Green Buckle

I’m continually being astounded by the garden – sure, I’ve seen stuff grow before but, well, when it’s all your own labour of love it really is something else.  In the last two weeks I’ve seen what I thought were already nicely large plants bulk up even further and even, in some cases, threaten to spill out over the patio!  I’ve had some failures (notably my courgettes / squashes), but I’ve also had more successes, so far, than I had dared hope.

One particular success I’m proud of is the purple sprouting broccoli.  It is, well, ‘sprouting’. It’s really budding, but shhh. Either way, it tasted really nice – somewhat like fresh asparagus in terms of delicacy.

I’ve been picking salads from the garden most days.  The best salad has come from the seeds that I sewed under the purple sprouting broccoli – despite or, rather because of, being in high shade, these have fared well and are the only ones not to have gone to seed really quickly!

We decided, finally, to get a barbecue.  As you can see in the last picture, it’s a tiny one – but it’s enough for me and Andy and not too big so that it can fit in the shed.  It’s so nice to be able to have our own barbecue in our own garden.  Sitting outside, in the sun, eating home-grown salad and halloumi-tofu skewers can’t really be rivalled.

Being summer, it’s also grass cutting time.  Despite my hayfever playing up, I’ve been trying to keep the grass trim but I’ve been leaving about a foot beside the fences.  It’s really tricky to get right up against them with the mower, and the birds seem to love poking around in the long grass anyway.  A few days ago, when I went out, I noticed a splash of purple amongst the grass and buttercups – more random weedy wild flowers.  Since I don’t have many flowers in the garden itself, yet, it’s a nice stopping station for bees and other insects.

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Daring Bakers: Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

This month’s challenge was one I was a little daunted by – I’ve never really made meringues before and I pretty didn’t this time, either.  It was definitely a learning experience, and I’ll probably give it another go when I have a few people to feed.

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

So, where did I go wrong?  At the most basic level – I misread the instructions and used the F temperature instead of C!  Whoops.  So, overcooked, very much not fluffy meringue.  What do you do with failed meringue?  Eton Mess!  Well, sortof  ;)  I had already made the mousse, so I combined that with the meringue and blended half a punnet of strawberries as a sauce, then threw the rest of the strawberries on top.  It was cavity-inducing, but pretty tasty.

The actual recipe can be found here.

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Daring Cooks – Pâté & Bread

This month’s Daring Cook’s challenge hit right before I went on holiday and, although I’d originally intended to do more than one type of pâté, I ended up not having the time.  There was also a problem  with getting some of the ingredients (notably trout for the fish version and pork belly for the meat ones, oddly).

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Given the problems with ingredients, I decided to go with the vegetarian recipe, half it, and make a few small single terrines rather than one large log – allowing me to freeze some for later.   The recipe and instructions for it and the other pâtés can be found here.  It was really pretty tasty, though I did add some black pepper to the red pepper layer and some extra garlic in the bean layer.  I think, if I was making it again, I’d try it with chickpeas instead of cannellini beans – though they might have trouble staying stiff enough to hold together.  the overall taste was rather like red-pepper hummus – something I love, so no complaints here.

The baguettes, really, gave me more of a problem than the terrine itself.  It took me three tries to get something which approximated a baguette, but I was glad for the experience – it’s really shown me how much the time given to bread for rising affects the outcome of the final bread.  The first baguettes I didn’t even bother to take a picture of – they were odd, tough but apparently tasted ‘ok’ since Andy scoffed them for lunch the next day.  The second set, I used a faster recipe, with less rising time and they simply tasted like dense bread moulded into a baguette shape – I also overcooked them a little, which didn’t help.  Not tasty at all.  The third lot I used the long-rise recipe again, formed them gently and used a longitudinal slit rather than slashes and didn’t let them have a very long ‘rest’ before putting them in the oven.

I experimented with toppings – plain, with cornmeal, and egg.   They all had a very different taste to them, though I think both mine and Andy’s favourite was the cornmeal topped one.

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Garden Updates

The garden managed to survive the holiday – as did most of the plants inside; though the courgettes got a bit leggy!  Luckily the last few days we were away were overcast and drizzly – so the plants got a water and weren’t even more scorched by the sun than before. It’s not as super-green as some gardens, yet, but compared to the spring photo below it, I think I’m doing pretty well :)

I’ve also started getting some decent harvests:

Lastly, the peace lilly that we got from (I think) Robbie & Beth seems to be blooming. It hasn’t bloomed since the first time, but a little TLC seems to have brought it back to flowering condition. How just hoping the other one also decides to have a go!

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Yorkshire was amazing!  It really felt like a grown-up holiday (yes at 25, I still don’t feel like an adult, haha).

We were staying at Brimham Rocks Cottages in a 6-person cottage which was really comfy, cosy and well stocked with kitchen equipment and entertainment items.  The owners were really friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. It was a lovely place to stay and a really good base for the weeks trips.

Every night, someone took a turn to cook – with one night being used to eat up leftovers.  Andy cooked pizza, I did lasagne, Mishi: Risotto, Chris: curry, Mike: a roast and Euan made a spicy red tomato sauce with pasta.  Every meal was damned delicious – it really is nice to know a bunch of people who cook ;)

We visited York (duh?), York Dungeons and Jorvik;  Harrowgate and Harlow Carr, Helmsley Walled Gardens, The Black Sheep Brewery as well as exploring the nearby countryside on the bikes –  Brimham Rocks being the first place we ventured.  Harlow Carr was probably my favourite place of the week, though the York Dungeons were really fun, too.

Andy and I are both keen on taking pretty pictures, so we were both grabbing for the camera as much as possible, but even so – we didn’t get any decent pictures whilst in York (too busy!) and our overzealousness with the camera meant that we ran out of battery at Harlow Carr- meaning fewer pictures than I’d have liked of that beautiful garden.  Sadly for both gardens, I think we arrived just after the best of the spring blossoms had passed and just before the best of the summer had started showing, but even so there were some spectacular plants on display!

For the first couple of days, the weather was scorching – reaching 30°C! However, by midweek we were getting drizzle and rain – a bit more of what we expected – but it didn’t put us off traipsing round gardens and was a good excuse to go indoors to the brewery ;)

Brimham Rocks:

Black Sheep Brewery:

Helmsley Walled Gardens:

Harlow Carr:

Saying Goodbye:

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