Pear tree buds beginning  to opento open

Conference pear tree buds beginning to open

 

The April sunshine and occasional showers have brought on the ‘greening of Ireland’  as buds burst open on trees and hedgerows in the countryside. The palate of colours is changing as last years stubble has been ploughed, seeded and sown with this year’s crops. At Mornington the lawns have been cut and daffodils are in full bloom. Seeds sown in the last month are slow to emerge, but the onions, shallots and garlic are growing well.

The lettuce sown last autumn are growing well in the greenhouse. Fuchsia, penstemons and geraniums overwintered in the greenhouse have survived and were ”potted on’ last week, they will be planted out in the flower beds when the night-time temperatures improve.

 


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Stable Block Studios

The stable block conversion into art studios is progressing apace. A little slower than we had hoped, but nevertheless is moving ahead. The studios will be available to rent by artists, sculpters, photographers, writers. They are available to be used by guests staying in bed and breakfast accommodation, either here at Mornington or with other providers in the area.

 

Arch leading into the stable-yard has been re-built.

Arch leading into the stable-yard has been re-built.

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Stonework being realigned. new windows will be installed.

 

Anne O’Hara’s Fruit Cake ( Gluten free)

The fruit cake recipe we have used for years was adapted  to be suitable for family members who are gluten intolerant. It has more ground almonds and may need more liquid than regular flour. The cake improves with ‘keeping’  for at least 3-4 weeks before cutting. We were very pleased with the result. Not a crumb was left!

 

Makes 1x 7.5” diameter cake Makes      2x 10” diameter cakes
6 24 A Gluten free flour Available from most food stores.
½ 2 tsp A Mixed spice Sieve together with flour
5 20 oz B Butter Needs to room temperature
5 20 oz B Soft brown sugar We use soft dark moist brown sugar
8 32 oz C Currants
8 20 oz C Sultanas
5 20 oz C Raisons
4 16 oz C Glacé cherries Put into sieve, rinse with cool water to remove syrup. Dry on paper towel. Cut into quarters. When dry coat with a little flour
3 12 oz C Chopped mixed peel
1 4 oz C Lemon Rind Zest only
8 24 oz C Ground Almonds I used additional ground almonds
1 4 oz C Whole Almonds Skinned and cut into quarters lengthways.
4 16 D Eggs Large, at room temperature
Milk

*Read recipe and make sure that you have everything to ready and to hand before you begin.

 

Oven Temperature

Convector /Fan Oven

150°C (Celsius) for 20

125°C (Celsius) for 2 hours 40minutes ** The cake takes roughly 3 hours to cook, depending on oven, tins, etc. etc.

 Method

  1. Line tin with double layer of parchment. Allow paper to stand 2½”-3”above edge of tin.
  2. Mix fruit (C) together in a very large bowl.
  3. Using either a wooden spoon, hand held mixer or food processor cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

 

  1. Beat eggs together in a separate bowl. Add a little beaten egg into sugar/butter mix. Beat in very well after each addition of egg.
  2. If mixture begins to separate start adding flour a little at a time.                                                                         Otherwise when all egg has been added
  3. Foldi n flour a little at a time, alternate with mixing in milk.

NB. Do not beat or cake will have a shiny crust.

  1. Add egg/ sugar/flour mixture to bowl of prepared dried fruit and chopped and ground almonds.
  2. Fold in and mix well.
  3. NB. It may be necessary to add additional liquid. (For the 2 x 10” cakes I use ¼ to ½ cup milk.)1 cup = 8fl.oz.
  4. The mixture needs to be soft enough to allow the fruit moves around in the mixture. Not sloppy.
  5. We wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside of the tin.
  • Cut to the same height as the parchment lining the tin.
  • Secure with masking tape by overlapping the tape. Some tapes will become ’unstuck’ in the oven.
  • Add whiskey or brandy when cake is cold after baking.Make holes into bottom of cake with a fine skewer and using a teaspoon pour in brandy or whiskey.

 

The saga of  Holly and Noddy

Holly and Noddy waiting expectantly for carrots

Holly and Noddy waiting expectantly for carrots

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”Are you busy on the 1st of March?” A simple question which elicited another simple question “why?” Our daughter and fiancé had decided to get married! In such a simple way, the advent of a wonderful day was announced. Ferry tickets booked, wedding cake made,  house sitters arranged, an alarm call booked and the morning of departure arrived.

Katy on the way to her wedding

Katy on the way to her wedding

So on the 1st March, St. David’s Day, we waited to take Katy to her wedding. On the way out of the hotel, she was serenaded by the Flint Male Voice choir who were also staying in the hotel. I do not think any bride could have received a more rousing send off. Particularly appropriate as her great grandfather, Evan Evans, was Welsh. As the young couple are living and working in England, they opted for a small family wedding near to their new home in Cumbria. It gave Warwick and I the opportunity to visit an area that we have visited a number of times in the past.

Katy and John in Cartmel

Katy and John in Cartmel

1238120_10152058124626220_679439364_n Walking to reception

Walking to the reception

1798616_10152058134926220_606723512_n Wedding Cake

Katy and John’s Wedding cake with shamrocks and roses

 

Portion of wedding cake

Portion of wedding cake served to guests

* I am including the recipe for the gluten free cake later in the blog.

Another Great Celebration

Last Saturday, nerves jangling and kept sitting on the edge of our seats as the Irish rugby team edged towards a win against France and at the same time winning this year’s  Six Nations Championship. For Brian O’Driscoll, it was his last match in an Irish Jersey so we were already in great spirits on St. Patrick’s Day. In the past, St. Patrick’s Day was an occasion to pack up the car and travel either to the local parade with uniforms and tin whistles or to Pony Club hunter Trials. This year, it was spent in the garden cutting shrubs back as we get ready for the opening of our season and the arrival of our first guests. All day long, we were serenaded by a robin, who hopped from branch to branch, occasionally, dropping down onto the freshly turned soil to hunt for worms or other tasty morsels. At one point, there was a quick scuffle in one bush as two cock robins ‘squared off ‘ against each other. Fighting for territory, no doubt. Dispute over and the hunt for food continued.

Cock Robin, the entertainer in the 'Sheep'snose' apple tree.

Cock Robin, the entertainer,  in the ‘Sheep’snose’ apple tree.

Potato Plantinag and St. Patrick’s Day

Country people traditionally begin planting potatoes about the time of St. Patrick’s Day, beginning with  ‘first earlies’,  Main crop potatoes are planted later. However, the  seed potatoes, we had ‘ chitted’ in February had developed good shoots, so they were planted last week. We laid the potatoes out in tray and covered them with newspapers to keep out the light. In Warwick’s father’s time the men on the farm would sit in the harness room or the coach-house and cut some of the previous year’s potatoes into pieces, ensuring that each piece had shoot buds.This would usually be done in February and was dirty, cold work.

Chitted potatoes ready for planting.

Chitted potatoes ready for planting.

The Renovation takes shape.

Faced with a semi derelict stable block apparently in terminal decline we took a big step in deciding to convert it into Studios and Exhibition spaces. In partnership with Leader, we started to halt that decline which we began by emptying the stable block last autumn. (see November’s Blog). Now re-roofed with some of the original and other salvaged slates; new floors have been poured  and the plumbing and electrical systems are going in. The project is heading towards completion.  The plan is to  provide facilities for guests staying in the house and other similar accommodation operators in the area.  For small business meetings, family events, possibly even small weddings.

Clumps of daffodils moved from side lawn during landscaping.

Clumps of daffodils and snowdrops  moved from side lawn during landscaping.

Daffodils in Lady's walk wood

Daffodils in Lady’s walk wood

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Next landscaping project is to conceal lids of tanks!