Tuesday 4 May 2010

Update since Spain

I can hardly believe it is only two weeks since we returned home from Spain. The physical exhaustion of 32 hours in one position with little sleep really took its toll both physically and mentally. There seemed to be no time to recover before we were having to cope with various family stressors coupled with another weekend away at the farm.

The herb workshop was lovely and you will see some photos on the right of the blog. Everyone had fun. We planted lots of herbs and seeds and Chris even managed to give most of the summerhouse a new coat of preservative.

Daffodils were fading fast in the glorious, warm sunshine, but the whole Sanctuary was alive with blues, whites and yellows from forgetmenots, ground ivy, dandelions and creeping comfrey.

Even though I was exhausted, the supper party for my uncle and aunt’s golden wedding was great fun. I sat next to an Egyptologist from Oxford University and spent most of the time quizzing him about his lifelong research – Egyptian methods of preparing the soul for the afterlife. One of his students has just completed a PhD on Egyptian interpretations of dreams. I would be fascinated to read it and compare their interpretations to those of Freud and other writers.

Sitting opposite me was an expert on orchids and she has agreed to identify the new orchid which appeared in the field this time last year.

It would be hoped that a Bank Holiday signifies a time of rest and relaxation – maybe with a few hours spent pottering in the garden or sowing vegetable seeds. As always, the forecast was grim. It was to be expected temperatures would return to freezing since blackthorn blossom was in such profusion in the hedgerows!

Chris spent most of Saturday creating a portable framework to carry the backdrop for Kathryn’s musical, The Girl with the Crystal Heart, which is being performed in the Dovehouse Theatre at Langley School tonight and tomorrow night. My job, besides providing the embroidery prop, was to feed the cast and extras during the Sunday dress rehearsal and on performance days.

So Bank Holiday Saturday was spent picking nettles, garlic mustard and sorrel from the garden and turning them into nettle pesto and nettle and sorrel soup. Henriette Kress asked for the recipes when I mentioned them on Facebook, so here they are.

Nettle pesto
4oz pine nuts
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
2 crushed garlic cloves
Leaves and flowers from six garlic mustard plants
Enough nettle leaves to fill a 1 pint saucepan
8 fl oz extra virgin olive oil.
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Blanch nettles and garlic mustard leaves for one minute in boiling water. Drain. Transfer leaves, pine nuts, cheese and garlic cloves to liquidiser and keep adding olive oil until the mixture blends easily. The original recipe calls for about 4 oz of olive oil, but my leaves were in such a compact block, I had to use loads of oil. This made 2 jars of pesto and tastes really good.

Nettle and sorrel soup
4/5 pints rich chicken stock made by boiling a chicken carcass for 4 hours with 2 tablespoons winter savory vinegar, 2 dried bay leaves, 5 peppercorns, a sliced onion and 3 sticks sliced celery. When using stock, discard herbs and chicken bones but retain vegetables for the soup.
½ basket of nettle leaves removed from their stalks
2 large handfuls of fresh sorrel (I gathered most of my plant). You could use less and cook for less time than I did.
2 peeled and sliced carrots and potatoes.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Add fresh ingredients to the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are just soft. Blend, check seasoning and serve with fresh bread topped with pesto!

Sunday I made two and a half loaves of sandwiches for the thespians, chicken a la king, flapjack, ten pints of steak and kidney stew and a vegetarian curry.

Bank holiday Monday, cooking completed, I made double infused oils with the rosemary and thyme collected in Spain. I also cleared the backlog of tinctures still left in the larder – skullcap, dandelion leaves, dandelion roots, Jim Macdonald’s wonderful bitter!, an opal fruits tincture, citric bitter and a forgotten bergamot elixir. Perhaps now I will have room to make some more!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although I didn't get to eat any, I remember the nettle pesto smelling absolutely wonderful. Jacki B