Wednesday, 12 November 2008

New Raspberry Canes have arrived

A little while ago I ordered some strawberry plants and raspberry canes from a company called Delbard here in France. I have been frustrated in the past buying from garden centres because they never seem to have enough of what I want and although I can order from them it involves a second trip which for us is a minumum of 30ks. The result would be six of one type of strawberry and six of another, when what I actually wanted was 20 of one type!

Ordering from Delbard seemed to be a solution and so it has proved. For a start I could buy the plants/canes bare-rooted which made them cheaper and made up for the small transport cost (six euros). The strawberries arrived a while ago and then last week the raspberries turned up. We had prepared the beds already - hard work for a couple of days with a mattock and then even harder digging out the perennial roots - and within 24 hours the raspberries were in the ground. Conveniently it rained the next day and they are looking very happy.

Bearing in mind that raspberries put out runners I decided to go for a few canes of three different varieties. Hopefully at the end of next year I will have more of each but we will see. My shopping list is as follows:

Framboise Magnific Delbard x 5 (July-August)
Framboise Himbo-Top x 3 (August-September)
Framboise September x 5 (mid-June - mid-October)

I know that most people make jam and delicious puddings with soft fruit but personally I don't. I prefer to eat fruit raw and with very few embellishments - personally I don't add sugar or cream although I realise I'm one of the few! To be honest, if I didn't have other mouths to feed none of the fruit would come into the children are the same. In fact I have to hope that my children don't read this blog because one of them at least is very partial to raspberries and whilst he might not venture into that part of the garden very often he will make a bee-line if he realises that raspberries are to be found; birds are nothing compared to children when it comes to soft fruit in my opinion!

As a footnote I would like to add that from 40 strawberry plants I have had no losses. I was concerned about six/seven of them as they took a while to get going but yesterday each and every plant had healthy leaf growth and I am looking forward to a good crop next year...can't wait in fact!

Monday, 10 November 2008

New Vocabulary

A quiz...what connects the following words or expressions:

Lazy Kate
Niddy Noddy
Mother of All

Anyone who has spun wool will be way ahead of the rest of you! All new hobbies and occupations have a vocabulary of their own but I am rather fond of the words I am beginning to use with my new found passion!

That's right. I did it. I have bought myself (pure indulgence!) a spinning wheel. My particular wheel is an Ashford Traditional and I bought it off Ebay from a lovely lady in England who just happened to live near Bath where I visited during half-term with my son. I gather I have been really lucky though as more experience spinners than me have said that buying a wheel on Ebay can be a very expensive mistake. Well, clearly the lady I bought from was the exception that proves the rule. So, I have a wheel and have barely stopped spinning ever since.

My first efforts were purely to learn to spin wool. So, lots of bumps, sometimes thick and sometimes thin but with no real idea of why! And it turned out I didn't like the colour mix of the result. The wool is from a Jacob Sheep so I thought it would be fun to ply the dark wool with the cream coloured. But no, I don't like the chocolate/vanilla effect!

But no matter, my second attempt is a lot better and I am looking forward to knitting this neck warmer tomorrow or Wednesday. Doesn't the wool look great on the bobbin? You can see specks of dark wool in there but I don't think that will be too noticeable once it's knitted up.

Actually, the neck warmer, Tudora, is the reason I decided to buy a wheel. The Tudora requires Arran weight wool and I simply couldn't find any in France. Sure, Ebay was an option(!) but I decided that homespun would be more of a challenge! And so it is!

The kitchen is now full of bits of wool and I think Max is expecting a sheep to be delivered next week after the pigs have been dispatched so that I have a ready supply of fleece. I can't imagine I'll ever spin a jumper but project number two is a pair of socks which I've never knitted before and see as a proper challenge. After that? I don't know but perhaps some Christmas presents?

This is the famous niddy noddy - an ingenious and very simple way of winding the wool off the bobbin and into skeins that can then be washed...

And dried over night in front of the oven.

I'll post a picture of the final article later in the week. Wish me luck!

Cooking Chard

Polly in Ireland asked me for a recipe for her chard which arrives in abundance in her veg box. At the moment it ends up uneaten which is a shame.

Chard is handy as it's really cooked in two parts. You have the leafy green which can be used as a spinach replacement and also the white stem.

First the white stem: Cut it into smallish chunks and cook it until just tender. Then simply drain and add it to a cheese sauce - not too strong a cheese though as the chard stems have a very delicate flavour.
Another alternative would be to add it, in even smaller pieces (think chopped onion size) to a bolognaise sauce but here you don't get the advantage of the flavour.

Now the green leaves: My favourite is to make a sort of samosa so you need filo pastry and also a tub of ricotta cheese.
Cook a decent sized- handful of green leaf and then put it into a magimix with the ricotta and blend well. Add some nutmeg if you want as well as some pepper (salt too but I don't). Then brush one side of your filo pastry with melted butter and turn it over. (The buttered side is the outside.) Put decent/reasonable size quantities of the mix onto the pastry and then wrap it/roll it in any way that works for your shaped pastry. Here in France the filo pastry is round so I cut it in half first. The resulting parcels are oblongish.
Now you can either cook them straight away in a hot oven (200) for about 20 minutes (watch them or they'll burn) or you can put them in the fridge until you need them - up to 24 hours is fine.

I'm quite sure there are other possibilities but that's it for now!

Ah, I've just noticed that the link I've given to Polly shows the most wonderful picture of rainbow chard, which is, of course all the colours except green! I've never cooked or eaten it but assuming it's edible I'm quite sure you can use the same recipes!