Saturday, 30 January 2016

Good afternoon ! Is it time for cake?

Good afternoon. It's beautiful and sunny here in the Fens today.
I thought you might like a photo of some cheerful daffodils  - surely a sign that spring is on its way.
And while you are here would you like a piece of cake too ?

I have been making cake ... or brownies to be precise.
I have both lovely daughters to thank for bringing this recipe to my attention.
They both have the Deliciously Ella books and have been trying recipes and enthusiastically reporting back to me.
Deliciously Ella follows a vegan diet, eating only natural non processed foods. Not that we, at fenland lottie, are about to totally give up meat or dairy or gluten but I am more and more convinced that our diet has a profound effect on our well being and I love experimenting with different recipes.

When mr digandweed and I visited younger daughter in Nottingham last weekend ( on the occasion of my birthday) she had made some sweet potato brownies and very delicious they were too.
So back home, I decided to make some also. The recipe is very straightforward, though a food processor is more or less essential.

It's always nice to have a piece of cake as an afternoon treat and this is a cake you can eat with impunity, being full of good things.
Sweet potatoes contain a formidable range of nutrients essential to our well being and raw cacao also has many health benefits.

These brownies are not over sweet and have a fudge like consistency and I particularly liked them with some berries on the side.

Happy weekend 

annjenny x

Monday, 25 January 2016

marmalade making and Breakfast Week

This week, 24-30 January is national Breakfast Week; an initiative by Shake up your wake up to encourage us all to eat a healthy breakfast each day.
Some people struggle with eating breakfast, but not me.
 I love breakfast.

Favourite breakfasts include:
a big bowl of creamy porridge
homemade granola with fruit and yoghurt
or if mr digandweed and I go out for brunch  - Eggs Benedict

And at this time of year, buttery toast with Seville orange marmalade is delicious too.
The knobbly Seville orange, has a short season from the end of December to mid February and making marmalade has become an annual ritual for me.

This is my go-to recipe from Delia.

The only tedious part of the recipe is shredding the peel. This is where a willing helper is useful, however, mr digandweed was unavailable but in his absence I found radio 4 helped to pass the time
( and cutting the peel with kitchen scissors, was, I found, much quicker than chopping with a knife)

The result is a beautiful, vibrant preserve with a perfect sweet/sharp balance.

Enjoy with tea and toast - perfect for January mornings.

annjenny x

Saturday, 16 January 2016

windmills and walking haystacks..

The wide-open, flat terrain of the Fens lends itself to the use of windmills for harnessing the power of nature.
In recent years this has been evident in the growth of wind farms with their modern wind turbines, but, of course, in years gone by, the traditional windmill would have been a feature of most communities. The local miller would have milled the wheat and the local baker baked the bread for the inhabitants.

Most of these mills are now abandoned or have been turned into unusual dwellings but some have been renovated and returned to their original use.
One such is Foster's Mill in the village of Swaffham Prior between Cambridge and Newmarket.

The mill is open to the public on the 2nd Sunday of the month and if you are lucky, as we were, you are treated to your own personal tour of the mill by a very knowledgeable and friendly gentleman.

And you also have the opportunity, if you so wish, to buy locally grown, organic, stoneground flour.
Since attending The Sourdough School last summer, making a sourdough loaf has become a weekly ritual and I am looking forward to using this beautiful flour in my next baking session.

And talking of wheat and flour, the first Monday after Twelfth Night is commonly known as Plough Monday, when historically the agricultural year began after the Christmas festivities.
In some areas, predominately, in the East Midlands and East Anglia, this was marked by farm workers touring towns and villages with their plough, sometimes with dancing and singing and sometimes accompanied by a young man dressed as a straw bear.
In our Fenland town this tradition was revived in 1980 and is now a well known festival attracting folk singers and dance troupes from across the country and beyond.

One of the smaller straw bears. It's difficult to tell the front from the back!

This year the sun shone for the festival. There were several 'bears' large and small. (Presumably, encased in straw is a good way to keep warm as it was freezing)
And lots of dance troupes, with wildly colourful costumes.

A good way to cheer a cold January weekend and to mark the moving on of the season.

annjenny x

Saturday, 9 January 2016

not just for Christmas .....

I took a trip down to the allotment the other day. 
It was muddy. Very muddy. 
Hardly surprising though, given the very wet winter we have had so far.
My reason for going was to dig up the remaining parsnips, but a pleasant surprise awaited me.
Several carefully dismantled raised beds were piled neatly by the shed. Wondering where they had come from, I glanced around the neighbouring plots and realised the one adjacent had been totally cleared.
There was no-one around to check with, but I am assuming the gentleman who had the plot could no longer manage it. 
If that is the case, I shall miss his jolly chatter, but it was a kind gesture to donate his raised beds to us.

Back to the parsnips. It has to be said that they were not the best!
A bad attack of canker had resulted in brown/orange patches on them, but I managed to salvage enough to make some parsnip patties.
 Roasted to a golden hue, parsnips play an important part in Christmas dinner, but they are much more versatile than their traditional festive role.
They make delicious creamy soups or in this case crisp little patties - a vegetarian alternative to a burger!

The recipe is based on one by Nigel Slater published several years ago in Sainsbury's magazine .

700g parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
275g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tblsp plain flour
ground nutmeg
1 teasp garam masala
25g butter
3 tblsp oil for frying 
salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes and parsnips separately in boiling water until just tender. Drain and allow to rest for a few moments to evaporate any excess water, then beat together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
Add the flour, then season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and the garam masala.
Form into 8 small patties. This is easier with lightly floured hands.
Leave to cool for about 40 minutes then fry in the oil and butter until crisp and golden.
Drain on kitchen paper before serving.

The recipe made enough for two meals for mr digandweed and me.
 I decided that they needed something sharp and fresh to accompany them.
First time around, I served them with a lemony avocado and tomato salsa and a lightly fried egg and the second time with a sauce of yoghurt, horseradish  and capers and a green salad.

Parsnips, it is said, taste better after a frost. There's been very few of those so far this winter. But that could be about to change. There is talk of snow.....

annjenny x