Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Michaelmas, Blackberries and the Devil's Spit

Some of this year's hefgerow blackberries
Some of this year's hedgerow blackberries, a few yards from our house 

Today is Michaelmas Day, one of the quarter days which mark the year in our traditional calendar. It's the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel (not the shop), who is said to have hurled the devil from heaven for his treachery.

It's the time for the final gathering in from the fields, and harvest festival celebrations. I remember this period referred to as "blackberry week" when I lived in the north east during the late 1970s. Schools gave pupils a week off in early October so they could help their families with the harvest and gather blackberries from the hedgerows.

Michaelmas, blackberries and the devil are connected in our folklore as it's said the devil landed in a bramble bush when he fell from heaven. He then spat and stamped on the bramble's blackberries, cursed them, and scorched them with his fiery breath. This rendered the fruit inedible, so tradition says blackberries shouldn't be eaten after Michaelmas Day.

My research shows the actual date isn't clear as there's also reference to 'old Michaelmas Day' on October 10th (or 11th according to some sources). This is the date Michaelmas Day would fall on, if the 11 days 'taken' when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced were restored. I'd say the folklore pre-dates the calendar's introduction in 1752*, so my money's on October 10th.

I'd also say there's a grain of truth in the folklore, with the story making a memorable warning to everyone that blackberries are usually past their best in October. It seems the supermarket's concept of the 'Use by' date isn't a relatively new introduction after all.

Bramble jam
In the interests of research I perused our local blackberries yesterday and can report they're in fine fettle. It looks like we have 11 days left to make the best of this foraged fare. Michaelmas Pie is the dish traditionally eaten today, but sadly the recipe's been lost to the mists of time. I'll make do with Threadspider's fine recipe for Bramble Jam instead.

How are the blackberries looking in your neighbourhood? What are your favourite ways with them? Tell all in the Comments below.

* = Pope Gregory's calendar reform actually dates back to 1582, but it wasn't adopted in Protestant countries until much later.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Back to School: Getting Niggly With It

My improvised photography studio - in the kitchen by the patio door
My kitchen photography studio - with quickly improvised diffuser when the sun came out. 

Sometimes you need to go backwards in order to move forwards. And so it was with this week's lesson and assignment which looked at working indoors and outdoors in not-so-perfect conditions.

I've taken lots of pictures in the rain and frost this year, so I decided to concentrate on indoor work using natural light from a window. The results highlighted deficiencies in my technique, equipment and improvisation. That's no bad thing in my view.

Here's my latest collage - the brief said plants or flowers, so you'll see I've taken that to quite an extreme by my decision to use apples as my subject.

Collage of nine apple photographs


The three images I selected for submission are included in the collage this time. Which ones do you think they are?

This assignment got me quite niggly and dissatisfied with my photos. Studio work slows things right down which in turn tried my patience and I could see many faults in each image. Then there's the selection of the right fruit, their preparation (mine were covered in bits of leaf, birch seeds, dirt etc), finding the most pleasing shape and colour to face the camera; what's the best background to use etc etc.

It's no wonder that little lot, plus the days I spent thinking about how I was going to set up my 'studio' and improvise all the items on the course's equipment list I don't have, meant I took much longer this week and had far fewer images to select from for my assessment.

However, I don't mind. This is the week I learnt. A lot.

Coming up next: Final Lesson - Developing Vision & Technique


Previously: Back to School - My introductory post; Lesson 1 - Lighting; and Lesson 2 - Composition

You may also like


My photographs taken in not-so-ideal conditions:

And then there's:

Google "apple still life images" and the link takes you to the set of images presented. How many of them work for you?

Disclosure: I'm taking the course for review purposes as a guest of My Garden School. There are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this post.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Potatoes: Heart Over Head

Jazzy potatoes unearthed from a small bag of compost

Way back in February I told you about the potatoes I was going to grow this year. We're still munching our way through the overall results, but today I can bring you those from my grow-in-a-bag 'Jazzy' trial.

I find growing potatoes is a triumph of my heart over my head. If you look at it purely from an economic point of view, it simply doesn't make sense as spuds are as cheap as chips [actually, they're cheaper - Ed] in the shops.

Yet there's nothing that brings me greater pleasure than my first dig of the year for the treasure buried in my potato patch. Then there's the warmth I felt from bringing home these particular spuds from a mere feet and seconds away, plus I usually choose varieties unavailable in the shops.

In the blurb 'Jazzy' potatoes are touted as yielding up to 80 potatoes from just 8 litres of compost. So how did my trial pack do? My little bag produced 25 potatoes with a total weight of 503 grammes - enough for two dinners each for NAH and me.

Other results I've seen had more than 40 potatoes per bag. However these had many pea-sized spuds; all but one of mine were of a decent size.

I confess I was a bit lax with my watering during the dry period we had early summer, which probably helps to explain the discrepancy in the results. In terms of the amount of compost used and number of tubers planted it's a better result than my air pot trial a few years ago, though unsurprisingly it's not as good as Mark's results with a maincrop potato.

Cooking and taste-wise 'Jazzy' is a typical waxy salad potato. I've yet to find one which beats my beloved 'Harlequin', though I've heard good reports of 'Epicure'.

Will I grow potatoes next year? You bet. If you remain unconvinced, Jono has six great reasons to persuade you.

Update: Helen told me via my Comments she also trialled 'Jazzy' using various composts this year. Her full report is here. For the record I grew mine in Sylvagrow. It turns out Jazzy has its own website (there's posh) and they're available to buy at the Co-op.

Helen's also rootled out a useful RHS trials report which shows 'Jazzy's' yields may be high in terms of numbers, but it might be better to look elsewhere in terms of weight. The reported yields were for 5 tubers in 40 litres of compost, so it looks like our results were slightly better for 1 tuber planted in 8 litres of compost.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Separated at Birth? Orchids


AOL's sign-on screen rotates through a number of pictures and now my moth orchid's back in bloom this month, it's the ideal time to have a play with the pictures to bring you this post.

Hat Tip to Private Eye, who always label their pictures the wrong way round for their Lookalikes feature.

Could they be related? I think we should be told.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Back to School: Throwing Some Shapes

Back to School - My Garden School logo
This week's photography lesson was all about composition. I regularly run round VP Gardens with my camera to see what's of interest, so this was an enjoyable lesson and assignment. Again, it took me about 4 hours to complete.

Here's my collage of some of the pictures I rejected for assessment. Let's just say that smaller pictures hide a multitude of sins. Most of my learning on this course so far is centred around the simple art of looking (during the lesson, whilst taking the pictures and afterwards), plus the self-critique I go through during my picture selection.


 I kept the following in mind for my compositions:

  • Shapes and repeating shapes
  • Patterns
  • Mirroring
  • Vertical and diagonal lines
  • Rule of thirds
  • Abstracts 

Here are the three photos I submitted for assessment. I thought some of them could possibly fit into more than one category - do you agree?

1. Vertical and diagonal lines - Salvia 'Amistad'


Stems of Salvia 'Amistad' on a hoar frost morning


2. Shapes and repeating shapes - Eryngium mislabelledanthicus



Repeating shapes of Eryngium flowers


3. Abstract - Horse chestnut and Cameraria ohridella (aka horse chestnut leaf miner)


Horse chestnut leaf with leaf miner moth


You'll see I cheated slightly by including a photo from earlier this year when I took advantage of a hoar frost one morning. I was keen to get some feedback on the composition choices I'd made with two versions of this photograph.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. Your assessment of my photographs was great and is the kind of invaluable discussion I was hoping would develop in the course's classroom. Sadly my two fellow students are rather quiet so far, so please keep your comments coming.

Coming up next: Lesson 3 - Working Indoors and Outdoors

Previously: Back to School - my introductory post, and Lesson 1 - Lighting

Disclosure: I'm taking the course for review purposes as a guest of My Garden School. Views are my own and there are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this series of posts.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

GBBD: Good to be Back

Fuchsia 'Garden News'

A garden is a dynamic thing, which changes with the day, season, light and a host of other variables. Within this framework most plants thrive at VP Gardens and some quietly leave when I'm not looking. This month it's been good to welcome back two of the latter, both of which were part of the original planting I made 15 years ago this month.

The picture above is Fuchsia 'Garden News', one of the few hardy double cultivars available. Last year I thought it wasn't hardy enough as I saw not one peep out of it for the entire season. I've realised the real problem must have been shade rather than temperature, as it's bounced back for 2015. It's in the part of the garden which has much more light this year owing to last November's drama with the ash tree.

Japanese anemone
Another plant affected by shade were the Japanese anemones I planted at the bottom of the garden. Here's an example of the right plant in the wrong place; my limestone clay tamed the thuggish tendencies other gardeners told me about when it's planted in the right place. It's been quite manageable in my garden.

That was until my Clematis 'Frances Rivis' took off and after a few years of stretching its neck to poke itself out from beneath the clematis's abundant leaves, it finally gave up the ghost around 5 years ago.

Or so I thought.

I've been taming the shrubbery at the bottom of the garden this year and look what's popped out to greet me this autumn. My records say this is Anemone huphenis 'Hadpsen Abundance', but most pictures I've seen show it as a much deeper pink than my specimen. There are a few reasons why this may be so:

  • It's been affected by the deep shade at the bottom of the garden
  • The plant was mislabelled (I can't remember ever seeing a darker pink anemone down there)
  • It's a hybrid between the 2 plants I originally planted there - the aforementioned A. 'Hadspen Abundance' and the pure-white Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind'.

Whatever's happened, it shows it takes a lot to keep a good plant down.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

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Latin without tears


Fuchsia is named in honour of the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566). Fuchsias are native to America and New Zealand.

Anemone x hybrida is a cross (hence hybrida) between Anemone huphenis var. japonica and Anemone vitifolia.
  • Anemone - is from the Greek for wind and shows how one of the plant's common names, windflower is derived
  • huphenis - means 'of Hubei', a landlocked province in central China
  • japonica - indicates the plant originates from Japan (and from China and Taiwan in the instance of Japanese anemones)
  • vitifolia - describes how the leaves look like those of the vine, Vitis

Just like September's Blooms Day last year, I find myself featuring another plant whose name refers to the Hadspen house and garden in Somerset. Sadly, the garden isn't open to the public and judging by last year's article in a local paper, it's unlikely to be anytime soon.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Back to School: Hands, Knees and Bumps-a-daisy

My Garden School logo

I'm 10 days into my online photography masterclass with Clive Nichols and My Garden School and I've had an enjoyable time crawling around my garden in a hands, knees and bumps-a-daisy fashion, in search of photos to illustrate my learning from the first two lessons.

There's been some frustrating technical glitches in getting into the school's classroom, so much so we've been given the option to defer our class until next month, plus an offer of a 25% discount on a further class if it's taken up by the end of the year. I've decided to crack on with things for now, though I may change my mind later if it continues.

In this post I'll look at the first lesson, Lighting for Flower and Plant Photography.

Photography masterclass lighting collage

The collage above shows some of the results which didn't make it into the set I submitted for assessment.

Clive's lesson discussed the main types of light used in photography namely:
  • Soft, diffused light
  • Window light
  • Bright sunlight
  • Back lighting
  • Side lighting

We were then encouraged to explore further by taking some photographs to illustrate the different types of light available. Sunday morning provided perfect conditions, though I left window light for later as I see it'll be discussed further in a future lesson.

I then selected and submitted my 3 photos for assessment, to illustrate at least two of the different types of light. I also had to write a 50-100 word summary of each shot, to include my own critique of whether or not I thought they were successful.

I'd say the half hour lesson + taking photographs in my garden + selection for submission + write-up took me about 4 hours to complete.

I'll leave you with the three photos I submitted for you to see for yourselves without my critique or Clive's remarks. Note, I'm happy with just one of them, which one do you think it is?

1. Rambling Rector - Back lit


Rambling Rector leafs and stem backlit

2. Ivy - Side lit


Ivy side lit

3. Erigeron - Diffuse lit


Erigeron diffuse lit


Coming up next: Lesson 2 - Composition

Previously: Back to School - my introductory post

Update: Happy Mouffetard wrote a great post showing the difference front, side and back lighting can make to the same subject.

Disclosure: I'm taking the course for review purposes as a guest of My Garden School. Views are my own and there are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this series of posts.

Note the discount code shown at the top of this post is only valid until 7th October 2015.

Friday, 11 September 2015

A Malaysian Feast

Here's my first attempt at making an infographic as a thank you for the wonderful feast prepared and served at the Tourism Malaysia offices in London recently.

Click on the names of the dishes under the Recipes heading text to take you to the recipes. Note the Pandan cake calls for the leaves or juice of the Pandanus amaryllifolius plant. I'll let you know if I find a UK source - a Chinese supermarket perhaps?

Thanks to Tourism Malaysia for a wonderful meal and presentation on their country's incredible biodiversity - it's definitely one for my travel bucket list now.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Plant Profiles: Heucheras

Heuchera Peach Flambe
Heuchera 'Peach Flambe', planted in a shady pot and neglected dreadfully since 2009, yet still going strong. 

Regular readers know I like heucheras a lot, a genus I discovered for the first time when I was deciding what to do with the design and planting of VP Gardens 15 years ago.

At that time the choice available had started to explode, mainly due to the breeding developments by Dan Heims in Oregon and Thierry Delabroye in France. Before then, cultivars were mainly darkish green with red flowers - hence their common names 'coral flower' and 'coral bells' - with pink or white flowers by way of variation.

Now the choice embraces the darkest of blacks through to the limiest of greens, with plenty of hints of caramel, ginger and mottling along the way.

Heuchera flower - they bloom in summer
Most heucheras are front of border plants, though their airy loved-by-bees flowers make them seem much taller

The garden's sometimes resembled an archaeological dig this year after my clearing away the shrubbery, with some forgotten heucheras brought blinking back into the light, despite my placing them at the front of the border. It's interesting to see which ones have withstood this treatment - H. 'Licorice', H. 'Obsidian', H. 'Green Spice', H. 'Silver Scrolls', and H. 'Chocolate Ruffles' have definitely stood the test of time.

I confess my dalliance with the lime-green (H. 'Key Lime Pie' and H. 'Lime Rickey') and caramel (H. 'Creme Brulee') varieties has come to an end. Despite their shady setting the lime green varieties tended to become washed-out looking and H. 'Creme Brulee' always seemed like it was at death's door.

Heuchera 'Brownies'


There is one exception that proves the rule at VP Gardens; the pictured gigantic-leaved H. 'Brownies' loves the spot I've given it in the double terrace beds, though I confess I do cut off the older, lighter coloured leaves when they start looking sorry for themselves. Note to self: must do that soon.

The lighter and caramel cultivars helped me understand why heucheras don't have universal approval - they can be a bit of a 'Marmite' plant. Don't be put off by my remarks if you like them, I've seen them looking good in other settings; it's me and my garden that's at fault.

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Cultivation Notes


Heuchera 'Green Spice'
Heucheras are a tough,  fully hardy evergreen plant suitable for most spots towards the front of the border, though they're usually happiest in dappled or light shade. A general rule of thumb is the darker the leaf, the more sun tolerant they are. I've found that full sun or heavy shade tends to produce smaller plants.

They prefer moist, well-drained soils, though I've found they do well on my lime clay soil as long as I don't put them in the wettest part of the garden. They can heave themselves out of the soil, and I've simply reburied a healthy looking part of the root which tends to do the trick.

Close up leaf showing leaf hairs
Hairy leaves keep slugs at bay
The literature say they're a short-lived perennial, but some of my plants are 15 years old. Perhaps my heave/rebury cycle has successfully replaced the divide every 2-3 years I've seen in most guidance. In the spring I give my plants a general tidy up by removing dead and damaged leaves, plus any remaining old flower stems.

They're a magnet for vine weevil, so much so I quarantine my heucheras for a few weeks before planting them out. I've found even heavily attacked plants can recover; if you can find a piece of root with just one root hair left, then this is enough to make a new plant from what initially seems a disaster. I also treat my potted heucheras with nematodes in the spring and autumn as a matter of routine.

Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles'
I didn't know until I researched this piece that there are 2 species of nematode available, Steinernema kraussei and Heterorhabtidis megidis. It's important to know which one you have because they become effective at different soil temperatures, a minimum of 5oC and 12oC respectively. As the temperature is needed for a minimum of 2 weeks after application (and they need soil moisture too), this can have a major effect on when each species can be applied.


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You may also like:


  • My look at H. 'Lime Rickey' for ABC Wednesday 
  • My Heuchera Haul post from my Open Garden blog in 2008, showcasing some of the cultivars I was growing at the time
  • Glimpses of H 'Blackbird', H. 'Blackout' and H. 'Chocolate Ruffles' in previous posts
  • My trip to Mount St. Helens in Washington State USA, where I found Tiarella trifoliata - a close cousin of the heuchera - growing in the wild 
  • Val Bourne's article from The Telegraph in 2003. She talks about the inclusion of 201 cultivars in the RHS's 1999-2001 trials, which shows how much the choice has exploded since then. I have the H. 'Palace Purple', H. 'Pewter Moon' and H. 'Mint Frost' she mentions, in my garden.
Anyone wanting to know more about heucheras will enjoy Dan Heims' book Heucheras and Heucherellas. The only caveat I have now is it doesn't cover the latest cultivars and there's loads of them, thanks to his and Thierry Delabroye's work

For the latest list, look at heucheras.com, which claims to be the complete database of all things heuchera. A search for 'heuchera' on the RHS website, returns a list of 621 possibilities.

The National Collection of Heuchera is at the Plantagogo nursery near Crewe.

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Latin without tears


Heuchera is named after Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677 - 1746), a Viennese-born physician who was also a keen botanist specialising in medicinal plants. The plants are native to Canada, USA and northern Mexico.

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Plant Profiles is sponsored by Whitehall Garden Centre.

Note to Readers: sponsorship goes towards my blogging costs; the words are my own. There are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this (or any) post.

Monday, 7 September 2015

A Royal Welcome

View of the inner courtyard at Buckingham Palace
The inner courtyard at Buckingham Palace, where we could pretend to be honoured guests for the day

I've been invited back to Buckingham Palace - to see the Royal Welcome exhibition in the State Rooms this time, as part of a bloggers tour guided by the exhibition's curator Anna Reynolds. We were admitted ahead of the day's crowds, much to the surprise to the many people queuing at the gate who tried to get in at the same time. As well as our privileged access, we also had permission to take photographs - huzzah!

Previous visitors to the Palace asked many questions about the preparations for state and other functions such as garden parties, so it was an easy decision to make it this year's theme.

The Australian state coach

We entered in the same place as invited guests would do, with the Australian state coach placed at the door so we could imagine arriving in such grandeur.

The Grand Staircase at Buckingham Palace

Inside our first stop was at the Grand Staircase, which we then climbed to see the rest of the rooms set aside for the tour.

Gallery with the Anxious Gardener


Unlike my Painting Paradise visit, I managed to meet up with Dave Marsden aka The Anxious Gardener this time. Here he is in the centre of the picture looking rather anxious [or thoughtful maybe? - Ed] in one of the galleries. It was fun to meet Dave at last after several near misses.

Petit Fours and sugared orchid preparation

Much of the preparations for a state banquet are conducted below stairs, so there's a number of static exhibits upstairs to show what happens. Last year's banquet held as part of Singapore's state visit was used as the example, and my attention was drawn to the sugared orchids shown above. The orchid is Singapore's national flower and was a deliberate choice for the banquet.

State banquet setting


Then on to the setting for the banquet itself. The napkins determine where each place setting should be and there are strict measurements for the space allocated to each guest and where everything is placed. The booklet on each place setting explains the menu, the evening's music and who else is attending the banquet. The arrival of the royal pipers and their skirling music signals the end of the evening.

State banquet setting II

I asked about the flowers used. They're chosen to match the decor and are seasonal with much of the foliage sourced from the royal estates.

Garden party exhibit

The tour isn't just about state banquets. Other formal occasions are included, such as this section on the famous garden parties. The Queen usually wears a single block of colour for these, so she stands out from the crowds.

The Garden Cafe at Buckingham Palace

Our tour completed, we were treated to refreshments in the garden cafe, and the opportunity to go round again with an audio guide this time, if wanted.

A cake with royal designs

I chose a cake with a chocolate button and a gold crown. Nothing less would do really.

View of Buckingham Palace gardens from the Garden Cafe

Looking over the garden, the lawn looks far too big at first, with a sense the trees have been pushed to the sides. I remembered it needs to host hundreds of people attending a garden party; then it made perfect sense.

Exit through the Palace gardens

There's an unexpected bonus on the way out; a chance to meander through part of the Palace gardens towards the exit...

A final view towards Buckingham Palace by the lake

... with a stop for a final look back towards the Palace over the lake. There's quite a lot of wildlife to spot in this area too. Even though we're just yards from the hustle and bustle of London, this is a much quieter world. Sadly I missed seeing the national collection of mulberries which are scattered throughout the grounds. That's something to look out for on another day.

Practical information:


The A Royal Welcome state rooms exhibition is open until September 27th 2015, from 9.30am until 6.30pm (last entry 4.15pm). Note that from September 9th, there is an additional element to the exhibition called Long to Reign Over Us, which we didn't get to see and marks the Queen becoming the longest reigning British monarch on Wednesday.

NB The tour option which includes a closer look at the gardens than I had is sold out for 2015. The superb Painting Paradise exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, which looks gardening and its history illustrated by items from the Royal Collection, runs until 11th October and is well worth a look.


You may also like:


I've concentrated on the more gardeny aspects of the tour. If you're interested in seeing more of how a state banquet is prepared, then look no further than Rachel Knowles' post in her excellent Regency History blog.



There's lots of videos showing the detailed aspects of the preparations. I particularly liked the time lapse one showing the setting up of the banquet. The above video is a cut down version and gives you a good idea of what goes on.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Seasonal Recipe: Figgy Cheese Tart

Photo of figs cut in half and the interesting shape revealed
I love how the shape of the seeds inside a fig often resemble a leaf 

It's a great year for figs here at VP Gardens, though I fear some renovation pruning is required which will affect next year's crop. However, I'm staying in the present for now and the happy fact I have excess figs to deal with.

I'm continuing my experiments with seasonal tarts and quiches, and the thought of combining the sweetness of the figs with a salty blue cheese for a savoury tart for tea appealed. I don't usually go for combining sweet with savoury - ham and pineapple? Yuk. However, fruit with cheese is my exception to the rule, born out of the many cheese and apple sandwiches I had as a child.

It turned out to be a match made in heaven. Even NAH, suspicious at the thought when I suggested it, conceded the reality was very fine indeed.

Ingredients


Butter for greasing
Plain flour for rolling out
200g ready-made shortcrust pastry
2 tablespoons ground almonds
4 large figs, halved
100g blue cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
150ml semi-skimmed milk
6-8 sprigs thyme, stalks removed (yields approx 2 teaspoons of leaves)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Figgy cheese tart - the result

Method


Regular readers will have spotted this recipe is similar to my recent one for apricot tart. Indeed, a sweet version could be made using that recipe - omit the baking of the fruit stage and the sugar on the fruit. Figs are sweet enough on their own and ripe ones are soft enough not to need baking. Substitute 5 halved figs for the apricots.

If you want to make your own shortcrust pastry, use this recipe first.

Now for the savoury version...

  1. Butter a 25cm diameter flan dish, ensuring both bottom and sides are well covered
  2. Coat the surface where the pastry's going to be rolled out with a thin layer of flour
  3. Roll out the pastry to a size a little larger than the dish's diameter plus its sides
  4. Place the pastry on the dish, ensuring it's pressed well into the sides
  5. Prick the pastry generously with a fork and allow to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge 
  6. Whilst the pastry is resting, pre-heat the oven to 200oC (170 for fan-assisted ovens)/Gas Mark 6
  7. When the pastry's well-rested, trim off the excess pastry, add some baking beans to the dish and bake-blind in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the base is crisp, but not browned.
  8. Remove the pastry base from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. 
  9. Place the base on a baking tray
  10. Add the ground almonds and ensure they form an even layer all over the base
  11. Place the figs on top of the almonds in a circle around the edge
  12. Arrange about two thirds of the cheese around the figs and in the middle of the pastry; also add a good blob of cheese to the centre of each fig
  13. In a bowl quickly whisk together the eggs, milk, thyme and black pepper, then pour the custard mixture over the figs
  14. Add the remaining cheese to the custard mixture, 
  15. Bake for 25-30 minutes at the same temperature as before, or until the top is browned and the custard mixture is set
Serves 4-6. Serve warm with a large mixed salad.

Variations


  • Substitute finely chopped walnuts for the almonds, for a richer, more earthy taste
  • Use any strongly flavoured, salty, crumbly cheese you have to hand, such as feta or a nice bit of wensleydale
  • It turns out one of my fellow Tomato Trials day attendees had a similar idea, though she used gorgonzola. This is the closest recipe I can find to what she described, which is more like a pizza than a tart. She said it went down very well with her family.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

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