I look out of the windows and the skies are still dark from the night, the clouds are racing in from the west, broken one looks like a pearl diver, searching into the bright patches of blue from the east. But the grey is catching up, and as I watch the sunrise quickens highlighting the horizon, the blue is now engulfed by the grey, the warming colours of the sun shines behind each shade giving edge lines as if I had drawn them with a charole pencil. Will the east wins over the west? and blue and pink sky fill the day? but the wind is stronger and the blue is slowly dismissed as the clouds take advantage of the head wind.
I stare and listen to the wind I can hear the seagulls I look into the deeping sky and marvole at its beautify, gulls litter the skyline standing out like cut out silhouettes, they coast on the thermals as they take advantage of the wind.
The sycamore at the end of the garden towers and I watch crows perch and shout out their ownership of the tree. I scan my garden and the children’s climbing and swing frames are like skeletons that are rarely played with now, but I hold on them, so to recall last summers moments as if its an insurance, that if frames stay I will not forgot the days. Each swing, bars fills my heart with their young giggles, but soon the frames will have to be re-homed as time moves and the very fact my lovelies are too big for them to play on them.
The whole garden looks cold, wind swept and lonely, or perhaps its my guilt of not really doing much with her this winter using the excuse that its too wet to walk on the grass. Its to wet to mess with her for fear of doing her damage. When really its my lack of time that has kept me away from the her.
I turn and the cherry tree is in need of a pruning and so are the other fruit tress, but dare not, as I see buds! This mild winter, has confused nature as it has confused me, what to do? I wait, and I watch I’m sure nature will let me know the right time. I pop out into the green house, I tidy and plan, I dream and image of what delights of the spring.
The day is here and I am now on my second coffee pot, and while I watch the world awake on the social internet marvelling at attention to nature and photos of morning everywhere and just how we the love of the Earth. I return to my cooking books looking for inspired post Christmas treats, it is Saturday after all, and as I read into one, my attention is held by “a Summers day biscuit” recipe with rose and almond two of my favourite things. I return to prune the roses, but with within minutes I am back in the kitchen. Its started to rain!
I need some comfort today and I don’t mean a Casserole, although an cassoulet would be nice for lunch. I dive into my cupboard bring out the rose infused sugar I made last summer so now I am going to make these biscuits and enjoy then when the children finally rise out of bed! Bring moments back of last summer into today.
The Book Nigel Slaters a year of good eating:
Find the recipe look no further than on pg 206 of Nigel Slaters a year of good eating. I will substitute the caster sugar in the almond filling for rose sugar and for the decoration.
I post the photos of the delight later on naked jam facebook page.
I’ve always had an instinct and natural urge for foraging, that has continued to push me outside.
As no matter where you are, no matter the time of year there always something to find to eat!. Foraging has always played a big part in my life but now it’s also instrumental to my work. Apart from the free food there are other benefits too. Exercise and this time of year leaf kicking is a great way to feel young! I am sure that I did once hear on radio 4 that there is something fundamental and beneficial about the bacteria on the leafs. That it is good for us to breathe in when kicking up the leaves during autumn, unfortunately I can’t remember all the details!
So on a bright afternoon, after the fog had cleared, I was off to forage for jam in the ground of the Chewton Glen, I take my usual route through the cut, across the road and then into the small woodland. I just can’t help but kick up the leaves, it’s then I notice them, little furry green husks, spiky balls and they are holding their very own crown jewels beautiful little brown chestnuts!
I’ve found treasure! wow o wow, I had almost forgotten about these little beauties I’ve been so busy with hedgerow fruits recently, just how could I forget about the season’s best tasting nut! So without a thought for rose hips I was down on damp ground picking through the leaves and gathering chestnuts.
So while my jeans were gathering mud as I rustled in the leaves, the moment begins to rekindles memories, and as always my memories always seem to start in the our family kitchen with my mum. I would watch her put together some wonderful recipes and I wish now I take a pen to paper and written them all down. But the smell of these chestnuts takes me to her kitchen, while after foraging for those angry spiky furry balls, we would pick out the nuts, and that distinct aromas of burnt ambers, almost earthy yes the chestnuts were roasting. Or we store the beauties for use later in the Christmas stuffing.
But what else did she do apart from the stuffing ? I hold still, kneeing on the wet ground trying hard to bring back “Christmas past”, I laugh! All I think of is the exploding chestnuts in the rayburn ( I haven’t forgotten to pierce the chestnuts since!)
I giggle and while I’m thinking, I get a message from Darren Venables, the wonderful head gardener from the Chewton Glen, he suggests a roast chestnut party just, what I was thinking! but hey what about a Jam? There is plenty here.
It’s not that we won’t have a party, however being a little obsessed with jam, I just can’t help but think about making a jam, it’s in my bones.
I dig deep and finally remember this recipe something that I made some many moons ago. So without rambling on! here’s the recipe:
– 1 kg of chestnuts
– 650g of vanilla sugar (can use granulated sugar if you wish)
– one vanilla pod (optional depends how much your sugar tastes of vanilla )
– Juice of a lemon
(check last blogs for sterilising jars etc)
- Chestnuts have two skins so first your need to peel the outer skin it’s a little difficult and your need a sharp knife and insert it at the top of the nut and carefully peel away the first layer.
- Then pop them into a large pan of boiled water and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, then remove the chestnuts a little at a time and peel the second layer of skin.
- Once you have skinned all the nuts it can take some time. (I promise if I find a faster way or a tool to do this with I’ll let you know)
- Now the messy bit press the chestnuts though a sieve to remove the husky bits. (this is the non technical bit and other jam makers hate this bit. if you add equal amounts of sugar to the nuts as you would in jam then your get a rather sweet jam nothing wrong with it).
- However I like more of a chestnut taste so asto be more versatile so like to use less sugar.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20-30mins and bring to a rolling boil check for the set (softer than fruit jams) and pot in sterilised jars.
This is great in a chestnut bellini and of course on pancakes it’s heaven
Its pairs very well with whiskey so great for a cake! (or even in a whiskey)
I would like to apologies yet again, i’ve been so busy foraging & picking that I’ve not written about all the thoughts, times and moments I have witnessed this past spring & summer months.
Mainly due to the fact that I have just lost myself in the moment where the beauty can’t leave the eyes, and no words or photographs could never really capture the artistry unfolding around me.
So I can recommend that you stop and let the moment fill the eyes, let them absorb the world’s natural beauty. Then your understand, the reason I got lost when the spring turned into shades of new summer green and the fresh the new summer sun wrapped around me like a friendly arm, I simply just got lost in its beauty,letting myself observe and drink in the first sights of elderflowers trees with its delicate white flowers that pack a punch with its heady aroma. Then suddenly the first prickly gooseberries shouted out, reminding me of younger days picking them with my mum and one day inparticular when it was cold and each fruit seemed to attack me with a small nasty thorn. How I complained , and how I would do anything to be back in my garden with my mom.
It always surprises me just how things grow it’s so overwhelming, the redcurrants have given up their bounty and how the black and white currants have followed suit.
The harvest is in full swing and I have to be honest I don’t always make jam with the fruit I just eat them.
Then there’s the bee project and how they made me danced in the field while I watched the swarm, its exciting. Did I mention the new flavour combinations?
I have mostly been lost in new berries and new flavours. Each morning I have been getting up with the larks, relishing in just how wonderful the dawn chorus is. Did you know here in Barton -on -Sea they wake me up at times as early as 3:45am but on average its between 3:59 am and 4:09 am every morning and boy what a wonderful sound. I have started to recognise the birds themselves!
Did I mention the cherries? what a year for cherries, I almost crashed the car yesterday looking at the cherries in the hedgerows and then the plums they are early and it’s all coming at once, my poor pans are worked to death , they can’t stop and the kitchen is getting overcrowded with ideas about new jam recipes, jam related recipes and well jam.
So apologies I’ve just been capturing the moment and living the dream. Being inspired by nature. inspired by the growers and even the TV!! Especially one particular chap whose inspiration to date fills my every day, that is of course Nigel Slater, and his current TV programme Eating Together ( a family who eats together stays together!) has just exploded onto my plate and has really got to me and wow just wow, what an amazing chef, cook, person, he truly is very remarkable (Yes for all those who know me, I can now achieve turning on a TV set without the help of my children!)
So where have I been? breathing the air, laying under my window at night watching the stars appear in the night sky. Starting out as a turquoise blue deeping as the night moves into morning a colour only the summer sky can bring. Sometimes just watching the clouds filling the blue sky leaving no room for words. But mostly i’ve been climbing trees, I can recommend it! So if you can and you get a chance climb a tree and see my world, it is rather magical. (BE CAREFUL)
see you soon.