Posts tagged May
Eat Seasonably in May

May well and truly marks the end of the hungry gap. Instead of scraping the bottom of the veg box and relying on potatoes and root vegetables in storage, we can once again relish fresh produce grown in the UK. And not just any fresh produce; it's asparagus season! It's time to gorge yourself silly on these tender stalks for a month or so before you've had your fill to satiate you for the next eleven months. My favourite way to enjoy them is with lots of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Alternatively, try boiling some Jersey Royal new potatoes and add them to an oven proof dish with the asparagus before topping with cheese. Bake until bubbling and serve with crispy bacon and you're on to a winner.

Perpetual spinach is firmly on the scene by May, and if you've got a spare corner then plant a few seeds to enjoy freshly picked leaves for the entire summer. Stir it into a pesto spaghetti dish in the final moments of cooking, or enjoy steamed with leeks and butter as a side dish. If fruit is more your thing, then rhubarb is enjoying its final hurrah before being overtaken by summer's bounty. Why not whiz some in a blender and use the purée to create a base for a seasonal drink?

If you're looking for a quick and easy breakfast dish, then poached duck eggs (with more asparagus if you so desire!) are the perfect start to the day, and now the daylight hours are stretching further into the evening, both ducks and chickens will start to lay more, which means they will be readily available. Choose local and free range, if you can, for yellow yolks and a much tastier treat.

For even more greenery to adorn your dishes, add spring onions to stir fries, wraps and salsas. A stronger flavour than your traditional onion, they're not everyone's cup of tea (and I can only eat them cooked), but fry them in some olive oil and they'll provide that kick that some dishes often require.

May

May is... the start of stretched out golden evenings, blossom petals fluttering like snowflakes, the drawing to a close of the 'hungry gap', and floral crowns.

Did you know? May should be seen as a time of great celebration, as it was traditionally a recognition of the end of the harsh winter months, and a nod to the unfurling of summer.

Dates for your diary: May Day (1st) is celebrated in villages and towns across the country, so get the maypoles out, decorate your flower garlands, and get ready for some morris dancing. Time-honoured British customs can be seen as eccentric in our modern age, so buck the trend and get involved with your local community! On the 8th, festoon your garden with bunting and play a few big band tunes to celebrate the 70th anniversary of VE Day. For ideas on how to honour the occasion, head over here.

May in words: 

"The world's favourite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May." 

(Edwin Way Teal)

Things to do at home and in the garden:

  • Plant lettuce seeds (in pots or modules) every couple of weeks for spread-out growth.
  • Scatter radish seeds into a flat tray and watch them sprout before your very eyes. See if you can resist eating until they're fully grow; I bet you can't.
  • Plan ahead for autumn and get those squash, courgette and pumpkin seeds sown. One small pot per seed, ideally in a greenhouse or polytunnel.
  • If your grass is looking a little tired, scatter some seed now the days are warming through (this is most definitely on my to-do list).
  • Now the warm weather is well and truly on the horizon, take the time to wash your windows. I use a mix of distilled white vinegar and water, a cloth, and some newspaper.

Be creative: if you haven't made a spring wreath yet, there's still time. For an easy tutorial head over here.

May in Pictures
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Looking through the photos I've taken this month has disappointed me. Despite one of my goals being to make more time for photography, it seems I've almost done the opposite and have fewer images than ever; not the intended aim, but it does reflect how busy I have been. I honestly have no idea where the month has disappeared to - even with two bank holidays I don't seem to have got much done!

Anyway, enough of my deliberations, this month has looked a bit like this (from top left): baking for a visit from the grandparents; beautiful sunsets over the fields; revelling in a late evening walk (this counts as my exercise...) and my parents' new home taking shape (you can just about make out Mr CC on the scaffolding giving a hand!).

What have you been up to this month lovelies?

CC x

P.S. Want to know what I was up to last month? Check out April in Pictures.

A Catch Up
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It seems strange that I haven't posted in a few days, almost like my creativity has been stifled somewhat without its usual outlet. I've come to rely on this blog as an opportunity to develop those writing skills that have festered over the past few years, that have been neglected without good reason. But there has been a reason for my online absence: a horrid cold that has lingered and interrupted what would have been a wonderful weekend full of sunshine and flowers.

It's not all doom and gloom though, and prior to my lapse in health, I had been enjoying the beauty of the countryside as we helter-skelter full steam ahead into the delights of early summer. Here are some of the wonders I've been admiring this month so far...

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The evocative smell of the zesty yellow oil seed rape that surrounds our cottage. I love winding my window down in the car and realising I'm nearly home. It also looks pretty spectacular in the late evening sunshine that falls softly on the fields; we've been trying to go for walks at this time of day to really make the most of the lighter nights.

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This lettuce that has erupted what seems like overnight is bringing me so much joy right now. The plants that have been in the polytunnel have just started to accompany our evening meals, but the prospect of nipping out the front door for a few leaves is so exciting.

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Eating seasonally is something we try to do throughout the year, but it always seems so much easier once you've got over the 'hungry gap' between February and April and the rapture of the year's first asparagus is not to be beaten (except perhaps by the first strawberry). Mr CC cooked up a treat with homemade hollandaise sauce, grilled smoky bacon, asparagus and poached duck eggs on toast. I was in food heaven.

How's your week so far? Done anything exciting?

CC x

The Year in Books: May
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Last month I delved through the delights of ‘The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite’ by Beatrice Colin; it was truly a spectacle.  The interweaving plots and moments in time are joined brilliantly by Colin's writing style which is laced with memorable characters and settings.

yearinbooksmay2Set predominantly in Berlin and spanning World War I and beyond, the protagonist Lilly (or Lidi as she is later known) experiences pain and strife before finding her big break, although all is still not as it seems.  The novel highlights the horrific war years but from a perspective I have not previously considered.  Each chapter also opens with a cinematic twist; this structures the book, although in my opinion is not entirely necessary.

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This month I have chosen to read 'Burial Rites' by Hannah Kent, recommended by the simply lovely Forum Books in Corbridge when I was on holiday last month. It is set in Northern Iceland in 1829 and tells of the life of Agnes, accused of murdering her lover.  The blurb compares this new author to Margaret Atwood, and if that comparison is anything to go by, I am certain this will be a book not to be missed.  Have you read it yet?

As always, check out Circle of Pine Trees for more information about The Year in Books or for some more great recommendations.  Happy reading!

CC x

Lunch Inspiration
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I posted about trying to eat healthily but also finding exciting combinations for my lunch menu here and today's post is an addition to the search. I toasted slices of a day-old baguette on a griddle pan and fried up some green pepper with olive oil, but the rest was cold and only took a moment to assemble.

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I added to my plate pickled courgettes from last year's surplus in our garden, slices of extra mature cheddar cheese (although I think I'll try feta next time), the first of this year's lettuce leaves and a little salsa dip. It left me feeling energised, which is not always the case with my lunches! I finished it all off with a glass of homemade lemonade (recipe here); delicious!

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Have you got any lunch recommendations I can try?

CC x

How to Grow Potatoes
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They are the staple of many a person's diet, can be roasted, boiled, mashed, baked and chipped, and are ultimately not that expensive to buy. Why grow them then? For one simple reason: taste.

I've written here about the delights of early potatoes, but whether you are growing early or maincrop the difference in taste can be tremendous. Picking a smooth new potato from the earth, boiling until tender and then serving with lashings of butter and freshly picked herbs is simply delicious (particularly with meat straight from the barbeque!).  Lifting them from the warm soil and eating not 15 minutes later means that there is no loss of nutrients and no transportation costs (whether that be monetary or environmental) - they are literally fork to fork.

They are also easy to nurture once you've planted them, and if you buy the right variety can keep you in fresh potatoes for a large proportion of the year.

Timeline for growing potatoes:

  • Early spring: if you want to chit your own potatoes, buy them in early spring and leave in a cool, dark place so they can sprout.
  • Late April/early May: if you are looking to plant potatoes this year buy them already chitted from garden centres or online.
  • Early May: dig a trench (3-5in deep) in your veg bed.  If you have comfrey growing near you (it's often by the side of the road) pick the leaves and use shears to chop smaller and line the trench generously. Simply push the potatoes into the earth or if like us you have chalky soil, use a bulb planter as this stops the stones damaging the crop. Plant them with the chitted growth pointing upwards (removing any growth facing other direction) approximately 12in apart. Rake up the surrounding soil to form a ridge over the potatoes.
  • Throughout May/early June: continue to earth up the potatoes so that the shoots are just buried. This is to protect the delicate leaves in case of a surprise late frost.
  • June-September: harvest your potatoes!

Four helpful hints:

  1. Buy blight-resistant varieties to give your potatoes a better chance; foliage blight struck our potatoes in our first year and wiped out half the crop.
  2. If it is a particularly dry summer it is worth giving the potatoes a water if possible; it often gives a higher yield.
  3. We grow Charlottes for our early potatoes and Cara for our maincrop and have had continued success with these varieties; highly recommended.
  4. Pay attention to the soil. When digging your beds make a little note of the insects you see as this may affect the type of potato you should plant. We have a little problem with Golden Eel-Worm which we didn't notice in our first year and when it came to harvest the ones that had survived the blight had been eaten inside out! However all was not lost and since we switched to the Charlotte and Cara varieties last year (which are G.E.W resistant) we have had fewer problems.

For more information on potato varieties, their properties and help on what to grow in your area hop over to this very handy website.

Are there any other vegetables you'd like to see a. 'How to Grow...' guide for?  Please do let me know!

CC x

Homemade Lemonade Recipe

Generally speaking I drink water or fruit tea and not a lot else.  However, when Dan and I go out I usually order a lemonade; more often than not it's nothing special, but sometimes they actually taste like real lemons! In an attempt to improve these lack-lustre-probably-lemon-free-monstrosities I decided to have a go at making it myself, and I have been pleasantly surprised.

Today's recipe is adapted from Darina Allen's in her book Forgotten Skills of Cooking - it's so easy to make and tastes delicious; I urge you to give it a try.

Ingredients:

  • The juice of 3 lemons
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 150ml water for the sugar solution
  • 700ml water

Instructions:

  1. Heat the sugar and water to make a sugar solution.  Leave it to boil for 2 minutes before removing from the heat and leaving to cool.
  2. Put the lemon juice and remaining water into a large jug and stir.
  3. Add the cooled sugar solution and stir again,
  4. Serve with ice.

The recipe serves 6 and should ideally be drunk on the day of making.

Floral Friday #8
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I love the contrast of the vibrant orange hue with the earthy, grey-green leaves; a snapshot of a spring-time walk this week.  Happy Friday!

CC x

Eleanor CheethamMay
Goals: May
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I have no idea where April has disappeared to.  Somewhere in the midst of Easter eggs and blossom falling like delicate fragrant snowflakes May has appeared.  Along with the delight of two bank holidays, May always rejuvenates my love for living in the countryside, opening the front door to fresh air and birdsong.

Last month I set myself five goals.  Some I have to admit were more difficult than others, and because of the sheer speed with which the days seeped away I wasn't as dedicated as I had hoped. However, I can happily report that I did indeed make more time for reading, attempting to read in snippets rather than sitting for hours at a time, and I feel so much better for it.  Can you miss reading when it's gone?  This month seems to indicate there's truth in this musing.

Secondly, I feel quite proud that I managed to blog at least five times a week for the entire month.  Admittedly this was made easier by a holiday spanning two weeks in the centre of the month, but I feel I have carved out an effective routine and intend to stick with it as best as I can (life permitting, of course).  My organised chaos was temporarily a haven, but it has slipped this week as I returned to the rigmarole of working life.  My slouching habits haven't improved much either, though I have made a conscious effort to sit better in the mornings. Finally, my random acts of kindness appeared sporadically throughout the month: I started a monthly donation to Water Aid, sent letters to distant friends and re-connected with family members I don't see very often.  A fulfilling, if extremely busy, month.

For May I have set another five goals:

  1. Don't sweat the small stuff.  I talked here about how I over-think things all the time, and I fear this will be a hard habit to break completely.  However I am more motivated than ever to try and let go of things that ultimately will not matter, than should not be festering in my thoughts for longer than a second.  Life is too short, as yesterday highlighted even clearer.
  2. Get to grips with wedding stationery.  We're designing our own and so far this hasn't progressed much further than sketches on scraps of paper and ideas floating around in our minds, but I feel like now is the time to start to see progress.  We're toying with a leaf motif and I want to have a go at stencilling some designs; I'm quite looking forward to letting my artistic side emerge once again.
  3. Make more time for Mr CC. We often sit in an evening; one on the laptop, the other drawing, writing or watching something on television, and although we chat, we don't actually set aside time just for us.  Money, work or general exhaustion usually limits our weekend and evening activities, but sometimes you just need to forge ahead anyway and forget these limitations.
  4. Start stocking up the freezer.  By this I don't mean frozen ready meals and chips; oh no. This will require far more time and dedication, but far greater rewards: I want to make a batch of dinners to freeze so that we are able to eat healthier mid-week when we often have no motivation or energy to cook something delicious.  I plan to set aside a day at the weekend for this.  Full freezer here we come!
  5. Take more photos.  I go through phases; at university I was incredibly snap-happy and never stopped, and when I'm off work I'm still the same now, but often I'll forget and regret it deeply.  I'd like to get out first thing in a morning and remember to take the camera with me at a weekend.  I'd also like to be able to document the progress in our garden more fully.

So there you have it, five more goals.  Do you have any thoughts for the month ahead?

CC X