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Our landlord’s peach tree simply couldn’t bear its own weight any longer. A single crack, the unmistakable sounds of birds in sudden flight and it was all over for the poor tree. I’m typing to the strains of chain saw on peach tree.

peach and thyme jam

Still, something had to be done with the fruit, and I was more than happy to oblige. These sudden gluts remind me of one of my favourite childhood books: Ruth Orbach’s Apple Pigs. We’ve had peaches for breakfast, peaches for lunch and still we have peaches. Time to realise my long held ambition to make jam.

I’m warning you now, this is a non-WI approved recipe. I took the easy route and just bought a pack of jam sugar from the supermarket, ready loaded with pectin and printed with simple instructions that even a novice like me can follow. Plus, I don’t have my sugar thermometer or any fancy equipment out here.

peach jam

So here we go, peach and thyme jam.

Makes three jars

1 kg ripe peaches, peeled, destoned and chopped into small pieces. As a guide, that was equivalent to 27 small whole peaches for me

3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

One 500g pack jam sugar

Pop the fruit, thyme and sugar into a large saucepan and bring to the boil on a high heat. Let it bubble away for a good five minutes until the fruit is soft – the packet suggested three minutes, but I was unconvinced after three. If you’re unconvinced, take a teaspoonful and leave to cool. If it starts to set, it’s ready to go.

Pour into sterilised jars and screw on the lids. Leave to stand, flipping the jars after three minutes so the fruit sets evenly throughout the jar.

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I dearly wish I had an excess of courgettes (zucchini, my American friends, zucchini). I wish I had an excess of anything for that matter. Unfortunately, the blimming snails ate my two courgette plants right down to a tiny stump of stalk. And the weather was so diabolical that I didn’t even get a flower on my tomatoes. This year, no greenhouse = no fruit.

Still, this is a post for my dear friend Ms Jones, because her mother has been plying her with courgettes for weeks. Yes indeed, I am happy to take requests (actually I’m just happy that anyone is actually reading this regularly enough to make a request!).

I can’t think of anything more wonderful than an excess of courgettes. They are on a par with broccoli and morning glory on my all-time favourite vegetable list. They are so versatile, so delicious. I never tire of them.

When I was a student in Florence, we used to slice them finely, sauté in olive oil until golden brown and toss them through pasta with a drizzle of panna (cream) and lashings of parmesan. Quick. Simple. Delicious.

Then there’s another of my favourite dishes, one I am currently eating no less (I’m writing this on my lunch break), which is courgette and paneer curry. This is one of the first recipes I ever uploaded to this blog. I admit, it’s not all that photogenic, but it tastes goooooood. You’ll love it Jonesy.

Of course, another courgette recipe already covered in these pages is courgette and polenta bake.

layer cake courgette and polenta bake

Then there’s the stunning courgette salad that my stepmother makes in the summer. I think it’s from Skye Gyngell’s A Year in my Kitchen. Simply shave raw courgettes into paper thin strips using the cheese slicer setting on a grater and dress with lashings of lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper, and herbs – tarragon is great with this but basil works too. Fantastic with barbecued meat.

But perhaps one of my favourite ways to eat courgettes is heavily inspired by Angela Hartnett’s stuffed marrow recipe. It’s great and versatile — I’ve made it for a one-year old girl (no salt and pepper), a vegetarian (no chorizo) and some big strapping lads and they all loved it.

Serves: 4

4 large courgettes (perfect time of year for large courgettes – but tiny ones will work if you’re patient and capable of being delicate)

1 block feta cheese, diced

1 onion, finely chopped

Half a looped chorizo, diced (substitute for a finely chopped red pepper if catering for veggies)

2 slices bread, whizzed into breadcrumbs

Half a pack pinenuts

A small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

Olive oil (I like to use lemon oil or basil oil for this)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the courgettes in half, lengthways, then hollow out the centre by scooping out the insides. Chop the flesh finely and set aside. Rub oil into the courgette ‘boats’ inside and out and season generously, then line up on a baking tray ready to fill.

Fry the onions and chorizo chunks, add in the courgette centres, and sauté until softened. Remove from the heat, then stir in the pinenuts, parsley and half the feta. Fill the courgette boats with this mixture, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and remaining feta cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the courgette shell is soft and the topping crispy and brown.

Serve with a crisp green salad, hummus and crusty bread.

If you have a slice leftover, chop it all up and run it through some cous cous with a sprinkle of lemon juice. Delicious.

 

Country cottage

LoveRichCashPoor has officially run out of holiday. Not even half a sausage of a day until the annual leave calendar ticks over again on January 1st.

Wallace the Alpaca

Wallace (or was it Hugo?) the Alpaca

If there is anything more annoying than having no holiday left, it’s having no holiday left and being invited on a fabulous free holiday with some of your favourite people. Still not even the powers that be can take away our Saturday night (actually they can, and frequently have, but that’s another story), so we drove down to the wilds of Oxfordshire for the miniest mini break in the whole history of the world.

Tea and cake on the terrace

We watched the sun set as we sipped on a sundowner, followed by a super spaghetti bolognese supper (with TWO different types of garlic bread! Whoop! I love holidays!) then we tucked into bed to dream of Alpacas. After a restorative bacon butty in the morning, we attempted to visit the only duck decoy in Britain, but it was closed (so don’t ask me what a duck decoy is—I have absolutely no idea). Instead, we went for a Sunday Roast and a play on the swings, followed by tea and cake on the terrace and a last play with Pickle before the drive home. Bliss. Thank you, you wonderful lovely people, you!

Pickle on the lawn

wedding flowers

Honey I’m home! Gosh I’ve been busy, performing my matron of honour duties, being an adoring aunt and gushing godmother and generally beetling about. But I’m back. Broke, but back and determined to climb back onto my budgeting wagon.

wedding marquee lanterns and flowers

Oh, and if anyone wants to hire a not-at all skilled florist for their wedding, then look no further…

wedding marquee lanterns and flowers

Sometimes you have to leave London to appreciate what time of year it is. August is just another month in the city but in the countryside the harvest is in full swing and huge balers are working flat out to bind up the straw into enormous golden wheels.

The sight of these huge mountains of hay reminded me of the many nights I spent at Yellow Bar as a student in Florence. We’d scoot into one of the booths, order a vat carafe of house red and a steaming plate of paglia e fieno (straw and hay). No this isn’t some strange student pre-loading ritual – paglia e fieno is the Italian name for green and yellow tagliatelle. In Yellow Bar, they served it with cream, pancetta and mushrooms. It was delicious.

Serves: 2

4 nests of tagliatelle ‘paglia e fieno’

1/2 tub mascarpone

100g bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces. Please note, the fine side of bacon you see above is from Sainsbury’s basics range. 670g for 99p. Yes, really. Amazing how posh it looks when you take it out the shrink wrap and pop it  in a wicker basket.

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms (reduced to 49p), peeled and sliced

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

A spring of thyme

A splash of olive oil

Lashings of parmesan to serve

Salt and pepper to taste

Plunge the pasta into salted boiling water and let it bubble away for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the bacon bits until crispy and brown, then set aside. Then fry the mushrooms, garlic and thyme in a splash of olive oil. Turn off the heat and add in the bacon and mascarpone and stir to a smooth silky sauce.

Drain the pasta, pour into the frying pan to coat with sauce and serve with a bowl of grated parmesan at the table.

A picnic in Epping Forest, Essex

Okay, so this one didn’t really qualify for the ‘best things in life are free’ section, as a punnet of doughnut nectarines costs £1.50 (we’d scoffed most of them by this point) and we (well, the husband) had to pay for the petrol to get to Epping Forest, but the stroll through the woods was free.

We sprung over spongy, mossy mounds marvelling at the many shades of green and crunched our way over a carpet of brittle beech nut shells. We wove between contorted tree trunks and stopped in our tracks as a fox cub dashed across our path. Then, ahead in the distance, the green glow of a grassy clearing where we could lay down our trusty blanket in dappled sunlight and while away an hour or two with the Saturday papers.

I love weekends. What did you all get up to? X

 

Friday

Wake up with: £80 + £28.86 (from last week)

Go to bed with: £80 + £28.86

At 6am, I am pacing in paradise. I watch the rosy glow of dawn spread across the lagoon from my hotel window, it’s going to be a scorcher today. And suddenly, there it is; the news I have been waiting for all night: my wonderful, clever, brave sister has given birth to a little girl. And so the waterworks begin…

The day has a dreamlike quality to it: breakfast with the client, a last wistful wander around Hotel Cipriani’s kitchen gardens, then an hour to get lost in the streets behind Piazza San Marco before I have to jump on the vaporetto to the airport. I get home to an immaculate house, and the husband has even bought me flowers. Did I mention how much I love the husband?

Saturday

Wake up with: £80 + £28.86

Go to bed with: £80.04

Can there be anything better than the utter decadence of a Saturday morning with nothing to do and no one to see? I laze in bed, conducting a multi-media, cross-channel campaign to get my poor beleaguered brother in law to send me photos of my new niece. Then transfer to the sofa for full Olympic immersion.

I was going to offer to take my long-suffering husband out to dinner with the £28-odd pounds I somehow have left from last week, but the Olympics coverage is too exciting and we settle on a takeaway instead so we don’t miss a second of the Gold Rush. Go Team GB! I am really not accustomed to this winning lark but I could certainly get used to it: three golds. THREE GOLDS!

Sunday

Wake up with: £80.04

Go to bed with: £64.31

I have a date with my younger goddaughter to check out her new tooth today. I know it’s a cliché but I just can’t get over how quickly babies grow. I see Tiz at least once a month, but I’m amazed how much she changes in that relatively short interval. She’s now at the delightful shuffling and gurgling stage. Heart-meltingly cute — it makes me ache to see my niece. In a mad moment, I almost get on a train to Lancashire on the way home, then I remember they are still in hospital; so I return home via the greengrocers and cook a tomato shorba soup for the week. I will have to be patient.

Monday

Wake up with: £64.31

Go to bed with: £45.62

Supper Club is back on now we have the full complement of facilities, but we’ve no food in the house and I was too distracted by the Olympics to plan a menu at the weekend, so I cycle home via Sainsbury’s. Monday night is definitely the night to pick up a bargain in Dalston. I get 12 sausages for £1.50 and can’t resist a rack of lamb reduced from £7.99 to £3.29; the freezer will have a field day. I use half the sausages to make enough sausage and roasted pepper cannelloni to feed four hungry boys and the husband and I for the rest of the week. Yum!

Tuesday

Wake up with: £45.62

Go to bed with: £45.62

Tuesday is a whirl of meetings and emails so I’m exhausted by the time I get home. I spend the night relaxing in front of the Olympics, whittling down the enormous ironing mountain.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £45.62

Go to bed with: -£19.08 (oops)

My sister and niece have been given the all-clear and are on their way home from hospital. I promptly break the cash-only rule and order her a Sainsbury’s delivery online so she can just concentrate on her new family of three and not worry about the shopping.

Tonight I’m booked in for dinner with the girls. Despite the fact that I spent all my remaining weekly budget at lunchtime on my sister’s surprise, there is no way I am cancelling an evening with some of my bestest girls in one of my favourite restaurants, so I peddle off to Gallipoli Again for gossip and mezze: at £17.70 including wine, it’s reasonable—I’m not going to lose any sleep about blowing the budget this week.

Thursday

Wake up with: -£19.08

Go to bed with: -£19.08

I am supposed to be meeting a friend for drinks tonight, but she is unwell – and the budgeting side of my brain breathes a sigh of relief. We re-schedule for next week, when hopefully I’ll be able to comfortably afford a glass of vino or three.

I end the week £19.08 down, but one niece up, so on balance, I think I must be the richest person in the country this week. Welcome to the world our little Golden Girl, I cannot wait to meet you. X

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