March 2007


[and if you don’t know what i’m talking about.. yup.. its The Doctor.. and i am a very happy bunny…]

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Afternoon teaI’m talking, of course, of taking afternoon tea. Its a habit we’ve gotten into, just having a nice cup of tea at around about 5/6 (right after one of us has walked The Perpetual Peeing Machine – aka Jess) along with a bit of cake. It just replenishes the batteries that little bit, and since our breakfast is habitually eaten around midday, it seems to serve as a sort of lunch, and we have dinner as a late lunch/early dinner at around about 7/8pm. Our final meal of the day is a light sandwich/snack, had Afternoon tea 2around 10/11pm, which we don’t always have. It seems to work better for me, especially, working off a lot of calories in the afternoon, either shopping or in the garden, then replacing them during my evening meal. I’ve noticed that on days where i’m not working i tend not to go for the late night snack, its as though my body recognises that it just doesn’t need it.

We both enjoy that little meal though, afternoon tea. It just recharges the batteries enough for me to do that little bit more before dinner, usually involving clearing up/preparing dinner. I finished the lemon drizzle cake earlier, just in time for afternoon tea, and as you can see, we both had slices of it. Michiel has his tea black (instead of strong enough to stand a spoon in, with milk, which is how most english people seem to have it!), whereas i prefer it milky and weak. However you do like your tea, in all seriousness, it just seems to go together nicely.

I’ve also taken some photographs of my little seedlings. Tomatoes – both gardener’s delight, moneymaker and tumbling tom, and my celeriac/leek tray – behind the cut.

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lazy spud bedI rather reluctantly dragged myself back out there today, after a break of a few days for shopping trips. Although its sunny enough out there, and warm enough, its also rather windy: windy enough that its set off a vicious cycle of doubt. I started out digging the sweetpea bed, which, at the moment, is in just the right spot to get wind right in the teeth. And what do sweetpeas hate? you got it. After kneeling down to see if it was any better at ground level (it is, marginally), i decided to use the sods i was digging out of that bed to make a “lazy potato bed”, (as described by Irish Sally Garden) in front of it, to help act as a kind of windbreak. If i get actual spuds out of it at the end of the year, then bonus – frankly, i’ll be happy if they just grow. They haven’t cost me anything (they chitted all by themselves in my veg cupboard!) since they’re spuds i got from the supermarket that i didn’t eat.

[as usual.. more pics behind the cut…]

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looks like the humble plastic bag will soon be a thing of the past in San Francisco. The Powers that Be have banned the supply of plastic bags from all supermarkets within the area, saying that alternatives must be offered instead, e.g. paper bags that break down easily, plastic bags that will decompose into compost, or re-useable cloth bags.

Frankly, i think this is great, and i really can’t figure out why this isn’t done here. Ireland’s done something similar – put a levy on them – which has led to a 90% reduction in the use of them. Great! Why don’t we do something similar?

Tescos (much as i hate to be an advocate for the evil Mr T – and yes, i shop there occasionally, although not as much as i could, since i prefer, where possible, to support the small, individual shop) is on the right route, offering free decomposable plastic bags, but also offering greenpoints if you re-use a bag (any bag). Great! Why don’t other retailers follow suit? Surely a carrot and stick method is what is required here?

the last few days have seen me doing an awful lot of shopping (aka spending an awful lot of money).. but not on tat!!

strawberry plantsI’ve been spending on the garden. You know how it is when you have a hobby.. all those little bits n pieces that need spending on.. strawberry plants (12 of em, 5 honeoye, 2 cambridge favorite, 3 symphony and 2 pegasus varieties), 2 raspberry plants (Malling Promise), 1 Redcurrant plant (Jonkheer van Tets), 2 Blackberry plants (Black Satin) and 2 Blackcurrant plants (Ojebyn).

[more pictures behind the cut, as per usual..]

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Lemon Drizzle Cake with a lemon and lime icing

lemon drizzle cake - with icing! lemon drizzle cake - with icing, and with lemon/lime zest decoration

Ingredients:

3 eggs

6 tbsp milk

9oz Self Raising Flour

zest 1 lemon

9oz Butter – left out of the fridge till it is soft to the touch

9oz Caster Sugar

juice of 1 lemon

2-3 tbsp Icing sugar

Icing:

4oz butter – left out of the fridge till it is soft to the touch

8 oz Icing sugar

1/4 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp lime juice

1/4 tsp lemon flavouring

Instructions:

  1. Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a large bowl till the colour of the mix has gone from butter yellow to a paler, almost creamy-white colour.
  2. crack the eggs into a large mug and pour in the milk. Whisk together lightly with a fork.
  3. add a little bit of egg/milk and a dessert-spoonful or so of flour to the butter/sugar mix. continue creaming (beating) till it is all mixed in. repeat till all the egg/milk mix has gone. beat this part in then stop the beaters.
  4. put the remaining flour and the lemon zest into the bowl, go in with a spoon and gently fold in (to fold in, go around the bowl once with the spoon, scraping the sides in a smooth, slow movement, then cut through the middle. lift spoon out and repeat until all the flour is mixed in. its laborious but the best way to avoid knocking out all the air which you’ve just beaten into the cake – and that air is what makes it rise!).
  5. Once that’s done, gently spoon the mix into a greased 8 inch springform tin, then smooth the mix out.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven at Gas Mark 3 (180*C/350*F) for 1 hour, then turn down and cook for 20/30 minutes at Gas Mark 2 (170*C/325*F). After 1 hour 10 minutes, i would check the cake with a skewer – if it comes out clean, then remove the cake straight away.
  7. While the cake is cooking, squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl and mix with the icing sugar till you have a smooth syrup.
  8. Once the cake is cooked all the way through remove the cake from the oven, jab lots of holes all over the cake with a skewer, then slowly pour the smooth syrup over the top and leave to cool.
  9. You can, if you wish, simply serve the cake as it is – the syrup makes a wonderfully moist cake that is very lemony. However, i like a bit of pizzaz to my cakes, so i choose to ice the middle and top.
  10. remove the cake from the sides using the spring-clip, then cut the cake from the bottom (it will stick some, that’s the syrup). once its placed on a cooling rack, use a bread knife to slice the cake through the middle, horizontally.
  11. Mix the second batch of icing sugar with the butter till its all absorbed, then mix in lemon juice, lime juice and lemon flavouring to suit. Because the cake is so sweet you do want the icing to be a little on the sour side. Do be careful – add a little bit at a time. Feel free to add more if you wish – a lot does depend on just how sour your lemon/lime is – but if you wish more liquid, but not flavouring, then add ordinary water.
  12. use a palette knife to smooth half of the icing over the top of the bottom half, then rejoin the cake, top to bottom, and smooth the remaining icing over the top. Decorate with zesty curls from a lime/lemon.

Please note: this recipe is very much still in development and will be updated as i work on it. If you have any questions re: ingredients or methods, or even wanting to know what the US name would be for an ingredient (icing sugar is confectioner’s sugar by the way).. then please let me know.

Edit (31-3-07): I made another one of these cakes, and firmed up the cooking time – at a lower temperature – as well as sorting out the measurements of the flavourings for the icing. I’ve also appended a photograph with the zesty curls on the cake.

putting more top soil on to the second bedanother glorious day, another day of gardening.

After a day off yesterday (what with one thing and another) i was back out there again, this afternoon. After knocking up a quick batch of bread and breakfast, i started by finishing that second bed. It was much quicker to finish than i thought, to be honest – especially with Michiel (bless his soul) helping me.

[more photos behind the cut]

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