Friday, 26 August 2011

Plum Chutney Day

Yesterday was lovely - I had one picking of plums to do something with before they went past their best. As the other trees have got larger, our Victoria plum has produced less and less fruit but this year, as with the apples and pears, there has been quite a good crop:

the 1st picking; hopefully a couple more to go

This year I decided to try out several different plum chutney recipes - I tried Delia's Spiced Plum Chutney one out a few years ago ... it was delicious, but only after about 3 years of 'mellowing'!

In the end I made a basic plum chutney, though with ginger, cinnamon, raisins, red onion, and also Delia's Doverhouse Chutney which uses not only plums, but also tomatoes and apples - both of which are in good supply here.

My first onions ever - magical!

After much 'rapid boiling' and 'slow cooking' (and some sticking to the pan - ugh!) it was ready to bottle up:

I found some label designs I'd made many years ago and scanned and printed them onto sticky backed paper - quite pleased with the Bloomsbury'ish look!

Looking forward to making the following recipes I came across: Plum and Pear Pickle, and also Plum and Bay Jam ... mmmmm!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Haworth / the Brontes: August 2011

Last week I visited Haworth for the first time.

Although it was a rainy weekday, the village and the Parsonage were really quite busy and crowded - but I shouldn't complain as it has to be good that so many people are interested in the Brontes.

The cobbled, steep, hilltop village is rather lovely, but very much given over to the tourist and Bronte theme, and also spoilt I thought by every pub / eatery (there are 4 at least, within yards of each other) having far too many loud, garish signs announcing their special offers etc.

There were some attractive, quaint shop windows here and there though:

This was the window (and sign, below) for Weavers  restaurant - nicely understated! 

Down the hill there were 2 large and wonderful secondhand bookshops - Venables & Bainbridge and the pleasingly named Hatchard & Daughters:

There is also one of the largest vintage clothing shops I've ever come across - The Souk -  and I did like the Rose & Co. Apothecary - where Branwell Bronte obtained the laudanum that contributed, with alcohol, to his early death. It is the reclaimed and extensive shop fittings, perhaps more than the items for sale, that make this so special:

So ... Haworth has its charms and with some effort you can just about imagine it as it might really have felt 150 years ago (or even how it would have been now) but, for me, the overly themepark olde worlde stuff obscures and  detracts from, rather than enhances, a visit - it feels too much like a TV set. I'm sure that most visitors who choose to go somewhere like Haworth feel the same ... such a shame that this happens so often.

There will be a post about the actual Bronte Parsonage and Museum next - which was excellent!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Vegetable Garden: Beans, Broccoli, Beetroot ....

Up until this year all of my vegetable growing has taken place on a postage stamp sized patch at the back of the house, which seems to have more pieces of broken pottery and bricks than soil in it.

But this Spring we dug 2 large and one smaller vegetable patches out of the lawn to the side of the house. It has all just started to look like the real thing, despite prolonged soggy and also dry spells:

Onions, Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach and Beetroot

French, Runner and Broad Beans & PS Broccoli (protected from the Cabbage White  butterflies)

So far no disastrous bug or disease attacks, and it's so exciting to be now collecting 3 kinds of beans, plus carrots, beetroot, courgettes etc every day ... and even some very early purple sprouting broccoli - just as well it's not overwintering if we have  a repeat of the last two years' weather.
I love growing root vegetables the most, especially carrots - it always seems extra magical to pull up those gorgeous orange roots from the ground.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Amsterdam Easter 2011

This Easter we went to Amsterdam again. ... these are some of my photos, in no particular order - all the pictures enlarge when clicked on:

trays stacked in a bric-a-brac shop

Steve on his birthday - April 12th

the absolutely amazing Amsterdam library: irresistible&healthy food in the cafeteria 

I love this city ...  the buildings, the people, the way they dress, the way 'older' women dress in particular - striped tights, grey/greying hair in plaits and coils, glorious clothes & colour combinations as they ride around on hefty basketed bikes. I could live here.

Cranbook Community Food Garden E2

Back in June I was in London for a friend's birthday party, and it happily coincided with Open Garden Squares Weekend. Very near where I was staying was Cranbook  Community Food Garden (off Roman Road) and it was a delight - not really that large a space, created from a waste area that was not only an odd shape, but also originally had a small hill in it.

Three years, much hard labour and 1000s of tons of compost later, and it is truly inspiring - 17 raised beds, a wormery, a composting area and flowers, herbs, and vegetables ... all organic.

Surrounded by tall blocks of flats, it is sheltered and seems to be a suntrap - the runner bean plants were tall and already flowering gloriously, whereas mine up in North Yorkshire had only just started to twine up their poles.

The members range in age from 9 to 94, with everyone sharing in each new crop of vegetables. Lovely head gardener Laura Buckley spent ages showing me everything and sharing her enthusiasm, saying that she often pops down to do 30 minutes weeding, and 3 hours later is still pottering in bliss.
I really like London and all it has to offer, and this would definitely be in my top ten of lovely things I have come across.