Monday, 22 December 2014

Merry Christmas


Spotted on a visit yesterday to the lovely old town of Stamford, just a few miles north of here....




a beautiful and varied array




of Christmas wreaths





adorning people's 



front doors.


The run up to Christmas has been busy and full of anticipation chez fenland lottie, but also tinged with great sadness.

Just over a week ago. mr digandweed's father died after a short illness.
He was a keen gardener and loved to visit our allotment and enjoyed reading this blog.
As a much loved dad and grandad, he will be greatly missed, but we are grateful that he lived a very full and active life right up until the last couple of weeks and died peacefully at home surrounded by his family.


We are looking forward to a Christmas spent with those we hold most dear and with cherished memories of those who are no longer with us and our wish is for the same for you.

Happy Christmas everyone.
love from annjenny and mr digandweed
x

Saturday, 13 December 2014

a list


The days seem to be galloping by so fast I can hardly keep up.
Christmas is nearly here. But there is still a lot to do.

display in one of our local shop windows


In such circumstances, the only thing to do is write a list.
A list clears the mind; organises the brain. Not to mention the thrill of crossing things off!

On my list this weekend:

write cards 
order turkey
wrap presents
get decorations from garage
marzipan cake
make mince pies


I made the mincemeat earlier in the week - my usual recipe but with dried cranberries instead of mixed peel. I recommend a little chopping, mixing and stirring in a quiet kitchen, cup of tea to hand, as a good antidote to the hustle and bustle at this time of year.


And this afternoon, low winter sun streaming into the kitchen, radio on, I spent a quiet hour making the mince pies.
One more thing crossed off!



Meanwhile, as the Big Day approaches, Santa has been seen out and about.
CJ at Above the River glimpsed him riding past on a vintage motor cycle. 
Last week, he was seen along our road on an illuminated trailer.
And yesterday, I spotted him going down the escalator outside John Lewis.
Presumably, he'd been doing some last minute shopping.

Has anyone else had a Santa Sighting?




Monday, 1 December 2014

thoughts



A new baby in the family is a wonderful thing.
Tiny girlie is already 5 weeks old and a source of huge joy.

As new grandparents, she makes us feel at once younger and yet older. 
Younger, because she reminds us so vividly of when our two girls were babies, which sometimes seems but a moment ago and older, because I think of the life that lies ahead of her, the things she will see and do when I am long gone!

Today is the 1st December and Christmas will soon be here.
The Christmas cake has been made; some presents bought.
But there is still lots to do.






Still time,though, for a misty morning walk to enjoy the beautiful late autumn colours.







And time too, to make some mini sponge cakes, flavoured with the zest of that most Christmassy of fruit - clementines - and sandwiched with cinnamon pumpkin butter .



Happy Monday to you all and I hope your Christmas preparations are going well.





Friday, 21 November 2014

cinnamon pumpkin butter

Undaunted by the disappointment over my last pumpkin recipe, I decided to use some of our squash stash to make a recipe for cinnamon pumpkin butter which I found on Pinterest.
The recipe can be found here.
I was enticed by the beautiful photos ( do take a look) and by the intriguing sweet/savoury combination which somehow reminded me of that American favourite peanut butter.
According to google, the 24th January is National Peanut Butter Day in the States, although google also informs me that the first person to patent peanut butter was actually a Canadian called Marcellus Gilmore Edson which perhaps explains why mr digandweed, whose family are part Canadian, loves the stuff.
But I digress!

The recipe for cinnamon pumpkin butter was very easy.
I made the pumpkin puree by cooking chopped pumpkin in a tiny amount of water in the microwave and then blending it.


From then on it was just a case of mixing everything together.


The butter tastes good on toast, but I also think it would make a delicious filling for some little sponge cakes, although I haven't had a chance to try this out.



And since there is a bit of an American theme to this post, what with talk of pumpkins and peanut butter, it seemed a timely reminder to wish our friends across the pond a very happy Thanksgiving for next Thursday !




Monday, 10 November 2014

november weekend


Mr digandweed took part in the local parkrun on Saturday.
 Whilst I waited on the sidelines, half wishing I was taking part too, I passed the time by taking pictures of the autumn leaves on his iphone and playing about with the editing.



It was a damp, murky morning and mid afternoon there was a torrential downpour.

In contrast, yesterday was a beautiful autumnal day.
 One that starts with mists and chills which soon lift to give a crisp and sunny morning.

Mr digandweed and I made one of our regular trips to Cambridge for breakfast in our favourite cafe,  a walk past the beautiful colleges ... and a spot of shopping.

Cambridge is resplendent in the autumn.
In fact it is beautiful at any time of year.
These were views from Clare college bridge and along The Backs.



Back home, soup seemed like the perfect supper for a November evening.
And after a trip across the fens, soup made with fenland celery even more perfect!


I based it on this recipe but omitted the apple.


p.s. thank you for all the congratulations in response to my last post.
Tiny girlie is adorable and we are totally smitten!


Saturday, 1 November 2014

a week of firsts



This has been a very special week for mr digandweed and me.

At the beginning of the week we became grandparents for the very first time.
Our beautiful little granddaughter made her appearance last Sunday. 
Weighing 8lb 3oz, she is, in her mummy's own words, 'a perfect darling angel'
Mummy, baby ...and daddy are all doing well.





So began our week of firsts:

first glimpse of our tiny girlie
first cuddle
first gaze as she looked into our faces and tried to make sense of this bewildering world of which she is now a part
first dirty nappy -first of many!
first trip to the park with a new precious life tucked up in the pram.




So many firsts. So many more to come.



We are thrilled!!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

fenland celery


The term protected geographical  indication normally brings to mind such items as champagne, parma ham or maybe Melton Mowbray pies but recently, another less obvious item has received the same recognition... namely Fenland celery which was awarded the status last year and became the first English vegetable to have the coveted award.

Fenland celery ( also known as dirty celery by locals ) has a short season between October and January. The rich, dark soil of the Cambridgeshire fens around Ely in which it is grown contributes to its distinctive nutty flavour and the tradition of earthing the soil up means it has a paler colour.

Celery, like many other fruit and vegetables, is now available all year long, but Fenland celery with its short season was, in Victorian times, a prized addition to the Christmas feast and was often presented in special celery vases.
Recently, due to its protected status, Fenland celery has been enjoying a resurgence.


I came home from our local greengrocer yesterday with some fenland celery, the black fen soil still clinging to the pale stems. It's not difficult to see why it is also called dirty celery!

With its delicious taste, it seemed best to enjoy it raw and this recipe for hummus seemed to be the perfect accompaniment.



It made a lovely lunch.



P.S. my blog posts have been a little sparse lately. There are two reasons for this:

1. computer problems! My old laptop died and I was getting to grips with windows 8 on a new machine when it was found to be faulty and had to be returned. I am now mastering a chromebook and so far we are getting on well together ....

2. the imminent arrival of our first grandchild. Baby's due date has come and gone and we are still waiting! But lovely daughter number 1 is coping very well and is still blooming.






Sunday, 12 October 2014

a golden harvest


Not so many months ago, I sowed some butternut squash seeds, variety Hunter, in small pots on the windowsill. When the weather warmed up I planted them out onto the allotment and now it is time to harvest.

The magic of  growth from seed to fruit never fails to amaze!

And the lovely sunny weather we had this summer has resulted in a bumper crop.


Four plants have produced about 25 golden squash of varying sizes.
Fortunately, they store well in our cool garage.




Squash of any sort are very versatile, making delicious soups, hearty roasted vegetable bakes and gratins.

Then of course, they can be used  in cakes and desserts, think muffins and the all American pumpkin pie.

So a recipe for cinnamon, squash and apple mousse in the latest Waitrose Kitchen magazine is not so unusual as it first sounds.

Following the recipe,
 I roasted 360g of squash and 200g eating apples cut into 2.5 cm pieces and dotted with 3tbsp coconut oil in a hot oven (200 C) for about 30 minutes,
 then blitzed them with 1tsp cinnamon and about 300ml coconut water* to make a thick puree.
At this point, I deviated from the recipe and added a couple of tablespoons of honey to the puree which otherwise reminded me too much of soup.
The puree was then layered with plain yoghurt and topped with toasted walnuts.



It looked very pretty and autumnal but tasted, well ......unusual!
Make of that what you will, but I don't think I shall be adding it to my favourites list.
Although, mr digandweed covered it with copious amounts of extra honey and wolfed it down all the same!

*coconut water, not to be confused with coconut milk, is the clear liquid found inside whole coconuts and is reputed to have many health benefits including high levels of potassium.

Monday, 29 September 2014

beautiful beetroot


I am just starting to harvest beetroot from our lottie. They were sown late in the season as the first lot failed to germinate. However,it was worth the wait. for these beautiful dark purple globes.
Beetroot is now one of my favourite veggies.
So good in salads, soups ...and baking.


Using vegetables in baking, once a necessity to eke out more expensive ingredients, is now enjoying a resurgence as a way to add flavour and nutrition to cakes and biscuits.

I turned again to one of my best loved recipe books Nigel Slater's Tender vol 1 for ideas and found this lovely recipe for beetroot seed cake.



A change from the more usual chocolate and beetroot combination ( good though that is), this cake is moist and nutty
and the beetroot gives a very pretty pink marbled effect when cooked.

Do give it a go.





Saturday, 20 September 2014

a very english institution.. the local garden show



Our small market town held its garden and allotment show last Sunday.
The local hall was filled with tables laden with carefully nurtured vegetables and fruit of all shapes and sizes and in the junior class an enormous pumpkin almost the same size as its small owner!
There were homemade cakes and preserves too, flower arrangements and even a topiary squirrel!




I plucked up courage and entered some of my preserves:





...and was delighted on returning to the hall a couple of hours later to find that I had won first prize and overall best in class for my blackcurrant jelly!!
And on top of that mr digandweed and I came third in the best kept allotment competition.





It was a lovely afternoon; great fun, a good sense of community and some good-natured competition ...oh and the giant pumpkin and its small owner won a prize too!



Friday, 12 September 2014

lately on the lottie ... early autumn

 


Autumn is knocking at the door.
 Despite the fact that over the past few days, the temperatures by late morning /early afternoon are those of a respectable summer's day, come the evening, there is a nip in the air and in the early morning a heavy dew clothes the allotment and garden.

Autumn is harvest time and in our part of the world the farmers have already brought in their harvests of wheat and the ploughed fields now stretch as far as the eye can see; the dark soil like crumbled chocolate.


Our own harvest this year has been mixed and looking back it seems it is the fruit that has been most successful this time round.
 
The Autumn Bliss raspberries planted earlier this year produced a very good first harvest.

 
 
 The blackcurrants were plentiful, the strawberries wonderful and the plums abundant....
 
but the climbing French beans were attacked mercilessly by slugs and the leeks seem to have been munched by something which I suspect may be leek moth.
However, the Charlotte potatoes grown in big bins were delicious and we have some late beetroot and salad onions still to look forward to.
 
 
 I planted the garlic earlier in the year, so consequently the bulbs are quite small, but look ok now they have been trimmed and cleaned.
 ( much better I think to plant garlic in the autumn, so I am making a mental note to do so in the next few weeks) 
 
 
 
It seems that growing veggies always involves a bit of a battle with the elements and unwanted wildlife, but nothing compares with the satisfaction of 'growing your own'.
 
Happy gardening !
 
 
 
 
 


Saturday, 6 September 2014

windfalls


About a week ago, a welcome gift, in the form of a bag of windfall apples, was left on our doorstep by one of our neighbours.

This kind gesture meant lots of fruit to ...
 
 
 
 

... to make into compote, to mix with blackberries to make crumbles ... and to turn into
preserves.

In this case, a recipe for spiced cider and apple jelly from one of my favourite preserving books:

Perfect Preserves : Maggie Mayhew

 

 The ingredients are:

900g/2lb cooking apples coarsely chopped but with skins and cores intact
900ml/11/4 pints sweet cider
2 oranges, juice and pips
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
150ml/1/2pint water
900g/2lb warmed granulated sugar
Put all the ingredients except the sugar into a large pan,  bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour.
Strain overnight in a jelly bag then for each 600ml of liquid add 450g/1lb sugar. stir until sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly until set, about 10mins.

 
 



Makes about 3lb of beautiful amber jelly, somewhat like a delicate marmalade and do not fear, if like me you do not like cloves as their addition simply gives a warm background note.
 
Enjoy on toasted muffins....or crumpets....or scones......or on just about anything!
 






Sunday, 24 August 2014

late summer break

 
 
 
I'm back .... after after an unscheduled blogging break, due to a flurry of late summer hols activity which saw mr digandweed and me visiting mr fudge in the west country and then weekending in London.

 
We joined mr fudge and his crew for a trip along the Gloucester and Sharpness canal to Gloucester docks where we discovered a number of beautiful tall ships ready for the filming of Tim Burton's new film Alice Through the Looking Glass. No sign though of Johnny Depp....
 
 
 
We visited the lovely city of Bath and...


 
 
 
..  glimpsed a beautiful sunset in the seaside town of Clevedon.

 
 

 
And had a great weekend in London.
 
 
 
And so the summer hols draw to a close and September is almost here.
Almost more than January, the month of September, seems to signal to me a new start. 
It is forever associated with the beginning of the school year. A feeling which has stayed with me from school, through university and even when I was teaching.
This year that feeling of anticipation is greater than ever. For months now excitement has been growing chez fenland lottie, for we have some very exciting news.
 In a very few weeks from now mr digandweed and I are to be grandparents for the first time!
Lovely daughter number 1 and her husband are expecting their first child in mid October and I cannot tell you how thrilled we are!
 
 
 


Sunday, 10 August 2014

the great british bake off

 
 The Great British Bake Off started again last week and like thousands of others I was glued to it ; carried along with the ups and downs, sympathising with Claire and urging on young Martha.

It is a thoroughly nice competition. The worst that can happen is a withering glance from Paul or a look of slight disappointment from Mary... and  besides, we know it will all end with hugs and kisses all round.
 
 
 
 
Inspired, I made my own batch of cakes this week -
mini coffee and walnut muffins.
The recipe is from our other doyenne of baking - Delia and is in her Summer Collection book.


 
Meanwhile, I am eagerly awaiting next week's programme. Will you be watching too?
 
 


Saturday, 2 August 2014

lately on the lottie ... and elsewhere



Lavender are fantastic plants; tough, hardy, reliable and great for attracting bees and butterflies, not to mention the pretty flowers, beautiful fragrance and culinary uses.
Every garden or allotment should have one ...or more!
Hidcote is my favourite amongst the lavenders for its neat, bushy habit, so when I saw them at the local garden centre for a very good price, I snapped up two and have planted them in pots on the lottie.


  I nipped down to the allotment earlier, dodging the thunderstorms, for some general tidying up.
I cut back and cleared the strawberry bed, weeded other areas and gathered more plums, which against all the odds has turned into a bumper crop of the most delicious fruit -
sweet, juicy with flesh like honey so, so much better than the imported peaches etc which often have all the taste and allure of damp cotton wool.

I also spied amongst a jungle of leaves some baby butternut squash - variety Hunter grown from seed back in the spring.





And in our garden, some late summer colour, looking fresh and revived after the morning rain.



Meanwhile, last week, hot on the heels of the Tour de France, our little market town was host to another cycle race,  the Circuit of the Fens.
The 134 mile race is part of the British Cycling Grand Prix series and featured about 140 leading riders.
The weather was very hot as the cyclists battled it out along the flat, sunbaked Fen roads before completing several laps of the town centre.
All very exciting!

 
 
 
 
 


Saturday, 26 July 2014

of plums and chutney

 
Despite my foreboding a few weeks ago, we have been able to harvest quite a few relatively blemish free plums  .. and very juicy and delicious they are too!
 

 
 
We have enjoyed them lightly cooked, with a dollop of yoghurt and under a crunchy crumble topping.
 
 

 
 
Meanwhile, lovely daughter no.1 and her husband have a bumper crop of plums on the tree in their garden and brought a big bowlful round to us the other evening.
 
 
Wondering what to do with such bounty, I found a recipe for plum chutney in Nigel Slater's wonderful book:  Tender vol 11
 
Making chutney is a relaxing affair. A bit of chopping and weighing and some occasional stirring, with none of the worry about whether setting point has been reached ..et voila, you have a lovely tangy chutney.
Although, maybe deciding to make it on one of the hottest afternoons of the year was not such a good idea!
 
 
 

 
Should you want to make Nigel's chutney, which is called hot, sweet plum chutney, the ingredients are as follows:
 
750g plums
350g onions
125g raisins
250g soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chilli
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
150ml cider vinegar
150ml malt vinegar
a cinnamon stick
 
Halve the plums and remove the stones. Chop the onions.
Place all the ingredients into a large stainless steel pan, bring to the boil and then simmer until a suitably jammy consistency is reached, which I found took about 1 1/2 hours.
Spoon into spanking clean jars.
 
Makes about enough to fill two jars.
 
And there you have it!
 
 
 
 
Nice for lunch with some ham from our local, friendly butcher.