Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Chocolate Week

This week is chocolate week in the UK, usually I only realise it after it's been and gone. I'm afraid the big Chocolate Show at Olympia is a bit expensive for me, but look out for special events and tastings at department store chocolate counters.

I managed to get a taste of some chili chocolate by Melt. The chocolate had chili seeds in it, but I didn't really taste much chili heat, maybe I didn't get any bits of chili in the pieces of chocolate that I tasted. Still, the chocolate was very smooth and creamy, I was really impressed.

I also tasted two very different chocolates from Madagascar, one from Madecasse, which was supposed to have lots of citrusy notes, but I don't think I was able to taste them, and another 70% chocolate made in  Belgium by a chocolatier whose name I can't remember because I had not heard of him before (I think it is Benoit Nihant). The second one I really liked.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spring Watch 2014 Part 3

Our tulips have finally started to bloom, maybe a couple of days ago. Most years they start to come in just as the daffodils are finishing, but this year they're a bit later, which seems odd because we've had a mild winter. My lilies of the valley seem early, in contrast. Some seem to be well under way, about an inch or more above ground, and with flower stalks forming already. Usually I start to see them coming up around the beginning of April, and by May the first they're in bloom, except last year, they were somewhat later.

What I think is an ornamental crab apple near the local library was in full bloom today - a spectacular dark purplish-red. The pear trees are also in full bloom.

The bees are happy in the back garden at the moment - lots of purple flowers to keep them busy - we have spring-flowering heather, lots of pulmonarias, and the rosemary is still in bloom.  A borage plant that seeded itself in the front garden is also currently in bloom.

Having seen Jamie Oliver, I think, as well as probably James Wong, on TV telling us that various types of flowers are edible, we decided to taste the rosemary flowers, not expecting them to taste of a lot,  but surprisingly they taste very strongly of rosemary!

Spring Watch 2014 Part 2



Peach blossom


Went for another walk around the neighborhood to have a look at the spring flowers on the Sunday before last, March 23rd. The pear trees were just about to blossom, just not quite there yet. We saw some of the first tulips, some pale greenish white ones, and some pale greenish cream ones, delicate colours that I really like. I remember when I was first in England, complaining that all the tulips here seemed to be red! We got hailed on briefly two or three times during our walk, only for a few seconds each time, small hail that looked like large salt granules. We saw more camellias and magnolias in bloom, some just starting, some nearly over. The peach trees that D grew from seed  were also in bloom, pretty, largish violet-pink flowers. My white hyacinths had also flowered - they have a lovely but very, very delicate scent.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Seasonal Foods 2014, Part 1


So far this year we have had oranges.

The Seville oranges are usually in the shops in January,

Seville Orange
Seville orange

but this year we also found the first blood oranges from Sicily in January, somewhat earlier than usual.

Sicilian blood orange
Sicilian blood orange

This year we also discovered something new, green oranges from Jamaica. They were lovely and sweet when you eat them as recommended on this website.

http://www.mysilversands.com/content/oranges.aspx


Jamaican green orange
Jamaican green orange

D made a lovely Seville orange meringue pie, using the recipe from Rachel Allen's Bake.

This is a link to a Mary Berry recipe for Seville Orange Meringue Pie:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sevilleoprangemering_71465


Spring Is Breaking Out All Over


Today was sunny for the most part, but there was a strong breeze at times, and after an unseasonal 19 degrees last Sunday, it felt rather cold.

Back from yet another job interview early in the afternoon, I changed into warmer clothes and decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood and catch up with the advance of spring, afraid that I might have missed the magnolias.

It was a lovely afternoon for a de-stressing walk,  with the sun shining, and lots of spring flowers everywhere, it just lifted your mood.

Our daffodils came out around the 22nd of February, this year, not at all early, in spite of the mild winter, and are just about finished, but there are still plenty in the neighboring gardens. Tulips are not out yet, but there were lots of hellebores in full flower, some snowdrops and primulas,  small purple hyacinths, and lots of bergenias. The forsythias are in full bloom, a glorious splash of yellow. Most camellias are just starting, and I saw two of the ones with bubble-gum pink flowers that I really like. The mimosa tree is in bloom, and so is the deeply coral japonica quince (Japonica glistens like coral, in all of the neighboring gardens,...). One lovely dark pink magnolia was in full bloom. The large one at the top of the road was mostly over, and starting to show leaves, and some of the early flowering cherries are in bloom. A lovely time of year.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Apple Daze


Red Elstar


Today is Apple Day in the UK, or at least the anniversary of the first apple day held in 1990, and October is these days the time for Apple Festivals all around the country.

We have been to a few events in the past few weeks, the largest and most impressive, of course, being the Apple Festival at the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale (near Faversham) in Kent.

We have enjoyed ourselves, despite the wet and sometimes cold weather, and have seen lots and lots of different apple varieties, tasted several, and bought a few.

We continue to be astonished by the diversity of sizes, shapes, colors, flavours and textures that apples come in, that we had no idea about until a few years ago.

The photos were taken by D, under challenging conditions. It was raining heavily a lot of the time, and by the end of the last day water had got inside the camera. Fortunately he managed to dry the camera out!

The apples in the photo above are Red Elstar. You can find out more about all the different apple varieties on the National Fruit Collection's website.

Another website that has lots of information about heritage apple varieties is Orange Pippin.


Edward VII

Edward VII



Lord Lambourne


Knobby Russet.

Knobby Russet


Starkrimson.

Starkrimson



Yellow Belleflower


September Beauty

September Beauty


Gelber Trierer Weinapfel

Gelbe Trierer Weinapfel


Francis

Francis


Pumpkin Sweet

Pumpkin Sweet



Wellspur Delicious


Woolbrook Russet

Woolbrook Russet


Below are photos of some of the apples on display indoors at Brogdale. This year's displays were arranged in alphabetical order.


Alastair Cannon White

Alastair Cannon White


Antonovka Grammovaya

Antonovka Grammovaya


Kaiser Franz Joseph

Kaiser Franz Joseph


More indoor displays from another festival.


Beauty of Hants

Beauty of Hants


Catshead

Catshead


George Cave

George Cave



Herring's Pippin


Hoary Morning

Hoary Morning


Powell's Russet

Powell's Russet


Red Ellison

Red Ellison


Sturmer Pippin

Sturmer Pippin


Below are three of the varieties that were for sale at one of the festivals.


Kidd's Orange Red box

Kidd's Orange Red



Ribston Pippin



Catherine


The Brogdale festival included pears as well as apples, so we also got a guided tour of the pear orchard.

Plymouth pears are very tiny pears that you wouldn't want to eat, but they are the ancestors of our modern pears, so they are in the collection as a genetic resource.


Plymouth pear

Plymouth pear


Black Worcester pear

Black Worcester pear


The Black Worcester pear is a cooking pear,  with an interesting history involving Queen Elizabeth I, and it appears on the Worcester coat of arms. You can read more about it here.

I just realised that I never got around to blogging about our previous visits to apple festivals in 2011 and 2012, so I will try to write up some of those  in a later post.

Also tasting notes to come.


Friday, 6 September 2013

September 2013


September 12th:
The perils of food growing: most of the nearly-ripe tomatoes, plus a couple of the still-green ones, have split because of this week's rain. C'est la vie.

September 11th:
Saw what we think is a hornet in our front garden.  Never seen anything like it before. It's quite large, about as wide as a honeybee and maybe three or more times as long, with a bright yellow end, and a burgundy colored thorax. The first time I saw it, about a week ago, it seemed to keep bumping against one of our rosemary plants, which are not in flower at the moment. Scary.

September 6th:
It seems that traditional French milk producers are just as beleaguered as their English counterparts.
Here is a link to a campaign to save traditional milk production, http://sauvonslelait.fr/ and an appeal set to music
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5guMYOFphto&feature=youtu.be
which I came across via a link from Clotilde's blog, Chocolate and Zucchini.

September 1st:
At last the tomatoes are starting to go yellow.  They are a yellow variety from the Heritage Seed Library, Scotland Yellow.
Hopefully they will ripen before blight sets in, otherwise I have a recipe for Green Tomato Curry from Floyd's India. Last year's attempts to grow tomatoes were a total disaster.

Found some fresh pistachio nuts in the shops. They have a thin leathery outer skin, pink to black in colour. When you peel that off you get the hard shell that we are used to seeing on pistachios. The texture of the fresh pistachio kernels is similar to that of fresh hazelnuts.


Fresh pistachios


Bought some Turkish-style ice cream, dondurma. Ice cream is made in Linton, Cambridgeshire. Contains salep, and doesn't seem to contain cream, so maybe a low-fat type of ice cream. The color was very white, unusual for cow's milk ice cream, and more like some goat's milk ice cream that we had at a Food Festival in Hyde Park in the early '90's.


dondurma1



dondurma2