Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Chocolate Apple Cake Recipe for KJ

Here's the recipe for you JK (and anyone else who wants to try it).  This time I mixed the warm apple mix in with the fats first,  and beat it so no lumps of apple, then added the flour, and it came out very fudgy.  This time we had some 95% cocoa chocolate to use up as although Keith LOVES very strong chocolate, this one was too much for him and 85% is as high as he will go now.  But I don't like waste, so I did some chocolate chips and it made the cake even tastier, and not too sweet.  The outside almost caramelised as Someone (OK, I own up) set the timer and forgot to turn it on, then went on the computer (upstairs), so this got a bit of a suntan.  It is YUMMY, and I only wish we had ice cream in to go with it.

Views around my garden in Lockdown April

The first Swallows arrived on 5th April (last Sunday). This is the earliest they have ever arrived, but obviously came here carried by the Southerly winds. 3 carried on Northwards, but this one stayed and is one of the many Swallows who live in the farm buildings next to us.  Bless him/her for returning and lifting my spirits!  I am now longing for "our" Swallows to return to the stables here.

Germander Speedwells in the paddock - or actually, looking closely at one of my Botany books, they could well be the Persian Speedwell, which will grow virtually everywhere, pretty well all year round.  Pretty, anyway.

We have a sea of Celendines in the paddock too.

In my small paddock orchard, the tallest of the Pear trees is now in bloom.  I hope it fruits as well again this year as it did last.

A fern unfurling up in the Faery Glen.

This is why we had to have those Ash trees felled - the rot had set in . . . a Polo mint branch . . .

We have spent the last two days erecting my birthday present - a small polytunnel.  Not so much a polytunnel as an intelligence test - which we felt we were failing on day 1!!

We got plenty of exercise too - here Keith is having to drill the holes for the screws as they didn't quite meet up all along the ridge.

Yesterday evening - finished and weighted down as I'm damned if I'm going to dig the sides in!  We will be growing small melons, and Okra in here, as well as other things which need some space - cucumbers and tomatoes.

It's coming up for Cowslip time here in the garden.  I loved the sun shining through the centre of these red ones.

I made this Chocolate Apple Cake after breakfast yesterday.  SCRUMMY!!

I hope these photos have got you away from your four walls if you are on lockdown.  Stay safe my friends.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Give us this day our daily bread

I have been keeping busy in the kitchen this past week.  These shallots and pickling onions were in a bag I got from Abergwili before Lockdown.  The shallots were starting to go soft and so I decided to pickle them.  Haven't done any for years (since trying to cut out any high-in-histamine stuff from my diet).  At least I can put these on the table when friends Pam and Dunc are able to come over for a chat and nibbles again.

These are the Cornish Fairings in the recipe in the side bar.  I have one or two at lunchtime to keep us going when Logging.

Yesterday's Panasonic dough was made into a Cottage Loaf sprinkled with doubtless out-of-date Sesame seeds.  This brought back some childhood memories as mum would ask me to "save her legs" and go to the corner shop and get a Cottage Loaf (which was always deliciously burnt on the top!)  By the time I got home, I would have eaten the topknot!

Bread Muffins for breakfast, made using the recipe below.  (A little bread book I got from Hastons corner shop in 1980). The mucked up one in the middle was the last little bit of dough, hastily reformed and stuffed into the scone cutter.  I think I shall make the next lot from just ordinary bread dough, and roll them in semolina before flattening slightly.

Finally a fairly unremarkable apple cake for puddings (I will jazz it up a bit another time), here's the recipe which came to me via Facebook:

Simple Apple Slice
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced (1cm)
125g butter or margarine
1 egg
Toss apples with self raising flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a small bowl in the microwave. Stir in egg.
Pour butter and egg into the apple mixture and mix until combined.
Spoon into a greased and lined slice tin.
Bake at 180 C for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Keeps for about 3 days.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

A short river walk

In case you miss it, Ghengis had his own post previous to this.  He is delighted to announce he is now an Outdoor Cat again!

This cooler weather is not as enjoyable as last week's sunshine, but we have still got on and done the outside jobs - splitting wood, sowing seeds, digging over a bit more of the veg plot, weeding etc.  We now have strong growth from the radishes we sowed recently, and more tentative shoots from the spring onions, both of which are in small planters covered with glass to keep them warmer.  These are in the middle of the yard.  We have moved Tam's chillis and tomatoes (in propogators) to the cold frame as it wasn't warm enough in the plastic greenhouse - there are some holes in the cover so the wind blows in and it's been a VERY cold northerly wind too.  Hopefully they will do better in there.  This morning we had another bonfire, but there is still LOTS of brash to burn.

The greenhouse has trays of runner beans (which have had a stern talking to as THEY weren't doing anything either).  They are now under a piece of glass.  I told them that - having been unable to buy more runner bean seeds, everywhere online seems to have sold out apart from eBay - they need to do their stuff this year!  In fact on eBay, unless I am prepared to buy seeds from China (a no-no) or go into a bidding war - having seen 10 seeds go for £14.50!!! - there isn't much choice.  Something called Scarlet Emperor (which is what I grow) has photos for White Lady coloured seeds, and pods which don't even look like runner beans.  We have also started some Hunter Beans, and some of Tam's Greek Gigantes, which are like very large butterbeans, and used for soups, stews etc.  They're coming through already, mightily!  The yellow courgettes were out of date so we shall start her Patty Pan ones off next.  We've planted other things too, but it's midnight, I can't sleep, and my brain has gone on strike.

Anyway, I have ordered some Seeds of Italy (Franchi seeds, which are reliable) today.  Just two different cucumbers, the ridge type, and a bigger one, and peas, and mangetout peas.  We need to dig over more of the top of the yard to fit everything in!  We will probably have to cut some bean poles from the hazel we have growing in the copse.

First blossom on the fruit trees.  The Damson in the yard is putting out flowers and so is this young Plum tree in the paddock plot, and below, the most prolific of the pear trees is also about to burst into bloom.

My wine making stuff from Wilko arrived today.  Inside should be a demijohn, some air locks, Campden tablets, yeasts, and a brewing bucket.  THEN we can get cracking - Tam has some beer to go in one demijohn, and I have Blackberry wine to make.  We are still waiting on the champagne yeast - bought on eBay a week ago but not even posted yet.  I can understand people wanting to go to the PO as little as possible, but perhaps they could put this on their listing?

Wednesday - Ghengis has a work out!

Ghengis is pondering.  BUT - he IS OUTSIDE.  This has only happened since we have had some warmer weather, and now he has realized that there is more to life than the daily trip from his feed bowl to the blanket on Tam's bed!

Then he realized we had built a pussy-cat assault course . . .

Up to the end . . .

. . . and strop claws (that saves my carpets!)

And saunter back the other way.

Repeat claw stropping.

Jump down and go and lay in the sun, because he's tired out!!!

Back in the morning.  Stay safe everyone.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Like 30 years ago - only without the energy!!

My OH and I were just talking, as I rubbed Ibruprofen gel on his sore back.  I said this hunker down time was like having the clock turned back 30 years, when money was extremely tight and our main luxury was having the time to do all the jobs which needed doing - and thereby saving money.  This year we will save a big chunk this year not having to have the paddock (sorry, "Side Lawn") cut - that was £80 a hit for half an hour's work!  Since no-one will be viewing any time soon, we can let it go feral.

Anyway, before and after photos of the wall which separates the main garden from the yard, where we grow veg.  Before, it was smothered in brambles, both dead and alive, which hung down in a long fringe.  What I wanted to see there was cut back Snowberries (which form a tatty "hedge" along the top - planted before our time, probably by the Dutchman who lived here when he milked for Next Door back in the early 80s) and a repositioned well-grown Clematis Montana rubens which had decided to leg it up the apple tree whilst my back was turned.  The green bit you can see below is the Elder tree which planted itself there and despite all my best efforts to eradicate it, has grown away and is now allowed to stay as Elder is Good Stuff.  As you can see, the swirly bits are the errant clematis, and the ladder in the background is what I climbed up, loppers in hand, to cut through some end branches it was entangled with.  Then we had no option but to literally pull it out of the tree - surprisingly, only two bits right at the top got broken off - the rest is now draped along the short-cut snowberries and should cover it all thickly in the fullness of time.  I am looking forward to it flowering soon - it's covered in buds.  That little job took me three days and we had a bonfire at the end of it!  The next bonfire will be all the brash we have left over from cutting the thicker branches for winter fuel.

Cloudier skies, looking across the yard, but still sunshine.  It was blowing fiercely yesterday though - a Northerly wind I think, brisk and chilly.  Tam and I kept our walk just to the top of the hill and back but I must be getting fitter as I managed to walk the steep bit without stopping to draw breath!

Here is a triptych of  photos of the scenery from left to right above the farm buildings.

Right, this won't do.  Nearly 10.30 and I've not had breakfast yet but I have started some dough in the breadmaker, and will make some muffins later on too.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Plenty to get on with here

The new rhythm of our days is now settling into a pattern.  Bread dough made in the breadmaker, then shaped and cooked in the oven, so we get a nice crusty loaf instead of the rather pallid (but tasty) loaf from the breadmaker.  This one had a quick plait, an egg wash and Sunflower seeds and salt and pepper sprinkled on top.

Tea the other night was a simple Beef Cobbler, made with cheesey scones on top.  No onions, as Keith doesn't like them.

There is absolutely no waste in the kitchen - trimmings from vegetables go into the freezer for a stock base for soups.  Some little plum tomatoes which were thinking about going over have just joined them.  Things which need using up go into stews, curries or stir fries.  Fruit wise, we still have LOADS of blackberries from last summer (and the one before I think!) and lots of other tubs of fruit grown here or bought as £1 trays from Abergwili, which were cooked up and still provide dessert.  I used to turn them into crumbles but Keith is always very careful of his waistline, so it's just ordinary stewed fruit for him.  I have started a pot of peas in the greenhouse to provide pea shoots for stir fries too and have also blown the dust off my seed sprouter and it has some mung beans sprouting beautifully in it - we will have chicken stir fry tomorrow or Tuesday.

We have well stocked freezers but when we need to replace any meat, we will be using our local butcher Dewi at Ffairfach - and sticking to him in the future.  Like many people I am sure we will remember who stepped up to the mark in their local community and boycott those who rackateered or took advantage of a dire situation - we won't ever darken the doors of Sports Direct again, that's for sure.  So many local businesses have been enterprising, and local shops offering deliveries.  Llanfynydd Young Farmers have offered to pick up prescriptions and do shopping for vulnerable people (we come into this group) in the area.

Rubbing this down is what made me ill the other day, so now I am just going to paint it as is!  We got this for our middle daughter Gabby last year (she asked us to look out for one) and it's been waiting for me to work on it.

Indeed, talking of Gabby, she did a shop for us (perishables) last week and delivered it.  Tam had got so anxious about shopping for us and inadvertently bringing the virus back, so Gabby offered to help out as she doesn't live under the same roof. It was surreal as we had to keep her 6 feet away, touching nothing (though she has new disposable gloves on) and didn't even let her touch one of the cats (though she was desperate for cat cuddles). It was lovely to see her.  Everything she brought has been in quarantine down in mum's kitchen.  Finally the elephant in the room down there - Gabby's big fridge freezer which we were storing for her - has come into its own and we have transferred all the frozen things across from the small freezer, and the fridge is the quarantine fridge . . .

Above and below:  Working on the brash from having those diseased ash trees dropped back in January.  Half way through it now - Tam in action dragging it down to Keith by the stables, who then saws it up and the top brash is in a huge pile for another bonfire.

Some of this has already gone in the woodshed, so we should be ok for firewood next winter.

Celendines in the top corner of what used to be the paddock.  It's meant to be the "side lawn" nowadays, but won't be cut much this year!

Finally a view from the paddock looking up towards the hill on the other side of the valley.  You might just make out a bit of a bank that was once an Iron Age camp - Dyffryn Camp - HERE is a link.

We are so glad to live where we do - it feels safe here and as long as we don't see too much of the news we can keep the horror of all this at bay. Keeping busy helps too, but every now and then I get a shaky moment and get emotional.  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone with that reaction.  Keep safe, my blogland friends.