Slow Dough Real Bread

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I have a new cook book - Slow Dough REAL BREAD by Chris Young, much to the delight of the family as it means that I am trying out new recipes. I love this book because it has quite a few easy recipes for bread where all the work is done in the fridge overnight, as long fermentation is the name of the game. Today I made Appley Village Buns which have home made egg custard and chopped apricots in the middle and orange icing and flaked almonds on the top. It was a bit gooey and messy to make as you roll out the dough to 30cm x 50cm, spread the custard on the top and then roll it all up. I had custard all over the place, especially when I was cutting the roll into 9 pieces which for some unaccountable reason actually turned out to be 8.  I put it down to custard panic. Anyway, after it had risen for an hour the 8 buns spread out nicely to fill the tin. We had a bun and coffee for early lunch and it was absolutely yum.

Heart Hanger - Homemade Christmas Presents

It's been a long time since last blogging and so much has happened with Christmas, New Year holiday, working away from home, another new hip..... Yes, this is 'the winter of hipcontent' to misquote Shakespeare.

First of all it is now quite safe to reveal the family homemade present. This year I thought I would do something a little easier and less time consuming and settled for making shabby chic style heart garlands. But, oh how wrong I was. I mean, I 'cheated' by using a heart die cutter to cut out a vast number of hearts. Aha, what a sneaky shortcut person I am. However, I didn't factor in the hours it would take to sew the hearts together, turn them the right way around, stuff them, make the hessian roses, string them together and just, well, THINK about them. For example, what colours would each offspring like, what patterns, where to get the fabric from (obviously I had to buy new fabric as mine is still in storage), research the hessian roses, make the hessian roses, do a trial run, find some beads as extra embellishments, play with hessian leftovers to make tassles. Well, it goes on (and on). Don't get me wrong, I loved making them and actually made 7 in the end with two more to finish off FOR ME - they are really nice, but my goodness, they've consumed all my sewing time. The poor old hexagon quilt has once again taken a back seat because of Christmas.

Christmas at Chatsworth House

We are very fortunate to have Chatsworth House a short drive from where we live and the Christmas decorations are a special attraction and well worth a visit, although it is really busy. I had a sisters day out - myself and my sisters have a trip out and lunch instead of buying each other Christmas presents. This year we had a bigger party as my niece and her little boy came too and also our dad, so it was extra nice with 4 generations of the family represented. Here are a few photos of the decorations, though they barely do them justice. I've also included a photo of my favourite sculpture of the Veiled Vestal Virgin. This year the theme for the decorations is 'The Nutcracker' so there were ballerinas dancing around too ("the pretty ladies" as described by little Oscar). My favourite room had a tutu tree and a bauble bath :) 

Golden Valley and Codnor Castle Walk

The sun was shining and I have a new leg (so to speak), so it was time to test it out and try out a walk that will be a local walk when we move to the barns. 

It's a very historical walk which sort of goes back in time from the industrial revolution back to medieval times. We started with the industrial revolution by walking along the remains of the Cromford canal at Golden Valley. We have spent many a happy time with the kids over the years visiting the Cromford canal at Cromford near Matlock, but have never really investigated the canal on our doorstep. We parked near the Newlands Inn which is a sad shell of a grade 2 listed building destroyed by fire in 2011 with no sign for years of it being rebuilt.

Across the road from the Newlands is the footpath along Cromford Canal towards Codnor Reservoir. This is quite overgrown in places but is a pleasant walk and well used by walkers and birders. We saw a kingfisher which was very exciting - apparantly there are a pair seen regularly.

We continued along the canal past the reservoir until we reached the start of  Erewash Meadows Country Reserve where we turned off to cross the railway line. The nature reserve will have to be a walk for another day! Across the railway line we walked through the woods until we reached a farm track and fields near to Codnor Castle. Fortunately for us the castle was open as they have open/maintenance days on the 2nd Sunday of every month. There is an excellent web site with lots of information about the castle here, and we were really quite shocked at our lamentable knowledge of our only local castle. It was featured on a Time Team program which we watched on YouTube when we got home.

After a little photography break at the castle we headed back towards the start of the walk, but first we took a little detour to see the  Codnor Park Monunment, another local landmark which we can actually see from the barns. It was a tower and hall built in the memory of William Jessop Jnr 1784-1852, a local industrialist active in the Butterley Company, founded by his father. It was actually a bit of disappointment because it's on private land and you can't get near it. Bah. The photo below shows the view across Golden Valley and you can just see our barns (with the help of the arrow!)

To finish off our walk we retraced our steps back to the track and walked back to the main road. We crossed the road and carried on along the footpath opting to walk on a high bank under the electricity cables after walking through the woods to a) see the view and b) it was easier walking because all the vegetation had been cleared underneath the wires.

All in all it was an unexpected lovely walk and one that we will do again. If you have enjoyed this post or would like to make a comment, please click on the buttons below.

Bonfire Night Party

Sparkler Writing

It's great having space and an abundant supply of stuff to burn on a bonfire. We are making full use of our barn garden in it's 'before' state. No doubt when it reaches the 'after' state we won't have a bonfire patch just in front of the kitchen window. Anyway, for the moment we can have a bonfire night party with a big bonfire. We have no electricity apart from a temporary cable run from the neighbours, no water and no bathroom facilities. However, on the plus side, you don't have to worry about people stomping indoors in muddy boots. We did make an effort from a safety perspective to cordon off some of the very big holes on the site so that we didn't break any legs. Somehow, that seemed like a very good idea. We managed to organise hot food and mulled wine and set these up in one of the barns just in case it rained and then everyone arrived and the burning commenced. We even had a Guy Fawkes on the bonfire, which in retrospect may have seemed a little gruesome to the Colombian friend of the daughters. It was a really nice evening with all the family and we have a new tradition of sparkler writing which takes quite a bit of co-ordination when there are 10 sparkler writers!

Sunrise at Sutton on Sea

A beautiful sunrise is much more accessible at this time of year.....a civilised 08:00 start meant that even I was tempted out of bed (and outside) on a chilly dewy morning before breakfast. 

The beach hut decoration is pretty good this year. I love this one with the 3d solid wood sailing boat. Some huts just have amusing names like number 40 which is called Winks. Geddit?

Back at home and it's family tea Sunday. I'm actually able to potter about baking without the awful encumbrance of a crutch so have had a baking splurge. Some easy sourdough cheese scones and a new Orange and Almond cake recipe. The interesting thing about this cake is that you poach a whole orange for about 30 mins in a pan of boiling water and then blitz it in a food processor until you have a puree. The eggs and sugar are whipped until light and frothy and then the flour (I used spelt) and ground almonds and baking powder are folded into the eggy mix, followed by the orange puree. So easy to do. It's then baked for about 40 mins at 160C until the top is golden and springy. After cooling for a while I mixed some icing sugar with clementine juice and drizzled over the top. 1 orange 3 eggs 140g castor sugar 85g flour (plus 1tsp  baking powder if plain flour) 150g ground almonds

Back at home and it's family tea Sunday. I'm actually able to potter about baking without the awful encumbrance of a crutch so have had a baking splurge. Some easy sourdough cheese scones and a new Orange and Almond cake recipe. The interesting thing about this cake is that you poach a whole orange for about 30 mins in a pan of boiling water and then blitz it in a food processor until you have a puree. The eggs and sugar are whipped until light and frothy and then the flour (I used spelt) and ground almonds and baking powder are folded into the eggy mix, followed by the orange puree. So easy to do. It's then baked for about 40 mins at 160C until the top is golden and springy. After cooling for a while I mixed some icing sugar with clementine juice and drizzled over the top.
1 orange
3 eggs
140g castor sugar
85g flour (plus 1tsp  baking powder if plain flour)
150g ground almonds

Golden Plover Murmuration

We visited Donna Nook National Nature Reserve on the Lincolnshire coast this weekend to see the grey seals and their pups and found that we had arrived largely before the seals. Only 6 bull seals have arrived and none of the lady(!) seals or newborn pups. Never mind.......we were treated to a fantastic display of murmurating golden plovers. We know they were golden plovers as a warden handily was there to give a running commentary. The reason they were in flight was because of a peregrine falcon out hunting which we saw but unfortunately didn't capture on video. 

Hexagon quilt progress

My hexagon quilt is making progress but is undeniably quite slow since it is entirely hand sewn using english paper piecing technique. I thought I would have had it finished by now, but it is a sort of background task to do of an evening in front of the telly and has been much disrupted by christmas and birthday crochet and knitting. I actually un-sewed quite a bit of it on holiday as my original design didn't look quite right so I bit the bullet and changed it. The reasoning was that the hexagon 'flowers' in a granny's garden pattern were not prominent enough, and whilst it looked quite nice it just looked a bit of a hexagon mish mash. See what you think. The picture on the left is as it was, and the picture on the right was how I planned to change it. The photo's are less than perfect, but this actually helps focus on the overall vision of the quilt rather than the detail. The left picture is dominated by the red dots whereas in the right picture you can see the flowers. Anyway, that's how I see it and so I spent a wonderful couple of days unpicking the red dots and replacing with beige ones. Tedious but worthwhile......I hope.

Now I'm preparing a round of bright red flowers with pale red centres and it seems that finally I have a design! I'm not very good at planning to the last detail. My quilts generally evolve with a frisson of worry as to whether I will have enough fabric to finish. As for this quilt I did some panic buying to stock up with (I hope) enough fabric as it looks like it is becoming extinct. I have some enforced sitting around at the moment due to hip surgery so have made quite a bit of progress with the red flowers, although I had to do a huge amount of ironing to prepare the hexagons. Fortunately, all this can be done whilst sitting down listening to Harry Potter - it's all about the simple pleasures in life......... :)