Monday, 24 August 2015

courgettes revisited

So as promised in the previous post here is my courgette recipe.

We have been quite sensible this year and have grown 1 green and 1 yellow courgette plant on the plot. (Last year we had 4 plants and the remnants of the glut are still in the freezer!)

I had tried couscous stuffed red peppers whilst on holiday this year and wondered what courgette would be like. I regularly make a Moroccan style couscous and thought it would be perfect for the experiment, all that was required was a courgette/marrow big enough.

I started using a good food recipe few years ago but over time have adapted it to suit.

Ingredients for the sauce:
a dash of olive oil
1 red onion or 4/5 shallots (depending what I have in the veg store) cut chunky
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic sliced thinly.
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 red pepper cut into chunks about the size of a 10 pence piece
2 teaspoons Ras el hanout
1 tin chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 tin of brown chickpeas drained and rinsed.

For the couscous:
100g couscous
juice of half a lemon (picked fresh from our tree)
6-8 dried apricots cut into 6 (depends what mood I'm in as to how many I add)
half a pint veg stock

and of course 1 large courgette. Cut in half (ours was that big I got Mr P to quarter it for me)


Prepare all vegetables etc. Scoop out the seeds from the inside of the courgette. Score the inside of the courgette and add a little freshly ground salt and black pepper. (I forgot to ask Mr P to score the courgette, something I would have automatically done in the past, so it took longer for it to cook)

Heat a large frying pan or wok with lid on a medium heat then add the olive oil. stir to cover the bottom of the pan then add the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes.
Next add the carrots and peppers cook for 5 minutes then add the ras el hanout. Cook for for a couple more minutes until fragrant. I love the smell of the ras el hanout it gives a warm feeling to a wet summer's day.

Then add the tinned tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. I like to use freshly ground sea salt and black peppercorns, it also means that I get the Little P's to help with the cooking.

 Add a tablespoon of water if necessary. It's important not to let the sauce dry out.

While the sauce is simmering pour your couscous into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir, then the chopped apricots and stir again. Finally add the vegetable stock and stir a final time. Cover and leave for 5 minutes. (sometimes I'll add fresh ground salt and black pepper again depends on my mood)

After 5 minutes fluff the couscous with a fork. (This has definitely got to be one of the easiest recipes ever!)

When the sauce has reduced add the chickpeas and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add the couscous to the pan. (you can serve the sauce on top of the couscous but for this recipe I got  Mr P to add it to the pan for me, not an easy one handed job)

Stuff the courgette with the couscous mixture.

Cover with foil and bake around 180 degrees C until the courgette is soft. (should take about 40-45 mins however not preparing the courgette properly ours took over an hour!)

Uncover and bake for a final 5 minutes for a crunchy top.

Best served out the skin.

Nom, nom, nom! ;)

Mr P had leftovers for dinner the following day.

Off on holibobs soon fingers crossed we don't return to a jungle. Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Getting over calamities

So despite last week's calamities, everything is growing nicely on 45 and 47. We borrowed a petrol mower but found it was too wide to get round all the paths on 47 so we borrowed a generator and have taken our little mower from home up to the plot. (Thank you Mum W for the loan of the genny and mower.) It's all looking a lot tidier.

So how is everything looking?

For starters our sweetcorn is coming on a treat. This photo was taken just over a week ago but I like how it makes you feel like you're lost in maize maze and not just a small patch. We have several large husks on all plants, just hoping our friendly neighbourhood pigeons and squirrels leave them alone!

CP's pea experiment has worked and every pea she planted has sprouted! If we're lucky we'll get another crop mid September.

The little P's had insisted on having their own bed on 47. They were motivated in the beginning. They weeded, chose and planted their own seeds, then left them in the greenhouse to grow. Unfortunately they did what children and teenagers do, they 'got bored of waiting' and left their bed for the weeds to take over. (Also not helped by Mr P telling them he'd rotivate it for them before planting) Anyway, the result was that the bed became over run with weeds again. 

I got half way along the bed before I had to stop and take more care, having pulled my back, been bitten... just read 'A week of Calamities' and you'll understand my frustration.

Having to slow down and be more careful was a good call as 47 yielded yet another unexpected surprise. Hidden among the weeds were asparagus. If the Little P's and Mr P had weeded and rotivated as planned, we probably would have lost these. The plan is now to divide the bed so we have an asparagus bed. It also means it is more manageable for the Little P's who still insist they want to have the bed next year. 

Our gherkins are fruiting and are full of fruit. The next challenge will be finding different recipes for pickling them.

Our cucamelons are still fruiting although we have yet to try them, again the neighbourhood wildlife beat us to it.

Our outside tomatoes are full of flowers and fruit and the marigolds are doing a fantastic job of keeping the aphids and blackfly away.

I love how the light reflects off the freshly watered marigolds in this picture, plus it shows how many flowers we still have on the tomato plants.

So what have we harvested this week?

Definitely a week of surprises on 47, we found our first ripe plums! So sweet and juicy. Looking forward to the glut that is soon to come.

From left to right, our giant gherkin, courgettes, an oddly shaped carrot, a crystal cucumber and a regular cucumber we were given by a friend. Looking forward to trying out some pickling recipes over the coming week.

We pulled our first carrot from 45. The slugs had got to it so we decided to pull it before they finished it off. I think next year we need to make dig deeper still and use more sand, given the way it has split.

We harvested a couple of our Otto courgettes. (We were gifted the plant after the slugs desecrated our original courgette plant.) We deliberately left one to grow more like a marrow as I had a couscous recipe I wanted to try out. I'll share that in my next blog.

We are digging up potatoes on a weekly basis as we need them. Also picked several cherry tomatoes, loganberries and raspberries however, they don't tend to make it home, nom, nom, nom.

So that's it for now. Thanks for reading and have good week. :)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A week of calamities.

The joys of allotmenteering

Ants, slugs, pigeons, rabbits,
Blackfly, aphids, wasps!
All the cabbage munchers,
and carrot crunchers.
So many pests I'm at a loss.

Walking along
Minding my business,
Something black and yellow decides to land.
Needle sharp, razor quick,
3 times it stung my hand!

One handed digging technique;
Not quite mastered yet!
Ouch! I've pulled my back,
Suck it up, keep on digging,
Got to get the plot back on track.

Weeds are taking over,
Manic digging,
Help I''m turning into a loon,
Keep on digging, Get the whole root
Next plot inspection must be soon!

Red ants nest gone
But they're not leaving without a fight
My poor hand starts to throb,
3 wasp stings, bitten by ants,
I think I'm going to sob.

Battling tall grass,
Seed spreading everywhere,
Be far easier with a mower,
I've got seed in my eye
Pulling it by hand is definitely slower!

Blinking, rubbing, hands flapping
I can't shift it from my eye,
Bitter taste in the back of my mouth,
Yup, I've just swallowed a fly.
At least the seeds now out my eye,

You persevere,
Surely nothing else can fail?
Just one small section left to dig.
That's done it,
Bubbles I've broke a nail!

Hot sunny days,
Waterbutts are empty,
Back and forth to the tap I go.
Try not to waste a drop,
We're on a meter don't you know?

All watered, Tools away
We can try again tomorrow.
Drive to the gate,
Loud thump as it swings back fast,
Is there no end to my sorrow?

Cup of tea with slice of cake
And then a nice hot shower,
The cascading water
gently soothes my aches.
I'll be asleep within the hour.

Tomorrow is another day
There is always something to do.
The weeds and pests keep coming,
But refreshed you start anew.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Feeling Fruity

As promised previously: sorbet and jam with the addition of cakes.

So we started with 400g of blackcurrants, a couple of punnets of mixed raspberries and loganberries and a couple of handful of blueberries. Oh and at home our lemon tree.

The end results?

1 tub of sorbet made following this recipe:

Useful tip, be careful how much vanilla you add as the flavour can over power the berries. We served ours with either vanilla ice-cream or mango sorbet. We don't have an ice cream machine, but it might be going on the list for the jolly fat man ready for next summer.;)

1 and a half jars of jam.

My favourite recipe uses equal quantities of sugar to fruit. So easy to make and tastes fantastic!


400g of blackcurrants
300ml water
400g granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon


Wash and remove stalks from currants. Put a small plate in the fridge or freezer. Add to a large heavy base pan (I don't have a jam pan) with the water and bring to the boil until the skins are soft and the liquid has reduced.

Add the sugar and lemon juice....

Bring to a rolling boil and carefully stir occasionally.

After 10 minutes remove plate from fridge or freezer and drop a small amount of jam onto it. If it has a 'skin' and crinkles when pushed, remove jam from the heat. If not? boil for couple more minutes and check again.

Ready? Leave to cool before getting your sterilised jars and using a ladle carefully spoon the jam into the jars.

Note to self, next time choose smaller jars. The half jar we will eat in the coming weeks. The full jar will be kept as a reminder of summer when the weather takes a nose dive around October.


Getting practise in for the Great British Bake Off, I made vegan raspberry, loganberry and white chocolate muffins. Ok they were technically not fully vegan as I used normal white chocolate but the rest of the recipe is certain vegan. You can easily substitute for vegan white chocolate.

I made a double batch. I used 250g of raspberries and loganberries and 50g of white chocolate. Next time I will swap that for 200g fruit and 100g chocolate. I also reduced the amount of baking powder, instead of 6 tsp I used 5.

As it is the start of the Great British Bake off I can't resist a quick double entendre. These did have the dreaded 'soggy bottom!'  Lower oven temperature and cooking for longer next time. Using our cooker is a lot of trial of error as the markings on the dials have mostly rubbed away. Besides the double chocolate ones came out perfectly.

Topped with dairy free butter icing, they were enjoyed by all at my Gran's 90th birthday celebrations, and nobody realised they were egg free until my mum decided to point it out.

I really do need to 'big up' my Gran. She got me interested in growing fruit and vegetables at a young age. One of my fondest memories is picking raspberries with her and eating her home made raspberry sorbet.

Finally I made wheat free, vegan blueberry pancakes.

I can't give you the exact recipe for these as I judge by eye. I always run a batch without blueberries first to make sure I am happy with the consistency of the batter and the temperature of the pan.

Wheat free flour
Apple juice about a cup
Soya milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Preheat crepe pan on a medium heat.

Pour flour into a large mixing bowl. Add apple juice, soya milk and vanilla extract. Whisk and add more soya milk as necessary until the batter is the right consistency.

Carefully slice the blueberries

Ladle into prepped preheated pan. (I use a tiny amount of dairy free butter to grease the pan first)

Add blueberries straight away to pancakes.

Flip the pancakes when start to bubble. (tip make sure the pan is not too hot otherwise you are going to burn the blueberries.)

Delicious served with a drop of maple syrup or CP's favourite hazelnut chocolate spread.

Not so much of an allotment blog this time, more of a making good use of your produce blog, but that's my cooking adventures over the past week and a half. I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed cooking with the Little P's. Thanks KP, JJ, CP and Bob for taking it in turns to be my right hand.

And thanks to you for reading. Have a good week. :)