July Sampler


Saturday, 31 July 2010

The end of another month. How they do fly by. It's been a busy month what with the end of school and all that involves. One week into the holidays and I'm still smiling :o)

 Here's my July sampler, I've managed to squeeze in a bit of crochet this time and also some salad in there amongst the jam, cake and meringues, I'm all for a balanced diet. I hope you like it!

Do you want to see what else I've been doing? It's Lucy's fault.

Lucy was much more generous than me and bought this book for her son. I bought it for ME ME ME. My daughter is consumed with longing for it. She will just have to save up for her own copy. This one is MINE.

What fun!
And how about some more colourful fish?

Tray baked salmon and veg Jamie Oliver style. It was all cooked in a very hot oven for about 15 mins. The potatoes were parboiled  but I think an improvement would be to bake them on the tray first until they are brown and crisp then add the other ingredients. Be generous with the olive oil. This was a roaring success and not a bite was left. I shall be writing this one up in my new recipe journal, more of which later.

In a Pickle


Friday, 30 July 2010

Bread and butter pickles, a delicious crunchy-sweet pickle of cucumber and onions.
Wonderful in beef or cheese sandwiches or, my favourite, on crispbread with smoked mackerel.

Salt the sliced cucumber and onion and leave to drain overnight. I think I've been a bit generous with the onion.

Dry them well in a tea towel.

Bring some vinegar, sugar and spices to the boil. Add the cucumber and onion, cook for three minutes only and pour into a sterilised jar.

Bread and Butter Pickles from Quick and Easy Preserves by Simone Sekers

Makes one large jar (a big mayonnaise jar)

1 lb of cucumber (I used little ones but ordinary big ones will do)-sliced
1 Spanish onion- sliced
1 oz salt
5 fl oz white wine or cider vinegar
6 oz demerara sugar
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
pinch of cayenne

The spices are not set in stone. I discovered I'd run out of mustard seeds so I used cumin seeds instead but not as much. The texture of the seeds in the pickle is nice, they pop pleasantly in the mouth.



Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Fifteen years ago today in the middle of one of the hottest summers ever my elder son was born.

We've had a lovely day chillaxing at home. We completely surprised the birthday boy by giving him a laptop. We've spent the last three years telling him a laptop was way too expensive for a birthday present (it is...way too much). Younger son was almost as pleased as his brother because not only does he now have almost unlimited access to the desktop pc he knows he can look forward to receiving a laptop for his 15th birthday. Let's hope they're cheaper by then.

I haven't forgotten that today is Weight Loss Wednesday. I am very pleased to report another 2 lbs off! I honestly didn't think I'd lost any weight this fortnight. I don't feel that I've been eating any less and I certainly haven't been moving more. All in all I have lost half a stone which feels like a fairly significant amount. You can't tell by looking at me though! I've lost track of how long I've been trying to eat a bit less but I reckon it's about three months which means I should reach my goal weight sometime around May 2012. My first goal is only one lb away though :o)

The Quince Tree in July


Sunday, 25 July 2010

 I almost forgot. Today is the 25th and that means it is time to show you The Quince Tree again. Here she is.

The fruit are very difficult to see at the moment. Most are high up and they are well camouflaged amongst the leaves. Here's one I managed to reach, look how it is covered in down.

The down will stay until I pick them and rub it off. Beneath the down the fruit will gradually turn yellow. They will be four or five times as big as this by the end of October.

My garden is sadly lacking in flowers at the moment. Oh it is very green but other colours are few and far between. There are signs of colour to come though.

Tomatoes ripening.

My cultivated blackberry. Thornless and bountiful. I get loads of fruit off this. We prefer blackberries cooked so I pick as they ripen and freeze them immediately to use in pies and crumbles. I had such a poor yield of blackcurrant jam this year I think I will make blackberry jam when I have enough in the freezer.

This in an Egremont Russet apple. It is just a small tree but last year I got about thirty apples off it. This year I can find only two.

My crab apple on the other hand is absolutely laden. This branch is so heavy it is vertical with its tip about a foot from the ground. These sour little apples will turn scarlet by the end of summer. That's when I swing into full scale jelly production. The variety is John Downie.

My raspberries are producing a handful of fruit about once a week, but the majority of the canes that sprout up all over my garden are Autumn fruiting varieties. They will fruit from September right into November.

My currant bushes have all been stripped bare now. We are enjoying them gently cooked with sugar.

The days of late summer will find my kitchen filled with fruity boilings and layer of sticky over everything. I can't wait.

: :

 I began this blog on January 24th this year and here I am six months later. That certainly went fast. I am enjoying it so so much. Writing about the everyday bits of my life, the things I make and cook , photographing them and creating a blog post gives me such a thrill . As does reading all the lovely bloggers who are doing similar things and living similar lives. I really believe it validates the way I have chosen to live my life. I know that sounds daft but its how I feel. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to the next six months.

Stool Hat


Thursday, 22 July 2010

Thank you for your wonderful response to my last post. I loved reading all your comments :o) School holidays-love them and loathe them in equal measure I reckon.

Today I have something to show you that I made that isn't food. I've been hooking a hat for a stool. I've copied Lucy again. I like hers better than mine to be honest, she has nicer colours and on hers you can't see where the rounds start and finish like you can on mine. But I'm pleased with it and it only took one evening and a couple of hours to make.

Mmmm...think I might start arranging my books to match my crochet.....

Summer Plans


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

So school finishes on Friday for my children. Six weeks of holiday ahead.
In previous years I have approached the summer hols with dread in my heart. This year however I am feeling a lot more positive and am approaching them with nothing more than mild irritation in my heart.

Things about the holidays I am not looking forward to

  1. The house is never quiet. It's not the children that are noisy but their gadgets.

  2. I can't go out by myself -daughter has to come along. This is an improvement on all three coming.

  3. People asking me for food all day long.

  4. Younger son's buddies coming over bringing electric guitars. Son cannot go to their houses because he's the drummer. Something  C and I did not forsee when we said 'yes, of course you can learn the drums'.

  5. Daughter annoying sons so much that she ends up crying.

  6. More laundry. They get through more clothes for some reason.

  7. Buying the school shoes. Can I get them on Amazon do you think?
Things about the holidays I am looking forward to.

  1. Six weeks of lie-ins.

  2. Only one packed lunch to do. Obviously C can make his own lunch but he has a limited repertoire (cheese sandwich or cheese sandwich) so I do it to ensure he gets a varied diet.

  3. No school uniform to wash and iron.

  4. No endless letters and forms to sign from school.

  5. No standing about in the playground waiting for daughter listening to other parents whinge about the teachers.

  6. Saving £8 a week on bus fare. We could almost get two extra bottles of wine a week for that, but of course a more sensible plan would be to put it towards the shoes.

  7. No clock watching.

  8. Nine days completely to myself when C takes them all camping. I can eat what I like (but not too much of course!) when I like, watch what I like on telly and get on with my crochet in peace.

  9. A week away in Cornwall.

  10. Going to bed on Sunday September 5th knowing that it's all over.
I am not the kind of mother who organises lots of different activities and outings for her kids. I firmly believe that children do not need entertaining. I believe this because I am very lazy. And also broke. My kids have always been very good at amusing themselves, probably because they've had to be. Well done me.
 My sons will laze about moving from computer to TV to Wii before finally deciding to go for a bike ride. Now they are old enough to run errands for their old mum, although not, unfortunately, old enough to fetch me a bottle of wine. They also can bike over to friends.
My daughter is very friendly with the neighbouring girls and will spend the whole day at the house of one particular friend who is an only child and whose mother is consequently glad of company for her daughter.It works out well for everyone.

I do have a few things planned for the summer to do with my children.

  1. Teach sons how to cook three dishes each-a lunchtime snack, a main course and a pudding.

  2. Declutter my daughter's bedroom with her.

  3. Take them all to Witley Court , possibly with a picnic.

  4. Can't think of any more.

Elder son wants to make one of these.

Just a fraction of the clutter in my daughter's bedroom.

Witley Court. At its best when the fountain is playing which it does on the hour throughout the summer for about ten minutes.

So, are you approaching the school hols with a heart full of joy or do you wish it was September already? :o)

In My Kitchen


Saturday, 17 July 2010

A bit of a lazy post today. Not much is happening here at The Quince Tree so I thought I'd put together some photos of what's been going on in my kitchen in the last couple of days.

I made a big batch of granola yesterday.

I've been sprouting mung beans. You can buy these easily at supermarkets. They're easy to sprout. Simply put a couple of tablespoonfuls into a jar, cover with water and leave overnight.
Next day drain off the water, cover the mouth of the jar with a piece of muslin or old tights and rinse water through the beans about 3 times a day. Keep the jar in a cupboard-they like the dark. After 2-3 days you will have a jar full of beansprouts.

They really come into their own in the winter when homegrown salad veg is scarce, but they're great at any time. We love them in toasted cheese sandwiches.

This was lunch today. I serve this DIY salad meal quite often. The kids like it because they get a break from my usual choice of 'take it or leave it'. They can choose what they like as long as they have some protein and some veg.

This was my lunch -egg, tinned mackerel, green beans (the first local beans of the year), leftover boiled potatoes, lettuce and tomatoes.

The boys like to avoid green foods. Those are spiced roasted chickpeas in the little white dish next to the sweetcorn -not baked beans.

Dinner this evening was a cashew nut stirfry making use of various veg leftover from lunch and my beansprouts.

I was going to make a berry brulée with currants from the garden and some raspberries from my favourite farm shop.

But it's been a bit chilly here today and I felt like something hot and turned it into crumble instead.



Wednesday, 14 July 2010

It's that time again. I was dreading it a bit but I'm happy to report a 2 lb loss!  :o) Another 3lb to go and I will be at my first target.

I have been baking for the children but I'm steering clear of things like brownies and going for flapjacks instead. I  find them easier to resist than a brownie. I'm not snacking in the evening which was my worse time for unplanned noshing.

What I haven't been doing is cooking low calorie meals or avoiding fat. I am determined to do this not by changing what I eat but by changing how much I eat. With that in mind I'm going to share a recipe which might surprise you :o)


Rillettes are a delicious French speciality made from very fatty pork. So if you are fatphobic or don't eat pork I apologise. The recipe I use is from this wonderful little book The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes which has many wonderful tasty yet thrifty recipes but no pictures. Oddly I find the cookbooks I use most are the ones without pictures.

What you do is buy a couple of pounds (1kg) of pork belly rashers. Cut the rind off but leave the fat on.
Cut the pork into one inch chunks, throw them in an ovenproof casserole dish with a lid (Dutch oven) with a couple of bay leaves, 3 or 4 cloves, some thyme and 8 fl oz water. Cook for 4 hours at 140°c (275°F).

Drain all the fat off the meat into a bowl (you will need it later). Put the meat into a strong bowl and using the end of a rolling pin pound it into a uniform paste. This is easier than it sounds. Season with salt, pepper, two crushed cloves of garlic and quatre épices if you have them (French spice blend).

Next put the meat back in the pot and cook for another half an hour without the fat. Pack into a bowl or little ramekins- I used a pudding basin, and then pour over all the reserved fat. I think it is supposed to settle on top of the meat to a depth of a cm or so. Mine just soaked into the meat. It was none the worse for that though. The results were delicious. I ate it for lunch with oatcakes two days running, then we all had it for lunch with toast and tomatoes (cornichons would have been nice too). There was some left for C's sandwiches the next day. I also roasted a joint of pork at the weekend which I ate crackling and all. All that fat and still a 2 lb weight loss. But no snacking.

Slowly does it.



Sunday, 11 July 2010

I've seen this idea on a few blogs but I'm afraid I can't for the life of me remember which ones. But thankyou to whoever had the idea. What a great way of perking up your décor without spending any money at all.

There are of course massive disadvantages to arranging one's books by colour, the biggest being that you can't find anything. I've kept the right hand shelf for cookbooks only as these are the ones I read most often and I want to be able to find them easily. Another disadvantage is that any new addition to your library will necessitate more book moving, also very large books have to be accommodated elsewhere if they won't fit onto the relevant shelf. Still, it was fun to do and very pleasing. It's going to drive C mad, but since he only owns about ten of these books he'll have to live with it. I like it :o)

Reaction to new book arrangement.

C: Where's my Ellen Macarthur book?
Me: On the shelf, I've arranged them according to colour.
C: You mean I've got to remember what colour it is.
Me: Yes
C: Does it matter where I put it back?

Later, after dinner I notice a yellow book in the middle of my pink cookbooks.
'Who did that?'
Sniggers come from elder son.

: :

Continued heartfelt thanks for all your wonderful comments. I appreciate each and every one of them and get a thrill everytime I see that a new comment has been left :o))


I've remembered where I saw this idea it was here at Quilt While You're Ahead.

Redcurrant Cordial


Friday, 9 July 2010

Since May my redcurrants have been turning....

....into rubies.

Time to pick.

One bush doesn't yield a huge amount. I usually make a few jars of jelly but this year I thought I'd make some cordial - red Ribena. Easy peasy to make. Put the currants, stalks and all, in a  pan with some water (600ml to every 1kg of currants) and cook gently till soft. Pour the lot into a jelly bag or similar and leave to drip overnight.

Put the juice into a pan with sugar (700g to every litre of juice), heat gently to dissolve the sugar.

Pour into sterilised bottles. It keeps for several months. Mine won't last that long as I didn't make much and my children seem to love homemade drinks. Poor deprived things I don't buy soft drinks not even fruit juice.

Delicious diluted with fizzy water, and I imagine even better diluted with white wine.

You can make cordials with other berries blackcurrants being an obvious choice. Rhubarb, damsons and plums are good too. I might well make this throughout the year using whatever is in season. I'm sure frozen fruit would work too. Check out The River Cottage Handbook on Preserves by Pam Corbin for more info on 'beena making. 

By the way if you have ever wondered why Ribena is so called, the latin name for currants is ribes

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