Feasts and foraging

Hello blog! Wow, it really has been quite a while since I posted anything – it seems that long sunny days and blogging just don’t mix for me. I can’t believe that my last blog was about our July holiday (although it has given me the perfect excuse to look through my holiday photos again…). Now that autumn has arrived, suddenly I have several hours of evening available that are perfect for sitting down to write – and good thing too, as I’ve built up quite a backlog of posts!100_2327.JPG100_2325.JPG100_2276.JPGI have always loved autumn, and even more so this year. Admittedly, the dark evenings aren’t so wonderful, but the fabulous colours, the crisp air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, and – most importantly – the food, really do make up for it.

Now that the weather has cooled, it seemed like the perfect time to recreate our Norwegian food highlight from July – hveteboller, or cardamom buns. These were a real treat for us on holiday, especially as they were one of the more affordable options available, and they proved to be equally enjoyable back in the UK. Sam found this recipe for cardamom buns with a cinnamon filling – not quite what we had on holiday – but so, so tasty, and very much appreciated last Monday morning!

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Cardamom-cinnamon buns: making Monday mornings infinitely more bearable

This sort of sets the tone for this whole post (if the title hasn’t already given it away). There is such an abundance of food in autumn, and I’m enjoying feasting on a variety of home-grown and foraged fare.

In the garden, the squash have finally been harvested after threatening to take over the garden, and although we didn’t get quite as many as we’d have liked, both the Blue Hungarian and the Burgess Vine are proving to have been well worth growing.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

Blue Hungarian wedges cooked in Cajun spices (thanks to Sam’s Mum and Dad for the tip!)

 

The first few leeks have been enjoyed – again, we didn’t grow as many as we’d have liked, but we’ll be putting more in next year. In the greenhouse, the peppers are still going strong, although the early promise of aubergines did not materialise.

 

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From ‘field’ to fork in fifteen minutes

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Looking slightly nibbled, but there have been more than enough to share with anyone who wants a bite

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Sadly, these were infested with red spider mite shortly after this photo was taken, and we weren’t able to eat any of them

The courgettes are still cropping, although they are now on their last legs. We’ve been picking these since early June, so courgette seeds are definitely on the shopping list for next year.

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The overwhelming daily harvest of July seems a long time ago now

 

The hedgerows are now in their prime for foraging, and I’ve started carrying a ‘just-in-case’ bag on our daily walks. The freezer is crammed full of tasty berries and we’re enjoying making some new treats as well as our old favourites.

 

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Not very seasonal, but an absolute favourite so I couldn’t leave them out. Whinberries, bilberries, whortleberries, blaeberries – utterly scrumptious regardless of the name!

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Whinberry muffins topped with homemade muesli- one of our most-used recipes. Berries picked earlier in the summer but an excellent freezer-filler

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Elderberry sorbet, another early summer treat, this time a new one from the Hedgerow Cookbook. It has a gorgeous colour, tastes delicious, and is scoopable straight from the freezer

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Moving into autumn now, and we’ve collected bags of these in the freezer for future treats

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We finally managed to find an apple tree – hurrah! Some of these will be enjoyed tomorrow morning with homemade granola and Greek yoghurt…

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…While the others have already been scoffed with cinnamon scones and cream. Mmm

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And finally, the anticipation of winter treats to come

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After steeping overnight, the gin has taken on a gorgeous colour

Normally I wait for the first frost before picking my sloes, but we noticed that they’re starting to over-ripen and the frosts are still weeks away. So, this year I’ve decided to try them pre-frost (we stuck them in the freezer overnight which should hopefully simulate nature to a good enough degree), and will pick another batch if I can find any left in a few weeks time.100_2308.JPGWe haven’t yet found any chestnuts but hopefully they’re on the agenda for this coming weekend (providing I can find room in the freezer of course!). And after that, there are still plenty of leeks in the garden, with the parsnips to come in another month or so.

With all of this wonderful comfort food, it’s probably a good thing that I’m still sticking to my walking challenge, and have just passed the 900 mile mark, putting me in a great position to finish the #walk1000miles challenge ahead of target.

I will try and start posting more regularly again, but if it all goes quiet I think it would be safe to assume that I’m either outside foraging, or inside feasting. Happy Autumn!

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And I would walk 500 miles

The halfway point! My aim was to complete the first 500 miles by the time we fly to Norway on the 1st July, and I managed to get there with over two weeks to spare.

Hitting the halfway point is a fairly obvious time to reflect on how I’ve found the challenge over the last six months, and I think it’s fair to say that so far I have no complaints.100_1297.JPGSome aspects of the challenge haven’t been anything out of the ordinary – Sam and I have always enjoyed walking and our weekends for the past few years have generally been taken up with long walks, so that’s nothing new to us, but it’s the shorter walks in the evenings that are proving more challenging.

Although we’re both well ahead of target, I’m conscious of how much more difficult it will be to keep ahead of the curve as the year progresses, so it’s really important to us to notch up as many as possible in the next couple of months while the light is so good.

I quite often find that once I’m home from work and have eaten I really don’t want to strap on my boots and head out the door – but I suppose it wouldn’t be a challenge if it were all easy! Once I’m outside though, I never regret being there, and many of the evening walks have actually been the most interesting.

Just some of the things that we’ve spotted over the last month of evening walking: a barn owl hunting in the fields along the Downs Link, the goslings growing up rapidly, a kingfisher flitting amongst the dragonflies, deer quietly grazing in the fields behind the house, and (my favourite) two otters playing in the Adur.

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Goslings prove to be much easier to photograph than otters…

We’ve also enjoyed watching spring turn into summer, and have been making the most of the brilliant weather we’ve been having.100_1313.JPG100_1304.JPG100_1249.JPGIt’s possible that setting out on a long walk in 30 degree heat wasn’t the best idea we’ve ever had, so what better way to cool down than with some homemade whinberry ice cream?100_1360.JPG100_1387.JPG100_1396 (2).JPGThis was made using the last bag of whinberries in the freezer, left over from last year’s pickings – now there’s room to add more in a few weeks time!

Foraging is something that I absolutely love to do – I enjoy stumbling across something growing wild and being able to take it home to make something tasty, all the while covering off more miles. This year we’ve branched out from our usual fruit, nuts, and berries and have recently made elderflower cordial (followed very quickly by elderflower sorbet – can anybody tell we’ve bought a new ice cream maker?!). Mmm.100_1323.JPG100_1229.JPGI must admit that I’m a bit clueless about all of the hundreds of other wild plants that I could be enjoying, so I’ve just bought myself this book to educate myself and I can’t wait to try it out!

The #walk1000miles challenge is definitely encouraging my foraging, but it has led us to neglect our garden quite significantly. Never ones to do things by halves, Sam and I have also taken up vegetable gardening this year having never grown anything before. Although we really haven’t had quite as much time to dedicate to it as we’d like, so far we’ve been fairly disaster free and are enjoying the early crops of courgettes, as well as the never-ending salad leaves and herbs.100_1332.JPG

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The first ‘Burgess Vine’ squash has appeared, quickly followed by several more

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The ‘Golden California Wonder’ pepper has started to set (one) fruit

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After a slow start, the aubergine is now so big that I had to remove it from the greenhouse to get a decent photo

I haven’t forgotten about the rest of my New Year’s Resolutions either, although many of them link into other quite nicely – I doubt we’d have made our new ‘food’ of elderflower cordial had we not spotted the flowers while walking one evening for example. Sam’s in charge of this month’s ‘special’ weekend so I’m waiting to see what he has planned (I’m betting on it involving my walking boots…).

I love how much time I’m spending outdoors and it has been lovely to discover new places, both close to home and further afield. This half of the year has flown by, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself – here’s to the next six!

Springing into Spring

The year seems to be flying by, and I’ve been left asking myself what on earth happened to March?! Everything seemed to get slightly derailed last month – blogging fell by the wayside, I stopped making any kind of progress with my miles, and I started to settle back into my old cozy routines – argh!

With the changing clocks however has come a renewed effort to stick to my New Year’s Resolutions (is there anybody else out there still keeping up with theirs?!), and things are starting to look up! On the 17th March, I was 49 miles below target, and wondering how I was ever going to claw back any distance. As of today, I’m 21 miles below target, and have averaged 3.8 miles per day since mid-March. There’s still some way to go before I get into the green – unlike Sam who is a very respectable 15 miles above target – but it’s definitely a move in the right direction.100_0097.JPGThe extra hour of light in the evening is definitely helping, as is the beautiful weather we’ve had over the last couple of weeks. I’ve always loved this time of year; there’s something so special about watching plants that have lain dormant for months suddenly spring to life, and in many ways this really feels like the actual beginning of the year.

Having a garden of our own for the first time makes it even more exciting as we watch all of the hidden bulbs appear and start to see our new seedlings establish themselves. Here are a few pictures of all the things we’ve been enjoying over the last couple of weeks.

Hello Spring!

Scramblers and Seeds

We had a busy weekend of socialising and (for one of us at least) yet more tennis, but did at least manage to fit a new eight mile walk in on Sunday afternoon.

Starting from Bramber – very near to Steyning – we walked up Beeding Hill and across to Truleigh Hill before dropping down and returning to Bramber via the South Downs Way and the Downs Link.

The walk overlooked the very familiar Chanctonbury Ring to the west, and Lancing College and Shoreham to the south.108_3566.JPG108_3572 (2).JPGThe light levels seemed really odd, and the camera has made my photos very dark and gloomy although it didn’t seem particularly dull when we were out (I am reminded at this point about a saying about a workman and his tools..!). As a result, I don’t have a great selection to choose from, although in all honesty I didn’t take a huge amount, being content to wander and simply take in the scenery.

At this point, it would be lovely to write about walking in the peaceful countryside but what we hadn’t realised is that in one of the valleys below us was a scrambling centre with a large event on. On the approach, we were rather puzzled trying to work out what the noise was, but once we could see the bikes we were quite entertained and sat and ate our lunch watching the race. Not the most scenic of views, but definitely a fun distraction.108_3562.JPGThe noise soon disappeared as we dropped onto the other side of the hill and joined the Monarch’s Way back towards Bramber, leaving us to walk across the downland and enjoy the sound of two larks high above.

One of the main things that I enjoyed about the walk was the difference in the weather from last week. Now, I am not about to get ahead of myself and say that spring has arrived, but I am starting to see hints of it approaching. When I was weeding our new garden in the summer I unearthed loads of bulbs, so I was hoping to see at least some of them come up in the flowerbeds and I’m very pleased that they seem to be doing just that. Most of them aren’t near to flowering yet, but I love seeing the promise of the new life to come, and we do have a few early splashes of colour emerging. It’s quite nice not knowing what’s going to appear; I resisted planting many bulbs last year before I’d seen what was already there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up.108_3516.JPG108_3511.JPGIn other exciting garden news, the first shoot of rhubarb has emerged which I’m thrilled about. I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d planted the crown the right way up, and I’d forgotten to mark where I’d put it, so it’s somewhat of a relief that a) it’s the right way up, and b) it’s roughly where I thought it was!108_3531.JPGInspired by the turn in the weather, I may have got a little carried away online with my seed purchasing. I bought from http://realseeds.co.uk/ and http://moreveg.co.uk/ and was really impressed with both sites. They had a great choice of vegetable and flower seeds, and they were all delivered very quickly. Now I just have to work out what to do with them all..!108_3532.JPG