Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Seasonal Meatloaf...

The pleasure I get from choosing a menu in line with seasonal veg is immense. Although this year I will sob when the broad bean season closes, [they are fava beans in the US.] They are the easiest crop to grow. I sowed mine last October in the ground and they survived temperatures of -18°. We've had tons of delicious baby beans several times a week since early May, sometimes with butter and garlic, occasionally with bacon and cabbage, often with pasta dishes. Yum-eee. The great thing is the children love to pick and de-pod them, although you do have to insist that they use scissors in case they uproot the entire plant.

Yesterday I took a stroll around the walled garden to see what needed picking: The curly leaf parsley was looking like a mini forest so I picked lots plus a few sprigs of golden oregano. A spring cabbage was being crowded out by its neighbours so I had that too. I plucked a congested handful of baby scallions from the soil (should've thinned earlier but hey ho) and drank in their lovely oniony smell. I selected a white and a red onion and lastly I pulled up a big fat garlic bulb. I knew I had fresh pork mince in the fridge so obviously it was time cook meatloaf.

The recipes on the BBC Good Food site are always pretty good and this one was perfect.

Of all 9 ingredients  required for the recipe The Larches produces 5 of them and just think, it could be 6 if we raised the pigs here...... one day, mark my words.....

Meatloaf Ingredients

I tend to go a bit off piste with recipes, so in the end I made meatballs with the mixture adding grated carrots and a little chilli flakes but deleting the parmesan and prosciutto. It was so easy to make in my processor and by doubling the quantity I made 24 golf ball sized meatballs, roasting them at 220° for 45 mins. Half for dinner, half for the freezer. They were gorgeous served with hot spaghetti drenched in well seasoned garlic mascarpone, with kale and broad beans on the side.

Today I tested a meatball cold with sweet chilli sauce ..... Really, really good.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Space-Time Continuum

Clearly I am trapped in some time warp. A Parents' Evening Groundhog Day...

Last week, Monday, I showered, blow dried my hair, put on clean clothes, kissed my wellingtons a temporary goodbye and strapped on girl shoes. Hubby was working away so off I toddled to represent the team at Parents' Evening...... a week early! Sheeesh. Various teachers commented on my lovely appearance and delightful aroma then roared with laughter at my faux pas. I tried to convince them I was just checking out the venue for the following week but I'm pretty sure I didn't get away with it... [I am a grown up. I am a grown up. I am a grown up.]

Today, Monday, I wrote all day. [It rots your brain...] At lunch time I planted cucumber plants then I wrote some more. Then I toddled off to school in my muddy jeans and wellies.... In the reception hall were parents looking how I looked last week.i.e. clean.. Sheesh! The 8yo looked horrified at my standing up her teacher. Daughter may be emotionally damaged - I've promised to pay her £1 in damages.... I had hoped that might buy her silence too..

Full credit to the 8yo's teacher who clearly gave me extra credits for turning up last week: I'd missed my booked slot today by 30 mins but she still squeezed me in. I love her.

The 8yo's doing really well and so far I think I have narrowly avoided a detention. Phew! Gosh, do you remember The Breakfast Club ? - love that film. Anyhoo, all happy at The Archers at The Larches now.

Mind you the first thing the 8yo said when she saw her Daddy later was;

'Mummy forgot Parents' Evening...' [I am a grown up. I am a grown up. I am a grown up.]

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Considerably Bigger Buns....

I went to my first WI [Women's Institute] meeting tonight. It was in the Village Hall so I walked to it, down the bridle path and along the green buffet containing the cows and calves.

The 'meeting' part was daunting, a whole new language of campaigns in defense of women and good stuff like ensuring people value water and use it appropriately. Sitting there as the new girl I realised that this small body of women, probably no more than eleven mothers and grandmothers, was duplicated up and down the country in similar village halls in towns and cities, all applying pressure on government or organisations, collectively making a difference.

It's good that.

The second part of the evening was outstanding. A lady called June Emmerson came and showed us all how to peg weave. I can't even knit yet I have made a gorgeous little sampler with a mixture of coloured wool that June creates on her spinning wheel at home and scraps of fabric that she liberates from charity shops. It was relaxing and fun. I'm hooked and I know my 8yo would just love it too.

My hands feel soft and they smell of lanolin from the gently washed but generally untreated wool.

What a lovely evening.

I kid you not, go check out your local WI. My only disappointment was that my branch didn't appear to be planning a calendar this year.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Update - Bantam chicks

Last night was a doddle. The 9 chicks put themselves to bed at 9:30pm in the annex and the big girls and Rooster stayed up a little later, (they are the grown ups after all.)

Felt a bit redundant until hubby pointed out that there was a broody hen in the woodshed!

'Let's put some eggs under her tomorrow and raise some more chicks,' HE said.

See, it's not just me! .........

Monday, 13 June 2011

Released into the Community

Blimey bantams are feisty little things!

If you remember we had the argy-bargy the other week and had to divide the chicks' coop in two. At one end resided three tiny trouble-makers, ruffians, (boys of course!!) Turns out I have 4 boys and 5 girls, 6 if you count their mum. Hubby is thrilled, NOT! The remaining sociable six were bunked at the other end of the coop and both gangs had their own seperate runs.

This weekend I felt like I was living in a madhouse. The chicks were getting stir-crazy, fed up being cooped. There were mini cock fights every hour and along with the monsoon rain, I could have convinced myself I was living in Thailand if it hadn't been so pigging cold. Meanwhile the cats were bringing us gifts. Benny is an efficient assassin and tends to eat that which he murders, while Tabby is rather clumsy and likes the chase more than the eating bit. He kindly brought a live squirrel back to the walled garden and before our eyes he managed to lose it. It lashed off, turned left, bounded into the house and up the stairs. We haven't seen it since!

By Saturday lunchtime I reached a momentous decision: the chicks had to be free. For the past 48 hours all nine chicks have been in purgatory in the bungalow, (the annex to the main coop lovingly created by hubby.) These winged devils were destined, somewhat early, for their free range life.

In theory if you lock your chickens up for a couple of days they associate their prison as home, hopefully returning to it in the evening for shelter. This theory has sort-of worked in the past!

This morning (Monday) started slow and damp but it's lovely and warm now so I've gathered all my courage and released the little tornadoes into the community.

They are bananas. Now they're picking fights with my big hens, heedless of their disadvantage size-wise! We'll see if they last the day.

I've 23 chickens at large now, although I may have to find homes for the 4 roosters if they start getting frisky with their sisters. Quite enough poultry for The Larches I feel........ pigs next!!! Don't tell hubby.

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon