From Berry to Jelly

Jen H has chosen transition for this weeks photo challenge, and invites us to show and image or series. This is quite a tough one to be original with at least. I hope that you think my choice demonstrates transition.

There was an abundance of fruit this year, both cultivated and wild and home made jam and jelly is way better than mass produced.

The crab apple tree gave generously.

crab apples

One day went to buy some jam jars at Lakeland and got chatting to the lady there, she asked what I was planning to make. I said the next thing was crab apple jelly.’Ooo lovely’ she said, ‘but have you tried crab apple and hawthorn? it’s even better’. Hawthorn grows in practically every hedgerow in England and even the hungriest of birds can’t eat it all, and I do love a forage.
Being so tiny they take forever to pick.
There was enough to make a few jars. This is the gunge left behind after straining through a jelly bag.
This is the lovely jewel like juice produced.
Best of all, the Lakeland lady was right, the mix of Crab apple and hawthorn makes a delicious sweet jelly,

jellySee the colour difference, the hawthorn and crab together is at the back. Both are a delicious transition !

The Hippocratic Plane Tree

Just behind the research and learning building on the campus of the hospital in Exeter, stands one of the area’s most important trees. Medics there made sure it was protected when the building went up, because it is a Hippocratic Plane tree. If you’ve ever been to Kos, you may have seen a five hundred year old descendant of the original Plane, that stood some 2400 years ago. It was beneath that legendary tree that Hippocrates lectured his students on the art and ethics of medicine.


There are Hippocratic Planes all around the world, in the grounds of libraries, colleges and medical schools. Trees, including this one, have been propagated by seed and cutting from the one in Kos. How fitting and wonderful, that students here can also sit in the shade of this beautiful tree.

There is another element to share, because the hospital’s estates team cut limbs from the tree, they were seasoned and used to create this cross that hangs in the chapel.


This definitely one of England’s sacred trees.

The Inspirational African Chef

On Saturday I met up with Malcolm, the African Chef . He and his lovely wife have gained a third beautiful child since I last saw him, a 3 month old baby boy. His delicious products are doing well and he’s added new and tempting things to the range, as well as the original favourites. We talked about social media, and he was really inspirational,  encouraging me to get on with my novel, thanks Malcolm, I’ll see what I can do!

Of course we talked about food and a recipe on his website that includes two of my favourite things, coconut and butternut squash, he kindly said that it’s okay to share it with you.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 Large Butternut (1.2KG) diced with skin on.
1/2 Small Lemon
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Inch fresh ginger
1 Tbs Organic coconut Oil (or any other oil you may have)
1 x Tin Organic coconut milk – we like Biona organic as it contains 50% organic coconut and water
Dried Pumpkin leaves (optional)
Handful of watercress
Drizzle of The African Chef – Fire Water 

I just love the squashes, they are so versatile, easy to grow, have a wonderful flavour can be made into so many healthy dishes and have a long shelf life, so can be stored for a few months before being eaten. This recipe is healthy, delicious, rich, creamy and 100% Vegan ! 

Method and Cooking time (35 – 45 mins)

Wash and slice the butternut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Chop the butternut into large cubes (approx 1 – 2 inches). Lightly grease a baking tray with coconut oil. Slice the lemon into rings, peel the garlic and leave the cloves whole. Slice the ginger and add all the ingredients to the baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for around 30-40 minutes until cooked.

Next add roasted butternut to a large sauce pan on a very low heat with the coconut milk, dried pumpkin leaves and blend until smooth. If the mixture  is a little thick add a little warm water until you get a lovely smooth texture, finally add the watercress and blend again and serve.
Garnish with a little watercress and drizzle with firewater. Copyright Malcolm Riley, The African Chef.

If you visit Malcolm here, he shares some really interesting information about the properties of butternut squash and coconut oil, as well as some more recipes,  like the best way to use leftover turkey, very timely. You can also visit the online shop, a treasure trove of unusual  flavours, check out the alcoholic chillies! From the website, I was delighted to learn the name of a mystery fruit, that I tried in Nigeria many years ago, safou.


A field of brassica

Today I took the dogs for a stroll around Darts Farm. It’s one of those ‘lifestyle’ type shops these days, but I remember it thirty years ago when it was simple farm shop, in a barn. It still grows and sells vegetables, and the shop sells local fish, meat, bakery and dairy products, for those who can afford to buy it.

They don’t mind you walking around their fields, I’m always surprised how few people actually do, except when the sunflowers are blooming and the maize maze is open to get lost in.Today I walked up this hill, unprepared for the amount of mud and wearing my best and only presentable boots, heyho.
The weather was cold but bright and many of my iPhone photos are shooting straight into the sun.

The field on the right above was full of greens, ugh! When I was a kid greens were cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, when did they get so complicated?

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I still won’t eat any of them, and I can spot the tiniest bit of cauliflower in the spiciest curry!
Strolling over the brow of the hill with the dogs disappearing in and out of the hedge chasing after real or fantasy rabbits, the hills to the east were in view.

The maize still stood in skeletal rows.
There were no squeals of delight from children running through, unable to see over the tops of the plants.
The ground levels out and the iconic Topsham water tower stands across the river Clyst.
The glow of yellow drew me off the path toward the wetlands.
Where I could hear but not see geese and ducks, and the soft voices of anglers carried towards me.

Umbelliferous plants still held onto their creamy-white flowers.
Sunflower remains.
But the birds have had a real feast for weeks.
We’ve nearly reached the main road now.

I turn left at the bottom of the sunflower field.

and look back at the way I’ve come, and at a field of leeks.
It’s really only a little stroll, but rather lovely today.
Jo won’t be taking her usual Monday Walk this week, but I think she’d like mine, especially as there are plenty of luscious cakes to be found in Darts cafe.

You can find some more Monday exercise over at Amy’s place, she’s taken us to a rather arty cultural area of Austin, Texas. The hotels are too pricey for me but I’d like a wander there.

What are Santa’s little helper’s up to?

After dinner in town last night I wandered through Princesshay and this is what I saw.

x13Something mysterious going on, now let’s see.

x15A lovely green cherry picker!

x14this must be Santa’s helpers if they’re decorating the tree.

Someone else has been busy!

In the city centre, the finishing touches were being added to the Christmas lights. Just in time, because tonight is the official switch on and crowds of people will be there to watch. I had my own private peep, as the lovely installation guys were testing things.

The magic has arrived!