Monday, 16 January 2017

straw bear

It's that time of year when people in fantastic headgear and outlandish outfits invade our town and keep out the cold east wind by stomping feet, brandishing sticks and brooms and waving handkerchiefs to music.
It was straw bear festival weekend.

The present day festival originated from an old custom, when a man covered in a straw costume was led through the streets on Plough Monday, stopping to 'dance' at local pubs. Plough Monday was usually the first Monday after Twelfth Night and marked the start of the agricultural year.

The custom fell into decline at the beginning of the 20th century but was revived in Whittlesey in 1980 and has grown to become a large event attracting dance groups and visitors from far and wide.
It is an enjoyable weekend providing fun and colour in the middle of winter.

This year tiny girlie joined us and needed no encouragement to join in the fun.

Today has been dubbed 'Blue Monday' and it is dark and damp outside as I type this, but as our ancestors who celebrated Plough Monday knew, the dark of winter will soon be replaced by the lighter days of spring!

annjenny x

Friday, 6 January 2017

after the festivities .....

I love the Christmas merriment; turkey and all the trimmings, Christmas cake, mince pies, brandy butter, biscuits and chocolates .... chocolates, did I mention chocolates?
And as far as I'm concerned, a little festive over indulgence is okay.
But come January, I'm ready for something more simple.
A return to more wholesome, healthy fare.

I think we are only just beginning to understand the profound effect diet has on well-being and I am even more determined as a new year begins to maximise the nutritional content of our meals.
Both lovely daughters share this interest and with one recovering from cancer and the other with a small mouth to feed, it is of vital importance to them too and we often share tips, ideas and recipe successes.

And this dish, a sort of warm salad is just the sort of thing we love to eat chez fenland lottie.
Versatile, delicious and nutritious.

It uses as its base two very nutritious ingredients: buckwheat and pearled spelt.

Buckwheat is a seed from a plant related to rhubarb and being a seed rather than a grain, is gluten free. It is also rich in minerals such as magnesium and copper as well as
a good source of B vitamins and of fibre and bound antioxidants. If you want to read more about buckwheat this article is very interesting.

Spelt is an ancient type of wheat, high in fibre, thiamin, copper, manganese, niacin and vitamin B2. Though a grain and therefore not gluten free many people with gluten intolerance find it easier to digest than other grains.

Both are very easy to cook. Just boil in a large pan of water as you would rice. Consult the packet for cooking times as the spelt will take a little longer than the buckwheat. 
When cooked drain and add olive oil, lemon juice, harissa paste and seasoning to taste.
Then add herbs of choice- I used lots of parsley and coriander and some toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.
I then topped it with chunks of squash roasted in the oven ( add olive oil and a little smoked paprika if you wish) and some crumbled feta cheese.

annjenny x

Saturday, 31 December 2016

year end

After a very mild Christmas, the weather changed and gave us the sort of crisp, sunny and frosty mornings that always lift the spirits.

So hard was the frost the other morning, it looked like snow and on the allotment transformed even the mundane into things of beauty.

Such hard frosts are not so welcomed by the birds and this little robin was hopping hopefully from fence to fence.

And what is the best thing on a cold, frosty morning but a bowl of porridge.

.... and with juicy, tart cranberries, even better.

We come to the end of 2016 with thankful hearts chez fenland lottie and wish everyone a peaceful, healthy and happy 2017.


Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas ..... and a time to celebrate

This year Christmas at fenland lottie is extra special.
Over the last 3 months our dear girl has undergone a gruelling series of chemotherapy treatments to treat her lymphoma.
There is no denying that the treatment is brutal ; extreme nausea, exhaustion and the loss of her beautiful auburn hair just some of the side effects BUT  two weeks ago her treatment finished and the latest scan shows that it has been 100% successful and the cancer has totally gone!
As you might imagine, this news was met with jubilation and not a few tears!

Though the past few months have been very challenging, as a family, we have received many good wishes and met some lovely people along the way and amidst all the bad news in the world, it has been heartening to be reminded that most people are warm and friendly and caring.

There has been little time for blogging over the past weeks, but I am hoping that normal service will resume in the new year!

Wishing you a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

annjenny x

Monday, 31 October 2016

The power of plants

I am always amazed at the power of plants to sustain and even heal the body. Recently, a plant with amazing life-saving properties has come to my attention.
Many gardeners will be familiar with periwinkle ( Vinca Major and Vinca Minor) as a useful ground cover plant with pretty blue flowers. In the same family is the Madagascan periwinkle; native to the rain forests and with pink flowers, this little plant was responsible for one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. 
 The plant, though highly toxic, had been used in folk medicine for many years and as a result came to the attention of 2 Canadian scientists who after the 2nd World War used it to develop Vinblastine and Vincristine, two very important chemotherapy drugs used to treat Leukaemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma. So important was this discovery, that it is credited with raising the survival rate of Leukaemia in the second part of last century from 10% to 95%. 
Vinblastine is one of the drugs forming part of our daughter's treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

On a more culinary note, there are many plants with 'superfood' status which can have a profound effect on our health. One of these is turmeric whose health boosting properties have been well documented of late. You may have seen the BBC 2 programme 'Trust me I'm a doctor' which documented its anti inflammatory and potentially anti cancer benefits.

Turmeric is most often sold in powdered form but I have recently found whole turmeric in Waitrose.

It's easy to see when looking at the strange twig like roots that it is a relative of ginger.
And it partners well with ground ginger and cinnamon in a lovely warming drink just right for these darker evenings.

Turmeric latte is easily made.
Simply warm a cup of milk, in this case coconut milk, and whisk in a tsp each of ground turmeric, cinnamon and ginger. 
Try it! It's like a warm hug!

I have also been adding turmeric to one of my favourite soups. 

Using butternut squash from the allotment with a dollop of red thai curry paste, a sprinkle of turmeric and enriched with coconut milk it makes a yummy soup.

The darker evenings are now with us. I actually like this time of year.
Time to cosy up, light a few candles, pull on some woolly socks.
I hope you are enjoying the cosy evenings too.

annjenny x

Friday, 7 October 2016

Popping by ...

October is a beautiful month. The month when Nature wears her best outfit of gold and red.
So far this year, October has brought some beautiful autumnal sun.
It was on such a sunny day last week, that I spent a slow, peaceful afternoon with both lovely daughters and Tiny Girlie.
We passed a few leisurely hours wandering through the gardens at Burghley House.
It was a time of much needed outdoor therapy.

A few weeks ago, beautiful younger daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.
It was a complete shock; a bolt from the blue. Since then, we have been plunged into an alien world of hospital appointments, scans, blood tests and now chemo. Our daughter has faced it all with courage and a sense of humour. We are full of admiration for her.

As a family, we have also been touched by the huge amount of love and concern which has been shown our daughter. She has received good wishes from near and far.
Mr digandweed has likened it to a network, a grid of tiny lights which has been illuminated, each light connected directly or indirectly by love for our daughter.
It is a lovely, positive, life affirming image.
 The treatment will take her to just before Christmas and we have been told that there is no reason why she should not make a complete and full recovery.
Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post.
Best wishes.

annjenny x

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In case you are wondering ...

Apologies for the sudden silence here at fenland lottie.
Our family has received some worrying news which we are currently working through and which is taking up a lot of my time and energy, so I know you will understand when I say blogging has fallen way down my list of priorities.
I hope to be back before too long and also hope to pop back from time to time to catch up with your news via your own lovely blogs.

'Till then best wishes to everyone.

With love from annjenny