Friday, 27 March 2015

Braslou Circular Walk Photo Log

A photo log of a circular walk which we have done before but today, when Susan and Simon came to collect some strawberry plants, we went again and saw some unusual sights en route..

Evidence of badgers..

The caterpillars of Lady Granville Fritillary Butterfly.  This was a welcome sight as in recent years they have been in decline. To read more about them see here.  

The second photo clearly shows their protective nest from which they have emerged...

The beautifully scented flowers of Winter Sweet...

These holes, the size of a one pence piece, in the side of a sand quarry, are probably the homes of Solitary Bees... 

Here this fantastically delicate lichen has the first shoots of sorrel growing through it...

The verges are full of cowslips now. We think this oddity to be a hybrid..

And the grand finale was a look round a road side still with work in progress! Photos (sadly) were strictly forbidden!!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Fritillaria meleagris - Snakeshead Fritillary

We have Susan to thank for an opportunity grabbed with both hands this afternoon.

Her post on Snakeshead Fritillaries in flower prompted us to head for the Veron, the area in a triangle west of Chinon and between the rivers Loire and Vienne, to view them for ourselves.

This has become an annual event for us. In 2013 we went on 3rd April. Last year it was a good deal earlier - 14th March - and we were only just in time to see them as they had already begun to drop their petals. This year, with the cooler weather, we were leaving it a little while longer, until we read of Susan's sighting - and that decided us.

And we were not disappointed! We'll let the photos speak for themselves

Snakeshead Fritillary, the most elegant of wild flowers, were there in abundance, and what a fabulous sight to see in the glorious sunshine!

And then what did it do on our way home??

It hailed and sleeted!!

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Colour Violet..

A short walk this afternoon took us through the village and along the wall of the Parc de Richelieu.

This is the southernmost corner of the 7km wall which surrounds the Parc de Richelieu, the site of a once magnificent Chateau.

Unfortunately the chateau is no more but the outer wall remains - just - and keeps the local stonemasons in business!

It was in the shade of this wall that we found hundreds of violets..

The colour theme continued with Lungwort..

and Periwinkle..

It's so uplifting to see colour returning to the countryside.

We'll try to bear this in mind tomorrow when it pours down all day, if the forecast is correct!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Enjoying Jean's Walnuts

I was going to call this 'Enjoying Nick's Nuts' but thought better of it!

Yes we are still using some of the walnuts Jean and Nick gave us from their tree which, sadly, had to go in the name of progress.

Today we made Chocolate Walnut Biscotti, but using gluten free flour.

The first job was to reach the magic 100g of shelled walnuts because with Colin shelling them, that task seemed more remote by the minute..

Who would have thought it would take so many walnuts to reach 100g anyway?

The recipe uses 200g of plain dark chocolate which is melted with 25g butter.
Mix together 200g self raising flour, one and a half teaspoonfuls of baking powder, 100g light muscavado sugar, 50g polenta and the finely grated rind of half an orange. (We used lemon instead).

Stir into this, one beaten egg, one teaspoon of vanilla extract and 100g walnut pieces.

Then add the melted chocolate and butter and mix well. If the mixture seems a little dry, add one tablespoon of water.

This then has to be brought together into a dough which you divide into two and shape, on a floured surface into two rectangles, approximately 28cm long and 1.5cm thick. At this stage they don't look much, but have faith....

Bake these in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 25 mins or until firm.

Leave to cool and then cut into 1.5cm thick biscuits and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until crisp.

When cool, serve sprinkled with icing sugar.

Now to those unfamiliar with gluten free baking, this may look perfect - and indeed this piece is...

Here are the rest...

Such is the nature of gluten free baking! Gluten exists for a purpose!

Next time we will try using two eggs in an attempt to bind the mix together and avoid the above.

They taste delicious!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Desperate Measures in the Strawberry Patch

Back in 2012 we posted about the wonderful yield of fruit we were getting from our strawberries and, of course, in the intervening years the number of plants has grown exponentially, leading to a problem: Too many strawberries!

I never thought I'd hear myself say it, but there it is!

Last year we were eating strawberries with everything!

Some of you may remember the wonderfully "understated" Strawberry Roulade??

We still have a freezer full of frozen strawberries, strawberry coulis, strawberry sauce and a cellar full of strawberry jam and we have supplied anyone willing to take some. So the time has come for desperate measures...

We have decided to downsize the strawberry patch. 

These images show part of the strawberry patch in recent seasons...

But this year will be slightly different. We will rationalise the patch..

This stuff is going down and some of the hundreds of plants are coming up!

So if anyone would like any amount of abundantly fruiting strawberry plants, they are here for you to collect. Free and gratis!

Sadly we can't tell you the variety, as they originated from the runners of six free plants brought over from England in 2008!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Cake That Caused Problems... Recipe.

For those who don't usually read our blog, I'm referring to a gluten free cake which was tested for explosives at the airport the other day (see here).

It occurred to  me that someone, somewhere may like to have the recipe, not for it's (non-existent) explosive content but for the fact that it's a really moist, tasty, gluten free sponge.

Here is what you need:

125g Butter - softened
125g Sugar
125g SR Flour
3 eggs - beaten
75g Ground Almonds
half tsp baking powder
1 tsp almond extract
2 small pears
Lemon juice
About 5 tbs Milk

Here's what to do:

Heat the oven to 180C
Grease and line a 20cm round tin.

Peel the pears, cutting one into small cubes and thinly slicing the other. Sprinkle these with lemon juice to prevent them discolouring. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Mix together the flour, ground almonds and baking powder
Add the eggs and almond extract, alternately with the dry ingredients, to the butter and sugar mixture.
Mix well, adding enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.
Then fold in the cubed pear.

Put this into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Arrange the pear slices on the top and sprinkle them with a little sugar.

Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Et Voila!

Hope you enjoy it! I did!!