Thursday 13 January 2011

Miscellaneous ramblings

Today I just want to write about a couple of small things that don't really warrant a post of their own...

Blog layout / format amendments
Have you noticed that I have made a few changes to the appearance of my blog? I have widened the main part, so that I can now accommodate photos at the "Extra Large" size, which I think will be beneficial since I am fired-up with enthusiasm for using my new camera.

I have also changed some of the fonts, the font sizes and colours, trying to make a more visually-appealing colour scheme. I am aiming to get a sort of "natural" look without anything too harsh, and in general toning with the red and green of my Chilli header picture. Any comments?

Bolbitius Vitellinus - the Yellow Cow-pat Fungus?

Visual Fungi
I have discovered a great website for identifying fungi - an area I am quite interested in at present. It's called Visual Fungi. It has some fantastic photos of fungi which can help you to identify the ones you find. You'll see that I have added a link to it in my sidebar. I'm sure that many of you will find it useful and interesting. My own endeavours in this field are described in a couple of my earlier posts, such as My own Fungus Foray and The Octopus fungus. With the aid of this website I think I have identified the fungi that grew in my tomtato pots last year as Bolbitius Vitellinus aka Yellow Cow-pat Fungus.(Picture above).

A new recipe discovered
Last night we tried a new dish that we had not previously experienced. It was Polenta with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese, which may be of interest to those of you who still have squashes and pumpkins left from the Autumn. The inspiration for this came from two places: firstly the book called "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi that I reviewed a short while ago, which has a recipe for Mushroom & Herb Polenta; and also the BBC's Olive magazine, which has a recipe for the combination we tried.

Ottolenghi's description of the dish (taught to him by his Father) is very atmospheric and his recipe is comprehensive - he really makes you want to eat it. The Olive magazine recipe is a bit basic  / functional , and contains no description of the finished dish, though it does have a picture.

Anyway, with a combination of ideas from both sources, Jane made the dish. Making soft polenta is not something she had done before (surprisingly), but turned out to be fairly easy - basically slowly stirring the polenta meal into boiling water and enriching it with butter and parmesan cheese. The finished dish was lovely too. The polenta comes out the texture of thick custard, and it goes really well with the Butternut squash (roasted until it is caramelized at the edges) and strong, salty blue cheese (we used some Dorset Blue Vinney which had been hanging around since Christmas and was nicely "mature"). We served the dish with home-made bread, a green salad and a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. [I wish now I had taken a picture!]

As you know, Jane and I are not vegetarians, but we love many non-meat foods, and I think we will be making more dishes with soft polenta. Ottolenghi's one with mushrooms will probably be next, but I'm also considering sundried tomatoes; and Cavolo Nero; maybe spring onions; maybe fried red onions; maybe lentils...

And finally...

A Ducking good prize
What would you do with the following?
2 whole Gressingham ducks
2 whole ducks ready prepared for oriental-style "Crispy Aromatic Duck", complete with pancakes
2 Guinea fowls
2 duck leg portions stuffed with orange and apricot

Because Jane has won such a collection in a competition.

 It's a good thing we like duck! Any recipe recommendations?


  1. I love your new blog look and am very jealous of the new camera, too. Mine is getting to be a dinosaur among digital cameras but I won't be replacing it anytime soon.

    We do in fact have leftover winter squashes that I've been avoiding because I am tired of sweet. Blue cheese here we come!

  2. Thanks for e-mailing over the mushroom tip Mark. Keep up the good work on your blog! :D

    Regards, Craig!
    You're blog neighbour over at Dykes Edge allotment ;)

  3. My goodess, Jane does win a lot of competitions... how fabulous, I never enter any, I have not got the competion bug. Maybe one day.

    Your new head is fabulous and I am looking forward to fabulously large photos. The new wide format is great too, can I ask how many pixels across it is. I would like to widen mine but I have played around with it so much and it's so far removed from the original blog format that I can hardly find my way around the html anymore!

  4. Hi Ali; Jane wins lots of competitions because that is her job! Actually, she produces a magazine called The Competition Grape-Vine (see my sidebar for links) which is ABOUT competitions, but of course she has to do the research as well, which involves entering lots of the comps herself.

    Re blog layout: My header pic is now 960 x 281 pixels, and the width of the main blog content part is at 1000 px (the maximum for the Watermark template). I try not to get too deeply immersed in the HTML and use mainly the user-configurable aspects of the Template Designer in the Blogger Dashboard.

  5. The blog looks good Mark - The width of the blog is always something I ponder as on the whole blogs never seem wide enough to post a decent size of Picasa album or YouTube video. I use a wide monitor so to widen would be fine for me but I wonder how many still use a 'square' monitor. I widened my blog to 900 but would like to use the extra wide size so maybe I'll widen a bit more too.

    I'll have to visit the fungi site as I can never identity fungi as so many look so similar.

  6. I love duck, what a fab prize! I like the new blog layout, I think it will work really well for your photos.

  7. Blog changes look good. I'd vary the top text size a bit for contrast. Congrats on the quacking great competition winning.

  8. Well you set me off I've just widened our blogs to 1000 but it was a bit more tricky as we don't use a standard template so I had to become immersed in html!

  9. I like the framed pix! Also Jane's recipes- we have found a piece of duck languishing in the freezer and will be making a french cassoulet with sausage and beans tomorrow-the idea is that it can slow cook all day while I do digging and hubby watches football!

  10. BTW- what do you feed your brassicas with-I know they need something in the spring but forgotten what?

  11. Jan, I normally give my brassicas a dose of pelleted chicken manure in the Spring, but I also use Growmore raked-in before planting them out, and I think this has a fairly long-lasting effect. Certainly works for me!


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