From The Garden - Courgettes


Monday, 18 August 2014

Well hello. It's been a while since I did a 'From The Garden' post and I thought it was high time I did a new one! Today Harry and I did a walk around the Market Garden and took some shots as we are harvesting so many good things. It's such a fantastic time of year to eat fresh British vegetables and fruits.

Courgettes are one of those vegetables that are plentiful at the moment. If you've grown your own you probably have them coming out of your ears, they are ridiculously productive. If you buy them from your greengrocer or supermarket then you more than likely only see the long green ones, but there are many different varieties and shapes and sizes out there. At the garden we grow five different types - long green, long yellow, long grey, round green and round yellow. Personally I can't say any of them taste different, to me it's purely a change of colour on your plate. I usually opt for the yellow round ones, they are just so pretty looking.

At home we cook with them regularly, frittata, chillies, pasta dishes and they make a fantastic cake too. We've made this Nigel Slater one many times although we put hazlenuts in rather than pecans. It always goes down a treat and people are genuinely surprised when they hear it's got courgette in it.

Tomatoes always seem to go down a treat with courgettes, and they are both fantastic flavoured with basil and thyme.  But I wanted to try something new with them, and I thought they might work well in a soup, especially as the last few weeks have taken on more of a chilly feel, almost autumnal. So how about a fresh tomato and courgette soup? With a little ground cumin to warm your throat.

Courgette and Tomato Soup


1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1kg courgettes, chopped
1kg sliced tomatoes
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 litres vegetable stock


Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and courgettes, and cook for 5 mins on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and flour. Cook for a couple of mins, stirring around to stop the flour from becoming lumpy. 

^ Add the ground cumin and the vegetable stock, cover and simmer for 30 mins.

^ Puree in a blender and serve. 

I like to take it in my flask for work and have it at lunchtime. x

This Week


Monday, 11 August 2014

Hi there. It's been a quieter week in the Birdie household, but a nice one. I'm loving these long, unplanned summer days. We like to just go with the flow and see what the weatherman brings us. And recently it's not been great, with many a shower and some windy conditions hitting our shores. But we've still been out and about, with visits to our local nature reserve, swimming at our Victorian baths and lunches in our favourite new cafe.

I've also spent a little time pottering in our home and garden. Sometimes it's good to have a shift around of art and plants. From the bedroom I brought down my Beci Orpin wall hanging and popped it on the wall above our sideboard, I love how the colours work well with all my plants. And I'm really astonished how I've managed to keep all my houseplants alive, usually it's a plant graveyard. I did find a fantastic tip for using cold ground coffee on my jade plant and it does seem to be working wonders! In my Decorators Notebook frame I've filled it with a pressed fern and a fuchsia from the garden. They seem to work well against the blue wall.

Our garden table fell apart on me a few months ago and I was going to get rid of it and buy a new metal set. But after being inspired by a courtyard garden in Norfolk I decided to try and repair it and give it a lick of grey paint. We had some leftover Farrow and Ball Downpipe eggshell from when we painted the front door, so I used that for the table and chairs. And what a transformation. I love being back outside in the garden with a coffee and a good book to read.

Finally, thank you so much for all your fantastic comments about my #sideview project. I'm trying to be braver and I posted a 'selfie' of Harry and I at the Nature Reserve. Yes, I have lines under my eyes but I'm learning to love them. I prefer my #sideview of my blue shirt though.

Have a good week all. x

This week I have been:

Reading: The Accidental by Ali Smith. A beautiful, yet haunting novel set in Norfolk.
Coveting: a bolga basket from Housekeeping Store, although sadly they are all sold out.
Eating: this pizza by Anna Jones and taken from her new book, A Modern Way To Eat, which is an outstanding vegetarian cookbook.
Watching: The Honourable Woman. This is the best television show I've seen all year. Maggie Gyllenhaal is incredible and the plot takes so many twists and turns. I'll be gutted when it's over. If you've missed it then all the previous episodes are available on the BBC I-Player.

Loving Yorkshire - The Forbidden Corner


Friday, 8 August 2014

Hi there! On Monday we entered the strange and mysterious world of The Forbidden Corner. Nestled away in the Yorkshire Dales lies four acres of gardens with chambers, follies and a labyrinth of tunnels. There are paths and pathways that lead nowhere, rooms with doors that have nothing behind them, a haunted mausoleum with coffins opening and closing, a witch's cottage and lots of other seriously spooky details.

We've been before, about five years ago (we can't remember exactly!) but I do know that it was in September and it was gloriously sunny. You have to book your tickets in advance and then keep your fingers crossed that the weather will be nice. They only let a few people in at a time and on the hour. This becomes clear why when you see all the narrow passageways and dark corners you have to enter. There isn't a lot of room to move in certain areas and there are also some pretty steep staircases to descend. We'd planned on going during the summer holidays and knowing that it would be busy we booked quite some time ago. Again, we prayed it would stay dry, and once more we got lucky as it was a scorcher of a day.

After driving through some very idyillic Dales villages we arrived at Tupgill Park, Middleham. We chose to get there a little early as we wanted to have a picnic first. There are lots of spots tucked away in a woodland area and it was lovely sitting in the sunshine, surrounded by little tiny birds peeking out at you from the bushes and trees, willing you to throw them a little of your sandwich.

When you first enter the Forbidden Corner you are faced with a giant face, rolling it's eyes and a wide open mouth. It belches when you pass through it. Once through you are faced with many paths, mazes, hidden doors, underground chambers, optical illusions, fairy tales and even a frog chorus fountain. It is slightly spooky in places and a lot of younger kids were a bit frightened and some crying. Most got over it quickly as there are as many funny laugh out loud parts as there are scary. There are faces and bits of legs in walls. There are windows that turn out to be mirrors. Creepy fairy tale characters  of giant mice and cats trying to catch them. Strange paintings in tunnels with the same faces added in to each portrait. Eerie voices seeping through the walls. Harry loved it five years ago and now at eleven enjoyed it just as much as last time. This time being a bit older we did go into the mausoleum where the coffins open and close and the two skeletons of an old married couple have an argument - one of the highlights for all of us was listening to them moaning and complaining about being dead to one another!

There are twists and turns everywhere. There is a lot of water so you have to prepare to get wet. My husband thought it would be funny to set one of the traps off as I walked through it. I ended up looking like I'd wet myself for half and hour. Divorce was subsequently discussed. Forbidden Corner leaves you bamboozled and perplexed at times as it can be difficult to find your way around but that's part of the fun. It's an incredible day out, a mystery waiting to be solved and something all the family will talk about all the way home. And that's really the secret of Forbidden Corner - it makes everyone young or old feel special. x

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