Monday, 27 August 2012

Flower Show

I don't want to sound romantic and silly about this but, to my mind, there is something incredibly reassuring and comforting about the annual village flower and vegetable show.  It's not so much the show itself but the fact of the show.  They will have been taking place in villages and small towns all over the UK this Bank Holiday weekend.  I have been enjoying these occasions ever since I was a little girl.  It seems to me that as long as the British can put on a good flower and vegetable show once a year, everything will be alright.  

I LOVE flowers.  I love wild flowers, I love garden flowers.  I love the blossom on fruit trees and the funny little flowers which eventually produce wonderful vegetables.  At the flower show the vases displaying prize specimens from villagers' gardens and greenhouses are always joy!  
There has probably been much angst about the exhibits.  The roses and the sweet peas, will the blooms be perfect on the day?  Will it rain and ruin everything?  The perfect symmetry of the pom pom dahlias always amazes me.
I was rather amused on Saturday when the lady who won 3 prizes for the roses told me that she had just gone out into her garden in the morning, had a little mooch about and chosen a few specimens, cut them, and won.  I bet the runners up weren't so thrilled!  I wasn't overly impressed with her roses either but loved the kitten faces of the pansies.
I don't think there had been any sabotage going on with the vegetable exhibits and Miss Marple need not concern herself too much.  There weren't any giant steriod-laden marrows, although there was a whopping great cabbage and these leeks which you could feed a family of four on for a weekend!
I love the white cloth the exhibits always sit on.  Probably a sheet, lovingly ironed by someone! These little sweeties won favour with the judges.
There were other classes in the show - knitted hat and mittens, photography (I might give that a go next year), flower arranging (might do that as well), houseplants (definitly won't be trying that, I don't like houseplants) and children's crafts.  It's all so British.  They express who we really are and the shows in village halls up and down the country offer a little annual snapshot of our way of life that hasn't evolved out of all recognition! It's still all so familiar and that's what I find reassuring!
There was just one little indicator in the whole show that gave me a slight sense of unease. Hopefully this rather large lemon, entered into the 'Fruit' category, was grown in a conservatory.  I do hope so.  Otherwise - did someone mention global warming?  
Hey ho!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Then and now!

Do you remember this?
That was on 24 April and I was wondering, at the time, how it would look later in the year.  Well, now is as good a time as any to have a look.
The fields are being harvested at the moment and I expect this one will get the chop sooner rather than later, and then the view will re-emerge!  That's what I love about the countryside - it is always changing.  

This photo shows the same field from another side.
It is a very beautiful barley crop with wonderful colours running through it before it is completely ripe and golden.  It's a sort of green gold at the moment.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Wild fruit

I love the opportunity to forage for wild fruit for making jam, jellies, and chutney for us to enjoy and to give as presents, and also to make fruity gin to enjoy at Christmas time!  September and October is a good time for hips, haws, blackberries, sloes, wild damsons, apples etc.  

However, on my walks 'round the block' with Tilly at the moment there are other fruits to gather!  In the hedgerow there are gooseberries - not too many this year but present nevertheless,
and blackcurrants.  The fruits are small but more berries this year than last.
And in the woods around the house there are loads of raspberry canes.  I have made several rounds of sweet pastry filled with fresh raspberries I have picked, which the children (i.e. my grandchildren next door) have really enjoyed as a pudding.  Here's the fruit ...
.... and here's the recipe!

Oven at 180 degree C / gas mark 5

75g (3 oz) butter or margarine
175 g (6 oz) SR flour
75g (3 oz) caster sugar
1 small egg, beaten
1 - 2 tblspns milk
raspberries (or other soft fruit)

Rub the butter into the flour and stir in the caster sugar.
Mix in the beaten egg and enough milk to make a firm-ish dough.  
NB : add the milk gradually.  If you add too much, the dough will be very soft but still usable - it's just a bit more difficult to manage.  It's very forgiving once cooked!
Cut the dough into 2 pieces and roll out one half quite thinly into a round.  I find it easier to do this on the baking sheet! 
Put the fruit on the dough, sprinkle with some caster sugar.
Roll out the second piece of dough and cover the fruit.
Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with a little more sugar.
Cook in the centre of the oven for 20 - 25 minutes.

You can also make this with 2 - 3 tblspns of mincemeat and a grated cooking apple.

Blackberries come later but in the meantime I am enjoying their lovely flowers.