Snapshots: March 30th, 2017

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Books:
i-SPY Creepy Crawlies and i-SPY Trees
2016, Collins
Poem:
A Calendar of Sonnets: March by Helen Hunt Jackson

How is Spring where you are?  Here it is in full bloom and today we finally had a properly warm day.  It’s so nice to be able to hang the washing on the line again!

Here is what we’ve been up to lately.

Books

Currently I’m reading a couple of mysteries, but we’ve also been going about looking for signs of Spring with some i-SPY books.

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Our Spring book basket

These are particularly fun because you earn points for each species you spot, but there are many nature guides/books out there.  The RSPB Handbook of British Birds comes out whenever we see a strange bird on the feeder.  If you want a book to read rather than use as a field guide, my husband has been reading The Wood for the Trees: The Long View of Nature from a Small Wood by Richard Fortey.  I’ll get back to you if he has any thoughts on it.  So far this Spring I have spotted, among others: a wren, dunnocks, robins, goldfinches, honey bees, bumblebees, snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, violets, primroses, and various flowering trees including cherry, apple, and blackthorn.

It’s a great time to go for a walk and see what you can spot!  Even small spaces like lawns, hedges and flowerpots will have an amazing world of minibeasts waking up and starting to roam about.  And even if you are still snowed in, if you look closely the trees should be budding and birds returning.

Food

The other day my husband made marmalade, which we have never done before.  It was quite a production, but now we have a row of gleaming jars full of citrusy goodness.  I personally don’t like marmalade, but if you, like my husband and Paddington Bear, are a fan, it’s one of the easier preserves to make.

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Marmalade is nice on a toasted tea cake or even hot cross bun on one of those still-chilly mornings.  And if you don’t like it, you could have lemon curd instead.  Citrus fruits are really nice to have in the colder months, when there are fewer fruits around.

Life

Right now our windowsills are just covered in a variety of seedlings, gathering their strength indoors before they face the cold.  There are rows of dahlias, citruses, Black-eyed Susans, and even a little maple grown from seed.

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No doubt it will be cold and blustery again tomorrow, but the seedlings are a cheerful sight and fill us with expectation for the Summer.

What have you been reading/eating/doing this March?

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Evening in a Sugar Orchard: Maple Ganache

Book:
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor
1977, Rand McNally & Company.
Poem:
Evening in a Sugar Orchard by Robert Frost.

mar1Goodbye March!  Thankfully, it’s going out like a lamb, as it should, since it came in like a lion.
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March is sugaring season, when thawing days and freezing nights make the sap run in the trees.  Here is a beautiful poem about it by Robert Frost:
branchesThis poem can be read by anyone, but older children could really get into what Frost is doing with his use of language, rhyme, imagery, and his various references.  It’s also a fun poem to memorize and recite.  I particularly love the image of the sparks making constellations in the branches.  You could even go outside on a clear night and try to see  Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
TTKmar1Maple syrup is a wonderful and versatile sweetener which can be used in so many ways. In Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep, she shows what a big event sugaring used to be, with everyone pitching in to help, and then having a big open air feast at the end.  Many of you may not be able to  go sugaring, but if you can, you should!  I had to get mine from a bottle, but it was still great.  I used it to make a chocolate ganache.
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Maple Ganache

Ingredients
Dark chocolate
Cream
Maple syrup
Note: To make a thick ganache, chocolate and cream should be in a 1:1 ratio or equal parts. However, I substituted a quarter of the cream with maple syrup. To make enough to frost a small cake, I used two 180g (about 6 oz) bars of chocolate, melted, 270g (about 9 oz) cream, and 90g (about 3 oz) maple syrup.

Method
Melt the chocolate.  You can use the microwave, or you can rig up a double boiler by putting a metal or Pyrex bowl into a pan of water and bringing the water to a simmer, then putting the chocolate in the bowl, stirring occasionally until it is melted.  Remove from heat and slowly add cream and syrup, stirring until it is a glossy, even mixture.  Refrigerate for at least several hours, until set.  After this you can roll it into truffles, or eat it with a spoon.  Or refrigerate it only till cool, and frost a cake.
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Bring your cake to a sugaring-off party (and have sugar on snow for a treat)!
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Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!


Best of British Summer 2015

Poem:
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

One thing that we do a couple of times a year is what we call Best of British.  This started one day years ago when we were in a pub.  We saw that they were having a little food festival called Best of British.  But it was rather expensive.  I said, “I could make us all that for a lot less!”  So I did, and we’ve been doing it ever since.  Anyone could do it with their local cuisine, and it’s a lot of fun if you like to cook.  Here is this Summer’s menu.

menus

bob2015starterAs you can see the first one is quince-themed, and as we’ve been talking about “The Owl and the Pussycat”, we read that poem at dinner (sorry about the ham, Pig Robinson).  It’s one of the more accessible Lear poems, and has a lot of fun wordplay and evocative imagery.  It’s also very easy to memorize.

Here is a recipe for the piccalilli, which is a nice old-fashioned pickle.

Easy Piccalilli

Ingredients
1/2 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1/2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp garlic paste
1/3 of a zucchini (courgette), diced
1 onion, diced
1 sweet pepper, diced,
1 carrot, diced
1 cup broccoli & cauliflower, broken into florets

Method
Put the mustard, vinegar, garlic and sugar in a pan and simmer .  Add the vegetables and allow to soften only slightly.  Then take off the heat and allow to cool, stirring now and then. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Eat with quince and dance by the light of the moon!

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From The Tale of Pig Robinson

 

 

 

1 is One: Lemon Curd

Book:
1 is One by Tasha Tudor
1986, Aladdin Books, New York.
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Last Friday (August 28th) would have been Tasha Tudor’s 100th birthday, so I thought we’d have a cream tea on the weekend and read some of her books.
Tasha and her family were very much into having iced tea in the garden.

 


But we need some reading material.  1 is One is a little rhyming counting book.  It would be great for very young children, and useful for learning how to count 1 -20.


Adults and children alike can appreciate the beautiful and detailed illustrations, in both color and black and white.  The subjects of the pictures are simple and relatable.
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For our Tasha Tudor tea, we had iced tea, saffron buns, clotted cream and lemon curd.  I made a fancied-up version of iced tea to go with the occasion.
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Iced Tea

Ingredients
2 fruity black teabags or loose tea in a tea ball
1 lemon
2 Tbsp honey or sweetener of choice
4 fresh mint leaves

Method
Add hot water to teabags.  Let steep for 5 minutes, then add sweetener to taste (you could use sugar, honey, or stevia.).  Cut the lemon into slices, and add the slices and a squeeze of lemon juice, as well as the mint leaves. Pour into a large jug, adding cold water to fill, and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

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For the lemon curd I used this recipe, but roughly halved it.  I’m the only one in my house who eats dairy so it often makes sense not to make too much!

Lemon Curd

Ingredients
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2.5 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp butter
⅓ cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

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Method
Whisk together all the ingredients in a metal or glass bowl.  Place the bowl over the top of a pot or pan of water and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently to prevent curdling.  It may take about ten minutes.  Eventually the mixture will thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the butter and whisk well.  Transfer to a clean jar and store in the fridge.

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Assemble your tea and eat in the garden (under a crab apple tree if you have one).  Hopefully it will be a delectable elevenish party!

Also read: A Time to Keep.
Also read: A Time to Keep.

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