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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Days of plums, damsons and brass

September has been such a good month for plums and damsons hasn't it?

The Victoria plum tree on the allotment was heavily laden this year...

And so there was picking to be done...

I was also given a few pounds of friend Jo didn't know what to do with all...every day she came to work with carrier bags of them, and I think she fed the whole newsroom. I exaggerate , she fed those of us who can make puddings and jam. The sports boys in the corner wouldn't know what to do with a damson if it hit them in the ear. 

I however do....and made this lovely Nigel Slater's plum cake...captured just as it was going into the oven. The flavour of the damsons and the texture of ground almonds and polenta made a delicious treat for tea.

Back to the Victoria plums, some of which I froze or stewed and served cold with ice cream.....

But I also tried a new recipe this year...plum gumbo. Made with plums, sultanas, sugar, fresh ginger which adds a certain zing, plus other bits and pieces, it's very tasty with bread and cheese.

In fact the only thing that's wrong with this batch is that I didn't make enough! In the meantime, there's still plenty to do in the kitchen with a preserving pan - time to sort the apples out.....

Not tonight though, it's now dark,  and I'm back in the kitchen just about to get the supper ready. While the vegetables are roasting and the pasta is on to boil , I've been listening to a group whose music always seems to fit this time of night.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are from Chicago, but moved to New York. They're a world away from my my cottage in a tiny village . but at twilight, with a glass of red wine in my hand, with my toes tapping our worlds collide and I hope that one day I can see them perform live.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

A day in my outdoor art gallery

After a fifteen car ride from my sleepy little village, I can catch a train to the big city, the big smoke. London is only an hour and five minute journey away. I love to visit for a day but haven't managed to this year at all apart from a work trip.
At the beginning of the year, I promised myself a trip to a nice restaurant, and a visit to an exhibition or two. Unfortunately, with work, weddings, responsibilities, illness, idleness and whatever , I've not managed it yet.
I've been miffed about missing the Matisse Exhibition at Tate Modern, The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, and I really fancied seeing the works of Ben Nicholson et al at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Which I didn't.
But a week or so ago, I took Boo out for a walk , and walked up the track east out of the village. We went slowly, with Boo being in pup, and me with my poorly foot. Going oh so slowly, I looked ahead, and  realised I was in my very own outdoor art gallery....


Boo and I  admired the still life

And this piece with the russet toned agricultural machinery positioned in front of the earthy colours of such a rustic backdrop. I leant against the open gate nearby for a few minutes,  Boo by my feet, admiring and drinking in the view.

We ploughed further along the track, we came across this of nature's sculptures

As we switched direction , the sun came out over another beautiful landscape......

And another

We stopped again, and I wished, not for the first time, how I wished I could paint or draw. Still, at least I had my I phone with me to capture the sheer beauty five minutes walk away from my cottage door.

As Boo and I made our way home, I felt as excited as I am when I visit an exhibition or art gallery. More so actually, because this was like the most exclusive viewing. Only I saw those particular cloud patterns over the fields at that moment, the way the sun glistened on the straw in that second, and from those angles.

I love and feel refreshed by my visits to my outdoor art gallery with its  constantly changing exhibitions, but there's two exhibitions I'm determined to see in the next few months...."Constable - the Making of  a Master "at the V and A, and "Turner; Painting Set free" at Tate Britain.

In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed my exhibition.....


Thursday, 11 September 2014

The day of the scan

So, this afternoon my dog Boo was taken to the vet. Following her exciting "date " with a rather handsome dog called Bow six weeks ago, we were sure she was expecting puppies. Oh yes, it was planned my dears....and all went very well. Instant attraction, even though rain nearly stopped play, as both dogs hate getting wet.  But never fear, they carried on regardless on the kitchen floor when we let them in. That was odd....Mr Thinking of the Days standing by the cooker making a chilli , also carrying on regardless with his culinary duties while Natalie who owns Bow, the father and I watched anxiously. The dogs, not Mr Thinking of the Days that is....

Anyhow, Boo's been a little delicate, was off her food for a few weeks but is now ravenously hungry. I know just how she feels.......I was exactly the same when expecting my three children. Luckily she hasn't had a craving for pineapple fritters from the chip shop or blackcurrant jam which I had with all three pregnancies .

No, Boo is fancying scrambled eggs or chicken, the sensible girl. Not that I'm allowing those every day, oh no.

Anyway, back to today....

Mr Thinking of the Days came to the vets too for Boo's scan...which I have to say, is more than he did for our three children. He didn't manage to get to three out of four of those.....

I our very nice vet Jackie popped Boo on the table and scanned her , and look...

There's at least three of the little darlings....and Jackie was reluctant to say exactly how many. There could be four, or possibly five if a couple were hiding, which is all rather lovely, and I have to say I felt ridiculously excited and quite emotional about it all.

We're obviously keeping one of them and my daughter is having another and I think they will all be spoken for with lovely new owners. Now we just need to know what sex they are....and think of a name for the one we will keep.

Today's track is from a French band called We are Evergreen, who are based here in London. They're quite quirky, and I bought their album some time ago on a whim. This is one of my favourite tracks called Summer Flings....and it makes me smile....just as I'm doing now thinking about Boo and her summer dalliance...


Monday, 8 September 2014

Days of our daily bread

First of all, let me say it right now - I love bread. But there's one thing I can't abide, and that's bad bread. You know the type I mean, what we call plastic bread in our house. The bread in the supermarket wrapped in plastic or polythene, the white soft, pappy bread that I was given to eat as a child, two slices cut into four with such glamorous fillings. The cheese and cucumber sandwich, the jam sandwich and the dizzy height of a lemon curd sandwich if we were lucky.

I hate that sort of bread but to be fair, it doesn't like me either. Not that I buy it of course....but there are times when I have had to eat it all day work event where the sandwiches are brought in....and although there was wholemeal plastic bread too , it just doesn't leave a nasty taste in my mouth, It packs a punch in my gut too. In short, the Chorleywood method of baking bread does not agree with me and makes me suffer, but this is the way in which eighty per cent of our bread is made in the UK.

So , all hail to the all the new artisan bakeries which have been opening around the country.....bakers of the UK I salute you! You don't know how happy you've made me feel  to be able to buy good, tasty bread that's been cooked in a traditional way, bread which has taken time, love and care to produce.

And in my nearest market town of Market Harborough, we're now doubly lucky with the opening within the last year of two excellent bakeries. One is the Hambleton Bakery which opened a while of a number of shops set up by the original bakery in Exton. The  baker
Julian Carter took the top "Baker of the Year" award last year and his baker was voted "Britain's best Bakery" in a programme on telly. His sourdough and spelt breads are magnificent and full of flavour.

But the new kid on the block  which opened a couple of weeks ago  has to be the most teeny tiny bakery in the country, and when I say it's small , there's not room enough to swing a hamster around let alone a cat! It's called the Garage Bakehouse set in an old garage belonging to the bakers' family.

It's run by Dan Cadoo and  his Mum Karen, who are from this area but who were working in Cornwall. They 've now come back to this area, and boy am I glad!

Their sourdough loaves , both white and wholemeal are good, and make the most incredible toast, their focaccias are very popular in a range of flavours, but what's really got me excited, is their
Turkish bread. Light, soft and tasty, this is a loaf which is ideal for a picnic, for lunchboxes, it keeps well, and after a few days gives you lovely crunchy toast.

There's also a range of deliciously different soups and snacks for lunch and coffee.

Meanwhile, Dan is baking and making all day in a bid to keep up with the demand....

Using bags and bags of high quality flour

Oh and there's cake...with samples of something different every day unfortunately. When I say unfortunately (ahem) I mean oh dear, I suppose I'd better buy some. It's good cake.

So I predict a great future for this lovely little bakery, this tiny bakery which is so small you have to sit outside to drink your coffee or soup or eat your cake.

And I hope the artisan bread making moment continues to that others, like me can eat their daily bread, knowing there's no additives, fats , enzymes or other additives which we don't want or need.

PS By the way, this is not a sponsored post, and I haven't been given free bread!