Friday, 29 July 2011

Doodahs... or The Dog's Doodahs?

I had no intention of Blogging any more this week; I wanted to catch up with the Blogs we follow.
However, I received a package that I want to share with you but it has left me in a quandary.
The package brings something to mind but my quandary is... can I swear on our own Blog?
And if I do, how many people will it offend?

The package brings to mind a couple of scenes from one of my favourite films, 51st State , where Elmo struggles to understand the differentiation between "doodahs" and "the dog's doodahs" . Doodah is not the word I'm concerned about but I'm guessing you're following my drift here.

Having thoroughly confused you, I'll get to the point.
I received a Blogger Support Pack from the nice people at The Dog's Doodahs . I really don't recall where I saw the link for the pack, but I checked out the site, liked what I saw, and sent off our details with no real idea of what a Blogger Support Pack might be. Nor was I convinced that our Blog would be of interest to the site.

At The Dog's Doodahs you can personalise cards and gifts but it's a little more, shall we say, "edgy" than your usual sites. I'll let them explain:

"Please be warned that most of the designs are humorous and many are
quite………er, unsuitable for sending to your Granny!"

The Blogger Support Pack was a lovely surprise.

I received a Mug with a sachet of Cappuccino and a personalised card.

Other than a little incentive for me to try the site, there was no request for me to Blog about them, mention them, follow them, or 'like' them.... and I like that.

I also like what they sent me and that made me want to share it with you and say 'Thank you' to them.

I have used the site. Despite what they say, it's not all rude and there are many "non-humourous" items to choose from, but their warning is justified. I'm not easily offended but I am aware that some people are.
I like it. It's different, and finding different cards is hard these days.
Here's hoping that you don't all think this post is a load of doodahs.

And thanks to Alex from The Dog's Doodahs.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Our Simple Soap

I was brought up using Pears Soap and I carried this with me into adulthood. Yes, I dallied with other brands but the evocative smell and the tactile form of a bar of Pears Soap always won in the end. Until 2009, that is, when this mainstay of my ablutions changed forever. I walked away and I have never looked back.
The history of Pears is well documented on Wikepedia - I had to chuckle at the warning on their page that:

"This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a
specific audience."

More  recently I have a soft spot for Simple Soap although I still dally and like to use hand made soaps.
A particular favourite is Honey and G-oats from It's Baaa-th Time Goats Milk Soap .
I also wanted to make my own soap.

For my first foray into Soap Making I wanted to try a simple soap and I am now pleased to report that is has been a success.
It lathers, not a lot, but I like it.
It is amazingly soft on my skin.
I have not used soap on my face since my early teens but this rough looking, pure white, scentless bar was tempting me so I slathered it on.
To use a quaint old Yorkshire expression, I'm gobsmacked.
I made this and it's wonderful.
Even now, several hours after washing my face with soap, my skin does not feel dry, it's soft.

Enough Trumpet Blowing...

Having made a simple soap, I thought I would compare it with The Simple Soap.
My ingredients were:
Their ingedients are:
Etidronic Acid
Sodium Chloride
Sodium Cocoate
Sodium Palm Kernalate
Sodium Tallowate
Tetrasodium EDTA
Following links on their page they told me that Aqua is a solvent and Etidronic Acid is a chelating substance. By the time they had told me that Sodium Chloride is a Viscosity Controller I had given up - it's Salt for goodness sake!

My old mate Wikepedia was more helpful and I learned that Sodium Palmate, Cocoate and Tallowate are the three major constitents of modern Soap Making and that they are, quite simply, the saponified versions of Palm Oil, Coconut Oil and Tallow. In other words, they have already been processed with Lye.
Nothing scary there then.

But what about the Etidronic Acid? Well, it's also known as HEDP and it helps to prevent the effects of hard water. It carries with it a warning to rinse it from your skin after use. It addition to being used by the Soap Making Industry, it is also found in swimming pool chemicals where it is added as a stain inhibitor.

The Tetrasodium EDTA is also an acid which is effective in dissolving limescale.

Why couldn't the Simple website tell me this? Red Tape probably.
Still, what I can take from this is that if I add some sexy oils to my basic recipe, maybe some Glycerin and some Salt I will have a home-made product that resembles the brand soap we have been using. If I want to, and I'm not sure that I do.

I'm all charged up about Soap Making now. I've alreay lined up my next adventure; I want to try a kitchen soap recipe from the book I have which uses Ground Coffee. Having read about Pears in more depth I discovered that two of the ingredients were Rosemary and Thyme and, whilst I know I can never re-produce my beloved Pears at home, I am keen to try a soap using these two herbs. The garden is brimming with stuff that I want to use in Soap Making, although I am aware that fresh products don't always work so well in soaps. Nevertheless, the ideas and possibilities are, for me, boundless. I may fall at some hurdles but I can always have a go.

What is blowing my mind is the thought that, using fat from pigs that we have reared at home I will be able to make some fine soaps!

I'm a Giddy Kipper :)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

When to Lift and How to Keep Garlic

Our Garlic went into the ground in late October and was lifted on a dry, sunny day in late June.

Garlic is ready to be lifted as soon as the stems and leaves begin to turn yellow; delay too long and you run the risk of shrivelled bulbs and increase the risk of disease spoiling them during storage.

Try to lift them on a dry,sunny day and leave them on the warm earth for a while if you can.

We leave ours all day, weather permitting, then move it somewhere cool and dry.

This year it was the holey Greenhouse which we have not repaired yet. It keeps the rain out but lets draughts in.
And there it stayed until yesterday when I finally got around to tidying it up, sorting it out and stringing it up.

This year we have Germidour and Cristo. The Cristo is much better looking than the Germidour and has produced neat, tidy white bulbs.

I tidy up the bulbs then sort into "the good, the bad and the ugly".

The good get strung up using the same technique I use for shallots and onions and will go into the garage for storage.
They will progress from the garage to the kitchen as we start using them but for now we still have 2 bulbs left from last years harvest, plus the uglies.

The uglies are press-ganged into work straight away, although some get a brief respite in the Garlic Pot.
There's nothing wrong with the uglies. They include odd cloves that have fallen off, bulbs that have opened up to expose the cloves, and bulbs where the stem was not strong enough for them to be hung.

One of the things I make in batches is Garlic Puree which I find particularly useful when making Curries from scratch. I also make Ginger Puree using the same method. An ice cube of Puree is roughly equivalent to a tablespoonful and it's mind-numbingly simple:

Take plump Garlic Cloves and mulch them using a processor, blender or good old mortar and pestle. You shouldn't need to add water but a small amount won't hurt.
Pop the puree into ice-cube trays and once frozen decant into a container or freezer bags. I prefer a sealed container. If you're going to use freezer bags they need to be well sealed, double bagging is a good idea.

I would be lost without Garlic in my kitchen; I use it in many ways but with fresh eggs, fresh garlic and lots of fresh veg for dipping, Aioli is a must. Mayonnaise favoured with Garlic... Mmmm!  It's also great with Pasta, or try adding a dollop to soups and stews in the colder months.

Have you grown garlic this year? Have you had a good harvest?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Who Let the Pigs Out?

It was only a matter of time. We have watched the pigs leaning on the stock fencing near the gate and commented "They'll be through that when they get bigger"...
Today was the day.
As I walked to the Polytunnel mid-morning I noticed Jilly down under the apple trees. Then I remembered that Jilly was asleep on the sofa. Poor Jilly, we keep mistaking her for a pig and think one has escaped. This time it was a Large Black that I mistook for Jilly.
Sure enough, here was a Saddleback too - both happily munching windfalls.
And here's the proof that I'm not a dedicated Blogger; I didn't run for my camera, I went for the feed bucket.
Only two of them were out. The Large Black was happy to see the feed bucket but the Saddleback decided she had to dash off.
Back at the Pig Pen I now had two pigs inside going nuts because they'd seen the bucket, a Large Black intent on getting her head in the bucket, and a Saddleback charging back down the garden straight at me.... and I couldn't get the Gate open with one hand.
I finally opened the gate and for a moment there was me in the Pigpen with the bucket and four pigs outside the pen, shoving each other around in a tight circle trying to figure out where the feed bucket had gone.
Quite literally in the shake of a bucket, we were all together in the pen and I could shut the gate.
That's when I realised I should have gone for the camera because after all that it was quite something to see two pigs grazing under the apple trees.

They had pushed their way out under the stock fencing. Yes, there's barbed wire along the bottom. Yes, we knew it was loose. But I'm still a teensy bit mystified as to how they squeezed their fat little bellies under there.

Temporary measures have been taken.
They watched Steve's every move and I can't help thinking they were taking the measure of these ad hoc repairs.
As if they knew they were being suspicious, they moved off nonchalantly.

And the Saddleback? Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

I just want to add that the Pigs could not have got off the Property because of the Main Gate.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Pig's Tail

One of our Saddlebacks has one of the curliest tails I have seen on a Pig.

No-one seems to know for sure why Pigs have curly tails but, personally, I like the idea that they curl their tails when they are happy.

Her tail is not always curly; she appears to be able to straighten it and curl it at will, as they all do. This would suggest that the tail curls when they are relaxed... so happy.

Of course the tail also has a purpose and when straight they 'wag' it to keep flies away.

Not all pigs have curly tails.

More alarmingly, a lot of pigs lose their tails before they are 3 days old.

Routinely tail docking Pigs was outlawed by the EU in 2003 but investigations by Compassion in World Farming indicate that the practice is still prevalent throughout Europe and, yes, that includes the UK.
The 'justification' for this practice is that it prevents tail-biting.
I don't need Scientific Research to tell me that tail biting is most probably the result of boredom and being kept in confined spaces, but there is Scientific Evidence that prevention is better than cure and that if pigs are given straw or other 'rooting' materials, they are less likely to resort to tail biting for entertainment.

From the CIWF website:

"The EU Pigs Directive requires that pigs are given straw or similar rooting material so that they can engage in their natural behaviours. But this rarely happens.
In the barren world of the factory farm, pigs quickly become bored and frustrated and they often bite each other’s tails. Instead of providing their pigs with a more interesting environment, many farmers simply cut off, or "dock", their tails."

More information can be found on the CIWF website.

Happily, our pigs still have their tails and their tails will come back from the abattoir with them.
And we shall eat them.
Last year we had only two tails and we used these in a recipe with some of our Hocks.
We are very proud to say that we indulge in "Nose to Tail" eating.
We are endlessly searching for recipes to utilise our Pork and, most recently, I was scouting for Pig Tail recipes when I came across The Rooter to the Tooter, which looks interesting... and I love the name.

It took me a while to get a decent photo of the Saddleback's tail... I was rumbled and she was having none of it!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

St. James' Day

St. James is the Patron Saint of Oystermen and his Feast Day is 25th July. Once upon a time, this day also marked the start of the Oyster Season, now of course, the Season starts later in the year. However, down in Whitstable they continue to mark the Feast of St. James -

The Whitstable Oyster Festival runs from July 23rd to 29th  this year and the traditional Blessing of the Waters will take place on Thursday evening.
On a related note, Tanya of Lovely Greens did an interesting post about the Queenie Festival in the Isle of Man earlier this month.

We have not been to either event, although I have had Queenies on the Isle of Man and they are delicious.

July 25th 2011 also marks the first anniversay of this Blog and we would like to say "Thank you" to everyone who has read or contributed to it.

We would also like to thank the writers of the Blogs we follow for keeping us entertained and for sharing their knowledge and insights with us.

Special thanks go to Simon who left us our first comment when our Gloucestershire Old Spots had taken their final journey:-

"Well done. Now comes the fun bit, the processing. There's so much you can do, that's the beauty of pigs, they really are nose to tail eating, and a lot of the respect for the animal comes at this stage by using every part and wasting nothing. Best of luck."

It's that first comment that let's you know someone out there is actually reading your burblings that makes all the difference. Thanks to Simon, and to all who followed.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Cutting Edge

This year we want to butcher our own pigs. To this end we attended a Pork Butchery Course in May this year. We also have a selection of books, a DVD and lots of advice from various websites and forums.
All we were missing was some of the required Utensils.
Without further ado we hopped in the car and went to Russums in Rotherham.

Russums is aimed at "supplying chefs and hospitality workers, kitchen porters, waiters and waitresses, with the clothing and tools needed for their everyday work".   You can order online but they do have a nice little Showroom and we wanted to get "hands on" the utensils we needed. The Ladies in the Showroom were very friendly and helpful. It was lovely that one of them asked what we were using the utensils for and was delighted to hear about our pigs.
The Showroom is very distracting; they have lots of "good stuff" on display and I was very tempted but Steve knows which buttons to press and simply kept saying "Do you need one?" The answer is, invariably, "No." followed by a pout.

This is what we bought.

Two Boning Knives, a Steak Knife, a Cleaver and a Bow Saw.
Arguably, we already have Bow Saws which we could clean up but, in for a penny in for a pound, we decided that we wanted to keep our Butchery Tools specifically for their purpose.

It was important for us to get hands on before we bought, especially with the cleaver which needs to be heavy enough to do the job but not so heavy that it is unwieldy.
Steve nearly chopped the Showroom counter up with it as he tested it! The Lady wrapped that one especially securely "In case he drops it on his foot!"

I would like to add that the meat is for our own consumption as we have nowhere near enough Red Tape to start selling our meat commercially.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Walking on the Moon... or on the Earth?

Scouting about for an 'apt' title for this post I suddenly felt very old.
On this day in 1969 Man first walked on the Moon... and I remember it well because I was allowed to stay up to watch the momentous occasion.
Today the Atlantis Space Shuttle made its final landing back on Earth. What a long way we have come, although the child who watched the Moon Landing would have expected someone to be living on it by now :)

All this has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of my post, I just thought it was interesting.

Having been made to feel old, I hobbled out to see the pigs and chickens, watered the greenhouse and wandered back through the Polytunnel.

We have lots of tomatoes, but they are taking their time to ripen, or maybe I just think they are? I have an inkling that they will all ripen at once, which is no big deal because I want lots to make sauce.
I love the smell of tomatoes but cannot eat them just picked. I want to but always regret taking a bite. I just don't like them like that. It annoys me, especially when I watch Steve and visitors plucking them and eating them. My mate, Ju, takes the salt pot with her when she visits so that she can sprinkle as she picks.

We have been picking Courgettes for some time now but, hiding under a large leaf, I found this "Green Whale" that had escaped my notice.
He has been diced and cooked with onions, garlic, tomato and basil for the freezer.
Thanks to Louisa's post over at The Really Good Life I am now freezing Courgette and Squash flowers to make her fritters.
It had never occurred to me that I could freeze them until I had enough to make a batch of fritters.
Thanks Louisa!

Meanwhile "Edonis" is yielding some fine looking melons.
Thanks to Butterbean over on the OTG Forum I now know how to tell when they are ripe:

"There are all kinds of ways to do it but most of them require practice but the easiest way is to look where the vine attaches to the melon and you will see a strange looking spirally vine looking thing sticking out.  It almost looks like something you'd see on a grape vine.  Its about 2-3 inches long.  If you watch this and when it dries and shrivels up it is ready to harvest.  I hope this is helpful."

Thanks to Butterbean, and if you haven't visited OTG, go take a peak. It's a Countryside Forum, covering all manner of topics and it has a great community spirit.

Coming back to the house I am reminded that I have neglected my Tree Year posts.
Rowan is bedecked with his red jewels and it is time to think of Rowan Berry recipes, but more on that later.

We have Sweetpeas growing with the beans and peas, a pot near the Polytunnel door and some near the kitchen door. They are predominantly purple and lilac so I was delighted to spot this beauty by the kitchen door.

And, as I take in the heady scent I think...
I'd rather walk on the Earth than on the Moon.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tutti Frutti Ice Cream

Some kind soul suggested that I could use my Candied Angelica to make Tutti Frutti Ice Cream.
Great idea! Recipe? Not so easy to find.
There are many "Tutti Frutti" recipes out there but not a defining Classic Ice Cream Recipe. There's enough, however, to get the basic idea.
But my search took me to some interesting places and revealed that I am not the only one in search of this elusive dish.
Trevis Rothwell has an interesting page here which claims that Tutti Frutti Ice Cream was originally created by Roy Motherhead from Kentucky for his daughter "Toodie".
This led me to Leopold's Ice Cream in Savannah which boasts an historical link to the song made famous by Little Richard.
But no Classic Recipes.
As "Tutti Frutti" means "all fruit" in Italian I turned to our Silver Spoon and found only one recipe for Tutti Frutti Tart that uses fresh fruits.
So, I made up my own recipe, based on what I had read and what I had in the Store Cupboard.

I made a Custard Based Ice Cream and added:

Candied Angelica
Candied Mixed Peel
Glace Cherries
Crystallised Ginger
Dried Cranberries.

Steve likes it but it doesn't have the taste I'm looking for.
I think the Cranberries were a mistake.
The Ginger is a bit off base and was almost certainly not part of the original recipe. I think it needs leaving out but I will try it in other Ice Creams.
It's missing nuts, but I think it needs Pistachio and I didn't have any to hand.
It also needs more of everything - I was uncharacteristically conservative, I think.

I shall tweak until I get that "Bop bopa-a-lu a whop bam boo!" moment that I am looking for.

Do you remember Tutti Frutti Ice Cream? Do you think I am missing any ingredients? All suggestions welcome!

Friday, 15 July 2011

St. Swithin's Day

St. Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain.
St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair,
For forty days, 'twill rain no mair.

July 15th is St. Swithin's Day and an important day in the Weather Forecasting Calender.
On this day in 971 AD, St. Swithin's bones were moved from a churchyard in Winchester to a shrine in the new Cathedral.
St. Swithin was, apparently, not happy with this move  and 'wept', causing a torrential downpour that lasted for, you guessed it, forty days.

In some parts it is believed that rain on this day signifies that St. Swithin is christening apples and that, as a result, there will be a good harvest.

Mixed blessings there then.

Our forecast for today is scattered showers with sunny spells and there's a great little poem that goes with this forecast submitted by Jo in the comments on Flighty's informative post about the Great British Weather. There are some other weather poems to be found there too.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Pigs Galore at the Great Yorkshire Show

We arrived at the Show early, beating the traffic and parking close to the Gold Gate which we slipped through a tad earlier than the officially posted time of 7.30am.
Time for a beautiful Bacon Sarnie whilst we perused the Programme and made A Plan. The Plan  was promptly discarded as we set out to find the nearest Loo after which we found ourselves in the Sheep Pens.
There are some seriously strange looking Sheep out there, folks, let me tell you, but we did like the Hebridean Breeds. We don't really have the space for Sheep and Steve's interest in them waned as I told him that it was at the Yorkshire Show that I had discovered that I have an allergy to Sheep... we left the Sheep Pens.

Our main interest was the Pigs and we spent a fair amount of time walking the Lanes. We marvelled at an enormous Gloucestershire Old Spot Sow and admired many of the other Breeds represented.

We watched the Interbreed Pig Supreme Championship and the BPA Pig of the Year Final.
These are great to watch because you get to see many different Breeds in the ring at the same time. The Steward was brilliant, giving a run down on the characteristics of the various Breeds and imparting Piggy Information in an amusing and engaging way.

We took many photo's but have chosen only a few to share. They're not great because we only took a small camera with us.

These are Gilts, and an easy way to tell this at a glance is that they only have one handler. Boars require 2 handlers in the Show Ring.
We chose this photo because at the front you can see a Pietrain, a Belgian Breed from, funnily enough, Pietrain in Belgium and brought to the UK in 1964.

These are Boars and we chose to share this because at first glance you might think that the Boar in the foreground is a Saddleback because of his markings.
He is, in fact a Hampshire and his ears are the giveaway. The Hampshire is a 'prick eared pig' whereas the Saddleback is 'lop eared'.

This is a   Duroc, also known as a 'Red Hog'.
I'm not taken by them; they remind me of a Mastiff dog. They grew on Steve, however, and he was quite taken with them by the end of showing.
All of the Pigs in the BPA Final were Champions in their own right, having won at Shows across the Country. My personal favourite was a Large Black but the ultimate winner was a Welsh Pig from the herd at Brooksby Melton College.

We also went to see a Gloucestershire Old Spot Sow with her 10 little piglets and the RBST had a young Large Black Gilt in their tent who, very obligingly, fell over for a tummy rub when scratched between the ears.... much to the delight of some youngsters alongside us.

Of course, it wasn't all about Pigs.
We watched some beautiful cows with their calves being hosed down ready for showing, and a very patient, very large Bull undergoing the same beauty treatment.
We watched Horses going through their paces in the Main Show Ring and we saw the Hounds.
We spent a while in the Forestry Section, although we were bemused to see a man videoing the large shredding machine....
We glimpsed Celebrity Chef James Martin doing his presentation but couldn't get close, and we missed Rosemary Shrager completely.
We covered it all and had a Great day, although I dropped my Ice Cream - BooHoo!
We came home happy and tired and with a new jacket each.

We looked at our pigs, scrambling over each other and squealing at us to be fed, and decided that they were the best pigs we had seen all day.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Great Yorkshire Show

We've had our tickets for this year's Show for some time and we shall be going tomorrow.

Both of us have been attending, on and off, since we were kids and it still has the same pull as it had then.

We thought we'd share a little of it's history before we bombard you with details of our day out.

The Show is organised and hosted by The Yorkshire Agricultural Society, a Charitable Organisation formed in 1837 to "help to improve and promote agriculture in the region."

The first Show was held in Fulford, York in 1838 but there are no attendance records until 1842 when 6,044 people visited the Show.
The record attendance to date is 135,111 in 2006.

The Show now takes place on the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate. This permanent site was purchased in 1950 with the first Show being held there in 1951.

This year is the 60th time the Show has been held at Harrogate and it will be the 153rd Show.
Our sharp readers will note that the Maths do not add up. There are gaps in the Show's History courtesy of WWI (1915-19), WWII (1940-48), and, sadly, Foot & Mouth Disease in 2001.

We shall be mainly looking at Pigs.

The BPA Pig of the Year Final will be on Wednesday, but we also enjoy tootling around the Pens.
The Cattle always get a fair share of our attention too. In fact, we seem to spend quite a bit of time in the Livestock Areas.
Of course, there are also over 900 Stands to wander round....

Fine out more at the Great Yorkshire Show website.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ten Things To Do With Eggs

You knew this was coming, right?
Since we got The Warren Girls we've had an abundance of eggs. Ten Layers, Ten Eggs...what to do with them all?

In June these 10 Layers gave us 286 eggs and Double Yolkers featured strongly in the mix.

Here's a list of some things we do, and some we hope to do, with them all.

1. Boil Them      I refuse to get into a debate about how long to boil a soft-boiled egg :)
Besides, I am talking hard-boiled here. The simple hard-boiled egg is a dream as a standby and will keep, in it's shell, for five days in the fridge.
I keep a fresh store of them for quick snacks or lunches. You can mash them up with mayo (homemade with eggs), mix them with mustard & cress or rocket...or pick a mix of fresh herbs. The possibilities are endless. I like to snaffle one and sprinkle it with salt...

2. Pickle Them  I'm cheating a bit here, but those boiled eggs can be pickled.
I like mine in Malt Vinegar, Steve's not so keen so I'm doing my next batch in Cider Vinegar. I also want to try pickling them in Beet Juice. The recipes I've seen so far indicate that you pickle the eggs in their shells.
Now, I'm sure I've read somewhere and I can't recall where, that Eggs used to be pickled with the shells on and that the shells disintegrate. I'm annoyed at myself because I can't put my hands on the book I read this in.

3. Scotch Them   Again, I'm cheating because this uses hard-boiled eggs. I made Scotch Eggs with my Nana as a child but have never made them since. We are keen to make some with our own Sausage Meat and our own Eggs.

The Sausage Meat from our last pigs is long gone so this will be a project for the coming Autumn.

4. Bake With Them  I've been doing a lot of baking.
Yesterday I looked for recipes using a lot of eggs. The top result was Pound Cake, which I have heard of and which I know uses 1lb of each main ingredient. I was a bit disappointed to discover that this is all it is.

I often batch make a basic sponge recipe, spilt it, add bits, make buns, cakes or puddings, eat some, freeze some. The recipe I use is simple and was taught to me by my mum:
Weigh your eggs, in their shells, and use that weight for your sugar, fats and flour.

5. Make Egg Custards and Meringues One uses yolks; the other uses whites. The useful thing is that meringues are better made with older eggs; perfect if you start to get a backlog of eggs and need to use up the older ones.
I love meringues but they are too sweet for Steve, he says ... he never complains when I crumble some with Ice Cream.
I've been making custards for a long time. Both the pouring kind and the baked kind. One is cooked on the Stove Top, the other in a water bath in the oven, or in a pastry case. However, I've hit a problem.
I made a Creme Caramel at the weekend and the Caramel was too runny. I assumed I'd made an error with the Caramel Sauce. Yesterday I made a simple Baked Custard... and that was runny too. It was set fine and tasted okay but they was a lot of unwanted liquid in the bottom of the dish.
I don't know why it has started happening but I think I shall add cornflour to my next attempt to see if that fixes it.

6. Make Ice Cream Another cheat, but a very good way to use pouring custard you've made from your eggs, and it provides a perfect accompaniment to meringues.

It is also ideal for adding your fresh fruits to.
My last batch was Raspberry Ripple - looks like soap doesn't it?
I simply made a Raspberry Sauce and swirled it into the Ice Cream before it was completely set.

7. Give Them Away, Barter Them or Sell Them We don't sell our eggs at present, although some folk will insist on giving us "a little something", which is nice.
We are happy to be able to supply our friends and family, all of whom are on the Merry-go-Round with us.
It is also very nice to be able to say to people "Would you like some fresh eggs?". Sometimes it is in reciprocation. Often it is for a kindness past that they may have forgotten or, indeed, may not even be aware that we have recognised a past act as one not to be forgotten.

8. Make Soap I have mentioned making Soap with eggs before and it is something I do hope to try.
I have two recipes in the book I bought. Of the two, I think I shall try the Egg and Lemon Shampoo Bar first. It sounds lovely and the author says she doesn't need to use a conditioner with it. I have other Soaps I want to try too, but this one will be making an appearance here at some point.

I have used egg yolks on my hair before. I had a very 'experimental' Mother :) and along with Chamomile and Beer, Egg Yolks sometimes put in an appearance on hair-washing nights...not all on the same night though.
The key is not to rinse in hot water or you'll scramble your head.

9. Egg On Your Face. Yes indeedy, the humble egg is great for your complexion.
I have used Egg Whites as a Toner. You paste the egg white on your face, leave it to dry then wash it off. It tightens the skin and really does make your skin feel smoother.
I wasn't aware that this is a treatment for oily skin. If you have dry skin you should use just the yolk; for normal skin you mix the white and yolk together.
I don't really fancy having yolk on my face but I daresay I shall try it.

10 Hatch Them  Of course, this is not an option for us at present. The simple reason being... we don't have a Cockerel!
It is a road we are keen to travel. It makes perfect sense to us and we miss eating chicken as often as we used to. We could, of course, buy some Hatching Eggs to incubate but incubators don't come cheap and we would like to get a breeding Trio if we can. A Trio is a Cockerel with two Hens. We don't know which way we shall go yet, but we shall raise our own Table Birds, one way or another.

So, there we have it, ten things to do with eggs and not an omelette nor a quiche in sight - although, it has to be said that these are undoubtedly the best ways to shift a lot of eggs in one go, other than dropping them and letting the dog have them.

Jilly gets no more than her fair share of eggs, both cooked and raw. If you give her a raw egg in its shell she will hold it very delicately in her mouth. She won't eat it unless she is told she can. Bless her!

How do you use up a glut of eggs?
Do you have a favourite recipe for Eggs? and...

"How do you want your eggs......fried or boiled?"  ;)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Pack of Choi Time

We are not growing any Pak Choi this year but we were delighted to receive a pack of Choi Time Superior Chinese Teas.

I will admit that I eyed the contents with some misgivings.
In a previous employment, our Company opened an office in China and one of the Directors brought back some Chinese Teas.
They looked beautiful in the cup as the flowers blossomed, but they just weren't my cup of tea. As I recall they were predominantly red and orange flowers and the tea tasted, well, musty.
Maybe they saw him coming.

These teas look much more palatable and the hand woven bulbs look very intriguing.
They have very appealing packaging and, looking at the website, they have some delightful canisters and caddies. I'm particularly liking the Travel Size Caddy.

We have: Jasmine Pearls, Damask Rose, Thousand Year Red, and Exotic Mixed Flowers.
Which to try first?
I am drawn to the Thousand Year Red, simply because I like the red.
I decide to read the "unique properties" of them all which leads me to
Jasmine Pearls.
Finally I choose to sample Exotic Mixed Flowers first because this offers me "Visual theatre in [my] cup"... so much better for Blogging.

Exotic Mixed Flowers
It's a lump, but not just any lump, this lump is "handcrafted... from... white needle green tea leaves... naturally scented with... jasmine blossoms... individually woven with an exotic flower".
At first glance not very appealing.
But looking more closely you can see some promise in the woven strands.

And it blossomed; pretty pink and yellow...
Chrysanthemum? Marigold? No idea what the pink is.
The taste is quite floral but not overpowering. It tastes pleasant but I have no real idea what I am drinking. I go to the website and can't find this product. One email exchange later I find it has been rebranded to Giant Flowering Tea Bulbs. Further searching tells me that the one I have is Flower Tower which is Chrysanthemum topped with a Rose. And as I sit here sipping my Exotic Mixed Flower tea on what will probably be the only "Flaming June" day we get, I read that Chrysanthemum "helps to reduce body heat". Good choice then!

What next? Well, I'm suspecting that the Jasmine will be my favourite and I'm not ready for more theatre just yet, so I opt for...

Damask Rose
Now this is a 'floaty dress tea' if ever I met one.
Our sample includes three delicate buds which are dropped into water without any "theatre".
But the aroma!
A beautiful, delicate fragrance rises from my cup and makes me wonder for a moment if I really want to drink a perfume.
Happily, the brew does not taste of perfume. It is fragrant, but not overpowering. I find it surprisingly refreshing and I want to put on a floaty dress. I make do with sipping this delightful tea as I watch Wimbledon.
I decide that I like this tea, and if it can "boost circulation" and give me a "healthy glow", so much the better.

Next up I try
Thousand Year Red
This bulb not so much unfurls but falls apart a bit in my cup. It still looks nice but it is not as impressive as the first bulb I tried. I'm not so keen on the aroma and this translates to my tastebuds as I take a few sips. I have to assume it is the Amaranth flower that I don't like. I am disappointed because the website tells me this is good for bronchitis and coughs. I set the tea aside to cool and try another sip. To my surprise I find it much more palatable when it has cooled so I pop it in the fridge... and it improves even more. This confuses my brain. If I am having bronchial trouble I want a hot, soothing drink, not a cold one. Still, it is very nice as an Iced Tea.

Finally I get to taste
Jasmine Pearls
The sample includes 10 delicate 'pearls' with the instruction to use
5 -15 in a brew. I use all ten, which unfurl and sink to the bottom of my cup reminding me of a rockpool. A very delicate aroma of Jasmine wafts up. The taste is indeed very pleasant and it really is a fine Green Tea.

But it's not my favourite of the selection we have.

I've said before that I am not a huge fan of infusions, or herbal teas. I am, however, partial to a Green Tea after a nice meal and my tea of choice would be Jasmine. Choi Time's Jasmine Pearls are excellent but I am surprised to find myself hankering after some more Damask Rose. Once again, I suspect it's the Lady Gardener in me, but I really did find it refreshing.

I am also pleased to discover that Choi Time's theatrical Giant Bulbs are lovely to look at and pleasant on the palate; no musty tastes here.
I would like to thank Choi Time for giving me the opportunity to re-educate my tastebuds. At the same time they have let me taste a superior Jasmine Tea and I suspect others will now pale in comparison. Maybe I need to invest in one of their Travel Caddies.

We were sent this product free of charge but we have received no financial reward for writing this review, it is simply our opinion.

Choi Time have generously offered a 10% discount to our readers.
They do  "Single Serve Pouches" that are great for sampling. Each "single serving" will give you 3-5 cups of tea, although the Giant Bulb Teas will yield more. These are priced at £2 each or you can get a selection of 6 for £10.
To claim your online discount, simply use the code: asmallholding

Monday, 4 July 2011

Moths that Fly by Day - The Burnet

We had a new visitor to our Lavender recently.

I didn't recognise him but he is a Burnet Moth and I'm fairly confident that he is Six Spotted.

The UK Moth page is informative but disappointing, however it does tell me that this is the commonest of Britain's day flying Burnet Moths.

He may be common, but I've never seen one before and I was delighted that he stayed a while.

Then I found a more informative Blog Post on the Islay Weblog where there are some stunning photographs of the Six Spot Burnet Moth. The article also tells me, amongst other things, that the bright patterning alerts predators that it is poisonous. It contains cyanide. Nice.

The UK Moth site tells me this Moth is found throughout Britain, with a Coastal bias in the North.

He was obviously enjoying our Lavender.

Have you seen one? Or maybe one of the other varieties of Burnet Moth?

Friday, 1 July 2011

Broccoli? Salad?!

We've been harvesting Broccoli for a while now.

It is one of my favourite vegetables but it has never occurred to me to use it for a Salad.

I came across  Jamie Oliver's Broccoli Salad by accident.
I haven't made it.
It's too busy for me. I prefer a selection of simple salads, but I liked the idea of using Broccoli this way.

I followed his instructions to prepare the Broccoli and dressed it with my own concoction.

Quite simply, you blanch the florets in salted, boiling water for about 60 seconds then drain. Spread the florets on a dry tea-towel to dry and cool. This lets them steam dry and apparently helps the dressing to stick.
Jamie's florets are more delicate than mine, but I'm more Rustic than Fine Dining.

I used a simple Mustard Dressing:
Olive Oil, White Wine Vinegar, Dijon Mustard and Salt & Pepper.
I make my dressings by taste so the quantities vary. Jamie uses 6 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar.

It's a nice, simple salad and allows me to use more of our Broccoli fresh.
It's also a great Salad Base. As I said, I prefer simple salads but I always serve more than one, along with other ingredients that can be added or left out, or simply nibbled on their own.
We do Pick 'n' Mix Salads in our house.