Yet another apple cake recipe

Thanks to the tomato, apple and courgettes gluts, there have been mutterings lately about ‘too many vegetables’ and that ‘vegetables with vegetables and vegetable sauce is not a proper meal’  at Reclaiming Paradise. So, when it came to making a start on the annual birthday cake marathon (everyone here except me has birthdays in October), I had to think of a way of making a cake that would help to use up the glut without being too obvious.  The result was Chocolate Apple Cake*:

WP_20181014_13_00_43_Pro[1](Pictured, partly hogged, complete with some birthday music)

Chocolate Apple Cake

*recipe based on one from Ruth Ward (1988) A Harvest of Apples

  • 450g apples
  • 50g raisins
  • 50g dates or apricots or similar dried fruit
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/tsp mixed spice
  • 1/tsp ground nutmeg
  • 225 g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2tsbp cocoa powder
  • 350g sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  1. Peel and chop the apples
  2. Add the spices, and the dried fruit.
  3. Stew in a little water until soft
  4. Mash up with a wooden spoon
  5. Add the butter and mix until melted
  6. Leave to cool slightly
  7. Mix in the flour, cocoa and sugar
  8. Add the beaten eggs
  9. Beat the whole mixture for a couple of minutes
  10. Add the walnuts
  11. Pour into a large greased and lined cake tin
  12. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 180c

To make the chocolate fudge icing

  • 50g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  1. Melt the butter in a small pan
  2. Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder
  3. Mix well together until smooth
  4. Add a little water to thin and mix well
  5. Spread over the cake

The cake went down well and has just had an additional endorsement from my brother, who dropped in for coffee and insisted on having two pieces. Praise indeed and it used up a few apples – only about two hundred left to go.

I didn’t feel brave enough to put tomatoes in the cake so am contemplating other possible uses. We have had a lot of tomato soup, tomato sauce and tomatoes, with tomatoes and tomatoes (not a proper meal) lately. The freezer is now full so I need to come up with more old fashioned methods of preserving them. As a birthday outing we had a little trip to Dundee. (To do this properly, I should have made Dundee cake but that wouldn’t have used up any of the gluts). We had planned to go to the new V and A exhibition but it was absolutely crammed with visitors intent on learning about design, or possibly just sheltering from the teeming rain. We avoided the crowds and went instead to visit Captain Scott’s ship Discovery, next door. We had been many times when our small people were small and we were happy to have another look. The rain continued to teem, giving the ship a certain maritime authenticity.  I noticed, as we went round the ship, that they took ‘preserved tomatoes’ with them to the Antarctic – I have just noticed that these boxes say preserved potatoes but they did have preserved tomatoes too:

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I may need to check how they did their preserving back in 1901.

 

Saving seeds

Despite today’s rain, I went along to the allotment this afternoon to see what was up. The apples have now all been harvested though there are several bags sitting waiting to be consumed. The courgettes are still coming slowly, there are handfuls of raspberries each week and there are winter brassicas waiting their turn. But most of the harvesting is now over. So today I planted some autumn onion sets and overwintering broad beans.  I did take a photo:

WP_20181007_16_43_58_Pro[1]That’s an onion bed with anti-bunny wire netting.  I admit it’s not very exciting but it excites me to think that next year’s onion crop is lurking beneath the soil and that there are broad beans in the bed next to it. There’s nothing like thinking about next year’s crop to get you through a damp dreary Sunday.. unless it’s looking at seeds:

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These are my saved seeds from the pink pea plant. This was a heritage variety – Pea Salmon Pink – which I originally picked up at a seed swap event a couple of years ago. They have lovely flowers and a very unusual growing habit, with the peas all growing at the top of the plant. Oh and the bees seem to like them too:

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You can’t buy these beauties and I was worrying about what would happen when I ran out of seeds, so decided to try and save some. Those in the picture are the result. I’ve dried them out carefully on a sunny windowsill and put them away in a labelled envelope. While I was at it, I saved some sweet pea seeds too. Crossed fingers they will grow ok next year. Now that is almost more exciting than sowing next year’s beans and onions.

Autumn tidying

Today was a garden day, it seemed like the first in months. The garden has been doing its best producing wonderful fruit and vegetables, especially plums, apples and tomatoes but, what with the allotment, and the musicians, various other family and work things, a wee trip to Norway and the small matter of the cracked bone in my arm, it is beginning to look seriously neglected.  So today I dug over one of the tomato beds, filled it with garden compost and sowed some broad beans. That sounds like it should have taken, maybe half an hour? But it took much longer because I had to do my annual compost bin turning in order to extract the compost. I have three bins – all plastic cone types and the system is very simple: pile stuff in bin 1, then when it is full, empty it into bin 2, then when that is full, empty that into bin 3. It works, more or less though there’s often a lot of soggy stuff in the process and inevitably a whole lot of uncomposted egg shells, sticks, ‘compostable packaging’, the nasty bits of plastic that come with tea bags and unidentifiable yucky things.  Today,  I found something much more exciting:

WP_20181006_11_42_30_Pro[1]This rather sad thing is a very nifty gadget for holding the tea leaves in a tea pot. It is much loved, particularly by my senior assistant gardener, who doesn’t like to find bits of leaf in his tea. It is very useful because you can use it in any teapot, meaning we don’t need to use the teabags with the nasty plastic in them. It’s been missing for a couple of months, ever since the musicians invaded. We assumed it was hidden under a piece of furniture or in a cello case or something and expected it to appear when they all moved out a couple of weeks ago. But here it is – in the compost bin, no doubt thrown in along with its cargo of tea leaves by someone not paying attention at the time. Sadly, even if we were prepared to clean it up, it is unusable now because I stuck my garden fork through it. At least we now know what happened to it and don’t need to worry about finding it, full of quietly rotting tea leaves under the piano.

In other news, I harvested another ton of green tomatoes and probably the last of the cucumbers: WP_20181006_17_24_43_Pro[1]

I’ve left a cloche over the plant just in case it wants to produce any more. My experiment with the cucumber frame has been an astounding success, with cucumbers lasting all summer. I’ll definitely do that again.  All this gardening seems to be evidence that my arm is more or less back to normal, though I still have the odd twinge when wielding the garden fork to clear out the compost bins.

It’s been a lovely day, the sun was shining, there were lovely orange clouds late in the afternoon

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And I saw a wren in the neighbours’ apple tree.

Leaves

I’ve been away helping my mother in her garden again. She’s in the process of moving house and the garden needed a little tidying up. One of the things that was needed was to sweep up some of the autumn leaves that have started to accumulate at her front door.

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There are only a few so far and it was easy to do, with the aid of my father’s trusty leaf grabbers.

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Dad was always one for gadgets and these grabbers were probably his favourite garden tools. He used them every autumn in his battle with the leaves. In their previous house the battle was unrelenting and had a particular edge. Their house had no garden, just a small, flower-filled patio. Despite this, all the trees from the neighbourhood would drop their leaves and the wind would bring them to his front door. Dad would sweep them up and the next day there would be more, piling up and making a mess. When he discovered the grabbers, he was almost able to keep them at bay, but the battle raged every autumn.

Then my parents moved to a new house, literally round the corner from the old one. A smaller, more sensible cottage, all on one level, suitable for an older couple thinking about the future, but this time with a garden and a very productive apple tree. I’ve blogged about the apples before – here. The grabbers would be useful for the apple leaves, which Dad didn’t mind so much. At least they belonged to his tree and there were apples as well.  What he hadn’t realised, was that the leaves from all the streets round about would follow him round the corner to his new front door.  He swore the winds had changed so that, instead of piling up outside his old house, they now came to the new one.  So the grabbers came out again.

My mother has never been so bothered about the leaves.  She is more of a flower person, concentrating on keeping her pots looking nice. Here’s some from last year

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So, since my father died, the leaves just pile up in the autumn until the wind blows them down the street. When I was doing my little bit of tidying at the weekend, I used my father’s grabbers and cleared the leaves from the front door. A couple of hours later, they were back.

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The wind, or my father’s spirit, is still bringing them round the corner to land at the door.  When my mother moves, I wonder if the leaves will come too.

Tomato rainbow

This year’s tomatoes have probably been the best ever:

WP_20180608_17_20_16_ProHere’s how they looked just planted out in June in their shiny new raised bed 

Since then, what with all the hot weather in the early summer, they have grown massive and have long since caused the canes to collapse:

We’ve had a few red ones but there are now hundreds of fat, juicy green tomatoes, threatening to not ripen before it gets too cold.

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Last night the temperature dropped below 3 degrees – now that is already too cold for tomatoes. They seem to have survived that dip but today I needed to take some drastic action.  I made a big batch of green tomato marmalade – recipe here

WP_20180923_22_50_41_Proand some fresh tomato soup:

WP_20180923_21_36_48_ProBut there are hundreds of tomatoes left – I’ve put some on trays to ripen inside and I’ll race out to get some more tomorrow

In the mean time, we are experimenting with actually cooking with green tomatoes. Along with the fresh tomato soup, we had some green tomato salsa, which was rather good. Last week we tried roasted green tomatoes. One year we tried green tomato mincemeat – it did not go down well with the wider family.  I saw a recipe for green tomato cake and suspect it would be met with similar suspicion. So, mainly, I’m hoping that the tomatoes will ripen on the trays and we can use most of the rest in soup and pasta sauce.  Even if they don’t all ripen, it’s been a wonderful tomato year and I’m already planning what to sow next year. The lovely stripy ones are Tigerella and the long Italian ones are San Marzano.  I think I’ll go for Tigerella again as they are so beautiful. Here’s a close up so that you can seetigerella.jpg

..it’s not just winning, it’s about taking part

..really.  It was the allotment annual show on Saturday.  I thought I’d better enter some of our plentiful produce, although I wasn’t expecting any prizes.  I entered:

courgettes and runner beans, apples and rhubarb, raspberries, some not quite ripe yet tomatoes and a big vase of flowers. I knew the rules were all about perfection and submitting identical specimens. I had checked with the organisers whether unripe tomatoes would count – they said ‘no’ but thought I’d try anyway.  We could have entered our monstrous marrow, if only it hadn’t been carved, stuffed and eaten by musicians a few weeks ago, or possibly some of the stunning peas, but they have all gone now

 

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It was all about joining in though, so I did my best with what we had. I was delighted that we won three prizes!

My first ever allotment prizes.  I was a little chuffed. Then I brought all the vegetables that hadn’t won any prizes home and the musicians turned them into an allotment feast:

WP_20180915_13_02_23_ProIt was a very satisfying day.  Really it was about taking part but we will be proud to have those rosettes adorning our shed until next year.

 

Home

Back home from a little break involving much walking and talking and eating lovely things in the far north of Norway.  There wasn’t much gardening to be done but there was lovely scenery and good company. Northern Norway has the northenmost botanic garden in the world and it had some lovely things in flower in September

wp_20180906_19_15_46_pro.jpgI forgot to note down their names but I liked the colours.  We also had a couple of days in Oslo and spotted this unusual creature:

An important reminder to protect our natural world.  It was quite a short trip but now we are home and the garden is abundant.  The musicians have been looking after things at home, making serious inroads into the plum glut.  I felt a need to make some emergency plum jam to use up some more. This is ‘whole plum jam’, one of the easiest jam recipes:

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Whole Plum Jam

  • 2 kg plums
  • 2kg sugar
  • glug of green ginger wine
  1. Wash the plums, cut in half and remove most of the stones – you can leave a few in
  2. Place the plums and the sugar in layers in a large bowl and leave overnight or for a few hours
  3. Tip everything into a large pan (it needs to be very large for this quantity)
  4. Add the glug of green ginger
  5. Heat slowly until all the sugar dissolves
  6. Boil until setting point is reached
  7. Remove any scum that forms
  8. Any stones that you left in will eventually float to the top – remove these. Some stones may remain but that doesn’t matter so long as you warn anybody about to eat the jam!
  9. Pot up into warmed, sterilised jars – makes about 6-7 jarsWP_20180914_20_33_52_Pro

As well as eating plums and creating beautiful music, the musicians have been playing football in the garden (our neighbour noted that ‘they are much better at music than football’ ) and being quite careful with my precious vegetables, though ‘there may have been one or two ‘windfall’ tomatoes’:

WP_20180914_20_31_33_ProThe tomatoes are doing extremely well.  There have been a few ripe ones as well as all these ‘windfalls’ and I’m still hopeful that a few more will ripen before the frosts hit. Now I just need to get along to the allotment to see how it has fared in my absence.

Bouquet of vegetables

We are on a little adventure away from home, among other things, to celebrate an old friend’s retirement.  She showed us all the cards and bunches of flowers that she was given to mark the occasion.  All very lovely, but the most touching was a bouquet of vegetable flowers from a young relative:

WP_20180907_10_08_06_ProThe ‘bouquet’ includes broccoli flowers, fennel, marigolds and a lettuce. Who could ask for more? Well, apparently there were also a dozen eggs from the same smallholding but they don’t quite count as flowers.

There may be more travellers’ tales to come but I’ll leave you with the vegetable bouquet for now.

Autumn pleasures

It’s been a long week and it’s only Thursday.  Work is a little trying, extended family issues are rather energy-consuming and there are still musicians all over the house, overflowing into every room.  Don’t get me wrong, the musicians are delightful, just a little all encompassing. Anyway, coming home from work and feeling rather grumpy, I was trying to get into the garden to do some therapeutic composting of some paperwork, when I found a musician kneeling on a large sheet of paper covered in musical hieroglyphs and blocking my exit to the garden. Despite my joy at their presence in the house, this made me a little cross. ‘Enough! Out of my way! and please do something about the pile of dishes in the kitchen’ . ‘Oh sorry. I’ll move. By the way I cut the grass. Did you notice?’ . I hadn’t noticed but I was very grateful. In an instant all was forgiven and this unasked for grasscutting inspired me to do a little gardening myself. I did some pruning, smelled the roses:

WP_20180830_20_00_19_ProWatched some sleepy bees on the lavender:

WP_20180830_19_59_57_Proadmired the brilliant red of the rowan berries and rose hips:

and harvested some potatoes, beans and plums.

WP_20180830_20_25_39_ProWP_20180830_20_29_51_ProEquilibrium has been restored. I may even make another cake for the musicians.

 

Cakes

There have been a couple of late night cakes this week, brought about by a combination of allotment gluts, visitors, resident musicians and Friday nightitis.  So we had a raspberry and apple flapjack earlier in the week, made from the windfall (well broken branch fall) apples in the allotment and a handful or so of autumn fruiting raspberries. pictured here in mid-preparation:

WP_20180821_20_08_53_ProAnd here once completed:

 

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The recipe is based on the rhubarb (or plum) flapjack here

It seemed to work and it got hogged very quickly by the resident musicians. There is nothing like having a bunch of young people in your house for getting food eaten, although even they are struggling a bit with the marrows, despite their valiant efforts.

Tonight’s attack of Friday nightitis was brought about by getting a long overdue work thing finished and needing to celebrate. I don’t know what other people do when they want to celebrate on a Friday night but it was pouring with rain and we couldn’t be bothered going out so making a cake seemed like a good idea to me. So here is a Danish apple cake (also from the allotment windfalls).

WP_20180824_22_16_53_ProThe musicians have gone out for the evening, so we have a chance to have some before it disappears.