I was matched with Kim (or Mub) who an ex-pat American from the Netherlands. In Kim’s note she said loved Mexican food. Like me here in North Wales, Kim finds getting all the ingredients she needs challenging sometimes. So she stashes Mexican stuff in her suitcase when she returns from the US. I was lucky that she has shared some of her precious stash with me.

She sent me a very helpful handwritten note with recipes and tips how to use the goodies she sent me.

Kim sent me two types of cornmeal to make tortillas: some white cornmeal and some blue. After some quick Google research, I established the blue cornmeal is from Blue Corn (aka Hopi Maize) and should have a sweeter & nuttier taste than the white. It’s also a more complete protein. I think some comparative trials are in order here.

Also included by Kim were some dried jalapeno peppers “to give things a bit of a kick” and some of Kim’s own mix of taco seasoning. A meal is forming itself in my mind to use these ingredients. The aroma of both is very good indeed.

Kim included a diddy tin of lovely green chillies which she recommends for chicken enchiladas.

Lastly, Kim included a really neat touch of Dutch: some spice mix for making celebration Dutch biscuits called ‘Speculaas’ (I had to look that up too). The seasoning is a mixture of cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, clove, ginger, cardamom & orange peel: some of my most favourite warm flavours & aromas. Kim suggested it maybe fun if I incorporated the spice in some of my bread making adventures. Good call.

Kim said she had to think out of the box on this. Well she succeeded and I have interesting things to play with, so I’m a very happy boy. Thanks so much Kim.

I recommend the scheme if you love food and would like to try new things. If you do, click the badge below to find out more…

 Posted by at 16:57
Sep 302012
 

 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big

As I type this there’s yet another brutal weather front going over. The wind is howling and the rain lashing both pressing & clawing at the windows like hungry sea monsters. The transition into Autumn has crashed down like a saturated ceiling.

The seeds I received from Lucy are safely tucked up indoors awaiting a new year and some warmth. However, all has not been quiet here at Legge Towers on the Seedy Penpals front.

Mel & I have worked on a Questionnaire for those of you who took part in the last exchange. We will email this very shortly. Mel has done great outreach work in the Netherlands and far beyond: go have a read.

Here, I have saved seeds from some of our plants, especially the heritage varieties. We’ve saved seeds from our (former Heritage Seed Library) Dragon’s Tongue dwarf bean, achocha and sunflowers for example. We’ve also had a great year in propagating oca (oxalis tuberosa) seedlings. These may just be the crosses that will be the next generation of oca that doesn’t need to wait until after the autumn equinox to make tubers. We’ll find out next year.

Some of these things may find their way into my next Seedy Penpals parcel…

Anyway, if you have your own blogged update of progress with your Seedy Penpals seeds, you can add a link below…



 

 Posted by at 11:59
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