The first snow fall……

frosty in the garden

 

When I woke this morning the light was that odd, unsettling paleness that comes just before snow, we’d had quite a heavy frost in the night and I took some photos of my beloved broccoli and a few pots of herbs while I was filling the bird feeders and breaking the water in the bird baths…we have a robin who has become very bold in the past couple of weeks, he likes to sit on the handle of a watering can while I’m filling the feeders and he looks like an extra from Mister Mcgregors garden……yesterday and this morning he sat quite still on the cherry tree branch as I put out food, he was so close, perhaps a couple of feet away if that……he tilts his head to the left and right and as soon as I back away he jumps up on the feeder and begins his breakfast.

 

broccoli

 

The other birds aren’t quite so brave, the big fat wood pigeons and the more dainty collared doves sit on the fence, as will the blackbirds and thrush, but the tits and chaffinch wait patiently up in the trees until I’m indoors and then they fly down and squabble amongst themselves as to which feeder belongs to who…..the great tits are the most bolshy, they’ll pick little fights with the robin and will shoo off the blackbird as well given half the chance……the chaffinch never comes too close to the house, preferring to stay to the garden edges but the other tits (blue tits, stripey black and white headed coal tits, marsh and willow tits) all come up as close as day, and I often pause when I’m washing up or making breakfast to watch them.

We also get sparrows as they nest in our neighbours hedge, a dunnock and in the Summer and Autumn I was regularly seeing a little wren….this last week I’ve seen a lone starling on the fat feeder (in past years they’ve been in abundance however I’d not seen one for ages til quite recently)…we also get magpies and a beady eyed jay that doesn’t miss a thing (he finds all the tasty treats like sunflower hearts and dry meal worms)

 

purple hued broccoli

 

We used to have dainty little long tailed tits in the garden but two years ago we had a really cold Winter, two weeks of heavy snow (this counts as a bad Winter in England though I know if you live in colder climes it’s really nothing) and sadly all the long tailed tits perished…they were so pretty, like tiny pink and cream pom poms with delicate long black tails.

While we sat and ate breakfast the light became even weaker and then it began to snow….not really enough to write home about, it lasted maybe an hour at most, but it’s enough to make my heart beat quicker, always I feel a stir of excitement at the first snowfall, we’re supposed to have more this afternoon and maybe tomorrow so hopefully we’ll go out for a walk when everything is transformed and becomes swan snowy white.

 

broccoli plant

 

I keep waiting in the garden all bundled up to take pictures of the birds but my hands become too numb and the pictures end up looking like nothing on earth (seriously it’s hard enough for me to take a decent picture of something still let alone anything that is moving)….so for now it’s just more pictures of my beautiful flowering broccoli ……I used to have a cookery book called “The Broccoli Forest” and this is what my raised bed of broccoli is now referred to …our broccoli forest…..it won’t be long before it’s ready to eat and I’m going through cookery books to find new ways to cook it.  One of my resolutions this year was to try at least one new recipe a week…that’s already been changed to “perhaps try one new recipe”……The Arette does most of the cooking and he’s one of those wonderful cooks who doesn’t need a recipe,  he can just potter about and make something delicious from nothing…..

Leeks and mushrooms and pine nuts oh my…..

pasta - leek and mushroom dish 004

 

Last night for supper I made a pasta dish with leeks and mushrooms and some ricotta cheese and pine nuts.   It was super easy to cook (though 3 hands would have been handy as I just caught the pine nuts while I was toasting them in a dry pan), filled our tummies while staying light and not stodgy.  There comes a point in Winter where I start to crave lighter Springtime meals.

This really takes very little time to cook, the leeks are cooked while the water for the pasta comes to the boil, and then the mushrooms are sauteed while the pasta simmers.

 

Ingredients for two

fresh pasta

a couple of leeks

a handful of oyster mushrooms

olive oil – a splash

un-waxed lemon

salt and pepper  – for seasoning

pine nuts – a small handful

ricotta cheese – just a couple of desert spoons

un-salted butter – a knob (walnut sized)

 

Method

Put a big pan of water for the pasta on the heat and bring to the boil.

While this is heating up, chop the leeks and really wash them thoroughly.  I slice the green of the leeks really finely, just a few mm’s and then cut the white thicker, about 1 cm.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and tip in the washed leeks.  Allow to cook for about 5 minutes before adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Using a citrus zester, grate in the zest of an un-waxed lemon.

If the leeks stick at all add a little vegetable stock or water from the pasta pan.

Once the water boils, add the pasta.

Melt some unsalted butter into another pan and add the lightly torn oyster mushrooms (I used oyster mushrooms as they have such a light and delicate flavour), sautee gently.

In yet another pan (okay there is a bit of washing up with this dish but it tastes very nice and washing up is always quicker to do than you realise) add the pine nuts and gently toast, keep an eye on them as you don;t want them to burn.

Check that the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain.  While the pasta cools a little, turn the heat off from the leeks and stir in a couple of spoonfuls of ricotta cheese.

Tip the pasta into the leeks and ricotta, stir, and put onto your plates.

Arrange the oyster mushrooms on top and then scatter with the toasted pine nuts.

 

pasta - leek and mushroom dish 002

 

If you are vegan then saute the mushrooms in a little  olive oil rather than butter.  Instead of ricotta cheese finely grind the pine nuts with some cashew nuts, add a little unsweetened apple juice and stir well, (or pulse if you have a blender) so you have a thick nut cream.  Add this to the cooked leeks before stirring in the pasta.  It doesn’t taste exactly the same but is still very nice and light tasting)

The plates I use are what I think of as my hobbit plates (I think they look like the plates at Bag End in the Lord of The Rings/ The Hobbit films)…. they are made by my favourite potter, Robin Dauncey.