Saturday, 1 November 2008

November Comes . . .

"November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring."
~ Clyde Watson

Brrr . . . it is hard to believe that November has rolled around already, but I look at the calender and indeed it has . . . and I feel the cold air from outside weaving it's fingers around my toes and ankles and I know that it is here for sure. All of a sudden it has snapped cold and the sky takes on a different hue. The clouds look heavy and dark and hold a certain colour that is not there at any other time of year. It's hard to explain but they look cold.

We had some crazy weather over here this past week, snow in quite a few places . . . even London, which is quite unheard of this time of year. And then the rain fell so hard in such a short time in the south west, and then turned to hail that it caused a great deal of flooding. The pictures on the telly looked horrendous and very strange . . . cars and other objects shored up in sheets and blocks of frozen slush. It almost looked Arctic.

We have had to have our heat on both in the morning and in the evening here at Oak Cottage, these past few days . . . and there is that distinct smell in the air of coal fires burning. I had never smelt that smell before I moved over here to England, but it was a common smell amongst the streets that I came to live in, up in Chester. It was peculiar and I wondered what it was . . . coal was the answer. Acrid with undertones of asphalt, but not at all unpleasant . . . indeed the opposite, for it smells cosy and warm and . . . it has become a smell I associate with autumn in England.

Combine that with the smells of brush burning in the Orchards . . . leaves and branches . . . the smell of fallen fruit and of dry leaves beginning to decompose under the hedgerows and you have autumn in England, or at least here in the South East. It is lovely . . .

Soon the frosts will come and the air will change yet again . . .

I had the chance this week to do two new paintings for cards. I think they turned out quite cute. The first one is a Christmas one, of a girl all ready to decorate her tree with a garland of Gingerbread men. She looks quite pleased with her efforts and I can just smell the gingerbread!

Next is a little sweetheart for Valentines or anytime you want to tell someone that you love them. She has her arms spread wide open in love for you!

Remember if you would like these or indeed any of my artwork as cards, just e-mail me on MarieAliceJoan at aol dot com and I will be happy to talk about it and make some arrangements at a very reasonable price. They are quite nicely presented on quality linen card, each in their own plastic film packet for protection, with a certificate of authenticity on the back detailing the name of the piece, the artist. It's A Marie Card!

I realized last night that I had not posted my two challenges yet for the week. What am I like!!!

The winner of my Cookbook Challenge was Gruyere Jacket Potato Halve with Chives. My goodness but these were nice. We had them earlier in the week for our tea and we both just loved them. I made a few adjustments to the original recipe as I felt they needed a bit more seasoning, but all told, we gave these two thumbs up!

*Gruyere Jacket Potato Halves with Chives*
Makes 12 halves

These are lovely. The skin of the potato is all crisp, whilst the insides are meltingly tender. Combine that with a lovely drift of Gruyere cheese over top all melted and gooey, and a scattering of fresh chives and you have bliss . . . This does make a lot but they freeze very well.
You want to use a potato for these that is full flavoured and firm and a bit waxy so that they hold their shape well.

6 medium sized potatoes
(about 4 ounces each)
a little olive oil
Sea Salt and freshly Cracked black pepper to taste
3 ounces of Gruyere cheese, grated
2 TBS finely chopped fresh chives

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Wash your potatoes and then dry them very well with a cloth. Prick the skins a few times with the tines of a fork. Put a few drops of olive oil into your hand and rub them all over the potatoes, adding more olive oil as needed, until they are all lightly coated. Next, rub on some crushed seasalt.

Place the prepared potatoes directly onto the oven rack. NO need to use a pan. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the skins are quite crisp and the potatoes yield a bit to slight pressure.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes, then cut each potato in half lengthwise. Score the potato flesh in a diamond pattern. Place the halves onto a baking tray. Sprinkle evenly with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide the grated Gruyere cheese amongst them. Return them to the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the chives evenly over top and serve.

Next came the Sticky Walnut Tart from the Make me Bake challenge. OH MY GOODNESS! This tart is truly heaven on earth, especially if you like walnuts. I do think you could substitute pecans if you would rather with no problem whatsoever. It will still taste lovely.

*Sticky Walnut Tart*
Serves 8

Imagine a crisp pastry stogged full of toasted nuts and a creamy caramel . . . yes . . . this is absolutely wonderful!

175 g flour
pinch of salt
20 g sugar
100 g sweet butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk, mixed with 2 tsp water
175 g of walnut halves (or pecans)
85 g sweet butter
50 g sugar
50 g set honey
150 ml double cream

First make the pastry. Put the flour, salt, sugar and butter into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the motor running add the egg yolk, mixed with the water, through the feeder tube and process just until the mixture comes together into a ball. Remove it from the food processor and wrap in cling film. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

You will need an 8 inch tart tin with a removable bottom.

Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for a couple of seconds until smooth. Roll out to a circle large enough to line the tart tin with a bit of an overhang. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and then carefully lift it over the tart tin. Gently unroll the dough so it drapes over the tin. Carefully press the dough on to the base of the tin and up the sides so that there are no pockets of air. Be careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink when it is baked. Roll the pin over the top of the tin to cut off the excess dough. Neaten the rim with your finger tips and place back in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes before baking.

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F while your pastry is chilling.

Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit inside the pastry case. Place it inside and then fill it with some baking beans or rice. Bake for about fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the paper and beans. Return the pastry to the oven to cook for a further 5 minutes, until firm and just beginning to colour. Remove from the oven to cool, but do not turn the oven off.

To make the filling, put the walnuts, butter, sugar and honey into a heavy based skillet, preferably non-stick. Cook, stirring over low heat until the mixture is pale straw gold. Stir in the cream and cook for a further couple of minutes until it is bubbling.

Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely before unmoulding. Serve at room temperature, cut into slices. It's nice with a scoop of ice cream of a dollop of creme fraiche. Eat within two days of baking. Delicious! (trust me, it won't last that long!)

Don't forget to vote for your favourites in this weeks challenges. You only have a few more hours to do so!


  1. Waddya mean you've had your heat on in the morning and evening? Ours has been on 24/7 for the past 2 weeks........ I'm not freezing for no one! ;-)
    Gaz xx

  2. We had an early snow as well!
    Love your potatoes, Marie :)

  3. Hi heating has been on most of the time just now with this northerly wind. We have had a beautiful week sun all day but you have to wrap up if you are going out and about. Love Joan.

  4. i am so happy its november! can't wait for thanksgiving already...pies...turkey..potatoes...pies....yams...pies....(i like the pies as you can see!)

  5. We had 90 degree heat and then on Friday, it rained. I was surprised!! Love your potatoes, they look yummy. I just wanted to drop by and say hi!! Lisa

  6. Marie, aaah! is nice to be at home again!! I miss you alot!! May I rest by a while??? Sometimes saturday is not a peaceful day!! (hubby run from here to there try to mak all things he didin't at week) and make run to me!!! and I know is bad to me, I hate to run all the time, maybe Im so old!!!Im really in love of your potatoes, I want to make sooon!!!!!! (Here the potatoes are so cost!!) increible! xxxGloria
    huggs to you and lovely Todd of course!!!

  7. I want some potatoes NOW! Love Gruyere. Oh man.

  8. Marie -- Love your new paintings. Those girls are so festive and sweet! Those potatoes look wonderful and delicious too!

    We had snow at the beginning of October but then it got warmer and for the past couple of weeks it's been unseasonably warm -- in the 70's. I like the feeling that cool air brings in the Fall. But I am not ready for snow! Hope you are having a wonderful weekend with your Todd!

  9. I love the gingerbread men painting! It's so cute!

    There's a surprise for you on my blog!

    We're driving back tommorow...

  10. Marie! Lovely recipes! I like November, with woodsmoke - no coal here in the Midwest. Paintings are adorable - as usual! Can't wait for your cookbook! Much love, Raquel XO

  11. I really like the sound of that sticky walnut tart.


Your comments mean the world to me, and while I may not be able to address each one individually, each one is important to me and each one counts. Thanks so much!