I had a little nut tree…♫
There is an old saying that nothing grows under a walnut tree. This is clearly not true, but recently I have found out that a more correct version should be ‘some things won’t grow under a walnut tree’. We have an established bramley apple tree which for the past few years has never failed to produce a heavy crop, until this year, all the apples are misshapen and the leaves are virtually non-existent. A lilac close by also shows signs of distress. In the vicinity of the apple and lilac we have a young black walnut tree, about 10m tall. After some research I have found out that walnut trees, particularly the American black walnut, produce a chemical called juglone. This chemical is poisonous for some plants, especially apples and lilac! Apparently, walnut trees are allelopathic, which means they will try and suppress other plants with chemicals to try to gain an edge on them. Needless to say our black walnut’s days are numbered, I won’t be too sad as it is an alien to this country anyway. So now it is just a matter of catching my chainsaw when it is in the mood to start.
Try this quick and easy tart to use up any leftover walnuts!
Leek, goat’s cheese, walnut and lemon tart.
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 medium leeks
2 tbsps. chopped thyme
zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1 lemon
375g pack ready rolled puff pastry
200g soft spreadable goat’s cheese
50g walnut pieces
little chopped parsley to serve
Heat oven to 220C. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the butter. Once sizzling, add the leeks and cook over a medium heat until softened but not coloured. Stir in the thyme and half the lemon zest, then increase the heat. Add the lemon juice and cook for about 30 secs until the lemon juice reduces, then season well. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Unroll the pastry and lay on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or equivalent. Lightly mark a 1cm border around the edges with a tip of a sharp knife, then prick the base all over with a fork. Spread the lemony leeks on top of the pastry, within the border. Crumble over the cheese, scatter with walnuts, then season with pepper. Drizzle with some olive oil, brushing the edges with a little oil as well. Put the tart in the oven for 15-20 mins until the pastry puffs up around the edges and is golden brown. Scatter with parsley and the remaining lemon zest. Serve hot, warm or cool.
Easter falls quite early this year, making Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day occur on 16th February. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the Christian fasting period of Lent. To this end, all the eggs, flour, milk, butter and lard needed to be used up; the easiest way to do this was to make pancakes. The word ‘shrove’ comes from the word ‘shrive’, meaning to be absolved after confession. Pancake Day is one of our oldest traditions that can be traced back to Anglo-Saxons times. I can’t quite remember that far back, but I can remember Mum making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, hers where about half an inch thick, and served with sugar and lemon juice. The juice was the ‘Jif’ kind, coming from a squeezable plastic lemon. It wasn’t until the seventies that I actually held a real lemon in my hand!
There are many recipes using pancake ingredients around the world. This Spanish one for Churros is Trisha’s favourite.
2 ½ Tbsps. Caster sugar
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsps. Vegetable oil or lard
125g plain flour
oil for deep frying
100g caster sugar (for rolling cooked Churros in)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, 2 ½ tbsps. sugar, salt and 2 tbsps. vegetable oil. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Stir in flour until the mixture forms a ball. Heat oil for frying in a deep fryer or deep frying pan to 190C. Pipe strips of the dough into hot oil using a pastry bag. Fry until golden, drain on kitchen paper. Combine 100g of sugar and cinnamon. Roll warm churros in cinnamon and sugar mixture.
On 12th May 1943, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress’ began arriving at RAF Framingham in Parham. The airfield would be designated as Station 153 by the USAAF. These first aircraft were not from the 390th Bomb Group which occupied the base for most of its operational history, but from the 95th Bomb Group. The 95th flew their first mission from Parham a day later to bomb an airfield in Saint-Omer in Northern France. After some disastrous missions the 95th were relocated to Horham to ‘re-group’.
I often marvel at the bravery of those poor young men who lost their lives flying from a foreign country to bomb another foreign country, without question. My claim to fame is that I have landed at Parham, not in a B-17 but a Cessna 172, and have been on the runway in a Spitfire, not the Supermarine kind but the Triumph kind, when learning to drive in the early seventies!
This is a wartime recipe called Lord Woolton Pie (I have kept imperial measures for authenticity).
Bunch of spring onions chopped
2 teaspoons of Marmite (yeast extract – or you can use a stock cube)
Tablespoon of rolled oats
Salt and pepper to taste once cooked.
Parsley (fresh or dried)
For the pastry
8oz wholemeal/wholewheat flour
4oz mashed potato
3oz margarine or lard
2 tsp of baking powder
couple large pinches of salt
Dash of water if needed.
Chop up the vegetables into chunks with those that take longest to cook into smaller pieces. Place in pot and bring to simmer with just enough water to reach 3/4 of the way up the veg in the pot. Add in Marmite and rolled oats, salt and pepper and cook until tender and most of the water has been absorbed. Place mixture in deep pie dish and sprinkle with parsley . Make the pastry by mixing the flour with the baking powder and salt and then rubbing in the margarine. Mix the mashed potato in to form a dough and knead (add a little water to the mixture if too dry) Roll out to form pie crust and place on top and decorate then brush with milk. Place in oven at 200C for 30 minutes or so until top is form and browned.
Enjoy! ~ Chris
This is the most fantastic and easy Christmas Cake recipe ever, tried and tested over many years. Given to me by a very dear Australian friend, way back in the 70’s. I’m afraid it’s all in imperial measurements, and I really didn’t want to risk converting to metric in case it didn’t work! ~ Chris
Helen’s Christmas Cake Recipe
Before you start, soak the fruit overnight in brandy (about half a cup)
2lb mixed dried fruit (it’s best to mix your own from raisins, sultanas and currants)
2oz ground almonds
3oz glace cherries
4oz mixed peel
1/2 lb self raising flour
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb dark brown sugar (Muscovado if possible)
1 tablespoon of black treacle
Grated rind of one lemon
Grated rind of one orange
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
A few drops of vanilla essence
– Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then add and combine all the other ingredients.
– Line a cake tin very well with 3 or even 4 layers of newspaper on the outside and then greaseproof paper on the inside.
– Cook for 3-4 hours. 350 degrees for one hour, then turn down to 300 degrees