Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday 21 September 2007

Shades of indigo

At the Harvest Lunch in the village the conversation turned to the weather (inevitable in an English social situation) and its effect on our vegetable gardens. We agreed that it had been a very bad year for outdoor tomatoes and that no-one had a glut of courgettes. We also agreed that beans had done very well, but that the season for green beans was just about at an end – when I suggested using the mature beans shelled from the pods there was a pause in the chatter "Oh, can you do that?" someone said. Maybe I had overstepped the mark and alluded to a peasant style of cooking that civilized people had left long behind?

These beautiful shiny beans in shades of indigo are the semi-mature Poletschka beans (a climbling bean from Ukraine from the Heritage Seed Library) grown in our vegetable garden. Impressed by the tender and sweetly flavoured green pods I decided to save lots of seed for planting next year. But I had to try the flavour of the beans before they dried, after all flageolet beans - fresh haricot beans - are a gourmet dish in France traditionally served with lamb.

Supper last night was my nouvo-peasant recipe, "Chicken Poletschka":
Two large spring onions (scallions) chopped and cooked in a little olive oil in the trusty Le Creuset shallow 'buffet' casserole. Add skinned chicken joints, two whole unskinned garlic cloves, sliced mushrooms, cubed aubergine - home grown :), fresh shelled Poletschka beans, cook on a gentle heat until chicken is browned and the mushroom and aubergine lightly cooked. Lay slices of tomatoes over the top - home grown Marmande tomatoes :), and sprinkle with finely chopped fresh savoury, THE herb for beans, and black pepper. Add some boiled water to just below the level of the tomatoes. Cover and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the veg has been prepared and cooked and "The Archers" has finished. Excellent accompanied with mashed squash and rainbow chard.

Poletschka beans cooked in a casserole or soup are plump and delicious, and the indigo colour turns a warm pinky brown. Don't knock peasant food!

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Tree decorations

I usually start thinking about Christmas in November (at the very earliest) and try to ignore the plethora of yuletide acutriments that take over the aisles in the supermarkets. But this year I've been making early prepartions and have made these hand-printed tree decorations for my stall at the Reach Christmas Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday 17th November. And these decorations aren't just for Christmas - they'd look good decorating branches and twigs at parties and celebrations all throughout the year. So put a note in your diaries now - and escape from the madding crowds on high streets for a civilised hour or two in the historic village of Reach, between Cambridge and Newmarket at the end of the Devil's Dyke. There will be an array of locally made arts and crafts to buy as well as some delicious seasonal refreshments.

Thursday 13 September 2007

What's wrong with the other nest?

The under-gardeners are hens of habit, every morning they each lay an egg – in the same nest. For a reason known only to the hens, the other nest just isn't up to scratch. Surely it would be far better to relax in a nest of ones own, apparently not, nest-sharing is the preferred option.

By lunchtime the under-gardeners are happily rearranging the plants and merging the borders with the lawn edge, so I know egg laying has been cracked for the day. Time to collect the eggs under close supervision from Dawn; four beautiful, individual, perfect, freshly laid, free range eggs.

Monday 10 September 2007

Furry fungi

This isn't a posting about my garden or my studio, I'm trying to identify this beautiful fungi:

It's growing on a decaying tree trunk and stump (probably horse chestnut) in Pishiobury Park just north of Harlow on the Essex/Herts border, and behind Victoria Beckham's garden. The fungus emerges looking like a quail's egg, from this comes what looks like a white furry goose-egg. This opens out to the size of a large teacup or small pudding basin with a furry stalk.

We've looked through three fairly detailed mushroom and fungi identification books and also looked at the web site Rogers Mushrooms, so far without success. Surely such a dramatic and distinctive fungi should be easy to identify. Does anyone know?

Friday 7 September 2007

Sudbury silk

I was in Sudbury yesterday to deliver my membership form for The Print Workshop at Gainsborough's House. As well as allowing me to use the beautiful old printing presses and other printmaking facilities, I will have a free pass for the house and exhibitions. In my post about Salford Black runner beans I mentioned the Lancashire mill towns - nothing could look further from the smoky, dirty image of an industrial scene than this view across the Stour valley on the outskirts of Sudbury, but this is the home of the British silk weaving industry.

Just behind the walled garden at Gainsborough's House is the back of one of the existing silk mills, I decided to walk around the corner to the factory shop. Vanners have been weaving sumptious silks since the early 18th century, now they produce lustrous jacquard weave silks for ties, scarves and curtains. In the small shop I spotted two tea-chests full of remnants of jacquard silk, a sign next to a pile of large carrier bags said '£5 per bag' - so I just had to rummage and to fill a bag. These are the silk fabrics I came home with - now I'll have to create something gorgeous with them!

Tuesday 4 September 2007

The studio radio

The first thing I do in my studio is to turn on Radio 4 and I'm not alone, in 2005 The Bankside Gallery in London hosted an exhibition called 'The Artist and Radio 4' Norman Ackroyd, Raymond Briggs, Kaffe Fassett and Zandra Rhodes are among the famous creative names who describe their relationship with Radio 4. Numerous other artists sent in examples of their work and accounts of the role radio plays in the conscious or unconscious working hours.
It these days of pod-casts and "listen-again" I have accesss to radio stations and broadcasts from all over the world, so maybe my listening habits will begin to change. But for now I leave the radio tuned to Radio 4 and let the mix of programmes drift through the studio - I might be consciously listening, I might not, but it keeps a part of my brain occupied while the creative bit creates. At the moment the chef Jamie Oliver is talking about chips and school dinners.

What's your radio tuned to?