Rachel has just returned from a few days away at a wonderful spot on the Peninsula. Takamatua. She rescued twisted willow branches that were heaped in her friend Julian’s burn pile. I guess it’s true what they say. ‘One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure’.
Twisted or tortured willow is a very versatile material to have around. The willow gives height and texture within a fresh flower arrangement, but can also look stunning on its own standing tall in an urn sitting on the ground. The willow is green when freshly picked but will gradually turn to gold, then brown over a 6 month period. Just keep your container filled with a little water to prolong its freshness, but other than that you don’t need to worry about it for another year!.
The ultimate low maintenance floral arrangement.
If it’s not a hat, it’s a headscarf. Rachel and I are crazy about head wear. So much so that Rachel has been scouring op shops and ruthlessly going through drawers of loved, but outworn clothes in search of interesting fabrics to turn into hats.
If you’d like to make the hat you see gorgeous Nina wearing (above) check out Rachel’s Step by Step Hat Project which follows.
Looking back at my previous recipe postings, I realise that I tend to favour dishes that look absolutely beautiful. Of course they taste great too, but I am a sucker for anything aesthetically-pleasing. This recipe is no exception. Using rhubarb picked from the commuity garden where it was growing almost head height, I baked this variation of the celebrated french desert clafoutis.
1 sheet of ready-made shortcrust pastry 16 stalks of rhubarb (washed & dried)
Clafoutis batter :
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch ground cinnamon
4 pieces of crystalised ginger (finely grated)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plain flour with pinch of salt
Grease a 23cm flan dish and dust with flour. Line the dish with the pastry and prick the base with a fork. Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, remove beans and return to oven to dry out pastry for about 5 minutes. Cool slightly while making filling. Cut rhubarb into 2.5 cm lengths (or the same depth as your flan dish), dust with icing sugar and then stand pieces upright in the flan dish, arranging in consecutive circles until flan filled.
Make the batter. Beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Add cream, vanilla essence, ground cinnamon, ginger and zest of lemon. Fold in flour and salt.
Pour the batter over the rhubarb and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 175 degrees and bake for a further 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Buds of lime-green and deep-plum, almost black hellebore poke out of the cold, damp earth in gardens that have that untended, skeletal winter appearance. It is such a treat to see these delicate flowers offering us a splash of colour when we really need it!
Rachel found an old ceramic jug which displayed the hellebore arrangement above perfectly.
Cut hellebores look most dramatic when handfuls of different shades are massed together and combined with just one other material. Black-berried trailing ivy, quite beautiful in its own right, offers a contrasting texture and accent to the delicate petals of the hellebore. Remove most of the green leaves from the ivy retaining just the tinier ones and berries so that the winter roses aren’t buried under foliage. As with most garden flowers, carry a bucket of water with you when picking and plunge the stems straight in. Avoid cutting buds as they don’t last very well.
Styling using only one material is not just simpler than arranging a mixture of flowers and foliage, it actually creates drama and far more of an impact.
Experiment grouping the same ingredient in vases with a similar colouring or form. This way you can really observe and appreciate the humble materials from your own garden rather than spending money on flowers flown across the globe which can look a little out of place in our own homes and somewhat artificial.
The many different varieties of rose hips work well in this way. As with any gathered material, brush off any dirt or dust first and remove leaves from the stems.