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Thursday, 12 May 2016

MY KITCHEN IS CLOSED

Good Morning to you,


I just wanted to pop by, to let you know, we are busy decorating at the moment,


which means my kitchen will be closed for the next month or so. 

Have a wonderful few weeks and I will catch up with you, when the paint on the walls is dry and everything is returned to its rightful place.

As Always,




Thursday, 5 May 2016

NE'ER CAST A CLOUT, TILL MAY IS OUT

Good Morning to you,


'Ne'er Cast A Clout, Till May Is Out'

an English Proverb


When we returned home from the Isle of Wight, we enjoyed some lovely sunny weather and we spent a couple of days tidying up the garden.

.... but during last week, the blue sky disappeared, to be replaced with some very grey skies. 

.... and on one of those grey mornings, I was busy in my sewing room, cutting out fabric, to make a new quilt, when I happened to look out of the window. Were they snow clouds I could see. 

The minutes ticked by.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flicker and when I looked up, there, before me, was a curtain of snow.  Not just a flurry of snow, but big fat snowflakes.... I know there probably isn't such a thing as a big fat snowflake, but on this occasion the words feel right to me. The big fat snowflakes soon turned into a blanket of snow.

So I dashed to the garage, to find the fleece, which only a few days before, we had removed from the plants.  I needed to hurry, as the lemon tree and the olives trees had to be protected from the snow.  I managed to cover them just in time, but I have to tell you, I did not have the time to put my coat on, just my gardening clogs, so when I returned indoors, I was covered in snow, which of course melted in the warmth. I did not look a pretty sight. To be honest, I didn't mind, because I am very proud of my lemon and olive trees. I have nurtured them through so many harsh winters, and it would be such a shame to lose them at the last hurdle. Summer is almost here, and they will be rejuvenated when the warm sunshine arrives.

.... and where was George, whilst I was running around the garden?

Well I have to tell you, he had his own problems. 

The day started out well. George decided to spend a few hours with Sadie. On the way to Sadie's, he stopped to buy a bunch a flowers for her.  He parked the car, bought the flowers, got back into the car, switched the engine on.... and nothing.  He tried again. Nothing. The engine did not respond. The windscreen wipers came on, but not the engine. Now in the old days, George could tinker with the car and usually sort out a simple problem, but nowadays, cars are computerised, so he cannot tinker with them as he used to. George decided to lock the car and sort it out after he had delivered the flowers to Sadie. So while I was running around the garden covering the plants, George was walking to Sadie's, in blizzard conditions, doing his best to carry the bunch of flowers and keep them protected. By the time he arrived at Sadie's he was covered in snow, but he was not cold, as he had his Barbour hat on, his walking jacket and his gloves.... he knows how to dress.... he is from the north and as Sadie always says,

Ne'er cast a clout, till May is out.

Which roughly translates, never, ever, put your winter clothes away, just because the sun shines.  Wait until May has ended and then pack away your winter clothes.

.... and on this occasion she was absolutely right.

When George finally arrived at Sadie's. He gave Sadie the flowers, which had somehow survived the walk and she loved them.   You never need to buy Sadie diamonds or pearls, a bunch of flowers will always make her very happy.

.... but George had to leave Sadie, practically as soon as he had arrived, because he had to sort out the car. George contacted the AA, who were brilliant. They checked to see if they could fix the problem, but because of the computerisation the car needed to be towed to the garage.

The upshot was, the car was in the garage all over the Bank Holiday weekend, but we didn't mind, because the weather was so awful, we stayed indoors. 

.... but it was so nice to have the car back, when we collected it on Tuesday.

Now after all this dreadful weather, you would imagine the plants growing in my garden, would wither away, but no, these are hardy northern plants, they are used to our northern weather

.... and today,


the sun is shining and we have lovely blue skies again.  I have noticed that I often share blue skies with you, but after so many wintry grey skies, seeing the blue sky makes me feel so happy.

So I thought it time to see what was happening in my garden.

.... and this is what I found.


Forget-me-Nots which I had grown from seed.  I noticed that amongst the blue flowers, there were a smattering of white flowers... aren't they lovely. When the seeds have dried I usually scatter them around the garden, so they appear in the most unexpected places. I don't mind, because it is always a lovely surprise the following year to see where they have grown.... and they are also plants for free.


.... and this Saxifrage was nestling amongst the pink geraniums.  The flowers are small, but they are perfect.


I was so pleased to see the Tree Peony in bud. I adore peonies, but the flowers never seem to stay with us for very long.... but I do enjoy them whilst they are with us.


I have two species of Pulmonaria and they are always the first plant to flower in my garden.


This Pulmonaria tends to be a little wild and raggedy, but I keep it, because the bees love this plant.


Underneath the apple tree I have a shady area where I have planted some Cowslips. I planted two and I divide them each year and they appear to be very happy where they are planted.  Do you spot the pesky weed which has seeded itself.  I think its time I did a little bit of hoeing.


The miniature daffodils, Tete-a-Tete, have come to an end and once the green has died back, they will be stored, ready to plant out again in the Autumn. The beautiful yellow pansies (which George loves) are such a vibrant colour, which  certainly cannot be ignored.


This yellow shrub, (I have been racking my brain, but the name escapes me for the moment) was given to me by my brother in law. Along with the Pulmonaria, the flowers appear very early in Spring.


I have three lilac bushes which are planted in the garden and this year, is the first year, they have shown any signs of flowering.  I am so pleased, because these plants are grown from cuttings which I took from Bob's (George's father's) lilac tree, about 5 years ago.  I have another two, in safe keeping for Natasha and Danielle.  One I am training to become a standard and the second is a small bush which I planted in a terracotta pot. This one is waiting to be transported to Danielle.... although she might want the standard lilac.... I had better check to see who wants what.  I might find I will have to grow another standard.

Bob, just like my father, loved lilacs and whilst Bob's grew beautifully in his garden, my father's white lilac bush seemed to flounder.  Many years after Phyllis removed the bush, I realised the reason my father's lilac bush never flowered, it was because each year, Phyllis would cut it back hard.... that is Phyllis' style of gardening, if it gets to big, prune it back very hard, to encourage new growth. We always tease her about her pruning, and I never ask her to prune my plants.  When she offers, I usually make her a cup of tea and suggest she takes the weight of her feet and relaxes in the garden.... this usually works.... I don't think she suspects.


.... and look what was peeking through the bluebells, this pretty Primula. When I lived close to Phyllis, we used to buy different coloured Primula, then divide them, so we each increased our stock.


As you can see my standard olive tree survived the onslaught of the colder weather.  It has a little damage, but nothing to write home about.  I will give it a few more weeks before I trim her up.  As you can see, I really need to get in this part of the garden and tidy up a little.


Daphne is just waiting for her shawl of plants, but they tend to grow a little later in the season. She won't have to wait too long.


.... and finally I am so excited to show you my garlic.

Do you remember way back in October of last year we planted some bulbs of garlic. Well take a look and see how they are growing.  I have another pot which is filled with garlic cloves and it is also looking very healthy.  I am so excited, because this is a first for me.  I spoke to my friend, who advised me not to pull up the garlic until June or July.... ooh I have to wait so long, but I just know the flavour will be wonderful.  It seems of late the garlic I am buying is on the dry side, so to have some big, fat juicy cloves to cook with will be wonderful.

Did you manage to find the time to plant some garlic cloves.  If so, how are you getting on with yours?

The sun is shining at the moment and George is busy mowing the lawn, so I am going out into the garden to enjoy the sunshine and to weed the borders.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,








Thursday, 28 April 2016

LEMON CHEESECAKE WITH GINGER BISCUITS

Good Morning to you,

I wonder, are you like me?

Do you have a drawer in your kitchen where random items, spend their lives, for a period of time?

The one drawer, where bits and bobs end up.  You know the sort of thing, odd bits of string, elastic bands, takeaway menus, which funnily enough we never use, so I have no idea why they are in the drawer in the first place, it just seems to be the place they end up.

A drawer where random recipes live.  The type of recipe, which over the course of time, have been cut from magazines or handwritten and shared by friends, then placed into plastic wallets, in the hope that one day they will see the light of day and be made. Don't be misled, not one plastic wallet per recipe, but one plastic wallet for about 50 or more recipes.

I have a drawer which is packed to the gunwales and really does need sorting out, but the problem is, I can be a bit of a procrastinator.  No, that's not true, I am a procrastinator.  But on this occasion, as the drawer was  filling up, I couldn't procrastinate any longer. I decided to spend an hour or so, having a little sort out. The takeaway menus were easily sorted, they went straight into the recycling bin, but when it came to the many recipes written on bits of paper, well, that was a whole other matter. Instead of just throwing them away, I decided to read through them... now that was a huge mistake. 

One of the recipes  I came across, was  a recipe from 2005, which I had cut from the Cyprus Weekly newspaper. The recipe was for a Survival cake, which I had always meant to make, because I loved the ingredients, but todate, it has not been made. That's 11 years which have gone by, I wonder when I will get around to making it.

Then I found a snippet from a daily newspaper for back exercises.... have I done them....nope not as yet, but you never know, at some point, they might prove useful.

Then I found a recipe for roasted figs and walnuts, which I thought looked delicious.  The recipe called for Acacia honey from the Pyrenees... consequently this was never made.

Then I came across an article about the Chelsea Flower Show.... date 2010.  I kept it because I had meant to buy the new rose 'Beatrix Potter' and yes, you've guessed it again, I didn't.... but I might.

....and the oldest piece of paper I discovered, was a diet sheet from 1975, called The Human Diet.

It was not produced on a glossy sheet of paper as diets are today, no this diet, was produced using a stencil. Now that took me by surprise. I remember using stencils back in the day, way before we had photocopiers. In the early days, if a letter needed to be sent to 10 or more people, I would type the information on a waxed stencil. The next stage which I always disliked, was the inking of the Gestetner drum.... and the stage I always dreaded, was laying the stencil on top of the ink, hoping that I would not make any creases in the stencil and I always kept my fingers crossed, that the ink did not bleed and that I would not be covered in ink, which invariably I was. You can see by my choice of words, how much I disliked using the Gestetner duplicating machine.

Now that is 5 pieces of paper,  which I have kept and not used and this is only the tip of the iceberg. So why do I feel the need to keep this stuff. What I do know is, I just have this love for old recipes, but the back exercises I cannot explain those, they are a mystery.

.... but I digress, why on earth have I kept a diet sheet from 1975? For posterity? Again who knows, but keep it I have, so I thought it would be fun to share with you a couple of the meals which were recommended on this diet.

Breakfast.  1/2 a grapefruit, 1 slice of starch reduced bread, spread with 1/4oz of butter and 1 teaspoon of marmalade or honey.  

Now if my memory serves me correctly, wasn't the bread called Nimble.... and such tiny slices.

Lunch.  1 portion of Cadbury's snack soup,
2 cream crackers with 1oz Edam cheese or cucumber. Notice I say or, not both.

Supper.  Beans on Toast.  A 5oz can of baked beans placed on a thin slice of toast. Topped with a poached egg.

My word, did I do this diet. I don't remember it. Maybe it was one of those diets a girlfriend recommended, which I didn't get around to. I'm glad I didn't because I feel there's not enough food  to feed a sparrow.

.... luckily George does not have the appetite of a sparrow.  That is why he loved this,


Lemon Cheesecake with a  ginger biscuit base.  Do you remember when I used my Lakeland moulds for the Pearl Barley, Chicken and Feta Cheese Stack, well I decided, instead of making one large cheesecake, to make 4 individual cheesecakes. I have to say, I am using these moulds such a lot and I love how, whether I make something savoury or something sweet....the presentation is impressive.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today is,






Justin Bieber's 'What Do You Mean'.... does that surprise you?  This is a song,  the minute I hear it, I want to dance around the kitchen.... I can't help myself.

So listen to this song, and I bet you will be foot tapping as well. Now I haven't included the Utube clip, because I think it is a little raunchy, you however may not, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I love this song.

I think I had better get on now, and organise my ingredients, before time runs away from me.


INGREDIENTS YOU 
WILL NEED
TO MAKE
LEMON CHEESECAKE
WITH GINGER BISCUITS

FOR THE BASE

200g dark chocolate coated, ginger biscuits
75g melted butter

THE TOPPING

250g mascarpone cheese
200g single cream
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
2 large lemons - juiced

You will need: a baking tray lined with
greaseproof paper
4 Lakeland moulds
or
1 x 9" springform cake tin

HOW TO 
MAKE
LEMON CHEESECAKE WITH
GINGER BISCUITS


Oil the 4 moulds
and
place on a baking tray lined with
grease proof paper.


Blitz the biscuits
in a food processor
or
place the biscuits in a plastic bag
and 
using a rolling pin gently tap
the biscuits until they become
biscuit crumbs.


Slowly melt
the butter in a saucepan
then
add the biscuit crumbs
and mix together.


Divide the crumb mixture
between the 4 ring moulds.
Gently press the biscuit crumb
with the back of a spoon.

Place in the fridge for half an hour.

While the biscuit base is firming,


place the cream
and


the mascarpone cheese
in a large bowl
and 
using a balloon whisk,
mix together
to combine the ingredients.


Add the condensed milk
to the bowl
and



add the lemon juice
a tablespoon at a time.


Whisk until the mixture
becomes thick.
As you can see from the picture,
I made a pretty mess when I whisked
the ingredients together.


Divide the 
mixture between the 4 moulds
and
place in the fridge for at least
4 hours to set.

By which time,



these fabulous cheesecakes
will be ready to eat.

Now you can eat them as they are,
or
you can decorate them as I have
with either a strawberry 
or
some some chocolate curls.
On this occasion I plumped for
the 
strawberries.... now that's a surprise, as you know
how much I love chocolate.

Then all there is left to do,
is,
enjoy.


You might have noticed an odd photograph.... the lemon.  I had forgotten to photograph the lemon, so I used the photograph from another dish. It does look a little odd I know, sorry about that.

.... and guess what, this is a recipe I discovered in my plastic wallet, which I haven't made for years. Now that the recipe has seen the light of day, I am going to start a book and write out all the recipes I have discovered.... I'm not sure how long that is going to take.... probably a little while, so hopefully, before not too long, you will see the Survival Cake appear on Ivy, Phyllis and Me!

Before I take my leave. Do you remember earlier, I mentioned, that George really loved this cheesecake.


Well take a look at what he did to my strawberry decoration. 

Yes, he was in a really minxy mood yesterday.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,







As Always,










Thursday, 21 April 2016

A VISIT TO THE BEAUTIFUL ISLE OF WIGHT

Good Evening to you,

.... and where was I last week?

Well I shall tell you, I left the very cold North East of England to visit the much warmer, Isle of Wight.




We decided to enjoy a mini break and visit the Isle of Wight, in the south of England. The only thing is, I didn't have the time to let you know about our trip, as time seemed to sneak up on me, a little too quickly.


We travelled light, with just a rucksack each, which is pretty amazing for me, as usually, I want to pack everything, but the kitchen sink, but no, on this occasion, I was very good.... and here's the proof, well not of me carrying a rucksack, but George, looking very dapper carrying his rucksack. Do you know I am so surprised he let me show you this photo as he is normally very camera shy.


When we left Newcastle, to fly south, the sky was very grey, the wind was blowing and the rain was falling so hard, that I couldn't keep my umbrella up. It was so very cold. It really did not feel like Spring at all.



.... and then, after a short, hop, skip and a jump.... in actual fact, it was an hour and ten minutes flying time,





we arrived in Southampton, to be greeted with warm sunshine and beautiful blue skies, we couldn't believe our luck. 

We then boarded a train for the short journey to Portsmouth Harbour, where we waited just 15 minutes, for the ferry to transport us to the Isle of Wight. It was marvellous, because everything was on time and there was no hanging around, due to time delays.




We watched the activity in the harbour while we waited for our boat to dock,  then we boarded, to travel the 20 minute journey across the water.



There was a lot of shipping traffic in and out of the harbour and here you can see, another Isle of Wight ferry returning to Portsmouth Harbour. 

Do you see the sun shining on the water? I absolutely love  this image, as it takes me back to my childhood in Cyprus.  As a child, I would watch the sea sparkling for what seemed like hours and to be honest, I still love to see the sun shining on the sea. I used to find it so fascinating.... and yes, as a child, I really believed they were diamonds floating on the water.




It was such a beautiful day, that there were quite a few people sailing their yachts. If it had been Cowes Week, then it would have been a totally different story, as the Solent would have been awash with yachts. 





Once the boat had docked at Ryde Pier, we caught the local train into Lake. It was like travelling on the London Underground.... very noisy. We took the short walk to our hotel, as we both needed to stretch our legs.... but during the walk, we had to take our coats off, because it was so warm, we both really enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine.





We settled into our hotel and then went to the Merrie Gardens restaurant  for our evening meal.

The following day, we decided to take a stroll into Old Shanklin, where we found the most beautiful thatch cottages.




With beautifully laid out gardens. As it was only April, there wasn't very much colour in the gardens, but there were some lovely trees and shrubs.



There was a wide variety of food to enjoy.  A juicy steak for George and seafood for me. I have to say, give me the choice of a steak or a seafood platter and there is no competition, as I will always choose the seafood platter.



We walked a little further, and there ahead of us, we saw a sign for,




The Crab.  I had to walk passed it and turn back to take the photograph, as it was hidden from view until we actually walked up to it. The Crab is a place full of memories as we had taken Natasha and Danielle there, many years ago, when they were little girls. As you can see from the beautiful blue sky, we really had glorious weather.



Walking passed The Crab, I discovered  this absolutely gorgeous, pink,



tea room call the Old Thatch Teashop.  Take a look at the roof.... aren't they just a little fabulous, a thatched cup and saucer and teapot.... they are just adorable.



.... and what a pretty teashop this was.



I loved the larger sign telling me I could enjoy morning coffee, with crumpets and teacakes.... and the little sign to say they were open for business was really cute.



As we wandered back to the hotel, there were so many lovely houses to enjoy. 




There came a point when I thought, I really must stop taking photographs of thatched cottages, but then I thought to myself, the sun is shining, the sky is a beautiful shade of blue, the cottages are a feast for the eyes, so I just knew you would indulge me.

So that is what we have been up to during the past week.

.... and my savings account for my chair, well, that was put on hold.  I would much rather have a mini holiday than a chair, so I will tack an extra week on to make up for last week. You know how much I love cooking, but I also loved not having to pick up a pot or pan,  I had a wonderful time.

Doesn't a little bit of sunshine lift the spirits.... and you'll never guess what, when we arrived home, the sunshine followed us. We have enjoyed two, wonderful  sunny days.

Having said that, we are told to expect some arctic weather over the weekend.  Can you believe it, we have been warned, that there is even going to be snow on the high ground.

Hey ho! That's England for you. 

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,

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