A regimental row of wooden beach huts like soldiers on parade, replace winding lanes lined with hedgerows rich in food and teaming with life. At first glance visitors could be forgiven for believing Southwold is a sparse and barren place, as East Suffolk greets the North Sea. In fact this small town and civil parish at the mouth of the river Blyth breeds like rabbits artists and writers, literally bleeding creativity, history and culture from every crack and crevice.
Mid September, the sun beams low in the sky and a brisk autumnal wind whips breaking waves into foaming fury. Upon the pier each wooden slat rattles and creaks, with every rolling wave. In a tiny sheltered courtyard in denim jeans, checked shirt and weave apron an artist stands at her easel and paints, upon her head a straw hat. Tubes of oil paint in a crumpled plastic bag beneath a stool where her palette is precariously balanced. In one hand a postcard and in the other her paintbrush.
A Starbucks drive-thru now stands, where a local boozer once stood with dark decor and carpets to disguise spilt ale and cigarette smoke. I am a simple woman who drinks my coffee black no sugar, zoning out while my daughter orders a drink with shots of this and pumps of that. I notice an apple tree in a nearby garden, its bough hanging over the fence laden with fruit. I had never noticed it before. Upon the concrete was a growing pile of bruised fruit turning bad, such a shame, I was tempted to return with a basket knock on and offer to strip the tree of its harvest, but my joints and muscles would never allow that.
So I was unsurprised to read, wheat may be in short supply this year but apples are a plenty. Long stretches of unbroken sunshine throughout spring coupled with lack of late frosts led to an extended blossom season, enabling pollinators such as honeybee and bumblebee to fertilise more flowers. A rainy July and August benefitted the growth cycle further, aiding the fruit to swell and become plump. Autumn in an apple orchard amplifies nature. The air is filled with an earthy blend of sweet and tart as fruit ripen upon laden boughs, amid the gentle decay of plants preparing for winter.
The National Trust manage more than 200 traditional apple orchards in the UK, reporting an early harvest the best in 3 years. Visitors will be invited to pick and take home apples, in exchange for a donation.
So as we wave goodbye to summer, let’s say a sweet hello to autumn.
225g/8oz cooking apples
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp water
Peel, core and chop the apples. Bring to the boil in a pan with the lemon zest, sugar, water and cinnamon.
Take off the heat and beat in the butter. Leave to cool.
My partner is a little more precise about his culinary ventures than me, knowing what he likes and what he doesn’t like. For years we have debated the difference on a Chinese takeaway menu, between a spring roll and a crispy pancake roll. He vehemently defends the latter his reason being more protein, less rabbit food. I always counter attack with ‘if that were true why sell meat spring rolls’. He then gets bored and mumbles ‘well I can tell the difference’. While some restaurants only sell one or the other, I had come to the conclusion they are practically the same thing jumping between to alias.
I am determined to discover the difference, which is not proving easy. Opinion is divided and hazy at best, ranging from size to veg versus meat. My research then dragged egg rolls and summer rolls into the mix. Gggrrrr! Thankfully I quickly clarified a summer roll, which is served cold and of Vietnamese origin. The wrapper is typically made of rice paper filled with shrimp or pork, carrot, lettuce, cucumber, rice noodles and herbs.
Where it get’s interesting is the definition of an egg roll and I believe where lies the answer. Egg rolls are an American-Chinese variant of the traditional spring roll. And the difference lies not in the filling, but the wrapper. Spring roll wrappers are made from wheat flour and water. The batter is steamed to form a thin pancake, thinner and lighter in colour. Whereas egg roll wrappers are made from wheat flour, egg and water producing a dough which is rolled, stuffed and deep fried. The addition of eggs inevitably alters the flavour like my partner claims. Ultimately when I next go to a restaurant which serves both, I will order both and examine the difference.
Roald Dahl had the power to make anything possible, hooking his readers and transporting them on the most amazing adventures. Born on the 13th September 2016, today would have been his 104th birthday. His parents Harold and Sophie Magdalene named him after the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who four years earlier was the first man to reach the South Pole. Born in Llandaff, Wales he was one of five children, but tragically lost a sister and his father at an early age. He was privately educated at boarding school: St Peters and Repton referring to his school days in his writing.
As a young adult he worked for an oil company traveling to Canada and East Africa. The out break of World War II sent his life in a different direction when he joined the RAF, age 23. But his flying career came crashing down in September 1940, and he would spend six months recuperating from several injuries to his back and head. Not defeated he went on to return to action, and even supplied intelligence to MI6.
During his lifetime Roald Dahl wrote 19 novels, 13 short story collections, 12 scripts, 5 poetry collections and 9 works of non fiction. So thankyou Roald Dahl for your contribution to literature. And a big ‘Happy Birthday!’
Conversation on commercial radio is, let’s be honest largely bol#@$ks. But hearing about genetically modified goats, producing milk containing an extra protein required for the production of spider silk, is one of those eye widening ‘woah’ moments.
Stronger in weight than steel, tougher than Kevlar, more flexible than nylon, and finer than a strand of human hair the benefits of spider silk, in particular dragline silk has long been of interest to scientists. But spiders are notoriously difficult to farm, as they have a tendency to fight and turn to cannibalism.
Sugar and Spice the two original GM spider goats are now in retirement at Canada Agricultural Museum in Ottawa. But work continues for Dr Randy Lewis and his research team at Utah State University. Continued research suggests spider silk can be used in the production of adhesives, new ligaments, bullet proof vests, robotic muscle and lenses used for biological imaging.
With the more recent discovery of spider silk production in photosynthetic bacteria, steps towards mass produced spider silk is ever increasing.
While rows of jars stand turning sterile in the oven, upon the hob a pot of fruity goodness bubbles ferociously filling the kitchen with a sweet comforting warmth. Slathered on bread or slapped on a scone, jam is a wonderful way to enjoy a glut of fruit months after harvest, which would otherwise have gone bad. But there is a sticky downside to this treat, excessive amounts of sugar, while living in times of mass obesity.
Sugar has an important role to play in jam more than sweeten sharp fruit, it breaks down the pectin present enabling a jam to set, and behaves as a preservative preventing discolouration and mould. So! Is there a way this shrewd use of abundant fruit can be friendly on the waistline?
The answer is yes. And it lies in the edible seeds of a member of the sage family; Salvia hispanica and the closely related Salvia columbariae, are native to central and southern Mexico and the southern western states of the US. These oval seeds are grey with black and white spots, capable of absorbing large amounts of liquid up to twelve times their weight. As they absorb and swell chia seeds develop a mucilaginous texture, and this is what sets a jam in place of excessive amounts of sugar.
A warm kitchen filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. Delicious! But kneading has become a painful chore rather than a therapeutic pleasure, as arthritis ravages my joints. A bread making machine bakes a close second loaf, but measuring ingredients and pressing start doesn’t quite bring the same joy. I have however found a wonderful alternative. Sourdough replaces traditional yeast with a fermented flour starter, and the physical exertion of kneading with time.
A sourdough starter or levain is made with flour and water left to ferment, developing the naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeasts. The bubbles produced enable sourdough to rise. And the lactic acid produced from the lactobacilli give the bread its unique mildly sour flavour. There are many variations of sourdough starter, using different flours and ratios of flour and water. Rye flour is a popular choice for sourdough. I am making a basic white starter.
“Growing pains” the doctor said. I was 10 years old and keen to get back to gymnastics and all activity associated with childhood. 31 years later and my growing pains are still rife, only now the label has changed to rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Chronic pain combined with anxiety is a crippling combination, that has taken me on a journey of self discovery, mindfulness, wellbeing and self care.
Struggling to find any benefit from conventional medicine, I now follow a more holistic approach to maintaining a calmer and reduced pain life. Currently studying Holistic Pain Management, I have researched in-depth the neurotransmitter serotonin. And with ‘Let’s Chat Tasty Matters’ in mind, I decided to look into foods rich in tryptophan, the amino acid serotonin is derived from.
My personal experience of composting is a smelly fail of epic proportions, due to a few simple rookie errors. But we humans need to drastically reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill. The wrath of my stubborn streak is notorious and this donkey will not be defeated. I will make steps towards a more sustainable life and reduce my personal carbon footprint.
With a little creativity and know how composting can be achieved in gardens of all sizes. I have learned the best way to compost success is considering every aspect of the composting process.
Celery is a marshland plant with a long fibrous stalk and leaves at the top. Cultivated since antiquity its seeds have been used as a spice, leaves and stalks eaten raw or cooked, and extracts used in herbal medicine. A member of the Apiaceae family which include carrots and parsley.
Celery is 95 percent water and due to its high water content it has the ability to bring stale bread back to life. Simply place a stalk of celery in a bag with the bread, seal and place in the fridge for a few hours or over night. The bread will have a fresh lease of life, having absorbed the moisture from the celery.
Celery has many health benefits including relieving heartburn and reducing cholesterol. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make it beneficial for arthritis, toothache, insomnia and anxiety. But within seven days of harvest most of the antioxidants will have disappeared. Celery is a fantastic source of vitamin K and fibre.
But unfortunately despite its continued popularity it is not all good news. Celery can induce severe allergic reactions including fatal anaphylactic shock. The seeds and root contain the highest allergens. Cooking does not destroy the allergen and anything that has been in contact with celery can contaminate other foods. The Greek philosopher Socrates chose death by hemlock poisoning when he was forced to publicly deny his humanistic and democratic principles or be sentenced to death; hemlock is in the same family as celery. Consuming large amounts of celery can lead to gastrointestinal problems, goitres and malnutrition. Unless organically grown, celery ranks high on the Environmental Working Groups dirty dozen list of vegetables containing large amounts of pesticide. It also contain psoralens, a chemical which if applied to the skin can induce intense sensitivity to UV light.
Finally a Recipe for Celery Soup
1 Garlic Clove
500ml Vegetable or Chicken stock
Remove the tough string on the celery stalk and chop into chunks, peel and dice the potatoes and garlic. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat and add the vegetables. Coat in the oil and season. Add the stock and bring to the boil, simmer the soup until the potatoes are falling apart and the celery is soft, about 20 minutes.
Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 mins, until the potatoes are cooked and the celery is soft. Remove the soup from the heat and blend into a puree. Stir in the milk and season. Serve with a good crusty bread.