gooseberry

2019-07-17 09.37.17

When we first moved into this house, back in 2000, my husband got a great deal on some gooseberry canes.  He likes a good deal, these were the days before the internet and online selling really took off and much joy was derived from scouring the weekly Ad-mags for bargains to help in the two year rebuild and renovation of the house and grounds.  So we were the proud owners of some 50 gooseberry canes.  Yes, that is correct, no typo.  Fifty canes.

We had the space and there was a perfect spot for them by the secret garden.  However, as even the most beginner of gardeners will know.  Gooseberries need to be pruned and trimmed or they turn into sharp-thorned triffids.

Ours became, over time, sharp-thorned triffids, and the sharper the thorns and the triffidier (I do like that word) they became the less inclined we were to brave the gooseberry patch and whip them under control.

This spring the battle of Gooseberry Green began and we won.2019-07-22 14.06.44

I wasn’t expecting much of a harvest this year.  I was mistaken.  We have had several small bucketloads already and there are plenty more to come.  Thus far I have made mackerel and horseradish sauce for the lovely fresh mackerel Stuart has been catching.

2019-07-17 17.18.07

Then gooseberry and lemon curd, gooseberry fool and still there are more to come.  So if you are passing, pop in and go home with a bag of goosgogs :_

Gooseberry and Horseradish sauce

2019-07-17 11.33.48

  • Gooseberries – a good couple of handfuls
  • Caster sugar to taste
  • Horseradish – I used homemade fermented horseradish but you could use fresh grated or a standard jar of creamed horseradish

It’s hardly a recipe but here goes.  Put the fruit in a heavy bottom pan with a splash of water (only a splash). Add roughly one tablespoon of sugar to each handful of gooseberries.  Stir over a gentle heat until the fruit is soft and squishy.  Add horseradish to taste, I like it quite hot, but even if you don’t, a little gives it a lovely zing.  Cool and pour into clean jars.  Keep in the fridge and use within a week.

Gooseberry Fool

  • Gooseberries
  • Caster sugar to taste
  • Double cream
  • Full fat greek yoghurt

Another recipe that is hardly a recipe.  Prepare the fruit as above.  Whip the cream until stiff.  Add yoghurt, I use equal quantities of whipped cream and yoghurt.  Stir in cooked fruit.  Pop in a bowl and put in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Gooseberry and Lemon curd

2019-07-17 10.53.06

  • 500g gooseberries
  • 100ml lemon juice
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 4 medium or 5 large eggs

This is a proper recipe and comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Place the fruit in a heavy bottomed pan with the lemon juice and cook gently until squishy.  Push through a fine sieve to obtain a puree.

Put the puree, butter and sugar in a Bain Marie and heat gently until the butter is melted and the mixture rich and shiny.

2019-07-17 10.15.13

Leave to cool, you don’t want gooseberry scrambled eggs.

Beat the eggs and whisk into the cooled fruit sugar and butter mixture.  Replace over the Bain Marie and stir constantly until the mixture is thick and creamy.  If you have a thermometer, it will need to reach about 84C before it starts to thicken.  Don’t be tempted to rush this stage, or it will curdle.  If it does start to curdle whip it off the heat and whisk as fast as you can and cross your fingers!

When thick pour into sterilised jars and spread thickly over your breakfast toast!

Love Gillie x

 

herbal loose ends

At this time of year you can usually find me either grubbing around in the garden and hedgerows collecting herbs or in the kitchen infusing, decocting and generally making remedies for the year ahead.

BE743ACC-EA8C-447E-ACA9-985178134EE1

Today was a catch up day.  I have several tinctures that are ready to be bottled up.  A tincture is a simple method to harvest the medicinal qualities of a herb.  All you need is the herb itself and base solvent.  The most common solvent is alcohol as it has the ability to dissolve almost all the constituents of most plants and acts as a preservative at the same time.  If you prefer not to use alcohol then vinegar or glycerine can be substituted.  Vodka is my preferred tincture solvent, a minimum of 37-40% proof.  I have bought much stronger vodka in Romania and Latvia where is was quite reasonably priced compared to the UK.

The common home method for making a tincture is to fill a small jar with the chopped herb and cover with the solvent liquid.  There are guidelines for different ratios of herb to solvent (see Hoffmann or Bartram for details).  I tend to use the common method but I do make a note of the strength of alcohol used.

6873F15A-687C-4AD6-8557-AAE55FF4BD26

Earlier this summer I had put aside :

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Chilli
  • Chickweed
  • Lemon balm
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Hawthorn leaves
  • Motherwort
  • Dandelion leaf and root
  • Lemon balm and basil in witchazel

So  much of this morning was spent bottling up and labelling.  I add the plant (Latin name if there is a risk of confusion), date of bottling, solvent and place the plant was harvested.

The first three (turmeric, ginger and chilli) are part of my personal treatment for muscular strain in my upper arms/shoulders as a result of hypermobility.  I’ve made a very effective salve using these three ingredients and was interested to see if the tincture taken internally was as effective.  I’ll do a post on the salve later this month.

Chickweed and lemon balm are both exceptionally good for skin irritations.  Mugwort is bitter tonic and helps with digestive disorders, stimulating bile production whilst also providing a carminative action reducing gas in the digestive system.  Hawthorn (more commonly the berries but also the leaves, I shall harvest the berries later in the year) and Motherwort are both cardiac tonics and whilst everyone knows dandelion as a diuretic few also know that it is an excellent source of potassium thus negating the need for potassium supplements required when synthetic diuretics are prescribed. (See Bartram or Hoffmann for detailed information on the herbs listed).  Finally some of you will remember the lemon balm and basil witchazel tincture as the basis of my first attempt at home made insect repellent.  I’ll let you know how it works!

The lemon balm infusion was ready to be turned into a salve.

  • 60 ml Lemon balm infused oil
  • 6 mg beeswax granules

Add both ingredients to a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir until the beeswax is melted.  Pour into clean jar and leave with the lid off until the salve is solid.

C064F386-63F0-4C0E-A4AC-E64D29CB76F2

Now, I have to bottle up the rest of the tinctures and get out in the garden and do some more harvesting, the sage and verbascum are vast and the mint needs my attention!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

an english country garden

… in the rain

I seriously considered putting on wellies just to walk round to the orchard to let out Mylie and Francine.  Seen here in sunnier days at Easter

2019-04-20 14.27.16

Francine on the right and Mylie on the left.

The rain seems to be endless and I wonder if I will ever sit outside with a book and enjoy the garden.  But let’s be honest, the long, hot summer of 2018 was an aberration and this is a more traditional English summer.  So here are some pictures of the beauty of an English country garden in its more usual “habitat” … the rain.

2019-06-14 09.58.53

The flagstones under the garden table, where we will not be eating supper tonight.

2019-06-14 09.58.02

Rosa rugosa holding up against the rain, not so delicate after all!

2019-06-14 09.57.44

Leaf sailing on across the overflowing water butt.

2019-06-14 09.59.19

Snail hiding in the fallen rose petals.

2019-06-14 09.59.56

Bounty in the garden.  Woad, fennel, motherwort, mugwort, artichoke (globe and Jerusalem), runner beans, peas, yarrow.

It may be wet, but it’s still beautiful.

Love Gx

manky tomatoes

The tomato harvest has finally come to an end.  We mostly grow cherry toms and on clearing out the greenhouse we were left with a bowl of rather mixed and manky looking tomatoes.  On the basis that we, the humans, get first dibs before the chooks the sad looking collection was transformed into bottled roasted tomatoes.

 

2017-11-16 13.40.38

Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Place in a very low oven (50 C or less or the bottom of the Aga) for at least 8 hours or overnight.  This really is where the Aga comes into its own.  Check on them every now and then after about 8 hours and when they are dark, soft and almost caramel like pop into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil.

Perfect as the basis for a tomato pasta sauce.

Love Gillie x

herb oil

2017-11-15 16.08.09

 

Yup it’s that time of year again.  Now we all know that a cute little baby elf will die every time somebody puts up a decoration or sings a carol before the beginning of December?  What you didn’t know that?  Shame about all those poor little elves.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan, in fact you need to plan, unless of course you a bloke with a woman who does all the planning for you.  Massive generalisation I know,  but if the cap fits …

Rather smugly I can say that present wise I am pretty much sorted.  Well, I still have to finish a pair of socks and start a cardigan but the rest is pretty much sorted.  Today was hamper day.  Some exceptionally lucky people are getting a little hamper of home made goodies.  What do you mean “poor sods I hope she doesn’t give them botulism”?!

Today was herb oil.  The lovely bottles originally contained a rather lovely Rosé from Provence.  For reasons of which I am unsure we only drank four bottles.  I may have to purchase some more.  Anyway, I originally bought the wine because I loved the bottle and I loved the glass stopper.  The wine was a pleasant bonus!

Wash and dry bottles and add herbs of your choice.  I tend to use stronger woody ones that can survive in the oil without curling up and looking manky! A whizz round the garden produced:

  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon thyme

To which I added:

  • Sliced garlic
  • Red peppercorns
  • Long peppercorns (also known as Indonesian peppercorns)
  • Penja black peppercorns
  • Juniper berry

Topped up with olive oil and sealed.  I’ll tie a pourer around the neck and they are all ready for the little hampers.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

autumnal herbs

When I wake in the morning I can no longer hear the dawn chorus, when I sit outside in the evening even I need a jumper and we lit the stove for the first time last night.  I can no longer pretend that summer isn’t coming towards its end.  I had never really thought of myself as a summer girl, but as I have got older I have become aware that summer is the time that I truly come alive.  I am more productive and my creativity ups several notches.  Getting dressed in the morning takes seconds and I live in my Birkenstocks all day and every day.  The garden is full to bursting and we have fresh flowers in every room of the house.

However the is a reason for every season and as autumn begins to take the upper hand I can start to gather in.  Our vegetable garden, along with much of the house, was being rebuilt this year so we didn’t have as big a harvest this year.  However, the winter veg are in, the greenhouse has brought forth a bumper offering and the herbs have been as abundant as ever.

I do have a dehydrator, but I prefer to use that for roots and fruits.  For leaves I leave them to hang in the boiler house.

2017-09-05 17.15.352017-09-05 17.15.292017-09-05 17.15.42

Parsley, lavender and marjaram.

The mint, lemon balm and sage have been hanging for a few weeks and are now ready to put away in jars.

2017-09-05 17.15.01

We have also made our own bacon, salt beef and lox.  Today I shall be picking the rosehips for syrup, shrub (sweet vinegar), jelly, ketchup and elderberry and reship tonic.

What are you drying and preserving this autumn?

love Gillie x

 

food glorious food

Family Smellie is very keen on its food and Thailand has not let us down once.  So we thought it was time that we did a little hands on cooking.   Rather than just stuffing our faces with the delicious food cooked by others, we would do some of the preliminary work ourselves.

Enter Toi, chef extraordinaire at Sea Dance.  She was chosen to bravely steer Family Smellie through the cooking process.  This is what awaited us when we arrived for our lesson.

 

Even if we didn’t cook it but just feasted with our eyes and noses that would have been a sensual journey in itself.  But Family Smellie needed to fill its bellies so onwards and upwards.

First up, as in any good project of any kind, is the preparation.  I was put on chopping duty and managed to impress Toi not only with my knowledge of nam pla but also my prowess with a mini machete!

IMG_7982

We began with seafood salad and followed with chicken green curry and chicken and ginger stir fry.  The Travellerwas not impressed by having to skin and scour the squid, but she did an excellent job.

IMG_0070

The seafood was left to marinade in soy sauce, nampla, chopped chilli, chopped garlic and palm sugar.  The Boss was in charge of chicken prep.

IMG_0074

First up was the green curry.  The curry paste was added to hot oil and the coconut cream added spoon by spoon.  I am used to chucking the tin in all at once, but this way the sauce remained thick and cooked more slowly, it was thinned with water or chicken stock later.

IMG_0083

Chicken first and finally vegetables.

 

The volunteer took notes.

IMG_0081

 

Stir fry was down to the Traveller and she was not convinced she could do the flip so expertly demonstrated by Toi, convinced that instead she would cover the Boss with a selection of chicken and vegetables.

IMG_0082

But she got the wrist action and managed a perfect stir fry flip with no stray veg at all.

 

And the finished products.

IMG_0092

And time to eat.

 

IMG_0093

A few days later I bumped into Toi in the gardens and she showed me around her kitchen garden.  Many of the vegetables used in the kitchen are grown on site and Toi is an excellent gardener as well as chef.  I also managed to impress her again with my knowledge of Holy Basil, there are hidden depths to me yet!  She not only grows a huge range of vegetables, salad leaves and herbs for the kitchen but also a comprehensive range of herbs for the spa as well.  And I can testify that the spa is as good as the kitchen!

Love Gillie x