So, my time has been taken up with doing some work in the house and also working on twice as much garden as I had before - weekends seem to vanish pretty quickly - they really aren't long enough to fit everything in, so my blogging has been none-existent since we picked up the keys. I've still cooked and baked (though I did have a period of about three weeks where I realised I hadn't made any bread or a single cake, so had to rectify that), but I've been pretty hopeless at taking pictures along the way I must admit.
I think the change in the weather took me by surprise - a bit of warmth and things in the garden have grown so much, to the extent that one weekend of work in the garden has looked like nothing was done by the next. I turned over the weeds/grass at the front of our recent acquisition and planted it up with some help/hindrance along the way.
A neighbours two chickens seemed to hear ground been turned over from a bit of a distance, scrabbling about the newly turned over ground to scoff any worms. One was scratching at a hole I had dug to pop in a plant, as if to say "I'll help with that". They have been a source of amusement as they waddle up to investigate what I am doing, but are less amusing when I've come home from work to discover they have been scratching about and have up-rooted a small plant. On balance though, they make me laugh when they turn up to see what is going on next. I also quite like the local cats, but not when they choose to dig my garden! Last years crops in the raised beds were pretty much a wash-out due to a cat/cats. This year, with fleece in place, I've almost managed to keep them cat-free and some crops have just grown a bit better. I didn't realise that my solitary gooseberry bush was so laden with fruit until a neighbour mentioned that I had some nice fat berries on it, so a couple of weeks ago I decided to pick them, though I didn't expect quite as many as I got.
I thought a dozen jars of jam was quite a good yield, but, in picking the gooseberries, I noticed the birds were having a go at the blackberries in the garden, so thought I'd better pick them too before much longer, remembering that two or three years ago the birds made short work of them, leaving me with just enough for a small pie or crumble. with that in mind, I went out to pick the blackberries last Sunday, eventually getting weary picking them because there were so many, so still some for the birds. Fourteen jars of jam later, I now have no jars left, plus I had some I cooked up and froze for a later date. Luckily I keep spotting recipes for blackcurrants......
While making the gooseberry jam, I made a Paul Hollywood loaf - adapting his recipe for a pain de savoie (taking out the meat element). This was such a nice bread - I added sun-dried tomatoes to the dough, which, after the initial rising, is divided into three to create three discs of dough, which are layered in a tin with cubes of cheese, but I reckon it would work with a few other ingredients, so will experiment a bit with this loaf.
It's funny that, while I do make bread quite often, I've never put a loaf into our local flower show, which was this weekend. I noticed last year that a cob loaf had being introduced into the various baking items for submission to be judged - I'm not sure quite when this had become a category, but in a moment of madness as I was baking cakes on Friday evening for the show, I decided to add a bit of bread making. Friday was a bit of a feat of fine-timing - a tea-loaf mixed and in the oven as soon as I got in from work, a washing put in the machine, a read of the paper and a coffee, chocolate sponge whisked and ready to bake when the fruit loaf came out, then dough made and a lemon drizzle cake mixed, then tea made while that was finishing baking. A later night while the loaf got a second proving and baking, with cheese scones made just before breakfast. While the cheese scones didn't score this year, nor a jar of blackberry jam, both having being awarded prizes in previous years, the loaf got a first, lemon-drizzle and tea loaf second prizes, the chocolate sponge getting not just a first, but a special prize for being best in the baking category. I was stunned at that. A jar of the recently made blackcurrant jam got a first, with knitted bootees and bonnet both getting a second. Stuart brought me back down to earth though, pointing out that, as there were only three entries in the category for home-grown blackcurrants, getting third prize wasn't much of an achievement. He also suggested I leave behind the scones and blackberry jam as they obviously weren't very good..... It didn't stop him eating some though!
Anyway, as it is summer - a recipe. I've made ice-cream for years, so here is the tried and trusted one - be warned, it does use a few bowls!
140g caster sugar
300ml double cream
3 eggs - separated
200g dark chocolate
Melt the chocolate and let it cool a little or it will seize when added to the egg yolks.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whisk in the chocolate. Whisk the cream and, once thick, whisk it into the egg yolk mixture. Beat the egg whites and fold in to the mixture, then tip into a rigid container and freeze. The beating of all the components makes the ice-cream scoop straight from the freezer, so it doesn't have to be taken out in advance to soften up. Simple.
I have done a few other flavours - one to two tablespoons of espresso powder mixed with one to two tablespoons of water to dissolve and added to the beaten yolks then beaten again. Swapping the caster sugar for light muscovado gives a fudge ice-cream, with mini cubes of fudge folded in with the beaten egg whites. I've also added cherries in kirsch and broken up meringue folded in at the end. Remember, if you introduce too much extra liquid, the ice-cream won't be soft-scoop, but will still be delicious. Enjoy.