April Ending


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

 Quince blossom

Pink campion



And my sampler for April 2014.

In other news.....

I have treated myself to some new knives (in addition to my new bread knife). Oh the joy of a really sharp knife. No onion is safe from me and my knife.

I enjoyed our local bluebell wood so much this year I was moved to splurge on a bottle of Penhaligon's Bluebell scent so that I can walk around in my own personal bluebell wood. Pure indulgence.

I was sad to see the last ever episode of Rev last night which is an absolute gem (particularly wonderful was the bishop's kitchen).

On the other hand I will not be sad to see the last episode of The Crimson Field which has been very disappointing. I mistakenly assumed it would be about nursing in a WW1 field hospital and would add to my appreciation of the horror and deprivations of war as well as showing the war from the point of view of women who were in the middle of it. Sadly it has turned out to be nothing more than a soap opera concerned only with the ludicrously melodramatic lives of a few nurses and with plot twists you can see coming from this side of the Channel.

I am eating a lot of asparagus. It's a local speciality and it would be rude not to.

I need new glasses. Varifocals. This, the optician tells me, is a sign of maturity.

Easter Weekending


Monday, 21 April 2014

Jam jar garden posy.

Beautiful quince blossom.

Flourishing mint.

 Flaming Parrots.

About to burst clematis.

Crab apple blossom.

Hot cross buns

Mini egg chocolate biscuit cake. Made by Katie. Picture below also by Katie.

My new toy.

A left handed bread knife. I think it may change my life for ever. Made in Sheffield like all the best knives.

Bluebell Wood


Thursday, 17 April 2014

All this is half a mile from my house. How lucky am I?
The little white flowers are wood anenomes.

Thank you for all your comments on my last post about teaching my reluctant teens to cook. As many pointed out they will not starve at university and if they want to learn to cook properly then they can. Meanwhile I shall teach Katie to cook because she wants to learn.

Teaching Teenagers to Cook


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

I wasn't taught to cook by my mum, I don't think she liked people in her kitchen any more than I do. She did let me make cakes and biscuits but I taught myself to cook proper meals. Thing was, I wanted to cook, I have always loved poring over cookbooks and discovering how things were made. Neither George nor Tom have any interest in food beyond enthusiastically eating it. When they go to university they are going to live on pasties and sandwiches respectively.

George who is 18 starts university in October. He can scramble eggs, cook bacon, bake potatoes, make toasties and knock up campfire chilli over a campfire. I am trying to add to his repertoire but it's an uphill struggle.

I say 'George you're cooking tea on Monday. We're having macaroni cheese, it's easy'.
He sighs and says 'ok'. 
5.30 on Monday I say 'you'll have to start tea soon',
He sighs and says 'right, just let me finish watching Game of Thrones'.
I sigh and think 'I wish I was doing it'.
Once in the kitchen he stands there waiting for me to tell him what to do. Surely he knows by now to get a pan of water on the boil for the pasta?
'George you do know that macaroni cheese has pasta in it don't you?', 'Yes' he replies rolling his eyes. 
And so it goes, me telling, suggesting and he resignedly doing. By the end we have an edible meal and he can't remember how he produced it and I am left wondering why I bother.

Last night, under duress, George cooked a very tasty version of this meal which we have now decided to call 'red stuff'. It's an excellent student meal. A half quantity will serve one hungry student for two nights running. It has a good amount of veg in the form of tinned tomatoes and onions, can be customised ad infinitum, is easy peasy, requires little in the way of equipment, is made from storecupboard ingredients and is cheap. George's version has kidney beans. black beans, sweetcorn and barbecue sauce in it. These were all my suggestions as he failed to work up enough enthusiasm to think of any himself. Sigh.

But let's not forget my other teenager. Katie adores cooking and will drop everything if I suggest she comes and helps in the kitchen. She has just finished a surprisingly comprehensive food tech unit at school which included; toad-in-the-hole, bolognese, pasta with ham and cheese sauce, jam sponge, pineapple upside down cake, pasties and egg and bacon tart. The boys did not do this when they were at school. The curriculum must have changed in the last couple of years. When we studied the ingredients lists for the recipes she made at school Katie really impressed me by being able to suggest substitutions for things we didn't have or were never going to have (margarine). After she had made the bolognese sauce she told me she really enjoyed cooking the meat and seeing it change colour, that made me happy because it's exactly what I like about cooking, watching ingredients change and become delicious. Clearly Katie is going to leave home able to cook without much effort from me. 

How do you do teach teenagers to cook?
How did you do teach teenagers to cook?
Specifically how do you teach a teenager to cook who doesn't think he needs to learn (because he already knows everything).
Should I even bother if the teenager in question doesn't want to learn? 

Ridiculously Easy No-Knead Wholemeal Bread


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Why you should make this loaf ~

1. It really is ridiculously easy.
2. There is no kneading at all.
3. It takes about a minute to mix, 30 minutes to rise and 40 minutes to bake.
4. It freezes brilliantly.
5. It is 100% wholemeal and therefore extremely Good For You.
6. It tastes absolutely wonderful -wheaty, nutty and moreish.
7. It makes fab toast and is, in short, the perfect daily bread.

Here's what you do ~

Empty a 1.5 kg bag of wholemeal bread flour into a large mixing bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of quick yeast (the kind suitable for breadmakers).

Measure out 1.2 litres of warm water. Put 1 tablespoon of honey or black treacle or soft brown sugar into the water, stir to dissolve it but don't worry if it doesn't dissolve completely. I used honey here.
Pour the water into the flour mixture.

Mix the whole lot together with a large spoon or your hands to make a thick, sticky porridge-like mixture. Make sure there are no clumps of dry flour.

Using your hands divide it between three buttered or oiled 2lb loaf tins. Level the surface with your hands.

Do excuse the poor quality of this photo

Cover with a damp towel and leave for 30 minutes to rise to just below the tops of the tins.

After 30 minutes

Bake for 40 minutes at 220°c (200°c fan oven).
Remove from tins and cool on a wire rack.

When completely cool place any loaves you can't use immediately in plastic bags and freeze.

This loaf has been frozen. As you can see it has not quite defrosted

Ingredients for three loaves (quantities for 1 loaf in brackets)

1.5kg (500g) wholemeal bread flour
1 tablespoon (1 teaspoon) salt
1 tablespoon (1 teaspoon) quick yeast
1 tablespoon (1 teaspoon) honey/black treacle/soft brown sugar
1.2 litres (400ml) warm water

30 mins proving
40 mins baking at 220°c (200°c fan)

You may recognise this recipe as a simplified version of Doris Grant's famous Grant loaf. There's a version in Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course which was my first introduction to it some years ago. It may not be my children's favourite, they would love it if I made big, crusty white loaves and nothing else, but I love it. It has flavour and substance and when you bite into a slice you feel you are eating real bread. Because that's what it is.

For a basic kneaded loaf see here.

The Year In Books ~ April


Friday, 4 April 2014

 A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor was my March read for The Year in Books. I have to report that I did not get on with it at all. It started well, I thought I was enjoying it, I could see that the writing was beautiful and that the characters well drawn but I found myself picking up other books and putting off reading it. I couldn't make any emotional connection with any of the characters and simply had no interest in what happened to them. I didn't finish the book I'm afraid. A pity because I was sure I would love Elizabeth Taylor. Maybe this was the wrong Elizabeth Taylor to start with?

 April is looking a lot more enchanting. I've been saving The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim for this month for obvious reasons. I am already very glad I did. Written in 1922 it is the story of four very different women who answer this advertisement.

To Those who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small medieval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain z, Box 1,000
The Times.

What are you reading this April?

The Quince Tree All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger