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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Now we are too warm...

Well, the second stove is in and working. I was told not to use the oven for five days, but events meant I had to use it sooner with mixed results. Because the bread in the freezer was depleted after having the fire people in for a week, I started to make four batches of bread. I had just finished mixing the final batch and the electricity went off! Dave was out and as there was no way of knowing when we would have power I decided to light the stove just in case. Until the new extension is built the stove is a bit too powerful for the kitchen/living room so gets really hot....even the dogs thought it too much and disappeared into the garden. With a bit of trial and error all the bread was eventually cooked with varying degrees of 'caremelisation'. It all looked OK, and the pizzas were great.

But when I started to cut them in half to freeze some, I found the fruit loaf and the onion bread was sad and uncooked right in the centre. The flavour and crust were good, though a couple were a bit scorched, especially underneath. Happy chickens! But it was a good learning day and when the stove is on in the winter I will be making bread more often rather than a load at once, so will not be rushing to get as much in the oven at a time as I had to. And I need a trivet to keep stuff off the base of the oven. Good job flour is cheap!

The area around the stove and cooker has now been tiled and is going to be much easier to clean. In due course the 'splashback' behind the sink will be done. It turns out that this is made from a work top and is quite chunky. We'll need some PVA to help the tile cement to stick. That should be an interesting ask!
The weather has taken a turn for the better now that we have heating. It is hot in the sun, though evenings are cool. Dave is back in a T-shirt but with jeans. He is still using his pool! Mad! We have had cuts in power and internet and supposed to be a couple of days without water from 9 this morning. We still have water however, so no doubt they will wait till we least expect it before switching us off, and even then there is no guarantee that it will only be off for two days. Bliss!

We have had our first leek! It was very long and thin, as they are here, and quite strong. Only one needed for the two of us. We are continuing to harvest kale and cabbage (managed to give one to the English neighbours today!) and even managed a bunch of mixed orange and red baby carrots, the ones left and forgotten in the patch behind the chicken house.

I was surprised to find that three successive frosts hadn’t killed off the chervil so picked a good amount of that and made lemon, garlic and herb butter to keep in the freezer for jazzing up plain fish, potatoes or vegetables.

Dave is having a struggle. We realised before we came here that the plight of some of the animals would be a problem to us, the dogs in particular. I have been horrified at the state of some of the hooves on the equines, being long or split, grooved and awful shoes, never mind the amount which are lame. But it is not our place to interfere and some of them look really well. Our village has it’s share of dogs on the street, some in small packs, so that Dave takes a stick when he takes the girls out in the morning. Only recently an old man was attacked by a pack of street dogs in the capital. The village is not bad compared to some, and most seem to be in good health. We have seen and heard them in the garden, especially at night, and only last night I heard a yelp as if some dog had touched the electric chicken mesh which we switch on at night since Mimi got tangled in the fence.

Getting back to Dave’s dilemma. A few weeks ago, after a trip into town, he stopped off at the river for a dip. As he was leaving he was approached by a scrawny dog, (he calls him Archie, he shouldn’t name strays) wagging his tail as if he wanted to be friends. Dave hardened his heart. Taking in strays would make any dash to the UK in an emergency a real problem, and there are so many of them. However, on returning from Gorna a couple of days ago he called in for a dip again....bear in mind that we were going through some very cold weather....and the dog was there again, looking thinner. I think it is fair to say this dog is causing us both to feel guilty for not going back for him.

The chicks are growing apace, and the little bumble bees are not pretty any more. Venka has braved the dogs (locked in the house) and been round for a cuddle. She likes to hold them against her face then stroke their chests until they relax. The big ones are going in their run every day, which is now in the main chicken  run. The house hens are taking a huge interest in them, but I am not sure it is friendly interest, greed or something more sinister. Sevi will grab any feather which gets too close to the mesh. The chicks are also sizing up to each other, fluffing up their hackles and looking as ferocious as possible which makes us giggle. The little ones went into the run for ten minutes today too. They look tiny against the big chooks, especially big Silver.

Although all the chickens are moulting and looking a bit tatty, especially the two Shumen girls who are older, Sevi is growing proper tail feathers now, though he lost one. By spring he will be lovely.

Although we are sure that the small chicks are from the Shumen hens, two of them look as if they will have a fair bit of pale colouring and yellow feet, so possibly throw backs to previously introduced blood. Time will tell.

Dave is, at last, spending some time actually sitting down instead of rushing around. He has started painting after we got a load of canvasses at Lidl and is painting a dog for someone. Very good news, it's about time he got back into it.

I said I would post a few recipes or links on here as they have been asked for. This time my banana tray bake, adapted from a recipe I found on the internet, and an apple and walnut loaf, slightly adapted.
I used an eight inch round tin and cooked it for less time as it was shallower. I used low fat yoghurt too as that is what I had, and left off the caramel as we don't have butter toffee in our local shop! Instead I just sprinkled the walnuts on top and a handful of demerara sugar before cooking. I liked it very much, but I don't think Dave's that keen. It's quite puddingy and would be nice with custard.

Banana Traybake

I make this a lot and it is always slightly different depending on how ripe the bananas are and what sort of yoghurt I have handy. You can use soured cream if you want, which was in the original recipe

200g sugar, either white or brown, whatever you have
125g butter or marge
Teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
250ml yoghurt (I have used less if I haven't enough)
225g plain flour, either white, brown or a mix
1 teaspoon bicarb
Pinch of salt
Between 250 and 300g of ripe banana, not too smoothly mashed

Cream butter and sugar together, add eggs and vanilla and beat well, add yoghurt and beat well. Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients and lastly the banana. If you like to you can add some choc chips.

I use a large lined roaster to cook it in, or a deep swiss roll tin would do. 25 minutes at 180C, gas 4

If you like iced cake, a cream cheese icing is lovely, or water icing if you worry about fat. I don't bother for every day, but use cream cheese icing if taking it next door...they have a very sweet tooth!

Cream Cheese Icing

200g tub of Philly or similar
100g soft butter
Half teaspoon vanilla extract
125g icing sugar, or to taste

Keep it in the fridge once iced as it gets a bit soft if left out


  1. The banana traybake is well yummy.

  2. Aha, now Debrazzaman makes so much more sense.

  3. But my post doesn't! I mean't the user name makes more sense after seeing the paintings...

    1. Ah yes, a strange name unless you know!