In My Garden: April

Here’s a little snapshot of things happening this past week in the garden.

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The early daffodils are finished now but the tulips are still putting on a strong display. The weather is with us lately, so I’ve enjoyed a morning coffee on the patio surrounded by the scents of flowers and green leaves. I do wear a big jumper; it’s not summer yet. We are also very happy with the alpine rock garden that we created last summer. It’s filled in nicely, and although we lost a few plants to winter, most are thriving and spreading across the open ground as we’d hoped. One of the cox apple trees is just on the verge of blooming, and when it does I’ll snap a few photos. Always so pretty when fruit trees bloom, I think. We’ll hope the weather holds so the bees pollinate as Mother Nature wants them to do.

What’s happening in your garden right now? I’d love to hear from you!

In My Kitchen, April 2014

Just back home after a long visit with family and grandchildren, but I’m glad to be back in time for this month’s In My Kitchen feature. To join in and show what’s in your kitchen this month, just pop over to Celia’s In My Kitchen post for details.

Here’s what’s in my kitchen this month.

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Daffodils from the garden brought into the kitchen for the table. It’s spring!

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A £10 voucher from the garden centre! We’re going to buy some autumn bulbs.

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The best cooking salt that I’ve ever found. I buy it in Denmark. It’s not flaked or ground. It’s pebbled. Straight out of the salt mines around the islands of Denmark. There’s no bitterness of taste and very little tanginess that some cheap cooking salt gives off.

 

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The last of the frozen raspberries from last summer. Soon we’ll be picking more and eating them fresh off the bushes.

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And always, Molly is my constant cooking buddy in the kitchen, hoping that I’ll drop goodies on the floor.

What’s in your kitchen this month?

How To Remove Tea Stains From China Cups

Royal Copenhagen Cup

How To Remove Coffee and Tea Stains From China Cups

My lovely Royal Copenhagen mugs are a magnet for tea stains. I refuse to use harsh chemicals (bleach, denture tablets, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) on their delicate surface, so what to do? How to remove coffee and tea stains from the inside of your precious cups?

Salt.

Yes, indeed. Just plain old table salt.

Rinse out the cup with cool water, and then sprinkle a thin layer of table salt all around the inside of the cup. The moist surface keeps the salt adhered to the cup. Let it sit for a minute. Now put your index finger to work. Well, not work really — just a gentle circular massage of the cup’s surface where the stain is. Within seconds you’ll see the stain absorbed into the salt. The salt turns a mucky colour. Keep massaging the surface until the stain is completely removed. It’s quick. It’s fast. It’s easy and cheap and, trust me, it works.

When I discovered this method of removing stains from fine bone china cups, I shouted at Mr Misk: “ WOW! Come look at this! Come quick!”

He ran. All excited. Thought I’d won the lottery. Obviously, he wasn’t nearly as excited as I was because he thought he’d just become rich rather than just stain-free. But that’s men for you. I get excited about stain removal; he doesn’t.

How do you remove coffee or tea stains from your cups?

My Favourite Spatula Spoon

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Delia was the first person to mention the genius of this spoon. That was many years ago, and I’ve had one in my kitchen ever since. It scrapes the last bits from a pan or bowl, it’s moderately heat-proof, and it won’t deflate whipped egg whites or cream. I bought this one at Lakeland Plastics, which by the way is the only place I’ve found the genuine article. There are lots of knock-offs but this is the original design, and in my opinion, works best!

Do you have a favourite kitchen gadget that you wouldn’t want to be without?

Yorkshire Pudding with Sausage and Bean Casserole

How To Feed Two Hungry Bears

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It wasn’t planned, losing a few pounds. We suffered a bit with a tummy bug, and then it took about a week before either of us really felt an urge to eat winterish food. But when it happened, when we finally regained our appetite, we were like two starving bears leaving hibernation for the arrival of spring. And gosh, did we ever dig in.

I made a big Yorkshire Pudding from an adapted recipe of James Martin’s (his mum’s recipe, he says). The original recipe makes enough to stuff the population of a small village. There’s only two of us in this house, so it was time for maths. But for the longest time, the maths didn’t add up, and the recipe wasn’t my favourite. And then I watched him make it on telly one weekend, and discovered something he did that wasn’t in the original recipe. He opened the oven door halfway through the cooking time to release built-up steam. As soon as I did that, the recipe worked perfectly. I’ve since noticed that he’s updated the recipe on the BBC Food website to reflect that nifty trick.

That afternoon, I made a casserole with tinned/drained white beans and browned Cumberland sausage links in a spicy sauce of chopped tomatoes (1 tin), 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves garlic, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and a ridiculous amount of pepper because we love black pepper. I added a splash of my husband’s beer to the pot while his back was turned, then gave the whole thing a gentle stir, and popped it in the oven at a low temperature to slowly simmer for about 40 minutes. First 20-minutes with the lid on, and then remove the lid for the duration so the sausages brown to a deep crusty golden colour in the oven.

It was just what two hungry bears needed.


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Yorkshire Pudding

Ingredients (for 8 servings/for 2 servings)

225g/47g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large/2 large free-range eggs
600ml/120ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
50g/10g beef dripping or lard

Place the flour into a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Lightly beat the eggs and add them with the milk to the bowl. Whisk to make a smooth batter, although some lumps might remain. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour. Overnight is best.

Place the pudding pan in the oven, and then preheat to 220C. When the oven is at temperature and the pan is hot, add the dripping or lard to your Yorkshire tins, and place the tin in the oven for 10-minutes until very hot.

Remove the tin from the oven, and carefully pour the batter into the tin(s), filling it 2/3 full. Place the tins in the oven and cook for 20-minutes. After 20-minutes, open the oven door to allow steam to escape, and turn the temperature down to 190C. Continue to cook until the puddings are golden-brown and crisp.

In My Kitchen: March 2014

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I’m sure that I’m ridiculously late coming to the party on this one, but I’ve just discovered chipotle paste. It’s tantalisingly spicy: chilli with garlic, onion and tomato. It’s smooshed into a thick paste and comes in a wee cute little jar. I bought it for a spicy prawn and tomato sauce over pasta. We both lit up with grins when we tasted it. Lots of heat but not too much, and since it’s a paste rather than a whole chilli pepper,  you can add as little or as much as your nervous disposition allows. I am in love with this stuff. And I discovered that it’s equally brilliant in soups!

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And that’s what’s in my kitchen this month, and I can’t say enough good things about it.

To join in the fun of Celia’s In My Kitchen feature, just pop over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, post a link back to your own Kitchen post, and say hello!

Off to Find Spring

Well, not really. I’m off to play with my grandchildren. I have several posts scheduled for release during March, so any activity you see here is because of that. I hope that the arrival of spring greets you with an abundance of colour and happiness!