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.
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.
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!