Sunday 20 April 2008

Life, chocolate and the garden

Thank you for all the birthday wishes! I had a lovely peaceful day which was just perfect. I find more and more that I'm not very inclined to go could argue this is a sign of age, but I think it's more to do with contentment. I love my home, and I don't feel the need to be 'out there' seeking other things - everything I could wish for is here at home, and I'm thankful for that. That's not to say I don't go out at all - I love to walk and get out in nature, and do that daily with my two dogs, and of course I see friends, but home is where it's at for me.

Yesterday I made a quick batch of chocolate brownies - late birthday cake I suppose! This recipe is failsafe, delicious and inexpensive (compared to many brownie recipes). What I'm always looking for in a brownie is a crisp topping and a squidgey gooey inside that melts in your mouth.

Chocolate Brownies - makes 16 squares

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F
Line a 23cm/9" square tin

100g dark chocolate - at least 70% cocoa solids
50g butter
2 eggs, beaten
200g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp salt
100g chopped nuts - I use either walnuts, pecans or toasted hazelnuts
1 teasp vanilla extract

Break the chocolate up in to pieces, and put in a saucepan with the butter
Melt slowly over a low heat, stir to combine with a wooden spoon, and leave to cool slightly
Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
Add the chocolate/butter mixture and stir again
Pour into the baking tin - no need to smooth the mixture it will even out in the oven

Bake for 25/30 mins, depending on how fast your oven is. It's better to slightly undercook it, to retain the gooeyness you want!

Now you can lick the spoon and scrape the bowl.....

Cool in the tin on a wire rack, and slice into squares when cold

The weather has been warmer today with a hint of sun here and there - enticing enough to get out in the garden. I've started to think about what I want to do with my patch. At the moment I have a bare space, somewhat destroyed by the dogs, and overgrown with grass that needs cutting and an abundance of dandelions. There is the occasional bit of beauty, like the tulips, but basically I have a blank canvas.

I've started to dig up the dandelions and other weeds which is leaving me with large patches of bare earth. For the moment I've covered these with a thick layer of cardboard - it will suppress any new weeds from popping up, and prevents the dogs from digging and messing around in the mud! I've also got some old hessian-backed carpet coming my way this week, which will also help. Before I can get on with the garden re-design, the fence and gate at the bottom needs replacing, and the side boundaries need some attention as well. Overall, I would like my garden to be both productive and beautiful and a space I want to spend time in. Having a garden is like having another room, isn't it? I'm rather excited about all the possibilities.

And a couple of tips for cleaning ingrained mud and dirt off gardening hands (if like me you don't wear gloves):

Put a squirt of liquid soap or washing up liquid on your hands and add a tablespoon of granulated sugar, rub hands together, paying attention to cuticles and under your nails. Rinse thoroughly. If you just want an exfoliant/moisturiser, substitute olive oil for the liquid soap.

If your hands still have staining from earth and plant sap, rub them thoroughly with the inside skin of half a lemon, saved from cooking. Instant and safe bleach!


Pipany said...

Hey, I missed your birthday! Lots of late good wishes and sounds like my kind of birthday - home is where it's at for me too. And to add to the coincidences (living in Cornwall; love walks, crafting and gardening) I am also 44 and proud of it! Here's to us xx

Anonymous said...

Those brownies look mouthwatering! You need food like that to keep your strength up when you embark on major gardening work - look forward to seeing what you create from your 'patch'.

Anonymous said...

happy belated birthday - that cake looks delicious! i have dandelions coming up all over now too - suppose should let them be, but they do takeover a bit. for some reason I am programmed to think they make the place look scruffy and unloved... but they are still there! Cx

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Diana, for the blessings and will wishes. I can't tell you what it means to know that we are being kept close to so many wonderful loving hearts. Never before have we felt so supported and encouraged!

Thank you!