Friday, 27 November 2015

Fried Apples

We've had some very wet and windy days here. Look at what our poor eucalyptus tree had to try and stand up to!

Anyway, remember I told you about picking the cooking apples? They weren't the only apples we had this year. I picked lots of eating apples as well. When I couldn't store any more I left apples on the trees. So for the first time we now have some apple trees with apples and no leaves!

 I love how it looks! Kind of festive and getting ready for Christmas.

The birds have eaten the odd apple but, surprisingly, very few.

I picked some of the apples today so I can use them in my chicken and apple cheese bake when I next make it.

First, wash and core the apples; they have to be eating apples rather than cookers. Heat about an ounce of butter in a large frying pan until hot.

Slice the apples in rings about a quarter of an inch thick. Put the apples in the pan in a single layer and fry for about five minutes - until golden/brown.

Now turn the apple slices and fry the other side. You're aiming for colour and softening but not apple mush. The slices should still hold their shape.

I then left the apple slices to cool and packed them in a box to store in the freezer until needed. It takes about six small apples for each bake. When I next make the chicken and apple cheese bake I'll take photos and then show you how to do it.

Thanks for all your comments about the Christmas pudding. I hope some of you will give it a go some time. Bye for now!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Christmas Pudding Recipe

This is the recipe for Christmas pudding that my mother-in-law gave me a few years ago. As you can see, there is no suet in it.

The recipe didn't have any method or cooking instructions with it so I checked other recipes and came up with this way of making the puddings. This recipe is enough to make two two-pound puddings.

Start by preparing the pudding bowls. I greased mine liberally with butter. Now take a piece of baking parchment and fold a pleat in it; about an inch wide. Do the same with a piece of tin foil. You'll need baking parchment and foil for each pudding bowl.

Some more preparation is helpful at this stage. Measure the flour, add in the bicarbonate of soda and spices and sift into a bowl. Leave to one side. Get two pots, each big enough to hold one of the pudding bowls and with room enough to allow you to set the bowl down into the pot (rather than just dropping in). Put an upturned saucer in the bottom of each pot.

To make the pudding you will need a really big baking bowl; the biggest you can find. Cream the margarine (actually I used butter) and sugar together. I then  added the eggs, one at a time, with a heaped spoonful of the flour and spice mixture. Beat this in each time until the egg and flour is fully incorporated.

Add the remainder of the flour (if there is any left), the breadcrumbs and the dried fruit. Give it all a bit of a stir to mix it in. Wash, peel and core the apples and then grate them into the mixture. Give it all a really good stir.

It's quite a moist mixture at this stage.

Now divide the mixture between the two pudding bowls. Smooth the top nicely; it doesn't really rise when it's cooked. I would say this is a good time to fill the kettle and put it on to boil; a full kettle.

Here it is, ready to be covered and steamed.

This is the important part! Cover the bowl with the pleated baking parchment.

Now cover over the baking parchment with the tin foil. Bring the baking parchment and foil down over the sides of the pudding bowl and secure them tightly with some string. You can also make a string handle if you wish, for lifting the pudding out when it is cooked.

Unfortunately, at this stage I must have stopped taking photos! Anyway, carefully lower each pudding bowl into its pot. Fill the pot with boiling water until it comes about half way up the bowl. Since I have an Aga, steaming the puddings is really easy. First bring the water back to the boil on the boiling plate. Then transfer the pots to the simmering plate and keep them there for thirty minutes. Now the pots can go into the simmering oven where they can be left undisturbed for at least five hours and anything up to eight or nine hours. The longer you steam the pudding, the darker it gets.

For a normal cooker you bring the water to the boil on a high heat. Then you have to keep the pots on a low heat so that the water is just simmering. Unlike the Aga cooking method, you have to keep checking the water level and top it up when necessary with more boiling water. Again, you need to steam the puddings for at least five hours; anything up to eight or nine hours.

When the steaming time is finished, very carefully lift the pudding bowls out of the pots.

Here is one of my finished puddings. See how dark it has become?

You might need to run a knife round the inside of the pudding bowl in order to release each pudding. It should then slide out easily. Leave the puddings until they are completely cold and then wrap them twice in cling film and twice in tin foil. Christmas pudding can actually be frozen at this stage though it keeps for ages anyway. There's a lot of debate about just how long it keeps so I'm not going to give a definite time. If your family is anything like mine then it won't last too long and there'll be no need to worry if it's still alright the following Christmas!

So there you have it. Please let me know if you make some puddings. Also contact me if you have any questions and I'll try to answer them. Thanks for your great comments about my apples. And yes, I used some of them in my Christmas puddings. Bye for now.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Apple Picking Time

The time had come to pick the cooking apples. We grow them espalier-fashion between the posts of the pergola.

The apples were big; some of them were very big.

 I have rather large hands but still I could hardly hold these monster apples.

Here is the apple compared to a £1 coin. According to the Royal Mint, a pound coin has a diameter of 22.5 mm. I weighed the apple too . It weighed a pound!

It only took two apples to make a delicious tart.

I've made three tarts so far and also used some apples in making my Christmas puddings. Actually, I must do a post about making Christmas puddings as the recipe is a good one.

Thanks for your lovely comments about my crochet projects.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Autumn/Winter Projects Update

I'm really enjoying crocheting this poncho.  I just love making the cables. Every time I come to the end of a row I can't put it down and have to do another row to see how it looks.

These pictures aren't showing the colour very well. The middle one is the best of the three.

My main problem with getting the poncho done is trying to unravel the coat that I had originally knit with the yarn. Well, it's not really the unravelling that's so hard but unpicking the seams before I can even start to unravel. The one good thing is that I don't think I'll need all the yarn from the coat to finish the poncho.

Anyway, at some point I wasn't getting too far with the seam-unpicking and knitting-unravelling so I started the Star Fruit Rug from my Boho Crochet book. I didn't use the yarn suggested in the pattern but substituted Drops Paris cotton instead.

The colours I used were as close as I could get to those used in the original design. My colours were red, orange, mustard, moss green, green, dark turquoise, denim blue, raspberry, petrol and dark purple. The Drops Paris yarn, which is Aran weight, is horrible to work with; it splits constantly. But I'm happy with the finished rug!

I like to have something to work on in the car too. This lap blanket was started using three 100g balls of chunky acrylic that I had in my stash. The black and the sort of grey looking one were Stylecraft but I'm not sure about the green yarn. I ended up buying another two 100g balls of Rico chunky to finish the blanket.

This one is going to the Rathfriland Manor Nursing Home where I think it would be suitable for an elderly gentleman to use.

It is certainly a very warm blanket, as I know from having it across my knees when I was making it.

Thanks for all your comments, as usual. I'm joining with Jennifer and her Winter Project Link Party.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


First of all I would like to thank you all for your congratulations to my cousin. I enjoyed reading all your lovely comments.

Following on from our first camping trip in many years, we decided to do it all again at the end of September.  This time we planned to spend two nights at the River Valley campsite in County Wicklow. We drove down to the campsite on the last Friday in September and set up camp. Actually, after we were home again, we discovered that we put the tent up in the wrong part of the campsite! This is a really nice place to stay so we'll go back again some time.

We were so fortunate again with the weather. It stayed dry and reasonably warm for the time of year. On the way down we stopped at the Avoca shop in Kilmacanogue. We love visiting this shop and especially the Sugar Tree Cafe.

On the Saturday we took ourselves out to have a look round County Wicklow. We did the scenic drive, taking in Sally Gap in the Wicklow Mountains. We were really impressed with the beautiful scenery.

We stopped at this ruin of Baltinglass Abbey to have lunch.

When we were almost back at the campsite we headed to Avoca village where the original Avoca Mill is still operating. We really enjoyed looking round the mill and even seeing someone weaving on one of the old looms.

There was lots of wool in the store in so many beautiful colours.

These examples of the different fibres they use allowed us to feel what they are like.

As this sign says, there's only one Avoca Mill!

Of course they also have a cafe here and we just had to go in and have coffee and something sweet to eat. We also visited the shop (again!) and I tried on the poncho I liked just to get an idea of how it was shaped. It will help me when I come to do the shaping on the poncho I'm crocheting.

I seem to be so far behind on my blogging. I have some garden photos to show you but by the time I do they will be very out of date. The thing about growing your own fruit and vegetables is that you then have to harvest them and store them, which usually involves at least some sort of preservation techniques. And it all takes time!

I'm really enjoying the fantastic autumn we're having. It has already made up for the disappointing summer! All the best for now.