Well, what did you think I looked like?

Well, what did you think I looked like?
It was a late night!

Monday, 16 August 2010

I Am All Jammed Out!!!

Its been a while since the last post, but its been soo busy round here.
I am up to my ears in jams and jellies, as usual for this time of year.We have found a fantastic blackberry patch right next to two yellow plums trees, right off the beaten path, and no sign for two weeks of any other scrumpers. Sadly I have run out of jars now, but the freezer is filling up fast so we should have plenty to last us through the winter.
Add to that the wild red plum tree at the allotments which we totally emptied today, another 12lb you can see I have my hands full, this lot is going into some Plum Jerkum/Turbo Cider, and this week I have to start the home brew season ready for xmas.
Jam wise we have 'put up'

  • Blackcurrant Jelly
  • Damson Jelly
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Plum Jam
  • Apple and Mint Jelly
  • Bramble Jelly
  • Yellow Plum Jelly
  • Redcurrant and port Jelly
  • Sweet Chilli Jam
  • Apple and Rosemary Jelly
I still have the marrow and ginger jam to do, but may leave it out and use the marrows for marrow rum this year.
Connor wants to make carrot jam, so we may give that a try.
At the moment I am thoroughly enjoying the jewel like glowing colours of the jars in the cupboard, I much prefer jellies to jams, not keen on skins and 'bits', only jam missing is raspberry, as we didn't grow any this year, so I may have to buy some so I can complete the set.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Things may be quiet on here, but i IRL they are not quiet at all, least said soonest mended but I am back to campaigning again, it was hard to stay away, suffice to say its all very hush , hush due to retribution threats.
Other news, no job yet, but I am volunteering for a local charity/group for single parents, thoroughly enjoying it, and working towards getting a job in civil liberties campaigning ( the not hush hush side).
The allotment is heavy with produce, too numerous to mention, but totally delicious. One week into the summer break, kids have already driven me insane.
Love to all.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Feeling a bit better.

Having had my little rant earlier, I betook myself off to the kitchen for some therapy.

several pounds of strawberries rapidly became 1 litre of strawberry ripple ice cream and three large jars of strawberry jam.
Closely followed by these;
pretty darned perfect aren't they? can anyone say 'FEET!' ?
I plucked up all my courage after the last disastrous attempt which all cracked and sank like mini-soufflĂ©'s on a wet afternoon, and tackled the Italian syrup meringue method. Pretty brave of me as I have an aversion to anything that can burn a gaping whole in my clumsy flesh, but having already done jam I thought why the hell not and presto! perfect macaronage and only the slightest hint of a cap. These are plain almond flavour with the ubiquitous chocolate and coffee ganache, I am still experimenting with oven temp so colours are still a problem with browning, but as you can see, I am getting near perfection. (160° double trays, and pray for ten minutes)
From the allotment today I harvested;

  •  2 marrow
  • 12 white onions
  • 12 red onions
  • 4 lettuce
  • 3 million giant radishes ( again)
  • 200g peas shelled
  • 6 Kohl Rabi
  • 6 beetroot
  • 50 shallots
  • a handful of Maris Peer new potatoes
  • 1lb of redcurrants
  • 3.5 lb strawberries
not a bad haul.
some pics of stuff growing.

Beetroot, squash, marrows, lettuce, sweetcorn.

 Lettuce ( and we don't even eat the stuff!) Onions, peas more broad beans , more sweetcorn.

 Cabbage, Broccoli, and Romanesco, oh and more sweetcorn.

Sweetcorn, Kohl Rabi, potatoes and pears.

you can see why more room would be nice?

Mr Angry....

You never really think that government corruption is going to effect you personally do you ?

As a voter , you kinda think you just have to put up with it, after all its the way governments work, and we are hardly a third world country involved in a civil war etc.
Then you try and do something the RIGHT way and are penalised for it!!! and that makes me REALLY angry, I try to be as honest in my dealings as possible, I was brought up that way, I brought my children up that way, and try to set an example, and it is hard to be complacent when they get to see that being honest just basically doesn't pay.

It all started with the allotment, we are glad to have one and are enjoying it a lot, as is the family next to us, and between us we could do with more room, to grow more fruit for both families, so we talked about taking on another one between us, as usual there are several not being worked, despite there being a small waiting list.
There are 18 new plots due in September, and the guy in charge told me there are not enough people on the list to fill them, so we thought we had a chance of taking on one opposite us that's just been given up half way through the season.........more fool us. we both rang up and explained what we wanted to do, and were told that as we already have plots, we can't have a second one whilst there is a waiting list, and even if we put our names down again we still wont get one if there is a waiting list because...we already have one.

Fair enough I hear you say, people who haven't got one should get first crack, and I agree, totally! we have put our names down in the hope that once the small waiting list has been dealt with there will be one left we can have.
And then I find out, that a person that got an allotment at the same time as me, now has a second one, right next door to his first one!!! how you ask yourself, well I didn't ask myself, I asked him, and the answer?

He used his daughters name , put it on the list, then rang and asked if she could have the one next to him when it became vacant during the season, on the grounds that as she is family and doesn't drive it would be more convenient to have that one, than one of the new ones in the next field!!!
so not only did she jump the queue, but..wait for it.... she has no intention of even coming over to work it, its just in her name so that he can have two!!!!!
then he tells me, that 4 other people down his end have done the same thing!

And I am supposed to teach my children that cheating doesn't pay.........how?

Friday, 18 June 2010

I am.....supporting Slovenia

Lets face it England suck!

Anyhoo, after a mammoth macaron session this afternoon, smiles and tears , hair pulled out by the roots, we still have more failures than successes, but: the successes were successful. Photos will follow, but I have the batter almost right now, or at least when its wrong, I know why its wrong ( over beating mostly). Next is getting the temperature right for MY oven, it seems 160° is the best, with tin foil over the top shelf to prevent it getting too hot top down and browning them, as I have a fan oven I am going to try lowering the shelf one more from middle next time see what happens.
I got smooth domes....without feet
I got feet....with cracked domes
and I got some, just right.
Frankly I refuse to obsess too much over this, I don't want to become another macaron blog, truth is, they all taste nice if they don't look perfect, they are not for sale; they are for eating, so who cares.
fillings were:

  • Raspberry and milk chocolate ganache
  • Peach and white chocolate ganache 
  • Coffee and dark chocolate ganache 
I sneaked a taste of one, sorry this 24 hours in the fridge, whilst correct, is a killer. They are divine. Colouring is a thing I must practice, what starts off as way too vivid , pales so much during whisking and then baking, it will take some practice to get the starting colour vivid enough to survive to come out just right.
As I mentioned, I refuse to become obsessed, I shall persevere, but no more posts about them until I manage the perfect batch, there is more to life than the quest for baking the perfect macaron.........like eating non-perfect ones!

meanwhile anyone having trouble with macarons should, I INSIST, read this article it was invaluable in my quest as to understanding the mechanics behind these little delicious blighters!

oh and the photos? well the macarons didn't last long enough , sorry!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

I am Sugar Rushed...

Too much ice cream tasting, everything seems to taste of sugar.

my fingers are itching to make another batch of macarons, I ate the last one this afternoon after opening the fridge about ten times and telling  myself NO! I could resist no longer and nibbled at it whilst watching the football, and my gods they are not kidding when they say they are better after being in the fridge for 24 hours.
So I got cracking , ha ha ! and separated some eggs ready for tomorrow, and they are busy 'ageing' in the kitchen for tomorrow. I have trawled the internet all day for hints and tips and think I have found the explanations for the failures in batter consistency in the first attempt, we shall see.
I am going to go for plain vanilla shells for this attempt so that I can practice without wasting too many ingredients.
meanwhile, on the ice cream front, I made David's Chocolate Sherbet to which I added 1 egg white whisked to a meringue consistency which has given it a smashing mousse quality, I combined this with a Pear and White Wine sorbet, in little plastic shot glasses as moulds.

The idea of the plastic cups is not so much as a mould but to create individual portions, the boys have been doing serious damage to the ice cream tubs, and this way they can just pull out a portion of the flavour they like , rather than partially defrosting a whole tub each time.I did however have to take a photo of how pretty this looked . The flavours go well together, however the pear flavour is very subtle and could do with intensifying.
Having picked up a bunch of over ripe bananas at the greengrocers cheap, I then proceeded to make a batch of Banana & Brown Sugar ice cream, very sweet, but totally delicious.
Surely this has to stop!!
But no....I have lychees for sorbet, and peaches for ice cream still to do, although I may set a peach or two aside for a macaron filling .

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

I am Impressed......sort of.

So there we were, 10 am and nothing to do. So son#1 and I went shopping and brought the few things on my cookery list that I could afford. More eggs was a must, for more ice cream. Plus a few other bits including a baking tray for my upcoming attempt at Macarons.
While he finished off the first batch of raspberry ripple, insisting that I would need the container so it needed emptying ( yeah right!); I got on with the first batch. Result? disaster! serves me right really, I had halved the ingredients as it was a test batch, and must have got them wrong, because the batter was way too thick. We cooked them anyway to see what would happen, and whilst they were in no way macaronsthey were edible and scrummy so we kept some to crumble into the next batch of suitable ice cream.
Well I wasn't about to give up, so I trusted myself to David's expert hands and tried again; full ingredients this time. Result? success! Ok not a rip roaring success, they didn't have 'feet' and a few had cracked. Also I think the mixture was still ever so slightly too thick because the little peaked caps didn't sink, however the meringue mixture this time did actually look like meringue, and the folding in went well.

Not perfect, but I don't care. This is the first ever attempt at meringue, let alone macarons: and I at least got a feel for the mixture which I can now 'perfect'. I think it had too much air in it because bubbles were an issue on the surface, so maybe a slightly looser mix, and letting them sit for longer may help; the second batch were definitely smoother having sat for 30 minutes before they went in the oven.
I made a delicious coffee ganache for the centres, which son#1 hates so his had Nutella in! there was far too much of the coffee filling though so I froze a large amount, I hate waste so I hope it defrosts  as usable.
A tasting session when son#2 came in from school declared them to be 'DELICIOUS!' so I took the photo quickly as there are now of course none left.
I need a decent piping bag though, so the next attempt will have to wait until next week, I will definitely be making them again and son#2 is already thinking up flavours to try out. Whilst they are a lot of effort to get right, they are well worth making and the perfect way to use up all the egg whites left over from the ice cream making. Next of course I will have to perfect the 'feet' and try to make them without the 'caps' although, I have to say; they do look cute.

Next of course was the empty tub of raspberry ripple that need replacing. My first one had been made with custard powder, and whilst the kids loved the taste, I was unhappy with the texture. Of course now I am expert at a home made custard base, it behoved me to try again. Unfortunately the raspberry has spread into the ice cream rather than rippling, but..........it looks nice and tastes divine so a happy accident really.