A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, so decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Do we really only miss things when they are gone?

'The blossom opens slowly, slowly on the apple tree. One day the boughs are grey, though with the swellings of the leaves to come visible if you look closely. The next day and the next, here and there, a speck of white, and then a sprinkling, as though someone has thrown a handful of confetti up into the air and let it fall , anyhow, over the branches.'  from 'The Magic Apple Tree' by Susan Hill.

At the bottom of my garden an apple tree has stood for many years, it was, I think, part of an orchard that ran across the land between my house and Melancholy Cottage, but over the time plots have been sold and new dwellings built so the orchard was sadly depleted, leaving my tree and two more in a neighbouring garden. 

When we moved in I was pleased find the tree, I had left a very large garden and two apple trees behind.  This one was to be the post to one end of my washing line, a shady spot to sit in for a largely pregnant lady (me) then a lovely spot for a sleeping new baby the following summer.... bountiful apples to make cakes, pies and sauce with, and mistletoe for my Christmas decorations.  The blossom was beautiful in early spring and many times I  sat with a child on my lap silently watching the blackbirds, that nested yearly, feeding their babies.  Years passed, pies and sauces made , apple and mint jelly stirred, cakes baked and shared. Occasional cursing at the mess the windfalls made and  sighing at the mounds of leaves to be swept. When the trampoline arrived we  took the washing line down, terrified that a bouncing child might be garrotted on it, instead a whirly line installed, but that has never dried the washing as quickly or as well.  There it stood, part of the garden, part of my life, taken for granted? Yes. But do we ever give much thought to our trees? I occasionally pulled the ivy off its trunk as I remembered someone once telling me that if ivy grows to the top of a tree the tree will die! And gave it the  occasional caress and thanks for another year of fruit, but that is all, never a moment when I thought it might no longer be there. Then yesterday a phone call from my neighbour asking where I was (getting Euros and toiletries with my son for his holiday) she said not to be alarmed but that a branch had fallen off the tree and into her mother's garden......well what we found was a little more than a branch...more like half a tree.....a call to a friend and early this morning the tree men arrived, a quick stop for cookies and coffee and that was it. All that is left a pile of logs for winter fires and a pile of apples for freezing.  It has totally changed the feel of my garden, I am open and exposed to the world now, neighbours will be able to see me coming out of the bathroom or nipping in at night, if I forget and turn the light on..... But more than that, more than anything, is my sadness at no longer being able to pop into the garden and pull off a few apples for a pie, or sauce for the roast pork.... now all I shall have is sweetly scented fires for the next couple of years, on cold evenings I shall watch the flames and think of the years gone by and miss my apple tree now that is has gone......



Apple Pie
I was given this lovely book for my birthday one year by my sister-in-law, it is full of wonderful recipes and after many trials with various recipes this is now my favoured one for apple pie, it works, is brimming full of fruit, as a good pie should be, and is delicious, a perfect family pie!




4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash




(I often use good quality frozen or chilled sweet pastry)

Perfect Pie Crust
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water
Barefoot Contessa Family Style
  Look Inside
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zests, juices, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over the pie pan to extend about 1/2 inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.

Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1 inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the two together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut four or five slits.

Place the pie on a sheet pan and baPerfect Pie Crust


Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust. ke for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm. 




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