Sunday, June 27, 2010

On the Rise

Danish Pastries: this is another product that has been degraded from the special
to the everyday by a food industry eager to advance the illusion that luxury can
be a perpetual condition, forgetting that it is only in contrast to the plain
that the fancy has any meaning. The road from treat to commodity is paved with
cheap ingredients, manipulated to make less seem more.
Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters

The tax deadline falls nicely in the middle of winter and has been the perfect excuse to stay inside for two weeks. Of course you can't spend all that time on paperwork and the kitchen has seen a flurry of breadcraft, the perfect antidote and side track that has got me through to another year's meticulous accounts (meticulous now). This book is great and can't you just tell from that quote that it would be right up my alley. The recipe for Danish Pastries is sufficiently difficult that they may never grace our table but there has been no lack. I've made the best wholemeal fruit loaf ever and am gearing up for the Stollen next.

Had a mishap with the sourdough due to insufficient heat. Mr Whitley suggests purchasing a small plant propagator to achieve consistent results. Bill has pointed out that if I wait for the annual police auction I could get propagator, fluorescent lights, hydroponics kit and automatic watering system at cut price.Think I'll carry on with the hot water cupboard.

That photo incidentally is self-sown coriander seedlings outside the house beside the struggling grape vine. I could hardly put the rhubarb below as my top shot ; who would still be reading? The house is brick and even in winter can put out some heat at the end of the day on that North face. I haven't exploited it, beyond planting the grape and a black boy peach, because it is also very dry and the soil is poor, but I have it in mind.

Now this is a sorry sight. Somebody can correct me, but it seems like this particular rhubarb wants to grow all year round but just gets killed off with each successive frost. See the new shoots coming through from below that keep growing and then get hideously burnt off. As long as it got water it grew fresh stalks right through the summer and they are always a beautiful red. I read somewhere that wood ash will secure the colour but I have another variety amongst them that is quite green and in the same conditions so in this case it's a plant thing. The green rhubarb is the wallflower of the garden, unpicked and unloved and hence soon to be replaced.

Thought I'd get all the ugliness out of the way in one go: the path that I really wish I had got around to woodchipping in Autumn. They are all in this state, or worse, and preclude even going in for a look without gumboots and gardening clothes on. Even then, I emerge with thick dirt hoofs on my shoes and sludge and slop home. Could I be doing anything in there anyway?

Well, I could finish cutting back the asparagus and I have a big pile of muck sequestered away and 3 bags of seaweed especially for them. I want to get a bit more cover on the beds because the first spears come up too early and just get frosted off. If I can't slow them down I will have to use frost cloth or hay? or neglect?

The promised Kale shot. This is Red Russian and I also planted Squire because I liked the name. I'm embarrassed to say the seed was planted at the end of March. I have no idea what I was thinking. It should probably have been in before Christmas. There's nothing teaches like experience but it can be a hard way to learn. Posted by Picasa


  1. Oh that poor poor rhubarb. Now I know this is a gardening blog, but I so want to see that perfect fruit loaf. Num num num. I am making lots of stuff out of Ladies, a Plate, at the moment, and it all works perfectly. I love that book.
    I also want to see a photo of the Stollen.

  2. mmmm i've been thinking about doing some bread making too. i had a fabulous sourdough starter last year which i got from someone who had imported it from the States (!) not quite sure how that worked, anyway i failed to keep it going, and now i'm hoping they still have some. it waas really strong, you could keep in the fridge if it was only being used 1-2x per week. I have muddy areas too.... and we haven't had the worst of the rain yet.

  3. I like seeing things die in your garden so that when mine accuses me out of the back window I can say, "look, even Miri's rhubarb is having a hard time."

    I love that opening quote - it's almost like a poem with the way the lines have been spaced out - but it's so true - luxury has been cheapened by availablity and short cuts.

  4. Hi Miriam I'm so glad you like Andrew Whitley. Now that I've read him, I understand so much more about how other recipes work but also I just prefer to use his. I bought some electronic scales in order to make the most of his book as I couldn't easily weigh liquids on my old old church fair weights scales (which are in imperial to boot).