Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Autumn again

After three seasons of trying, I managed a good crop of tomatillos.  I now have several pots of roast tomatillo salsa in the freezer.  It makes a great base for a "Guatemalan chicken stew" (found the recipe on the internet), we love it - incredibly easy to make, tasty and low in calories.

The last of the maincrop potatoes are in (desiree), and they also did very well - some of them are huge!  And they should last us for months, by the look of them (I haven't weighed them yet.)

The hops also did splendidly.  I have dried them and I will soon start brewing some beer for Christmas, now that the weather is a little cooler.  I have to rely on the outside temperature as I have lost the spare fridge.  I kept it in the garage for my bacon experiments, and to keep my beer whilst it matures in bottles.  A mouse made a nest inside!  It brought dry leaves and newspaper and shredded it to form a cosy nest.  It was with some trepidation that I disturbed it, as I didn't fancy having to deal with a bunch a baby mice, but fortunately the nest was empty by the time I found it.  I didn't  like the idea of using the fridge after that, though, so I had to dispose of it, which was a shame.
Here is a picture of the hops.  I will be back with a post on my beer brewing, to justify my title of Alewife!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Perfect Parfait

So much for new year's resolutions!  I have no excuse except a major case of writer's block!

So I'll kick off with the mini chicken liver parfait I made this morning.  Having spent a lot of money on a super- duper- locally- grown -at- a -little- farm chicken, I am determined to make the most of every bit of it.  I am posting the recipe, bearing in mind that I didn't weigh anything - I just go by eye and feeling, who knows?

1 chicken liver, quartered and trimmed of any sinewy bits.
A knob of butter
a tiny clove a garlic, crushed
a bit of shallot, chopped finely
a few sprigs of thyme, or a teaspoonful of dry
a tsp of brandy
a tsp port
40g butter
a couple of tablespoons of soft cheese
salt and pepper
30g gram of clarified butter, melted.
A flexible spatula will be useful to scrape every bit of it off the bowls, sieve etc...! You'll need a frying pan, a food processor or blender, a sieve, a bowl and a ramekin.

Gently fry the liver with the garlic, shallot and thyme, until cooked but still pink.  Add the brandy and let it bubble. Take away from the heat. Season and add the port.  Place in small food processor bowl or blender, and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time, then the cheese.  When all blended to a paste, pass through a sieve.  Check the seasoning.  Spoon into a ramekin and smooth the top.  Pour the melted butter over the top, decorate with a sprig of thyme and chill.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Call myself a Blogger?

It's been such a long time I have looked at my blog!  My new year's resolutions include posting regularly, starting today!  This blog, however, doesn't deserve its title, as no ale has been brewed for a long time.  The reason being that I have had to cut down on the old calories, and I can't make beer and not drink it, can I?

News from the old homestead:  I am thinking of growing rice, as the garden is flooded.  The chicken is depressed.  Her tail has grown longer and curving at the end - could she be turning into a cockerel?  Is that even possible?  Talking of being depressed, my last visit to the allotment left me very deflated:  I worked so hard last year to get it ship shaped, but it is now a see of mud.  The bags of compost I stacked there ready to put on the beds in early spring have been visited by rodents from the railway embankment.  What did they want with it?  They punctured the bags and made a right mess.

Still I mustn't let it get me down.  It is sunny today - long may it last!  All I need is a few days of settled weather to cheer me up, not much to ask, is it?

I am on a mission to use up the odds and ends of food in the cupboards, fridge and freezer.  Last night I improvised a salmon starter which went down well and used up some leftovers.  Here is the recipe:

1 fillet  cooked salmon, about 100g
1 good tablespoon mayonnaise
1 good tablespoon cream cheese
lemon juice and seasoning to taste
1 handful chopped fresh dill
a blob of tomato paste, for colour.

All thoroughly whizzed up in the blender, served for starter, chilled with home made melba toast.

For dessert I used up some whizzed up strawberries that were languishing in the freezer.  I mixed the fruit puree with the contents of an opened tub of double cream, whipped, some icing sugar and the juice of half a lemon.  I divided the mixture between 4 wine glasses and left it overnight in the fridge, where it set due to the lemon juice.  To go with this I made some meringues, which used up some egg whites - I always have lots of egg whites in the freezer.

I am pleased with the results of my experiments so far, I hope the ideas keep coming!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Better late than never?

Yesterday I finally moved my chicken to her summer headquarters.  It took me a couple of hours to get it all ready for her, and just as I finished the rain started.  I am not sure if she's glad: on the one hand she's on grass and she doesn't have to climb to get to bed; on the other she has less protection from the elements. I let her out into the garden early today, as it's raining hard and this gives her a chance to find shelter in the forest-y bit of the garden.  She's usually confined to barracks until lunchtime, so she is forced to eat her layers pellets, which she isn't keen on - she'd rather beg for treats!  Like a little child who'd rather have ice cream than greens, I suppose. 

The hen (Daisy's her name) is very keen on mice and voles - she must have been a kestrel in a previous life.  Last week she and the cat were running round and round after the same mouse (which got away in the end).  Vincent the cat likes to catch them, but not eat them, so they have a nice little partnership going whereby he catches them and she gobbles them up, all in one, like a baby barn owl would. Yuk!

Daisy can't walk properly.  She limps badly, has done for years.  Once or twice she has been off her legs and I found her collapsed in the rain.  I brought her home and dried her, and she spent some time in a cardboard box.  I took her to the vet, who charged be £20 to tell me she had a "sprain".  I don't think he had a clue actually.  My uninformed view is that it's something to do with her nerves.  She's quite happy, red of comb, and can move quickly enough if you try to catch her.  She 3 years old, had sour crop twice, and managed to produce 5 eggs last week, so quite a fighter I think.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Shrews don't bounce

I am acquainted with a variety of small animals, thanks to my cat who likes to bring them in and release them around the house.  That's how I know that mice, when dropped, land on their little feet and go seamlessly from being airborne to running like the clappers.  Woodmice also, cleverly, pretend to be dead: they know that the cat quickly loses interest in anything that's not running around for him to play with.  Then, when you come along to pick them up and dispose of them, they miraculously wake up and disappear under the dresser.

New this year are the voles we have been presented with: field voles and bank voles.  Both are up for a game as they they run around tirelessly, until the cat, sick of being bitten (because they are extremely feisty), forgets about them and.... they disappear under the dresser.

I'm a dab hand at catching mice and voles by predicting were they are going next and plonking an ice-cream tub over them to free them in the back garden where I assume they came from. 

Also new this year are the tiny little shrews, which are truly fascinating.  Shrews are incredibly tiny, and so fast on their feet they would leave any mouse behind.  They are also very good at climbing: I once saw one climb up the mantlepiece just like Spiderman. Their strategy for escaping the cat is to get off the floor.  First thing yesterday the cat brought in a shrew, which after spending a few minutes under the dresser (a popular place), decided to break cover and make for the patio doors, with the cat in hot pursuit.  I was standing by the full length curtain, with my ice-cream tub at the ready, when I heard the shrew climb up the curtain: within seconds it was 6ft up, nestled in the folds of the curtain.  I opened the doors to offer it a way out, and gently unfolded the curtain to see where it was.  It dropped to the floor and...knocked itself out.  I scooped it up, and it came round, safe in the ice-cream tub, and I released it in the undergrowth, where it ran off, seemingly unharmed - a lucky escape for this little shrew, with its long soft little nose and its velvety little body.  I don't imagine it weighs much more than a teaspoon of sugar!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Juliette, in a nutshell.

Let me introduce myself: I am Juliette.  Years and years ago,  a book on my friend's shelf caught my eye, and I asked her what it was about.  It's about doing your own thing, she replied, why don't you borrow it?  I took it home, and I was hooked.  The book was "The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency", by John Seymour.

I was young and idealistic, and I wanted it all.  Next year. In 5 years. in 10 years. Never.  Life' priorities always seemed to knock me off track.  I know now that life is here and now, and my ideals have to be woven through all those priorities.  I thought this blog would help me focus, and celebrate my small achievements in my quest to have a hand made life.

So to fill in the detail:  I live in a suburban cul-de-sac on the edge of the New Forest.  I have an allotment nearby, which I am afraid to say, is a bit of a disgrace.  However, it produces some lovely veg and fruit.  Tonight some freshly picked peas, broad beans, courgettes and potatoes accompanied our pork chops.  I'm quite proud of that.

One of my goals for the next few weeks is to get to grips with the camera so I can post some pictures of my produce and crafts.  Also of my allotment, when I finally get around to tidying it!