Category Archives: sunshine
Unexpected pleasures are so sweet, don’t you find? The glorious sunshine and unusual warmth of the past days have brought delight – just as we started to get entrenched in the routine of Autumn. And the garden of our new home boasts trees laden with an extraordinary crop of apples and the hedges are richly dotted with blackberries. These must be celebrated!
So, directly home from school, books and bags are cast aside and we make right for a lovely spot in the garden for a cool drink and a rest.
But little boys don’t really rest for long, do they? Our boy is lucky as he has quite a few little friends who live in the village. So after school, the garden is often buzzing with several little boys running around, building dens, climbing…. And feeling hungry – always hungry!
I’ve been reading a charming little book. It’s called ON A Stick! and it’s written by Matt Armendariz. Matt is the creator of the wonderful blog Matt Bites – do you know it? Well the book is just about what you would expect from the title – a series of quirky, delicious recipes and ideas – all of food on a stick.
Now I have yet to find a child who doesn’t adore food on sticks! Even healthy skewers of fruit and veggies. As long as you can trust little boys with sharp sticks (you can’t!) So with vigilance, I presented a garden snack inspired by Matt’s book. This isn’t actually his recipe, in fact it isn’t really a recipe at all. I simply assembled some berries and apple slices (from the garden), along with some little pieces of cake on wooden bamboo sticks.
The cake is a buttermilk and almond cake but I haven’t perfected the recipe yet. When I do, I’ll be happy to share it if you would like. Just let me know.
A quick chat, then back to running around!
A change of weather is forecast – back to the typical offerings of the season. Despite a little sadness to say goodbye to the bright warm days, I feel quite excited about the prospect of Autumn. It’s such a beautiful time of year – the splendid colours, the brisk walks, and of course, the delicious warming foods that nourish body and soul. More soon.
Did you know that the official month of cherries (at least according to the cherry promoters in the lovely state of Michigan) is February? I know, it’s a bit surprising for all of us in the northern hemisphere, clad in the endless, dull vestiges of winter. Yes, the cherry – that gorgeous, vibrant little stone fruit that is so evocative of sunshine, of light dappled leafy trees – is feted with a national month in February. But why not? I thought about it and it makes sense. We need a hit of cherry, of brightness and delight at this time of year. It’s true it is not the time for home grown seasonal cherries, but cherries do preserve very well and a jar of cherry sauce made from summer fruit can deliver that vibrance right to our winter kitchens. Just when we need it most.
Our youngest child is always asking me to make (with his help, of course) two particular things in the kitchen. One is pasta. He’s crazy about that hand crank pasta machine. The other is ice cream. And it’s never too chilly for ice cream according to him. So why not use some cherries (cherry puree or sauce) to swirl in with a yummy soft frozen white chocolate cream – a semifreddo. Delicious.
Do you like these roses? Amazing colour. A strong peachy orange when I got them, they lasted for ages fading into lovely pinky shades. I actually found their faded petals most beautiful of all.
Since I began with the ice cream and these photographs, a few days have ticked us over into March. It feels like the green shoots of spring are all over and I am very excited about that. Little bulbs emerging, even some glowy sunlight today.
I’ll be back soon, with lots of springtime inspiration.
Please drop me a comment – if you would like to -when you visit. And send me a link to your site or blog as I love to see what you are cooking and making too.
Apricots are truly splendid – draped in their vibrant, velvety skins and with a fragrance of pure sunshine they instantly lift the spirit. Even their name is pleasing. But it is the unique, intense flavour of the apricot that most delights. During the English summertime we turn much of our attention to all the lovely ripe berries, and rightly so. But I think we shouldn’t neglect the other gorgeous fruits around, especially apricots.
For me, apricots taste especially delicious when cooked. As a child, I loved apricot jam above all others. It’s the combination of cooking and a bit of sugar that intensifies the aroma and balances the acidity into that deliciousness. Sometimes I add a touch of vanilla too. I keep a jar of vanilla infused sugar in my kitchen and use that, or otherwise a few drops of vanilla essence. I do think it’s important to use a good quality brand of vanilla essence – it makes a real difference. This morning I made a quick apricot and brown sugar compote, highlighted with a dash of vanilla.
Apricot and Brown Sugar Compote
6-7 apricots, (250g) halved and stones removed
half a cup (100g) brown sugar. I use gorgeous Barbados sugar.
a few drops of vanilla essence
In a heavy pan, melt the sugar with a tablespoon of water and allow to bubble in the pan for a couple of minutes over high heat. Be careful that it doesn’t scorch. Add the apricots and let them soften in the bubbling brown sugar for a few more minutes. I just let them cook down a little until they are very vibrant in colour and just losing their shape. That’s it. Add a few drops of vanilla essence if you wish.
This compote is lovely to eat just as it is, cooled a little. Or with some yogurt or ice cream. Or with a slice of sponge cake. Outside on the steps in the sunshine…thinking about Provence and market stalls laden with summer fruits, lavender and honey!