11 June, 2011

Rhubarb soup

When I was little, every now and again my mother would serve some sort of fruit soup for afters. The ingredients always depended on what berries we had frozen for the winter, what was in season in the summer was usually eaten fresh. Rhubarb was the only fruit that got made into a soup in the summer and it's probably my favourite of them all.

Rhubarb soup

500g rhubarb
5 dl water
1 dl sugar
2 tbsp potato flour

Wash the rhubarb and chop the stems roughly. Bring the water to the boil, and add the sugar and rhubarb. Cook the rhubarb chunks until soft. Mix the potato flour with a little bit of cold water, take the pan off the heat and pour the potato flour liquid slowly into the pan, stirring continuously. Pop the pan back on the heat and keep stirring until the soup starts to thicken, then take off heat again. Pour the soup into individual serving bowls and sprinkle some sugar over the top. Once it has cooled down, serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

If you wait until your strawberries are ripe, you can add some in the pan with the rhubarb chunks. Works just as well made from frozen rhubarb (and strawberries) in the depths of winter to bring back the memories of summer.

09 June, 2011

Fox alert!

As the weather warmed up in April, I decided that it was warm enough for the chicken coop door to be left open at night. The chickens were free to go to bed when they thought it was getting dark enough and get up as early as they pleased, giving me and Hubby a chance to have a lie-in. It worked marvelously and I loved waking up to the sound of the chickens having their breakfast and softly chatting away under the bedroom window.   

It all changed one day about a month ago when my neighbour knocked on our door and told me they had seen a fox in one of the other neighbour's gardens. I had a bit of a panic and decided there and then to start locking the coop door again at night. I'm quite happy knowing that the girls will be safe if the coop door is closed properly, but I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink if I knew there was only the mesh run (although advertised as 'fox-resistant', I'm not looking forward to putting it to the test) between the chickens and the fox. The garden is dog-proofed to make sure that Hound can be left out unsupervised, but as you can see from the clip, it doesn't take much for a fox to get in. Although I haven't heard of any more sightings of Mr. Fox, I'm still locking the coop at night, just to be on the safe side.

The weekend lie-ins are over. Now I wake up to loud complaints coming from the coop if I'm not up at seven.

08 June, 2011

The new herbs arrive

Image from: http://www.manorfarmherbs.co.uk/
Inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show (it does make me laugh, all those grand designs and all I can think about is this one diddy plant), I began the search for a beautiful herb called blackcurrant sage. I have to confess I'm not a great lover of sage and wasn't too upset when mine didn't spring back after the harsh winter we had. This sage, however, is something completely different. First of all, it looks very pretty with lovely pink flowers and secondly, the leaves can be sprinkled over fruit salads, used in baking biscuits and pies or made into a nice pot of tea. That sounds like my kind of sage.

I found a place selling them online, but before I could place my order I caught sight of two other herbs I've been interested in growing, perilla and mitsuba. A couple of clicks and days later... And the herbs have arrived.  

More to come, hopefully, after the leaves have had a chance to grow and I can start experimenting.

07 June, 2011

... And not so thin egg shells

Good news on the egg front. The last three sets of eggs have been completely normal with good strong shells, so I think we can rule out calcium deficiency. I think Cissy must just had a fright (or was disturbed by one thing or another) while in mid-lay in the nest.

I did, however, do my research, in case it happens again. I found that baked and crushed egg shells should be enough to provide them with calcium, or alternatively I could spike their pellets with a small amount of limestone flour (a calcium supplement for horses) and cod liver oil (to help to absorb the calcium). The important thing is only to give them one supplement at a time, because over-dosing the chickens with calcium might lead to other problems.  

Have I learned anything from this? Yeah, keep your nose out of the coop unless both of the chickens are out!

04 June, 2011

Thin egg shells

This morning I found something interesting in the nest. My first thought was that I shouldn't have been feeding the chickens their egg shells as they now seem to have developed a taste for eggs, but on closer inspection I could see that the shell was very thin, so instead of an egg eating monster I have at least one chicken (Cissy by the looks of things) that's not getting enough calcium to produce strong shells.

Now that I think about it, they seem to have been pecking the grit pot a lot... I've topped it up with grit mixed with (baked and crushed) eggshells, and they're not getting any treats for a couple of days. If that doesn't help then it's time for more drastic action, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

03 June, 2011

Eating out #1

I don't really like shop bought potato salad and to Mr Bee's ear ache I kept going on about this lovely potato salad I used to have at my friend's house when I was younger. One day, after a quick search on google Mr Bee kindly offered to make me some. It's amazing, firstly because normally Mr Bee doesn't cook much and secondly, because it just is.

Mr Bee's amazing potato salad

salad potatoes
yoghurt/mayo or a mixture of the two
onions and/or spring onions
chives and/or garlic chives

Boil the potatoes for 20 mins and while they're boiling, chop all the ingredients. I would use gherkins and/or capers as a starting point (if you like them) and keep adding whatever takes your fancy to the mix. Add some yoghurt and/or mayo (yoghurt makes it nice and fresh, mayo more creamy), dice the spuds once they have cooled down slightly, give it all a good mix and put the bowl in the freezer until the salad is nice and cold. If you'd like a lighter version use vegetable or chicken stock instead of yoghurt or mayo.

This is a prefect accompaniment to anything that happens to be sizzling on the barbecue.

(If you look closely, you can see Cissy in the dustbath, still miffed about the bum wash.)

Mission bum wash

After a few weekly inspections I can now say that our chickens are lice-free. It took three weekends of spraying, but the nasties have finally gone. It was a nice and warm day yesterday, so I thought I'd tackle their dirty bums next. I was dreading it, thinking that the chickens wouldn't be taking it quietly, but it went better than I expected.

I put some warm water in a flexi tub and got into position, while Hubby grabbed Bella and then plonked the poor chicken in the water. I was trying to give her a good wash, but soon realised there wasn't enough water in the tub. Hubby let Bella go, I went back in to fill the tub a bit more and then it was Cissy's turn. She wasn't a happy chook, but eventually settled down. I was pretty pleased with myself, until I realised that Bella's bum was barely wet and that she still needed a good wash. This time I thought I'd try to tackle the task by myself, so I grabbed her and put her in the tub while Hubby was busy trimming the lawn edges. A big mistake if you only have two hands! Hubby came to help as soon as he could stop laughing and we finally got chicken number two clean. Phew!

I was chuffed that we managed to get both of the girls nice and clean, but the chickens didn't look too happy. They marched to the border to sulk and to dry themselves in the warm soil. I've never seen such a sorry sight.

Today I've been admiring my two lovely chickens and smiling from ear to ear. Sometimes it only takes two fluffy chicken bums to make me happy.

02 June, 2011

What to do with mint?

I've had a mint plant for a couple of years and every summer it goes absolutely wild. No matter how much mint tea I drink, I just can't keep up with it. To make matters worse, this year I have three mint plants to keep me running between the garden and the kitchen. I do like my herbs and when I finally came face to leaf with some apple mint and chocolate mint, I had to have them. My old mint is only slowly springing back, but the new arrivals are already doing great guns. 

So what to do with all that mint? Here's a few recipes I'm going to try.

Sparkling lime and mint drink

1 dl freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 dl fruit sugar
4 limes quartered
mint sprigs
8 dl sparkling water
ice cubes

Mix the lime juice and sugar. Add the quartered limes, mint and sparkling water. Mix in the ice cubes and serve.


1 litre of boiling water
a big handful of mint leaves, chopped
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp peeled and grated ginger
2 tbsp sugar
plenty of ice

Pour the boiling water over mint, lemon zest and ginger. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool and pour into glasses full of ice.

Mint pesto

2 handfuls of mint
macadamia nuts
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Blend all the ingredients and use with sweet dishes, like cakes and ice cream.

Mint and cucumber soup

1 bulb of garlic
2 large cucumbers
a big bunch of mint
olive oil
500ml milk/natural yoghurt
salt and pepper to season

Roast the garlic. Peel the cucumbers, slice them in half longways and scoop out the seeds. Chop the mint leaves. Blend garlic, cucumbers and mint, then add some olive oil in a stream while the machine is still running. Stir in the milk/yoghurt and season. Serve cold.

Mint and pea soup

1 carrot
1 celery stick
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 vegetable stock cube
400g peas
a few sprigs of mint
salt and pepper to season

Peel and chop the carrots, onion and garlic, slice the celery. Add all your chopped ingredients into a saucepan, add some oil and cook for about 10 mins. Dissolve the stock cube in 600 ml of water and add to the pan. Add the peas, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins. Season with salt and pepper and add the mint leaves. Blend until smooth and serve.

I can already picture myself on the patio on a hot day with a refreshing glass of mint-and-gingerade. Now, all we need is the sun!