Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Tagine

The preserved lemons that I made over 4 weeks ago are now ready to be used in a new to me recipe - Date and Chickpea Tagine.

Ingredients

1 tspn oil, 2 red chopped onions, 3 grated cloves of garlic, 1 grated thumb size piece of root ginger,

1 tspn cumin, 2 tspn paprika, ½tspn ground cinnamon, ½tspn ground coriander

½tspn of cayenne pepper, 1 tblspn tomato puree, 1 aubergine cut into 2.5 cm cubes,

1 carrot cut into 1 cm half moons, 300g sweet potatoe, peeled, chopped into 1 cm cubes,

2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes,

400g tinned chickpeas rinsed and drained,

300ml of vegetable stock,

200g of whole pitted dates cut in half

2 preserved lemons, peel cut into thin strips

Pinch of saffron, parsley to serve.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over a medium heat. Add onions, garlicand ginger, cook for 5 mins, stiring often. Add all spices and tomatoe puree and cook for a further 5 mins until tender. If the spices stick to the bottom add splash of water. Stir in aubergine, carrot and sweet potatoes, then tomatoes, chickpeas and stock. Lastly add the dates, preserved lemons and saffron. Stir, and bring to the boil, Cover pot, transfer to medium hot oven (160℃ Fan) for 40 mins. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with rice, spicey falafels and Greek yogurt dressed with chopped mint. 

I was delighted with the intense flavour achieved by the preserved lemons. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The Trees are............

............slowly turning golden. 

Because we have had such a very late autumn season I really hadn't given much thought to Christmas, which I now suddenly realise, is just over five weeks away.

Time to hastened to our local wood and enjoy autumn's golden splendour before the trees finally do turn bare. The woodland sits on the side of a high Cotswold escarpment immediately below where we live and overlooks a small hamlet down In the valley. A valley that is thought to have been occupied by a Roman General called Vespasian, who eventually became the 9th Emperor of Rome. He built himself a magnificent villa in the valley with one of the finest mosaics ever discovered north of the Alps - The Orpheus Pavement. Today the mosaic still lies exactly where it was crafted and conceived, hidden away, safe but intact, beneath the local churchyard.

A pathway leads us into our beautiful, predominantly, Beech woodland.

On entering it feels akin to stepping inside a cathedral. The soft grey trunks of the Beech trees soar upwards not unlike stone pillars which then form a delicate archway overhead.

The fallen leaves feel crisp and rustle beneath our feet bestowing a sense of peace and calm as we make our way below the trees. There are now two choices - a high or a low pathway. We opt for the lower.  
As the late afternoon sun falls it lightens up the lower canopy, but it is now time to retrace our steps and make for home.
The shadows lengthen,
and the leaves glow even brighter.

Friday, 5 November 2021

Out of the Window........

all is calm and serene. The two Sorbus aucuparia - rowan or mountain ash trees display their autumn colour as they have done since the beginning of October. The horse chestnut tree stands tall and proud but bereft of it's leaves, and the other trees continue to wear summer green stippled with hints of colour yet to come. 


Rowan trees are steeped in legend and mythology.

In the British Isles the rowan has a long history in folklore as a tree which protects against whitchcraft and enchantment. The tree itself was said to afford protection to any dwelling by which it grew. To this day rowan trees can be seen growing besides rural dwellings in the Scottish Highlands. I wonder whether the person who planted our trees knew of this tale - maybe we have a double dose of protection.

Greek mythology tells how Hebe, the goddess of youth, dispensed rejuvenating ambrosia to the gods from her magical chalice. When, through carelessness, she lost the cup to demons, the gods sent an eagle to recover it. A fight ensued and the eagle shed feathers and drops of blood. These fell to earth where each of them turned into a rowan tree. Hence the rowan derived the shape of its leaves from the eagle’s feathers and the appearance of its berries from the droplets of blood. 

The rowan is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman was made.

The news here is dominated by the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, but will the countries of the world finally come together? There are some notable government leaders that are absent from the major decision making. 

There have been some very alarming reports shown on the TV, one of which was done by the highly regarded BBC Panorama team investigating this past year of wild weather from around the globe. Most of which we had been aware of but without knowing the final outcome or details. Happenings which are becoming increasingly common place, but changing the life for millions. I was aware of the record-breaking high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest of Canada but did not know that a small Canadian town called Lytton had been totally overcome and completely devastated by the wildfires caused by the heat. The town was completely destroyed and burnt to the ground. Floods in Germany and Belgium swept away entire medieval villages and towns, places that had withstood storms and tempests for hundreds of years are now no more. Rural communities in the Australian state of New South Wales have been battling a plague of mice that struck the region. Thousands upon thousands of mice have been invading grain silos, barns and homes and infesting the farmers' bumper grain harvest. The harvest has had to be totally burnt in order to get rid of the mice. I have never seen so many mice, it looked like a horror film. The mice numbers boomed following the unusually heavy summer rains and floods which produced bountiful crops when it fell acrosss eastern Australia after years and years of drought. 

South Korea has been blanketed by massive yellow dust storms blown in from China. The Korean Meteorological Administration said that practically all parts of the nation were affected by high levels of yellow dust that originated in the Inner Mongolian region of northern China and the vicinity of the Gobi Desert. The dust storms have become more deadly each year as they pass over China's industrial zones picking up toxins. South Korea, blames hundreds of deaths each year on the storms, especially to the elderly. Children have to wear special masks to school because it causes respirator problems. 

The people of Madagascar are on the brink of the world's first climate change-induced famine. More than a million people need emergency food and nutrition, with 14,000 already in 'catastrophic' condiitions. Starving Malagasy people are forced to eat insects and old dried roots buried deep in the ground.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

In Rememberance

John Gohorry, revered poet, and fellow member of the same poetry society as our eldest son, died unexpectedly last Sunday. 

The following poem has been written by our son and dedicated to John.  Depicting a typical October day whilst reflecting on the soul of our country - poignant feelings that continue to resonate up and down our small kingdom.



I'm just going out to post some poems


the leaves are falling with the breeze 

 as I walk along the familiar path

under the strong, archival trees

and the scattered clouds.

It's October and I feel a slight chill

Imagining the winter to come.

In my mind all is snow, white on the ground

and flakes are turning around and around

whispering as they fall.

Anger and calmness flutter inside me

debating the soul of this country - 

a brittle chunk of land, now snapped away.

 
I pick at the snowfakes, looking for rhymes

for crystal, needle, delicate and symmetry.


Besides the path, colour catches my eye.

I lean down to touch a fuschia flower

thinking their clusters like tiny lanterns

warm and bright, loving lights,

put there to guide the way. 

RIP John Gohorry

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Preserved Lemons

Many of us enjoy making Moroccan and North African dishes, but often the recipes mention using preserved lemons.  The cost of buying ready preserved lemons is ridiculous i.e. £4 - £8 for a fairly small jar when you can very easily make your own for less than £1.

Use a sterilised jar, four washed, unwaxed, lemons, and some sea salt. If you can't get unwaxed lemons then soak your lemons in a solution of warm water and vinegar and give them a really good scrub to remove all the wax.

Cut off both ends of the lemons.

 Cut each lemon into four segments but don't
cut through to the base, and place a small teaspoon of sea salt into each lemon.

Put a thin layer of sea salt at the bottom of your sterlised jar then pack the lemons in very tightly by putting the open ends of the lemons in first. I use a pestle that goes with my mortar to push them down as hard as I can. As you press lots of juice will begin to ooze out of the lemons. Seal the lid tightly and place the jar in the fridge. The juice from my lemons completely filled to the top of the jar, but if necessary, you can use a small amount of cooled pre-boiled water.

The lemons need to remain in the fridge for 4 weeks. Tip the jar upside down and give it a good shake from time to time. 

In four weeks I intend to make, a new to me recipe, called Date and chickpea tagine using these preserved lemons - so stayed tuned.

To use the lemons: rinse and dry however many quarters you need. Discard all of the flesh & pips and just use the skin. Slice this into whatever size you prefer. If the lemon liquid does not taste too salty it can be added to olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little sugar and then made into a salad dressing.
 

Monday, 11 October 2021

Sunday

Was a special day for us as we had arranged to meet one of our lovely granddaughters for lunch in Cheltenham, having not seen her for a year. She was attending various events at the Cheltenham Literature Festival currently taking place for the first time in two years. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to catch the bus, especially realising that parking could be difficult with so many visitors attending the festival. Buses are few and far between on a Sunday but the timetable revealled a couple that would suit us.

Whilst waiting for the bus I took a few images of our surroudings. 


Having not lived here for all of my life, I never cease to be delighted by the lovely architecture and stonework that can be found all around this area.


The bus arrived exactly on time - it was empty apart from two other people, and within half and hour we had arrived and met our granddaughter. We enjoyed a lovely lunch, and spent a very happy time together catching up with each others news, before she then headed off to her next festival venue. 

The bus stop in Cheltenham is situated outside the retailer "Anthropologie" so we popped in to see there latest acquisitions. Something that immediately caught my eye was their new range of pottery. 

The pottery had a familiarity to it so I called my husband over to see if he too recognised it, which he did.


This tale now takes us off along a completely different road - so let's head off to Bulgaria. It is a country that we visited many, many, years ago at a time when it was still firmly behind the iron curtain. Very similar pottery to that in Anthropologie was used in their restaurants and it is where I fell in love the design. But could you buy it? Yes, but with great difficulty. It was only available in the Communist co-operatives which seldom if ever opened, and if they did, the workers appeared reluctant to remove the pots from their window display or pretended to misunderstand what you were asking. In the end I did finally suceed and returned home with just one small piece as a souvenir.

A small wine/water goblet

Apparently pottery is one of the oldest crafts in Bulgaria and its very distinctive hand painted designs are based on their Thracia and Slavic traditions. 

How do I know this? well! when I looked at the bottom of the pottery in Anthropologie it said made in Bulgaria and on returning back home I found the rest of the information on their website. The designs today, however, are far more sophisticated than my simple little pot.

Should you wish to learn about a rather odd encounter that we experienced in Bulgaria all of those years ago you can read about it here:-          

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Autumn Days

 "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness"

John Steinbeck

A sharp drop in the temperature had us hauling out the winter duvet along with warmer clothes. However, it now appears that we could be set to receive some tropical warmth courtesy of the fallout from Hurrican Sam.

I love the zesty vibrancy of the leaves on our Catalpa Auria - Golden Indian Bean Tree,  especially now. 

As yet there are very few signs of autumn's gold appearing on the trees, and still the late Hydrangea flowers continue to flourish.

Even though most flowers are on the wane, there is still a bountious yield of attractive seed pods to be seen.
Next year I am intent on having more succulents in the garden. There are so many extraordinary specimens to be found today.
These Aeoniums, seen in a local plant nursery, caught my eye. Previously I have only ever seen Aeoniums about the size of a small saucer similar to the ones sitting at the bottom of the pot. The big ones were each the size of a large dinner plate.

"Winter is an etching, 

Spring a watercolour,

Summer an oil painting,

and Autumn a mosaic of them all."

Stanley Horowitz

Friday, 1 October 2021

Ode to

 

The golden-rod is yellow;

The corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.


The gentian's bluest fringes

Are curling in the sun;

In dusty pods the milkweed

Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,

In every meadow nook; 

And Asters by the brook-side

Make asters in the brook. 

Helen Hunt Jackson 

Helen Hunt Jackson was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the United States government. She described the adverse effects of government actions in her history A Century of Dishonor.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

The White Rose County

We have just returned home from North Yorkshire feeling refreshed and invigorated having neither seen nor heard any worldwide news during the entire time that we were away.

                We clambered over the moors,
explored the Coastline, 
viewed the romantic remains of Rievaulx Abbey,
visted several attractive small towns, hamlets, and quaint old fishing villages.
Learnt more about
Captain James Cook as we walked in his footsteps when he was both man and boy. There was once a time when pioneers and navigators, who bravely sailed off into unchartered and dangerous waters to the other side of the world, were revered, but not so today.  My understanding is that Cook is now considered to be persona non grata in several of the places that he visited during his three long, dangerous voyages between 1768 and 1779.
On our last evening we noticed just how magical the leaves in the hotel's long driveway looked silhouetted against the golden corn swaying in the field beyond.   
When we left home our sunflowers were still reaching up forever into the sky. We were very late in getting around to planting their seeds and wondered whether they would ever flower.
But on our return home we were finally rewarded with flowers. They have grown so tall that it is only possible to capture their faces courtesy an upstairs window.
Currently we are enjoying some lovely balmy "Indian Summer" days.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Mainly Birds Part 2


Early in the morning the following day we visited Slimbridge WWT founded by Sir Peter Scott, only child of Antartic explorer Robert Falcon Scott. 
My husband met Peter Scott in the 1970s. They were both attending a conference in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, drawing up a convention for the protection of the Red Sea. Scott was representing the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and they shared a car and driver for the duration. In every spare moment Scott worked in his sketchbook recording the beautiful fishes and birds that he saw whilst visiting the different locations. The Saudi hosts were fascinated, as was my husband. He was a very modest and unassuming character and fun to be with.
 
Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus roseus is the largest of all the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, India, the Middle East, and Southern Europe. When we drove through the Camargue several years ago we saw a large flock of these flamingos. When they took to the air, I remember thinking how much they resembled Dyson vacum cleaners!
There are six different species of Flamingo at Slimbridge. 
A pair of Orinoco Geese from S. America. I assumed that this was a couple of males preening one another, but in fact these geese are momomorphic - the males and the females look the same.
Cranes - Grus grus
Cranes were wide spread in the Uk upto 1600 but they were sadly driven into extinction through wetland damage and hunting for food. Now, happily, they are a great success story. Flocks of them can now be found breeding across several areas of the country including N.E Scotland.
⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
If you would like to read the start of a success story from Slimbridge regarding the small Spoon-billed Sandpiper please read here. I wrote about its threatened demise 9 years ago.
⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑
Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia
Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
The number of birds to be seen at Slimbridge could fill a book. The previous post began with our own familiar British Mute Swan, so I will conclude with a glide pass of four other species of swan. There are only 7 species of swan and the two I have left out are Whopper swans, who have yet to arrive for the winter at Slimbridge, and the Trumpeter swan from North America.
Coscoroba Swan - Coscoroba coscoroba
This swan comes from South America. It is the smallest swan in the world and is often mistaken for a goose with its short neck and waxy red duck bill.
This swan is really cute with its red bill and matching pair of red legs and feet.
The Black Swan - Cygnus atratus is a large swan which breeds mainly in the SE & SW regions of Australia. With its black, almost velvet like plumage, red bill with a pale bar and tip, greyish/black legs and feet it is a handsome bird.
The Black Neck Swan -
Cygnus melancoryphus is the largest native waterfowl in S. America. It has a large red knob at the base of the bill and white stripes running behind the eyes. My husband saw a group of these in a lagoon in Tierra del Fuego alongside a flock of Chilean Flamingos. They were in a dramatic snowy landscape with a backdrop of the Andes - a sight that he will never forget.
Lastly the Bewick's swan -
Cygnus columbianus bewickii

Two species of swan come to the UK each winter: whooper swans migrate from Iceland and Bewick's swans make the journey from Siberia. They both have yellow and black bills and can be difficult to separate. Bewick's swans have more black on their yellow-and-black bill than the Whooper swans, and are the smallest swan species to visit the UK.
Every autumn, Bewick’s swans face a dangerous migration to the UK from northern Russia. Along their 3,500km route between the breeding and wintering sites there are predators, fewer wetlands and the risk of hitting power lines, but if they don’t migrate, they will be caught in the ice and snow of an arctic winter. In spring, they do it all again when they fly back to Russia. It is of great concern that the rapidly changing climate of the Arctic will affect them. Hopefully by late October early November at least 200 Bewick's Swans will have arrived back at Slimbridge for the winter.

 Bewick's Swans by Floodlight -  
 Sir Peter Scott
Bewick's Swans are named after Thomas Bewick (1753 - 1828) the English wood-engraver and natural history author.
This engraving of a Bewick's Swan was done by his son Robert Elliot Bewick in honour of his father.