Flying Scotsmen

We expected much larger crowds to come out and see the newly refurbished Flying Scotsman coming through Hanwell at 9:00 this Saturday morning, but we enjoyed our 15 seconds of being part of the event (or was it just 10?) as we watched it cross the viaduct here in Hanwell.

I never thought we’d be a trainspotter, but there you have it.

Heaven on a plate

Just stumbled across this delicious reminder of past suppers: salt and pepper squid with spring onions, capers, chilli oil, balsamic vinegar and a poached egg.

Add fresh bread and a crisp white wine and…  it’s heaven on a plate. Plan to be dining heavenly very soon…


Full Circle

IMG_20151122_134406We have come full circle from April 7th to November 22nd. The bananas have now moved into their winter shelter, following a touch of frost last night.

Sea Buckthorn

stalks removed, still frozen

stalks removed, still frozen

Following my earlier report on the painfully thorny nature of Sea Buckthorn (known to Germans as Sanddorn), there’s the complete story.

We received a load of Sea Buckthorn in October, just when we had no time to process it. We wrapped it in cloth and froze it, after having been told that it freezes well and that the berries are much easier removed when frozen anyhow.

I finally removed the still frozen berries from the stalks today, defrosted them, extracted 1750 g of Marc de Sea Buckthorn, and made 12 jars of Sea Buckthorn jam. Very fruity, very delicious.

My Cider And I

cider-1Isn’t that exciting? After our extensive foraging for apples in local public spaces and orchards, I started our first ever cider – only on an experimental small amount for now.

Our cider, made from crushed apples foraged in Elthorne Waterside and Cranford Country Park, has been fermenting for 10 days now. I haven’t sampled it yet, but it certainly smells like the real thing, and has no mould!

I strained and bottled it yesterday, just one batch of 2.5 litres. This is now on its way to second fermentation to make the bubbles, assuming the bottle will not explode under the building pressure.

I keep it in the shower over the next week to be safe, but remove it temporarily while I take a shower. It’s the cider or me, shower-wise. We share a happy relationship, my cider and I, just not the shower.


almonds-pMore foraging tales from W7: sweet almonds. Who would have thought that these grow in London?

The almonds are perfect, and if you never sampled fresh almonds, you should probably put it on your bucket list. Unlike the dried-out specimen from the supermarket shelf, the real thing has the aromatic oils still intact, thus exhibits the aroma of marzipan. Or rather, it reminds you that marzipan tastes of almonds (well, and a tiny little ton of sugar and a splash of rose water).

You might want to keep your eyes peeled for sweet almonds in your area, ‘coz I am not telling where “our” tree is, srsly not.


Ouch Ouch Sea Buckthorn

DSC_0832Here’s yet another episode or our 2015 foraging and preserving adventures: Sea Buckthorn, known to Germans as Sanddorn.

Our friend Julie was kind enough to sacrifice her skin and blood to forage a large bag of the bright orange, juicy and tasty berries down by the sea. Nature protects the berries with vicious long, thin and sharp thorns, so we are deeply grateful for Julie’s help.

Right now, the berries rest in the deep freezer. They freeze well and, once frozen, come off the branch much easier. As soon as we have time, later in the month, we will juice them and make Sea Buckthorn Jelly.

Vine Harvest

DSC_0694We were faster than the starlings this year and harvested 2 buckets of dark blue grapes from the vine on the front of our house yesterday. Those were then washed and picked off the stalks, juiced, filtered, and preserved as a rich fruit juice or light cordial in sterilized bottles.

4.5 litres in total, that’s not too bad for a north-facing wall in London, I should think. And it has quite a nice flavour, too.

Sloes Going Slow

DSC_0838We started our first batch of Sloe Gin yesterday. Never made it, never even sampled it, but given the abundance of Sloe in nearby meadows, and given how many of our local friends go all hmm-sloe-gin at the mention, we thought we’d give it a try.

We picked 1.2 kg of Sloe, sterilized a suitably sized vessel, washed and pricked the berries. We added 100 g of Sugar and a litre of Gin, and sealed the jar.

Now it sits in a quiet place and waits for Christmas.

India Cookbook

imWith fond memories on all the fantastic food I sampled in the Gujarat, India, and being boosted by the recent gift of The India Cookbook, we made our own India-style feast for two yesterday. From top left to bottom right:

Papaya with black onion seeds (we couldn’t get decent Mango at this time of the year),

Spicy Lentil soup (which turned out very hot but worked well with the milder parts of the meal),

Crispy Chilli Paneer (which could have been hotter but was lovely and crunchy),

Curried Tomatoes and Onions (which were absolutely spot-on),

Curried Aubergines with Yoghurt and Tamarind (which were lovely),

Mutton curry in yoghurt and spices (yummy and rich in aroma), and

Chapatis (which puffed up only half, then burst and released the steam, preventing the other half from puffing up. I should have held them down first, as was written in the book.

All in all, we were pleased, thought it tasted like the real thing, and the house certainly smelled fantastic.

Friday’s Delight And Wonder

cb-lYou can tell it must be Friday from the fact that a pudding just came out of the oven, mid afternoon. We’ll have Creme Brulee tonight, and like almost every week, I can’t help but wonder how many different puddings can be made from sugar, milk and egg, with nothing but the slightest variations in recipe or method.

Creme Brulee: use only egg yolks, use milk and cream half and half, bake in a water bath at 190 C

Pudim Flan: like Creme Brulee but use whole eggs, use just milk, bake in water bath at 145 C

Custard: like Creme Brulee, but stir hot milk into cold eggs and whisk, don’t boil after the mix

Creme Patisiere: like Custard, but be easy on the cream and add a little flour, add more heat when mixing

German Pudding: like Pudim Flan but add corn starch and cook like Creme Patisiere

I am sure there are more desserts, each and every one delicious in its own right, different by slightly different cooking methods, mixing temperature and processes, cream to milk and egg white to yolk ratios. Fascinating, isn’t it?


A Deeply Personal Thing

20150321_154339It’s a deeply personal thing, and it is the best web site in the world. “What’s that?” I hear you ask: It is your own personal web site, like this very Blog is to me.

The best web site in the world? – Why, yes, it is. For you it’s your site, for me it’s mine. It’s simply because every single little thing on it has a very strong connection to you, and it gets better the longer you pull through and update every once in a while, just like I struggle to do for many years now.

Just consider this.

I post an article about the highlighter fountain pen which I received as a present. Great, I remember that, because it only happened now. But WordPress (the technology I use) adds links to related articles from my own site at the bottom.

Do you remember my earlier pamphlet on the delight of fountain pens, as compared to ballpoint pens or keyboards, back in 2009? I did not.

Do you recall how the ink jet printer broke down unexpectedly in 2008? I did not.

Did you know that an article about fountain pens and highlighter ink, published in 2015, somehow relates to a 2006 tale of World War II, the BBC and the dynamite fishing? I did not, either.

That’s why it is great to blog, or to support any site close to your heart. Seeing that the site now goes back to 2005, and further if you include the mostly lost earlier experiments in various formats, I really wouldn’t want to be without it. I still won’t let you in on my really deeply personal things, and you are entirely welcome to not care at all for my thoughts and ramblings, but I, I care a lot. For the reasons detailed above.