Wednesday, 29 September 2010

My Girl Pearl....

This is our girl Pearl - you might remember her from her first photos back in July when we brought her home with us. I wanted to post a picture of her with her big buddy Arthur, but Airedales being as they are I couldnt get him to stand still long enough - better luck tomorrow!

Pearl and Freerangenana have a very special relationship (one that involves lots of treats and cuddles!) as a result my supposed Queen Ratter is becoming one precious lap dog. As we speak she's curled up on BHs knee - what a princess!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A busy week and a bleedin birthday...

Who knows where the time goes? I start each week with a list of garden jobs and house stuff that I either has to be done, should be done or ideally I would just like to do. the list is always ridiculously ambitious which invariably leaves me with a sinking feeling and an unchecked guilt trip.

Earlier this summer I daydreamed about cooking things up out elderberries and brambles, of juicing our apples and stewing up fruit to fill the freezer with pies.

Dream on Freerangegirl - when I finally got out to the hedgerows I found that what hadn't already been picked was shrivelled and dried up already. We haven't plenty of elderberries near us  - i know as I planned to harvest them for elderflower champagne but didn't get round to that either! Ive got the bottles, Ive got the yeast, I just need an extra day in the week.

I think its particularly galling in the garden when you don't get round to a seasonal job as you know that it will have to wait another year - I wonder if anyone else missed out on any planned harvests this year, or is it just me!

Last year year BH had his apple juice production line set up by now and we were enjoying the cloudy nectar well up to Christmas, but what with the big build the juicer is still packed away and at the end of the day we can barely crush a grape, never mind anything else!

Friday was BH's birthday and cake was called for, but as it was a school night this called for a late bedtime whilst my freerangers helped out. They left the final stages to Mum but were more than ready for cake action the next day at breakfast (not sure that's on the healthy schools agenda, but I wont tell them if you don't!)

I love to see perfectly iced cakes, but for our own birthdays I love the child decorated look, so the milky way stars and chocolate buttons got put to very good use. We made a red velvet layer cake and covered it in chocolate ganache. It was a nightmare to get it to set as I was cooking it so late at night I dint have time to let the layers cool and they all wanted to slide off - I ended up securing it with kebab sticks in the fridge overnight.

BH loves a chocolate cake but wasn't quite prepared for the red insides - the words 'chocolate roadkill' come to mind! - well at least it took his mind off getting older!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Workers teatime and a sad sunday...

The building is cracking on a pace. Its unbelievable how quickly things start to take shape once bricks are being laid. Finally our children dont think Dad's building a swimming pool - its going up instead of down at last!

For the longest time BH has been talking me through the finest details of the drawings and plans and managed not to throw them at me when Ive drifted off under the weight of all the technical detail. It was never that I was interested but I just keep leaping too far ahead to the curtains and cushions stage!

But now weve got holes for windows and doors, i'm practically giddy with excitement!  We've already practised sitting in various parts of the room to imagine looking out of the window - but I am under strict orders that if I buy any furniture before its finished tools will be downed in protest!

At least I can feel confident that at last we'll have a room with a view!

This doorway isn't quite as huge as it looks - BH is stood quite a way up the hill - either that or our Yorkshire mist is making him shrink!

Despite the rumours, builders dont survive on tea alone - they quite like a bit of cake to go with it. We had a rare trip to the famous Bettys tea rooms and couldnt resist these beauties. The French fancies have gone down a storm, Mr Kiplings won't ever seem the same again! Personally I'm quite quite taken with the chocolate chestnut conkers!

We'd planned a Sunday tea to serve these up at, but alas things didnt quite go to plan, not least but because we made a discovery in the chicken coop which knocked us for six.  We lost our favourite baby buff bantam this weekend to the pecking order. We noticed that the Marys (our bossy hybrids who we hatched earlier this year) were getting increasingly dominant with our oldest Buff Bantam offspring. She was beautiful and had just laid her first egg. They bossed her about but it seemed no more than that, only when we checked them Sunday teatime we found that she'd been pecked to death. I know, I know  - rural life can be brutal, but right now I could throttle the Murdering Marys myself. BH is really sad too as she was the first chick we ever hatched and he had hoped to show her next year. 

So heres to BB, our baby buff, we'll miss her very much.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Dilly Beans...

Now the Courgette glut is coming to an end Ive been looking for things to do with the runner beans. Even when we lived in a tiny flat in London I've found ways to grow runner beans that have gone straight to the table. But since moving here I swear the Yorkshire air has either gotten to the beans or gone to my head because our beans have gone crazy and are producing pound after pound.

There's not much space left in the freezer (its full of courgettes) so I've turned my mind to pickling. Alys Fowler made Dilly Beans on TV the other night so I thought Id give them a go. Just white vinegar, water and salt brought to the boil and poured in. then packed with some garlic and dill. I did fiddle about with the recipe on jar number 2 and added a packet of pickling spice to try a different taste. They need to stand now for at least a couple of weeks and then we'll give them a try. Let me know if you've ever made these, I'm dying to know if they're worth it!

Now I'm starting on the tomatoes! Pasta sauces are already underway, I guess I'll have to find some freezer space after all.

To top it all our first batch of damson jam arrived to day from freerangenans production line. It definitely passes the taste test. I am very lucky to have the jam maker extraordinaire just around the corner, the damson harvest is so looked forward to for the jam we get I don't think BH trusts me not to turn it into damson soup by accident!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Whats at the bottom of your garden?

Its been a hectic week here at the Freerange homestead. I started the week full of great intentions, planning to complete my self imposed 7 days of courgette cuisine, but is was to no avail, Monday came - work started and I haven't stopped since. It is great to be back in the swing of things though and I'm gradually getting back to my routine, but I think I'll be a while before I see the end of anything on TV that starts after ten! (I'm not snoring honestly, just breathing rhythmically!)

Also this week we've been watering for two as the freerange grandparents took a long overdue and very well deserved holiday. I love looking after somebody elses garden - have you ever noticed how other peoples gardens are full of flowers and not weeds, and how you seem to stop and stare in them rather than finding yet another job to do.

I wonder how many people have a tree like this in their garden...

It looks like just another tree until you get closer...

and if you're a really determined little explorer you might even find this..

The home of the fairies that eat grandpas strawberries! My little ones have studied this house for hours in the hope of catching one of its inhabitants, but know to never disturb it in case they never return! Amazingly it magics away to warmer climes in the winter, when the leaves drop - fancy that!

The grandparents returned refreshed and a good job too, because we've put freerange nan straight to work on the damson harvest!

The preserving production line has begun as I delivered the rest of our pickings to her tonight. Freerangenan is the Jam Queen! All in all we picked just shy of 10 pounds of fruit, and that was just from the lower branches. Damson Jam here we come!!!

Monday, 6 September 2010

A courgette quickie...

Just a quickie tonight because I can't quite believe how tired I am after the first day back at work - too tired to cook even the humblest of courgettes - so instead...uncooked courgettes.

These are from Nigellas Forever Summer, and she calls them a carpacciao of zucchini gialli, which she admits is a bit poncey - I called them yellow ribbons, but whatever you call them they're surprisingly delicious. Just ribbons of courgette, a squirt of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, some maldon salt and pepper.

I made them to share with BH but they were gone before he made it to the table - never mind!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Lunchbox essentials...

My school bag is packed, pencils are sharpened and shoes are shined and ready for tomorrow. Thankfully the sun has shone all day and the garden gave us a last flourish before term starts - these nasturtiums were looking eaten and ropey a few weeks ago but have really perked up - just in time to provide us with a late summer glow!

To take my mind off first day nerves I cooked up yet another batch of courgettes - this time following Patrices recommendation for courgette muffins from the site. Thanks for tip Patrice! BH wasnt convinced at first, he's still recovering from my trying to slip him a beetroot brownie ( I know lots of people love 'em but I must have taken a wrong turn on that recipe because mine were shocking!)

I shouldnt have worried because these were very popular - They taste quite treacly which helps and are very moist. I might even give courgette cake a go after this!

Perhaps I'll pack one in my lunch box - thanks to the courgettes I can pass it off as one of my five a day!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

You say courgette I say zucchini...

Today was Day four in my week of courgette cuisine (i'm determined not to waste any of them). But instead of courgettes today were talking zucchinis, there is a reason for this madness - I promise. For one thing, I figured that if I gave them a different name I might get them past the family for another day running before courgette fatigue sets in - and its in honour of Dom at Bellaukitchen as I believe this recipe came from the states in the first place!

The dish consists of lightly coated fried strips of courgette, loads of mozzarella and a truly gorgeous tomato sauce. The sauce is definitely the secret weapon in this recipe and im going to have a go at freezing some on its own for future use, it has a good glug of balsamic vinegar and white wine in it so it has that sweet and tart taste that you get from seaside ketchup if you know what I mean - lovely!

I topped it with parmesan and then baked until it was ready - the only probelm was waiting for it to cool down before we could dig in! If you try one courgette recipe this season then I would definitely give this a go - it was delicious. BH rated it as his favourite so far ( I think it helped that I didn't call it a lasagne so he wasnt looking longingly for the pasta!)

So it was a big thumbs up from the freerangers - thanks for recipe Dom, we all voted it Truly Great!

But I couldnt end todays post without sharing this picture of freerangenan and bionic grandpas flower baskets - theyve gone crazy this year. I wouldnt be surprised if they get a fine for taking over the pavement without a permit!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Blue skies and Yellow happiness...

It was the last official day of the summer hols today. Oh I know we've still got the weekend, but that doesn't really count - today was our last freebie, before we have to start thinking about uniforms and getting up on time and brushing hair (oops maybe thats just us!) We'd got stuck into boring old chores today when BH put his foot down and said enough was enough - we were off to the beach before the hols were over! It does help that its just up the road!

Its easy to forget the pleasures of an afternoon on the sands - but every time we go down the beach I do feel so lucky to have this on our doorstep. No more trips to the Early Learning Centre to replenish the sandpit - we just sit and play on the beach instead!

I dont know if it was the sunshine or the blue skies that brought out this little Freerangers crazy side but something definitely had a positive effect on him - even his sister couldn't stay 'oh so serious' for too long!

So after all those blue skies and sunshine our dish of the day had to be the Yellow Happiness soup from Nigellas Summer book...

It is so easy, really unbelievably easy considering the taste it packs in.

All I had to do was chop two large yellow courgettes and cook them in a little olive oil with some lemon zest, then add a good dollop of turmeric, 1 litre of stock ( I used chicken), the juice of the lemon I zested and a cup of rice and cook for about 20 mins...and that was it!

I have lots more yellow courgettes to come so this could well become a freeranger staple! I love it, it's light enough to feel virtuous but tasty enough to feel like a treat...perfect!

Must start thinking about tomorrow and day 4 of the the courgette challenge! Dom at Bellau Kitchen shared his courgette lasagne so it would be rude not give it a go really! (maybe I'll call it zucchini just to confuse the kids)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

When is a courgette not a courgette...

When its a stuffed marrow of course! Tonight was round 2 in our 7 days of courgette cuisine and after a day back at work I was starving hungry so it had to be substantial... and it certainly was that!

I sauted some garlic, red onions and mushrooms, scooped out the centres and stuffed 'em good and proper. I thought that looked a bit too healthy so I wedged plenty of feta and tomato on top and gave them a good glugging with the olive oil (drizzlings for wimps!). They took a while to bake but we really moist and tasty - the feta definitely did the business adding a salty kick. So far so good!

Tomorrow is officially the last day of the summer hols. Although i've been in at work most days this week, this still marks the end of another summer for me and any other teachers out there - so Friday calls for Nigellas Happiness soup to raise the spirits (thanks Mrs Nesbitt and Brownieville Girl for the tip off!)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Buildings a Go Go...

First of all thankyou for sticking with me whilst I disappeared from blogland for the last week. Citygirl treated us all to a very much appreciated break and we packed up the the tribe and headed for the hills.

Our minifreerangers couldnt have been happier - at last a chance to release their inner princess and pirate without mum and dad moping on about cement mixers!

Bless that Citygirl! She certainly knows whats needed and when! Waiting for planning approval had us both at the end of our tether - I'd convinced myself that it wasnt going to happen, we would have to move and start again and my veg patch would belong to someone else - boo hoo! But Citygirl knows better than to give into amateur dramatics and shoved us on bikes for the week to take our mind off things ( she also knows just when a mojito is called for!) so Mojitos, bikes and lots of rest were prescribed and we certainly feel all the better for it.

Especially because...our building plans have been approved!!!! Hoorah!!!

We got the call a couple of days early and it took us completely by surprise, but now its full steam ahead. Bricks are being laid at last!

Secondly - can I thank everybody who posted suggestions for what to do with my courgettes - in the culinary sense that is! Bionic Grandpa kept watering while we were away and they just kept producing more and more. So in honour of you all I am going to try and cook a different courgette dish from your suggestions every night this week (also Ive run out room in the freezer!)

Tonights was nice and easy - Spicy Vegetable Soup. Onions, Courgettes, tomatoes, Peppers, more courgettes, an anonymous chilli, some basil, more courgettes and plenty of seasoning.

Its very simple but very yum! Its also very low calorie to compensate for all the lovely food citygirl plied us with, but theres no compromise on the taste. Im going to try freezing some as a lunchtime standby...

Im already planning tomorrows creation...