Saturday 15 October 2011

Poetry Saturday . . . The Seed Shop

in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand.
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry . . .
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

Dead that shall quicken at the call of Spring,
Sleepers to stir beneath June's magic kiss,
Though birds pass over, unremembering,
And no bee suck here roses that were his.

In this brown husk, a dale of hawthorn dreams;
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century's streams;
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells, a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.
~Muriel Stuart

This has long been one of my favourite poems. I think it is pure magic that something so beautiful as a rose or a daisy can spring from something which looks as dull and nondescript as a seed . . .

Muriel Stuart was often hailed as the best woman poet of the Scottish Renaissance, although she was not Scottish but English. The daughter of a Scottish Barrister, she forst wrote poems about World War 1, although she did give up writing poetry in her later years, having published her last works in the 1930's. Her most famous poem is entitled, "In the Orchard," and is composed entirely of dialogue and in no kind of verse, which made it very innovative for it's time. She also wrote a gardening book. She died in 1967 at the ripe old age of 82.

Here is a lovely autumnal salad which combines all the lovely flavours of autumn on one plate . . . crisp pears and toasted walnuts on a bed of greens, dressed with a roasted apple and walnut dressing and topped with Blue Cheese Toasts. It's a feast for the eyes and for the palate!

*An Autumn Salad of Apple Dressed Pears
and Walnuts with Blue Cheese Toasts*

Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is a lovely salad to enjoy on a warm autumn day. The tart flavour of the cooking apple shines through in the dressing without being overpowering and goes very well with the savoury crunch of the toasted walnuts and the sweetness of the pears. The lovely blue cheese toasts are it's crowning glory. If you can't find walnut bread a french stick will do, but do try to find the walnut bread if you can. It really does add a special touch.

4 baby gem heads, washed and leaves separated, the larger ones torn into smaller pieces
8 thin slices of walnut bread
75g of mild cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes (3/4 cup)
75g of cashel blue cheese, cut into small cubes (you can use another strong blue cheese such as a stilton if you wish) (1/3 cup)
2 ripe pears
100g of whole walnuts (A scant cup)

1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
50ml of walnut oil (scant 1/4 cup)
100ml of good olive oil (scant 1/2 cup)
1 tsp runny honey
1 TBS cider vinegar
seasalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a TBS of the olive oil in a small skillet and cook the shallot and apple in it, stirring, until golden. Remove from the heat and put into a blender along with the other dressing ingredients. Blitz until smooth. Check for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and set aside.

Toast the walnut bread on one side. Mix the cubes of cheese together and then divide amongst the slices of bread and toast under the grill until the cheese is all melted and bubbling and starting to brown just the slightest. Take out and set aside.

Toast the walnuts in a dry pan for about 30 seconds.

Peel, core and slice the pears. Toss the sliced pears with the lettuce leaves, toasted walnuts and apple dressing. Divide amongst four chilled plates, garnishing each with two slices of the cheese toasts.

There's a delicious roundup of scrummy Autumnal puddings over in The English Kitchen this morning. (Shown here Sour Cream Apple Squares.)

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