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Goodbye summer garden

The rain has temporarily stopped, however now that we’ve hit September, summer is officially over. The last few months have been good to The Glen House garden; the grass and flowers have grown (so have the weeds)….

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It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly a year since we moved into this beautiful house. The header for my blog was taken a fee weeks after we arrived; the house and garden look peaceful but somewhat grey. The garden looked plain and uninspiring….

Now, it is full of colour and excitement! At the start of the summer came the additions of a gorgeous little green shed and kennel that now blend in at the side of the house.

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The newest member of our family keeps Dr Doolittle entertained all day, everyday! I’ve had to get used to him wagging his tail and accidentally whacking the flowers because he’s so excited.

However, he left plenty of flowers to enjoy…..
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This vibrant honeysuckle was my favourite flower that bloomed during the summer.

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The clematis seemed to appear in formation….

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There were plenty of lilies dotted around the garden.

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This magnificent hydrangea is still out there, however it’s no longer this fabulous bright cerise pink colour.

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The pretty clematis framing the front door…

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This is my 99th post… Roll on the 100th…!

Melissa xx

Garden grown blackberry crumble

It’s that time of year again, the time when beautiful little blackberries start popping up in abundance in Irish hedgerows.

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Luckily, they seem to be making a staggered appearance around The Glen House garden, giving us plenty of time to pick them. Just to note, we’re not picking them all, there are PLENTY left for the birds!

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So this week I’ve decided to bring a blackberry and pear crumble to Angie’s place for Fiesta Friday.

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My favourite crumble recipe is from Rachel Allen’s book Bake! It adds oats to a traditional crumble mixture to give it a really crunchie texture. This is my version…..

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Ingredients:
400g blackberries
2 pears
150g plain flour
75g butter CHILLED
25g porridge oats
75g soft brown sugar

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Place the flour in a large bowl, add in the butter and using your fingertips rub it in until it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Then add in the sugar and oats and combine (I used a spoon, so that I wouldn’t warm the butter up).

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Lay the blackberries and chopped up pear in a 1 litre pie or oven dish, then sprinkle with the crumble mixture.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top.

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I served mine with greek yogurt, but custard or icecream would be just as yummy!

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I stumbled upon a poem by the wonderful Irish poet Seamus Heaney that sums up this time of year….

Blackberry Picking
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for picking.
Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

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Melissa xx

Garden grown onion marmalade

The Glen House garden is full of these beautiful little shallots; several months ago we planted some vegatable bulbs and tiny stater plants (take a look at this post) and now we are starting to enjoy the produce.

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Having just finished a shop bought jar of onion marmalade it was pretty clear what we had to try and make next….

Onion Marmalade

Ingredients:
Loads of little onions (or 4 large ones)
3 Cloves of garlic
65 g Muscovado sugar
175 ml Balsamic vinegar
¼ Nutmeg powder
1 Clove crushed
1 tspn Chilli powder
1 tspn Paprika
Salt and pepper

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Method:
Peel and thinly slice the onions and garlic. Add a large knob of butter to your pan on a medium-low heat. Do not allow the butter to darken; when it starts to bubble, add the onions and stir.

Allow the onions to cook for 15-20 minute on a medium-low heat until they become translucent. Add the chopped garlic and stir. Cook gently for a further 3 minutes. Do not allow your pan to get too hot at this stage as the onions will become crispy and the garlic will burn, giving your marmalade a bitter taste.

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After three minutes, add the muscovado sugar to the pan and stir in thoroughly, coating all of the onions with sugar. As the sugar melts, the mixture should turn brown and become sticky.

With the onions evenly coated, you can add the balsamic vinegar. Increase the pan to a high heat just before pouring in the vinegar, and stir your onions as you add the liquid. When your balsamic begins to bubble, reduce to a medium-low heat.

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With your balsamic simmering, stir in the chilli, paprika, nutmeg, crushed clove, and salt and pepper to taste. As the mixture begins to reduce, you can balance the flavours by adding more sugar or vinegar to the pan. You are looking for a perfect balance between a tangy initial flavour, and a sweet, spicy after-taste.

Gently cook away all of the residual liquid until you are left with a thick and sticky jam. Place your cooked marmalade into a clean air-tight jam jar and seal. Allow the jar to cool to room temperature before storing the onion marmalade in your fridge. It can keep for several months and is delicious served hot or cold.

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The marmalade is delicious with cold meats, cheese and bar-be-qued hamburgers!

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We also pickled some shallots in a vinegar solution…. They should be ready to munch on soon too.

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As always, I’m popping over to Angie’s place for Fiesta Friday, so I’ll bring a jar of each.

Happy Friday!

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Melissa xx

Elderflower fizzzzzzz

The countryside was abloom with magnificent creamy flat-topped sprays last month. The sweetly scented flower of the Sambucus Nigra or Elderflower had arrived.

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Their heady sweet scent permeated country lanes, roadsides, graveyards, parks and gardens and these sprays (umbels), containing hundreds of tiny  flowers, have more uses than any other single species of blossom.

The delicate flavoured flowers with the aroma of Muscat grapes turn up in wines, cordials, sorbets, jams, deserts and sauces.

Elderflowers bloom for about three/four weeks and are not only valued for their culinary use, but also prized for their medicinal qualities. Elderflower extract is used in a wide variety of vitamins and tonics, in skin ointments and eye lotions. Elderflowers are also rich in Vitamin A, B and are used for the treatment of colds, flus and hayfever.

Dr Doolittle used a River Cottage recipe to make a delicious Elderflower cordial. He found that this recipe had a lot less sugar than all the other recipes.

Ingredients:
About 25 elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
1kg sugar
1 head tsp citric acid (optional)

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Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.

Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes

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Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

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The first night we tried it with sparkling water, which was nice…. The second night we tried it with sparkling wine and it was gorgeous!

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The Glen House garden is truely amazing, it never fails to inspire me. To share the love, I’m bringing a bottle of cordial to Angie’s for the Fiesta Friday party at the novice gardener.

Happy Friday!

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Melissa xx
Follow me on Twitter @the_glen_house
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Clever garden!

Back in March we put down a couple wooden raised beds at The Glen House. We filled them with compost and top soil and then the real fun began!

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We planted lettuce, salad onions and cabbages. We covered them with netting to stop the birds getting at them. Month after month we fed and watered them and watched them grow.

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A member of the cabbage family, Curly kale is very common. Instead of forming a head, the leaves grow in a loose rosette at the top of a stem. The leaves are green, sometimes tinged with blue or purple, and their flavour is strong and distinct.

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The lettuce grew beautifully next to the salad onions. They have a relatively mild onion flavour, and can be used as a vegetable, either raw or cooked. Seemingly, the best to harvest the lettuce is in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun!!

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Finally, nearly three months later the veg was ready to harvest.

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It was a slow process to go through all the veg, but well worth it! I washed and prepared everything that was picked and froze a large portion of it so that I can have fantastic greens all year round.

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It’s vegetarian week at Angie’s place, so I’m bringing the rest of my delicious crop over to the party at Fiesta Friday.

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Melissa xx

New Neighbours

We have a lot of visitors coming and going around The Glen House. Did you meet Mr P.? The new neighbours are a highly entertaining bunch…..

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Pheasant

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Swan

Apart from the usual pheasants, swans, ducks, herons and the phenomenal array of birds in the garden we now have a herd of cows!

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Both sides of the river infront of The Glen House are strewn with cows of all sorts of colours.

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They really enjoyed the freshly cut grass from the lawn, lovingly fed to them by The Glen House’s very own Dr Doolittle!

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Dr Doolittle

Did you know…. Cows spend 10 to 12 hours a day lying down. The average sleep time of a domestic cow is about four hours a day; unlike horses, they don’t sleep standing up!

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According to Farming With Compassion “Cattle were domesticated as long ago as the Neolithic age and have been kept as livestock ever since for their meat, milk and hides….”

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“Historically there was less distinction between dairy cattle and beef cattle, with the same breeds used for both milk and meat. However today farmers generally keep either beef or dairy cattle….” These gorgeous beef cattle are being reared on sweet, sweet grass.

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Cows

Meet my new mate Daisy!

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Daisy

It’s all cow crazy around here…

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Jelly sweet

Melissa xx

Remember you can now find me on Twitter @the_glen_house

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Twitter

Pretty Edible Flowers- Wild Garlic

Joan over at retirement and beyond posted at the weekend about beautiful flowers in the Irish countryside. Stunning bluebells (I was reading her post wishing we had more here at The Glen House) and wild garlic (oh how pretty I thought)…. HANG ON A MINUTE, they look like the white flowers growing all around The Glen House. I dashed home to pick a bit, wash it and try….. OH WOW!!

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So unbeknownst to me, this incredible herb and salad leaf has been growing all around. The delicate white flowers on long, grass-like stems are like a white bluebell, however the white flower has a slight garlicy smell.

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Seemingly, there are dozens of similar plants called ‘wild garlic’ that are grown across the world. The Irish one grows in damp woodland as a floor covering, which creates a fantastic spectacle of white blooms appearing in April and May.

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When picking your wild garlic, be sure to only pick healthy, undamaged specimens and give them a good wash before using. I used scissors to snip the garlic off at the base.

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The whole of the plant is edible; the flowers have a mild, garlicky flavour and are perfect for salads and garnishes. The long, grass-like leaves can be snipped into salads and savoury dishes as you would use chives. Or as I did, blitzed up as a pesto or sauces. The bulbs can be sautéed up like shallots, or leave them in the ground for next year’s crop!

Here’s my wild garlic pesto recipe, I adapted it from Donal Skehan.

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50g of Parmesan cheese, grated
140ml of extra virgin olive oil
40g of pine nuts
80g of wild garlic leaves, stems cut off, washed and dried
Sea salt and ground black pepper

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Having thoroughly washed the wild garlic, place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth.

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Once blitzed, I added a little more oil to loosen the mixture up.

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Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and taste.

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Transfer to clean jars and top with an extra drizzle of oil to create a seal. The jars will keep in the fridge for at least one week. And hey presto I have pesto!

Melissa xx

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