Friday, 27 March 2015


Just a few miles down the road from us lies Holme Fen, a National Nature Reserve, which at 2.75m/9ft below sea level is the lowest point in Great Britain.
A few hundred years ago it stood on the edge of Whittlesea Mere, at that time the largest lake in Southern England, but in the 17th century drainage of the fens began, creating the rich fertile soil known as 'black gold' for which the fens are famous but at the same time destroying the livelihood of the local fen folk who depended on the watery landscape for fish and wildfowl.
Drainage of the fens meant that 99% of the rich habitat was lost and with it many rare species of wildlife and plant-life.
And now even the 'black gold' is disappearing as each year the peat continues to shrink.

In 1851,the tall metal post in the photo above was driven into the ground level with the surface as a means of measuring how much the ground was shrinking.
It is sobering to see exactly how much the peat has eroded in that time.
 Now, however, Holme Fen, just one of 4 remaining fragments of ancient wild fen, is part of a very exciting project to restore a large area to the original wetland.
The project, known as The Great Fen, is one of the largest projects of its kind in Europe.
 and has a fascinating website full of information, facts, figures and history.

Last week, mr digandweed and I paid one of our frequent visits to Holme Fen.
It is a wonderful place, wild and peaceful.
A place where you can walk for miles and hear only the wind rustling the reeds or the sound of birdsong in the trees and bushes.
As part of the restoration process, areas are gradually being allowed to become wetland again. Look -out points have been built for visitors to enjoy the bird life which is slowly returning.

The area is still criss crossed by dykes, their edges fringed with reeds.

 On Burnham's mere, a shallow lake in the middle of the reserve, we saw large colonies of Cormorant nesting on the islands. Unfortunately, too far away to photograph with my camera.

And hearing a rustling in the undergrowth nearby we turned just in time to catch a glimpse of a fluffy white tail as a Muntjac disappeared into the bushes.

It was a wonderful way to spend a sunny Sunday morning.

Friday, 20 March 2015

tea in a china cup, Welsh cakes, butter and jam.

Do you love baking?
I love baking ... and if the plethora of baking ingredients/sundries in the shops is anything to go by, I am not alone.
Back in the days of our grandmothers/great grandmothers, baking was a necessity if the family was to be fed.
Nowadays we have the luxury of it being a relaxing hobby.

By the way, did anyone see the new BBC series Back in time for dinner ?
It certainly dispelled any misty eyed romanticism about the 1950s. ( the decade I was born - old or what!)
 Cooking every meal from scratch with very limited equipment and even more limited ingredients was no joke - great frocks though!

I have always loved baking, even, when as a child, it consisted mostly of messily stirring ingredients together and then eating most of the mixture before it made it into the oven.

I am pleased to say that both lovely daughters enjoy baking too as proved by the gorgeous carrot cake that daughter no. 1 made for Mother's day.

When they were little, Welsh cakes were one of the first things they made.
Younger daughter in particular used to like to make them for Sunday tea.

They are a good recipe for the inexperienced, being quick easy and delicious.
And also, a good way of learning the technique of rubbing in.

This is the recipe we always used - from Delia of course!

They are slightly crisp on the outside, soft within and fragrant with the flavour of mixed spice.

Perfect warm with butter and jam and a cup of tea .. a china cup of course!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

lately on the lottie ... and elsewhere

Hasn't the weather been glorious lately ..or at least it has been in the Cambridgeshire fens. Apologies if it has been less favourable in your part of the world.
The mild, sunny days we've had mean there is more than a touch of spring in the air.
There has been much work down on the lottie:
 general tidying and weeding
an overhaul of the strawberry patch, with older plants being removed to make room for new plants
and clearing and digging of the area where the squash plants were last year.

mr digandweed has been excused from his digging and weeding duties over the past few days as he has hurt his back.
Being tall, this is a recurring problem for him, but thankfully a combination of gentle exercise and over the counter painkillers seems to be working.

There has also been a trip out to a local antiques centre where I may have bought some new (to me) china.
Plates, bowls, cups - these are becoming something of an obsession with me but how could I resist such a pretty Royal Doulton trio with its charming pattern of wild flowers which so epitomises spring?

And on another note, a really quick, easy and delicious recipe which I discovered from the writer of Deliciously Ella

Coconut thai curry with chickpeas.

A great midweek supper - the recipe can be found here.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 6 March 2015

root vegetable pie

So far, I've not had much success with growing carrots on the allotment, but ever hopeful, I'm going to try again this year. Like most things, there's nothing nicer than freshly dug carrots, although these bunched carrots from the supermarket come a close second.

I decided to use them in a recipe I have tried before from a wonderful blog called The First Mess.
Do take a look at Laura's blog.
 She has some delicious and beautifully photographed vegan recipes and though at Fenland Lottie, we are neither vegan nor vegetarian, her food is just the sort of thing I love to cook and eat.

The recipe is called Garden Keeper's Pie ( great name!) and can be found here.
It is a delicious mixture of root vegetables and lentils. 
The first time round I used squash, carrots and beetroot as Laura suggests and celeriac (celery root) for the creamy topping.

But this time, I had no beetroot or celeriac so substituted sweet potato in the lentil mix and cauliflower for the topping.

I pureed the lightly steamed cauliflower with a dollop of creme fraiche and grated cheese to taste as I wanted to try this idea which I had seen on Pinterest.
Of course, this means the recipe is no longer vegan, but I think the almond milk and olive oil which Laura suggests for her topping would be just as good.

I do recommend this as a yummy and healthy supper.

If you make it I am sure you will agree.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

the first day of march

Beautiful spring daffodils

 in honour of our Welsh friends, for whom this is St David's day.

However, there is another reason why the first day of March is significant.
According to the meteorological seasons, today marks the first day of spring.
The meteorological seasons splits the year into four equal parts of three months each and spring starts on the first of March each year.
In contrast the astronomical seasons are governed by the equinoxes and this year the spring equinox, when the length of day and night are equal, falls on March 20th.

See here for more detailed explanations.

But since today has been a beautiful sunny day, I am going with the meteorological seasons and declare spring officially sprung!
( By coincidence, I noticed when flicking back through my blog, that I had posted on March 1st last year and that was a beautiful sunny day too!)

Of course, if I was really celebrating St David's day, I would be making Cawl, a traditional stew made from those most Welsh ingredients - lamb and leeks-

but instead I made bread!

An oat and linseed loaf, made following Dan Lepard's no knead method.

It has to be the easiest, most relaxed method of making bread there is.
No difficult kneading, but instead just some gentle folding and resting of the dough.

The recipe and method for his easy white loaf can be found here.

Happy Sunday everyone!