Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Autumn Allotment and Readying the Garden for Winter

At the allotment the squash plants are dying down so we brought home the pumpkins and squashes. It has been a very good year for my favourite, the butternuts. We also dug up the remaining beetroot, which I then pickled. Left growing at the allotment are lots (and lots!) of lettuce, a few sweetcorn, turnips, spring onions, carrots, tomatoes, a handful of autumn raspberries, calendulas and sunflowers. Also, my strawberries have begun fruiting again! Hopefully this won't affect next year's harvest. OH dug up the remaining potatoes.
There were three comedy potatoes ;0
At home I decided to remove all but one pot of summer flowers. They were still blooming, but realistically frosts may only be a couple of weeks away. I have left the one pot, by the patio door, with its pale pink fuchsia (from my Mum), deep and light pink busy lizzies and magenta geraniums.
All the other pots have a striped grass (from the borders), pink and white Bellis daisies and pink, white and purple pansies in them.
Monday morning's cloud formation viewed from my kitchen window. I have never seen such "fingers" of cloud before.
Although I don't like the shorter days, I'm loving this sunny Autumn weather. Hopefully it will make Winter seem so much shorter.

Friday, 18 September 2009

All the Bs

Bread, Baked Apples, Bowls, Beetroot and Beads.
I didn't plan the post like this, I just happened to notice all the Bs when I uploaded the photos!
Bread - another loaf of sourdough. This time to go with soup.
Cheddar and Onion Soup
Baked Apples - I haven't made these in a long while, definitely an autumn dessert. I stuffed them with some homemade mincemeat left over from last Christmas.
Bowls - felted bowls that I have made to sell in my friend's shop.
Displayed with shell earrings made by Fay.
Beetroot - harvested from the allotment.
The larger ones I sliced and pickled. The smaller ones are whole and un-vinegared. I don't thin my beetroot seedlings so that I get a variety of sizes.
Beads - The pink beads, that I purchased on a recent trip to Bosham, have now been made into very-girly bracelets. I designed these to be worn together.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Sourdough Recipe

21 years ago, my OH and I first discovered sourdough, on a trip to California. Since then I have looked at recipes for sourdough and have previously been put off by the "effort" involved in making a starter. Earlier this year, I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage programme, on which they made sourdough and I realised that it wasn't that difficult to make. I use the River Cottage recipe, but have tweaked it a little to suit myself and have added information that I have found useful. Although the process is lengthy, it takes up very little of my time to actually make the starter/dough as most of the time involved is leaving the starter/dough to it's own devises. This is the way that I make sourdough:-
The Starter
500g strong wholemeal flour
500g of strong white flour
I mix the two flours together in a storage jar for ease.
1. In a large bowl mix 100g of flour with enough warm water to make a thick batter. Beat well, then cover with cling-film and leave in a warm place until fermentation has begun. Bubbles will appear on the surface when ready. Mine took a few hours, but it can take a few days.
2. Once fermentation has begun, add 100g of flour and enough cool water to retain the same consistency. Keep at room temperature.
3. The starter now needs to be fed each day. Scoop out half of the starter and discard. Add 100g of flour and some more water. I made this easy for myself by measuring 100g of flour in a cup and then using the cup from then on rather than the scales. I used the same amount of water as I did flour.
4. Maintain this feed/discard routine each day and after 7-10 days it should smell yeasty rather than acrid. Mine smelt very acetone the first time I made a loaf and the bread turned out with a strong, but pleasant, taste. The smell/taste mellowed with the next loaf. I have read that some people use the discarded starter to make pancakes, but I read this after I had discarded mine!
Looking after the Starter
The starter is now ready to be used, but here is some more information on the storage and maintenance of the starter.
The starter is now kept in the fridge, in a glass screw-top jar. Punch 3 holes in the lid to allow the starter to breathe.
Feed weekly with the usual amounts of flour and water.
I take my starter out of the fridge several hours before I plan to use it and feed with a cup of flour and a cup of water.
Whilst making the sourdough loaf, put the remainder of starter in a bowl and wash out the jar. I sterilize the jar with boiling water to make sure that nothing else grows in there! Return to jar and feed before replacing in the fridge.
Hooch - a dark liquid that forms on top of the starter. I stir this back into the starter to maintain the desired consistency.
If going away on holiday, for more than a week, the starter can be frozen. Defrost 2 days before use and refresh as usual. As we went on holiday for 1 week just after making the first loaf, I bulked up the starter and froze half of it as a precaution. My starter survived in the fridge and I have left the frozen half in the freezer as a back-up.
Making the Loaf
The Sponge
100g active starter
250g mixed wholemeal/white strong flour
300ml warm water
1. The night before you want to make the loaf, make the sponge by mixing together the above ingredients in a bowl.
2. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.
3. In the morning your sponge should have bubbles on the surface.
The Dough
300g strong flour (wholemeal, white or a mixture. I use more white than wholemeal for a lighter loaf.)
1 tbsp olive oil
10g salt
1. Add the ingredients to the sponge and mix to a slightly sticky dough.
2. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and silky.
3. Oil a bowl and place dough into it and cover with clingfilm. Leave at room temperature to rise. It rises slower than a normal yeast dough and should be ready when you use your finger to poke a hole that doesn't heal into it. Mine tends to take all morning.
4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knock back. Knead for another 10 minutes.
5. Line a mixing bowl with a clean tea towel and dust liberally with flour. Place dough in bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove, this time in a warm place. Someone in this household is usually on the internet so I place my bowl on top of the router to take advantage of the heat it produces! I leave mine all afternoon to rise. 6. Preheat oven to 190'C fan. Heat up a baking tray.
7. Remove tray from oven and dust with flour. Carefully tip dough onto tray and slash top with a sharp, serrated knife. Spray with water to form a crust. River Cottage suggests spraying oven and later respraying the loaf, but I found this made the loaf too crusty, especially since my son has a brace and has to take care! I use a small toilettry spray bottle that I bought from a chemist for this purpose.
8. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until well-browned and sounds hollow when you tap the base. Leave to cool on a rack. It cuts better when completely cold, but we are usually eager to eat it warm!
Once you have your starter the weekly bread making routine doesn't take up much time, you just have to plan ahead and be organised. Over the summer I have made a weekly loaf to have with our BBQs and during the winter it will be made to eat with homemade vegetable and lentil soup. Any slices left over from the BBQs have been delicious toasted or made into cheese sandwiches.

Another loaf is on the go at the moment, so I thought I would share this recipe in case anyone out there has considered making sourdough, but like myself has previously been put off by the "effort" involved. Hopefully I have shown how simple it is to make and have put all the information needed together. Happy Baking, Pj x

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Our Weekend

Starting Friday!

I left the tumble-dryer door open after removing the towels and when I returned I found Ella curled up, asleep inside it!

It was a friend's birthday on the Saturday and I baked some small cakes for her, to go with her present.

I made a beaded, handbag charm

and used it as a gift tag.

My new Crocs arrived.

A girl can never have enough Crocs ;) I live in these at home
instead of slippers, they are so comfortable.
Saturday and Sunday we went for long, local walks.

We had a close encounter with these horses. They surrounded us and then got spooked and gave my OH quite a knock. I like horses, but was glad to get out of the field.

The hedgerows are looking beautiful at this time of year, so full of fruit.


Old Man's Beard & Elderberries




Spindle Tree


We saw this deer late afternoon, looking quite settled in a paddock.

Sunday lunchtime we had another BBQ and harvested some more of our Indian Summer Sweetcorn from the allotment. It is so sweet when freshly picked. I never buy sweetcorn from the shops, as it just doesn't taste the same.

Of course the cats joined us for a BBQ!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Autumn Colour

In the garden, the soft pinks, purples and blues of summer are slowing giving way to the strong reds, yellows and oranges of autumn. Yesterday evening, I picked these beautiful sunflowers from our allotment.
We also harvested our first pumpkin of the season. This one will become a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween.

The supermarkets have already started to stock items for Halloween. I couldn't resist this pumpkin cake mould and the bats will be used to decorate our front porch to greet the Trick or Treaters.

There have been some new additions to the garden as well ...

I have planted two miniature cyclamens next to the stone bench,

this cast iron bird feeder is sitting in a flowerbed

and these cane toppers are decorating another border.

I wonder how long it will take the cats to notice these birds in the garden?!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

August Flowers & Baking

Time for the monthly garden mosaic -
and a posy of pale, yellow sunflowers from the allotment.
Each weekend I make a sourdough loaf from my starter. This is lovely served warm with cheese or at a BBQ. This one was demolished at our BBQ Sunday night. We decided to get another BBQ in while the weather was mild and soaked some of our freshly picked sweetcorn in their husks for 15 minutes, before placing them on the BBQ. OH lit the candles as it gets dark earlier now.
I also tried a new recipe this weekend - Courgette and Oatmeal Cake. It turned out well and is another way to use up the abundance of courgettes. I sourced this recipe from the internet and will place it on My Recipes Blog soon.