Has it really been over a year since we moved into our beautiful new home on the Isle of Wight?
5th March 2018 was the day we finally received the keys and we moved in the following week during what was to be the “Beast from the East”. Rain, snow, hail and cold, cold weather. At least we found our heating worked really well. I was even dared by my daughter-in-law Sarena of Boost and Balance, to strip down to my underwear and roll around in the snow; followed by a hot shower then another roll-around. Yep – I did it and I can honestly tell you that it was so exhilarating and I just glowed afterwards. It was fun too. Even my husband joined in. Thank goodness our garden is extremely private – it’s not called a walled garden for nothing!
I definitely lost my mojo a bit regarding cooking new recipes during our first year in Seaview, even though I was the proud owner of numerous new cookery books (a big thanks to family and friends), a whole drawerful of papers with delicious-looking meals pulled out of magazines or newspaper clippings, plus of course literally dozens and dozens of recipes I’d bookmarked to try from the internet. I did have an excuse though as we had such plans for our lovely new home and with the help of some really fantastic people from plumbers to carpenters, plasterers to painters, roofers, tree surgeons and a real gem of a gardener, our forever home is almost as we want it. I say ‘almost’ because we are having quite a few things done this summer! It’s called our forever home as we hope never to move again. I do remember making some different chutneys at the end of the summer as we had a glut of tomatoes, and I tried them out on our carpenter who was working here at the time. Christmas Day I received a lovely text message from him to say he had made these chutneys and had just opened them and they had aged beautifully.
We were so lucky in finding our gardener – a wonderful Irish chap called Bill who put his head down and worked, and worked and worked until our lovely walled garden was in some semblance of order. He survived on as much coffee as I could make and never seemed to stop working all day. We are blessed with having an original “Walled Garden” which even has the original rings still protruding from the walls for training the fruit trees. Our bungalow is built in the original orchard of the “big” house Fairy Hill and this walled garden is first shown on the 1862 Ordnance Survey and occupies part of the orchard area indicated in 1793. All four of the former kitchen garden walls remain, with the western and southern walls forming the road boundary to the plot. The 2.4m high northern wall, in stretcher bond brickwork retains traces of white paint in the location of where a glasshouse once stood. The three other walls are in random coursed stone rubble with rounded stone coping and about 2.1m in height. What a story these walls must hide!
Our garden is laid mainly to lawn with some raised beds where I grow my herbs. The urge to recreate an orchard kept growing in our heads and we visited a specialist fruit tree nursery in the centre of the Island where we met an amazing chap who explained how we could train a variety of fruit trees up our walls using the existing hooks. Such an exciting time deciding what to plant and where, and we ended up choosing a number of apple trees (eaters and cookers), three different plums and two apricots to train up one long wall. We also have two standard pear trees and an amazing peach tree which delivered six of the most delicious peaches I have ever tasted in it’s first year with us. A cherry tree was already here and I must remember to net it this summer as the birds beat me to the fruit last year. I’ve also planted three goji berry bushes, two kiwi plants (male and female), a fig tree and we have two bushes – either blackcurrant or redcurrant. They were a gift from our friendly plumber but he couldn’t remember which they were. It will be interesting to see the fruit. Also here was a delicious blackberry trained up part of a wall – the tastiest blackberries ever but covered in the most awful spines which seem to catch me every time I either prune it or harvest the fruit.
Last year was a nightmare as we had so little rain (the same is happening this year). With all our trees being so newly planted, we were forever watering them to keep them alive. Again, this year, we have had so little rain that at the time of writing this (early June 2019) our water-butts are completely empty and the ground rock hard. I have even taken to emptying our bathwater into the rainwater butts to recycle the water.
The Isle of Wight is only about 2 miles off the southern coast of mainland England but it seems to have its own little climate and many plants flourish here much better than on the big Island. I am really looking forward to picking our own fruit and turning some of it into delicious new recipes.
With so much going on in our new home and garden, I have tried out very few new recipes let alone written them up for my blog. What I have cooked is the most tasty, delicious Isle of Wight leg of lamb – not cheap but wow, it was worth every penny. I have never tasted lamb like it. At Christmas I decided to be a bit different and instead of a turkey (which I love) I treated my family on Christmas Day to an evening meal of Isle of Wight food: lobster, dressed crab and shell-on prawns all caught locally. Christmas Day lunch went down a treat as I decided to do an American Charcuterie Board which looked spectacular, was easy to get ready and there wasn’t much left over – a sure sign it was enjoyed. I served it with my homemade Seed Crackers.
We don’t eat Charcuterie very often so it becomes a special treat when we have it perhaps once a year.
I didn’t lose out on my turkey as for Christmas Eve I made my favourite Turkey Bobotie – I made a huge one hoping to freeze down a couple of left-over portions for using up later but the family got in first and devoured the lot! A cranberry and orange glazed ham saw us through Boxing Day with plenty left over. I did try out a couple of new desserts but have still not written up the recipes. They are on my “to-do” list.
January and February this year saw quite an upheaval with my kitchen missing for 7 weeks, but since having my lovely new kitchen installed and settling back home after a rather pleasant holiday in Miami Beach (a treat for my 70th birthday) I am finding my feet again with new recipes. Let’s hope my mojo is coming back to stay!!
I am amazed that at 70 years of age (I don’t feel 70) I still get excited to find new recipes and you will often find me in the kitchen happily cooking tried and trusted ones as a relaxing hobby, or puzzling over a new one as I tend to change ingredients a bit here and a bit there. At the time of writing I have a recipe for Banana Balls sitting in my kitchen which I am dying to try out. Along with banana, avocado, cheese, chives and tapioca and rice flours, these balls once cooked come with a minty yoghurt dipping sauce. My mouth waters just thinking about them.
I have recently joined a group called Island Apron – people on the Island who love cooking and sharing recipes, hints etc. I have been out to a lunch with some of them and when a fun competion occurred recently I entered. The competition asked us to post a picture of a meal we had just cooked and I had just made my favourite Scotch Eggs (gluten free for my husband of course). Unbelievably I won the competition with the most votes and received a lovely little prize.
I also belong to two other groups on the Island – The Newbies (people who have recently moved over to the Island, or within the last few years) and The Overners (people who have moved over here or want to move over here). There is always a coffee morning, lunch or afternoon meeting going on and I have made many lovely friends through these groups. When my big ‘70th’ loomed in May and my family couldn’t get over until the weekend, I invited The Newbies to a “Slice of Cake and a Glass of Bubbly” at a local garden centre on the day.
Firstly I cannot praise the garden centre enough as they made the afternoon absolutely wonderful, sectioning off the best bit of the restaurant for us and the chef cooked some delicious fresh cream and strawberry cakes and there was plenty of bubbly on the tables. I felt very honoured to have more than 40 Newbie friends turn up to share my birthday with me, and I believe everyone really enjoyed themselves. The chef even made some fresh cream gluten-free cakes for my husband who was overjoyed.
I hope over the next weeks, months, years to be sharing many delicious and tasty recipes with you all. I would like to thank all the wonderful people who follow my blog and it never fails to amaze me when I look on the WordPress statistics to see where you all come from – thousands of people from all corners of the earth. I still get a thrill when I receive a message from WordPress saying that there is unusual activity on my account. On taking a look I see that for some strange reason, a couple of my recipes are taking Japan by storm, or another one is suddenly going viral in Bangkok, or perhaps an age-old recipe is being viewed hundreds of times in Spain. The internet is a marvellous thing. Thank you to those of you who write to me, send me recipes or just leave a small comment on my blog. I appreciate every one of you.
I also need to thank my lovely daughter-in-law Sarena of Boost and Balance for showing me a healthier way to start living. Over the years I have watched with interest her progress on becoming a Holistic Naturopathic Nutrition Therapist and I have nothing but admiration and praise for her for the work put in to qualify for her degree. Her blog is well worth a good read and I know she is available for any help or questions.