Thursday, 22 December 2011

Llantrisant Mari Lwyd

I'm loving getting to know the people and interesting things that are going on nearby. One of my favourite discoveries is the Llantrisant Folk Club, a weekly gathering of a fantastic group of people, where everyone gets their turn to entertain, playing folk songs, singing, reciting poems, even playing the spoons! It's such a warm evening, like stepping back in time, not a single iPhone to be seen all evening. 

I joined the group on a Mari Lwyd tour, such a strange and wonderful tradition where a group travel from pub to pub with a dressed up horses skull, singing Welsh folk songs. Our tour took place in pubs in Groes Faen, Llantrisant and Cross Inn. I made this video to show you all, it was such a brilliant way to spend a Sunday!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Olive tree

I've been given a rather lovely olive tree. Here it is, being kept warm in the greenhouse by Seren. 

The only thing really growing in the garden at the moment are the onions which are coming along nicely. 

I finally picked my jalapeno chillis that are clearly not going to grown anymore. We had them on a homemade pizza, they added a really nice kick to it! 

It's finally turned properly cold, and we've had some very strange changeable weather lately. Here's a photo of the garden from last week after a big hail storm!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The first taste of the sloe gin

Today I sipped the first of the sloe gin. It tastes amazing, according to Steve a cross between cranberry juice and mulled wine. 

I saved this Nigel Slater recipe for inspiration of what to do with the lovely sloes that have been soaking in the gin for so long, I'm marinating some wild duck breast (that I bought at Riverside Farmers Market on Sunday) for tomorrow's dinner. 
 We're having a few friends around for carols round the piano on Wednesday, so in preparation I've made some little angel and star Christmas biscuits

Oh Christmas Tree

We put our Christmas tree up last Tuesday. It looks so pretty!

 Here's Seren admiring it too. She sure loves to pull off the decorations...
 Oh and I made some mince pies on the weekend, using this very easy recipe. I put some cooking apples that I've had for a few months in some of the pies, they are tasty. 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reindeer, in Cowbridge!

Lovely morning digging in the garden, then a trip to Cowbridge to see Santa and his reindeer! 

 They paraded though the high street, there were so many people who must have come from far and wide. 
 Then as it was such a gorgeous day Mikey suggested we all go to St Donats, an amazing castle and arts centre by an out of this world beach. 

All this, followed by a drink by the fire in the Plough and Harrow in Monknash, bliss.

Pontyclun Victorian Christmas Fayre

What a lovely event, put on in our local town Pontyclun. Here are some pictures. There were so many people there, celebrating traditions and craft and just getting together for a good time. Here are some photos: 
The deli's Christmas window display had these lovely felt robins 

lots of local stalls in the rugby club

The ladies at the deli stall (photo by Mikey)

brilliant traditional Welsh dancing by pupils of Ysgol Gynradd Gymunedol Gymraeg Llantrisant

Giles Gallery's display

Starlight video!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Digging for victory

I spent the morning digging up more of the lawn, and mixing the clay-y soil with some of my compost. I want to get it finished before it turns cold and the ground gets too hard, luckily it's still fairly mild. There are so many stones and rocks under the lawn, it's quite hard work, I even found an old tape measure buried under there, must be from when they built the house!

 Some of my cabbages survived the slug onslaught, but only just, they're pretty holey!
 And my alpine strawberries are still bearing fruit (someone needs to tell them it's almost December!).
 Here are some inspirational sprouts growing in Pontyclun allotments.

Sausages in a bag with Jerusalem artichokes and buttered curly kale

Yesterday I used some of my Jerusalem artichokes from the Cowbridge Farmers Market. It's hard to find a recipe for them, that isn't soup! But I found this one, Sausages in a bag with Jerusalem artichokes and buttered spinach by Ed Baines (Saturday Kitchen), and it was really tasty. I substituted the spinach for curly kale, also from the market.

The sausages were from the friendly butchers in Pontyclun high street, I'm going there again in a minute, because they have a Victorian Christmas Fayre this afternoon - all the shop keepers are dressing up, and have displays in their windows. 

Seren, cats don't eat birds, ok?

Seren's new favourite pastime: sitting on her little wooden stool on her little knitted blanket, watching the birds. She loves it, and she makes funny little happy chirping noises, as if she's imitating the birds. It's so cute. Here she is:

 I put a little poster by her stool, to make sure she knows that she should be a bird watcher, not a bird eater: 
Also it should help her (and me!) identify the birds that are coming into the garden. There seem to be more than normal, they're busy eating the honeysuckle berries:
 I also noticed that from the seeds I've put on the birdtable, they seem to be leaving the black sunflower seeds. I mostly only see magpies, blackbirds and sparrows in our garden, which is interesting as when I look at my bird chart is says those birds aren't really interested in black sunflower seeds. I need to get some blue tits and chaffinches in my garden!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Snake's Head Lily planting

I spent a nice afternoon in the garden, tidying up. I've composted the tomato plants, and the runner and climbing beans, done a bit of digging and mowed the lawn, and I planted some bulbs.

I bought these Fritillaria Melagris (Snake's Head lily) bulbs for 99p from Home Bargains, I love the look of them. They have little chequer patterns on the flowers. I've put a few in pots and planted the rest all around the garden. They should flower between March and May. 

Cowbridge Farmers Market

Went to Cowbridge Farmers Market today. 

Bought lots of lovely things, jerusalem artichokes, veggie pies from the Parsnipship, and had a great chat with a pig farmer about the best cut of bacon for the perfect bacon buttie. He is really proud of the Cowbridge Farmers market, he say it's really different from the Riverside market which is more a place for people to meet and have a coffee and eat food they've just bought, Cowbridge is real farmers selling real food for people to cook at home. You don't get that in Tesco...

It is a great place, a shame to not see it busier. If you live nearby (it's not far from Cardiff, and a great place to spend a late morning), and haven't been, go! It's every other Saturday, 9.30am til 1pm.

We bought some Welsh wine from the Glyndwr wine stall - I've bought it a few times before, and it's really great stuff. We're going to have some with our Christmas day dinner. 

They've been having special stalls, this week it was the turn of the Venison stall, and they had a special display showing off their produce. Next time (3 December) the pig farmer has invited a dietician to come and advise and chat to people about diets and what they eat. 

Must go to this Christmas tree Festival! 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Harvest: Florence fennel

I harvested one of my florence fennel bulbs yesterday. Some friends came round, and I cooked a brilliant Jamie Oliver recipe, butternut squash risotto with mascarpone, using some of my own shallots and thyme, and thought I'd also do a fennel and rocket side salad.  

The fennel has not really grown very 'bulblike', more like a stick of celery, I think because I didn't water it too regularly. But anyway, I pulled off the tougher outer layer, and chopped up the main fennel stalk and added it in with the rocket, with some olive oil and lemon juice. The feathery shoots are very tasty too, very fresh, but I only put a little bit of this in the salad as it's a very strong taste of aniseed, and it's not to every one's liking.