Friday, 24 July 2015

My apple pie

Well the auction has been and gone and failed miserably. The house is now on the market normally, and I have to carry on and just hope it sells in the not too distant future. 
So I thought I'd share a recipe with you today. Fancy a slice of yummy apple pie?...

We planted a few apple trees in our orchard when we moved here, and this year had a bumper crop. I've made stewed apple, and eaten apples straight from the tree, but my absolute favourite is apple pie. In fact we've had that much fruit, rather than pick it all and have to store it, I tend to leave it on the tree until I need it. The downside is when I came to pick it it looked like this....

But once I'd peeled off their dirty jackets they looked much better....

Nothing gets wasted in our house, the peel goes in the compost, and the cores go to whoever gets there first - cows, sheep, horse, they all queue up!
I tend to just wing it with my apple pie, and don't weigh stuff, but I have this time, especially for you!
I used 1.5kg apples (weight before peeling), peeled, cored and sliced. Not too thin (it'll go mushy) and not too thick. In it goes to a saucepan with 4oz (115g) sultanas, 1/3 cup water and 3oz (85g) brown sugar. 

These are Granny Smith apples, so I guess if you were using a sharper cooking apple, like a Bramleys you may want a bit more sugar, but I like to taste the tartness of the apples rather than just a sugary taste. After 15 minutes on a medium simmer they look like this....

Just right, softened up but still have some shape and bite. There is a bit more liquid in there now, as the juice has seeped out of the apples, but I like to put that in the pie too. 

Whilst the apples are cooking, you can get on with the pastry. I tend to make more than I need, so I can make a few jam tarts or mince pies too. I put 12oz (340g) flour and 6oz (170g) butter in the food processor, and whizzed it up until like breadcrumbs. Please excuse the state of my poor food processor, it's been dropped a few times, so is a bit bashed and chipped, but it still works fine even after thirty years use! I was thinking I would leave it behind when we move back to the UK, but I think after all that loyalty despite the abuse, it deserves a forever home. 

Drizzle in about 3 tablespoons cold water, and whizz until combined. Add it gradually, as you may need less, or more, it can vary depending on the flour used, the weather etc. Also, don't blend too much or it can make your pastry tough. Just enough to combine. 
I roll my pastry out between two sheets of cling film. It stops the pastry sticking to the work top, and makes it easy to pick up (plus using too much flour when rolling out can make the pastry tough). Now to do it 'properly' you should rest the pastry in the fridge for at least half an hour, but I can never be bothered. 

Once it's rolled out, take the top cling film off and roll pastry over your rolling pin....

 Then it's easy to just flip over and unroll over the pie....

Ok, I wouldn't win top marks for appearance on the Great British Bake Off, but I don't care as long as it tastes good!
After 45 minutes in the the oven at 180 degrees C (Gas Mark 4/ 350 degrees F) it looks like this. Very rustic!

They say opposites attract, well I like my pie with cream, and OH likes icecream. Either way, it's yummy!

Plus, as I made extra pastry, we get these to munch on too!....


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Final countdown

Well it was going to be two posts, one for the final Open Weekend then a big auction day post.
But the plan changed due to the outcome. 
Open Weekend #4 went well, with four viewings on Saturday, and two on Sunday. 
Then it was the nervous countdown until the Big Day on Wednesday. The Rescue remedy was on standby, for regular doses throughout the day, and I went from being quietly confident it would sell above the reserve, to being realistic and convincing myself it wouldn't sell. 
Sadly the latter was correct, and it didn't sell. Not. One. Bidder. :-(
So that's all I have to say right now as I'm not feeling very chatty at the moment. Let's hope there is someone waiting in the wings, who wasn't quite ready to buy on the day. 

I'll leave you with this

                                                            (via Pinterest)

Saturday, 11 July 2015

A jumbo egg, a kiwi & Peter Pan

I was going to call this post 'Open Weekend #3' but yet again it was a flop, pouring with rain and no viewings. So passing swiftly on, I will talk about more interesting things. 
Bit of an eclectic mix today. I'm actually a bit behind with posting this, as this was last weekend. So instead of catching up with my crochet tonight I'm madly blogging!

We have seven chickens at the moment, and being winter it is a quiet time egg wise, with generally only one or two eggs a day. So imagine my surprise when I went out and checked the nest boxes and found this ginormous one....

I rushed inside cradling my poultry treasure, with visions of it being a Guiness World record. I popped it on the scales and it came in at 125g. That vision was soon well and truly stomped on when I discovered this on the Guiness world record web page :

'The heaviest egg reported to have been laid by a hen is one of 454 g (16 oz), with a double yolk and double shell, laid by a White Leghorn at Vineland, New Jersey, USA, on 25 February 1956.'

Oh well, never mind. I was still proud of my little chook. Her egg was that big I struggled to perch it on my egg stand....

I remembered I had found another huge egg before, and when I looked back through my photos I discovered strangely that it was exactly a year ago in July 2014....

I went back to shut the chickens away early on in the evening, and was excited to hear a kiwi calling....

It shouldn't be much of a surprise, seeing as we live in a kiwi zone (this sign below is fixed on our fence, to remind people to be aware on the roads at night) but this is the first time I have actually heard one. If you want to hear one, listen to this
I've never seen one, but OH has, driving home late one night. They are the unofficial national emblem of New Zealand. Apparently New Zealanders have been called 'Kiwis' since the nickname was bestowed by Australian soldiers in the First World War. There are five species of kiwi, our local one is the Northland brown kiwi, but unfortunately all species are endangered. There are only about 70,000 kiwis left in NZ, with 2% of the population  being lost every year - that's 27 a week :-(  
I suppose they have a few design faults that don't really help - they can't fly, they have poor eyesight and they have no sternum (breastbone). Dogs are attracted to the strong kiwi smell, and even though they may not mean to kill, having no breastbone means that kiwi often do die. 

The last thing I wanted to mention was a trip to the theatre this week. It was arranged by Big Girl's school, and buying tickets in bulk meant my ticket only cost $10 rather than $25!

It was a production of Peter Pan, all the cast were local people, and it was fun to spot who's who. A big surprise was that Peter Pan was played by Zoe's best friend from her last school. What is it with girls playing the part of boys in plays? 

Can you spot Tick-Tock the croc, approaching stage right....

Right, that's it, all done. But I've still got this weekend to tell you about. I can see how this blogging lark takes over!


Friday, 10 July 2015

Seashells & icecream

After an unsuccessful Open Day the day before, we decided to go to the beach on Sunday.
It takes around an hour in the car to get to Cable Bay, one of our favourite beaches to visit.
We pass through Kaeo on the way, a typical small rural town in New Zealand. The photo below is the local police station, a compact wooden building with an even smaller building behind it. Can you see the bars on the windows - I presume this is where the naughty people get locked up to cool down!
Did you notice the poster on the side of the building - 'It's not ok to hurt our children'. Something everybody should know not to do, but it's a sad fact that NZ has a high rate of child abuse, in particular domestic violence. Drink and drugs often play a role. Sad but true. 

On a sillier note, here is the 'jandal fence' (or flip flops as us Poms call them), also in Kaeo....

I love the row of trees along the top of this hill, it reminds me of a pom-pom trim around the edge of a pillow!

A common sight in New Zealand are hills with lots of horizontal lines on them. I presume it is tracks worn away by animals grazing, as the hills are quite steep....

We passed the mangroves....

And this hill which we call the sleeping giant. Can you make out his face lying down, his nose sticking up and mouth to the right? There's even a little tree or something that looks like a little eyelash!

We had to make a little detour on the way, as I had sold something online and offered to drop it off on the way. I didn't realise it was going to be quite so off road though, don't think I'd fancy this as my drive. We even had to avoid the livestock!

Yay, here at last!

We decided to get the picnic out, and have a bite to eat first....

Little Man was quite happy munching on a ham roll whilst watching the seagulls watching us, and the gannets diving for fish....

Big Girl found a crab in a rock pool, and was reluctant to pick it up until she realised it was no longer alive....

So he came and joined us whilst we had our picnic lunch....

....under the shade of a Pohutukawa tree. Not that we needed shade, as it wasn't that hot, but I suppose it is winter so we can't complain about fifteen degrees!

There were lots of rock pools to explore....

Little Boy got a bit carried away with the shell collecting, and picking pretty ones went out of the window in exchange for collecting handfuls!

This is quite a shelly beach, but it's not until you bend down and actually look carefully (rather than just scan for big ones) that there are actually lots of pretty tiny little ones

I was quite happy just to bury my feet in the warm sand and admire the view....

I love the texture and shades of grey of the rocks ('that' film has really spoiled the phrase 'fifty shades of grey' hasn't it), and there were plenty of baby mussels clinging to the rocks....

Big Girl made a sand hill, complete with moat and flag, which I said looked more like a rather sad truffula tree (from the film The Lorax in case you are wondering what on Earth I'm on about!)....

Little Boy (with help from Daddy) made a rather large moat around his pile of sand, which started filling up, much to his delight, when the sea came in. All went well until he fell in and got wet. The water was freezing, and his poor little toes were pink with cold so we decided to finish up and have an icecream

I decided to be brave and try a different flavour so had walnut fudge on the bottom and passion fruit on the top. A strange mix I know, but yummy!

All was going well until someone stood nearby stupidly fed the remains of their cone to the seagulls, and suddenly it was like a clip from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds!
Oh well, you can't blog about a trip to the beach without the obligatory seagull shot!

Well done if you are still with me! Sorry it's a bit photo heavy, but I want to remember all these good times.