Monday, 26 July 2010

Food for free

We've been busy these past few days picking raspberries which the Doyenne has made into raspberry jam. The kitchen fills with the "moreish" smell of the boiling fruit which permeates through the house and moistens the taste buds. We don't use a great deal of jam ourselves but as soon as the family know that the new season's offering is on the store cupboard shelves they descend like vultures! It's also such a good present for hostesses who invite us for dinner - much more personal than a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates.

Gooseberries will soon be ripe. The dogs and I pass two bushes in a beech hedge every morning which are probably escapees from a garden - so they are what you might call semi-feral. Some time, a long time ago, a bird has eaten a cultivated garden gooseberry, and several of the seeds passing through its system have popped out the other end in the way these things do, and have self seeded in the wild. Very versatile fruit are gooseberries.

Wild raspberries are just about ready for picking too. The Doyenne makes the most delicious jelly from these, and I make raspberry vodka. If everything ripens at once, this week may be even busier than I expected.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beyond the kitchen window

Wee braveheart

Wednesday - this morning the cows and their calves were lying down again when the dogs and I passed the gate into their field. Several of the cows got to their feet with that awkward, laboured action they have, protective of their young from canine intruders. How anything as big as a cow could expect danger from anything as small as Macbeth, I cannot imagine. But Macbeth holds his ground with cows and when they come sniffing through the fence at him he stares them out and barks at them with his wee high-pitched bark. Surprisingly the cattle scatter in fright and Macbeth swaggers off with his tail in the air.

On the other hand our black Labrador Inka would like to be perceived as bold and fearless. As soon as the cattle blow down their nostrils at him he turns and bolts with his tail between his legs.

By the time we got back home it was raining again. It'd mid-July and I'm thankful we're not on holiday in this soggy part of the world.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Something to ruminate on

When cattle lie down in a field most folk think, understandably, that they are chewing the cud.

Cattle are ruminants, which doesn't mean that they have four stomachs - a common misconception - but that their single stomach has four compartments which allows them to chew their food once, regurgitate it and chew it (the cud) a second time. One of the side effects of this is that ruminants produce methane gas which is one of the unwelcome greenhouse gases threatening the world. "Fart" taxes have been proposed to fund research into how to reduce this antisocial behaviour.

But to get back to my original discussion - most ruminants prefer to lie down when they are 'chewing the cud' because there is an element of stress while doing so.

Sheep, goats deer and even giraffes are also ruminants. After you know about their rather bizarre digestive habits you might wonder why we eat them. I've eaten beef, mutton, venison and goat meat - and there's still the first time for giraffe - and I reckon I can cope with their whiffy habits.

But to get back to my original discussion - the old greybeards reckoned they - the cattle, that is - can smell rain coming and lie down so that they have a dry, warm patch of pasture to rest on while the bad weather lasts. Sunday and Monday, out walking the dogs first thing, the cows and their calves in the field at the back of the house were all lying down, and the greybeards were borne out because the rain came down in torrents. This morning they were all standing and feeding - the cattle, again - and now the clouds are high in the sky and it's sunny.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

better pasta sauce

The Doyenne came up with a good idea to improve her pasta sauce. There were a couple of thick, outside stalks of celery in the vegetable box which she cut small and added to the rest of the ingredients. The smell of the celery was noticeable before I took the first mouthful and the taste added extra zing to an already delicious meal.

I'm a bit of a dab hand at pasta sauce myself and my recipe can be found in my book "Tales from the Scottish Countryside - New Walks with the Man with Two Dogs" Black & White ISBN 978 184502257-0.

I can't claim to be any great shakes as a cook but I know enough now to be able to look after myself if I have to. And I realise that cooking isn't the black art I once thought it was; a lot is plain common sense. A bit of trial and error, a little patience and I reckon I'd get by. But as long as I'm as well looked after as I am there's no urgency to try to do better!

Mushroom delight

Out walking with Cait, James and their dog Rosie, and Liz and our two bold boys, saw the first chanterelle mushrooms. It seems very early compared with previous seasons. I'll look in the favourite spots and see if there's enough to fry with bacon for breakfast.