Sunday, 21 July 2013

Linden Tree Blossom

Chicken family is now complete with Mary, Hurley, Séan and Liam born into the lonely atmosphere of an incubator this week and now installed in an enclosure in the living room right under Jean Francois's desk.

They spend their time tweeting to each other angrily now that Billy, as first born, has the wings to fly from the enclosure and enjoy the independence of massacring horseflies alone.
Nobody is very impressed with my irish farmers' names but ...
Summer has arrived even hotter than ever with temperatures spilling over the 30° mark daily. The vegetables and fruit are well mulched but despite the precautions taken they just might need a good watering soon. After two weeks of such extreme temperatures, the soil beneath the straw is beginning to harden but hopefully their good roots have gone deep to find their nourishment.
Luckily weeds can't grow except the exceptional couch grass that could thrive in a bucket of sand. 
Hard to believe, I've been complaining about so much humidity and now I'm almost  tempted to complain about the contrary but that's what happens when you live in the countryside and try to grow your own food. You always blame the weather for the fact that your aubergines are a few centimeters shorter than the neighbors, your hot peppers have only started flowering or your tomatoes persist on remaining green. It's a gardeners prerogative to moan!
The hay has been cut by Bruno and at last the contours of the fields are once again visible. The fox, deer and boar are no longer concealed by the tall grass and make their appearance each evening to nibble on the new grass, drink from the field stream and be spied on from the living room windows...

Life is now lazier until some rain arrives and I can plant out a few brussels sprouts plants and more lettuce, chicory and winter radish. Meanwhile, the air is buzzing with thousands of our bees who are the slaves to the linden blossom nectar and its glorious perfume that fills the air. It normally almost impossible to harvest their flowers as their branches are always too high off the ground and I'd be taking an enormous risk to climb such a fragile tree whose branches crack with the slightest pressure but this year the they are so heavy with flowers and bee weight, they practically lean into my basket.

Linden or tilleul in France is the second most perfect sleepy tea after verbena but can also flavor a simple sirup for my greuil sorbet and peach salad tonight...

Linden Blossom Sirop
Makes about 1 liter

1.2 liters water
200g fresh linden blossom
500g cane sugar
10g citric acid

Pick through the flowers, removing any stray leaves. Boil the water and infuse the flowers in the water overnight. Strain the flowers for an hour. Add the sugar and citric acid to the juice. Boil for 5 minutes and bottle immediately.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


I am a very bad mother!
I needed to restart my chicken family but how to do it without a broody chicken in the first place?
So I borrowed an incubator and as different neighbours plied me with eggs on irregular intervals, I filled its seven sacred spaces. 
Billy was born 4cm tall, round like a ball of grey/brown/lemon cotton with the tiniest of wings.

In one week, she (wishful thinking) has stretched her neck and doubled in size. Her wings have now a frill of grey fluffy plumes, her voice is more soprano than Cecilia Bartoli and she is spoilt rotten.

 Due to the lack of that broody chicken, my hand has become her/his mother and if its not directly within her shortsighted vision she raises hell.
Unless she is sitting permanently on my lap, she will howl for attention and of course I cannot bear to hear the cries of such a tiny creature using up so much energy in a voice that could wake the gods so I let her sit on my lap neglecting the garden, my husband and life.

This weekend, hopefully, another two babies will be born and four again a week later until I have a limited family of 7 and the pressure should be off my sacred hand. She can then just boss the others around and leave me in peace.
To the real subject... I`m collecting kilos of raspberries every day. Not many find their way back to the kitchen as they are my sustenance while working the garden (when I can) but this year due to the lack of roaming, berry-guzzling chickens and that incessant spring rain, I have enough to even make  desserts. 
I do love raspberry sorbet but then again I spend my life making sorbets as soon as the sun shines and every fruit harvested within Mailhos eventually finds its way into my ice-cream machine but they also make creamiest scones made with the freshest local sheep cheese. 
Greuil almost tastes like a ricotta but is much more flowery and summery, grainy and lumpy, lighter and delicate but unfortunately can only be found locally at the farm or at local markets in the Bearn or Basque country.

I have only a few weeks before my unruly family of volatiles will find this treasure of red berries so I`m relishing this short period of excess....

Raspberry Sorbet
makes about 1 litre

1 lemon
200g cane sugar
600g fresh, sweet raspberries

Cut the lemon into 1cm pieces and blend with the sugar into a lumpy paste. Add the raspberries and blend again. Pour into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen (or alternatively pour into a bowl, put into the freezer and stir every half an hour until it reaches the perfect consistency)

Raspberry and Greuil Scones
makes 12 scones

450g self-raising flour
4tsp baking powder
100g softened butter
50g cane sugar
2 eggs
250g greuil or a soft ricotta
100g fresh raspberries

Set the oven to 220C/gas 8.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub in with the fingertips until you have a mixture resembling fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Break the eggs into another bowl and add the greuil. Mix gently together.
Stir the mixture into the flour until you have a soft but unsticky dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly. Roll into a rectangle around 2cm thick and cut in two.
Scatter the raspberries evenly over one piece of the dough and then cover with the other rectangle. Cut into smaller rectangles and place them on a lightly buttered baking sheet.
Press down the edges on the scones and score the top with a knife. Brush the scones with any leftover egg mixture and bake for around a quarter of an hour or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
Eat as fresh as possible with lots of butter... and raspberry jam.