Sunday, 18 September 2016

Shopping Doesn't get better Than This

Yesterday was our annual visit to the Royal Berkshire Show. Liz has been coming to the show since she was knee high to a chicken (do chickens have knees) and I don't think we've missed a show since we've been together. During those years (notice I have not mentioned how many ...) I've seen the show ground develop - they now have tarmacked paths and a car park you don't need to be towed out of if it rains. Some things have stayed the same (Foxes Spices, Dart's Farm Butchers, the Flower tent, show jumping in the arena) while other suppliers have come and gone (yay the didgereedo man has gone!)

This year we took it at a gentle pace, spent less time (and money) in the fabulous craft tent - though we were tented by some art-deco ceramic owls and more time exploring some other parts of the show. As well as the show areas for cattle, sheep and goats there are the more specialised stands. We always go and see the otters in the otter pond, the wolves and huskies, the ferret racing and the mini zoo with the goats, chickens and geese. There was a display from the birds of prey centre but the drizzle made the falcon less than willing to return from its perch amongst the trees no matter how hard the falconer twirled his lure. Also discovered that large birds of prey can live to be sixty - in fact there was a large eagle there called Betty that was the same age as Liz (though not so well tempered).

This year there our haul from the Farm Food tent and the other suppliers around it was of its normal high quality. The Dart's Fame Butchers were as persuasive as usual and I came away laden down with enough beef, lamb and port to see me through to Spring so if anyone wants to pop around for a casserole or a roast in the next couple of weeks I should have plenty. A few jars of garlic infused chutney and mayonnaise from the Isle of Wight garlic farm, balsamic vinegar with coffee and chocolate (yes it sounds odd but is fantastically rich and will work well over ice-cream), pork pies, a wide variety of herbs and spices , smoked meat and fish, flavoured oils, chocolate brownies with beetroot and spinach and a blood-orange liqueur will provide joy and presents for many months to come.

We have already planned some visits to some of the suppliers during the next year to top up and to see what else they do.

Roll on 2017!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Choc-Chip-Cherry Cookies

Time to make some biscuits for the twin boys of one of my best friends. Allegedly there isn't a biscuit they don't like. Hope they like these!


125g Butter 
50g Golden Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp Honey 
45g Chocolate Chips (I used a good plain bar smashed up with a rolling pin)
25g Soft Dried Cherries chopped up
125g Plain White Flour

Blend together the butter, sugar and honey. Mix in the cherries, chocolate chips and the flour.
Place dessert spoons of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, leaving room for the cookies to expand.
Bake in the oven at 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 for about 15-18 minutes but start checking at about 12 minutes.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Some prep work in the garden

The spring weather here in London has, shall we say, been a little mixed! In the past week we have had bright sunshine, cold northerly winds, hail, snow, rain, thunder and frogs. OK we didn't have the frogs although there are some tadpoles up at the allotment centre!

Given that the weather has been a bit better this weekend and I have broad bean, runner bean and courgette seeds germinating in the shed I thought I had better get started and prep the vegetable bed.

As usual you turn your back for a couple of days and all the weeds wake up and try and take over!

The Before Picture

As you can see there are plenty of dandelions which I wanted to dig up before they seeded themselves everywhere. Amongst them were horsetails and bindweed as well as the dried stalks of the Jerusalem artichokes of last year.

Two hours of hard digging later (spread over two days)...

That Looks Better!

Now all I have to do is the same with the much larger bed. It helped that the soil was moist - when it gets dry it sets hard being London clay based.

Of course I was supervised by two of our cats...

Fitz - The handsome one!

Latte - Who had been rolling in the dust!
Tara - or She Who Must be Obeyed / Evil Mistress of Darkness / The Vomiting One was asleep upstairs and only came out when the work was done!

Hopefully the weather will be good next weekend so we can get out and do the other bed. Otherwise by the time we come back from holiday we will be facing fully grown triffids!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Ealing Farmers' Market Harvest & What to Grow

It's been a while since I wrote anything here. I've not stopped cooking - no sir - nor eating! Partially in the winter both Liz and I crave comfort food and I fall back onto the staples that I've already written about; stews, casseroles, roasts and so forth. Now that the grey, but mild, Winter seems to be passing and Spring is in the air with blossom on the trees and daffodils flowering thoughts turn to what to grow in the garden and a walk around the Farmers' Market in Ealing is a more attractive prospect as rain won't be trickling down my neck.

So on a sunny Saturday morning we took up our reusable grocery bags and visited the market. First up was a pair of red mullet from the fish stall. They had some nice looking crabs, mussels, oysters and clams as well but shellfish doesn't agree with me (apart from scallops for some reason which I love). Mackerel, fresh and smoked, monkfish, hake and gurnard also looked good on the ice. I chose the mullet because I'd never cooked with it before and it looked good and fresh so two of those were filleted and popped in my bag.

Next up was a cheese stall where Liz chose, after much sampling, a piece of Wife of Bath, a mild creamy semi-hard cheese. Bread next, a loaf of fig sour-dough, crusty and not too dense, an inspiration for my next baking session perhaps.

Two meat stalls, both from the Chilterns to the north-west of London supplied us with a rolled venison shoulder, some sausages (hickory smoked and Lincolnshire varieties), a kilo of beef shin (possibly the best cut for slow cooking) and a pheasant pie.

Some purple sprouting broccoli, winter purslane and land cress from the vegetable stall along with two punnets of  mixed tomatoes (red, yellow, green, striped and deep purple) from the Isle of Wight (stretching the local aspect of the market there me-thinks!) would provide an accompaniment to the pheasant pie and the fish later. Last up a mixed half kilo of apples; Egmont Russets, Braeburns and the wonderfully named D'arcy Spice to see us through the week.

After a lunch of pie, salad and apple at home we strolled down our street to the where the local allotment centre was having their Spring Show. I had no idea there were so many types of daffodil! From pure white to deepest golden yellow. From simple trumpets to frilly doubles. From single large blooms to multiple small ones there must have been at least thirty on display!

Cakes, jams, marmalades, sausage rolls and handicrafts were also on display for judging all crammed into the church hall. We bought some seeds from the HAAGA (Horsenden Allotments And Garden Association) stall and trundled home with a copy of the show schedule where Liz seemed quite keen for me to enter one of the classes in the Summer Show.

As to what to grow this year in the garden. The same as usual for the most part. Runner and broad beans, tomatoes (several kinds), Jerusalem artichokes (mainly because once you have them you can't get rid of them!). Courgettes, herbs, rhubarb (already 15-20cm tall and may be ready for harvest soon), apples and salad greens. If I see something interesting in the garden centre later this month I may stretch this list a bit more but let's see.