Saturday, 26 February 2011

The first and the last

Spring arrived on Thursday - it was just for a day trip; a exploratory visit ahead of the scheduled main event next month. Still, it was nice to see it and it made me want to rush outside and get planting. I've heard it said that to test if the soil is warm enough to plant into it you need to pull down your pants and place your bottom on the soil. If you can stand it then the soil is the right temperature. I grant that it was a nice day on Thursday but I didn't feel the inclination to whip my bottom out. Instead, I limited myself to the two jobs I always plan to get done during February half-term - to sow leeks and peanuts in pots - the first sowing of the year.

Whilst the girls bounced up and down on the trampoline, I retrieved a bag of compost from the shed and filled some empty yoghurt pots. Then my youngest appeared at my elbow and asked if she could help plant the peanuts so we did this job together. It didn't take long and it was too nice a day to return indoors so soon. Instead we moved round to the front garden where the girls filled yoghurt pots with herbs and mashed them up to make potions & medicine. I trimmed the herbs that had been browned by the severe frosts this winter then chopped down some of the dead seed heads in the rockery that had stood like natural sculptures all winter.

By now my arms were beginning to tremble with the effort of welding shears and the light was beginning to fade so we went back inside. Later, when it was time for dinner I made a lamb casserole, using lots of season veg (carrots, parsnips, leeks, onion and swede). This I topped with the last of our homegrown potatoes. A moment to mourn... it will be 4 months until we have homegrown potatoes again. This was followed by an apple pastry made with another rather wrinkled apple from store. 6 months till the next fresh apple. Oh I'll be glad when I'm scratching my head, wondering what to do with the glut.

Apple pastry

1/4 block of puff pastry
1 small apple
1 date
15g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dessert spoon flour
A little milk or egg to glaze
1 teaspoon demerara sugar

Preheat an oven to 200°C, gas 6 and grease a baking tray. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface into a rectangular shape. Peel, core and finely chop the apple and chop up the date too. Mix the fruit with the sugar, cinnamon and flour then heap onto half the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with the milk or egg then fold over the other half and seal. Brush the top of the pastry with more milk or egg and slash diagonally with a knife several times then scatter the demerara on top before putting in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until risen & golden. Eat hot or cold, on its own or with custard and/or cream.

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