Tag Archives: rhubarb

Welcome, stars of the New Year

If you were to look at a New Zealand calendar, there’s a good chance you would see 18 June marked as Matariki ~ 18 June being the official start of Aotearoa’s New Year. I have written previously about Matariki, the traditional Maori New Year and its connection to the star cluster, Pleiades, as well as its connection to  my life.  You can find the post at this link.

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/matariki-and-my-mothers-birthday/

This New Year, instead of a re-hash of my own limited knowledge of Matariki,  I  invite you to join me over at Juliet Batten’s  blog, http://www.julietbatten.co.nz/musing-on-matariki/ , where you can see the wonder of one of New Zealand’s own seasonal events through a different pair of eyes.  Juliet is the author of  ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons, Rituals for Aotearoa’. In her book, she writes with wisdom and clarity about our inherited ( Pakeha )  festivals, and how we can attune them to the seasons of New Zealand, and the traditional observances of the Maori calendar.

Despite Juliet’s clear instructions  on locating Matariki in  our southern skies ( “start with Orion, move diagonally down to the left, past Taurus and look low” ), I have failed to do so: mostly because I am functionally illiterate when it comes to reading the stars, but also because, this year, the weather has, so far, been distinctly unhelpful. Like this, in fact, ~soggy ~

Soggy boggy rhubarb

Soggy boggy rhubarb

with both night and day cloaking themselves in the same dark, dense, water-logged fabric.

Now, whilst I may be failing at star-craft and Pleiades-tracking, I have  spotted the return of another visitor, this Matariki. It’s none other than SOFIA, the ultra sophisticated and ultra modern star-gazer, from afar.

Sofia, a stratospheric observatory, is a joint venture  between Nasa and the German Aerospace Centre and will be based in Christchurch until July 24th. There will be 18 missions during the six-week deployment, each lasting ten hours. Although the main focus this year is Pluto, I am sure the crew on Sofia will get some fine glimpses of the Pleiades.

This is a photo I took of Sofia during her visit in July 2013. My old post on Sofia can be found on this link. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/2408/#comments

Sofia

Sofia

If it weren’t for the dripping state of the landscape,

Dripping Nandina

Dripping Nandina

I would have been out getting you a new photo of Sofia. But, as it is, I  prefer being indoors,    salivating over   gazing at the stars of my kitchen laboratory:

Tarte Tatin ( the first I have made );

Golden Tarte Tatin

Golden Tarte Tatin

Apricot and Feijoa Cobbler;

Sundrop Cobbler

Sundrop Cobbler

Poached Quinces;

Celestial festive quinces in honour of Matariki

Celestially arranged festive quinces in honour of Matariki

Piping hot pumpkin soup;

A little sunshine dips into the pumpkin soup.

A little sunshine dips into the pumpkin soup. (Do you see the pink monster at the window waiting for her turn at the soup bowl?)

Hmmm……looking at my kitchen creations, does anyone else get the impression that I am hungry for the sun? Thank goodness, the solstice and the rebirth of the sun are nigh. 🙂

Happy New Year. 😀

© silkannthreades

 

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The Night is Black

At this time of the year millions around the world are preparing for the triduum of  Allhallowtide, which encompasses All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. For many the preparations will include stocking up on candles for the rituals and  traditions that involve candlelight.

Millions more have begun another celebration, today, which also requires light; light to vanquish darkness and evil and despair. This celebration is the annual, five-day  festival of  lights, namely,  Diwali.

Having grown up in Fiji, where Diwali has long been an honoured occasion (and now a public holiday), I have a love for Diwali which outstrips any affection I have for Allhallowtide.   Seeing the houses decorated with beautiful Diwali lights was a yearly highlight of my childhood.

So, this week, in accordance with  my family’s customs,  I will light a Diwali candle (candles if I can find more than one).

Light a candle

Light a candle

I will listen again to the gentle singing words of Rabindranath Tagore’s Invocation to Diwali 

and consider the significance of Diwali, so eloquently expressed here:  “The night is black. Kindle the lamp of love with thy life and devotion.” (Rabindranath  Tagore)

Until night falls, however, I will keep watch with the dear, little lights that are ever present , and need no darkness to make them shine.

Little Charlie, a  new  (de) light  to brighten our lives

Little Charlie, a new (de) light to brighten our lives

 

Candelabra

Candelabra; shining light on the shadows

And, if I can organize myself sufficiently well, I may even make a special sweet treat for Diwali;  a rhubarb and apple crumble with freshly picked rhubarb from my garden.

Join me, if you will, in lighting a candle, for the night is black, and we need all the light we can get. Happy Diwali and may the light of the lamp burn brightly in all our hearts.

© silkannthreades

Praise Be

The  swan plant I ordered to replenish my monarch caterpillars’ food supply came yesterday, just in the nick of time. It has been planted,

Praise be for more food

Praise be for more food

and my remaining caterpillars are now busily chomping on their fresh greens. Hopefully, the caterpillars will  have enough food to take them through their fifth  instar and into their chrysalis stage.  Most of them look big enough to be close to their final and complete metamorphosis.

Is this the 5th instar?

Is this the 5th instar?

Whilst the caterpillars are nourishing their bodies in preparation for change, I thought we might do the same. Would you care to indulge?…..

in a taste of the last of summer in this delicious, spicy rhubarb cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

or, perhaps, in a little something that speaks of cooler mornings and the colder days to come; a gingerbread cake.

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

But, if you are wanting a lighter indulgence, may I suggest a serving of the apple, instead of the cake.  Again there are two choices; Cherry Gala apples lightly cooked with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of sugar and a handful of rose petals;

or Royal Gala and Eve  apples , sautéed gently in a sliver of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Mmmmm…How was that? Delectable? Are you feeling suitably indulged and ever so glad that we are not limited to one food type like the monarch caterpillar; that we are able to experience so many taste sensations; that we have such variety in our menus.

Praise be to the  butterflies  and bees that make that possible.

~

At 12.51pm today we marked the  third anniversary of the  February 22nd earthquake. At the memorial service in the Botanic Gardens, the Mayor said “Let us unite as we did after the earthquakes. For those of us who have been able to move on, let us reach out to those who are still struggling. .. For those who cannot move on, please do not be afraid to ask for our help… We can get through this together.”

In caterpillar terms, ( because I have this essential life form so much on my mind 😉 ) most of us have made it through the first instar; some of us are almost ready to be butterflies; indeed, may already be  flying freely. Some of us, such as myself, are still  ambling along in the third instar. But there’s no rush. With nourishment and nurture, we will, eventually, be transformed.

( I think I will make a good  butterfly, don’t you?  🙂   Better keep my feet clean, though. Butterflies taste through their ‘feet’! )

© silkannthreades

Light-hearted

My previous  post was, on the whole, written in a sombre tone. I don’t like to dwell too long in darker spaces so, today, I want to lighten the mood and switch, in a rather mercurial fashion, to a relatively light and fluffy topic….. Spanish Cream……a favourite dessert, from yester year, which is probably no more Spanish than Canadian War Cake is particularly Canadian. Or French fries, truly French.

This is Spanish Cream

Spanish Cream

Spanish Cream

I am not sure how old-fashioned a dish is Spanish Cream ( Google and Wiki are unhelpful in this regard) but I first encountered the creamy, silky-smooth, mousse-y deliciousness of this jellied  custard when I was at boarding school; decades ago!  It was one of the few items on the boarding school menu to which I looked forward.

This is the recipe  I use. It is from my very old Edmonds recipe book.

Old recipe in an old book

Old recipe in an old book

As with most of my recipes, this one is very easy to make. How easy is illustrated by the young man in the embedded video. Although  his method is slightly more carefree than mine, I love his relaxed approach!

And, there, you have it. Ready to eat , either on its own, or with any fruit of your choice. I prefer slightly sharp-flavoured fruit, like rhubarb or berries, to complement the sweetness of  the Cream.

Sweet and simple

Sweet and simple

Now, although I adore Spanish Cream, made to the original recipe, I am sure it  would work extremely well, (and would be better for me and kinder to the world), if it were made  using a vegetarian setting agent and coconut milk/cream or almond milk .  I have yet to try making a vegetarian alternative but thinking about doing so makes me realise that, in our rush to industrialize/ rationalise/commercialize food production,  we have condensed the fascinating art of jelly making to a convenience food that comes in a small packet of garishly coloured crystals . For much of history,  a banquet (think Henry VIII) was no such thing unless it came with elaborate jellies, and, in Victorian times, every well-dressed table required a jelly, to be considered properly presented. And even the more humble home table, with Northern English or Scottish origins,  may, long ago, have enjoyed  a simple type of jelly or flummery called Sowens, which was  made from strained oatmeal.  For more on the history of Jellies and Creams, take a look at this fascinating site http://www.historicfood.com/Jellies.htm

Then, come back here and enjoy a few more moments of light-hearted fluff.

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© silkannthreades

Despond and a piece of humble pie

The other night, when I was putting the house to bed, (locking the doors, closing the windows, turning off lights, drawing the curtains), the curtain, plus rail, in the living room came galumphing down and nearly took out my shoulder. After a few  of these  #@!%@#*! , I galumphed in to a chair myself and thought, “Well, that just about sums up my week; broken and broke!”  And I went from being in a funk to floundering in the  Slough of Despond.

This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.’

Isn’t that such a great description of despondency?  It made me feel better just by reading it and wallowing, for a while, in its awful miry  scumminess.

Most of my funk came from the outcome of 4 month-long pension review/battle with  our government pension department. It’s too vexing and complicated to explain in this post but, basically, the outcome was not in our favour. As a result, our pension income is, now, several thousands of dollars  lower per annum than we expected it to be. The review results were delivered, this week, in a pleasant letter, and came with the offer of taking the matter through to further reviews and committees; and was signed, yours sincerely, ( by a sincere young man whom I have come to know well, mostly through an exchange of  very annoyed letters on my part 😦 )

Yes, well, harumph and grump; I am not entirely sure I can be bothered with continuing my pension crusade. Whilst all this was going on, Vickie Lester at  Beguiling Hollywood   posted this quote, from Franklin D Roosevelt, which entirely suited my mood

Let us not be afraid to help each other—let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators and Congressmen and Government officials but the voters of this country.

She was, of course, using the quote in relation to the shutdown of the US Government but, in my dealings with Government bureaucracies and officials and official forms, over the years, I have often felt that there is a complete lack of understanding by Government, (and its officials) , of its purpose and role; that is, it is OUR service and its workers are OUR servants whom we ask to use OUR money wisely and for OUR benefit. Democratic governments were never intended to be our rulers, our disempowerers,  forever telling us what to do, and not to do, and which part of form WXB para. 8 c, sub-clause 24  we forgot to complete or completed incorrectly, and, and, and………….oh, and, by the way, does anyone remember when they last received a letter from a Government official signed, ” Your most humble and obedient servant.” ?

Thought not! That practice went out the window a long time ago. The Queen is about the only one who still remembers to use those words 🙂

Well, rant, rant……enough of it. To cheer myself, I made, and ate, my humble pie, otherwise known as  Crostata. The recipe I use is based on thisone  by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

I am relatively new to the art of Crostata-making but I love its easy, rustic free-form style. And it is very forgiving of mistakes and carelessness. My Crostata, this week, had a filling of rhubarb and apple, spiced with orange peel and ginger.  I used up some pastry I had leftover from a potato pie I had made earlier in the week .  Until quite recently,  I was afraid of pastry making, worried that it was too complicated for my culinary  skill levels. But, in a moment of epiphany one fine day, it occurred to me that pies were once the most commonplace of foods and, therefore, should be as easy as pie to make. And so they are;  with the help of a kitchen whizz,  a good helping of nonchalance, and a light touch with the rolling-pin and a good hot oven.

Free-Form Pie

Free-Form Pie; rough as….

Perhaps it’s not the best looking pie you’ve ever seen but it tasted absolutely delicious.

And to cheer myself even more, I challenged myself to make a sound recording. It’s as rough and ready as my Crostata but, hey, I did it.  🙂 Perhaps there’s still a little filling left in the old girl yet!

© silkannthreades

Rhubarb Rhubarb

In my previous post, I mentioned eating rhubarb compote with my rice bread. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/rice-bread-and-blossom/ The rhubarb was fresh, young, spring rhubarb  from my garden. And the very first rhubarb I have  grown.

The growing season before last,  a good friend gave me a corm from her beautiful, bountiful rhubarb plant.  I planted it in a big, blue pot in sweet spot near my back door and let it be, as one should, for its first season.

Big Blue Pot of Rhubarb

Big Blue Pot of Rhubarb

This past weekend, I noticed that a few stalks on the rhubarb were ready for picking; only just ready, but I was so anxious to try my own home-grown rhubarb that  I couldn’t leave them on the plant any longer. I harvested a few stalks,

Spring Rhubarb

Spring Rhubarb

cooked them the merest amount( and even that was too much because the stalks were so tender!); added some sugar and there it was …..rhubarb compote, (aka stewed rhubarb 🙂 ), to be tasted one careful teaspoon at a time. Delicious, if over-mushed.

Rhubarb compote

Rhubarb compote

Now for a few fun facts about rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a vegetable. It’s true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb

Rhubarb is the word actors utter repeatedly and  softly to emulate background conversation. Its use is “Attributed to the practice by Charles Kean‘s theatre company c1852 at Princess Theatre, London of actors supposed to be talking together inaudibly, repetitively saying the word rhubarb, which was chosen because it does not have any harsh-sounding consonants or clear vowels. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rhubarb

Rhubarb is the title of a 1969 film by Eric Sykes where the only word used is Rhubarb. The film was remade in to a short television comedy in 1980 called Rhubarb Rhubarb.

So there you have it. Who knew a spring vegetable in a blue pot could be so much fun?

Rhubarb  Rhubarb

CUSTARD (what actors say when they are bored with Rhubarb 🙂 )

CUSTARD

CUSTARD

© silkannthreades

Rice Bread and Blossom

It seems that I am on an unstoppable bread (making ) roll…(eek, arrgh, squeak, sorry…. for a no good, horrible, very bad, but irresistible, pun 🙂 ), because, yesterday, I made some rice bread. I had some lonely, left- over cooked rice in the fridge, so I decided to use it in one my favourite recipes, Philpy, Hot Rice Bread. Philpy, is a quick (non yeast) bread which, apparently, has its origins in South Carolina.

Philpy (Hot Rice Bread)

Philpy (Hot Rice Bread)

I have been making versions of Philpy since 1987, which was the year I first discovered the recipe in American Harvest by Nava Atlas.

American Harvest by Nava Atlas

American Harvest by Nava Atlas

American Harvest, (Regional Recipes for the Vegetarian Kitchen) is a gem of a book, beautifully researched and illustrated. Every recipe comes with a small note on its history, as well as a delightful quote expertly, and often humorously, illustrated by the author. For example,  the quote for Philpy comes from Abe Martin’s Almanack, 1911, and goes like this “Q. My husband buys forty-five cents worth of mixed drinks every time I send him for a five-cent loaf of bread. How long will we keep our home? A. It takes longer to drink up some homes than it does others. Try baking your own bread. -Kin Hubbard.” Well, that may, or may not, be a helpful answer but baking your own  Philpy Hot Rice Bread is certainly a good idea. It’s easy and fun and it’s a great bread for a snack, or for breakfast, or lunch. And it goes well with lots of different toppings. Nava’s recipe is also a versatile one.  It  can be made gluten-free and dairy-free with ease. Yesterday, I made a gluten-free Philpy by using a combination of buckwheat flour and brown rice flour, instead of the usual whole wheat flour. I also whizzed  up the ingredients in the food processor, for the first time ever, and that gave my bread a very good texture. (Why has it taken me 26 years to work out that little trick????)

Come and sit with me, in the spring sunshine of Christchurch. Let  me offer you a warm slice of South Carolina Philby, spread with butter and sweet, young rhubarb compote. Sound good? It tastes good 🙂

Philpy for Tea

Philpy for Tea

Spring Blossom

Spring Blossom

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For those of you who would like to learn more about Nava Atlas, I would recommend a visit to her VegKitchen website which has links to her career as a writer and artist as well.http://www.vegkitchen.com/

And, as a little sampler of the way Nava brings joy to my baking through her art and wit and research, take a peek at my collage!

How to have fun with history, food and art

How to have fun with history, food and art

© silkannthreades