How does you garden grow

No silver bells or cockle shells in ours, but then my names not Mary!

On the contrary, in addition to the potatoes and oats in the top field we have developed a few patches of ground around the stable, the kitchen garden, and so far we have planted over four hundred onion sets, several rows of beetroot, radish, lettuce, onion seed (a first for me), endive, broad beans, garlic and sun flowers; a welcome distraction from the ‘House work’. Indoors, in pots back at Gosia parents, we have tomatoes, chilli’s, courgette, cabbage, sweet corn and peppers all waiting until after the May 15th (the last frost date in Poland) to be planted out, along with a wide variety of beans; French, Runner, Kidney, Borlotti, Butter and Chinese. Then of course there are the peas, bok choy, fennel and a whole host of flowers that Gosia has taken an interest in this year, not to mention the herbs; the chives, sage, thyme and tarragon all made it through the winter and will hopefully be joined by parsley, wild garlic, basil, oregano, coriander, dill, caraway, lovage, camomile and no doubt others I have forgotten. In fact so much is going on I quickly knocked up another raised bed to accommodate our enthusiasm.

Raised bed
Raised bed waiting for soil and plants!
Kitchen Garden
Kitchen Garden

We also have many permanent fixtures, including a dozen or so black current bushes, half a dozen red current, three gooseberry, too many raspberries to count, two blue honeysuckle, rhubarb and a couple of goji berries plants; one planted last summer, which is just starting to bud after a harsh prune, and a newly acquired specimen from last week, which I’d guess is about three years old; at 15 Zloty (£3) I couldn’t resist 🙂 And I almost forgot, the twenty or so strawberry plants which we gave a new home to last year, not to mention the prolific growth of wild strawberries around the edge of the woods; I think I’ll have cover the orchard in another post!

So how is your garden coming on?

Greenhouse
Greenhouse
Gooseberry
Gooseberry

A little bit of bread but no cheese

It has to be one of the sounds that defines spring for me, but whilst it’s good to finally hear the Yellowhammer perched on the roof of the old derelict house, I know that by the late summer the melody will have worn a little thin! Mind you, you have respect to a bird that inspired the beginning of Beethovens 5th symphony.

So here we are again, back in the land of the potatoes (Pyrowki). Our normal approach was still blocked by snow when we arrived last Wednesday, so we headed down the valley road to our neighbours to park up and climb the hill. Not so bad, unless you have a car full of supplies to relocate, and after the first assent by foot it was decided to test the Nivas four wheel drive credentials. Lots of wheel spinning, mud flying and random steering to keep us on a relatively straight path; we managed to get within about 100 meters of our barn and stable, good enough for me.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home

Our little stable has faired quite well over the winter and after a quick sweep up and dust down it just need a little bit of heat to make it our home from home. So after a quick sweep of the chimney, i.e.  dismantle the chimney into sections take them outside and poke them with a stick whilst shaking them violently, the fire was stoked up and the temperature began to rise.

Get that fire buring
Get that fire buring

The weather was surprisingly good so after a quick inspection of the house we decided to crack on with a few outside jobs; we had started to clear the patch of land beyond the orchard in the Autumn so it seemed like a good idea to continue with the task before spring sent up a new set of brambles. Work is hard going after such an extended break without much physical activity and after three or four hours we headed back to the stable, breaking ourselves in gently so to speak.

Clearing the brambles
Clearing the brambles

That was until we noticed  the small river winding it’s way down our track, it had sprung up during the day as the snow started to melt and was taking the easiest route to the valley; but not only was it taking this route it was also taking our road, depositing it further down flied! And on top of that the recently filled trench that hid our electricity supply cable had collapsed creating a small canyon, the cleared earth finding its way into the well water. Anyone who says that washing your hair in well water turns it green would be mistaken on this occasion as it would definitely be a dirty orange if you used ours. Mind you it tasted ok 🙂 (Joke!)

So armed with a spade I tried to find the source of the rapidly evolving rapid  and quickly dug a trench to divert the flow a couple of hundred meters further up the hill; a job that carried on the next day as we also discovered a small swimming pool in the basement of the new house! The digging of a swale in the top field and drainage around the foundations have made their way up the list of things to do, although I hope this was a bit of a freak event as many hectares of half meter snow melted over a three day period; that’s a hell of a lot of water and not likely to occur again until next year, is it?

Land clearing, wood chopping, house cleaning and visiting friends filled the last four days quickly and a few beers and vodkas snuck in as we were welcomed back; we have been well fed and watered as we did the rounds. The proliferation of eggs, as everyone’s chickens have started to lay again, is apparent in the food that everyone cooks for you; Friday saw a breakfast of scrambled (4 eggs) a lunch of egg mayo sandwiches (2 eggs) a later lunch of a cheese omelette (4, maybe 5 eggs) and finally a supper with an accompanying dish of  stuffed eggs; I only managed 1 🙂

But it’s not all eggs, oh no, we did finally fire up the bread oven on Saturday and along with a Dahl inspired by Food and Forage Hebrides I made some Naan breads. Whilst Gosia was kind and told me how good they tasted I think I need a little more practice with the oven and experiment more with the distribution of fire; although from the results of the weekend I know that I will be able to make a top notch pizza that should cook in under 5 minutes; with the high temperature that is generated on the brick base.

It’s good to be back 🙂

Papo Secos

Or Portuguese rolls as I have known them as for the last 25 years.

I know you may have been expecting a post about the snow covered hills, the inaccessible road to our land, the drink fuelled reunion with our neighbours or yet another meal that couldn’t be beat; well sorry, five minutes after writing my last post the snow started!

Admittedly it only lasted for a few hours, but that was enough for us to change our plans and hole up in Rzemien for another day.

Gosia has plenty to do and has nipped off down to Meilec for a few vitals and no doubt an extended inspection of the second hand clothing stores; it’s 1Zlt day today (20p) and you can never have enough jumpers, work trousers, hats, coats, skirts and shirts; can you? I have to admit I look forward to seeing what she has bought as I know that I will be treated  to some item of clothing that caught her eye; not just any old thing, oh no, Gosia has a trained eye and years of knowledge that identifies only the finest and most sought after brands, discarded by the affluent West and I’m sure that the value of my next jumper will be hundred times more than the 1 Zlt paid. I am, as I type this, wearing a Fat Face  lambs wool jumper and Gosia left the building sporting a cracking pair Diesel jeans; all courtesy of the second hand cloths markets that flourish in Poland.

On this occasion I know that she is looking for items than she can cut into material triangles as she is making fifty plus meters on bunting for an up and coming event, she has sewn over a hundred triangles so far but I’m sure chatter of the sewing machine will be heard again tonight.

BuntingWorking into the night

Anyhow, I digress; I started off with the intention of popping another recipe in the blog as I have taken to trying to make a batch of bread rolls most days since I got back to Poland. Having our own milled flour means that I can knock out 8 rolls for little over 10p a batch (ok maybe 20p if you included the electricity)

One of my favourite rolls to eat is a Portuguese roll or Papo Secos; no doubt because they are sold fresh in practically every corner shop in Jersey (Channel Islands). Because of the high number of migrant workers that originate from Portugal or Madera they have become one of the Islands culinary staples and if you ever buy a bacon roll you will always be offered Portuguese as one of the options.

I have now made them about half a dozen times and think I’m just about starting to get them right, so if you’re ready I will begin:

Papo Secos

  • About 400g of flour (or my usual third of a bag, if I had flour in a bag)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 15-20g of fresh yeast or one packet of fast acting.
  • About 300ml of lukewarm water

Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt, cream the yeast with the water (yeast in, a bit of water to mix the lumps out, then add the rest of the water; put to one side for a bout 10 minutes in a warmish spot until it starts to bubble.

Add the water\yeast mix gradually to the flour until you can bring in all together, then turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes. Once you have a smooth and elastic consistency pop it in an lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel, find it a nice cosy spot and let it rise for an hour or so.

Once risen remove from the bowl and knock back the mixture and roll out into a large sausage shape; this helps you to now divide into eight or nine equal parts which you then roll into balls. Now cover these again with your damp tea towel and let them rise for 15 minutes.

Now the final part and at this point I’d put your oven on about 220c and more importantly place an oven proof dish with a couple of inches of boiling water in the bottom of your oven.

Slightly flatten the balls of dough and create a groove down the middle of each flattened disk, using the karate chop part of your hand! Don’t worry the pictures will help with this description.

Then fold the little disks of joy into a set of kissing lips, flip then upside down and place on your oiled baking tray, cover with your tea towel once again and let them rise for a further 30 minutes.

Ok I lied that wasn’t the final thing, but all you have to do now, after this final 30 minutes of waiting, is to spin them round, lips up, brush on some milk and slam them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.

I have to say I think I could have done better with this batch, the cold air got in somewhere along the line and I didn’t quite get the rise I was hoping for; they should have a little more bulk. Non the less they were all eaten within 2 hours of completion 🙂

 

By the way I got two teas shirts!

Planes, trains, automobiles, bikes and a bus

A lift from Hawes to Skipton, a bus from Skipton to Crosshills, a lift from Crosshills to Cowling, a lift from Cowling to Manchester, a plane from Manchester to Amsterdam, a train to Beverwijk, a bike ride to Heemskerk, a bike ride back along with a train or two to Amsterdam, back on a plane to Kracow, a train to Debica and finally a lift back to Rzemien.

Thankfully all this traveling was broken up into bite size pieces, I say bite sized as food seemed to punctuate the gaps in my journey 🙂

My first treat was in Skipton and a Stanforths pork pie warm from the oven; memories of stopping for a two pie and a pint of milk breakfast on the way to work  came back to me with the taste of the molten gelatine. Eating a warm pork pie is an art in itself, especially if you don’t want to end up with greasy fingers and evidence of this guilty pleasure displayed down the front of your chest; the secret is to bite off a bit of the top crust creating an exit route for the juices to be drunk from, only once the liquid is cleared can you get down to the serious business of devouring the pies contents,  but I was taught this lesson well as Stanfords was the first pit stop of the day on our way to site with my mentors as I trained as an electrician at the tender age of sixteen.  It’s a career that didn’t last, as the government sponsored Youth Training Scheme stopped funding after twelve months, and I guess I failed to impress my employers enough for them to start paying me a wage; however I have some great memories of that time, not just  how to eat pork pies 🙂 (job number one for thoses counting)

On to Cowling and my second sisters house, busy as ever with her dogs and her boarding kennel business, I was lucky enough to be treated to a Chinese take away; probably the first I’ve had in more than two years, possibly even longer, and I have to admit that it tasted good; too good if I’m honest! Although only a brief visit I enjoyed my time in Cowling; I had made the journey over a few times in the last couple of months but the distance between my siblings made it hard work to spread myself about. We did manage to fit in one evening when we were all together, the first time for a long time, and I hope I have convinced them to come down in the summer months to see a bit of Poland.

Arriving in Amsterdam, I was quick to buy my train ticket and jump on; research on the internet armed me with enough information to make it look like I knew what I was doing; except for when I had to ask where track number 7 was, of course I was standing next to the sign with a big 7 and an arrow pointing down as I asked the question! This journey left me in Beverwijk and I was met with the lovely smiling face of Gosia; the timing could not have been better as she had just finished work as I arrived and we chatted, giggled and acted like teenagers as we took the short walk to her flat. I say her flat, in fact it is shared with nine other Polish women who were all eager to meet me, I think I was quite a novelty; not only was I male I was also English! The meet and greet soon turned into an open invitation for food and as it was Easter the girls had come together as a group and prepared a true feast of Polish delights. In fact the variety of dishes became our food for the next three days as we where successively invited back for the remaining meals of my short stay.

The hotel I had booked in Heemskerk was about a fifteen minute cycle, just as well as it helped to burn off some of the excess, and we headed off there in the evenings to indulge ourselves in the luxury of the full length bath, large double bed and thermostatically controlled heating!

After cycling back for breakfast the next morning we took a short walk to the covered Turkish market; on entering you are immediately hit by the eastern music competing for business along with the stall holders, and you could easily be swept away into a dream that you had just entered a market in Turkey. You could literally buy anything, from toothpaste to a tagine, record players to rugs, but for me the most impressive vendors where those selling spices. Piled high with low prices, full of colour, scent and all fronted by enthusiastic stall holders inviting you to buy from them in several languages until they spotted some recognition in your face and honed in for the sell.

As we were in the Amsterdam area we had arranged to pop in and see some friends who live there; a Polish- English couple but the other way around; i.e. he is Polish and she is English. They have lived in Amsterdam for over fifteen years and they are also renovating a house in Poland, about half an hours drive from where we are building our house; we were introduced last year and we have become good friends. A brunch of pancakes with various toppings set us up for a walk through the park and onto the city centre, after a quick tour of the studio they run and some of the community projects they are involved in. We are looking forward to seeing them again in May when they will be back in Poland.

The trip back to Poland was almost scuppered as the plane was delayed by two hours, then four and finally six hours! Thankfully someone in the accounts office must have done the sums on how much compensation they were going to have to pay out and a standby plane was wheeled out of the hanger and they delay was reduced back to two hours; just long enough for me to spend the free lunch voucher that was dished out for the inconvenience.

My train journey from Krakow to Debica was not without event, but I think I’ll pop that in my next post; an open letter to the Minister for Tourism in Poland 🙂

And finally, before this post gets far too long; Gosia jumped on a coach about six hours after I left and arrived back home the next day, her career in dissecting orchids was cut short due to a misunderstanding with the management! Hooray 🙂

 

Fractional baking for men: Pita Bread and Flapjacks

As I have mentioned in a few previous posts I have taken on the role of chief cook and bottle washer for my sister in the Yorkshire Dales. My tasks are varied and something I’m doing on quite a regular basis is baking; I know this might not be considered the task of your everyday Yorkshire man, but it’s something I have always liked doing and I have managed to add a few more recipes to my repertoire.

In my quest to become as proficient as possible I have found myself doing away with the scales and judging the quantities of ingredients I use in an attempt to make appear that I know what I’m doing. So the following recipes and methods are recounted from memory, only using the scales once, just to see how accurate I actually am. By the way don’t be put off by the title, the intention is not to eat them together, but if you happen to do so then I would be interested to hear your comments 🙂

Ok, here goes, hold on tight and don’t be scared: By the way I added a few links on kneading bread and knocking back, but don’t worry if your dough doesn’t look like the video, neither did mine!

Pita Bread (makes anything from 10 to 12)

  • A third of a bag of bread flour; about 500g (I used 250g white and 250g wholemeal)
  • A packet of  fast acting yeast
  • A splash of olive oil
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A pinch of sugar
  • About a half of pint (250-300ml) of warm water

The most difficult thing about the recipe is judging the quantity of flour, but by using the power of fractions, safe in the knowledge that you know how much flour is in the bag you stared off with, it’s quite easy to work out.

A full bag of flour in my case was 1.5 Kg so a quick calculation means that I need a third of a bag; or a sixth of a bag of white and a sixth of a bag of wholemeal (easy?) I have to admit that I checked to see how well I had gauged it and I came out with 547g; a variation that is easily dealt with by adding a tad more water.

Take a bowl, sieve in the flour (I forgot to) add the packet yeast, the salt, the sugar and slug of oil, mix it up, add your water and mix again. It’s better to add too little than too much and I turn my mixture out on to the board with quite a bit of dry mixture still remaining.

Start to knead the bread and if you don’t manage to pick up all the dry mix in the process then add a splash or two of water until all the mix is incorporated. Kneading is a process of folding the dough mixture to trap air and stretching it to create the gluten (I think that’s what Gosia told me when I received my first baking lesson)

Knead for about 10 – 15 minutes; until the mixture takes on a kind of smooth silky pliable texture, if your not sure then just judge it by time, you cant go far wrong.

Lightly oil the bowl you used for mixing in the first place and place in your dough ball, cover with a damp tea towel and put somewhere warm for about 90 minutes (or until it doubles in size)

Meanwhile, you can start on the Flapjacks and you will need:

  • 180g of butter (about 3/4 of a standard block)
  • 180g of brown sugar (about a 1/5 of a 1Kg bag)
  • 2 good dollops of syrup
  • 360g of porridge oats (just over a 1/3 of a 1Kg box or bag)
  • 3 handfuls of cornflakes
  • 3 handfuls of seeds (I have used 2 of sunflower and 1 of pumpkin; use whatever you have, even dried fruits, or don’t add any at all; its not essential)

Pre heat your oven to 180°C (350F or Gas mark 4).

Put your butter in a pan over a very low heat and as it begins to melt add your brown sugar and syrup, let this mixture melt slowly and stir on a regular basis; meanwhile add your oats to a bowl along with your seeds and mix in the molten mix once it has melted together. Stir in to coat the ingredients and then add the cornflakes. You can add the cornflakes earlier but adding them last stops them breaking up too much.

Once mixed together you can use one of the ingredients I haven’t mentioned yet; a baking tray! I’ve used one about 30cm by 15cm by 4cm deep and lined it with grease proof paper with a little butter smeared over it to stop the mix sticking. Spoon in your mix and level it off, packing down as required, until you have a reasonably flat surface bang it in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes, maybe 20; keep an eye on it and when it starts to brown at the edges then its just about time to take it out and leave on the side to cool. When cool trun out and cut it up into equal parts.

Just in time, as the edges start to brown its time to take it out.
Just in time, as the edges start to brown its time to take it out.

Ok, how are you doing? As this is a mans guide then please grab yourself a bottle of beer, you have done really well and you deserve it, but only one for now as things are going to get intense now as we move back to our Pita Bread mix, which should be rising nicely by now and should be ready to go once you finish your beer.

Turn out your dough onto a wholemeal flour dusted board and knock back the mixture; this basically means taking the air out of it to get in back to close its original size, I do this by kneading again for a minute or two. Then roll out into a cylinder shape and divide the mixture in half, put one half back in your bowl and start on your remaining half, rolling out again and then dividing into 5 or 6 equal parts and roll each of these into balls; don’t worry if they are different sizes, it adds to the authenticity 🙂

Roll out the individual balls to make a rough oval shape about an 1/8 of an inch thick (3-4mm), place of a baking tray and put the damp tea towel over the top to let them rise for about another 30 minutes.

Crank up your oven to maximum whilst they are rising, then place the tray with your rolled pita breads on the middle shelf; they take about 5 minutes to bake and they should rise to create the pocket in this time, browning lightly on the top side; its all about judgement at this stage so take a quick look at 5 minutes and maybe give them a minute or two more if they haven’t puffed up.

Repeat the process with the remaining mix and you should end up with more than 10 pita breads; I ended up with 11, you may get 12 or more!

I also got 8 good sized flapjacks out of the recipe so we all have an energy boost available whilst walling for the next few days:)

Don’t worry, normal service will resume soon; I’m starting to gear up for Poland and I can’t wait to make these for Gosia and family as she doesn’t believe I have made them 🙂

nkosChoice

It’s probably the best weapon we have to make changes, but it’s also the probable cause for many of the problems that we face; I know it’s all a bit philosophical for me and I don’t blame you if you don’t read any further, it’s just another hippy rant; so be warned!

I used to live a pretty comfortable life, earning decent money and owning a third of a successful and flourishing business; I wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to afford most of the things that took my fancy. Given the choices available to me I happily spent my money on the latest and greatest technology available, with scant regard for the true cost of an item, i.e. the resources that they consumed in their manufacture and the on-going harm that they may do during their life not to mention in their disposal; my electricity bill was the least of my worries and landfill was something to do with the composition of a photograph! This attitude spread to the model of car I drove and the way I drove it, holidays that I took, my choice of food, furniture, fun and my lifestyle in general; very little was done with regard for anything other than myself. In short given the varied choices made available to me, provided by the clever manufacturers and marketing front men, I often made choices that were based more on style than substances. I was a dream customer because I wanted choice and because of the choices I made.

About eight or nine years ago I decided that it would be nice to have an allotment, grow my own so to speak; the concept was gaining popularity again due to the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and I convinced my aging farming neighbour that I would be able to help him out with his vegetable plot in return for a small patch for myself. My sister also had a great passion for growing things and as she started to live a more sustainable lifestyle in Spain and I became hooked on the concept as I helped out on holidays and planted her fruit trees and dug her garden over to make it more productive.

I made a good choice.

As time went on and after a fantastic first growing season, I started to read a little bit more and with the eighty year advice of my farming friend my little vegetable patch flourished and I started to rush home from work to get on the land; the satisfaction that I got from working with the earth seemed to fill a gap that I was unaware existed. Propagating, planting, weeding, watering and harvesting seemed to take away the everyday stress of my normal working life; I was so successful that I even started to supply work colleagues with the surplus crops as the glut came on; this soon ended up in doorstep deliveries to a wider circle of friends and I was even know to take a bag or two of runner beans and tomatoes to client meetings. All of this was done gratis; I wasn’t doing it for the money, rather the selfish pleasure of feeling good about giving. I have to admit that as my chilli’s did exceptionally well, that and the fact you can only eat so many and cropping was far better than I could have imagined, I sold a few at the local garage.

Meeting Gosia about six years ago spurred me on even more, her Polish background and the simpler life that she was born into inspired me to make even more changes in my life and my past avarice slowly slipped away and the choices I made began to be influenced by something more meaningful than a label, a logo or an advert.

Ok, you’re doing well if you got this far, more than 600 words, way past my norm and no pictures or links! Make yourself a brew and take a break, there is a possibility it may go another 600.

It’s worth pointing out that these changes hadn’t actually cost me anything; in fact I had started to save a bit of money, even if it was at the expense of my time, but time is the one thing that is free to spend and the sense of achievement was far more gratifying than making a quick short term feel good purchase of yet another gadget.

But at the end of the day, even with all the changes we had made, we still had to stay on-board the merry-go-round of modern life; going to work, paying the bills and consuming more than we probably needed to, we even did what every government wants you to do and borrowed some money, although our reason was better intentioned than just buying more things, as we purchased our plot of land in Poland; we may have slowed the fairground ride down, but it still kept turning.

So when, through an unexpected twist of events, the company had to be sold we were given an opportunity to make a really big choice; clear out and try and make a new more sustainable life in Poland, or cash in and improve our lifestyle in the UK, thankfully I didn’t want a new Land Rover, so after taking a year to tie up all the loose ends we headed off Poland bound; another good choice.

As you will imagine this led to a whole host of choices that many people never have in their lives and we consider ourselves lucky and privileged to have the opportunity to make them, so we wanted to make sure that we made the right ones when building the house and straw bale construction, composting toilets, grey water irrigation systems, wood burning boilers, solar water heating and a closed circle method of farming and maintaining the land are all big choices that we made; it has to be said that it’s a lot easier to make these choices when you start from scratch, so hopefully we have made the right ones.

I hadn’t intended this post to be so biographical, it’s just gone in that direction; which probably isn’t such a bad thing, although I suppose I have only really pointed out the big choices and changes we have made. The point I was hoping to make was that we should all consider the choices that we have when they are presented to us in daily life, no matter how small they are.

Choosing glass over plastic, paper or cloth bags over polythene, water from the tap rather than the bottle, flushing the toilet only when required, using more eco friendly cleaning products, choosing items on merit rather than marketing, buying local instead of driving to the supermarkets (I’m talking about your butcher and baker rather than the local Spar), making food from scratch and dropping your reliance on fast food, composting everything you can (you will be surprised what you can add to the pile), walking or cycling instead of driving and when you do drive then doing so in a more sensible and therefore economical way, buying second hand clothes and furniture (or antiques if that sits better with you), turning lights off when they are not in use, filling the kettle only as required and trying to resist the urge and impulse to buy something new unless you actually need it; OK I’ll stop!

If we stop to think, just for a moment, then we can ultimately make very big changes collectively by making very small choices; we can also change the way that things are sold and marketed to us. Believe me if the manufacturers see a change in the way that we purchase then they will change their strategy to meet that demand, you only have to look at the plethora of green, environmentally friendly products that are available now; because one thing’s for certain and that is that the world will keep on turning with money as its fuel, I’d just like to see a change in how we spend it to power the rotation.

Ok that’s it, you will be pleased to know that my little rant is over and if you got this far I owe you a beer, served out of a returnable glass bottle:)

One last thing, I would like to say thank you to the shape of things to come who planted the seed in my head to write this post in the first place, that and my urge to provide a wider explanation to why I keep going on about plastic bottles, although I feel she puts it far better than I do.

Do you want owt fromt’ shops

The village of Hawes nestles in the valley below us, about a mile and half away across fields on a flagstone path (a trod) that was put down a couple of hundred years ago or more; maybe even dating back to medieval times. The Pennine way meanders through the area and I have walked many of the fells on previous visits and in my childhood, the moor above the house has an ancient Roman road which is testament to their engineering skills as it survives over two thousand years after its construction so it’s a popular area for walkers, hikers and farmers and you are as likely to meet someone on the way as you are to pass a car if you take the easy way and drive to shops for provisions.

With my general lack of exertion other than that in the kitchen, with a spot of gardening on the side when the sun manages to break through, I prefer to take the route of my forefathers and head out; wrapped up warm in my North Face and topped off with my hand crocheted hat (thanks Gosia 🙂 ) with my rucksack strapped to my back. ‘Owt fromt’ shops’ is my usual cry before I set off and I keep my fingers crossed that the list doesn’t include too many heavy liquids; beer is fine, but milk!

I was treated to snow this morning, but the wind has died down so it was a very pleasant walk and for once I remembered to put the camera in my pocket, so I’m subjecting you to yet another gallery.

I didn’t take any photos of Hawes as it’s well documented on the web already, with professional photographs and meaningful descriptions, but if you ever venture there on your travels then try the butchers homemade Wensleydale sausages and for a wider range of provisions then ask someone where The Good Life is as they stock the best variety of fruit and veg, free range eggs, along with the more unusual items from black cardamoms to egg tagliatelle.

Weighed down with supplies the walk back up to the village of Burtersett is harder work, but it gets the heart pumping and the lungs working and when you know that there is a warm fire and a cup of tea at the end of your journey the time passes by in a flash, especially with the magnificent views all around.

Luckily my work in the garden and the recent snow allowed me to take this last photo without causing too much embarrassment to my sister, I’m just hoping that the bulbs that I planted come through and add bit of colour before I leave.

P2230030

But now I must crack on, unfortunately for me my home made pita breads are liked by all and I have to get another batch on the go for tonight’s feast  🙂

Bhutta aur aloo ki mazedar tarkari

Or should I say Sweet corn and potatoes with mustard seeds and mint; A real winner and vegetarian to boot, definitely one to remember, unfortunately the Shahi korma (Royal beef in a creamy almond sauce) didn’t really come up to scratch; maybe a little mild when served with the afore mentioned aloo. Just as well I also made a spiced lamb biryani to make sure we all had plenty to eat.

Four hours in the kitchen, four hours! And I loved every minute of it 🙂 Although it did cross my mind that my sisters faith in me was misplaced along with her ability to portion size! But as she decided to empty the freezer she also let loose her imagination on what to do with the various bags of meat that came from the frost bitten depths.

Madhur Jaffrey is responsible for the first two dishes and the good old BBC provided me with the step by step for the biryani and whilst I had a few hectic moments, especially near the end, I managed to produce enough food to feed the village. Or alternatively two nephews, my sister and I for two days; including breakfast!

I won’t give you a run down of the recipes as I’m sure you will find them from the references above, just take my word for it, that the Bhutta and Biryani were well worth the effort.

The next day I was pointed in the direction of the World Encyclopaedia of Bread, or should I say my sister presented me with the book and several bookmarks; and Rye bread and a Polish Poopy Seed Roll were demanded as things that would make her feel better:) Of course I obliged and another marathon slog in the kitchen, with time to run to the shops and do the recycling filling in the gaps between the rising of the dough!

Both turned out ok, although I did fall foul of an over enthusiastic fan oven; with both specimens surrounded by a convincing crust, but you live and learn and the following days pita bread turned out just fine. A bad workman always blames his tools, I’m just getting used to the tools I’m working with.

All this activity it’s no wonder why I haven’t blogged a lot recently:)

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Missing, Missing post, (Too chilly for chilli?) Found it :)

Even if you have heard it all before 🙂

It’s all very hectic here in Yorkshire; don’t be fooled into thinking that I’m having an easy time of it up here; with a demanding sister and two nephews I’ve turned into chief cook and bottle washer. Add to that, shopper, wood chopper and fire maker, baker, pastry chef, mechanic, plumber and all round handyman.

Eager to post something I came across a draft that I started back in Poland, which stayed there as I was hoping to add some descriptive photos to make things a little clearer; but it never happened as the temptation of a cheap flight drew into my new life servitude! I guess I’ll find out if she reads my blog now 🙂 If I never post again then please alert the police and ask them to search for a shallow grave somewhere in the Dales!

But onto my post, the missing post, the one that nearly got away.

It is that time of the year, it seems, that everybody who grows their own has started to go through the seed catalogues, looking for the old favourites or something new or unusual, maybe even looking for something that is resistant to a disease that afflicted the previous year’s crop. Part of this process is planning when to germinate the seeds and creating planting guides in your calendar to ensure that your future food will be ready to plant out around the time of the last frost, which can save you lots of time and most likely money.

Sadly I lack this type of organisation, I just dig out the seeds that I collected from the previous years crop and try and remember what needs to be planted when. I do of course pop down the local garden centre (our good friend Halina works there) and pick up any seeds that we are short of and as long as I remember to only grow what we actually like to eat we don’t have to spend too much.

So today, as I was reading a great new (to me) blog that I discovered yesterday: Shape of Things to Come, I started to think about chillies; no real connection to the blog, just a bit of a random thought. Then I remembered about an old plastic plant pot, that I found in the summer, with a label on it declaring that it once contained chillies that I had germinated in February 2008. Of course not having any organised records indicating if this was a successful planting or not, I may be going out on a limb, but I’m willing to take the chance and will be searching for my chilli seeds soon.

I would tell you that I have already planted them, but without Gosia to remind me where the seeds are my first job is to construct the question in Polish so that I can enlist the help of Gosias mum to help me find them 🙂 I will report back as soon as they are in the ground, or should I say pots.

But if you have the urge and a few spare chilli seeds then why not plant some now? There are a number of ways to germinate the seeds, in a tray similar to tomatoes or, as I prefer, in pots; three seeds to a 10cm pot. This allows me to grow them on longer before they need individually transplanting into bigger pots and I can easily monitor any seeds that don’t germinate; reseeding as required.

Once covered with a light potting compost, moistened with a water sprayer, I cover them with black plastic and secure this with a rubber band. This keeps the moisture and warmth in and the dark environment encourages germination. You should see some seed movement after about 14 days then you can then replace the black plastic with clear plastic to create a mini poli chilli pot (any ideas on what else to call it?) and grow them on until they hit the plastic. Once you have freed them of their artificial roof, grow them on until you think they warrant a separate pot; or if later in the year harden them off before planting them out. As long as the last of the frost has passed they will be happy outside.

(Insert photos here)

Now back to outside, once you have hardened your little plants off; this is done by putting them outside on good days and bringing them back in at night over the period of four or five days, you should be ready to plant them out.

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And if you happen to have any old plastic water bottles knocking around now’s the time to put them to good use. Cut round the base, a couple of inches from the bottom and you will be left with a handy tray for growing more seeds, a container for nails and screws or even a paint pot (suggestions on an postcard please)

This then leaves the top of the bottle to cover the delicate new plants creating a mini greenhouse to help things along whilst the weather warms up. Forgive the photos above, it’s the only ones I could find; from my allotment in 2007. The first one also shows my bean tepee, but more about that when I start planting out later this year.

Chillies will also grow well inside and I encourage everyone to grow at least one plant; you never know when a recipe will demand a few of the firey little capsicums and you will save yourself the trip to the shops as well as a good few quid. On top of that you can also dry any chillies you gather throughout the season, crushed up they become chilli flakes and if you have the patience the seeds can be ground down to make cayenne pepper; three things you will never have to buy again. Bush varieties work especially well inside and they are prolific croppers, I’m not too good and remembering name of varieties, but just ask at your favourite garden centre, or buy online.

Now you may be thinking that it is far too early and too chilly to start on my chillies, which of course it might be, time will tell. But having witnessed Gloria, my bougainvillea, burst into life after I gave her a trim about a month ago, I’m certain the window sill will be an ideal spot to get some early crops going; I have nothing to lose as the seeds are all home grown and I will only be using about thirty in this experiment, leaving me many hundreds more to try with if things go wrong. So I better start learning my Polish and find the seeds 🙂

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Missing post

After struggling to find the time to write a post I found a ‘saved in drafts’ (great blog by the way) and thought I could quickly publish it with a few witty comments to try and make up for my lack of attention to blogging.

After a quick edit and spell check I thought I had posted it, only to find this evening that it has gone missing! And despite my best efforts to find a temporary copy lurking on my laptop, it appears to be gone forever 😦

Without the time or energy to rewrite it I will surmise the entry as a ‘how to’ germinate chilli’s and making sure you get them in pots on your windowsill any time now; it will save you money and you and up with three products; Fresh Chilli, Chilli Flakes and, if you have the patience, Cayenne pepper (made from the ground seeds). I’ll try and rewrite it when I convince my sister that she should have a few plants going on her windowsill, even if there not likely to make it outside in the fickle Yorkshire summer.

So what’s happening, why no posts, no replies to comments, very little reading of your posts? All I can say is I have entered into a life of servitude, I am not only the chief cook and bottle washer, you could also add baker, cleaner, plumber, driver, shopper, electrician, mechanic, wood cutter, fire starter, recycler and all round handyman 🙂 I just don’t have the time! That’s not strictly true, but by putting this down in my blog I’ll find out if my sister is reading it and if I never blog again then call the police and tell them to search for a shallow grave in the Dales:)

I have a little bit of work lined up, helping my nephew out with some dry stone walling at Bolton Abbey, so another feather in my cap if it comes about; although I hope the weather improves a bit first!

Ok, that’s it for now, I did manage to get some photos today which I hope to post soon, but I don’t want to post too much now just in case this one disappears as well 🙂

A kind of heaven

You know (a term that I’ve picked up already in my short time back home) that you can’t beat a proper English Sunday roast dinner. Roast sirloin of beef, Yorkshire puds (I made ‘em), new spuds, carrots, cabbage and peas; accompanied by home made horse radish sauce and a gravy  blended from the meat juices, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a drop of red wine; and on top of all that, in the company of my family; I am in a kind of heaven.

In fact I’ve enjoyed it so much I’m going for a nap, but I had to write this down first 🙂

Czyz nie dobija sie koni? They don’t shoot horses do they?

Don’t worry Pete, I’m not about to start reviewing films; I will leave that to the experts; but I have made a mental note to add this one to my (your) list of films to watch.

I’m not sure why this film title popped into my mind when I heard that the horse burger scandal had moved on and eventually traced the source of the contamination, especially as I have never seen the film; I can only guess that it has entered my subliminal mind as I scoured the internet for information on the root of the problem.

You will all be pleased to know that it was an industrious Polish company that managed to fool the Irish into believing that the packet of horse meat that they shipped over to Ireland contained beef; simply by changing the label!  It also seems that they have been getting away with it for over a year and that Silvercrest (the company who process the meat into burgers) have lost the contract with Burger King to supply burgers, as a result of the scandal; it’s only worth 30 million Euro per year, so no great loss! That’s a lot of burgers, so where else have they ended up? All over Europe by all accounts, I just haven’t the time to check exactly where; although Spain and France are mentioned, not that they would worry about horse meat, nor indeed do the English. Cheap food tastes good, who cares what it’s made of?

The whole point is, is, that what we believe to be eating may have no relation to what we are actually eating. I know this of no surprise to many people, myself included, but its a sad state of affairs that the scandal now seems to have turned into the ‘devastating effects’ that this may now have on the Irish beef exportation market; surly the emphasis should be on tightening the regulations so that we can trust the label on the food we eat?

Anyhow, I don’t want to become a bore on the subject; although its possible I already have, I just wanted to put a little bit more information out there on the off chance that it might change one persons mind. And that that person then stops buying food without giving a thought about where it comes from, and decides instead to check the provenance of the food and makes an informed decision to spend a little bit more money for a product with a known history.

Incidentally as a certified organic farm we are now shipping pasture grown, free range pork joints for the unbelievable price of just……..:)

I had always wondered why I hadn’t seen that many horses in Poland!

And what do the Poles think about it all? Just the same as the majority of other  news reports, there is no health risk so don’t worry about it! http://www.thenews.pl/1/12/Artykul/125614,Poland-investigates-Irelands-horsemeat-burger-claims

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I was in a Tesco cafe and the waitress asked if i would like anything on my burger, I said yes, I’ll have a fiver each way!

I’m not too sure how far internationally the news has spread about the discovery of horsemeat in beef burgers sold in Tesco’s, so apologies if the above joke leaves a blank look on your face. Of course you may not find it funny, the joke that is, which may equally leave you with a blank look!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21038521 This BBC article should provide you with a better overview of the news.

I have to say that this discovery does not surprise me, aware as I am of some of the methods of food processing that the modern world uses to provide us with low cost nutrition. In fact nutrition is probably the wrong word to use as it is often the last thing considered by the manufacturer of a product which simply has to come in under a certain price point and fill the space in your stomach.

The biggest drivers of this need for cheap sustenance seem to be the supermarkets, of course we drive them by our demand, but they seem to have provided the catalyst in the first place; the promise of low cost food all in one convenient location was too much of a temptation for the masses to ignore and now we have reached the point where they dominate the retail sector and supply about 75% of all our food.

Of course with such a dominant position in the food supply chain they can use their power to drive down prices to provide us with low cost food, but their ability to purchase globally enforces unfair market conditions which then leads to a decline in the market of locally grown and reared produce, as they simply cannot compete. That is unless you produce a substandard product and \ or use unorthodox methods to make your product at the price point demanded of your supermarket purchasing department. No wonder horse meat ends up in your burger!

The really worrying thing about this is that if it wasn’t for an Irish government departments decision to carry out an investigation then this could have gone unchecked, which also means that it is more than possible that it has gone unnoticed for many years, even decades and may well effect a bigger part of your shopping basket than you would like to think.

The inability and sometimes reluctance of some countries, even those within the EU, to adhere to the food standards that we have drafted over many years in the UK; it is hard to believe that those without any framework at all have any obligation or inclination to follow our rules. Their rules are those dictated by the supermarkets, and if all they have to do is tick a box to say that the pigs where not fed on other animal products or that the meat is only from one type of animal then the box will be ticked, and very rarely checked.

But I wonder, will an incident like this actually change the shopping habits of people who insist on spending less than 10 % of their wealth on the most essential of all things, or will they simply continue to eat whatever is put in front of them irrelevant of ingredient or nutritional value as long as the price is right?

I could go on, and on and on; as I am sure you have guessed I’m not into globalisation and can only hope that one day the cost of transportation or the mass failure of monoculture will drive the cost of food to a realistic and sustainable price point allowing the majority of people to eat locally produced food once again without the temptation of chickens from China or pigs from Poland sullying our dinner plates. Well I might eat a pig from Poland, but then I hope I will have reared it!

By the way, thanks to Chris Oliver for the joke; it was only a matter of time before they started to fly and also thanks to Friends of the Earth and the USDA for the spattering of statistics I used in this post.

And one final thought, the French and Italians spend almost 7% more (nearly twice as much) on their food than we do in Britain, I wonder if this has anything to do with their gastronomic traditions, love of food and pride of its regional origins?