Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas dinner

We haven't been very good allotmenteers lately, we have 2 one armed bandits in the house which makes it hard to get anything constructive done. This week however we have persevered and with teamwork from the little P's the veggies which were so lovingly tended (until recently) have been harvested ready for the big event later today..... Christmas Dinner!!

So what did we grow?

For the first on plot 45 we have grown parsnips and they are monsters! I am very proud to say most of them are straight and only a couple grew legs. (Mr P did the soil prep for these, yes he can have bragging rights, he earned them!) They were lovingly nurtured by myself, KP and JJ and most are as wide as my hand and between 8 and 12 inches and weighing in at 5kgs from 15 parsnips. We are cooking traditional honey roast parsnips. Can't wait!

A firm favourite with all the little P's, carrots! Yes we eventually got them going and Mr Rabbit kept away from them long enough to develop into monsters although I don't think I did the best job of digging down deep enough given the legs they have grown, one looks like a giant grotesque hand. Still tastes good though ;)

We were finally able to see if our Tom-tato experiment produced many potatoes. Sad to say we only managed 5 good sized spuds and a couple of wee ones. Very disappointing but for £1 we had to try, we did however get masses of very sweet cherry tomatoes so still worth the money :)

Last but not least, we harvested a few beetroot. The mild weather has meant they are still thriving.

As regular readers of the blog know we have to cater for 3 allergies/food intolerances in our house and add to that my personal aim to be vegetarian it is not always easy cooking for everyone. KP and I decided this year to make our own veggie alternative to turkey, we choose my beetroot and goats cheese tart.

I found the recipe a while ago online and made small adaptations to our taste.


Ready made puff pastry,
2 large red onions sliced into half rings,
1 clove of Oak smoked garlic from the garlic farm,

1 large beetroot boiled and sliced to about 5mm thick.
A sprig of rosemary,
1 Goats cheese
Handful of chopped walnuts,
Salt and pepper to taste,
1tbsp granulated sugar
1tbsp brown sugar
A generous knob of butter.


Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick and cut to the required shape. (we cut ours in half to make 2) and bake in the oven about 180 degrees C for 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the sliced onions, rosemary and chopped garlic. Stirring occasionally. Season to taste and cook until soft.

 Add the sugar to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until browned and slightly sticky.

Take the pastry out the oven and gently push down the centre of the pastry.

Layer the topping on the pastry starting with the onions.

Next layer the beetroot.

Add the goats cheese. Finally sprinkle the chopped walnuts.

Bake in the oven for a further 20 to 25 minutes until pastry is cooked and risen again.

Normally I would serve the tart drizzled with balsamic glaze, salad and sweet potato wedges. Today we will be serving the tart with all the traditional Christmas trimmings minus the balsamic glaze. Other variations to try chilli infused honey drizzled over then bake. You can also play around with different herbs and cheeses even try adding figs.

A great team effort!

Whatever your plans for today, wishing you peace and happiness wherever you are. Thanks for reading.

Merry Christmas from all of us here on plot 45.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Autumn Review

November already? This year has flown by! As things are quietening down on the lottie I've decided to write monthly reviews instead of brief weekly roundups. (if I come across an interesting recipe I will try to share it sooner)

So what has been happening here on 45 and 47?

As well as the clearing and tidying for winter, we picked the last of our raspberries, Turks turbans and peas.

I also harvested the last of our sweet corn. I boil it for a few minutes then char it on a skillet pan. A firm favourite with the little Ps.

I scored this Turks Turban then baked it with dried chillies, garlic and a little olive oil. served with some veggie couscous, very tasty!

Our TomTato in the greenhouse is still fruiting in November! The one outside has finished and we are ready to reveal the potatoes. There was a sum total of 5 potatoes! The plant cost us a pound and we have had a good few punnets worth of tomatoes off the plant so can't complain.

I harvested our pears. We had a good carrier bag full of what Mr P calls 'micro pears' as they are small however they are very tasty.

We picked our lone pumpkin ready for Halloween. Last year we managed to grow 4 however this year we were less successful. We were given a small pumpkin to decorate at a Halloween event. Here's the Little P's efforts.

Once again our kitchen is overrun by plants. We had issues with our peppers, chillies and aubergines in the sense that they grew but just didn't develop to their full potential, so we have repotted them and brought them all home. They are now full of flowers and developing nicely.


We also brought the passion fruit home for winter as they were too small plant outside this year and I didn't want to risk overwintering them in the greenhouse. They could easily be mistaken for very young laurel plants as most of the leaves are still quite small and oblong.

So what else has been happening?

We had a birthday in the household. Homemade 4 layer vegan chocolate cake with a layer of chocolate ganache between each sponge layer and smothered on the outside. Finished off with skittles for decoration.

We have been on holiday to the Isle of Wight again. Our favourite things to do there? Robin Hill Country Park, we stayed until late an enjoyed their Festival of Light celebrations where the park is lit up. The little P's favourite part? Throwing neon paint powder at each other and climbing. Even Charlie disappeared up a ramp to go and investigate in the trees.

Some night time shots from around the park.


 And of course no visit would be complete without a trip to the Garlic Farm!

CP and JJ enjoyed decorating these Iberian bulbs. We have an Elsa and Supergarlic.

We went for a walk around the farm and saw a Red Squirrel scavenging. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get a photo however the encounter is definitely something I will remember as I was a young child the last time I saw one. The farm is full of wildlife and little treasures to see dotted everywhere, like these pretty cornflowers.

So looking forward to Winter and next year.....

We saved some Elephant garlic cloves and a couple of Carcassonne bulbs which have been replanted. There are also shallots saved from this year. (I love how the Elephant garlic cloves dwarf this 5p piece and the large Carcassonne clove in this picture.)

We picked up a Red Duke bulb and a Vallelado bulb from the garlic farm which will be put in this week. Not to mention the Iberian bulbs CP and JJ decorated.;)

Our red brussel sprouts are forming nicely on the stem. This photo was taken at the beginning of October, they're now about the size of a penny. Fingers crossed they will be ready for Christmas.

At the garlic farm we also picked up some Longor Shallots however given the change in weather I will leave these until Spring.

So that's it for now. Thank you for reading. Happy Digging :)

Monday, 5 October 2015

Harvesting, gifts and a tasty pasta sauce

So despite the last week of guaranteed good weather I didn't make it up to the lottie as often as I would have liked. I had a good start clearing half the flower bed and digging up the rest of the potatoes (that reminds me, the 2 Tomtatoes are still going,) however the sudden advancement of the evenings has thwarted my attempts. Where we were managing to get an hour or two in after dinner, we are now rapidly running out of light.

Thinking of investing in a slow cooker to speed things up in the evening, chop it up night before where possible and chuck it all in before going to work, also means haven't got to wait for Mr P to get back to finish prepping. ;)

Things are slowing down for the winter however we are returning after each visit with a basket full of produce. Yesterday's harvest saw us returning with a full tub of raspberries, a handful of cherry tomatoes (Yes they made it home for a change!) corn, another Turks Turban, an over sized golden beet, crystal cucumbers and a Big Jim chilli. We also returned with a bag of apples gifted to us by our neighbor on plot 48, perfect for lunches!

I don't know how I missed the golden beet! Although it is a lot bigger than I prefer, I'm sure I can do something with it. given all the potatoes maybe some form of roast vegetables or even a variant of bake. Hey I can always pickle it! ;)

This weeks main jobs have been cultivating seeds. During the summer I collected pea pods and mange tout that I had allowed to 'go to seed' and left them drying out. This weekends job while it was dry was to break open the pods and collect the seed.

We have been collecting seed from the flowers, saving Gazania, Nigella and Marigold seed heads. (As well as letting the Nigella self seed.) When we are out and about on our travels we have reverted back to our old habit of collecting seed heads. (More about that another time.)

We have been very lucky this weekend, we were not only gifted a bag of apples (coxs and russets,) but were given a large tub of tomatoes. (Our main crop are very slow to ripen and we have been forced to cover them, hopefully protecting them so they can finally ripen. Failing that there will be trays of tomatoes dotted around the house for the next month!)

With the tomatoes I made the firm family favourite: Nik's easy peasy veggie pasta sauce. I vary what veggies I use, it all depends on what we have in the fridge however the sauce itself stays the same. That's the great thing about a tomato sauce base, you can adapt it to pretty much anything. If I don't have fresh tomatoes I use 2 tins of chopped, although I prefer to use fresh where I can and I've found green peppers tend to add a bitter taste so prefer not to use them.


a dash of olive oil
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed through garlic press,
4 chestnut mushrooms finely diced   (don't tell the smaller little P's they wouldn't eat it if they knew!)
1 red and yellow pepper cubed,
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves, (We have a large plant growing in the garden)
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves, (you can use fresh.)
400g fresh tomatoes cubed
salt and freshly ground pepper,
1 tin chopped tomatoes.
1/2-1 tsp Cayenne pepper depending on taste.
A sprinkling of smoked paprika. (be careful as it can be overpowering)
1/2 tsp veg gravy granules or a veg stock cube

An optional dash of Worcester sauce. (optional, as in I don't always remember to add it.)


Cook the pasta as per instructions. Whilst the water for the pasta is warming up, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and onions and stir until softened and starting to brown. Add the mushrooms and stir for a couple of minutes, then add the peppers again stir for a couple of minutes. Add the herbs and stir (I sometimes also add a tsp of thyme when I add the rosemary, depends if I've been to the lottie before or after cooking.) Then add the fresh tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the tinned tomatoes, stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the gravy granules or stock cube and stir until dissolved. Add Cayenne Pepper and paprika to taste stir then add the Worcester sauce. Leave to simmer stirring occasionally until Pasta is ready. Drain the pasta then add to the sauce. StĒir it through and serve.

With the exception of JJ, the Little P's like grated cheese on their pasta, again we use whatever is in the fridge at the time. It was that enjoyable I forgot to photograph it before I started eating! I might make this again using the Big Jim to add some flavour.

I said it was our lucky weekend, well our final gift of the weekend was a bag of walnuts fresh from a friend's garden, so fresh in fact 2 are still in the outer casings as CP JJ and I opened the others. (CP and I still have yellow fingers today!)

We are facing a dilemma with these. Bob promised my friend to use the walnuts to make her a cake, however neither Bob nor I have made a walnut cake before. We've got a couple of weeks to find a recipe while the walnuts dry out. Can you recommend a recipe that has worked well for you?
 Please feel free to comment and share your recommendation for a good walnut cake recipe. Also if you try the pasta sauce let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading. Happy Digging :)

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Summer's not over yet

After a miserable start to the week with torrential rain and hailstones the size of marbles, by contrast the last couple of days has seen a return of summer. So today as it was such a beautiful day (and knowing that I am hopefully going to be spending the best part of tomorrow trying to ride an adapted bicycle!) I thought I had better pay a visit to the allotment.

As usual there was a surprise waiting for me.

Really pleased with my gladioli. I was starting to doubt they would flower, but as with everything else they are a few weeks behind. Beautiful colouring don't you agree?

The Aster bushes on 45 and 47 were full of Bees and Butterflies. I managed to capture a shot of two Tortoiseshell butterflies before they fluttered off again.

There were at least 4 different species of Bees on the flowers and if you look closely you can see 3 different species of Bees in the shot below. There were about 20 Bees in total on the bush. The delicate purple flowers are a welcome sight and cheer up any dull Autumn day.

So Mr P emptied the bags of manure we acquired last weekend and it was down to me to spread it. (Take that how you will!) I was careful how I spread the muck around to ensure it didn't get to close to the asparagus that was discovered a few weeks ago. The plan is to have half the bed as an asparagus bed so doing our best to give it a good start.   

Elsewhere on the plot, the outdoor tomatoes are full of fruit and flowers, however they don't seem to be ripening. I can't recall what varieties were planted however going by the stripes forming I would say that these are Tigerella. Hopefully some Autumn sunshine will encourage them to ripen.

CP's peas are filling out nicely and should be ready in a week or so. She is very proud that every seed has grown, even the one she lost in the bark has a couple of pods on it.

We are still getting lots of berries off the Autumn raspberries. Each visit sees me picking a few more. I am freezing them and keeping them for a reminder of summer during the cold wet days of a British Winter.

I picked the first of the Turks turban. Looking forward to cooking with them. I'm thinking of roasting the smaller one. The larger one I think I will use for a Jamie Oliver risotto recipe that I have not used for while.

The garlic chives are still blossoming and also attracting the Bees. The herb bed on 45 has been left to its own devices and the grass is starting to creep back in. Tidy up and gather the seed over the next couple of weeks.

I finally managed to beat the birds and enjoyed my first Cucamelon. I have been looking forward to trying one of these since I first ordered the seeds this time last year. It wasn't quite ripe but if it had been left would have disappeared before my next visit. It was exactly what I was expecting, as the name state, a sublime mix of melon and cucumber. Very refreshing. We will be carefully lifting the roots and  storing over winter ready for use next year. Think we will have to think about where to plant these next year. They were savaged by slugs when they first went in and now birds steal the fruit. Definitely resilient plants though. Here's hoping we can salvage a few more before the end of the season.

I also brought home just under a kilo of rhubarb which was promptly chopped and in the freezer ready for use. I'm thinking of trying rhubarb wine, but with plum and strawberry wines on the go I have run out of demijohns.

Finally I got round to digging up just under half of the last row of Desiree potatoes. Had enough to fill a carrier bag. Some large potatoes. I think with what we dug up we should have enough to keep us going for a few months.

Not bad for a couple hours of work!?

So what's next? Pretty much the same as the past couple of weeks. Finish digging up the potatoes and continue to tidy. Plant the green manure and spread the rotted manure. Want to get the red onion seeds and garlic planted this week. Will have to see what life throws at us after all 'the best laid schemes O' mice and men gang aft agley.'

Thanks for reading. Happy digging :)

Friday, 25 September 2015

Here comes Autumn

Been a busy week here on plots 45 and 47 and we are into the start of the Autumn tidy up. (when is it not a busy week here?)

The first bed on 47 has been thoroughly cleared and the discovery of the two asparagus crowns has inspired us to turn a large proportion of the bed over to them.

I came across an offer for free manure on the provisor that the bags containing it be returned for refilling. Unfortunately there was only 10 bags but it was enough for the first bed. (Besides don't want to burn the asparagus that's already there.)

This week we have also been testing recipes for the Kohlrabi. I started off with fritters and have experimented with different spices. Decided I quite like them with cayenne pepper and a touch of smoked paprika and the obligatory freshly ground salt and black pepper. However, Mr P and the little Ps were not too impressed.

I think next time I will add them to bhajis without saying anything 😉

We have also raided the 50p seed buckets at our local Wyevale garden centre. 2 hours later and around £25 spent, we have an interesting array of choice for next year and have started planning in preparation for spring.

Our strawberry and plum wines are still bubbling away and our next experiment is going to be rhubarb.

So what's next?
Plant the winter green manure mix, acquire more manure and get the onions and garlic in as well as continuing to clear beds as crops finish.

Thank you for reading. Happy digging :)q

Monday, 14 September 2015

Invasion of the weeds

After camping in Wales followed by a fantastic week away in Ibiza, (a definite contrast) it's back to reality, work and school. We were not surprised to find both plots over run with weeds on our return.

So all hands on deck to get things back in order. First job sorting the potatoes. Before we went away we were digging up a potato plant as we needed it, however we decided it was time to they all came out.
The little Ps set to emptying the buckets ....

While Mr P and I did the hard work. The weeds had very quickly re-established themselves after the tops had gone over.

We still need to spread the remnants of the empty buckets and give it a final rake before barking the area ready for winter.

Next we tackled the large bed and rebarked around the sprouting broccoli. We also moved a patio squash to give it a chance of the fruit finishing off before the winter kills it. We have found that crops last a little longer as the bark helps to insulate them from the cold.

Everything else is ticking along nicely. Enough digging for now, (still have plot 47 and raised beds to weed, oh and the flower bed) next job harvesting!!

Pickles anyone?.....

Found the last of these onions hiding among the weeds....

Probably let the Kohl Rabi grow too big but will give them a go. I'm thinking fritters or a gratin....

Finally the making of plum wine....

Elsewhere on plot 45.....

Our Big Jims are ripening.....

Looking forward to eating these in a few weeks time...

.....and finally..... CP's pea experiment has been successful and we have a late crop of peas :)


I think 47 needs some TLC and we have Autumn seeds to sow, as well as garlic cloves ready to go in ... not to mention more weeding !

Thanks for reading, happy digging ;)