Happy New Year!

2018 has begun.

We had to bring the dessert for the dinner party we were going to, and perhaps because I have a slightly more fancy/poncey style of cooking than Tommy he was happy to let me handle it. (Also, he was working during the day so really didn’t have time to cook.)

So I was throwing ideas about in my head, but the main concept was that a dessert for New Year’ Eve needs to look a bit glamourous! I fixed on poached pears pretty early on, and for a while I thought I’d do a classic poire belle Hélène since it would be easy to travel with the component parts and then plate them up just before serving – but it seemed too “safe”…

Because it was for New Year’s I poached the pears with cava (a Spanish dy sparkling wine), sugar and vanilla pods, and while they were slowly cooking I baked some small disks of flakey almond pastry, just to add some texture to the dish.

When the pears were done I reduced the poaching liquid to a thick syrup, reducing it to one tenth of the original volume.

I placed a pastry disk on each plate, drizzled it generously with the pear, cava and vanilla syrup, and then I softened some gorgonzola cheese in a bit of cream and mixed it with whipped cream to make a mild blue-cheese flavoured cream to be piped on each disk before setting the pears on top. In hindsight I should have probably made it as a crème patissière so it would have been firmer and the pastry disk would still have been visible under the cream – but since I wasn’t working to a recipe and had never tested out my ideas I just had to wing it!

I then poured a sauce of white chocolate and cream over each pear before giving them a light dusting of edible “gold” dust. (NOT actual gold flakes – though that would have looked more elegant it would also have been beyond my budget!)

I was rather pleased with the over-all look… The dessert looked festive and suitable for New Year’s Eve, when everything needs to be a bit blinged out! I could have gone a bit more “all in” on the blue cheese – but I was afraid that blue cheese in a sweet dessert might be a bit challenging for some, and since I didn’t really know any of the other guests I played it a bit safe.

People seemed to enjoy it, though, both the look and the taste.

As the “New Boyfriend” being brought to a large party I wanted to make my boyfriend proud. And I know nobody would have thought less of me if I had brought a large bowl of trifle or whatever, but I wanted to pull out all the stop for this one.

It could have been better if I had done a trial run, of course. Since there was no recipe beyond what I imagined might taste nice, the balance was a bit off and I’d definitely do it differently another time – but it was good enough for the purpose and looked the part of a New Year’s Eve dessert!

(I won’t give a detailed recipe for two reasons: I improvised the whole lot, and I’d do it differently if I had another go… But do try to make things with pears and gorgonzola! It’s SUCH a classic combination!!!)


Merry Christmas

I had sort of planned to have a quiet, solitary Christmas this year – just me and the cat… But things happened this autumn that changed those plans and instead led me to spend Christmas in Copenhagen.

You see, I met someone in early September and by mid-October he was my boyfriend. And on December 23rd I went to his place with an 7½ft tree to spend Christmas with him and his parents!

(Trust me, bringing that tree wth me on the city bus from my own pied-à-terre in town was interesting…)

We decorated the tree together that evening, using only a small part of his VAST stash of vintage ornaments (and a some paper hearts, cones and stars that we made together). It very much became a cirka 1950s archetype of a Danish Christmas tree, and I think it turned out rather beautiful, even if his candle holders definitely need to be repaired if I am ever to spend Christmas with them again! (They, too, are vintage – and they need somebody to take a set of pliers to them to get them into a shape that ensures less wonky candles!)

Because yes, of course a real Christmas tree needs real candles. And the garlands of Danish flags on Christmas trees began as a symbol of nationalism after the Prussians inflicted a devastating defeat on Denmark in 1864 and conquered nearly a third of the Danish mainland. “What is outward lost must be inward gained” and all that.

Here we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve; it only really kicks off when the roast – pork, duck or goose, depending on the family tradition – is in the oven, and after dinner the tree is lit and presents are opened.

(Most families also hold hands and walk around the tree while singing Christmas songs and hymns before present-time, but since we were just four adults we chose to skip that bit… But I would NEVER skip it if there had been even a single child present!)

I had worried a lot about Tommy’s present – yes, that’s his name. I knew what I wanted to give him – but I felt unsure about whether he would want it. I was even as unsure as to consult the ex-flâneur husband… I wanted to give a small amount of cash, equal to the price of a passport renewal, since Tommy hasn’t had a valid passport since 2014 – and I… Well, I like travelling. And I’d like to bring him along.

I’ve got a small apartment booked in Naples, Italy for 9 nights in May. An invite to join me was part of the present. Visiting Herculaneum and Pompeii, scaling Vesuvio, having lunch on the island of Capri… Trips to local markets, dinners cooked in the little kitchenette of the apartment, evening strolls in the Capodimonte park nearby…


So there. Nothing about the garden – but I wish you all the best of Christmases, and a happy New Year!

A Bottle Of Flowers

I’m still here…

For various reasons the garden just isn’t happening this year, as in “I mow the lawn but that’s about it”. It’s fine; gardens are forgiving places, and while there might be a lot of weeds all over the place it’s nothing irreparable.


But summer is truly here. There are days when I retreat to the shade because it gets too hot outside – I’ve clearly lost the heat-resistance I built up in Texas if a Danish June can make me feel like I’m melting.

The sun is making the smell of the elderflowers drift through the garden, and last week I went out and collected a small basket of flowers.


I have never made elderflower cordial before, but the internet told me it was quite simple, so I got rid of as much of the stems as I could be bothered to, boiled up a thin syrup of sugar and water and poured it over the flowers – and then you just leave it in a covered container somewhere cool for 3-4 days.

The smell is amazing when you’re handling 50-something umbels of elderflowers – and when you pour hot liquid over them the smell just explodes! That alone would be a good enough reason to do it.

Last night I filtered the liquid through a cloth in a sieve, leaving the wet flowers to drain for a few hours, and then I poured it into small bottles and capped them. But I’d like to store it until winter, so just to make sure it has a “shelf-life” of up to a year I pasteurised the bottles before putting them away.

It’s the same process as when my family makes apple juice, only on a tiny scale – my pasteurising tub is not an old copper with a live fire underneath but a large builder’s bucket where I can use my sous-vide apparatus to give the bottles 20 minutes at 80C / 175F. That kills everything inside so the contents won’t spoil.


There is something very satisfying about bottling up the smell and taste of summer, storing it up for a cold, dark winter when you need a bit of liquid sunshine. And it really does taste of summer mornings in the garden… The first batch was only a couple of litres, but I’ll definitely make a second, larger batch, and maybe reduce some of it to a thick syrup to use on ice cream, pancakes and whatever else needs a little boost!

I need to get some labels, though, so I can write what’s in each bottle – otherwise it could probably get quite confusing!


Loke and I have been shopping today. You know, the kind of shopping where you don’t need to get your credit card out… (But DOES involve crossing very rickety bridges that makes both the cat and me more than a little worried!)


I found some rather promising dogwood down there, though, so I took a few dozen cuttings. Dogwood cuttings tend to give me around a 90% success rate so I’ll see if the foliage turns out nice and then they might end up in the garden. They don’t have the “perfect” red branches, though, so the foliage needs to sell them!


There are also some wild iris and some marsh marigolds down there, so if I get around to making that wetland/pond feature I dream about I will definitely poach some of them. Even taking the dogwood cuttings was technically illegal, though, so in the spirit of good neighbourship I’ll ask the land-owner before actually digging up plants. It’s a bit like the agreement we have that I can pick stones off his fields if they’re small enough for me to carry… (I have a lot of concrete block edges around my flower beds and I’d like to replace them with natural stones, so basically I want stones smaller than what he can sell commercially and large enough to be a nuisance to him and his farm machinery!)


Most of all, though, I love how getting gardening supplies can be a matter of great enjoyment. Living on my own out here in the middle of nowhere does get a bit lonely, so having a pet who wants to share these outings with me is really rather precious. Loke and I are a little pack, and together we have our small adventures. (And when we don’t have adventures we just cuddle up by the fire! We both enjoy that…)




The last of the first daffs are still blooming, as are the first of the last daffs… I took a short walk around the garden this evening to pick one of each of the narcissi in my garden, and the tally came in at 11 – much higher than I had actually thought!


I do, though, have an awful lot of narcissi in the garden. I’m guessing we’re beyond the 1,000 count – but I really can’t be bothered to count them all.

I didn’t used to like daffodils – and there ARE certain cultivars I still don’t really like. The tiny tête-à-tête varieties just rub me the wrong way for some unknown reason, and the very bright yellow “classic” daffodil is also something I need in moderate doses. Most of my daffs, though, have slightly more muted petals so I rather like them. (The only ones I dislike are a set of VERY bright yellow daffs with VERY large and coarse flowers, especially as they have been planted in a straight line that just makes them look very “highway border”… I suspect I’d dislike them less if I dug them up and replanted them in a less regimented fashion!)

Also, just because:


Yes the cat got stuck in a tree this evening. I’m becoming more ruthless about this, though, so I just left him there – and eventually he DID manage to scramble down. I see right through your “I’m stuck in a tree!!!” scam, little cat…

Mind you, I’m still enough of a sucker that he’s now sitting on my lap in front of a warm fire as I am typing this.


There are times when I feel like a bad pet owner; when I can’t really be bothered with an attention-seeking cat or when I leave him home alone over-night. I can’t even begin to imagine the levels of guilt I’d be engendering if I had a child, considering how guilty even a cat can make me feel!

Still, he is fed every day and has clean water in his bowl, so that’s a good starting point, right? And we go out into the garden together every day – and some days we go a bit further…


That’s my house in the middle of the picture… This morning I took  the cat out for a walk down by the bog/lake behind the garden; he doesn’t like crossing the open field from the back of the garden down to the bushes by the lake, but once we’re down there he absolutely loves it!


There are things to sniff, trees to climb, water to almost fall into and basically everything a little cat could wish for!


This is when I feel that I might be an okay cat owner; he doesn’t get perfection all the time, but there are times when I definitely deliver quality of life to my little Loke. And today has been a good day for him, I think; a morning walk down by the lake, and now he’s sitting on my shoulder, insisting that I should stop paying attention to the laptop and start paying attention to HIM!


Okay, I give up… I have to go pet a cat now… Here’s one final picture from this morning’s walk:


In A Vase On Monday

Apparently some like to show off flowers in vases…


I have an “ever-lasting” bouquet of flowers that is basically just a bunch of twigs supplemented with whatever blooms at any given time. It’s currently mainly birch twigs with bright green foliage, and then I throw in a daffodil or 10 or whatever grabs my fancy.

But I also have lots of small vases perfect for just a single specimen – like this wonderful Arum leaf. In fact I have vases for anything you could imagine; by the last count I was up to 40-something so I wouldn’t be surprised if I had passed 50 by now, having inherited more than a few from my grandmother…

The one pictured is a small stone-ware vase, and I absolutely love the simplicity of the single leaf in a vase; I often use arum leaves as “surrounds” for bouquets, but they deserve to get their own place in the spotlight every now and then. The variegated variety is absolutely stunning this time of year.


We all know that feeling that the neighbour is probably further along in spring preparations, right? Well, I have the excuse that my neighbour has bigger gardening tools than me. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it! No matter what it’s nice to see the spring sowing has begun – soon the fields will be green again.

I’m still sifting through the soil of my vegetable garden and the project is coming along slowly, but nicely. Tradition has it that potatoes should be in the ground before Good Friday so I’m working to a deadline! I think I’ll make it, though – or just about. Still, I’d rather be a few days late according to tradition than not get done with removing weed roots.

Speaking of weeds… The fritillaria imperialis that’s rampant in a corner of my lawn is getting ready to put on a fireworks display. The tallest stems are 1 metre (just over 3’3″) and will probably grow a bit taller still. They’re lovely in that spot – a bit out of the way, so they don’t seem quite as imposing as when you get up close, and of course the smell is kept from the areas of the garden that I mainly use. (God, that smell… They really stink when there’s a large group of them like this!)

I do have a few of them in the border next to the main garden path, so they need to be moved to where they do no harm – where they can spread and be glorious, but not make me hold my nose…

Other weeds in the lawn on a smaller scale includes this little clump of yellow anemones.


I like how there are all sorts of things growing in my lawn, from 3ft explosions to little 3-inch treats you have to bend down to truly appreciate. There are even a few tulips, though they really DO look out of place and will probably be moved once I see what colour they are – I don’t remember from last spring… It makes the lawn more interesting to have all these little surprises coming up, and it’s definitely worth postponing the first mowing to allow these plants to flower and die down before the lawn becomes a lawn again.

(I’m adding to it myself, of course, dotting spring bulbs here and there and moving violets from obscure corners out into the open…)

So there. That’s all for now. A praise for flowers in the lawn!

Am I Going Mad?

First of all: This is NOT an April’s Fool entry – though it might sound like it…


I started weeding the vegetable garden today to get it in shape. Last year the weeds completely got the better of me and I ended up completely abandoning it – so the plan this year is to start out on top of the weeds and stay there!

However, having started the weeding I realised just exactly why I struggled so much last year. There are roots and roots and roots all over the place, and combined with the quick grass it’s just… Well, weeding it seemed impossible!

So I’m taking a rather radical step; basically I dig up the soil to a depth of 8″ and then I sieve it. It’s hard work, but not as hard as it sounds, really – and the result is VERY satisfying!


At first I figured I’d sieve it and then store the sifted soil in the shed that has a concrete floor until I was ready to put it back in, but obviously this is stupid and involves me carting soil around more than I need to, so tomorrow I’ll use another tactic and dig up the soil of one area and placing the unsifted soil on another area of the vegetable garden and then sieve it directly where it needs to end up.

Of course this not only gets rid of roots but also stones, bits of broken glass and pottery and so on, and the sifted soil really feels like something you’d pay good money for in a garden centre!

It won’t eliminate weed seeds, of course and some small roots will invariably pass through the net – but it will be a different game from last year, and as an added bonus the soil will be light and fluffy and perfect for sowing. I’m really quite excited about this, in case you hadn’t noticed…