Friday, November 30, 2012

new in shop

i've been having a little sort out through my plan chest this week and found a whole host of drawings which have never been in the shop before! i'll be adding around 15 new (older) pieces to the shop over the next few days so keep your eyes peeled for those and as a little xmas bonus i'm offering 10% off all orders with the code - 'bonustime' - at the checkout from now until next friday.

visit the shop HERE!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

room to grow

this is my allotment, acquired in april but due to overwhelmingly terrible weather this year not much really occurred there until the beginning of september. and now i dig, every morning (weather permitting) for one hour i dig up the grass. i turn the soil over and over hunting for weed roots in the sticky soil hoping that i can get a good chunk finished before the ground freezes up for the winter and that next year will in turn bring bounty aplenty.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

daily bread

for the past 18 months or so i've been playing around with an assortment of bread recipes and trying to learn the techniques that go into making a truly artisanal loaf. i started out with monty don's recipe from fork to fork, a book i've mentioned before as being one of my all time fave gardening/cooking books. i just love it when the two things come together in one volume and i love monty so it had to be the right way to make bread. his was a bit of a faff involving an approximation of a starter dough and a no-knead style mix. the dough was bubbly and the bread chewy and rustic but not all together reliable to make.

around this time last year we moved house and all making of food items from scratch essentially went out the window until a couple of months ago when i decided it was high time i got back to my bread experimentations. sadly i was unable to make head nor tail of my own handwritten notes regarding my finely tuned bread a la monty recipe and had to start again from scratch.

this time around i decided to cut out some of the messing around that came with monty's bread and cut to the chase - the straight up no-knead loaf which has been everywhere on the internet for all of time but which i had not quite gotten around to trying. the results were tasty and pleasing to the eye however wholly unpredictable resulting in airy chewy goodness one day followed by cakey stodge the next. 

it just would not do.

so i hit up my local library and borrowed a wealth of books on the subject, tartine, how to make bread and river cottage bread have been my handbooks in this challenge and by jove have i made some tasty loaves. all of these books have helped me to understand the essence of what truly makes a fabulous basic loaf and now i'm on to some new bready challenges. i'm excited!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


2kgs of free apples (made into some tasty spiced apple butter)

making some new friends on a walk 

impromptu family lunch


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

rosehips with a multitude of options - part two: the infusion

this morning we were having the biggest hail storm i ever recall seeing, practically pitch black at 8am and i decided it was time to have another crack at the rosehips, this time without the sugar.

i went through the 2 stewing and straining processes as for the syrup and then set about doing quite a few taste tests and infusing a small amount of the juice with lemon, ginger and cinammon and also making different combos of those flavours to see what would work for the best.

now, if you're not familiar with the taste of a rosehip it is very tart, slightly berryish with an underlying earthy quality. my taste tests revealed that it doesn't work too well with lemon as it's already quite sharp but ginger and cinammon is absolutely wonderful and very refreshing.

 follow the instructions as for the syrup below but instead of adding sugar do the following:

- measure your rosehip juice into a saucepan

- for every 100ml add roughly 1 thin (about 2-3mm thick) slice of fresh ginger and about 1/6 stick of cinammon - a small piece of unwaxed lemon peel does add quite a nice accent but no juice or flesh is required

- bring to a rolling boil for a few minutes and then leave to cool in the pan

- strain through a sieve

- leave until room temperature and then chill (it would probably stay fresh in the fridge for only a couple of days unless stored in sterilised jars or bottles)

- once chilled pour into ice cube trays and freeze

- to use either defrost in advance or just pour boiling water over the cubes - dilute to taste, i like mine about 50/50 with boiling water and you could add honey to taste if you're that way inclined and enjoy! ;)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

rosehips with a multitude of options: part one - the syrup

something i've become interested in recently is the idea of foraging. nature's bounty harvested and used to concoct delights for free (or thereabouts).

i came across a recipe a couple of months back for rosehip syrup and was instantly excited. i recalled drinking it as a young child, not the foraged kind but the stuff you could get in bottles. i forget the brand name but you don't seem to be able to buy it these days. later on in my youth a friend's mum had a beautiful wooden box of herbal teabags - something we didn't have in our house - and i always chose the rosehip tea, such a wonderful earthy/fruity flavour.

so it was with high hopes that i headed out down the lanes and footpaths in search of hips of my own to stew up and concoct a syrup of my very own.

i managed to harvest just under 2kg and excitedly went about putting together the sticky syrup recipe. what came about was 3 different versions of the syrup which despite tasting really awesome had one off putting - to me - characteristic; it was just too sweet! what i really wanted was something i could use as a warming beverage to sip through the cold winter afternoons and keep me warm. the diluted syrup left me feeling rather queasy to say the least although i think it could have some good uses.

here's the low down (it's a mash up of recipes from river cottage preserves and sarah raven's complete christmas):

makes about 1.5 litres
500g rosehips
650g sugar

- rinse your freshly foraged rosehips, give them a good pick over and make sure there's no bugs or rotters in there.

- put 800ml of water in a small pan and bring to the boil.

- meanwhile blitz your rosehips in the blender (NOTE: these hips are rock hard, unless there has been a really hard frost or two in your area freeze these first to soften them, defrost before blitzing).

- add the hips to the pan and bring back to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes but the longer the better.

- pour through a scalded jelly bag or muslin and leave to drip into a large bowl for half an hour (NOTE: a sieve won't do the job, these hips have tiny hairs inside which are an irritant if swallowed).

- bring another 800ml water to the boil and add the strained pulp back in, bring them back to the boil and leave to infuse again.

- strain into the bowl with the first lot of juice and leave to drip for an hour.

- pour your liquid back into the saucepan, add the sugar and heat. stir until dissolved.

- boil for 2-3 minutes then pour into warm sterilised jars or bottles with lids.

- use within 4 months or 7 days once opened. this syrup can be water processed to make it store for longer if required.

i tried this 3 different ways: plain, with cinnamon and with cloves, star anise and cinnamon. each was good in its own special way but i liked the cinnamon flavour the best. when reheating and adding the sugar add any combination of a stick of cinammon, 2 cloves or 4 star anise and strain before storing.

it's pretty late in the season but there are still some hips available in my area. if you want to make your own - the spice infused version would make an awesome xmas gift - first make sure you know what a rosehip is - there's plenty of info on the web - and ensure to pick away from any really busy roads.

whilst this syrup was too sweet for me, I have since found a good way of using these hips. stay tuned for more adventures with rosehips!