Lockdown Expansion

AKA baking frenzy! They were discussing one day on Loose Women (which I’m now watching daily as I’m furloughed!) the trend for women reverting to 1950s house wives during lockdown. Now, I’m certainly not doing that in all its glory – I haven’t touched the hoover any more than normal (never!) and as for ironing, well, I’m pretty sure we own one, but whether it works or not – who knows! However, I have felt an almost uncontrollable urge to bake!

This is not good for several reasons, most importantly, my waistline, but also because the rest of the world also seems to have decided to bake, so getting hold of self raising flour and caster sugar is not an easy feat! I managed to get caster sugar in our local shop but I still haven’t managed to get self raising flour.

This was my first cake of the lockdown which I made for our wedding anniversary on 16th April.

This is the king of cakes in my humble opinion. You can’t beat a simple Victoria sponge, filled with butter icing and strawberry jam and finished with a dusting of icing sugar and edible glitter. It didn’t last long!

The Victoria sponge used up all the self raising flour that I had in the house pre-lockdown so I had to be creative and make something flourless next, so I tried flapjacks. This was my first attempt at flapjacks and they tasted really good, but I think they had too much golden syrup in them so it was pretty much impossible to cut them into individual pieces. Better luck next time.

Next I realised I had plain flour in the cupboard so I searched for recipes using plain flour and stumbled upon a recipe for vintage chocolate chip cookies on the BBC Good Food website. I didn’t measure the salt and I think I probably put more in than I should have but they tasted amazing, so mental note – always put salt in cookie mix!

Ah, the classic Rice Krispie cake but made with Coco Pops instead. I still had no flour at this point, having used all the plain flour in the cookies. I did manageto get a click and collect slot from Asda, they didn’t have any flour of any kind! They did provide me with Coco Pops and marshmallows so these were the next to be made. I don’t know if these count as baking since the only cooking involves melting the butter and marshmallow. I’ve reminded myself that there are several of these left so that’s dessert sorted for later then!

I completely forgot to take a photo of this before I’d cut it! This was a lime drizzle cake made using my Aunt’s recipe and plain flour (with baking powder) that my brother-in-law managed to find for me. It should have been lemon drizzle, but I didn’t have lemons and did have a surplus of limes due to Asda giving me a pack of four in my click and collect instead of just the one I asked for. I think one of the good things to come out of the awful circumstances in which we find ourselves, is that I’m much more conscious of not wasting food. The shock of certain items not being readily available at the beginning of lockdown certainly had an impact on me, hence I didn’t want to waste the limes.

I spread the joy with this cake and dropped off slices to my best friend for her birthday and to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (only fair as they provided the flour). Fear not, social distancing was maintained at all times (in fact I didn’t actually see any of them) and I was legitimately out and about because I was dropping off food to my Dad (who also had a slice of cake).

Oooh, this one was gooooood (even if I do say so myself!) Basically a chocolate Victoria sponge filled and topped with chocolate butter icing. The raspberries needed eating so this saved wasting them, and the giant buttons, well, that’s just good sense!

Just looking at this one is making me want to make another, but I really mustn’t, for the sake of my circumference! Honestly I’ll be able to roll down the motorway when we can finally go back to work!

This doesn’t look very pretty, does it? Again this one was to use up food that was on its way out – in this case, very ripe bananas. It was another BBC Good Food recipe, this time for chocolate and banana cake. It was supposed to use self raising flour, which, as you know, I don’t have, so I substituted plain flour and baking powder, but it doesn’t seem to have worked and it collapsed in the middle! It tastes good though so I’m counting it as a success. It’s turned out as more of a pudding than a cake, if that makes sense.

The chocolate and banana cake called for two whole eggs and two egg whites, which meant I was left with two egg yolks, so, not wanting to waste them, I searched what I could do with egg yolks and lemon curd popped up. Coincidentally I love lemon curd and I ran out a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t replaced it, so I made some. It’s currently cooling in the fridge so I can’t tell you if it’s successful or not, but I really hope so because I used the last of our butter to make it which means we have no butter for our breakfast so we’ll have to have toast and lemon curd sans butter!

I was initially going to write a post about my lockdown achievements, after we were released from lockdown, but as it’s going on rather longer than I think any of us thought, I’m racking up the accomplishments so I decided to break them down into categories and go for it! So, I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing my kitchen creations and I hope that having written about them will stop me making any more and save the groans on my bathroom scales!

Six on Saturday 9th May

Well, I’ve had a lovely day! Probably the best lockdown day so far. We had a day in the garden yesterday clearing away loads of weeds, and it inspired me, so this morning I decided to take the plunge and go to stand in the queue at Homebase. Actually I stood in two! I queued for about half an hour to get in, and I have to say, the queue was very well managed and I was never within six feet of anyone else. Then I had to wait to be let back outside to the garden section! Again, very well managed. Well done Homebase. I decided to make the wait worth it, and I spent rather a lot of money, but, let’s face it, I’m not spending on anything else other than food so I think the bank manager will forgive me. I spent the rest of the day alternating between planting my new stuff, sitting in the sun and playing swingball.

Number One – Garden Hardware

I got the two terracotta pots from Homebase today. I decided a while ago that I’d like lots more pots around the garden. I know they take more work in terms of watering and maintenance, but I love the look of lots of pots. The plastic beige and grey pots I found in Poundland a couple of weeks ago (where social distancing is not adhered to effectively because of the limited width of the aisles, so I won’t be going back there for some time!) I think I’ll plant the pots with pansies and petunias that I bought today. I’ve put them in the greenhouse for now because, after the glorious weather today, apparently it’s going to be 10° tomorrow! The trellises and sunflower stakes came in a delivery today from Blooming Direct. I’ve put the stakes in place ready for the Sunflowers in the greenhouse once they get big enough to plant out.

I have twenty seven Sunflowers seedlings so I’m not sure where they’re all going to go! I guess they won’t all make it, but even so, I think I should’ve ordered more than five stakes!

Number Two – Sale Table Finds (oh sale table how I’ve missed thee!)

On my way back from Homebase I called into Halls, our local garden centre, because, although they’re only operating on a click and collect or delivery basis, I did notice that they had a half price table set up outside. I picked up a couple of great plants.

A white Camellia which I’ve planted in our bistro …

… and this beautiful Rhododendron.

Gorgeous! I couldn’t resist.

Number Three – Lupin

This was the only blue/purple Lupin amongst a field of pink, so I snapped it up. Such a striking plant. I had a Lupin before from a sale table, but it didn’t make it so I hope this one is more successful.

Number Four – Chrysanthemums

I bought these today as well, and I’ve put them in the pot that the Lupin came out of and another that I found in the dim dark recesses of the garage! Wonderful splashes of colour.

Number Five – Dicentra Bleeding Heart

Finally! It’s flowered!

I’m hoping it has a growth spurt this Summer because it’s still quite small. This was from a sale table, so I guess it didn’t have the best start in life but it seems to be reasonably happy now. I’ve seen some fabulous Dicentras on Instagram that dwarf my little plant, but I love it and its little rows of hearts just the same.

Number Six – Self Seeded Oxalis, or is it?

I thought this was Oxalis that had self seeded from a plant I bought from Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens a couple of years ago, but now I’m not so sure!

Whatever it is, I’m very happy that it decided to grow in our garden because it’s very pretty indeed. Surely a weed is only a weed if you don’t want it? I’ve learnt to be a lot less precious about weeding in our garden. It’s somewhat rustic in nature which means it’s never going to be perfectly manicured so I’m embracing the imperfection and I’ve left seedlings that in previous years I’ve whipped out before they’ve had chance to develop and it’s resulting in some delightful flowers, and it means less weeding for me – win/win!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into our little garden haven. I can’t tell you how much we’ve appreciated our outdoor space over the past weeks. If you’d like to have a sneak peak into other bloggers’ gardens, nip on over to the Propagator’s page.

Six on Saturday 2nd May

Whoop! It’s May. Officially the start of Summer as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been furloughed so I’ve got a fair bit of gardening done over the past week or so, but not as much as I’d like because the weather hasn’t always been kind. I did get out there today though, and got a bit done.

1. I ordered twenty four Begonia plug plants at the very beginning of lockdown, and just as Homebase and B&Q have reopened meaning I could have gone and bought some in person, they arrived! Never mind, I stayed safe, and it was exciting receiving plants in the post for the first time.

I know I should probably harden them off, but after looking at the weather forecast I decided it would be safe to go for it and plant them out. I did this last year with teeny tiny Begonia plug plants, and not only did they survive not being hardened off, the ones in one of my hanging baskets have survived the Winter and are growing back for a second Summer! As you can see, I’ve put some in a different hanging basket, and I’ve filled my wheelbarrow with them. These are apricot colours which I’m really looking forward to.

2. I’m moving on to my favourite kind of plants now – free ones!

These started pushing up round the edges of the weed control fabric on our bistro last year and I thought the leaves looked quite pretty, and possibly not weed-like, so I decided not to be over zealous with my weeding and this year they’ve rewarded me with beautiful flowers. I didn’t know you could get Poppies any other colour than red, but I’m reliably informed that that is indeed, what they are. Beautiful! I will definitely be harvesting the seeds to scatter elsewhere.

3. Another freebie, but unidentified this time. I discovered it in the undergrowth at the very uncultivated top of our garden! Obviously it’s some kind of grass, and I’m pretty sure it’s not grass as in lawn, but I’ve no idea what it is. There are lots of grasses in our garden that it could’ve come from, and obviously it might not even be from our garden. I’ve potted it up for now and I’ll see how it develops.

4. Another grass that’s self seeded. I think it’s either Carex Milk Chocolate or offspring of a grass which was gifted to us from my Dad and C’s garden whose name I don’t know. It was growing in a really random place so I dug it up before it got trampled on. I decided to make use of half of our chimenea which got broken in a storm over the Winter. I sunk it slightly into the soil to keep it together and filled it with compost. If the grass thrives, I imagine it’ll outgrow the chimenea, but for now I think it looks great, and I’ve saved putting more rubbish into landfill. I need to find something else for the other half of the broken chimenea.

5. Moving on, but keeping a somewhat tenuous link with free plants due to the number of runners that have grown new plants to strawberries.

There were all sorts of weeds sprouting up in the strawberry bed, so I weeded it thoroughly but I left a lot of the leaves that have made their way in there in the hopes that slugs and snails might not like sliming over them to get to my precious strawberries! I also made use of these strawberry mulch mats that were a Christmas present. We only got one strawberry last year and I’d really like a decent harvest this year.

We’ve got our first flowers appearing so it’s so far so good! I’ll keep everything crossed.

6. This has made me happy! My Clematis Montana always gets masses of leaves, but has never flowered before.

I was planning to relocate this Clematis so it got more sunshine, but I’m guessing now might not be the best time. It’s got hardly any leaves so far this year, and just these two flowers, but I’ll take that – I actually know what it’s flowers look like now.

I really struggled to narrow my points down to six this week which is good because it means the garden is waking up! If you’d like to check out other people’s Sixes, have a look at the Propagator’s blog for lots of garden happiness.