30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!

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I’ve got the cooking bug again!!

Much to the consternation of my poor purse, as cooking can be both cheap and equally expensive!

This weekend I have been busy in the kitchen. With spring slowly ‘springing’ my desire to cook, (though not dampened by winter) has indeed ‘sprouted’ this past weekend, with that old eager feeling of excited anticipation gnawing at me.

On Saturday, and again on Sunday I was busy making ‘Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup.’ I had many of the ingredients left over hence why I made it again on the Sunday. The recipe says for 4 but I only seemed to make for 3, (depends on how many ladles you dole out!)
The ingredients were:

• 450g of carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 small potatoes, or a large one (that I used), peeled and chopped
• 1 head/bulb of garlic
• 2 red onions, or a mix of one red and one white (it didn’t change the taste)
• 2-3 celery ribs
• ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper
• 0.7 to 1 litre of vegetable stock.
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Chives chopped to garnish

Method:

When I went to make this recipe I had not read the entire method properly. I thought it was just carrot and garlic soup, not roasted. So it took me longer, about 1 hour from start to finish.

• I peeled and cut the carrots, onions and potato
• Sliced the celery
• In a roasting dish, I put in the carrots, onions and celery with some oil, salt, pepper and the cayenne.
• I then chopped the top off the bulb/head of the garlic to expose the cloves, salt and peppered it and added a touch of oil. I wrapped the head/bulb in tin foil
• I put the roasting dish and wrapped up garlic in the oven 220°/gas mark 7 for 20-30 minutes
• While the vegetables were roasting, in a pan, I put two stock cubes in with 0.7lires of boiling water. I also added the chopped potato to the pan and seasoned it. Use 1 litre of stock to make enough for 4!
• Once the vegetables were roasted I added them, (the carrot, celery, onion) to the pan with the stock and potatoes.
• I then squeezed out the garlic and added that too the pan with the vegetables and stock. I then boiled the pan for 15 minutes or until the vegetables were soft.
• Then pop the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
• Warm-up again and serve with a sprinkling of chives or freshly made bread. It made a slightly hot soup, reduce the amount of cayenne if you don’t like heat!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup - First Attempt

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup – First Attempt

On Saturday I had bought some bread, but with more time on my hands on the Sunday, I decided to make a loaf of bread.

I always use the BBC Good Foods, recipe.

Easy White Bread

Ingredients:

• 500g of strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading and dusting.
• 2 tsp of salt
• 7g of yeast (fast action)
• 3 tbsp of oil (olive/sunflower/vegetable or your preference). I used sunflower
• 300ml of water. I have mine tepid.

Method:

• In a mixing bowl I measure out the dry ingredients. (I had trouble this Sunday as I only had 400g of strong bread flour, so had to add 100g of plain white flour!)
• I then add the oil and finally the water
• I add the water incrementally and get my hands in to mix the ingredients together
• Once the ingredients come together in some sort of dough, (today was moist; I’ve had others where more water was needed.) Then tip the dough onto a surface with some flour and begin kneading
• I have read recipes were they say knead to 15 to 20 minutes. I think I kneaded for more like 5-10.
• Once the bread has come nicely together and is silky smooth, put in a bowl and leave in a warm place. I left it besides a radiator and left to prove for one hour.
• After the hour, you will discover that the bread has doubled in size (due to carbon dioxide released by the yeast!)
• ‘Knock back’ (I just knead the dough) for 5- 10 minutes, this knocks the air out of the dough, and then return to somewhere warm. I place the dough into a bread tin at this stage and leave for another one hour! You can leave for longer.

Dough.. ready for the oven

Dough.. ready for the oven

• Once ready to put the dough in the oven, use a 200°/gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes. The aroma of cooked bread is glorious.
• Once cooked, tip the bread onto a rack to cool and then slice accordingly.

perfect bread

perfect bread

Warm bread served with hot cooked soup is delicious and comforting!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

On Friday, the beginning of the weekend, after a long week at work, I made some Slimming World Chocolate Brownies, which only had four ingredients.

• 6 eggs (separated.)
• 60g of cocoa powder
• 30g of sweetener. The recipe said 70g of sweetener and another I read said 150g! That is two whole jars! I reduced the sweetener, but with trial and error the right amount can be discerned.
• 1tbs of vanilla essence.

I decided to make these for David’s mother and mine as it was Mothering Sunday in the UK, 15th March 2015.

Method:

• Once all eggs were separated, I whisked the whites to soft fluffy peaks and then left to one side.
• I then added to the yolks, sweetener, vanilla essence and cocoa powder together, adding a touch of water if it went too dry.
• Afterwards, I folded in the fluffy egg whites into the chocolate mixture slowly, so as not to let the air out.
• Once mixed pour into a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for 25-30 minutes on 180°/gas mark 4.
• I used a cocktail skewer to see if the brownies were cooked. Once clear I tipped onto a tray to cool.
• Once cool I cut into squares. I think it made around 25 brownies and the recipe says only ½ a syn each.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing how to make them!

I found the brownies were rather leathery but would be nice with some ice cream or cream, and maybe some fresh fruit. I am not the biggest chocolate fan and only made them for family. I hope they liked them?

So as you can see I have been productive in the kitchen. I look forward to making many more delicious dishes and sharing them with you!

Christine x