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Over the last 24 hours I have seen my energy levels slowly creeping back up. I was so fed-up of being stuck in bed all week, and felt completely starved of fresh air, that I took advantage of a spell of sunny weather yesterday afternoon and headed to the bottom of the garden.
My goal: clear the pea bed. I have been very pleased with my peas this year. They are undoubtedly my favourite vegetable and I have enjoyed podding the sweet peas from their crisp pods for the last couple of months. Finally, they have come to an end. I have been holding off clearing the bed to allow the remaining peas who had started to wrinkle to dry out. My intention: to save them for planting next year.
So yesterday I spent about half an hour pulling out all the old pea plants and saving any remaining pods that I popped in my basket.
Below are four pictures taken at different stages of clearing the pea bed:
1. happy peas growing earlier in the summer
2. peas dying back and me starting to fill the wheelbarrow with the old plants
3. the bed emptied and almost a basket full of dried pods
4. newly prepared bed planted with some late summer crops
N finishes at lunchtime on a Friday, so we have spent some time this afternoon finishing off the pea bed. We raked it over, added a couple of bags of donated soil that we had left over, dug it in (there were loads of big fat worms!), and raked it again.
Once the bed was prepared, we planted seven rows of late summer crops – we shall see what grows and what doesn’t: rocket; wild rocket; oriental saladini; spring onion guardsman; lettuce marvel of four seasons; spinach matador; and lovage.
We have covered the whole bed with some pea netting in a bid to keep the nasty fat cats off it. Last time I prepared a bed and carefully planted a neat row of carrot and basil fino seeds a fat cat used it as his toilet the following night. I was not impressed!
As I’ve been bed-ridden for the past four days I haven’t done a lot of cooking (N has stepped into that role) or a lot in the garden. So I haven’t really got a lot to share, other than that I am bored of sitting in bed.
I decided it would be a good chance to share some recent photos of our lovely bunnies – Borage and Lovage – enjoying themselves come rain or shine…
Borage wondering why his food bowl is empty, and could he please just have a little bit more…
Borage mowing our lawn (he’s very good at it – N is a bit gutted that the bunnies do such a good job)…
This next series of photos are of Lovage, who whilst out in the run encountered a rather heavy rain shower (we’ve had lots in England recently).
Rather than being a sensible bunny and seeking cover under the shelter we provided, he decided he was hard enough to stay out in it. N brought in a rather soggy looking bunny who was treated to a good rub down with a tea towel. Silly bunny…
Lovage wanting to know what we’re looking at…yes…your silly hair-do…
This is my recipe for homemade tomato soup. It’s got a nice tang to it from the addition of some sundried tomatoes, and is a delicious meal in winter or summer. There’s so many ways you can serve it – with crusty white bread spread thickly with butter, a dollop of cream cheese, crème fraîche swirled through it, a drizzle of olive oil, toasted pitta bread, a sprig of basil. Or what I really liked as a child was to put a big knob of salty butter into the middle, wait for it to melt and then swirl it in – probably not very healthy, but I loved that extra smooth salty edge it gave the soup.
Homemade Tomato Soup
2 small shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
Tin of plum or cherry tomatoes
Bunch of thyme, leaves only
400-500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Start by softened the chopped shallots over a medium heat. Once they have softened and started to turn translucent, add the sundried tomatoes and thyme leaves.
If you can’t be bothered or don’t have the time to pick off all the leaves, pop the whole sprigs in to impart their flavour - just before you blend the soup remember to remove the sprigs or you’ll end up with bits of twig in every mouthful…it’s not pleasant!
After a couple of minutes, add the tinned tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon.
Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Turn off the heat, remove any sprigs of thyme if left whole, and blend to a smooth puree.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and eat straightaway however you wish.
I’ve spent a lovely day at the Tatton Flower Show with N’s mom. Tatton is quite near to us, so N’s mom headed over to ours early this morning, then we set off in convoy. The weather switched between warm sunny spells and sudden downpours – there is a constant eb-and-flow of people rushing into the pavilions as the rain buckets down, then back out into the show ground when the sun reappears.
There were some lovely garden designs this year (my favourites are always the back-to-back gardens as they are small ordinary-sized gardens), although I think there were more I loved last at last year’s show. One of my favourite garden’s this year was ‘Be Fruitful’ and is the only one I took photographs of.
I’m not a huge fruit lover (although raspberries and alpine strawberries go down a treat), but this garden was delightful. It was an urban fruit orchard, with small espalier apple trees and strawberries in window boxes, interplanted with soft grasses and chocolate brown scabious.
We discovered these beautiful little tomatoes called red currant. They produce slender bunches of tiny red tomatoes, much smaller than cherry tomatoes. We picked up a seed catalogue from the exhibitor and will hopefully buy some seeds next spring to try growing them.
This exhibitor also had some other fabulous vegetables. Including these other fabulous varieties of tomatoes…
And take a look at those onions!
And here’s something to keep me dreaming – I didn’t ask the price…
I bought some lovely things including a couple of grasses (including a bunny tails grass! very cute), a pretty new lantern, a cosy waterbottle, a outside light for the front of our house, and some fantastic sounding anti-slug pullets made from wool. If I get time towards the end of the week I would love to share with you this great product – I put some down straight away when I got home, so we shall see if it helps my slug and snail problem.
If anyone else has been to Tatton today, or is going over the next couple of days, I hope you have a great time!
As a child courgettes were one of the vegetables I loathed. I remember them cut in thick slices and cooked until slightly soft and mushy. They were gross.
Now I have a much better relationship with courgettes, I have found ways in which to eat and cook them which have made me fall in love with them. Courgettes are starting to ripen and I picked up a couple from Little Heath Farm that had been grown by a local lady with a large garden. There was a perfectly formed round yellow courgette which I couldn’t resist, and chose a couple of green ones as well. With some delicious French chevre cheese in the fridge along with a pack of Parma ham, a simple egg dinner was dreamt up – a frittata (fantastic as a store cupboard meal for those evenings when you can’t think what else to cook) with courgette, goat’s cheese and shreds of salty ham.
I’ve got another lovely courgette dish that I’ll post soon – semi-dried courgette and chilli pasta.
Here’s how to make it…
Soften half an onion in a little butter and oil. Next, grate up your courgettes and pop them into the pan.
There’s quite a bit of water in the courgettes, so let it cook out and then continue to saute the courgette until all the liquid has disappeared – a beautiful smell will start to waft up and fill your nostrils. Then you know it’s ready.
Whisk up a couple of eggs (I used four for two of us) and season well with ground pepper and salt…
Pour the beaten eggs into the pan with the courgette and onion mixture. Crumble over the goat’s cheese…
Finally shred over the Parma ham and bung in the oven for about 15 minutes until cooked.
I find the frittata is best left for 10-15 minutes before eating, more of the flavours come through than when it’s piping hot.
Now here’s the recipe for anyone who fancies making it for themselves.
Courgette, goat’s cheese and Parma ham frittata
Feeds two hungry people
1/2 onion, diced
2 courgettes (1 green, 1 yellow)
1/2 slice of goat’s cheese
a couple of slices of Parma ham, torn into pieces
*Please note, ideally you need a pan with a metal handle that can go into the oven – if you don’t, you will need to pop it under the grill rather than in the oven.
Preheat the oven to about 200°C.
In a pan, heat a little butter and olive oil and saute the chopped onion until soft.
Grate the courgettes and add to the softened onion. Cook the courgettes – water will come out of them, so just keep cooking them gently until it all disappears and it starts to smell nice.
Beat the egg and season well with salt and pepper. Tip the egg into the pan with the courgettes and onion and keep on a medium heat while you crumble over the goat’s cheese and add the torn Parma ham.
Turn off the heat and bung the pan into the oven for about 15 minutes until nicely golden on top and cooked through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little (about 10-15 minutes). Cut into wedges and serve on its own or with a garden fresh green salad.
Image: The Soil Association
I receive occasional emails from the Soil Association, and today an email landed in my inbox that asked my to help ‘Save the honeybee’. I’m aware of some of the problems the honeybee is facing, so always keen to do my bit to help I clicked on the link and signed their petition.
If you’re interested in trying to help the honeybee, this is what the email said:
‘Over the last two years in the UK, beekeepers have reported a one in three loss of bee colonies. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been shown to kill honeybees and the Soil Association believes that these pesticides should be banned today. We’ve launched an online petition calling on the Government to do just this. Lend us your voice by signing our petition today.’
Please help the honeybee by adding your name to the petition – click here to find out more and sign the petition.
Yesterday at work we celebrated our 11th Birthday – why 11th, you ask? Well, we forgot last year that the business had turned 10, so we’re celebrating now. Also, my dear colleague Paul is leaving us and heading back to his native Australia.
So we celebrated with a very English afternoon tea in a meadow, believe it or not in the city. We had a tented camp, bunting hanging from the trees, live music, and lots of good friends. There were scones and jam, make-it-yourself knicker-bocker-glories, and baskets of tiny sandwiches.
My colleague and I were responsible for the baskets of sandwiches, and had spent all morning making them. We made three varieties: egg mayonnaise with lots of chives on a white Polish rye bread; smoked salmon with a tangy lemon cream cheese on a deep campagrain bread; and (my absolute favourite, and my own invention) my take on cheese and pickle, a Welsh blue brie with sweet onion chutney on a fragrant seeded bread.
So here’s a quick round-up of our lovely afternoon:
…How to make your knicker-bocker-glory…
…A table groaning under the weight of jam, cream and Jane’s utterly perfect scones (recipe coming soon!)…
…The wheelbarrow of drinks on ice…
…Soft white egg and chive sandwiches with pretty cocktail flags…
…and the band creating a lovely atmosphere…
A quick hello at the end of long day. N and I have had a lovely week of cooking and eating – we’ve made fairy cakes with butter icing and raspberry jam…pink gooseberry and nettle fool…pasta with homemade fresh tomato sauce and basil dressing…and pea, mint and taleggio risotto.
I’ve spent hours stood in my vegetable patch munching on so many peas that I couldn’t eat anymore….picked juicy strawberries that have never reached the kitchen…tidied the allotment and watched ladybird larvee turn into ladybirds…and been to a lovely garden party in Walton Lea’s walled garden.
The weather in the UK is positively balmy, and what we really want to eat lots of is salad. Most other food just seems too much in this heat. So here is a healthy but most importantly delicious salad, with tomatoes, beans and new potatoes and a zingy citrus and chilli dressing.
Zingy tomato and bean salad
Feeds 2-4 people
1 x tin haricot beans, drained and rinsed
200g new potatoes
200g cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions
Bunch of flat leaf parsley
1/2 red chilli
A couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
Cook the new potatoes, drain and cut into chunks. While the potatoes are cooking, slice up the cherry tomatoes and spring onions.
Mix the potatoes, beans and tomatoes together in a serving bowl.
Roughly chop the parsley and pop into a separate bowl. Finely chop the chilli and add it to the parsley. Tip in the sliced spring onions, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon. Give it a good mix and add a bit more oil if you want it a bit runnier. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the potatoes, beans and tomatoes and mix well. The potatoes gently start to melt and the dressing will seep into them and the beans and this is just scrumptious.
Eat on its own, or with some grilled chicken or fish.