Glorious Autumn

Glorious Autumn

What a surprise!  One damp and dreary early Autumn morning I stumbled out to feed the chickens and was suddenly stunned wide awake by this beautiful bright blue flower positively glowing – Morning Glory!  It’s supposed to be really easy to grow but I nurtured tiny seedlings that struggled to survive and, when I finally planted them out they just sat there and refused to climb up the bamboo wigwam – until I got bored waiting and forgot all about them – until this morning!  Every morning since there have been new flowers – they love the early mornings and close up later in the day – hence the name.  It’s a type of convolvulus – our native white version can be a troublesome weed as it chokes other plants – hence its common name – bindweed.  All of the plant is poisonous as it contains tropane alkaloids – especially the seeds – but this flower certainly brightened up my morning.

Squash, Apple and Sage Soup

Squash, Apple and Sage Soup

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Ingredients:
50 g (2 oz) butter
1 kg (2 lb) squash (or pumpkin) peeled and diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, skinned* and chopped
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 level teaspoons of sage (fresh sage** is best)
1 level teaspoon of thyme
2 pints stock (vegetable or beef – stock cubes are fine)
Black pepper

*to skin tomatoes easily simply put in a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave to stand for about a minute and the skin just rubs off.

**Sage is a perennial so it grows all year but is better picked during the summer. For ease of use I pick lots in the summer and freeze in small quanities in plastic bags, or chop it and freeze in ice cube trays. Then it’s all ready to use for sage and onion stuffing in the middle of winter.

Method:
Fry the onion in the butter gently until soft,
Add the pumpkin and stir for a few minutes,
Add the apples,
Add the tomatoes
Add the stock
Stir in the sage and thyme
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
Cool slightly, puree in a liquidiser or food processor.
Add a sprinkling of black pepper and serve.

Pumpkin Soup for Bonfire Night

Pumpkin Soup for Bonfire Night

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Snap up the pumpkins left over from Halloween and make some spicy soup for bonfire night.  There’s nothing quite like sipping hot spicy pumpkin soup gathered around the bonfire and watching the flames and sparks drift into the night sky.

Pumpkin freezes quite well so when you’ve scraped out all the pumpkin flesh to make Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns, cut it into cubes and put into a polythene bag.  It will store in the fridge for up to 3 days or will freeze for over a month.

The seeds can be dried to use in bread and muesli – or to feed to the birds during the cold winter months.

Visit the recipe page for a not too spicy pumpkin soup recipe.

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Happy, smiley, pumpkin Jack'o'Lantern

Ingredients:
50 g (2 oz) butter
1 kg (2 lb) pumpkin peeled and diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, skinned* and chopped
2 pints stock (vegetable or beef – stock cubes are fine)
Seasoning:
½ tsp chilli pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp allspice
1 level tsp cumin
1 level tsp cloves
1 level tsp thyme
If you like a spicy soup you can add more chilli, cayenne and allspice but I find this is tasty but mild enough so even little children enjoy it.

*to skin tomatoes easily simply put in a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave to stand for about a minute and the skin just rubs off.

Method:
Fry the onion in the butter gently until soft,
Add the pumpkin and stir for a few minutes,
Add the tomatoes
Add the stock
Stir in the seasoning
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
Cool slightly, puree in a liquidiser or food processor.

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The Nasturtium Fairy

The Song of The Nasturtium Fairy

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Nasturtium the jolly,
O ho, O ho!
He holds up his brolly
Just so, just so!
(A shelter from showers,
A shade from the sun;)
‘Mid flame-coloured flowers
He grins at the fun.
Up fences he scrambles,
Sing hey, sing hey!
All summer he rambles
So gay, so gay –
Till the night-frost strikes chilly,
And Autumn leaves fall,
And he’s gone, willy-nilly,
Umbrella and all.

From ‘A Flower Fairy alphabet’ by Cicely Mary Barker

Poppies in November

Poppies in November

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It’s time for bonfire night but I’m still picking sweet peas, the nasturtiums are going strong – and the poppies are still in full flower, brightening up the garden on these musty, misty mornings.  It’s just as well we had an Indian summer as the runner beans were planted so late, due to a very cold and wet May, that I doubted we would be picking any beans at all.  So maybe the seasons are moving – and we should plan summer holidays in September next year?

Whatever, I have really enjoyed picking sweet peas right through October.  I put some in the lounge where I sit in the evenings but also some on the window ledge near the sink – where I seem to spend an awful lot of my time.  I do really enjoy cooking vegetables I have grown myself – they taste much better and they are so much fresher – but it is more time consuming than preparing clean, bug-free supermarket varieties.

The rabbits are also enjoying the long season as they get a nasturtium leaf (and sometimes a flower) every day.  As the Nasturtium Flower Fairy says, as soon as the frosts come, the nasturtiums are “… gone willy-nilly, umbrellas and all”.

nasturtiums in October

Nasturtiums in November

The Song of The Nasturtium Fairy is from ‘A Flower Fairy alphabet’ by Cicely Mary Barker

 

Wittenham Cider

Samhain – All Hallows Eve – time to make Wittenham Cider – many years ago my aunt gave me this recipe – it’s from a very old newspaper cutting._DSC0086s

Wittenham Cider

3 1b apples
12 pints water
2 lb granulated sugar
3 lemons
empty pop bottles

You will need 2 large clean buckets – one to make the cider in and another to strain the cider into. Approximately 3 lb of apples – any sort – a mixture is best and windfalls are fine. Wash them and chop or mince them up (including peel core and pips) and put them in the bucket.

Pour on 12 pints of cold, unboiled, water. (The original recipe is so old it says 6 quarts of water.)

Leave for a week, stirring night and morning.

Strain through a stocking held over a sieve or colander into the second bucket.

Stir in 2 lb of granulated sugar and the grated rind and juice of three lemons.

Strain again and bottle. Plastic pop bottles will do fine.

It should be drinkable within a week.

If not drinking straight away you will need to release the tops of the bottles regularly so they don’t explode – or you can use old port bottles with corks.

Clematis in November survived the first frost

This clematis survived last night’s frost but won’t be here much longer – looking at the forecast.  It was planted last year and I’d forgotten about it, then suddenly  a few wispy tendrils appeared climbing up the hen house.  I thought it was much too late to flower but then a few days ago it produced this beautiful bloom, just in time for the frosts!  So need to make the most of it, treasure it, whilst the sun shines!

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