Sunday, 24 April 2016

To picnic or not?

 It's been nice weather for a picnic recently, if you ignore the odd hailstorm ... or two.

These photos are of the historic city of Ely. Originally an island, before the Fens were drained in the 17th century, the name means 'isle of eels' . Eels were an important part of the diet of fenfolk for centuries.
I did once try some eel, many years ago, after mr digandweed caught one on a fishing trip. Not my most favourite food!

Ely is also famous for the magnificent cathedral (sorry - no photos)  known as ' The Ship of the Fens'. It stands like a beacon and can be seen for miles across the flat landscape
We sat, mr digandweed and I, and enjoyed a picnic lunch, with the river in front of us and the cathedral behind. Rather lovely.

A few days earlier I made these little pies which would make a good lunch, to be eaten either indoors or out.

I followed a recipe which I found on Kellie's lovely blog Food to Glow.
A great blog for innovative vegetarian (sometimes vegan) inspiration.


It's back to woolly scarves and gloves at the moment, so no more picnics for the time being, but next week sees the arrival of May, so who knows!

Hope the coming week is a good one for you.

annjenny x

Saturday, 16 April 2016


The past week has seen some glorious Spring weather in this little corner of the country.
How wonderful to feel a soft warm breeze instead of the cold biting north wind!

We took a walk, Tiny Girlie, her mama and me, through local woods to see the bluebells. It was a very slow walk. Every few steps, we would stop as our little toddler was entranced by a new sight or sound: a tiny stone, a leaf, a yellow flower, the sound of the wind in the trees, the tweeting of a bird, an abandoned blue balloon caught in some branches.
She is a lesson to us all to drop down a gear, slow up and enjoy the now. She is the embodiment mindfulness.

We won't spoil the moment by mentioning the fact that, near the river, the path turned into a quagmire and her mama and me were left picking our way through squelchy black mud, carrying Tiny Girlie, pushchair and bags!

Meanwhile, back at home on the windowsill, the bean seeds have taken off like rockets.
I'm beginning to think they are magic beans like the ones Jack had.
I realise I have made the same mistake as previous years and sown them too soon. It will be another 3 weeks at least before I can safely plant them outside, all risk of frost having gone and in the meantime I fear they will grow increasingly long and 'leggy'. 
Next year, please remind me wait another week or two.

For some reason, the lovely weather made me long for afternoon tea.
It's that English idyll of lush lawns, flower beds overflowing with roses, the chink of china cups and the lull of soft conversation.
In the end, I made do with tea and biscuits!

Tea in a proper cup though and home-made biscuits.

I adapted a recipe for Shrewsbury biscuits from Merry Berry's Ultimate Cake Book.
Should you wish to try them the recipe is:

100g  softened butter
75g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
 200g plain flour
grated rind of 1 lemon
1-2tblsp milk
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg yolk and then stir in the sifted flour and lemon rind. Add enough milk to make a soft dough.
Roll out to thickness of 5mm and cut into rounds with a cutter.
Bake at 200c for 8 to 10 minutes then cool on a wire rack.
If wished, make a thin icing with icing sugar and lemon juice to drizzle over the top.

I had originally intended to use the recipe to make bunny biscuits for Easter, but I ran out of time.
Then I decided that bunnies aren't just for Easter ....

annjenny x

Update: Spring seems to have gone awol today.
 We have rain, cold wind and the weatherman talks of snow. Hey-ho!

Saturday, 9 April 2016


It's April. Definitely April. 
It's been a week of April showers.
The sort of weather when the warm sun entices you to sit out in the garden with a cup of tea. You put the kettle on but before the tea has had a chance to brew, the skies have darkened alarmingly, the wind whipped up and hail is lashing the windows.
Apparently, it's all to do with temperature contrasts.

Despite the capricious weather, I have been busy down on the lottie with general tidying and seed sowing.
The first seeds to be sown - always an exciting time - are:
French beans, runner beans and butternut squash, all in pots on the windowsill plus
beetroot and swiss chard direct into the soil on the allotment.
I imagine if you so wished you could grow lentils too, though they may not be as tasty as delicious Puy lentils, which owe their unique peppery flavour to the area of France in which they are grown.

My favourite way of eating lentils is with a simple dressing. Hugh Fearnley -Whittingstall has a recipe for dressed puy lentils in his Veg Everyday book.
The lentils are cooked in enough stock or water to cover them with the addition of a bay leaf, a couple of squashed garlic cloves and a few parsley stalks.
When tender, which takes about half an hour, the lentils are drained and the herbs and garlic discarded.

Just a simple dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper completes the dish and served with dollops of goat's cheese, roasted squash and marinated kale it made a delicious supper.

The following day, I added the leftover lentils to some cooked pearled spelt, mixed salad leaves, chunks of cooked chicken and an asian style dressing made from
2tblsp soy sauce
1tblsp rice wine vinegar
1tblsp honey
1tblsp water
a squeeze of lemon juice
1tsp of grated fresh ginger and the same of fresh chilli

Are you, like me, hoping for more sunshine and less showers for the coming days?

Happy weekend.

annjenny x

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Last weekend

Our Easter weekend away came and went in a flurry of fun and laughter.
Seven adults plus Tiny Girlie in the city of Bristol.
We had good company, good food ....and despite the dire forecast some good weather.

There was a trip to Windmill Hill city farm to see lambs, chickens, ducks, rabbits and pigs. All lovely. Though it has to be said, that although the adults loved the animals and particularly the lambs, Tiny Girlie was just as enthralled by the puddles!

In the afternoon we visited Tyntesfield, a beautiful house and estate just a mile or so from Bristol city centre.
Until 2002, when it was acquired by the National Trust, the house was owned by the Gibbs family who made a huge fortune trading in Guano. That's bird poo to you and me and just proves the saying 'Where there's muck there's brass'!

I particularly loved the walled kitchen garden and greenhouses. There was not a weed to be seen in the kitchen garden; just neatly labelled rows of seeds and the odd shoot poking through. In a few weeks time, it will be a real picture.

Tyntesfield is also home to the Somerset Bodgers, my brother in law being one of them.

Bodging is a traditional craft using green (unseasoned) wood to turn items such as chair legs.
Tiny Girlie has a beautiful pint sized Windsor chair made especially for her by our brother in law, her great uncle.

We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the beautiful city of Bath to see the Grayson Perry exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences at the Victoria Art gallery and to enjoy Bath's beautiful architecture.

We are back home now and on a trip down to the allotment signs of spring were everywhere.

 'Tis a lovely time of year!

Happy weekend.

annjenny x