Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The tortoise and the hare

I sowed a row of "Guernsey" parsnips in the potager on 30th April this year. After a prolonged sulk they germinated. On 4th September I had six little parsnip seedlings in a row. That was four months while they decided whether to die or to live after all.

A little row of parsnips - 6th September 2015

Parsnip seedlings, 17th September 2015
By contrast, on 7th August, Alvaro (workawayer) and I sowed two rows of Avola peas. The first of these came into flower on 4th September, and there are now fat pods forming with plenty of flowers to come. Avola went from dry seed to a healthy set of plants with flowers on in four weeks precisely. We picked enough peas for a meal on 30th September and the plants are going strong at two months old.

Avola peas, 6th September 2015
Avola peas, 26th September 2015
My original seeds came from the Kew collection and the current lot  from Plants of Distinction. Both, like many other UK seeds merchants, send seeds to France with no problems. But Avola will now be Alvaro peas to us.

Interesting that the slowest and the fastest germination should both turn up on the same day.

Also coming up: self-seeded parsley and coriander. Parsley is reputed to go to the devil and back before it germinates, but if you sow fresh seed in August, it comes up ready for action immediately

On the other hand, we have discovered the existence of N-space, where the nuts come from. No matter how thoroughly we check the filbert bushes, there is still another nut to be found. Somebody in N-space is moving nuts into space-time continuum version 1.0, hanging them up on the branches and giggling.

This filbert was not here a few minutes ago.
The occupants of N-space have not gifted our walnut tree with much by the way  of fruit this year. Tim and Betsy cleared the bank under the tree and we concluded that it was not worth the effort to fit the tree with a nappy* as we did last year. The discovery of a second - wild - walnut on the riverbank just below the weir put the tin hat on it. The second tree is invisible among the ash trees and produces smaller nuts than the old tree, which was a selected variety rather than a chance seedling. They are neck and neck in weight of nuts, at a couple of kilos apiece - that will be plenty!

Tim and Betsy under the walnut tree heading straight for the millstream
*walnut nappy - catches the nuts that would otherwise fall into the millstream.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Disgusted, absolutely disgusted!!

I went on our monthly bottle run...
to the bottle bin by the Salle des Fêtes in Grand Pressigny this afternoon.
On my arrival I was greeted by this mess....

The signage here is in English

Some Anglais had left ALL their holiday rubbish between the bin for glass...
and the bin for paper.
How do I know that these lazy people are from the UK...
look at these...

The pink at the back is the House of Fraser bag mentioned below....

I got rid of what I could...

Over fifty bottles for a start...
a lot of them bought on the ferry over...
other stuff brought with them from the UK...
especially the spirit bottles with UK Duty Paid stickers...
the Asda "Bag for Life" in the second picture was one of two...
but the biggest bag of bottles was a House of Fraser one...
with a receipt at the bottom...
from the Skipton branch!!
Skipton is in Yorkshire....
and they own property here...
or know someone who does...
they had thrown some stuff there in yellow SMITCOM recycling sacks!

But it wasn't just the bottles...
there was a broken mirror...
a lot of soggy cardboard boxes...
another plastic shopping bag...
full of ends of bread...
two sacks of general household rubbish...
if I had the time, I'd open those two and see if I could find a name!!
But I haven't got any 'Elf and Safety' kit to protect me...

We had enough of that laziness....
that outright carelessness....
and that anti-social behaviour in Leeds...
it is what we moved away from...
so, fellow Brits...
take your rubbish with you next time...
better still...
stay away from Grand Pressigny!!

I am really ashamed to come from the same part of the UK!!
What you see above is the side of Not-so-great Britain...
that Le Tour was probably shielded from!!

Posted by Disgusted of GP

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Quetsche plum and walnut butter cake temporary post


    some Butter to grease the pan and some Flour to dust over it
    8 large Quetsch Plums (about 1 pound or 550 grams), cut in half and pitted
    1 cup/220g of granulated White Sugar, plus 4 Tablespoons of Sugar divided into two equal parts (2 Tablespoons and 2 Tablespoons)
    1/4 / 60ml cup of Brandy or Cognac
    8 Tablespoons / 115 g of Butter, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon of Lemon Zest, finely grated
    1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
    1 cup / 170g of Flour
    1/2 teaspoon of Baking Powder
    1/2 teaspoon of Salt
    2 large Eggs, at room temperature
    1 ounce of Walnuts (25 grams), toasted, ground and cooled (or about 1/4 cup of ground, toasted walnuts, cooled)
    some Powdered Sugar to sprinkle over the baked cake
    a bowl of lightly whipped and sweetened Heavy Cream is nice to serve alongside the cake


    a Processor or Blender for grinding the walnuts
    a 9-inch Springform Pan, lined with Parchment Paper
    2 Mixing Bowls
    a Sifter
    a Mixer, hand or standing
    a small Strainer for sprinkling powdered sugar over the baked cake

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter, dust it with flour, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2.  Place the halved and pitted plums in a bowl.  Pour the brandy over them and sprinkle them with 2 Tablespoons of the sugar divided into two parts

3.  Cream the butter with 1 cup of sugar, the grated lemon zest, and the vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and beat them into the butter.

4.  Beat the eggs until they start to foam.  Add them and the walnuts to the flour and butter:
5.  Pour the batter into the pan.  Arrange the plums on top in rings, cut side down.  Sprinkle with any remaining brandy/sugar syrup and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar.  (The syrup may leak from the pan onto the oven floor.  A piece of foil placed on the rack below the one holding the cake will catch the drips).

6.  Bake the cake for 1 hour, or until it is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for 10 minutes… …before removing the ring of the springform pan and transferring the cake to a plate.  (It isn’t essential to remove the cake from the bottom of the pan and peel off the parchment.  The cake is best when served warm and before it cools it’s difficult to remove the paper.)  Put a little powdered sugar in a small strainer and sieve the sugar over the top of the cake……before removing the ring of the springform pan and transferring the cake to a plate.

Recipe from US Diplomatic corps

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Cheery chops

As usual I had no idea what to cook for dinner tonight, but there were chops in the freezer and wasp-gnawed apples in need of use, so I came up with a baked dish to serve with some of last year's potatoes and some of this year's massive crop of runner beans.

Leftovers - all the additions made a lovely sauce
Four pork échine chops
One apple, cored but not peeled, cut into large pieces
Four shallots, peeled, whole
One head of garlic, separated into cloves
Three tablespoons apricot nectar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the chops in a baking dish and scatter on the apple pieces, garlic cloves and shallots. Drizzle on a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 180 degrees for half an hour, turning the chops over once. Add the cherry tomatoes, pour on the apricot nectar, check and adjust the seasoning and return the dish to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have collapsed and all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with mashed potato and steamed runner beans.

I adore runner beans. I used to grow the variety Painted Lady, but I don't bother now - it doesn't "do" well here. Even in a normal summer, conditions are too dry for it to set seed. In France, runners (phaseolus coccineus to the botanist) are called "Haricot d'Espagne" and are mainly grown for their pretty red-and-white flowers. French beans, phaseolus vulgaris, are to be found in every potager.

Moonlight in full flower with beans on their way
Once again, "Moonlight" is producing splendidly, despite the drought and high temperatures. We now have a full complement of eight perennial "Moonlight" plants, each with a thick root like a parsnip under the ground. The stems disappear entirely in the autumn, and nothing happens until the end of May when the first scrawny leaves poke up out of the ground. In order to be sure I got some Moonlight I had sowed some more seeds by then, of course. These had to be planted in a different location because the original patch was full. So next year there could be two patches of perennial Moonlight. "Bulgarian Purple" also came up with one perennial plant.

Firestorm (red) and Moonlight (white)

This year I am trying "Firestorm", a red-flowered runner/french bean from the same stable as "Moonlight", but I am somewhat underwhelmed by its weak growth and yellowish leaves. It is not coping with the heat as well as "Moonlight", either, and I have had no beans from it yet, nor likely to in short order, whereas both patches of "Moonlight" and the climbing French beans "Cobra" and "Kew Blue" have both started to produce.

Kew Blue
Of all these, my favourite for flavour is "Kew Blue", which I obtained from the Heritage Seed Library. It is a stunning plant, with lilac flowers, dark green leaves, deep purple stems and long, smooth purple beans, which it produces plentifully. I save some seeds every year, and the dried beans cook well, too.
But for a widely available commercial bean, you can't beat "Moonlight".

Saturday, 16 May 2015

My! What a big one!

Oh, what a beauty! I've never seen one as big at that before!....

In her battle to produce a normal-sized egg with a shell on, Blanche surpassed herself yesterday. Her normal egg weighs about  64 grammes.

Prrrk, prrrk, Aaargh!

This one weighs an eye-watering  97 grammes. It's more than a double yolker; it amounts to two eggs in one shell. Apart from its size, it's a normal egg. It'll have to wait its turn to be cooked before we find out what's inside.

How come you do it properly, Alice?

I thought they were making a lot of racket yesterday though.

Little and large
Today's egg (on the right) is the normal size, no doubt to Blanche's relief.

Meanwhile, Alice is still producing eggs at a steady one a day. No doubt to her relier,  too!