Saturday, 7 December 2013

Food, one of my favourite things.

Prepared Chestnuts
Mark and I are not really having the full works this Christmas, not the same without the family but we will probably have a chicken or small turkey if we can find one.
Not a waste when you think of other meals you can get out of it and at this time of year you never know when the next meat delivery boat will be held up.
One thing I didn't want to miss out on was my sausage and chestnut stuffing, no popping in to Morrisons for a lovely bag of vacuum packed chestnuts but a long struggle with shoving them in a very hot oven, slitted of course and then jumping out of my skin when one exploded. I did what the computer told me, wrapped them in a damp tea towel for twenty minutes and they were supposed to be really easy to peel. Ha, were they, no.
About an hour later and I have just enough for my stuffing so they are tucked up in the freezer waiting.
Chestnuts in a tea towel

I did make a Christmas cake back in November and have been feeding it Brandy ever since and then I realised that you can't buy marzipan ready made on Skopelos .
The only thing to do was make my own, which entailed grinding the flaked almonds in a food processor, adding icing and caster sugar, 5 egg yolks, lemon juice and brandy and almond essence and then lots of squishing to make the paste. If I say so myself it has turned out pretty well. It is quite yellow as our eggs are so bright and a bit grainier than ready made but the flavour is great.

The cake waiting for it's icing.
All this Christmas stuff started to make me feel a bit sad and homesick for my family and friends and then in the evening I had a lovely email card from my lovely friend Yo, wishing me a Merry Christmas. It was wonderful and I do bless the internet every day for keeping me in touch with all the people who mean so much to me.
I had a bit of marzipan left over and Mark has a history with too much of the stuff so I found a cake recipe to use some up.
I didn't have any fresh plums so I used some I bottled in the summer and I hope it turns out ok.

Plum and Marzipan Cake.
300g sifted self raising flour
150g butter cut into small cubes
100g caster sugar
zest from one orange
2 eggs beaten
100ml milk
350g plums halved, stoned and sliced
100g marzipan cut into small cubes
cranberry, redcurrant jelly or plum jam
20g toasted almonds
A greased , base lined 8 inch cake tin
Oven 180 C 160 fan, 350F gas 4
Flour and butter to fine breadcrumbs put in large mixing bowl with .sugar and zest.Mix together eggs and milk and stir into flour mixture. It will make quite a stiff batter.Put half into cake tin and cover with half the plum slices. Sprinkle over the marzipan and cover with the rest of batter. Smooth the top and lay the rest of the plum slices on the top.
Bake for 45- 55 minutes until skewer comes out clean.
Place tin on rack and leave to go cold.
Spread the top with the jelly or jam and sprinkle on the toasted almond flakes. ( east to toast, carefully in a dry frying pan)
When completely cold ,dust with icing sugar and make a pig of yourself.

Plum and marzipan cake

Another thing I have been doing is dealing with two carrier bags of mandarins from a friend's tree. They have a superb flavour but are rather pippy so I juiced the lot and I have a litre of juice. It makes the most fabulous jelly now I have found the gelatine in the local supermarket.
We went to the same friend for lunch last week and he had made a sorbet with them, delicious.
Well that is about it for now, I am going to try and shift Daisy from my seat.

Comfy kitten

I would just like to take the opportunity to wish all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and fun 2014. Love to you all.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Rain relief

As you know I got very despondent about the state of the garden during the heat of the summer but in the middle of October we had a few days of rain and I started work on the vegetable garden.
I am very pleased with progress despite help from the kittens, the spring onions are up and growing well although I will have to sow a second spinach patch as the first has grown very patchy with early kitten scratching.
I have covered the carrot box, unfortunately I lost all the carrot seedlings due to enthusiastic digging so I have resown with lettuce and covered it with blue plastic netting. I think I will do the same with the spinach patch.
I have sweet potatoes in the ground and they didn`t grow terribly well during the summer but have now taken off and are flowering like mad. They have very pretty flowers like a small cream and pink morning glory.
I am not at all sure when they should be dug up but I have emailed a friend who grows them so should know soon.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cat astrophe

Mimi in the sunshine showing her shaved side
I have been working on my vegetable garden although I got a bit down hearted in the heat of Summer and it took a while to get back my enthusiasm.
Mimi and Daisy have grown up to be very handsome cats and are endlessly amusing to watch. They have both been spayed so no more worries about more kittens, I couldn`t stand the strain.
They are  a bit of a pain in the vegetable garden however, Daisy really thinks I want her help and finds the water outlets on the pipes fascinating, she goes along patting at the water.
My lovely carrot box, they are sure, was put there as a posh outside toilet for them both and I am going to have some rather unpleasant work to do before I can use it again.
I have planted the onions about five times, they think it great fun to dig them up.
The spinach is a bit sparse because they have scratched up at least a quarter of it. I will sow some more and see what happens.
Mimi hasa very thick coat and is very like Merkel, she loves being stroked but has to lick you and Daisy has a silkier, finer coat and is a fantastic hunter.
Skopelos has had a problem with rats this year, some empty properties over run with them , but despite the chickens we don`t have a problem except for finding up to three rats in various stages of being eaten on the terrace.
When you go up to lock up the chickens you have to be careful not to lock Daisy in, she has worked out it is a good place for rat catching.
Merkel isn`t much better and here is a photo of her enjoying a rest on one of my seed trays, unfortunately full of busy lizzie seedlings.

Daisy after gardening

Saturday, 10 August 2013

August, what garden

I haven`t written a post for a while as I had huge trouble with my computer and it wouldn`t let me write it. I have changed browser and now all is well.
The garden is looking very sad and shrivelled and although I have given it plenty of water it just can`t cope with the heat.
dried up garden

The rest of the land is yellow and dried up and I really can`t bear to show you pictures of the flower garden.
I am just managing to keep the garden alive and it will recover and flower again when we get the autumn rains.
scorched olive grove

I have had kilos of tomatoes and have frozen, bottled and eaten so many I am a little sick of them. I have made chutney and there are many more still on the vines although skins are getting harder so I will have to make passata which is a bit of a pain sieving it.
A very good friend of mine in the UK has suggested I put up recipes if I use things in a glut so I will try to do that.
I have fried aubergine slices and frozen them ready for moussaka and I have frozen cubed peppers ready for winter.
I have taken a recent picture of Mimi, Daisy was no where to be seen, probably off ratting.

a not so little Mimi

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

July Harvests

I realised when my son Richard told me, that I haven`t written a blog in a long time, in fact a month, so if there is anyone still out there trying to read it I will tell you what I have been doing.
There isn`t much to do in the garden at the moment because the ground is very dry and solid and it is taking a lot of time dealing with all the produce.
It started with the apricot jam and then we had the courgette glut, thank goodness they have dropped back to a manageable level and the tomato and courgette chutney is lovely.
I have picked so many kilos of tomatoes and bottled them for the winter that I am a bit sick of doing them and I have bottled apricots and peaches.
I have pears to bottle next and there are loads of aubergines too. I will fry some slices of aubergine and fry and freeze them ready for winter moussaka and I have been given a recipe for a spicy aubergine chutney which sounds good.
The cupboard in the store room is filling up nicely and the shelves in the kitchen are full.

Robert and Stephen brought us some yellow and dark plums from their garden at Mourtero and I have made jam with them but apricot is my favourite.
The pumpkins are growing well and when I harvest them I will hang them in onion bags in the store.


a selection of chilli peppers
It is a shame all the bottling and jamming has to take place when it is so hot but I do go to aquafit twice a week which is good fun and I hope is helping to keep down the beer and peanut belly I would definately have otherwise.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Too much everything

I haven`t written my blog for a while as it has been so hot ( 31 ) on Monday and I have spent my time at water aerobics or sitting in front of the fan trying to think of other ways to use courgettes. Mark and I think we are going to write a book of a thousand ways to use them.
The garden is growing very well and needs quite a lot of water every night.
We are getting lots of tomatoes and we have had peppers and the chilli peppers are growing so well I will have to pot them on.
As I am writing this I have courgette and tomato chutney simmering away and I have just picked a kilo and a half of apricots from a tree that I didn`t know was there until today. More jam.

the spreading garden

big greek tomatoes
The squash and pumpkins are spreading everywhere and I have to keep directing the vines so they don`t swamp things.

butternut squash and pumpkins
 There are an enormous amount of crickets and grasshoppers around at the moment, they range from minute to huge and some find their way indoors. I have no idea what this is exactly but it likes the sitting room.

Merkel and babies exhausted in the heat

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Start of the harvest

I have been busy this week making apricot jam, not as much as last year as the crop was not nearly as good. I have put away 8 pots which will please one of my daughters, she loves it.

Tonight I also bottled 4 jars of apricots for the winter and will get some peaches in the next few days to bottle. Tinned fruit is scarce here, very large tins of pineapple and  fruit salad and that is about it. I do miss raspberries, good english strawberries and rhubarb but figs and lemons and oranges are very good.

We also have a bit of a glut with cucumbers and courgettes and are having to be quite creative. I pickled some cucumber slices and I tried Jamie Olivers recipe for cucumber ribbons in a soy sauce, ginger, lime and chilli dressing.
We have had stuffed courgettes, courgette cake, a very nice penne, courgette and blue cheese bake and tomorrow I am making a soup.

The tomatoes are just starting now, the cherry tomatoes on the terrace are nice and slightly acidic and the tigerella are lovely, sweet and very pretty with the stripes.
The huge greek tomatoes are doing well but sadly not nearly as well as Filios`s. Must be the copious amounts of manure he puts in the very deep holes. Next year my preparation must be better.
It is getting very hot now and the only comfortable time to work in the garden is in the evening when there is lots of watering to do.

tigerella tomato
 We still have cabbage, swedes, rocket and spinach and the butternut squash and pumpkins are spreading all over one side of the garden.
The aubergines are flowering well and we have had the first pepper, loads coming soon.