Autumn is here

It’s absolutely crazy how quickly the summer holidays have passed by! I suppose this was our first proper summer holidays, with Max’s first year at school over and us enjoying ‘us-time’ for a couple of months.

We had family staying over both from my side and from Ian’s side almost back to back, which was lots of fun for everyone! Ok, so the weather wasn’t terribly summery (except when my sister-in-law Jo and co stayed over, then it was faaaaabulous!! – I mean we even ate breakfast on the patio!), but we definitely made the most of it and enjoyed any bit of sunshine, either on the beach in Wales or in the garden. We discovered loads of new places in the area, which now doesn’t feel as new and strange as it did four months ago. Four months!!! Geez, can’t believe we moved in four months ago!

I’m looking out of my kitchen window as I write this, how the sun is shining on the garden and the swing we put up on the old apple tree and all the space, and still can’t believe we live here, and how lucky we are. But I can also see that the leaves are slowly turning colour, which can only mean that autumn is here!! I love autumn! I love the colours the smell of the forests, I love putting on a cardigan and I love wearing my boots! And recently I’ve discovered that I love making the most of our fruit trees! We have apple trees, pear trees, plum trees and hazelnuts. The apples are still ripening and the hazelnuts are all being carried off by squirrels (grrrrr!!!!!!), but the plums are in full action and very tasty.

We picked as much as we could and I’ve been busy trying out making jam and tarts. Want to see? Hmm?? Oh, ok then, if you insist!!

The plum jam was so much easier to make than I thought it would be.

2 kg plums (boil this up in 1 pint of water in a preserving pan)

2 kg preserving sugar (gradually add to the plums, once they’ve boiled mushy and keep simmering for about half an hour or until the set-test works – see below)

1 lemon’s juice (add to the 1 pint of water in the beginning)

The tricks were:

I put 3 saucers in the fridge when I started the whole process and when I thought the jam might be ready I took one of the saucers out, put a spoon full of wanna-be-jam on and waited until it cooled down. If it wrinkled up, the jam was ready to be taken off the cooker, if not, keep simmering for a few more minutes and try again.

And also, have the jars as clean as you can have them! Steam them all and put them in the oven at 80C for 15 min. (do this while the jars are still warm, or else they’ll crack!) When you fill them, they have to be hot still, or else the glass will crack. Oh, and it helps to put the jars on a tea towel when you fill them.

Pretty, no?

Then there was the plum tart. Mmmmmmmmmm….. plum tart….!!!

My good friend Jocelyn gave me a recipe for this, which I had to alter a little bit, as I didn’t have her My Secret Kitchen ingredients, but it still worked beautifully (maybe because I used my mum’s Hungarian plum jam – much runnier than my jam – as a substitute)

Here’s the recipe as given by Jocelyn:

Figgy Plum Tart 

Sweet Pastry Tart Case

250gr. Plain Flour

125gr. Butter

100gr. Icing Sugar

3 medium egg yolks

Rub butter and flour together until a fine mix is obtained.

Add icing sugar and quickly mix, then add egg yolks to the mix to form a smooth pastry – some times a little more egg yolk is required – wrap in cling film and put in fridge for one hour – roll out and gently place in 22cm. loose bottomed flan tin, pushing pastry in to the sides with thumb and forefinger then crimp neatly around the top. Keep in fridge.

Frangipane

125gr. Butter

125gr. Sugar

125gr. Eggs – weigh without shells

125gr. Ground almonds

13gr. Plain flour

Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs, then the ground almonds and flour – the mix is now ready to use. Keep in fridge.

Cut six Victoria Plums in half and de-stone

Melt  25gr. Butter in small frying pan, add 2 tablespoons MSK Fig Pudding Pickle

Stir off the heat until melted – add plums cut side down and bubble until syrupy – spoon mixture over the top of the plums to glaze.

My other lovely friend Nicci, from Home Gurrown has a very similar recipe, which was featured on ITV the other day in their ‘Country Wise Kitchen’ series. Here’s the recipe and here’s the video.

(picture off Nicci’s website)

You can read all about Nicci and all the fab things they do on her wonderful website. On a side note though: she’s a super lady and a wonderful friend and mum, who loves what she does and seriously gives 100% to it all. I wish I had half the determination she has! I would recommend their produce and catering to anyone in a heartbeat. If you live in Kent, find them at the local Farmers’ Markets and buy some of their food. Yuuummmmmmmieeeeeee!!!!!

The Valentine’s Day post

I think there are mainly two extremes of opinion when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Most people seem to either hate it or love it. I’m sort of in between the two. We never did anything major for Valentine’s. We don’t follow the commercial side of the day, so there aren’t any red and pink balloons or expensive cards around the house on the 14th.

We don’t tend to go out for dinner either, because it’s just so very expensive. All restaurants seem to have a special menu that day, TWICE the price of their normal. Ok, maybe not twice, but definitely more expensive. So we stay at home and if anything cook a special meal at home. But most of the time we don’t bother with that either, just eat with the kids as usual.

I don’t say no to handmade gifts though that has a lot of thought put into them and truly came from the heart rather than a wallet/shop. The little book above was all handmade by me. I cut it, bound it, designed it, wrote it. Each page has ‘I love you’ written in different languages and why I love my husband so much.

The gist of it: he’s my missing half. Without him I would not be me. I would not be complete.

This box was another present I made Ian a few years back. It had a book in it, that I was aiming to write in every year with what we achieved that year.

This was that year. We got pregnant with Max! A special year, don’t you think?

Unfortunately after the second entry in the book, it sort of got forgotten… oh well… the thought was there!!

This box wasn’t actually for Valentine’s Day, but I made it because I love Ian all the time. I was going back to New Zealand from the UK to organise our wedding and I wanted to leave something for Ian that will remind him everyday how much I care for him and how much I look forward to our shared lives together. So on each page there’s a little love-note for each day until we got married.

Whether you think much of Valentine’s Day or not, I hope you have someone special in your life who loves you and who you love very much. And no, it doesn’t have to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife. It could be anyone special in your life. Just be thankful for them and love them everyday!

xx

5th December Mikulas!

Mikulas has been to visit the Lavey children tonight!

Have you heard of Saint Nicholas? He is the original Santa Claus / Father Christmas, a Greacian Bishop who was known for his secret present giving to children who left their boots out for him.

Us Hungarians call him Mikulas and he visits our children during the night of the 5th December. In the evenings the children have to clean their boots and put them in the window and hope that they were good so Mikulas would fill them with lots of goodies. The goodies are normally chocolate Mikulas and other sweets packed in a red little bag.

When I was little, he always arrived on the evening of the 5th for us! I remember me and my sister hiding in the bathroom, very excited and waiting for the knock on the window! I was almost scared with excitement! We’d rush out and look in my bedroom’s window and the windowsill would be filled with red Mikulas bags! We’d pour everything out onto our beds and eat most of what was there! And funny enough we weren’t hyperactive either! Or at least I can’t remember that part. Maybe I should ask my mum…

So, this evening me and my dad had a plan (he’s been here on holiday for the past week).

(Max put all the shoes out and he wanted Mummy to get pressies too, so he put my shoes in the middle!)

I bathe the children while he puts the bags in the window, then sneaks outside and jingle Anabelle’s jingly musical instrument so it would sound like reindeer arriving. Max and Anabelle were sooooo excited!

Papa was a bit early though and Max’s head was still covered in shampoo foam, but still they jumped out of the bath, got wrapped in towels and rushed downstairs to find the window full of Mikulas’s presents.

My children stuffed themselves with chocolate too (just before bedtime) and you know what? Neither of them were hyperactive either! Must be in the genes!!

So, now we await Little Jesus on the evening of 24th and so we stay multi-cultured, Father Christmas on the morning of 25th. Goodness… Isn’t it great to be half Hungarian and half English??!