Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poppies, Lupines and Iris...oh my!!

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the bees are buzzing, you can see three busy bees right there in the poppy above!!The flowers here in Midcoast Maine are breathtaking right now...we have bright red ballerina poppies, fields of lupines, huge pendulous spiraea heavy with flowers and many colourful irises.
These pictures say it all!!
Plus poppies are for remembrance which is appropriate on this Memorial Day weekend.

Here's to summer 2010!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rhubarb Mintade and Rhubarb Layer Cake!

Isn't this the most luscious and lovely colour?! It is rhubarb and mintade and it is SO easy to make...and yes I have taken my own sweet time doing this post...forgive me!!

4 stalks of rhubarb (no leaves)

3 stalks of mint leaves or about a good handful of leaves

1/2 cup/4ozs sugar and some honey of your choice...I use Swann's honey from Maine, the wildflower variety which has a good strong, old-fashioned honey taste...almost like mimosa flowers...has anyone ever had those crystallized...I had them as a kid and I loved them.
Anyways...cut the rhubarb into small pieces and put in a pan with the sugar and about 2 tablespoons of honey, you won't need any water and bruise and muddle the mint leaves in there too, stir all together....put on low heat and cook until the rhubarb completely breaks down...allow to cool and check for sweetness.

When cool pour all into a strainer over a bowl and allow to strain completely...the resultant thick juice is ready to be used over ice cream or thinned to your desired consistency for a nice soothing, cooling delicious beverage of a beauteous hue!!

Happy Quaffing!!
Here's my made-up Rhubarb Layer so much rhubarb have to figure what to do with it all. My Mum used to make an apple sauce cake this way so I thought why not do it with rhubarb.

First of all double the recipe above for the Rhubarb Mintade, leave out the mint and only cook 'til the rhubarb begins to don't want it mushy for this strain again so the rhubarb isn't too wet.
Make the very simple cake batter: Pre heat oven to 425F

1 cup/8oz of sugar

2 sticks softened butter (yes I use salted but you don't have to)

10 1/2 ozs/2 1/4 cups white flour sifted

4 large eggs whisked at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon cardamom

1. Cream butter and sugar together 'til light and fluffy.

2. Add eggs a bit at a time and beat after each are doing it bit by bit so the mixture doesn't curdle but if it does don't worry it will come back when you add the flour!!

3. Add the sifted flour and cardamom in 2 or 3 three additions and mix well but don't beat..cream.

4. Butter and flour a small cake pan...mine was about 7" but nice and deep...put half of the batter into the pan.

5. Pick out some nice whole pieces of rhubarb from the cooked rhubarb and set aside.

6. Now spread the rest of the cooked rhubarb over the batter.

7. Spread the rest of the batter over the rhubarb...if is it hard to spread...this is a thick batter...use a wet spatula to spread, that really helps.

8. Now put the whole pieces of rhubarb on the top of the cake in a pretty pattern, as below, or an ugly one if you are feeling grumpy!
I put an extra sprinkling of sugar over the cake before I put it into the 425F oven for about 35-40 minutes...the wetness of the rhubarb will determine how long to cook...insert a thin knife into the cake to see if it is done...should come out clean but you also have to determine if it is not clean it may be the rhubarb sticking to the knife, come on Nancy Drew/Enid Blyton you can do it!

Friday, May 21, 2010

How green is my garden!

WOW!! It really is this green out photoshopping or doctoring of colours, this is how it looks right out my window right now!! Above you can see all the poppies waiting to burst forth....and below...
the first Lupine opens it's beauteous petals to the clear, shining azure blue is GORGEOUS here in Maine today, a cool breeze...birds singing, bugs buzzing...the first June bug showed up last eve, a little early perhaps but we were glad to see the little guy.
The delphiniums are burgeoning forth along with wild daisies, paeonias and irises. I'm so excited to see my dear flower friends return once again...welcome!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rhubarb, rhubarb everywhere...OH YUM!!! Manchester or Queen of Puddings with rhubarb!!

Ahhhhh...the rhubarb patch and this is only part of much rhubarb so little time!! I love that it just keeps returning in abundance and expects no effort on your part...good little rhubarb!!
So I availed myself of many stalks and proceeded to wash trim and chop...remember the leaves are toxic and must never be used in cooking, throw them away...begone leaves!!...with my rhubarb I just guesstimate the amount of sugar to begin are about 5 goodly stalks and about 1/2 cup of sugar. I don't add any water to my rhubarb as it is very juicy without. Put the pan on a very low heat and stir occasionally...don't let it catch or burn...keep those eyeballs peeled. For this recipe I allowed the rhubarb to break down completely as I wanted a smooth rhubarb compotey thing. When the rhubarb is cooked allow to cool and add more sugar if you deem it necessary..rhubarb sweetness is a very personal thing!!
Ta Dah!!! The first rhubarb delight of the season...Manchester Pudding or Queen of Puddings...your choice on the name...I prefer Manchester as that is where I hail from. Usually this pudding is made with commercial or homemade jam such as raspberry but why not rhubarb compote I asked myself and here we are - a custardy base, a layering of rhubarb and a cloud of heavenly meringue!!
1 imperial pint of milk which equals 20 fluid ozs US
1/2 oz/ 1/8th stick butter
4oz/2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (I do mine in batches in a coffee grinder which works really well)
4 oz/1/2 cup fine white sugar or brown it doesn't really matter
2 egg yolks and 4 egg whites
4-6 goodly tablespoons of delish rhubarb rhubarbiness

1. Pre heat the oven to 350F and butter a pie dish that's about 8-9" round...or do individual ones...whatever your heart desires, this is not a precision dessert.
2. Put milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, breadcrumbs, half of the sugar and allow to sit for about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs have swelled.
3. Beat the egg yolks and add them to the cooled breadcrumb mixture...if the mix is still hot the yolks will scramble!
4. Now pour the breadcrumb 'custard' into the pie dish and cook for about 30 minutes until the custard is set...I like it when the centre is still a bit wobbly not set hard throughout...makes the finished pud lighter and wiggle as you go and when the outside is set and the middle is still a bit wobbly remove from the oven.
5. When it is somewhat cooled spread the rhubarb gently over the custard.
6. Now whip the egg whites to stiff and gradually add in the rest of the sugar beating in between additions...when nice and glossy spoon over the rhubarb and make pretty.
7. Return to the oven and bake 'til browned and beauteous as above.
8. I prefer this dish cool when it seems to have more flavour than straight out of the oven...the custardy part is definitely better cool or cold but not refridgetarted (incorrect spelling but I like it!!)
And here for you, my dear Readers is a spring bouquet from our Maine garden....the weather has been fantastic lately although it is grey and mizzlin' today...the garden abounds and all the flowers are early!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In a Maine Afternoon.....

From this, in a couple of hours....the photo doesn't do it justice but this was an intense rainbow that only lasted a short time...glad I saw it out the window.
The sculpture is by James and is called "Leap, Run, Leaping"

Make A Wish Rug Design

The Make A Wish Foundation of Maine asked me to design a rug for their upcoming auction in July. Of course I was thrilled to be asked and really glad to do so. I did the same a couple of years ago and was really proud that my rug ended up making about $3000 for the Foundation.....I was aghast!! Of course I couldn't have done that rug without the amazing work of my friends Maine Wool and Design who take my rug design and actually turn it into a rug...BY HAND!! right here in Lewiston, Maine. Their work is incredible and they are one of a handful of companies still left in America who hand tuft rugs. The process is quite elaborate and time consuming. After I have designed the rug I need to make a full scale black and white layout for Cliff to work from, he has to transfer the full scale image to brown layout paper, then electric pounce the design and then transfer that onto a cotton backing, then he fills in the design with wool by hand using an electric tufting gun, then the rug needs to be sheared and finished and finally have a latex backing applied to finish the edges and hold the wool in place...YIKES, it is not a quick process and I can tell you right now Cliff really knows what he's doing!! Thanks Cliff!!!
Above you see the design at it's very beginning...we choose a circular design as the starting point for this rug...I reworked it into a rectangle (with the invaluable help of Eleanor my artistic assistant) as circular rugs are harder to place in a room and rectangles are an easier 'sell' Here's the finished pencil on tracing paper. I'll certainly post a picture here of the finished about 5 weeks time. Only one rug of this design will be made so that the rug has more value for the auction and it will be signed and dated by me.
The Make A Wish Foundation helps kids like Electron Boy realize their lifelong dreams...yea!!! for Electron Boy.