Saturday, 21 November 2020
Monday, 2 November 2020
Friday, 23 October 2020
Foodie Friday: growing and cooking tomatoes, featuring Lindsay Bareham’s "The Big Red Book of Tomatoes"
I sowed my tomato seeds in early March this year, in the days which now seem like another world away.
This year they were Sweet Aperitif from Thompson and Morgan, my favourite little tomato of all time, which I buy every year, and for the first time, a selection of tomato seeds from the Sapore Italiano range from Blumen which I was given at a press day back in 2019..
I've still not made borani though...it's a Persian dish involving tomatoes, rice, herbs olives and more, which cuts like a terrine.That is on my list to male shortly but I have made a recipe this autumn which I somehow had missed before. A recipe which was first published in 1806 in a book called "A New System of Domestic Cookery " and which Lindsey has updated.
Sunday, 18 October 2020
Just over two weeks ago I was on my way to Chenies Manor, a former Tudor Palace in Buckinghamshire. The click-clack, click clack of the windscreen wipers kept up a constant rhythm as the rain fell on a crowded motorway, miles of roadworks and rather cross looking drivers.
As I entered Chenies Manor though, it was as if I was entering a parallel universe. The sun was shining on a house and garden of timeless beauty. I felt like Tom in one of my favourite children’s books, “Tom's Midnight Garden” by Philippa Pearce. Where, set in the 1950s,at the stroke of midnight Tom opens the door of the flat in an old house where he's staying stays and miraculously finds himself in a beautiful garden at the turn of the 20th century. Since then, I've found out that this very garden featured as the garden in the film of the book back in 1999!
What an entrance to Tudor times,
and such ornate brickwork and chimneys
Meanwhile, I was walking through five acres and five centuries of garden history. The sunken garden here is a jewel which draws your eyes immediately and as walked down the right-hand side path, I came across this beautiful statue
I sat down on the step to admire its perfect form backed by trees, bushes and arches in vivid shades of green and pretty pink pops of dahlias.
At the other end of the sunken garden, there’s a different view of her with the stunning backdrop of the house itself, which stands imposingly as befits the former seat of The Earls of Bedford,
Let’s talk about the gardens though.
There are over 2,000 dahlias on show at Chenies Manor and all of them are dug up every autumn before the first real frosts, stored in November, and propagated, then planted out the following spring. Labour intensive yes, but when you see the planting and positioning of the dahlias such as Rebecca’s World, Ambition, Sandra, Labyrinth and Red Labyrinth and cafe au lait rose, it is so well worth it!The result is stunning, yet with friendly informality.
Asters provided a welcome burst of colour,
I admired the old pump standing in the afternoon sun
before making my way to the St Michael's church which stands so close to the Manor House..
As in the garden, the echoes of the past were all around me and it was near here that I listened to a very interesting talk about the house and those who lived here. My imagination was caught with tales of Anne Sapcote, the heiress who married three times in the tudor period. She became the Countess of Bedford after she married her third husband Sir John Russell. They built Chenies up to be an equal to Hampton Court, but then moved to a new family seat at Woburn Abbey.
By now I was itching to get into the historic house itself, to see where the people I'd heard so much about had lived, and where the current owners Boo and Charles Macleod Matthews now live. Unfortunately, due to covid restrictions this wasn't possible. Hopefully next Spring the house will be open once again.
I absolutely adored seeing this garden, which even in mid-October had so much to seduce the members of the Garden Media Guild on our visit here.
All too soon, it was time to leave Chenies Manor, to walk out this magical place, get the car and drive back reluctantly to reality and the modern world. As I did so, I made plans to return next spring, The chance of seeing the house being open and with over 10,000 tulips in the garden is a temptation that I will be powerless to resist.
There's still time to visit Chenies Manor before it closes for the winter. It is open for the new two Wednesday and Thursday afternoons in October.Make sure you leave time to stop for tea, coffee and cakes...they are very good.
For further details go to www.cheniesmanorhouse.co.uk
Tuesday, 18 August 2020
There’s something about growing blueberries facing your kitchen door. They’re in a large pot in the sunniest and most sheltered part of the courtyard and they are in direct view as I stand at the sink. I watch them grow and haven't had to net the fruit at all from the birds at all so far. I like this variety called Duke, which I got from Sutton’s Seeds a couple of years ago and has been such a reliable performer.
Tuesday, 21 July 2020
I've only ever grown one variety and that's Miss Jessopp's Upright, which has grown here in my garden for the last twenty years or so.
Here she is, agrowing to nearly one and a half metres in height in her hey day, with pretty, light blue flowers in June and the beginning of July. Her stems stood erect and proud , with the outside stems just the right height for me to pick a sprig as I walked past , crushed the leaves and inhaled.
I use rosemary in so many recipes, many involving lamb, garlic and wine. My current favourite marries rosemary with leeks and chard, baked in cream - it's an absolute winner. I also use rosemary to give my hair an extra shine after shampooing and rinsing off the conditioner. I bung a large handful of rosemary stems into about a litre of just boiled water, then steep for about ten minutes. fish out the rosemary and throw over your hair as a final rinse.I've been doing it for years and my hair is very thick and soft, even if I can't get in to the hairdressers until 4th August to have it cut.
Miss Jessopp has not been looking her best for a number of years though. Neglect on my part I'm afraid , and although I've been picking it on a very regular basis. I didn't give her what she needed - a really good pruning. She's been very woody and leggy for ages.
Sunday, 31 May 2020
Further on, the small lane lane invites us upwards
to what my youngest used to call "the top of the world"
Not quite, but it is a wonderful view, which never fails to please me. There's something different to see here every day...it may be a buzzard, different animals in different fields, or new crops in the fields.
Sometimes my wellies squelch through the mud, but this weekend the land is dry, the sort of bone dryness which cracks the earth. I turn my face to the sun, inhale the fresh warm air and listen to birdsong.
Sometimes we press on, this time not....but there's still plenty of room for the dogs to scamper off , to run, to chase a stick or two or to investigate the hedgerow.
Our world may have changed forever this year, but this conservation village that I love, doesn't change all that much. Farmers still walk their animals through the village, there's community, greenery, space to be and plenty of it. and now during lock down, I have so much more time to appreciate it.
As for Eric and Boo, they don't know what's happening in the world, all they know is that I'm working from home, am spending far more time with them, and there's time for weekend walks every day......