Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ooohhh did you hear the wind last night? It's definitely turned autumnal around here- the leaves are changing to burnt orange and russet and there's a smoky smell to the air outside as the first fires are lit. In the garden this morning I noticed that our fig tree had two fruits hanging precariously. Yay for the fig tree I say! Imagine producing anything after the summer we've had...

This kind of weather calls for slightly spicy food. Today we had devilled mushrooms for lunch. This is a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from The River Cottage Meat Book and is for devilled kidneys originally. It's a fantastic kidney recipe but also works well with big juicy mushrooms. We also finished off the spicy chickpea soup I made the day before which warmed us from nose to toes.

Devilled Mushrooms
4 large field mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
small glass of sherry
1 tablespoon cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly
few shakes Worcestershire sauce
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon cream
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the mushrooms. Fry for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms have released some juices and then add the sherry. Let this bubble for a minute or two and then add the cider vinegar, the redcurrant jelly, the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and mustard. Stir to dissolve the redcurrant jelly and season with salt and pepper. Then add the cream and bubble the sauce for another minute or so-it should be reduced and glossy. Serve with  buttered toast. Serves two.
Some lovely autumn colours in the veg basket too. This morning the supermarket had an unusual knobbly flame coloured squash and some Irish grown blue skinned potatoes - Blue Danube- I can't wait to try them and also lovely cooking apples. I made Swedish Apple Cake with them using Rachel Allen's Cake book   (borrowed from the library). The kitchen was full of apple-y, cinnamon-y smells as the cake baked- it'll be delicious for pudding tonight!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

How does your garden grow? Well I'm not quite the 'Mary, Mary quite contrary' of nursery rhyme fame but I'm thinking I should be. The veg garden (ho, ho, my weed patch) has produced one or two decent dinners but not, alas, this time. Everything seems to be in miniature. Or eaten by caterpillars. Humph. Mind you I cannot claim to have gardened it, per se, merely sighed over it as one would over a slightly disobedient child. I slink back to the kitchen with my shameful handful. But there are four leeks (the width of my index finger) and so it is leek and smoked bacon risotto for supper tonight. Hurrah! A triumph out of a disaster- the story of my life.
My quarterly issue of The Moth magazine came on Friday. It is a wonderful magazine- subtly designed and filled with poetry, fiction and art. Each page gives something insightful or thought provoking or shocking. And it's Irish, in the gentlest meaning of the word. It would make a wonderful gift-especially for loved ones who are far from home.
I recently made a horse to add to my vintage paper bunting- it was inspired by the Dala Horse of Swedish
culture. I love the worn wood, paint barely there, loved for generations. I imagine him tucked under a child's arm, the main character in a thousand childhood games, he speaks of love, the ultimate child's toy.
                                Wooden horse Lisa 1.jpg

Thursday, 20 September 2012

I have a wishlist- do you? It's a mixture of things that make me go weak at the knees, wobbly legged, heart fluttery, should I lie down-y. Thoughts of my wish list keep me going. Things to sigh over, to want, to wish for (even if I know I never will actually get them...) things that make it all okay. Here's something new on my wish list. Emma Franks calms me, makes me stop with her beautiful, dreamlike paintings. I love the soft palette, the gentleness, the clothes and those darling hats...
Oil on Canvas 62 x 122cms

If you are in Brighton, UK Emma will be at the Brighton Art Fair this September- go and say hello!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Oh, I'm very excited!! Mark Hearld's new book is going to be re-leased in October and I can't wait! I love his style and this promises to give an insight into his work, his thought process and inspiration. It all just sets my little heart a pitter patter...Go here for more details.

mark hearld work book cover2
It was a quiet enough weekend. Will and Mide came blackberry picking with me. They loved the whole process of looking for berries and carefully pulling them, avoiding the scratchy briars and trying not to squish them too much.Will made sure to leave enough for the insects and birds and foxes.There were also puddles to jump in which can only ever be a good thing, right? Anyway our haul amounted to little less than a pound in weight but it yielded one fine pot of blackberry and apple jam and some happy memories!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A nice soft day...
Elizabeth David, the food writer, once summed up the difference in how we Irish look at weather thus "... what the Irish describe as a nice soft day, the Scots as a bit mixed, and I as a hurricane..." Well, it wasn't quite hurricane conditions- just wet and a little windy when I walked the dogs this morning. I spent the time thinking about how much beauty there is in small things. Marks in the mud, the few leaves that have fallen, water droplets hanging on to seed heads, spiderwebs, and lichen on treetrunks. It soothes the soul a little to appreciate the details.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

this is the boy who loves to climb trees
 this is the boy who flies his balloons
these are the boys concentrating hard- homework is back on the agenda again- much to their chagrin 
 this is the gossamer thread of web on the box hedge, reminding me of Seamus Heaney - "a strong gauze of sound" - a strong a mother's love...light enough to sometimes be barely noticed but strong enough to hold you safe when you need it

Sunday, 9 September 2012

This weekend I said enough. No more cooking or baking or kitchen. I am on strike. But...I cannot help myself. I do not want to help myself. I like my kitchen.I love baking and, on good days, I like cooking. So I made bread. A simple white loaf - nothing fancy. Just light and airy and delicious. On Saturday we ate the bread with the left over tomato lasagne and salad, dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Today we ate the bread toasted with marmalade.

I also made curried parsnip soup. It's a real autumnal soup, nourishing, comforting with a slightly spicy warmth which we ate outside, despite the wind. This started as a Jane Grigson recipe which, through my own slapdashery, I've changed to really be as simple as possible.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4-5 small to medium parsnips
1 teaspoon curry powder or paste
1 litre chicken stock
250ml milk
2 tablespoons cream

Gently fry the chopped onion in the oil without letting it brown. Peel and chop the parsnips and add to the onion. Let this sweat on a gentle heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the curry powder or paste to your taste. Mix to cover the parsnips, then pour on the chicken stock. Let this cook until the parsnips are tender. Then add the milk and cream. Finally purée until smooth. If you think the soup is too thick you can thin it down with a bit more milk.

This lovely print from Rebekka Seale arrived when we came back from France and I recently got it framed-it's in the kitchen-how gorgeous is it??
                                          A Home is Made - Archival art print

Friday, 7 September 2012

Hugo is ten. 
I thought that my heart was broken when Mide turned four earlier on this week, but in actual fact it's nothing to a son turning ten. Hugo is in school as I write, going through the last day of the week before coming home to friends, presents, cake, candles, treats, games...all the while I watch as he grows up. Up and slightly further away. Which is how it is and how it should be. A time of change. All around there is change- autumn has crept up on us, arriving on the tailcoats of summer, just about noticeable, but here nonetheless. There are blackberries and rosehips in the hedgerow and the morning air has a cooler note. I love autumn so none of this causes undue alarm. On the stove the tomato sauce is puttering for tonight's supper of tomato lasagne to which I'll add ricotta and spinach and there is yesterday's apple crumble and home-made custard to finish. Oh, and hopefully there'll be chocolate cake...

I am reading...

Mide is loving his birthday book illustrated by Mark Hearld- it's just so beautiful- all about nature, based around the seasons and written with a gentle poetic, lyrical voice.

"Autumn is exciting! Trees turn flame coloured and the wind makes a whirligig of fiery leaves. Birds feast on berries and the first frosts sprinkle the spiders' webs with diamonds"

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Mide is four!

Being four is great. You get presents. Lots of presents (but you primarily want the dinosaur DVD and to heck with the rest). You get a birthday cake in Montessori school (chocolate with chocolate icing and spider jellies). You get iced buns. You get number four shaped biscuits. You get a mummy-made dinosaur bunting with all your favourite dinosaurs. Your mum and dad get to look at you and think about how much you've grown. How that makes them both sad and happy. Sad you are no longer a baby. Happy you are no longer a baby. Your mum and dad talk about the day you were born, how they made it to the hospital just in the nick of time. Your mum and dad need a gin and tonic when they think too much about how their boys are all growing so much, changing so much....happy and sad. Happy fourth birthday Mide Bean- we love you!