Thursday, 15 February 2018

'Cotswold Farm' Gardens - visited 5th February 2018

Common Snowdrop Galanthus Nivalis
As Mother Nature lifts her winter veil those much loved harbingers of Spring, the snowdrops, are once again nodding their heads in greeting. In February many gardens open their gates to the public giving anyone who is interested a chance to catch these first signs of spring. 
In this area of the Cotswolds there are five particularly renowned snowdrop gardens. Having shown two of them - Newark Park in 2013 and the Rococo Gardens in 2016 this third one has a completely different ambience. The house and the garden were both designed in the local vernacular 'Cotswold Arts and Crafts' style overlooking a quiet valley. In the 1930s, Norman Jewson, the Arts and Crafts architect/designer used local stone for the garden terraces which gradually descend down the side of the valley.
The house was originally a small Cotswold stone farmhouse with a stone barn and cow byre forming a small farmyard. The original farmhouse dates back over 300 years but the stone barns were added 100 years later. In 1900 the house was doubled in size, and then in 1926 Sydney Barnsley, the eminent Cotswold architect/designer was employed to add two new wings in the 'Arts and Crafts' style. Norman Jewson at that time was his assistant, but eventually became responsible for completing the work following Barnsley's death. 
 Chimonanthus praecox - wintersweet - Japanese allspice - native to China 

The garden holds  62 different varieties of snowdrop - these are Galanthus Hill Poe
It is extremely difficult to photograph the underside of a snowdrop without lying on the cold ground so this snowdrop was brought indoors. 

Galanthus Natalie Garton

The terracing gently leads you down to the foot of the valley and the Bog garden.
I do hope that the blight on this Box topiary has the same strain of disease that my plants suffered from. To my delight, and most curiously, my box balls have now completely recovered and regrown.
dwarf Iris alida
Helleborus argutifolius 
 Leucojum vernum - spring snowflake 

Although this pretty little flower is a member of the same family as a snowdrop and is a similar size it has 6 corolla (petals) all of the same length, whereas the common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis has three main petals and three more tiny inner ones. 
The entrance driveway lined with staddle stones.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Valentine's Day Greetings




The Kiss - Gustav Klimt
 Love Messenger - Marie Spartali Stillman  
This painting reveals a 'double edged sword' by showing the dependable love and beauty of the goddess Venus in the form of two symbols - a dove and a single red rose. Her love is compared to the unpredictable love of her son Cupid, whose image appears on the embroidery. Cupid holds a bow and arrow, loaded and ready to shoot, but the omens look uncertain as he is blindfolded.
The Kiss - Francesco Hayez 
The Black Brunswicker - John Everett Millais   
It is the eve of the battle at Waterloo, but the soldier's sweetheart, wearing a ball gown, restrains him and tries to push the door closed, whilst he gently but firmly pulls it open.
The Black Brunswickers were a special troop raised by Frederick William Duke of Brunswick (1771-1815) in 1809. The regiment consisted of the best German gentlemen and was known as the ‘Death or Glory’, a name derived from their distinctive death’s head hat badge and their apparent devotion to duty. The troops suffered severe losses at the battle of Quatre Bras, Waterloo in 1815.  Millais used Kate, Charles Dickens daughter, as the model.

The Garden of Love - Peter Paul Rubens 
This painting celebrates Rubens marriage to Helena Fourment, his second wife, who was sixteen years old when they married and Rubens was fiftythree. She was deemed 'the most beautiful women in Antwerp'. In the painting she is shown on the left being nudged along by a cupid.
The scene shows a group of people frolicking around in an idealised garden where cupids carry symbols of marital love including a pair of doves. The fountain
showing Venus nursing a baby and a sculpture of the three Graces all signify fertility and nuptial happiness. The peacock symbolises the goddess Juno, protector of marriage.
Love stamp (1973) designed by Robert Indiana - an American artist associated with the pop art movement
The Kiss - Edvard Munch
April Love - Arthur Hughes
A young woman looks down at fallen rose petals as her hidden suitor bends to kiss her hand. The petals symbolise the fragility of young love. 
This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1856, and following the exhibition it was bought by William Morris. He narrowly beat John Ruskin to the purchase who also desired it
paintings via wiki

Monday, 5 February 2018

Spicy Lebanese Potatoes - Batata Harra


These are flavourful spicy potatoes which are suitable as a side dish to a main course or a party snack.
Simply cut potatoes into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl with a small amount of rapeseed oil (canola) a sprinkle of sea salt flakes and then mix around so that all of the potatoes are covered.  Line a large roasting tin with greeseproof paper making sure that all the potatoes are evenly spaced and in one layer to enable them to become crispy and golden. Roast for around 30 mins at 220℃. When the potatoes are cooked, crush 2 or 3 garlic cloves and lightly cook in oil for 1 minute only to take away the raw flavour, remove from heat and whilst the oil is still warm add 1 teaspn each of cayenne pepper, cummin, and corriander, this process blooms the spices.

 Spoon over the potatoes and toss so that they are all covered in the spices and garlic.
Add some freshly chopped basil (corriander or parsley) whatever you prefer.
 I then sprinkled on some optional Sumac which is a lemon flavoured middle-eastern spice. In this dish you can use whatever oil, fresh herbs, or spices that you prefer.

Soon I shall be refilling my Masala Dabba - the Indian spice box bought home from Delhi. We are visiting an island during the month of May where spices grow in profusion-Turmeric, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cardamom, Clove,   Nutmeg, Vanilla etc.
                    
 
Having recently discovered the delights of using coconut milk in my own cooking I was interested to read that on the island it is a staple used in many of their savoury and sweet dishes. I look forward with anticipation to tasting their ice cream made using coconut milk.
There are large pineapple plantations on this island - a popular and tasty snack is prepare by simply cutting up cubes of the fruit, and sprinkling it with chilli powder and a touch of salt which is left to infuse for 30 mins before eating.  I can imagine that this would make a tasty addition when making a pineapple upsidedown cake.

Lastly there is a plant grows on the island, which results in a commodity found in most British kitchens and used on a daily basis.
 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Spick and Span

 "A most terribly tidy little mouse always sweeping and dusting the floors" so wrote Beatrix Potter in her book The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse.
Well! I have to admit that for the past three weeks I too have been similarly engaged having turned the house upside down and given it a good shake, but a helper in the form of Mrs. Tittlemouse would not have gone amiss. Apart from cleaning, some decluttering has been completed along with the purchase of new mattresses and some smart storage. Having now almost finished the house my thoughts have been turning to what this year might hold.
During 2017 we had decided that a trip to Myanmar (Burma) was on the cards for 2018, a country that we had been contemplating visiting for some time. Subsequently though, and as a result of the horrific treatment inflicted on the ethnic minority Rohingya people of Myanmar by the Burmese military, we began to question our intentions. Nobody has any particular interest in whether or not we condone the treatment meted out to these people, but our consciences are quite another matter. After much consideration, we have decided not to do the proposed visit, and are turning our sights elsewhere. There are so many alternatives - countries filled with wonderful landscapes, nature, architecture and cultures for us to explore and learn about. Currently we favour the month of May, and with luck, will hopefully have an alternative trip organised within the next few days.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Winter Vegetable Soup with a Difference



A glut of vegetables at this time of year equals soup to us, but to make it more interesting I delved into my hoard of 'eastern promises'.
Use whatever vegetables you have or fancy - I used 2 white potatoes, 1 sweet potato, and 1 large carrot - all of which I par cooked keeping back their cooking liquid to add to some vegetable bullion for stock. Whilst they were cooking I chopped 2 red onions and 3 shallots, crushed 3 cloves of garlic and then cooked them in a little rapeseed oil. Once they became translucent I added 1 chopped fresh green chili, some chopped red pepper, some freshly grated ginger root, and then topped it all off with 3 sticks of chopped celery. To this mix add a small teaspoon of turmeric, a generous grating of nutmeg, some ground black pepper, a small amount of crushed sea salt, a little chili powder, and the juice of 1 lime
Combine the root vegetables along with the stock to the onions and then add a 400g can of coconut milk. The thick creamed coconut tends to sit at the top of the can and it is best to spoon this out first letting it slowly melt and blend into the vegetables before finally adding the coconut liquid. All of this was then placed in my Slow cooker and left for several hours, but cook by whatever means you prefer

I wanted to keep some of the texture rather than making it completely smooth so before serving I used my potato crusher to gently reduce the large lumps of potato etc. 
Serve with chopped parsley and a spoonful of Crème Fraîche - suitable for vegetarians but omit Crème Fraîche for vegans.
The addition of the coconut milk, fresh root ginger, lime juice, fresh chilli and additional spices lifts the humble vegetable soup to another level.