Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas: drink sorrel!

A quick post to have merry Christmas and a happy new year to one and all, I hope that everyone’s new year’s wishes come true, especially my one about winning the lottery

Christmas is a funny time, as the way everyone talks about the break it’s like we are having a month off, and mentally I’ve been planning on doing lots of digging and weeding as although the garden is looking ropey we still haven’t had big frosts and the ground is good and soft. However we are pretty busy with hosting and cooking and I don’t think we have many spare days at all!

Christmas is usually a slow time for plants beyond the Christmas staples, but as we have only been back in the country a week I haven’t had time to go to Columbia Road to stock up on hyacinths and Amaryllis so we are lacking in planty gifts. One seasonal plant I’m not a personal fan of is the Poinsettia, but thought that Victoria’s blog did about why it is a Christmas favourite was great! Do check it out

Although busy I have found time to do a new Christmas planty thing, and have just brewed my first batch of sorrel. I had no idea of what this was, but was given some at a work pot lunch and loved it.

I think it is mainly a Caribbean thing, although I have had hibiscus water at a Mexican restaurant which I think must be similar. In essence it is a delicious drink made from the sepals of Hibiscus sabdariffa. Misleadingly it is called sorrel, but is not the herb that Europeans use, but is called sorrel as the young leaves of the Hibiscus taste and are used a bit like European sorrel.
Not just a pretty flower! tasts nice too. Picture from here
From talking about it at work, and getting receipes I was delighted to find I must be psychically linked in, as it is actually a Christmas drink and found both dried and fresh sorrel at the first stall I went to in Peckham. I bought dried, and boiled it up for 10 mins, and let it sit for 24hrs before straining and reheating with brown sugar, ginger, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of rum (you then have it with more liquor if you want). Recipes seem to vary a lot, but this is what was recommended by pros at work.

ok, not the most apetising picture as it has just been boiled and left to seep for a day, but imagine drinking the nicest red blackcurranty drink which has the added bonus of being very healthy
I was apprehensive at how it would work, but it tasted great, a bit like a hot blackcurrant/lingonbury juice/mulled wine ish...delicious! do try it if you can get hold of it

Anyway, a big Happy Christmas to one and all!


Thursday 22 December 2011

Sawatdee Khrap! Hello Thailand: part 1

I have just been lucky enough to have a couple of weeks holiday in Thailand which was absolutely fabulous as it is a beautiful country with wonderful food. I have been to Thailand about 8? times as there is always more to do and eat and now I am all cultured out.
So to be good tourists we started with Jim Thompsons garden which I have seen a few times before but primarily wanted to go back to have a nosy round the garden.

Jim Thompson is now a global brand, and his house is held up as an example of how traditional Thai architecture and design can be used to create a fabulous house. If you don’t know anything about him, basically he was an American who revitalised the Thai silk industry in the 50’s/60’s and championed Thai design. He created a house by piecing together 6 traditional Thai houses to create an amazing space to live and display all his Thai objects d’art. He mysteriously disappeared in 1967 and since then his house has been preserved and opened as a museum. I love the house as everything is to my taste, and I walk around the house crying about how nice it is, but the garden is also quite special.

The planting is relatively simple and naturalistic, with a limited number of plants grown well, good use of ground cover, big leaves and the height from palms and some tropical trees of which I have no idea of the name 

There is also great use of water pots which I love, usually Chinese in style and filled with either flowers or something like floating lettuce. They all have tiny fish in them to keep the bugs away and bring a cooling feeling.

 Another water pot and sculputre which adds to the look, again simple but lush planting

Every house in Thailand needs to have a spirit house which houses the spirits which were displaced from their own homes when the house was built. This is a serious thing with literally nearly every building having one, and every day offerings are given to the spirits to bring good luck. They are also incredibly pretty things, and fit beautifully into the garden. I was trying to find one to bring home, but sadly couldnt and they are rather big for hand luggage.....note to self, must take a carpentry course...

Its difficult to get a sense of scale from this as the plants we are used to are rather smaller than these huge heliconias, the flowers of which must be 6ft long

Beautiful gingers and foliage, I particuarly liked the climber below which was incredibly flat against the wall

 Water was used through the garden, with antoher smaller pond at the back of the garden next to a statue of a goddess and this larger one next to the cafe. I love it for the huge Alocasia growing in the middle which is about 10ft tall.

So many beautiful things. When Im not wrapped up in Xmas, in laws and being bloated from too much food I will bring you more!