Sunday, May 31, 2009

The bees are buzzing and the poppies are popping!

I couldn't resist sharing with you my first popped poppy of the season, don't they look like the skirts of those gorgeous fluffy ballerina dresses.....just this lone one has popped so far but look how many more are getting ready. There will be a veritable sea of them along with a mulititude of lupines...they make a spectacular colour combination.... are the bees, you can only see three here but I think there were five on this one poppy alone...the whole field is HUMMING with the wings of busy bees......they are the bees knees!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We've got robin chicks!! YEA!!!

There are three little, messy, goofy looking chicks in the nest.....amazing that blue eggs can turn into these creatures...they look so vulnerable...the picture isn't too clear but I didn't want to bug the parents by hanging around...aren't they sweet!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb....

Here are my neighbour's chickens enjoying our recent delightful weather....I took some of their wonderful eggs with yolks that were almost orange....
...then I picked some of the vast amount of rhubarb we have growing at the back of the house....
...then I proceeded to combine said rhubarb with varying amounts of sugar, eggs and butter in varying combinations until I came up with a recipe for rhubarb meringue tarts with rhubarb, mint (also from our garden) and lavendar path to this dessert was rather wobbly and treacherous and took me via some grand failures including marshmallows (which deserves it's own post!!), rhubarb and mint gelees/jellies/pate de fruits and rhubarb and mint jam/jelly which actually ended up more like candy and tasted too caramelized for my delicate tastebuds. Brits LOVE rhubarb thus my insistence on including it in this blog but rhubarb and custard is kind of boring as is rhubarb crumble....
Here are my wee tart shells which came out SO WELL especially so as I didn't use any weights to bake them 'blind' ie without a filling...they are a little thick but boy do they taste excellent..
Here is one of the tarts with it's attendant rhubarb curd which is pale orange because the yolks were so saturated in colour, I was expecting the curd to be pink and was disappointed when it turned out this colour, which is OK but NOT pink........
...and here is the finished dessert in all it's sublime glory...super creamy curd, clodlike, NO not CLODlike...cloudlike meringue and a buttery, shortbready shell with a tangy, smooth, bright sorbet....they combine in a very friendly manner I must tell you!!

Here are the recipes:
THE EASIEST SWEET TART CRUST IN THE WORLD!!! from a cooking demonstration at the Good Table in Belfast by Lindsey Schortz of 'Let Them Eat Cake"...oh do!!!
1 1/2 cups of unbleached, white flour
1/2 cup confectioner's/icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt...if you use unsalted butter
1 stick/4oz plus 1 tablespoon of butter (ie 4 1/2 ozs)...I use salted and thus omit the salt mentioned previously
1 large egg yolk ( from a happy chicken)

Everything should be really cold...even keep the butter in the freezer for a while before you start.
1. Swish dry ingredients together
2. Rub (by hand as I do, the only time I like to get my hands sticky)) or blend in a food prcessor until you get a nice even sandlike texture.
3. Add the egg yolk and blend throughout
4. Gently squush together
5. Here's the great part...tear off pieces of the dough and push them into the tart pans evenly but certainly not I mentioned I made mine too thick but they were still excellent, next time I will make them thinner so they are more tart shelly then cookie like.
6. I put these tiny ones in the freezer for a couple of hours before I baked them off and I didn't use any weights to keep the pastry in place...I just docked/pricked the dough all over to prevent it from puffing up when baking. Then I baked these in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes until they were nicely browned and you couldn't see any of that transparent look that says they are not done yet...LOOK AT THEM....they didn't shrink or pull away from the tins...they baked up exactly how I squushed them in but just got a little thicker...amazing!!! I am a complete convert to this recipe for evermore!! No rolling, no tearing, no screaming when the dough falls apart as you try to transport it to the try it for'll be thrilled and it tastes like shortbread!!!

2 cups of rhubarb cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of water
4 teaspoons of lemon juice
Combine these four ingredients in a saucepan, preferably stainless steel, and boil together at med-high until rhubarb goes completely mushy...let it cool quite a bit then liquidize in a blender or food processor (if you blend when it is hot it could blow the top off the blender and burn you...I have had this happen before so be cautious and let it cool!!)

4 egg yolks
12 tablespoons sugar
4 ozs butter...again I use salted, if you use unsalted add a pinch of salt
Whisk the yolks and sugar together in the top part of a double boiler with simmering water in the bottom pan. Add the cooled rhubarb and the butter in pieces and stir, stir, stir until it is all combined and starts to should already be quite thick because of the blended rhubarb...but let it thicken up some more. Cool completely and again it will thicken some more...this curd tastes infinitely better when it is cold so don't judge the flavour or texture if you taste it when it is warm...when cold it is creamy, a bit caramelly and quite tangy at the end...YUMMY!!! can use it for a multitude of things...especially on hot, buttered toast with a spot of tea!!!

For these little tarts I only did a small amount of can double this for a whole pie
2 egg whites...from those happy chickens
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
1. Whisk egg whites until they hold stiff peaks but are not dry (what does that really mean?)
2. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and whisk well after each addition
3. Add teaspoon of vanilla and blend
4. When you have reached a stiff and very smooth state of meringueness transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe away to your hearts content until you have beauteous tarts.
5. Either pop into a 350F oven and watch like an eagle until the required state of toastiness has occured...approximately 10 minutes, or use one of those mini creme brulee torches and brown the meringue that voila!

THE RHUBARB SORBET: Couldn't be simpler
2 cups of rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
5 big sprigs of mint
1 tablespoon of lavendar flowers in a tea ball

1. Put rhubarb, lavendar flowers, mint and sugar in a pan and add enough water just to cover the rhubarb.
2. Cook until totally mushy and the sugar is melted.
4. Retrieve tea ball and mint sprigs.
3. Let rhubarb cool and blend.
4. Pop into ice cream machine and follow manufacturers instructions...because rhubarb has a lot of pectin it has a sort of jelliness to it naturally and I think this helps it make a really full bodied and smooth sorbet...quite tangy with a hint of mint and lavendar!!!

Assemble as seen in bottom photo above and consume!!!...I'm off for another right now!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Awwwww...look what I found!

We have a live Christmas tree near our house, his name is Nigel...a Robin couple have decided to make a lovely home in Nigel's branches...the nest is so beautifully constructed but it worries me that it is actually lower than my eye level, I don't think our cat, Harry, will be able to make it up to the nest as the needles are REALLY sharp but we do have racoons about and they can be mean......there are two bright blue eggs in there.....

...and here is Mum or Dad keeping those little eggs you can plainly see there are the Christmas lights too! I'm hoping to be able to get pics when the chicks are 'born' but I also don't want to frighten the parents getting too close with my camera. Good luck Robins!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tussocks of violets, blueberry flowers and more daffs!!

Up on blueberry hill right now are the loveliest tussocks of violets sprinkled all over the landscape in and around the burgeoning blueberries, whose flowers can you can see here
Another tussock....sadly these violets don't have any discernible smell..otherwise wouldn't it be lovely to make something with them, and I do like the idea of some sublime dish made with both the violets and blueberries together, some pale lavendar coloured, delicate confection...OH MY!!
A view from atop blueberry hill looking towards Seasport, Maine

These are the most magnificent daffodils I have ever seen...they are regal, robust and redolent with a heady scent like magnolias or orange blossoms...they are very tall and withstand heavy rain, and they come in late in the season after the other, more ordinary daffs, have gone by. They are called Acropolis if you have the desire to head out this autumn and plant them in vast swaths!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mystical golden beauty abounds!!

"The Silent Arrival of Memory"
Isn't this truly amazing?, and it ISN'T Photoshopped. That really is a golden ball floating, at average eye level, above a mystical temple in a land far, far away....
This is a detail photograph of James' latest obelisk sculpture, which can be seen below in it's full and awesome glory. It is part of a series of "story" sculptures that he has been working on for the last two years. Using the technology of microchips, electromagnets and rare earth magnets he has floated this golden sphere above the 24 carat gold leafed main body of the sarcophagus/small temple below.
The obelisk base has subtle relief surface sculpture and a stairway leading to a mysterious entrance beautifully painted in a chalk blue that fades towards the top of the column. James says that he likes to imply mystery in these sculptures, relying on the observer to imagine themselves into this mystical world.
IT IS A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT TO BEHOLD and I feel so honoured to be able to gaze in wonder at this everyday and share it with you through my blog!