Archive for March, 2010

Sunflower Living Playhouse – Demolition Free Zone

I thought I would forget for a moment about the demolition at the house and have a look around the garden – OK I will have to ignore the fact that the garden is currently being used as a dumping ground with excuses such as ‘burning pile’ and ‘dirt for fill’ and ‘yeah – about that’ being bandied around – but I am trying not to note the rising of blood pressure and focus on the pretty things – like my Sunflower, Sweet Pea, and Borage living playhouse that I made/grew for the bubs.

The living playhouse - in the beginning...

The living playhouse is about the burst into life!

Sunflowers, Sweet Peas and Borage - living playhouse a la Pump house cottage

Sunflowers and Sweet Peas in the living playhouse

Stars of the living playhouse

OK, so the fact that the bubs are completely disinterested in playing in it is not going to put me off doing it again. Next time I will plant my Sunflowers out earlier and plan a reinforcing system so the wind doesn’t win.  Have to say that the Sweet Peas using the Sunflowers for a climbing frame is awesome, and fragrant and inspired! And the Borage was free-range but seemed to fit the bill. The overall affect was quite ‘dense’ so if the kids had been into it there would have been some awesome playhouse-o-rama action!

Before you ask – if you are dying for some graphic renovation pics – watch out for my next post – it is going to be full on carnage….. promise!


The Pump House Vege Garden Grows!

Ok, it was a bit of a slow start – and the wind does still wreck havoc on the odd occasion and totally flattens my tomatoes – but it turns out that the garden is quite resilient and bounces back every time! I attempted to take some photos of the vege garden and all you can see is green, green, green….. I hope you like green….

I am going to start with a before picture – back when seeds were being planted and the weather was bitter and all hope of summer and sun and veges growing was fast disappearing…..

But, summer did turn up in the end and seeing we have a ‘micro climate’ here at the pump house cottage the results were very lush…

It is hard to tell what is there from the pictures – but we have been eating:

Yellow, green and purples beans (purple are best!)

Courgettes (and some marrows..)

Baby carrots – pulled, washed, steamed, eaten!

BBQ corn

Three type of potato par boiled and fried in butter on the BBQ – is the best way to eat new potatoes!

Towering Tomatoes

 Yellow and red cherry tomatoes – the bubs eat them like lollies straight from these gigantic tomato plants!

Spring onion (bbq’ed with sausages in blankets)

Apple cucumber & Lebonese cucumbers (the best cucumbers I’ve ever grown!)

Gherkins – not sure what to do with these – suggestions anyone?

Stawberries & blueberries – these are fought over and I even think the repilers have been pilfering them….

Eating stuff from the garden makes our friday night camping trips to the pump house cottage feel like we are living off the land – I harvest and the produce gets thrown straight on the BBQ or in a steaming pot of hot water on a gas ring. We are like some ‘back to basics’ reality show!

Now all we are waiting for in the garden are the pumpkins, onions, and parsnips…..

Jam Off! Elderflower Marmalade Mania….

The Jam Off on Tuesday was great fun! CFD convinced me to bring my elderflower marmalade – and I am glad she did!

Turns out the elderflower marmalade had an appreciative audience and scored the ‘fruitest blend’ award! Awesome! Check out the Jam Off Aftermath… And there is a great after match analysis on the Xero site too…

The feedback has been great – and pressure to produce the recipe immense. Unfortunately it is a top-secret family recipe – yeah right!

It is no secret –  it was completely made up one balmy summer evening in an attempt to reduce my ‘carbon footprint’ and not let the cast-offs of elderflower cordial making go to waste. So here is…

The Pump House Cottage Elderflower Marmalade

40 Elderflower heads –  Rinse and de-bug and place in a large container/bucket (4L or bigger).

4 Oranges & 10 Lemons, pare off zest, cut up the remainder and add all to the elderflowers.

Combine 1.25 kg of sugar with 1 Litre of boiling water – stir until sugar dissolves.

Pour the boiling sugar solution over the unsuspecting elderflowers, zest etc.

Combine 50g of citric acid together with a cup of boiling water, stir to dissolve, and add to the elderflower party.

Stir, stir, stir… a good 10 seconds of industrious stirring should do it.

Cover the container with a tea towel – and leave for 5 days.

After the 5 days of steeping, sieve through muslin – keeping both the elderflower/citrus mulch and the liquid – Viola! You have now made elderflower cordial & have the ‘pulp’ for your elderflower marmalade!

Bottle up your elderflower cordial – it will be good for a couple of months – and is excellent diluted with a dolop of Gin & a splash of soda water…

Take the elderflower/citrus mulch leftover from the cordial straining and remove the elderflowers (thanks but we don’t need you anymore!)

Cut the zest and pulp up (I don’t like to have great lumps in my marmalade so I cut it up as finely as I could).

Place in a saucepan & ‘just’ cover the pulp with some of your elderflower cordial. Cook gently until a test piece of zest is tender to bite.

Weigh the mixture and add 75% of this weight in sugar i.e. if it weighs about 800g, add 600g of sugar (mine is usually around this…). Cook until suitably jammy. My setting test was pure guess-work (i.e. hey man it looks like jam now!) You may want to use a more scientific method.

Pour the hot marmalade into jars and ta da! Elderflower marmalade – Yum!

Unfortunately it is a seasonal recipe as elderflowers only make a 6 week appearance in october/november time here in NZ – so mark your calendars and plan to make a big batch next summer. I know I will be!

See you next year at Jam Off 2011!