Monday, 21 September 2015

Apples, pumpkins and rugby (not all at the same time)

I don't know about you, but I could definitely use a few days off to recover from the weekend. It was hectic, packed to the rafters with goings on.

First up was watching England cruise their way through the opening game of the World Cup and a cinema trip on Friday night to see The Visit. If you enjoy kooky, off-the-wall horror flicks, it's worth a watch. A 'found footage' film, it focusses on the very first meeting between 2 siblings and their grandparents, the elders having been estranged from the mother of the children for years. It has some serious comedy value thrown in, usually down to Ed Oxenbould, who plays younger brother Tyler.

Saturday was spent viewing every rugby game I could get my eyes on, attempting to bake my first eggless cake for a friend (I think I seriously need practice, while it tasted ok, it was as flat as a pancake), and the boring bits like housework, but the less said about that the better. Aside from boring laundry, the rugby was brilliant, a cracking start to the World Cup. And with nearly every team I cheered for being victorious, I was pretty pleased. Of course I had to indulge in a Guinness when cheering for the Ireland lads, I'm sure they wouldn't have won otherwise. On top of all that my football team won away from home, so a good sporting weekend all round!

Then on to Sunday. It was a chilly start that morning, and having the time on hand to be lazy about breakfast, I went for porridge. I love how versatile porridge is, plus you have the added benefit of just how long it fills you up for. I went for the slightly unhealthy choice and added a large dollop of golden syrup right in the middle of my bowl, with some grated nutmeg for good measure, to really set me up for the day.

After that we decided to venture out into the glorious sunshine and try to track down a community orchard ' had heard about last week. It took some searching (and some assistance from a very kind woman who spotted us wondering around like lost children), but we eventually found the Park Wood Community Orchard in Brickhill. Tucked away behind some allotments, it opens up off of the side of a track, and you are suddenly besieged by fruit-laden branches. It's utterly gorgeous. Over 250 types of apple, pear, plum (all British varieties), fig, cherry, medlar, mulberry, blackberry and walnut reside in Park Wood, and it's open for anyone to visit and help themselves, asking (quite rightly) that you only take what you need.

We had a lovely morning strolling through the trees, admiring all the different fruits on offer and chatting to the others who had heard about it and decided to visit. I really could pick just one variety, so I grabbed a few different types of apple and a handful of pears. I'm planning another visit next weekend, with the view of making some pies and crumbles from my pickings. There has even been talk of attempting some cider making, but, being reliant on the cost of renting a press, I'll keep you posted on that.
Once we had bid farewell to the orchard (for this week at least), we headed back home. My folks had had a couple of days away and we had house sat for them (or should that be cat-sat?), so I thought it'd be nice for them to come home to something tasty. I had found a can of Libby's pumpkin puree in my cupboard which needed using ASAp, so naturally pumpkin pie was the way forward. If you haven't tried pumpkin pie, it may not look or sound like the most appealing thing in the whole world, but let me assure you it is like a plate full of autumn. My first attempt at making this orangey-brown delight was met with a certain amount of reticence, no-one wanting to be the first to try it. It is now a family favourite and is always a great bargaining tool if I need someone to do me a favour. I will hold up my hands and admit that the pastry is shop bought. I normally make my own, but it never comes out quite the way I want it to. I'm too hot-handed for successful pastry making, and I'm sure Mr. Hollywood would have a field day in picking apart my attempts. So shop bought it was.

The filling is really simple - 250g pumpkin puree (homemade or canned), 2 tbsp maple syrup, 125ml cream, a healthy dose of cinnamon & nutmeg and 2 eggs. Whisk all together, plonk in your blind-baked pie case, and pop into the oven on gas mark 4 for 50 minutes, or until the filling is firm and a golden orange colour. Serve warm with whipped or squirty cream. Not only does it taste magical but it will leave your house smelling amazing for hours afterwards. If you really want to attempt at making your own pumpkin puree, I commend you, but it is a hugely lengthy and messy process. Libby's is ideal, and is now available in a few supermarkets as the demand for American exports has increased. I try to keep a couple of cans tucked away for a rainy day. If you can't get hold of it, or any pumpkins for that matter, butternut squash is a perfect alternative.
Keep an eye on the post, there are more photos to follow. I hope you enjoyed your weekend as much as I did!

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