Friday, 31 October 2014

Tidy up.

How warm was it today! The last day of October and it felt like spring with temperatures up to 19 Celsius. Going to the allotment today was a must. Although I had left the path repair unfinished, the beds needed attention and the path would just have to wait.

This is how I found the brassica tent and what was left inside looked worse. Let's just say I had ready shredded cabbage. The slugs have had themselves a banquette. The last of the potatoes needed digging up and after only a week the nasturtium is continuing to rear it's ugly head. So digging the beds was what I spent most of my visit doing.

I have been told that the more you work the soil, the more bugs are exposed for the birds to eat. So I'll be turning the soil regularly this winter and feeding the birds, tuppence a bug. I can also keep on top of the weeds as well.

This is how I finished for the day. All the beds on this side are now clear. I still have a few leeks and swede left and I still have a whole load of parsnips.

The best thing about Autumn that many people seem to comment on is the amazing colours. This is my grapevine, the photo doesn't do it real justice, but it's best shot I've got. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A Taste of Spain.

I may be very British in my ways, I love tea, a Sunday roast and proper beer, none of that Euro lager. But I haven't forgotten my roots. My parents are from North West Spain, Galicia. Not a very popular destination for British tourists. It's known as green Spain because, from October to April, it rains constantly. On a cold wet winter's night, the last thing you'll want is paella, you'll want something warm and hearty. Growing up in England my parents still cooked up many traditional meals, meals that until recent years have been know as pauper's food, cooked in large quantities that would feed the family for a few days. Recipes can change for one family to another or from what you have available. With that in mind and knowing my view on recipes, I would like to share my version of 'Caldo', a stew with cabbage, ham and chorizo. So this is what you'll need.

  • 1 Large marrow
  • A handful of potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 cabbage
  • 1 chorizo ring
  • 1 pack of ham trimmings
  1. Peel, core and dice the marrow. Peel and dice the onion and half the potatoes.
  2. Put them all in a large pad with the water and stock cube then boil until soft.
  3. Blitz it all in a blender or use a hand blender.
  4. Peel and dice the rest of the potatoes, cut the cabbage, chorizo and ham (if the ham trimmings are too big). Put them all in the pan until the cabbage and potatoes are soft.
  5. Serve with some crusty bread.
The first part of this recipe, steps 1 to 3, is my marrow soup I posted last year. I did mention at the time that it was a bit bland, so I've been using it as a basis for soups and throwing in what ever I had at hand. The leftovers from a Sunday roast has gone well with it.

I know this isn't an authentic Spanish recipe, I don't think they would have used marrow for a start, it should have a ham joint, a pork joint and some black eyed beans/peas, but going back to what I said about using what you have available, it does taste like my Mama used to make. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

On the right path.

Now this is how I left the plot last weekend. I've been wanting to sort this area out for my 'No dig beds'. But first I needed to lay a path. I have the materials, I've made time and the weather has been on my side as well. Over a few days, I've managed to go from one side to the other and I think I've done a fairly decent job of it too. So much so that I looked at the rest and started to sort that out too, but then the sky's went black and this is how it has been left at the moment.

Sorry about my finger or earphone wire, but its all there. You can see that I've started on the previous path, but for a few inches, that last slab just doesn't fit. I know that further along this path, once I've sorted out the rest, I can get those inches back and it will look better.

On one of my visits to the plot this week, while doing a plot inspection, I noticed this little bugger popping up. It looks like I'm going to have a battle on my hands with the nasturtium.

I don't know if you can make out what's just been dug up, but it's a walnut. It's the third one I've found this week. I think a squirrel has been busy.

I've made another leek and parsnip soup this week and needed to dig up a parsnip. I was really careful not to put my fork through this one. Can you believe the size of this one. What's more, I don't think this one is the biggest one. I hope I don't get bored of them before Christmas. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Chilli jam.

A few people have asked me about the chilli jam I make, either at work or via the social media. The recipe I have is originally from Nigela Lawson, or so I'm lead to believe. You see I found it on the web a few years ago and it said that it was her's. So, if you are reading this Nigela, which I doubt very much, thank you for the recipe. Of course if it's not one of yours, Shhh! Nobody needs to know otherwise. I'm putting it on my blog simply because I have recipes on scraps of paper, on emails and I even have some in cook books. Ha, who knew.

So this is what you will need.

  • 150g Chillies (deseeded if you don't want it too hot) cut into 4 pieces each
  • 150g Sweet red peppers cored, deseeded and cut into chuncks
  • 1kg Jam sugar
  • 600ml Cider vinegar
  • 6 x 250ml Sterilized jars
  1. Put the chillies into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Add the chunks of sweet peppers and pulse again until you have a vibrantly red flecked processor bowl
  3. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a wide, medium size pan over a low heat without stirring.
  4. Scrape the peppers out of the processor and into the pan. 
  5. Bring to a boil and leave it at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. The liquid will go from syrupy to jelly as it cools.
  7. After about 40 minutes, or once the flecks are more or less evenly distributed in the jelly, ladle it into your jars and seal them tightly.
  8. Store in a cool and dark place for up to a year. Once a jar has been opened, it should be stored in the fridge and consumed within a month.
So that's it. This batch does have 100g of red chillies and 50g of birds eye chillies with quite a few seeds left in for heat. As yet I haven't actually grown any of the peppers that have gone into it, one day. Don't forget to wash your hands after handling the chillies and while blitzing it, the vapours will affect your eyes, so wear swimming goggles. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Get with the programme.

I woke up this morning just not feeling it for the allotment. After the school run, I looked for other things to do. I even went to get my hair cut. But the sky was clear, it wasn't that cold and I knew that if I didn't go today, I would regret it come the next rainy day. So with a few jobs left half done, I made my way.

I did have a plan for today and it was to start clearing away for the six smaller beds. If I had got here earlier, I would have got more done. Also, if I didn't stop to chat as well, I would have got even more done. But then again if I didn't stop and chat, there would be a lot less I wouldn't know about gardening.

So this is what I have done. This bed, which has the last of the potatoes in at the moment, is now at its final size ish. The slabs need to be laid properly yet, but it's getting there. I did find yet another coin, just a penny coin from 2006. One day I might just dig something up that's worth something. On second thoughts, if I did, the site could be taken off us for excavation and no more allotment. Till next time and thanks for reading.

My best carrots to date.

These are the last of this years carrots. Just this bunch alone beats what I've managed to grow in the past. You may be bored of hearing this, but I have always struggled to grow carrots, as have many people I've spoken to. How I have managed to get what I have is very simple, slug pellets. In the past I had prepared the soil, sowed the seeds and it seemed to end there. Someone told me that slugs would have eaten everything before I got to see even one seedling. A sprinkling of slug pellets this year has helped a lot, but what I have failed to do is thin them out, so needless to say, many of them were tiny. I have also had a few carrots affected by carrot fly, so I still have plenty to sort out. I have been told by my gardening guru, Michelle Stacey, to grow them in an old bin, filled with a mix of compost and sand. So I'm going to give that a go next year.

There isn't much left on my plot now, a few rows of potatoes, one row of Savoy cabbages, a handful of leeks, the surprise swede and a heck of a lot of parsnips. It'll be interesting to see if the rest of the parsnips turn out to be monster's as well. They look promising on the surface, but then again, so did some of the carrots. The cabbages are starting to whiff a bit of, well, cabbage, but stronger than usual. Is that normal? Till next time and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Leek of faith, or Leek and Parsnip soup.

With the state of my rusty leeks this year, I was wondering if I'd be able to eat them at all.  But thanks to a few friends on Twitter including Katie Lane of Lavender and Leeks fame, who as you may have read in a previous post, assured me that they would be OK to eat. Not only that, she has passed on a recipe to me. Again I have tried and tasted it. Having done so and with Katie's permission granted, I would like to share it with you all. This is what you'll need.

  • 250g leeks
  • 250g parsnips
  • 1 onion
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • 150ml single cream
  • 1tbsp runny honey
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  1. Cut leeks, parsnips and onion into chunks.
  2. Fry them in a little oil for a few minutes.
  3. Add the stock, cover and allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. Blitz with a blender, add the cream and honey then fold them in gently.
  5. Serve with thyme.
Now, I was all prepared to follow the recipe to the letter, but when I mentioned it to my daughter, we somehow came to the conclusion, through a bit of misunderstanding, that crispy bacon should be added as a garnish. Thank goodness for misunderstandings. I did go back for seconds and sprinkled it with thyme. Either way was just as delicious. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Walk of shame.

I've been chatting on twitter to a few gardening friends of mine about getting together. I mentioned that if it went well, we could go to a food fair in Melton Mowbray, which is famous for its pork pies and Stilton cheese, it's also not that far from where I live. Now Michelle Stacey,  (@MishStacey), said that while we were all here together, we should all see my plot and they could give me marks on it all. Now I know she was only joking, but just on the off chance that they do come to visit and do judge my plot, I thought I had better pull my finger out and get down to some hard graft. As you can see it's not the worst plot ever, but it certainly isn't the best. The first picture you see is probably the best part of the plot, a bit of weeding needed, the paths have helped me keep things in order and this year for the first time ever, I have used all six beds. It's all down hill from there though. So let me walk you through my shameful plot.

This is the front of the plot. You may be able to make out a grape vine which has never been touched in the five years since I've had the plot. There is a fence which needs replacing. I have all the materials to do it, I just need to make time. My plan is to try and do it over winter, training the vine up some taller posts I have and finally sorting out an area for my youngest daughter to have a flower bed.

Here we are approaching the middle of the plot, the six beds are behind us now. Somewhere here are some raspberries and lord knows how many plum trees. I would like to have six more smaller beds here, there was so much that I wanted to grow this year but couldn't due to the fact that it all got a bit Bethlehem, no room.

Six months ago all this was clear and I was so pleased with myself. The intention was and still is to have fruit bushes.  Have some rhubarb already, so that's a start. If last year is anything to go by, the weeds should die back and I'll be able dig it all over again and this time I'll have to cover it.

This is the shed. Trust me, it looks better with the doors closed. I'd like to have a nice patio area here. I have the slabs, I just need the time. Maybe this time next year.

Well, that's the guided tour. I did get some work done today. The Garden Connect bed is now completely clear. The only things left were the peppers, tomatoes and parsnips. I never got a single pepper from them, it must have been too cold for it. I did get a few tomatoes and luckily it wasn't affected by the blight. But the best success were the parsnips. You could even say I was a victim of my own success as I didn't realise how big they were that I put my fork into all of the biggest ones. The best thing is, I still have loads more to dig up. I have just eaten done roasted and they tasted great, not at all woody like the supermarket ones at this time of year. Fresher is better. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Kale soup.

As promised, I have tried and tasted a kale soup recipe. It was quite easy to make, having said that, if I had normal sized carrots, it would have made things easier. At first sight, it looks 'healthy', but it taste anything but. The best thing about it for me is that I have grown all the vegetables in it, even the egg was from a friend from work who has a smallholding. I made it slightly chunky, more accident rather than design. I only have a stick blender and I missed some bits, but I think it added to the whole thing. All in all I think I will be continuing to grow kale next year.

So this is what you will need.

  • 250g of kale
  • 1 onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 potatoes
  • 3 leeks
  • 2 lts of vegetable stock
  • 250ml 
  • 1 boiled egg
  1. Steam or boil the kale until it's tender.
  2. Drain, allow to cool down then cut into strips.
  3. Peel and chop the onions, carrots and potatoes. Cut the leeks into narrow slices. Lightly fry all of these vegetables until soft, then add the stock and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Blitz with a blender and add milk and kale strips.
  6. Serve and garnish with a chopped boiled egg.

You'll find the recipe in this book along with many

As I don't have any scales, I sort of guessed that I didn't have that much kale, so I adjusted the quantities of everything else according. I also totally forgot the milk. But it tastes great and recipes are just a guide aren't they? Till next time and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Just pottering.

I went to the plot today in the car for the simple reason that I wanted to move last years bags of leaves to the plot. Eight sacks full, so walking there really wasn't an option. While I had the car loaded, I threw in a few fence posts and other bits that needed to be moved. I parked as close as I could and went to fetch the wheelbarrow. This is what I found when I got it out. I believe they are peacock butterflies. Rather than dump sack on them, I carefully moved them to the inside wall of the shed where I hope they'll be safe.

I realised that in my last post I didn't show the results of after the clear up. The courgettes are now gone due to the fact that the weather is starting to change and I don't think I'm going anymore this year.

Sorry for the shadow selfie

The tomatoes I managed to save from the blight are now sitting on my window sill and are now starting to ripen. Considering I they weren't properly planned for, it ain't too bad.

One of the reasons why I've got involved with 'Garden Connect' was to learn about different crops, growing and eating. The kale looks very healthy even though it's never had any netting to protect it from pigeons and I think I'm right in saying that I can harvest leaves as and when I need them without digging up the whole plant, but I want to make a start on clearing the bed. 

I have found recipe for a kale soup and today I dug up the ingredients for the soup I didn't already have. It does say only three carrots, these should be about right to make that up in weight. If it all goes well, I will share it on my blog. I don't need swede for the soup, having never grown them before, I just wanted to see what it looked like. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A change of plan.

So, my boss asked if I was available for overtime Thursday and Friday. I made arrangements so that I was, I planned to be working over 50 hours this week and then he tells me I'm not needed after all but thanks for the offer. A lot was said under my breath. Half of me was thinking 'How am I going to make ends meet?', the other half was thinking 'Lottie!'

Before the clear up

It's a half hour walk from my new abode. I suppose it could be worse. I had no plan till I got to the plot, but once I was there it was clear. No more pumpkins or marrows are going to grow, so the vines could be cleared and I have been advised that the tomatoes that have blight should be removed and burnt. A day to tidy up the plot. Apart from where the pumpkins and marrows were, the soil was easily worked and the weeds seem to come up with relative ease. I know that crop rotation isn't the be all and end all of soil care, but it seems to go a long way.

While clearing, I found a row of swede that I had total forgot about. I was nearly as excited as when I found a £20 note in a winter coat when I put it on at the first sign of frost. I did think I had more weeds than I actually did, so happy days. 

Garden Connect

My Garden Connect bed is really looking shabby at the moment. I'm sorry to say that for everyone who has encouraged me to try the nasturtium, I don't like it. I couldn't spit it out quick enough and the taste stayed with me for hours. I did start to tidy the bed a little and I will do a final summary soon. I also dug up the purple carrots and as I was told, I should have thinned them, but seeing the carrot seedlings start to come up, I couldn't bring myself to do it. This is the result. The smallest bunch of carrots you'll ever see. A meal for one. Till next time and thanks for reading.