Monday, 20 November 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Seeing is believing

I had a peep at Cathy's blog, and I had not thought it would be worth my posting, but when I saw what she had posted I thought I should try, so went out into the garden.  I was amazed at what I could cut, and putting them together is a record of how the weather has treated the garden here this year.  Do go and see her arrangement this week.

Whereas yesterday it was bright and sunny, a lovely bonus especially as we had old friends visit for lunch, today it is rather murky and posed my arrangement in the conservatory, where the light would so much better than in the house for the photograph.  I was just about to move the radio off the shelf..but saw that it gave the time and date...just so that I can compare this with post with posts from other years.  Seeing the vase and the date: 20.11.2017 I will believe in the future, and remember this mild but wet autumn.



There's no doubt that Autumn is coming to an end.  I am a bit of a weather watcher, loving clouds and the way many days and seasons are so variable.  I would have said from my experience of previous years that Winter should be well on its way by now.  Yet we still have bees and butterflies in the garden.  We have had a couple of slight frosts...yet this new garden with its stone wall on one side seems to have its own micro climate, with nasturtiums still in leaf and flower.

Contents of small green glazed round vase:  leaves of Mahonia Sweet Caress, Astrantia Major 'Sunningdale Variegated', two types of fuchsia, Wall flower Bowles Mauve, the lovely purple leaf and long flower spike is African Blue Basil I believe, a present from AlisonC, and some nasturtiums.

I remembered seeing the African Blue Basil at the Autumn Malvern Show in 2015, and adding it to my wish list then..., and wrote about it on my post!  The plant been moved to spend the winter in the shed just by the window, but anytime soon it may have to come indoors if the temperatures start to drop too low.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Beijing sesame buns or Shaobing for Sourdough Saturday

I knew the weather was going to be soggy today, which is why I have put off meeting with a friend to do a tour of the Christmas Fair at Well's Bishops Palace until tomorrow.  One of the best things I can think of in the way of 'distractions' on a bad weather day is a spot of baking, and since sourdough can take most of the day...its the night before that one has to prepare by reinvigorating the sourdough starter.

This morning my big bowl of sourdough was frothing away, ready to be used.   Following the recipe in 'Perfecting Sourdough' by Jane Mason, for Beijong Sesame Buns, set as one of this month's baking challenges, I substituted peanut butter for the roasted sesame paste.  In no way do I imagine that these would pass the test by a Beijing Sesame bun connoisseur!  For one I used a little walnut oil instead of sesame oil to lubricate the laying of the peanut butter, and I substituted the pinch of salt on the layer of peanut butter for a little sugar.

They were a bit tricky to shape, but I was not in a hurry, and got there in the end.  They came out as it said in the recipe: crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.


There are layers within the bun, and quite nice with our afternoon cup of tea.  Sometimes when having a completely new tasting bun with a different texture I am not always bowled over.


I may feel differently when having my second or third bun!  But for now, they will be going into the freezer and taken out to have occasionally over the next couple of weeks.

We needed some bread so I experimented with some white flour to which I added some maize polenta...to be cut at breakfast time tomorrow. Two 500g loaves the sourdough way of course!




Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Spelt and Apple Cake

A few weeks back I made a cake, I remember that it was delicious, and also that I had used spelt and not the flour suggested in the recipe, almonds, apples, and had added to the recipe a handful of raisins.  I had not written my changes in my book, but I did remember which book I had been reading at the time: Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard.  The flavour of the cake changed over the days, maturing...it was very good on day one, and still very good on day 4!

Mr S is off to do a session of archery with his new pals this morning , and I thought to send him off with a cake to share at coffee time.  Since his host had very generously supplied us with some apples from his orchard, this cake would just meet the bill.

As a whole I much prefer cakes without butter cream or icing, and when I was looking for an apple cake this recipe of Dan Lepard's had a different and very easy technique.  Next cake bake I shall try the recipe exactly with the Rye Flour.  Again another question and the possibility for two variations: white rye flour or wholemeal rye flour?  If I have not picked up any rye flour, I shall probably use sifted wholemeal rye which I always have in store for the sourdough base.

Here is my variation, but to read the technique see the link to Dan Lepard's  recipe for Rye and Apple Cake published in the Guardian.

1 Medium Apple, washed, cored, and chopped small
1 tsp cinnamon
75 almonds, I used 50g ground for the cake, and 25g flaked for the topping
150g spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
75g goat's butter
A mediumly generous tablespoon of golden syrup
About 75g raisins from my pot of raisins soaking in Calvados
100g Billington's soft light muscovado sugar
75ml goat's milk
2 medium eggs
Demerara sugar

I slightly upped the above for instance 175g spelt 85g butter, 120g sugar etc as I wanted to have two 500g tin cakes.  After all, I wanted a cake to have at home!


Monday, 6 November 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Fire works and Opulent colours

The skies may have been lit up with fireworks over the last couple of nights, but I prefer peace...can you imagine what it must be like for all the small creatures and birds.  Moreover we pollute the air with chemicals which for most of the year we are trying to reduce!

My vase this week is my contribution with bright colours and opulence....

Hardy Fuchsia with golden leaves  Genii just leaps out.  With the intense magenta sepals, blue petals and long pistils this has the ow wow factor. I acquired this as a tiny rooted cutting from a major international wholesale grower for 25p when they gave a lecture at Kenilworth Horticultural club.  I brought it in a pot and it was planted out in the border earlier year, and both in foliage and as soon as it started to flower it has performed beautifully all summer.   Last night we had the first frost and it is still standing tall!  Yesterday we even had butterflies and bees visiting the fuchsia blooms.  I picked the flowers just as the light was fading Sunday evening, and this morning the light is perfect for taking pictures.



Staring for the first time as a cut flower is Salvia Corrugata...I bought the plant earlier this year at the Bishop's Palace Rare Plant Fair having fallen in love with the deeply corrugated leaves, and the lovely pale tan hairy reverse of the leaves.  The flowers are a brilliant deep blue, which closely match the blue of the Fuchsias. I saw the flowers on a larger plant further along and went back to buy the smaller plant.  Some nurseries say that it is not hardy, others that it is borderline...it has now been plated up in a larger pot, and I think it will continue there for a year or two, so that I can move it to shelter during inclement weather.



The Jasmine nudiflorum has been flowering for a few weeks.  I choose a couple of stems.  They are off a rather old woody plant which is destined to have the full rejuvenation treatment in the Spring.  The fading head of a stem of Autumn Joy, from one of my favourite plant families the Sedum, and the last element to give a little light froth a few stems of the flowering gold and green Japanese Grass Hakonechloa.

When about to link in with Cathy's Post this week, I see that she has gone for the Firework theme.  For lasting non polluting effects you can't beat her arrangement.  I wonder who else will have been inspired?  Do go and have a look.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Stuffed focaccia

I've had Bread from Ciabatta to rye by Linda Collister since it was first published in 2001, and its one of those books that is a keeper.  Having made sourdough for weeks on end, I was looking for a bit of breadmaking that would be a little quicker.  That means to say I fancied a bit of baking, but had not made my preparations the previous evening.

I was taken by Linda Collister's recipe for stuffed focaccia...it had a spinach, chilli and anchovy filling.  However I had none of the stuffings...but was inspired by this idea.  It is rather like a stuffed pizza or calzone...here is my take on the focaccia, and it is really open to so many other interpretations regarding the filling.

For the dough:
7g dried yeast, left to melt in a jug of 300g warm water.

It nestled in the bowl of 500g strong bread flour helping to warm up the flour too.  I took a few tablespoon of the flour and added it to the water to feed the yeast.  Then I draped over a tea towel over the top, and went away for a little while.

One of the things I did was roast all the little peppers which I had bought on Wednesday from one the veg stalls together with some rosemary and loads of garlic.  I love to have a few roasted pieces of garlic which I then add to things like Hummus, rather than raw garlic.

Before kneading the above, I added 3 tablespoons olive oil, a few leaves of chopped purple sage, 2 teaspoons salt and a good few twists of the pepper grinder.  The mixture needs to be quite soft and supple, so you may need to add a little more water, I did!

After it is well puffed up, after about an hour and a half.  I divided the dough into four, as I was making two stuffed focaccias.  I just stretched a piece into an oblong straight onto the parchment lined baking tray.


This one has torn leaves from the swiss chard which I have been growing for the first time this year...stems were kept back for another dish, roasted peppers olives, thyme and rosemary.  The second one had big spoonfuls of soft goat's cheese as well.



After the covers went on, they were left to prove for about 40 minutes, then brushed with oil from the roasted peppers and sprinkled with maldon salt crystals.  25 minutes at fan 210 C left us with two lovely baked focaccias.  Nicely browned on the bottom too..no soggy bottoms wanted.


We had the one with cheese with a nice large mixed salad for our lunch...the other one went in the freezer.

Last Saturday when Mr S and I sauntered into town and walked round Wells Market, I spied some Somerset Grown Garlic, but did not get it.  Today I asked again, is this really garlic grown in Somerset?  Yes it definitely is.  I shall find out exactly which farm it is from.  Having googled it I find that there are several garlic growers in the county.  This lovely bunch of 9 huge heads of garlic cost £10..here it is with a small head from the supermarket as contrast.