Moules Marinière © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Moules Marinière

Some foods are an acquired taste, and we all have things we love and hate in equal measures.  It has taken me my entire life to get around to being able to cope with ‘trying’ mussels.  There’s just something about them, and oysters that just leaves me cold.  BUT …. mussels look so attractive when being served and I was desperate to photograph them, so it seemed rather stupid not to eat them too.

I bought into the whole experience, the table was set, the smell, the colours the tastes – I was actually really looking forward to them.  The mussels, however, didn’t really do it for me, I have to say.  I could eat them but I don’t particularly like or love them.  I think its the texture but I’m not saying I won’t try them again, because you have to try new things right?   That’s what I always told my boys and sometimes you just love the results.  My boys love this dish, I guess I may get there one day.  With a bottle of wine on a relaxed evening with a loved one or friends it just is such a lovely sharing dish to put on the table, so I’m thinking I must try again.

Ingredients: (Serves four)

  • 4 lbs /1.75Kg of mussels,
  • 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic,
  • 2  finely chopped shallots,
  • a knob of butter,
  • a boquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaves,
  • one glass of dry white wine or cider,
  • 1 small pot of double cream,
  • a handful of parsley, finely chopped,
  • nice crusty bread, chips or sauté potatoes to serve
Moules Marinière © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Moules Marinière © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Method:

Wash the mussels carefully under cold, running water. Throw away any open ones which won’t close when you squeeze them lightly.

Salmon and watercress tart with asparagus © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Salmon and Watercress Tart

Generally as summer approaches and the days get warmer my thoughts turn even more to salads and summer foods.  Sadly this year the weather isn’t helping much, and is more suggestive of casseroles and stews than salads but we live in hope and meanwhile here’s a lovely summery tart to enjoy whatever the weather.

Salmon and watercress tart with salad and asparagus © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Salmon and watercress tart with salad and asparagus © Sue Todd Photography 2016

There’s quite a few recipes for salmon tart around and they all seem to use masses more salmon than I did, but actually this was enough and gave us eight portions of tart.

Can you call pastry, pastry if it doesn’t use wheat flour? Just a pointless thought, excuse me.  I didn’t have any buckwheat flour which is what I’d intended to use, when I set out to make this but didn’t want to use wheat flour, so I’ve used rice flour but next time I’ll swap that out too.  Its fun to experiment and its rare that things are inedible, though it can happen, so feel free to experiment too.

Ingredients for the Pastry Base

  • 2 1/2 ounces of rice flour
  • 2 ounces of sorghum flour
  • 2 ounces of sesame flour
  • 1/2 ounce hemp seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 3 1/2 ounces of butter
  • 1 small egg
  • 4 tablespoons of cold water, more if needed

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 2-3 handfuls of watercress
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 1/2 ounces of salmon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of double cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped dill
  • 2-3 sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped

Method for the Pastry

Pastry lined tart tin © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Pastry lined tart tin © Sue Todd Photography 2016

If you like doing things the old-fashioned way then tip the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a bowl and rub it together until you have a crumb like structure.  Of if you have hands like mine that can no longer manage that stick it all in the stand mixer with the k-beater and mix on low-speed until you have crumbs.  It’s much faster and while its more washing up you can do other things while its mixing.  On the Kitchen Aid I use speed 2.

Add the egg and mix up again.  Next start adding water, and mix until the dough begins to form a ball.  Don’t be tempted to put less water in just because it seems to come together with the egg, it won’t stay together – as I found, it really does need a good bit of moisture. Chill for an hour before using.

If you’re using a conventional oven pre-heat it to 400F.

Butter your tart tin in readiness.

Method – to prepare the filling:

Poaching Salmon © Sue Todd Photography 2016.

Poaching Salmon © Sue Todd Photography 2016.

Check over the watercress and give it a good wash.  Dry it using a clean tea towel or salad spinner.

Wilt the watercress in a saucepan in the four tablespoons of water. For about 3 minutes, stirring gently, then remove from the heat.  Squeeze the watercress  gently to remove excess water and chop  it finely before setting to one side for a moment.

Put 3/4 of the cup of milk into a heavy based frying or sauté pan along with your bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste (as in a pinch of each).  Heat the milk through and when it starts to simmer add the salmon and poach it for around 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and leave it for around 10 minutes so that the flavours infuse, then lift the salmon out of the milk.  Don’t discard the cooking liquid, we’re going to use it. Drain the salmon carefully and crumble on to a plate or chopping board and put to one side.  Do watch for bones.

Leeks and shallot cooking © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Leeks and shallot cooking © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Strain the milk mixture through a sieve and measure out 1/4 cup of it to add to a bowl with the eggs and cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the freshly grated nutmeg and herbs.

Empty the pan you used for the spinach and add about 2 tablespoons of oil to it and heat through before popping in the leeks and shallot.  Cook without browning until they are soft, about 5 minutes or so.

Method:  Assemble and cook the tart

Flour a board or counter top and roll the pastry out gently to fit your flan or tart case. Lift the pastry gently and fit into the tin or dish.  Cut the edges back to fit and prick the bottom of the pastry case with a fork.

Salmon and watercress tart Sue Todd Photography 2016

Salmon and watercress tart Sue Todd Photography 2016

Take a sheet of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, wet it under the cold tap and crumple well.  Straighten it out and line the pastry case with the damp paper.  Tip in baking beans and pop your pastry case into the oven to prebake for about 10 minutes.  I used the baking oven of the AGA for mine.

Remove the tart base from the oven and lift out the baking beans.  I remember the first time I ever used these I omitted the parchment – what a time I had removing those beans and leaving the pastry intact!  I always have a bowl on hand to tip them into to cool.  Pop the pastry case back into the oven for a a further five minutes.

Salmon and watercress tart ready for the oven © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Salmon and watercress tart ready for the oven © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Next add the leeks and shallot, then the watercress and finally the salmon before pouring over the egg mix you prepared earlier.

The tart now needs to bake for around 30 to 35 minutes until the top is lightly golden and the tart has set nicely.  If you decide to use individual tart tins or dishes then reduce the cooking time to about 20 minutes.  Let the tart sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Salmon and watercress tart with asparagus © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Salmon and watercress tart with asparagus © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Lovely served with salad, any leftover tart is great the next day.  Serve hot or cold.

Making Beef Bone Broth in the English Country Cooking Kitchen. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Beef Bone Broth

We’ve been making stock from bones in the English Country Cooking Kitchen for years, but suddenly “Bone Broth” is a big thing, if not the thing.  So I guess we’re a bit late adding it to the blog, but whatever you call it, its pretty good stuff and way better for you than anything out of a packet, regardless of whatever the packet may try to suggest.

Making Beef Bone Broth in the English Country Cooking Kitchen. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Making Beef Bone Broth in the English Country Cooking Kitchen. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Ingredients:

  • Beef Bones, we used 3 beef short ribs with some meat left on.
  • 75 grams of lardons, we used home cured belly pork (recipe to follow soon),
  • 1 leek,
  • 2 large shallots
  • 2 carrots
  • 6-10 black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 3 litres of cold water
  • butter and a splash of olive oil or beef fat for frying.
Bouquet Garni © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Bouquet Garni © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Method:

Roasted Beef Bones ready to make Beef Bone Broth. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Roasted Beef Bones ready to make Beef Bone Broth. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Roast the beef bones until the meat has receded along the bone, pour off the rendered fat and then allow to cool.  I use the roasting oven of the AGA.  If you are using a conventional oven you might want to put these in at the same time you are doing a roast to make it more cost efficient.
The ingredients for Beef Bone Broth. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

The ingredients for Beef Bone Broth. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Chop all the vegetables and  fry in the butter or oil/fat until soft and starting to turn golden.
Vegetables for Beef Bone Broth. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Vegetables for Beef Bone Broth. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Add the water, bones, and the rest of the ingredients together and bring to the boil.
Cover and place in the simmering oven of the AGA for at least six hours and up to 12 hours, checking now and then to make sure the water level is ok and to skim off any froth that may form on the top.  You could also use a slow cooker for this, but check cooking times/controls with the manual.
Adding all the ingredients to the pan. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Adding all the ingredients to the pan. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Then strain out the liquid and discard the veg and bones etc.  Allow the stock to cool over night and then lift of any fat that may have set on the top.  Don’t forget you can re-use the fat for cooking with, so don’t discard that.
The stock is them ready to use.  If you don’t need it all at once it will freeze perfectly.
You don’t have to use beef bones you can make bone broth with any bones you happen to have.  We regularly tip the remains of the roast chicken from a Sunday roast into the pan to make broth, which then goes into soups, risotto etc.
For more standard stock recipes, Fish, Game, Veg, Chicken and Veal etc, check Practical Professional Cookery by Cracknell & Kaufmann.  As the name suggests these are professional recipes and produce much more stock that you would need but you can amend the quantities down to suit.
Blueberry and Banana Smoothie home made with fresh ingredients, perfect for breakfast. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Blueberry and banana smoothie

Despite the weather not being what you might term spring like here in Northumberland, we’re trying to move towards smoothies for breakfast at least a few times a week.  This blueberry and banana smoothie is one of our favourites.  I’d just like a big dose of warm sunshine to go with it so that we could enjoy it in the garden.

Smoothies are really fast, and if you whizz some warm water and dish washing liquid up in the blender/processor after use then cleaning up is minimal.

Blueberry and banana smoothie ingredients © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Close up of Blueberry and Banana Smoothie ingredients, perfect for breakfast. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 160g blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons of plain yoghurt
  • coconut water to adjust thickness to suit

Method:

Add all the ingredients except the coconut water to a blender or food processor until mixed thoroughly and no lumps of fruit remain.  Then slowly add coconut water and blend again (without forgetting to shut the lid first – unless you are partial to cleaning in a big way!) until it’s a consistency you like.  We like ours fairly thick but still drinkable, although I’m playing with the idea of a much thicker smoothie to go with home-made granola.

Blueberry and Banana Smoothie ingredients. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Blueberry and Banana Smoothie ingredients. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Optional Extras:

If you have a sweet tooth (like Gary!) then you can add a dash of maple syrup to sweeten things up a little or honey if you prefer.

Oooh!  And before I forget if you any leftovers, freeze it as ice pops (remember them??) for the summer which we’re hoping will arrive at some point.  They make lovely treats on hot days.

 

Granola, fresh fruit and yoghurt © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Basic easy Granola

If you’ve fallen off the healthy wagon after a good start in January, over indulged after a good dry January or eaten too many pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, then this Granola recipe may be just the thing to set you back on the right path.

I’ve meant to make granola now for well over a year.  I’ve researched recipes, collected ingredients (used them for other things), planned, planned some more but not quite got round to doing it.  But really, granola …. buy it at the supermarket, save the time, eat it once or twice and throw out what’s left. Isn’t that how it works?  Okay maybe you are more disciplined than me.  But its rare for me to find shop bought granola I actually really want to eat more than once or twice.

Granola and fresh fruit © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Granola and fresh fruit © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Making it, for some reason also seemed a tedious chore, I guess if I thought it’d be the same as what was already in the cupboard, so what was the point?  The stuff that was in the cupboard is now in a separate tub for Ted, our cocker spaniel, who thinks it’s an awesome treat – so there’s an extra win!

However ….. I finally got motivated and made some and WOW!  I just love it, and there’s going to be more and more, and once the summer comes and it feels like granola weather there’ll be no stopping me.

Obviously being me I scoured the internet over a period of months (okay years, you know me too well already!) looking for ideas and then because none of them matched what I had in my head, I looked at quantities and then just did what I thought.  So there is no scientific reasoning to what follows, it was purely a case of looking at other recipes and the amounts of ingredients and then coming up with my own initial list of ingredients.  I say initial because I’ve already got ideas for the next batch!  I’m hooked and … its SO EASY!!  But you know it came out right, at least we think so and I’m happy enough to share, so that says something I hope.

All the recipes I found dealt in cups, which don’t come easy to me, but luckily I’ve a set of cup measures in the cupboard so out they came.  At some point I will endeavour to convert the cups to a metric/imperial measure – but please don’t hold your breath.  I’m not renowned for hasty stuff on that score.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of oats,
  • 1/2 cup of nuts – use whatever you have or whatever you like most – I used a mix of almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts because that was what was in the larder. Pecans would be lovely and were intended but someone must have eaten them!
  • 1/4 cup of raw seeds – pumpkin, sesame, sunflower … again I had a mixed pot of seeds so just used some of these
  • 3 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
Granola fresh from the oven © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Granola fresh from the oven © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Method:

Weigh out the dry ingredients and add to a large bowl. Give them a big mix up.  If you are using a conventional oven you’ll need to preheat it to 300F/150C/GasMark 2.  If you are using an AGA like me, it goes in the baking oven.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  I used my hands but I’m sure a big wooden spoon would do the job just as well and be a lot less sticky.

The coconut oil may be solid – mine certainly was as it came directly from the fridge.  But it will melt if not in the mixing then certainly in the oven.

Once mixed you can simply turn it out onto a baking tray.  I lined my baking tray with baking parchment, simply because it’s easier then to lift off and turn into a jar using the baking parchment to guide the granola than it is to try and tip a tray of the stuff into a jar later!

Stick it in the oven for 10 minutes to cook. It needs to be very lightly toasted.

Once cooled, put in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Healthy Granola Breakfast © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Healthy Granola Breakfast © Sue Todd Photography 2016

To Serve:

Put in a bowl, food flask or glass, add yoghurt and fresh or dried fruit and munch.  It’s totally portable in a container if you need to take it to work – though I’d keep the yoghurt separate during transit so the granola doesn’t get soggy.  The maple syrup and vanilla flavours are lovely.

Variations:

You could add cinnamon for more flavour but I’m allergic to it, so it won’t feature here much.   You could also use dried fruit as part of the mix.  Lots of people add it before toasting but I really didn’t fancy my dried fruit even drier or toasted and on this occasion I just missed it out.

However I’m also thinking that soaking dried fruit in orange juice overnight and then adding it to your bowl might be rather yummy.  Fruit compotes would also work really well with this.

If you are looking for food photography please visit Sue Todd Photography also you might want to follow English Country Cooking on Facebook, if so you can find us here.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

First of all let us wish you a Happy New Year! As always some people have had a great year and others not so good.  But its a New Year and a new start so I’m hoping it will be a great one for all.

It’s a cold start to the New Year here in Northumberland so what better than a large pan of home-made soup to warm you through after a brisk walk outdoors.  We ate this with a loaf of Olive Bread, sadly not home-made as that would have been divine, but this was okay and went really well with the soup.  Tomato soup just seemed like the ‘right’ thing to start the year off and we’re a bit partial to Tomato soup, here is another one we made last year.

As a child I remember plain  and rather boring lentil soup, a variation made using a ham hock and then tinned soups which I generally hated.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully forget the taste of Heinz Oxtail soup, ugh, I loathed everything about it, the only one I ever felt able to eat was the cream of tomato one.  However once you’ve made your own there is no going back.  Soup is one of the fastest meals you can make from fresh ingredients and its so, so much better than anything processed.  Be great for a winter picnic too!

Some key ingredients to a good tomato soup. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Some key ingredients to a good tomato soup. © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of tomatoes
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper to season
  • 1 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a splash for the peppers
  • 1 handful of fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese grated to serve
  • Bread to serve with the soup

Method:

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup. A lovely winter warming soup © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup. A lovely winter warming soup © Sue Todd Photography 2016

Finely chop the onion and garlic.  Using a deep heavy based pan, gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until they are transparent.
Meanwhile cut and de seed the peppers, put them on an oven tray and splash with olive oil. Put the peppers in the oven to roast until the skins have changed colour and they seem cooked. Ours went in the roasting oven of the AGA, for somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, add them to the pan containing the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes.
Add the stock, bring the pan to the boil and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
When the peppers are ready, roughly chop them and add them to the pan with the tomatoes, onion and garlic.
Retaining some small sprigs of basil for garnish, chop the rest of the basil and add that to the pan as well.  Cook for a further 10 minutes.
Season to taste.
Remove from the heat and blend.  You can use either a blender/food processor or a hand-held blender – we use a hand blender and make sure we still keep some texture rather than having it entirely smooth, but do what you prefer.
Return the soup to the heat to warm through.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed before serving.
Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup © Sue Todd 2016

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup © Sue Todd 2016

To serve:

Dish the soup up in warmed bowls with a sprig of fresh basil in the middle accompanied by grated fresh Parmesan and some fresh bread.
Fish Goujons with Tartar Sauce © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Fish Goujons

It’s been a long time coming but finally a new blog post!

Every now and then we get a yearning for something like fish and chips, but as anyone who knows us is aware its very rare that we actually buy ready made food and junk food is a no go area as it always makes me feel ill afterwards.

So yesterday while discussing what to have for dinner I declared that I’d really, really love some fish goujons (or fish fingers) and Gary agreed to make some for me.

We had them with some very simple home-made tartare sauce, some salad leaves, lemon quarters and some home-made spelt bread, but it would work just as well with chips and peas.

Ingredients – Fish Goujons

  • 250g / 9oz of Cod Loin
  • 2 eggs
  • flour to coat the fish
  • 3 slices of bread made into bread crumbs
  • oil for deep-frying

Ingredients – Simple Tartar Sauce

  • 2 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 jar of capers finely chopped
Fish Goujons with lemon © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Fish Goujons with lemon © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Method – Fish Goujons

You need 3 shallow bowls or deep plates.  Put some flour in one (you need just enough to coat the fish – a couple of tablespoons will do), beat your eggs and put them in another and pop the breadcrumbs in the third bowl.

Cut your fish into ten equal slices.

Heat the oil to about 375 degrees in a frying pan.  Coat each piece of fish in floor then dip into the egg and then roll them in breadcrumbs.   Deep fry in the oil until golden brown.  Lift out onto a plate covered with kitchen roll to drain.

Method – Simple Tartar Sauce

This is very much a cheat’s version for a fast turnaround for supper, and omits ingredients like the mustard and cornichons that many traditional recipes call for.  This was simply dinner in a hurry.  So just mix the ingredients together, crushing the capers as much or as little as you like and place in bowl to serve.  Easy!

Fish Goujons © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Fish Goujons © Sue Todd Photography 2015

To Serve – Serves 2

Serve your fish goujons and tartar sauce with quarters of lemon, salad leaves and homemade spelt bread.  Alternatively, make some sautéed potatoes or chips and serve with peas.

Gluten free Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble - Gluten free © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Rhubarb Crumble – Gluten free.

Apologies, its ages since I posted, and now when I do its a cake that isn’t a cake but a crumble instead!  Let’s call it creative!

Okay so I started out making cake but got seriously distracted and found myself staring at a bowl where with absent mind I’d  mixed the sugar, (destined for the butter to do the whole cream thing),  up with the flour instead.  Hmmmm.  One of those ‘OH’ moments.  Now it may have come together but I didn’t want a total failure either as I was in need of something sweet.  So cake became crumble instead and the obvious solution, as I don’t know how to extract sugar from the flour and I’d not like it all overly sweet either.

Rhubarb © Sue Todd Photography 2015.

Rhubarb © Sue Todd Photography 2015.

I’d set out to make a gluten free cake, so it now needed to become a gluten free crumble. I used a mixture of flours for this, you could do half almond and half coconut (and then it would be grain free too) but I didn’t want too much coconut flavour in there so I opted for some rice flour as that was what I had to hand.

This is pretty quick and easy to do and rather tasty.

Gluten-free Rhubarb Crumble

Gluten-free Rhubarb Crumble © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Rhubarb Crumble – Ingredients:

  • 3oz or 85g butter,
  • 6oz or 170g vanilla sugar or unrefined castor sugar,
  • grated rind from one orange,
  • 4oz or 113g almond flour,
  • 2oz or 56g rice flour,
  • 2oz or 56g coconut flour,
  • 1 lb  or 453g rhubarb, cut into pieces approx 4cm long

Rhubarb Crumble – Method

If you are using a conventional oven, pop it on to warm up first, you’ll need it to be at about 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4.  Put the chopped rhubarb into a bowl with 3oz of the sugar and leave for an hour or so.  If you use the dish you are going to cook the crumble in it will save dishes! I didn’t, but then I didn’t set out to make crumble either.

Tip the flours, sugar and butter into a bowl and rub together until it butter is mixed in well and the whole thing looks well ‘crumbly’ really, just like a crumble should.

Tip the crumble mix over the rhubarb and pop in the oven to cook.  I use the baking oven of the AGA.  It should take about 20 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve with cream, yoghurt, ice-cream or custard.  I like the cold leftovers with yoghurt for breakfast next day, its delicious and decadent all at the same time.  I can tell you if you make this on a Sunday, its a real treat of way to start the week on a Monday morning for breakfast!

 

Spring In our English Country Cooking Garden.

First daffodil to flower. © Sue Todd 2015

First daffodil to flower. © Sue Todd 2015

I don’t know about you but I don’t do Winter.  The idea is just great, warm house, roaring fires, lovely food.  But old English Country Houses are NOT warm, they tend to be draughty, and so keeping them warm is a full-time job, so while the idea of the English Country House in Winter with roaring fires is just fantastic reality falls a little bit short especially if you are no longer 20 and have Raynaud’s Syndrome.   So how cheery is it to see flowers and leaves bursting out all over?  It’s fantastic!

For all that I’d not swap English country living for the world. But how folks live near the North Pole with little to no daylight hours all winter I’ll never comprehend.  I ‘need’, ‘crave’ sunlight and lots of it.  Having said that I can’t do extremes of heat or cold either – there’s no keeping some folk happy I know!  I am ‘that’ person!

As its Easter and the Good Friday here has been so cold, wet and grim I thought it was a good time to look at what is going on in the garden and take some comfort from the fact that things are changing in the garden.

Spring’s arrival shown by flowers in the garden at last.

Daffodils to brighten up the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Daffodils to brighten up the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Hellebores by the back door © Sue Todd 2015.

Hellebores by the back door © Sue Todd 2015.

A clump of primroses hiding at the edge of the wood. © Sue Todd 2015

A clump of primroses hiding at the edge of the wood. © Sue Todd 2015

So while Autumn and its vibrant colours was my favourite season for many years, it’s now Spring when it’s really ‘sprung’ closely followed by summer which I long for all year round.  My ideal world would now encompass an England where there was sunshine from now until the end of October, the rain fell overnight, and the wind would stop until November.  I suppose that’s a tall order but, you must have dreams you know!

It’s our first Spring here so it’s lovely to discover all the flowers coming through and the Hellebore’s above are just outside the back door so we see them each time we come and go from the house.

With the clocks going back, at last the nights are truly getting lighter, the days are longer, temperatures are slowly getting warmer and green is beginning to burst out everywhere.  I’m writing this as the log fire crackles and we’ve got the heating on full blast, but I do so knowing that today I was out in the garden viewing the changes and loving every minute of it.

There’s so, so much to do in our garden now, it is almost overwhelming but we’re both still here and almost in full despite our various accidents/illnesses over the past 12 months.  So instead of feeling there’s little point in starting what we can’t complete, we’re full of enthusiasm and delight – we’re just a bit slower than we’d like.

I’m out almost daily (depending on the level of cold and rain obviously!!) to inspect and look about the garden.

The Vegetable Garden

Luckily we managed to get the vegetable beds cleared in March and the onions and garlic are coming on well.

Onions and Garlic coming away quickly now. © Sue Todd 2015

Onions and Garlic coming away quickly now. © Sue Todd 2015

We’ve bought some new fruit bushes, two blackcurrant, one redcurrant and a red gooseberry, all we have to do now is keep the deer off them!  We’ll have to protect the cherry trees this year too.

Blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes for the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes for the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

And tomorrow we’re looking forward to our first rhubarb of the year.  I was delighted to find more coming through too.

First Rhubarb of the year. © Sue Todd 2015

First Rhubarb of the year. © Sue Todd 2015

Time to prune the roses. © Sue Todd 2015

Time to prune the roses. © Sue Todd 2015

Thankfully I finally managed to prune the rose bushes as they are throwing leaves out now at some pace and I think if I’d left it any longer it would have been a major fight (which I’d have lost) to trim them back.  However as shown below, keeping a hold on them is will be a fight as the deer have already started grazing the garden!

Deer eating our garden! © Sue Todd 2015.

Deer eating our garden! © Sue Todd 2015.

We’ve planted the first seeds, we have rather a lot of tomato plants on the windowsill now,  along with some courgettes and lettuce, the cucumber have begun to come through today.the potatoes are chitting and waiting to go in shortly.  So while there’s lots still to do, progress is underway.  How are things going in your garden?

For now,

Sue.

 

We took delivery of six Quail today!

Our Quail arrived today.  © Sue Todd 2015

Our Quail arrived today. © Sue Todd 2015

Today we have taken delivery of our little group of Quail and we got our first egg!! How amazing is that?  I didn’t expect to see an egg for days yet after their upheaval.  In this first picture most of them got the hang of going in and out of the house really quickly but this little one at the side was on for ages trying to work it all out, bless her.

We were due to get some last year but with Gary’s broken leg there hasn’t been time or inclination to add to the task list until now.  We have five hens and a cockerel so in time we may even have little Quail too!

"You can't see me I'm hiding" - new Quail © Sue Todd 2015

“You can’t see me I’m hiding” – new Quail © Sue Todd 2015

We are settling them into an old hen house and run to start with and while we worried it may have been too large, actually I think it will work a treat.  They are extremely timid little things and startle very easily, so when both spaniels escaped this afternoon I was very worried.  However the spaniels made a beeline for the wood and totally missed the Quail – phew!

Quail © Sue Todd 2015.

Quail © Sue Todd 2015.

We had to add planks of wood all round the outside of the pen and underneath the house as they are quite nimble and within seconds of being in their run one of them had made her way under the house.  Luckily we got her back and they are all safely installed now.

We had to re-assemble the run today, of course that took longer than we could have dreamt of, and we did manage to connect the wrong parts to start with doh!

I’m rather excited by their arrival and I’m looking forward to more Quail’s eggs coming into the kitchen.  I suspect posts this month may be rather Quail based … Sorry.

Sue.