Saturday, 7 June 2014

June Moments

1. Watching the rain. This is my rose bush this morning seen through a curtain of pouring rain. Wet but still very beautiful.

2. Walking in, and after, the rain. It's rained a lot in the last fortnight. I quite like summer rain actually - Being out and about, without an umbrella and feeling rain falling onto my face and trickling through my hair is rather nice. Of course, I am quite glad to get home and exchange soaked clothes for dry ones but I still like it. You get the countryside almost to yourself - more sensible, less foolhardy souls prudently staying inside until the downpour is over. I know it's not what you are supposed to wear for walking but I always wear wellington boots to walk in the countryside, except in the height of summer when everything is really dry underfoot. I find them very comfortable, even over long distances, although I always wear an additional pair of socks to keep them from chafing and into which to tuck the cuffs of my jeans. They are impervious to the assaults of nettles, brambles and thorns. They negotiate mud (and worse) with aplomb and, best of all, you can walk in puddles and streams in them.

I've always loved walking in puddles and as far as I am concerned, the bigger the puddle, the more inviting. If you wear proper walking boots, this joy is denied you and you lose out on one of life's small, but noticeable (and absolutely free), pleasures. If you haven't recently waded into a large puddle, I recommend it. Only in waterproof boots though or the pleasure of sploshing about merrily will be marred by cold, wet feet for the rest of your walk. And that is not one of life's pleasures.

3. Temporarily abandoning the second rainbow project I'd started ...

and beginning to hook up a raft of rain-blue triangles to make a Gypsy Shawl. I was so happy when Sandra posted the arrival of her pattern here - this shawl is something I've been wanting to make ever since she posted about it last summer. The triangles are complicated but not as complicated as I feared when I first read through the pattern and my heart sank because I thought I'd never be able to commit it to memory. A nuisance for a project where you've got to make so many of the same components. But once I'd got going, I found that the pattern lodged in my memory quite nicely and I've been rustling up triangles in every spare moment. Mostly in the car waiting to pick up H after exams. It's a perfect, portable project - just one ball of yarn, a hook and some scissors (and a folded up copy of the pattern in case I have a "senior moment" and forget what I am supposed to be doing next.) I've been blocking the triangles in batches as I go. They come off the hook quite curly like these:

But after being pinned out on the ironing board, zapped with a spray of water and allowed to dry, they go beautifully regular and lie nice and flat.

I've managed to make just over forty so the end is in sight. I need forty eight in total. Can't wait to assemble them all. The only snag is that when I bought the yarn back at the end of last summer, I didn't buy quite enough yarn, and the two additional balls I had to buy recently, of course, are of a different dye-lot and yes, it does show. Annoying. But I am not going to fuss about it. Nobody will notice, Mrs T.

4. Picking wild garlic.

The wild garlic is almost over, now that it's June, but there is a bit of woodland nearby, where, although the flowers are now long gone, the leaves are still bright green and the stems juicy. I've wanted to use some in cooking for a while but hadn't quite plucked up the courage. Nudged along by this book - The Forager's Kitchen - I picked a bunch. You can do various things with it - use it in soups or to flavour stews; add it to bread dough, salsas or salads. In the end I decided to extract the juice from it, using the juice extracter attachment of my food processor. This was interesting as I've never used this particular attachment before and it took me some time to work out how to assemble the wretched thing. One component I couldn't, for the life of me, see how how to fit and had to leave out. I eventually realised it  belonged to some totally different appliance! (Ahem! I've kept quiet about this little piece of mechanical incompetence in front of the other members of the household - it's one of those things I would not be allowed to forget along with a little episode, twenty years ago in a car park at Heathrow, when the car battery had failed and D was trying to push-start it into life only to discover I had left the handbrake on and he was practically giving himself a hernia trying to move it! When, red-faced and sweating with effort, he put his head through the window to find out what was wrong, I was not popular! Nor have I ever been allowed to forget it. Mrs T is not very mechanically minded, I fear!)

Anyway back to the wild garlic. Having assembled the juicer gizmo bits so that they (more or less) resembled the diagram in the handbook, I stuffed in my bunch of wild garlic and whizzed it. The most amazing, aromatic, green juice spun out

I've mixed this with some olive oil to add to risottos, soups and bread dough. I'm thinking of using it to make some wild garlic hummus. It's garlicky but not throat-catchingly so and I firmly believe anything that vividly green is nothing but good for you as well as delicious.

4 Baking cactus muffins. No prickles in them you'll be glad to hear. But using agave syrup instead of honey in an attempt to cut down my sugar consumption.

You can find my original recipe here. In the summer I use raspberries and blueberries rather then blackberries and apples. As you will know, if you have been reading these pages for a while, I have a very sweet tooth. Tea and homemade cake are the two essentials for surviving life in my book.

But as we all know, sugar is the new bad guy on the block. First it was the poison, "salt", that had to be seen off. OK. I do use salt in my cooking but not much and find I don't crave it much either, so cutting back wasn't really a problem. Then it was evil "fat". "All fat" and then just "some fat" because not all fats are equal. (Pace, George Orwell). OK again. I don't fry things; I don't even own a deep-fat fryer or particularly like fried food. I like the taste of bread on its own and tend always to eat it unadorned. I love olive oil and prefer the flavour of unsalted butter to margarine, packed with trans-fatty-whatnots any day. I do use oil in my cooking and butter in my baking but am quite happy with recipes which don't go overboard on the fat content.

But now a new war is on: against a new and alarmingly, seemingly ubiquitous, demon, "sugar". Uh oh. And the dismaying fact is that so many foods seem to contain it - not least fruit (which I love), and my beloved baking. "Sad face" : ( as H would say. So I am experimenting a bit with replacing straight-up sugar with alternatives such as agave syrup which comes from a cactus plant and doesn't do the malign things to your blood sugar that ordinary sugar does but still tastes sweet and isn't some noxious chemical substitute. So far, so good and my standard muffin recipe works, if anything better with it than before. "Smiley face!" : ) Don't tell me, the easy way to reduce sugar consumption is not to make or eat the muffins at all. I know, I know but there are limits and this is one of them. You can get agave syrup now from Waitrose and I imagine other supermarkets. I prefer the light variety; the dark one is a bit strong-tasting. My original muffin recipe contains soft brown sugar and honey. I still use the soft brown sugar but replace the honey with the agave syrup. Works a treat and I tell myself it's at least a beginning. Not sure I'll get much further though so don't hold your breath on Mrs T becoming sugar-free. Perish the thought, quite frankly!

Wishing you all a happy weekend!
E x


  1. I love your rose bush and I do agree, a good walk through puddles, large and small is great. You know, I have never foraged for wild garlic, I always worry about parasites lurking.... I am a bit paranoid when it comes to parasites. But I have to say, your wild garlic juice looks very tempting. Your baking is famous here after I made your hazelnut short bread and I am going to give your muffins a try, too. The original version. Agave syrup is high in fructose, which is apparently just as bad as normal sugar in large amounts, just in a different way. Life seems so difficult with all the food worries, doesn't it? Have a lovely Sunday. Cx

  2. I just got the triangles shawl from Sandra a couple of weeks ago and ordered the yarn. They were put of the pale green. But I'm pressing on and making it white.
    All the foods we are now supposed to be afraid of! You know it's the processed food stuff that has become demonized lately. I try to eat whole foods and stay away from my diet sodas, switched to hot & iced teas without sugar but use honey. Unfortunately, what a lots of folks miss out on about sugar is the insulin resistance being caused by having too much of it in any form. Even now we shouldn't use fake sugars because it tricks your brain into thinking it gets sugar and makes you produce insulin, hence more insulin resistance. Moderation is key, exercise is essential. And your pretty little boots walking through the countryside should fill the bill so you can have your muffin and tea! Great post!

  3. I so look forward to heaven when we can eat without all of these constant worries! I love your rain boots. Do you know I have never had a pair? It seems I have been missing out, although to be honest puddles are rather a rarity around here. Your shawl is going to be spectacular - the color of that yarn is gorgeous. I sympathize with your mechanical problems; mine are more of the "I locked everybody out (of the house, of the car)" situations:)

  4. Your rain talk has made me think of the song, Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain.. I know I'll be singing it all day! And the muffins look really good.

  5. Some lovely crochet and yummy baking going on here ♡

  6. The roses look gorgeous in the rain, and I love your crochet shawl triangles. So neat, and the colour is a lovely choice x

  7. I used agave nectar quite a lot last year. It made an excellent sugar substitute but unfortunately is not always regularly available in supermarkets near me. It did seem to lessen the sugar hit and in that respect works well, but I'm sure that there are baking recipes where the necessity for solidity and crystallisation of an item will be sadly let down. However, it is great for adding to low fat natural yogurt in your breakfast for a little sweetness without any of the nasties that make you want something else to eat by 10.30.
    Agave sap is what they use to make tequila!
    B x

  8. I use agave all the time as I am severely hypoglycemic, it tastes great and even my son likes it when I make cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Notice I am not cutting down on the fat. I love the shawl, Can you place the new dye lot yarn on the outer bands so it looks like it is not supposed to match on purpose? Sort of like a design element.

  9. Dear Mrs T
    A lovely summery post. Your shawl colour is just beautiful - delicate and elegant. Good luck with cutting down on sugar - if only cakes, biscuits and chocolate didn't taste sooo good!
    Have a lovely week.
    Best wishes

  10. The roses look wonderful even in the rain of which we've had lots in Shropshire too. One quick question: what stitch are you using for the abandoned (temporarily!) rainbow project? Any chance you could update us in blogland how the row is constructed? I need to urgently make a baby blanket and this looks just the ticket! Hope it dries out for you this week. Regards, Rebecca

  11. Your gypsy shawl will be delightful. Love that soft grey green blue color.

    Garlic, wild garlic, no less, in olive oil. I even have some garlic that has been growing two years now. I am afraid to pull it up and find nothing there, as happened last fall. But we shall forge on and try your method.

    You are a wonderment, Mrs. T. Just left a comment on your muffin recipe, also, as that will be my cooking for tea this week.

  12. Everything in moderation - because this year's wonder food is next year's demon and much of our information comes from journalists who sometimes have more of an eye for a headline than hard facts.
    Walking through puddles, tea and homemade cakes are three very good things in life.

  13. Pretty roses, beautiful crochet, and yummy delicacies - fantastic pictures! Thanks for sharing :-). Sunny greetings, Nata

  14. Your walk in the rain sounds delightful and quiet. And those wild garlic plants -- over here in the Eastern U.S., we call them "ramps." They grow in cool, mountain locations, like West Virginia, where much of my family live. They have days that they go into the mountains to forage for ramps, and they cook them lightly in a skillet, seasoned lightly with salt/pepper, and barely wilted. A wonderful side dish! Your concoction in the bottle looks like a jewel!

  15. You are very good with your attempting to cut down on sugar. I'm still working on fat to be honest with you! Thank you so much for your lovely link up to my blog, much appreciated, and your triangles are looking fab. I'm still constantly amazed when anyone else makes something using one of my patterns and it comes out just like mine did. I know that how pattern are supposed to work, but still I find it a little bit surprising each time! ;) Anyway, sounds like you are going great guns with it so I'll keep my eyes peeled for a ta-dah some time in the future! :)

    S x


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.