Saturday, July 12, 2008

Grazing on salad

Rain makes for a lovely green lush salad leaf and probably a wonderful beetroot in a few weeks. Strawberries on the other hand are rotting on the plants as are the gooseberries. Apples are swelling on the tree.
The raised bed that looked empty a few weeks ago is bursting with fresh green leaves and I find myself grazing whenever I pass; a rocket leaf here, a salad leaf there, a spinach leaf that is fresh and crunchy.

Salads cannot readily be preserved and are a crop that needs to be picked and eaten very quickly. Problem is that the weather suits more pies and stews than salad leaves. It makes a wonderful addition to home made savoury pies or pizza.

What amazes me every year is that different plants get the spotlight....when their growing conditions are just right. This must be a a salad year! Hence the abundance in rabbits in the fields...their vegetation is in abundance and so they multiply.

I could be negative about the lack of sunshine but instead I am grateful that this year any lettuces planted are not turning bitter and going to seed as quickly as other years. having saved the rain butt in case of drought I can only laugh at the irony of it, its overflowing every day. I fill my watering cans with rainwater to water the tomatoes that are screaming for some warmth and water the houseplants with the abundant water. After all, it makes up 75% of the chemistry of people and vegetation so there is nothing to complain about, its obviously needed.

Sandals are parked and wellies are the new summer gear!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer memories

Old House Ardennes 67 by Ledent
Old House Ardennes 67

The daily front page news may or may not have got you down over the last month as well as the lack of summer warmth. The news all around is rather gloomy…but only if we let it. Our antidote here is to rise above any recession prediction and continue to enjoy what we do.

The economic outlook may seem as dark as the summer weather; every week suppliers provide new price lists, stop stocking certain items or change their delivery days to cut fuel costs which overall is probably a sensible approach in the current volatile business climate.

Global warming, the credit crunch and economic recession can be a selffulfilling prophecy if we let it.

My childhood in Belgium took place in a small village in the Ardennes and every Sunday I cycled to the village ( about 3 miles away, uphill) to seek out the bakery. My efforts of cycling uphill were rewarded upon entering the village where my senses would be revived. The smell of fresh bread and pastries would waft out of the bakery and Annemie would wave me in with a lovely smile. I was about 12 at the time. My basket would fill up with fresh crusty rolls, the odd baguette, fruit waffle and Tarte au Riz for afternoon tea. My cargo had to be protected on the whiz down the hill back home. During summer months I would rest on a grass verge, read a few passages of my book and admire the view of the valley below. Come rain or shine, whether my week had been successful or pretty hard to deal with, I never failed my expeditions to the bakery. Annemie’s wave and smile would beckon me in and I would leave feeling a sense of belonging and warmth which has stayed with me ever since.

This is one of the reasons for baking fresh bread, croissants and pastries in Central Stores. There are still memories to be made today for young and old alike.

For the past few weeks we have been experimenting with baguettes, different types of rolls and pastries and feedback has been very encouraging indeed. The variety on offer will continue to change, not only to test our baking skills, but to offer a moving feast for the senses to accompany villagers during bright and rainy days. You may even glimpse a smile from behind the counter!

Bread, rolls and pastries are available every day but croissants and petit pains au chocolat are weekend delights to be savoured with a steaming cup of your favourite beverage and good read whatever the weather. Baking has given me a new satisfaction; every time a croissant leaves the oven, I hear Annemie’s voice telling me not to hurry, to enjoy every moment. Every croissant has the ability to create a memory.

Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is a success.
Henry Ford

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Despite the weather....

Window dressing is not a skill that I have acquired over the years but it gives me an opportunity to create something of a talking point in the village. Apparently on a rainy day it gives a focus for a small walk to the shop, then maybe be drawn in by the smell of bread baking in the oven to buy a croissant, a danish pastry or a baguette. At the weekend we encourage a relaxing morning stroll to buy a newspaper, a croissant and petit pain au chocolat to enjoy at home with some coffee. Even if the summer weather leaves a lot to be desired, we can pretend that we enjoy a holiday lifestyle.

Each window has a riddle in between the baguette and the coffee we have a french hen, a duck and some garlic.......

The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be
Marcel Pagnol quotes (French Writer, Producer and Film Director, 1895-1974)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

No waist

Boulangerie by Katharine Gracey

Over the last month we have been busy starting an on site bakery in the shop. The credit crunch is making people in the countryside aware that just to drive 3 miles for a loaf of bread might be a little eccentric. We support home breadmaking by offering a variety of flours from french bread to wholemeal but we felt what was missing was the smell of fresh bread, croissants and freshly baked goodies on site.

The transformation is as magical as we thought and although the workload increases, there is nothing that beats the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the shop and increasing the feel good factor. The supermarkets stagger their baking efforts throughout the day to appeal to the customer to by fresh bread, doughnuts etc. In the village shop we bake early in the morning a selection of pastries, organic loaves and baguettes but when the quantity has run out we do not bake again. This means that early in the morning people sit on the outside bench waiting until the bread is ready.

Summer may have bypassed us but the bakery in the shop has brought a summer holiday feeling to our customers and all who visit.

There is still a lot of repair work to be carried out on the premises and the kitchen to expand the range. The feedback has been great and we have more visitors who follow their noses.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Salad days

The rainy, cool days suit the salads in the raised beds very well although the humans in the household are crying out for some hot weather.

The raised salad bed is planted quite densely which eliminates weeding. Red and green lettuces interplanted with radishes provide a feast for the senses. Slug population need to climb at least the equivalent of a mountain to reach the greenery and success for the moment is abundant.

Simple salad

Salad leaves- mixed, washed and cut up with scissors
sprinkling of cashew nuts
sprinkling of sultanas
1 avocado sliced
dressing of olive oil and lemon or lime juice

add either crusty bread or 2 rice cakes, a large glass of elderflower cordial and enjoy what is left of the summer.