Spring is well and truly underway, a magical time when new life gives new hopes, new dreams, new realities. All my wishes suddenly turning into reality. I’ve been gardening as much as humanly possible and sowing, sowing, sowing. Its almost turned into a race, and very soon the foraging for me will be full on. I have started and so far I am foraging wild garlic, pine needles, gorse flowers.
Whilst busying myself I get distracted by how beautiful the landscape is around me. I feel that Mother nature herself has announced the Spring Ball.
Birds have obliged and have created the perfect chorus. Whilst the Sun has taken on a new morning glow replacing the dark morning with a new soft flattering light.
Let the dance begin. If you stop and look your see it, its everywhere in woodlands, driveways roadsides every tree, every plant is in attendance.
Trees and hedgerows wearing dresses as pretty as a picture in bright coloured blossoms, pink, stunning reds and whiter than white petals, hang from branches as if they have been pinned on overnight.
O then I remember the purpose of my walk gorse flowers, a beautiful yellow flower, that seems to glow in the new seasons sunshine, I have a new idea for these this year, something special, I let you know as soon as Ive managed to perfect this little treat. Talking of special if you haven’t heard then I would like to introduce you to Rupert who uses corse flowers to make Gin with. He can be found here www.conkerspirit.co.uk and I can recommend that you try some of his Gin.
Now earlier on I was talking rhubarb, yes I am obsessed with rhubarb can’t help it. Its wonderful you can do some much with it. The tiny shoots appearing earlier on have now grown and some are ready for the pot. So what will I be making Rhubarb jam rhubarb ketchup, (great with Pork).
I love it so much that I have a whole plot dedicated to growing it.! I am also very lucky to have Darren Venables and his wonderful team, at the http://www.chewtonglen.com/ who grow some fantastic varieties for me to turn into jam for the hotel. They also use it in the kitchens were the talented Executive chef Luke Mathews and his team turn into rhubarb pavlova.
However this week I am trying to be good after all the chocolate eaten up from the generous easter bunny. So I am going to try and do something a little savory. Rhubarb ketchup. There are many recipes for this little delight but one of the best I have found is Richard Turners recipe.
550g of forced pink steam rhubarb
150g of sugar
100ml of cider
50ml of orange juice
sea salt and spices. 2cm Root ginger, ½ cinnamon stick 2 cloves, 8 black peppercorns (all in a spice bag)
Place all the above ingredients into a stainless steel pan. Boil then simmer for 20 minutes
Remove the spice bag and blend the sauce into a puree. Pass through a sieve and refrigerate until needed.
I like it poured over ice cream or whipped into mergans. I also like to use it in GIn!
Richard serves his with a tasty outstanding dish of his slow-roast leg of pork. I tried this recipe and its mouth watering delicious.
Spring has gently opened her doors and has let in the warmth of a new season’s breeze. It brushes my face with a softness of rose petals. With a promising brighter sun, she entices me to step outside and discover snowdrops and early daffodils. A sight so familiar, yet each spring she delivers these gifts and it’s like the first time it’s ever arrived. As if it’s appeared there just for me to discover. Each flower, each blossom reflexing the open sky and the morning sun. As each ray magically lights up the emerging blossoms, of the hedgerows, teasing and requesting each and every blossom to open into full flower.
It’s at this moment I fall in love with this new season as if it is a first kiss. The ground is still cold but the expectation of new fruit starts to excite my taste buds, as I witness the first crop of rhubarb, pushing her pinks stalks out of the tops of upturned pots used to force these gorgeous delights on. I could dance it’s spring, these pink beauties once picked give me such enthusiasm for the next new season, knowing it is safely underway. I feel she is giving me a glimpse of the bounty yet to come.
Kitchen Garden at the Chewton Glen
So after the marmalade it’s rhubarb time. These pink stalks appear in the garden and my taste buds tingle. It really doesn’t feel like twelve months since I picked the first crop of the year, but it is and it’s back, my favorite rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb…a word that always makes me laugh so I say it again Rhubarb! If you would like to know about this little beauty (you can find facts about it from last year’s blog) but this year I would like to give you a little recipe that is tasty, fun, easy and full of the joys of spring!
A quick Rhubarb & Orange Jam Bread and Butter Pudding.
1 pot of Rhubarb & Orange Jam
400g of sliced bread this need to be about a day old if not two.
2 large eggs and 3 large egg yolks.
A pot of 500ml double cream
250 ml of milk
1 vanilla pod. (you only need the seeds hers so keep the pod and pop it into some sugar)
2 tbsp. of demerara sugar.
The zest of 1 large orange.
Make sandwiches with the bread & Jam and cut into triangles. and place in an ovenproof dish.
Put the milk cream, eggs into a bowl and whisk. Pour over the bread and let it sit over night.( or at least for 1 hour)
Sprinkle over the orange & Sugar and Place in a warmed oven about 180c for about 45 mins.
Serve with Mascarpone cream, or vanilla ice cream.
It’s here the marmalade season and what a wonderful time of year! It’s a t time when the Seville’s arrive. Bright skinned and bushy tailed! Here to warm up our dull days with a little bit of Spanish sunshine, it’s the perfect time to put the pan on.
At this very moment my time is being taken up with moving, so in between batches I find myself moving heavy kitchen equipment and units to a little place along the road in Hordle.
I’m so excited I could dance in my kitchen!
So a new adventure begins… to date I have taken down a wall, stripped the plasterboard away from the walls, ripped the floor up and demolished a built in cupboard.I have also taken out a large work bench and some old kitchen units. My word, its hard work being “Bob the builder”, but its been fun
I have also leveled my first floor! Oh yes me! I did it!
Serious building work is the next step to be taken … Bob help!!! Walls need to be built, plaster boards replaced etc.etc. so its time to call in the professionals, and believe me its not easy being a project manger. My mind wonders …… mm wait a minute; I was once a Stage Manager! so time to manage! As any good Stage Manager would say…. “30 minute call”
In between all of that I am still cooking “Seville’s” from Ava Maria Farm, https://twitter.com/farmavemaria these beauties arriving for a very short time over this dull British winter. Thank goodness its time to stop playing “Bob” and start playing “Paddington”.
Ava Maria Farm
Many marmalade makers the world over take this very seriously, and armed with special “recipe rituals” passed down from generation to generation with the secrets kept locked inside a generation of cooks and marmalade jars, take to the pan with wooden spoon in hand, aim to make a better marmalade than they have every made year in year out they set themselves goals! .This unique marmalade passion has created a wonderful world of “marmalade culture”. So if you have not made marmalade before…. be careful as once you have made a jar…your be addicted! and soon you will be joining, entering and competing at the Marmalade Festival which is held each year in Cumbria at Dalemain House. Where everyone is welcome. http://www.dalemainmarmaladeawards.co.uk
Now my favorite recipes change, depending on the fruit. But I always rely on my Moms recipe it is almost always right but to be honest its not that different to Nigel Slaters, which won me a Silver at the said marmalade awards! Although I’m not one for believing in magic, BUT!!!! if you have never made marmalade or even if you have and you would like to try some marmalade magic! then this is little find is for you .READ the The kitchen diaries II, page 50 something I always read before I start with the marmalade cooking. I would even go so far as to say… don’t make marmalade without reading it first, its contains magic and every jar will set.
Nigel’s words are like fragments of a day I once had with my Mom, it brings back marmalade memories of her, her kitchen and how much she loved the garden. My next batch is for you Mom… and yes, I will sing “bring me sunshine” even if it is blowing a wild one as it is today. ( and I promise to save my sister a jar or two, although no jar will ever be as good as yours X).
Christmas would not be the same without gifts, no matter what it may be. A little something goes a long way. I do find it so easy giving it makes me feel wonderful, knowing that the receiver recognizes how I do appreciate the moments when a kind word was said a little time given or a meal was shared.
However I would not like to overlook one of the most important aspects of my life the seasons, and nature. I feel they this too needs a token of Christmas thanks. So not wanting to leave anyone thing out, at this time of year I pop out to the Forest to thank you to nature for providing me with berries and delights throughout the seasons. So myself and my children will gather together some fruit & vegetables and take then onto the forest. (this is known in our house as the Forest fairy hunt).
We pop into the Forest and go in search of grazing deer, guided by the bird song, when we do find them, we gently whisper our home address to let them know where to stop on the 24th December. Once they have heard we scattering some bird food as a thank you for letting us talk to the animals. Our journey continues into the Forest where we search for the magical christmas. tree, a wonderful decorated tree shining in a bare leafless wood. We marvel at the tree and the magic of woodland fairies . Its a perfect place to offer our gifts so we replace the baulbes with the fruit & vegetables, and thank the Forest for its joy and gifts throughout the year. Be it either wonderful walks, hedgerow fruit or simply,enjoying the forest floor as a picnic table.
Each year our story for Christmas changes, but as our story changes our gratitude towards the seasons and nature grows stronger, as we continue to discover something new about our surrounding. As a forager we can only be thankful for this miracle, it is truly a Christmas gift I treasure each day. So thank you trees, thank you hedgerows and thank you wildlife for letting me gather some of your bounty. May the winter be kind and the berries grow. Merry Christmas to you. Xx