Sunday, 29 May 2016

Enjoying The Great Outdoors Again

Today we went exploring again in the woods and moorlands of West Sussex, in the area of Titty Hill (yes, really!). Unfortunately, due to losing our map and Mr Cocopopia tripping and dropping his trusty GPS tracking device (which then started playing up), we got lost.  Once you're in the woods and surrounded by trees, it all starts to look the same.  

So although the return back to the car was a little convoluted, we did have a sense of where it was and found our way back eventually.  We didn't mind too much as it was a beautiful day and the woods were really peaceful - with no sound of distant traffic, just the sound of birds singing in the trees

Back home, it was great to have the opportunity of sitting in the garden and enjoying yet more fresh air and sunshine, with tea in my favourite mug and a good book to read.

And a happy, chilled out cat for company

Monday, 16 May 2016

Dried Chillies

With the breakdown of the freezer a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that freezing wasn't the only way of storing chillies (or indeed, other forms of fruit and veg).  But it was chillies in particular that I was thinking about, as they are small and don't take up much space.  

As it's been so sunny lately, I thought I'd try drying some off on a sunny windowsill.  I think for this to work, it needs to be a windowsill that gets a lot of sunshine as it's important to get rid of any dampness as there's a risk they may go mouldy.  There are plenty of tips online on how to dry chillies (such as in an oven or hanging them up on a thread) on the internet so well worth a look.

It seems to be working and even if it doesn't, they look really pretty just sitting in the windowsill anyway, as they gradually change colour (what a colour palette!) and shape.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Spring Is Here and the Bees Are On It

Hanging out the washing this week on the line next to the clematis, I couldn't help but hear the sound of buzzing - the sound of busy bees out and about.  The sound was loud as though I was standing next to a hive, but it was just that there seemed to be loads of them going for the open flowers - the word was out, there was pollen to be had and it was in our garden.  

This was a reassuring sight as the bees have been in sharp decline over the past few years and need all of the help they can get.  I've got lots more bee friendly plants on the menu for them to keep them happy throughout the summer.

Mr Cocopopia was walking in the local park recently (about half a mile away) and found an area of scrub-land fenced off in a hidden corner of the park.  It was only because a bee-keeper dressed all in white, standing in this area, caught his eye, and then he noticed the hives.  How wonderful that a local park has allocated a protected space for cultivation of beehives in a quiet corner of the park - why aren't all parks doing this?

I'm going to have to investigate further as I'd love to know how long they've been doing it for and how successful they've been with their hives.  I'm also hoping that maybe I can track down a jar of their honey as it will be so local, it would be the closest thing to honey from our own garden.  

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Creative Bread and Butter Summer Pudding

Summer Fruits Bread & Butter Style Pudding

This week the fridge-freezer died on us, leaving 4 drawer-fulls of frozen food. 

Hating waste, for the past 3 days we have been on the "try not to waste a single thing and eat all you can from the freezer" diet.  It's been a challenge but at least its been a cold week so things have only been defrosting slowly and we've been able to keep milk and butter fresh by putting it on a cold windowsill.

Some things were staying frozen longer than others and the berries were the first to thaw, so I decided to make a pudding with these and the gluten free chocolate chip and banana muffins I'd also got stored in the freezer.

It turned out to be really nice (it was good hot from the oven but also completely different and just as yummy chilled the next day for breakfast!)

Here's the recipe:

6 - 8 home-made muffins (or similar substitute)
bowlful of frozen berries/summer fruits (defrosted)
squirty honey or maple syrup
3/4 - 1 pint of milk (I used almond milk)
2 eggs
1 tbsp granulated sugar 
Demerara sugar to sprinkle on the top

  • slice the muffins horizontally and butter one side. Layer in the bottom of a Pyrex dish, scattering the berries and a squirt of honey/maple syrup between each layer. 
  • Stick a decent sized knob of butter in a saucepan.  Add the milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla essence and keep mixing until hot and thickened.  Pour straight over the bread.  Give the dish a little shake to encourage the custard to get between all of the gaps.
  • Sprinkle a little Demerara sugar on the top and put into a medium oven (170C, 325F, Gas 3) for about half an hour (or until nice and brown).  Enjoy with ice-cream (unless its already melted in a freezer break-down situation!)

Layering up the muffins and the berries