Tuesday, 28 May 2013

First harvest and a whole lot of zing!

Well it's the end of May and despite the cold, the rain and battling against the kittens who like to dig up my veggies..... we have food coming in from ground to the table - HOORAY!

I have been harvesting radish for a couple of weeks now, and today I brought in the first crop of rhubarb and some coriander.  Rocket and lettuce are also being harvested regularly.  Starting small of course, but things are starting to happen!
Lettuce and radish
There is absolutely nothing tastier than home-made salsa, especially if the coriander is home-grown and the chillies are last year's crop :-)

Jo's Zingy Salsa
  • 2 ripe tomatoes (sadly not yet home-grown, though they are on the way!), diced.
  • 5 inch chunk of cucumber, diced
  • half-whole red onion finely diced
  • 1-2 chillies, seeds removed and diced (also works well with jalapenos from a jar)
  • good shake of ground coriander
  • good bunch of fresh coriander
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • salt/pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge for the flavours to seep together.
Zingy salsa
 I also made Rhubarb, Ginger and Almond crumble today with two little helpers!  I based this on Delia's recipe, although I double the quantity of crumble, I use less sugar in the rhubarb base and I used flaked almonds instead of whole ones.  I am also rather heavy handed with the cinnamon and ginger.  This is absolutely the most amazing taste sensation and is the recipe which converted me to being a rhubarb-liker!  The combination of cinnamon, fresh ginger, almonds and zingy rhubarb (everything is zingy today!) is just amazing and like no other crumble you have tasted!

I have been away for a week but came back to find the garden had sprung to life in many ways (and was also subjected to being used as a kitten toilet unfortunately...) so I set to work over the bank holiday weekend, tidying things up, tying up the peas (which now have flowers and some pods on), attaching canes to the bigger tomato plants, pinching out the side growth, and checking the chillies for aphid invasions (none yet!)

I have planted out some cucumber plants and I am contemplating whether or not to do the same with the melon plants.  The melons are no doubt more vulnerable, plus they are very small and will be at the mercy of the kittens, so I am keeping them in the greenhouse for another week or so which I think about it. 

My Autumn raspberries are doing very well, and have a lot of lovely greenery on them now and the strawberry patch is thriving.  I have removed the tunnels from the strawberries (which were there to stop the cats digging them up), but I will need to rig up some sort of netting soon to stop the birds stealing the fruits!  I need to work fast on that one as the first strawberry flowers are appearing....

I have a load of leeks ready to go in, but I have the same cat-related dilemma as the melons as they are pretty small and I already lost a load of tiny leeks thanks to the cats digging.  I am wondering if I can fit the tunnel somewhere else to protect them until they are bigger.

I lost a batch of kale seedlings (yes, cats again!) though it is probably not too late for me to restart these, so this may be one of my jobs this week.

Will leave you with a few more pictures taken recently. 





My neighbours tulips




Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Get outside it's Spring!

It's the school holidays and the sun is shining, surely Spring is here by now?  Well actually, yes, it is!  It's still a little on the cool side, but it's certainly more inviting out there and I have been out in the garden today, raking soil, marking out lines for sowing and even planting some of the hardier seeds!  I sowed carrots, radish and spring onions today, just a few of each in case the hard frosts we are still having prevent germination. 
radish, spring onion and carrot, next to the kale plants and raspberry canes
We sorted out the greenhouse over the bank holiday weekend, so the guinea pigs' hutch was moved out into the garden again and my mini-greenhouse was moved under the glass of our rickety greenhouse structure!  I had a good tidy up and planted planted out some of the tomato seedlings into bigger pots, which I have been nurturing inside.  I also sowed a trough of carrot seeds and I sowed rocket, lettuce, leeks, peas, and cabbage out into trays in the greenhouse.  I also moved the tray of beetroot seedlings out there and a tray of seeds I am waiting to germinate (cucumber, melon and peppers) which so far have done very little. 
hutch in new position

Seedlings in place under glass

Around the garden there are many signs of life now.  The kale from last season has woken back up and is a stunning purple colour at the moment.  The rhubarb has also started growing, although it looks almost alien-like at the moment!


 And I finished the layers of my rainbow cake today, so it is ready now to assemble next week: 

rainbow cake

 I will leave you with this picture which sums up how lovely it is out there today!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Rainbow Cake (and Things I Made Thursday!)

There is still a hell of a lot of snow and ice around, hence very little gardening/growing going on (grrrr!)  So I have been doing a bit of making/baking instead. 

I saw a recipe for a rainbow cake in Good Food Magazine this month, and decided to make one for Isla's birthday next month.  It involves baking six layers of cake, so I have already starting baking and have frozen the layers I have made so far. 
blue and green

red and orange
The colours aren't quite true to the description but I think it will still look pretty good when it is put together.  I have yellow and violet left to do.. more on this next time.

On the subject of rainbows, this is the salad I made this week: 

rainbow salad
It went down really well with the kids and looked great on the table!

I spent Thursday baking too and made some cherry scones and French bread-style rolls for a picnic lunch over Easter. 

So it is now Easter weekend and British Summer Times starts in the next 24 hours.  I so very hope it is as good as it sounds!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring buried in snow

I did wait until nearly Spring before I started this blog.  And now it is the end of March, Spring is officially here... and we have this outside:

Clearly Spring is trying to happen...but that is a great deal of snow!  So once again, very little going on here in preparation.  I have usually sown all my seeds by now and the garden would be bare but neat. 

Here are the parsnip seeds I planted out in a tub last week:

One of my cats is enjoying looking pretty in the snow with the last of the snowdrops though:

So, I still await the opportunity to get things started properly. 

In the meantime, I started a 365 picture project.  I imagine many of the photos I take will be relevant to this blog....

Friday, 15 March 2013

Things I Made Thursday

Yes, it's Friday, but I still baked yesterday!  Chocolate flapjack was the order of the day (demanded by my 4 year old for his lunchbox!)

chocolate flapjack
It wasn't quite as chocolaty as usual because I ran out of cocoa, but it was still met with approval from all parties, and is our number 1 lunch box filler!

I also made a few things ahead for our meals this week, including rocket pesto:

rocket pesto

And vegetarian lasagne!

 The seeds I planted last week have started to germinate, although only the peas so far:

I love how alien-like it looks at the moment!  No sign yet of the melons, cucumbers or peppers, although it has been very cold again, even inside the house.  

I moved the kale from last year's crop from the front to the back garden.  I am not sure what will happen to it in its second year - whether it will produce flowers and run to seed?  Very much an experiment to see what happens.  We had a great crop last year from it and I was pleased how easily it over-wintered.  I haven't got kale seeds for this season, so all kale hopes are pinned on this!

I planted some parsnip seeds out in a large tub too.  Last year the never ending wet season meant the parsnips rotted, so I am hoping for a better crop this year.  I will sow some in the ground at a later date too.  The aim with these is to get some for Christmas lunch!  

My chillies and tomatoes on the windowsill are doing well, I will post more pictures next week.  The coriander have died though.  I have a feeling the cat may have sat on them... I will have to plant some more, probably next week!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Quick seed update

More seeds put in today.  Greenhouse not yet ready so limited the numbers so they fit on windowsills for now. 

Melons, peppers, cucumbers, peas and basil. I have never grown melon before - it wasn't in the original plan, they were freebies.  No idea how they will work.  If anyone has grown them in the UK and can offer tips, feel free to contact me!  They are Italian seeds, cantaloupe variety. 

Some of the outdoor beds raked of stones and debris yesterday afternoon.  I toyed with the idea of building raised beds on there, but then remembered I am budgeting!  Hoping to send Dylan to B&Q this weekend for a couple of their HUGE packs of compost so I can get the tubs ready. 

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Things I Made Thursday (and update!)

It is a beautiful day today.  When we left for school at 8.30am, it was 0°C and I had to scrape ice from my windscreen.  But now it is about 8°C out there and there are big blue skies and plenty of sunshine.  I hung my washing out to dry for the first time (so it is officially Spring yeah?!) and the guinea pigs are happily wheeking about on the grass in the sun.  I haven't been too good this week at doing my 20 minutes per day in the garden, but that is because it has been so darned cold!  I am very glad to see the sun and hope to get out later.  Dylan has started work on making adjustments to the garage roof, which currently overhangs one of the veg beds and floods it when it rains.  Hopefully there will be a gutter on there before too long!

My early seeds are starting to germinate too!  I now have chillis and tomatoes germinating, as well as the coriander.  I am especially pleased about the chilli seeds as these are our home-grown seeds, from chillis I grew last year, then dried.  I gave some seeds to some friends and was most miffed that their seeds germinated faster than mine!  I think this is testament to how chilly our house has been recently (trying to spend less on fuel!) and one of my friends used a heated propagator, which I am now totally sold on and I fully intend to purchase one at some point!

I tend to cook on Thursdays.  In winter, this tends to be a little dull due to lack of garden fodder to cook with, but a necessity to ensure my tribe have interesting things to go in their lunch boxes!  Today I made a flapjack.  The preferred option is usually chocolate flapjack and our favourite recipe is this one, which I gather was originally from the Green&Blacks website (no wonder it tastes good!), although today I opted for change and made golden linseed and chocolate chip flapjack!  Smells good.  I just need to chop it up and freeze it in portions to serve four, so I am not tempted to nibble at it!  (If I freeze in portions of four, I can't eat it as this would mean I won't have enough for all four lunch boxes on one day!  This has backfired on me before when I decided to eat all four pieces, so no one was without, d'oh!!)

Golden Linseed & Chocolate Chip Flapjack
500g porridge oats
250g butter
4-6 tbsp of golden syrup
180g sugar
50g of golden linseeds
good handful of chocolate chips

Mix the oats and seeds.  In a pan, gently melt the butter, syrup and sugar.  Mix this into the oats/seeds.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before mixing in the chocolate chips.  Pour into a 20cmx30cm buttered tray and cook in the oven around 180°C for about 25 minutes.  Cut into squares whilst still warm.  

Golden linseed & chocolate chip flapjack

I also made a soup for my lunches for the rest of the week. This week it was spiced parsnip soup.  Sadly these were not parsnips I had grown.  The wet Summer we had meant lots of our vegetable growing efforts failed last year, and parsnips were one that failed to get passed June.  But, parsnips are cheap in the shops at this time of year, so I bought about 1.5kg today and made soup.  I spiced it with spices from a jar and dried coriander leaves to keep it low budget and quick-to-make:

(Very Easy) Spiced Parsnip Soup
1.5kg of parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped.
1 clove garlic, crushed.
1 tsp of garam masala.
1 tsp of hot paprika
2 tsp dried coriander leaves
1.5 litres of stock

Add all ingredients to a large pan. Bring to a simmer and put a lid on.  Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the parsnips are cooked.  Blend in batches until smooth.  Season with care.  Please note, all quantities are approximate as I do tend to make it up as I go along!

Very easy spiced parsnip soup

I also bought the March edition of Kitchen garden because there were ten packets of free seeds included which made me very happy!  Most of the varieties I already have, but they have long dates on them, so they will keep for another year!  Free seeds, good food and sunshine.  Good day so far!