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We have finally found some time to spend in our garden and on our allotment.  Being there is one of the most peaceful times, I find myself with an empty, calm mind and it’s blissful.

We are trying to do little by little at the moment rather than our usual tendency to over-exert ourselves one day and not come back for weeks.  We have got some bark chippings down to mark out four beds and have started to plant in some seedlings.

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These peas I’ve grown from seed – I’m just hoping the bunnies or slugs don’t munch on them.

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Dinner tonight was in a hurry – thankfully just the making part, the eating was a little more relaxed.  We made a trout, pea and chive pasta with a silky coating of creme fraiche. 

First I steamed the trout fillets and then used the pan of water to cook the pasta and peas together.  The pasta we used was a small-ish tube cross shell – perfect for scooping up the peas!

Once the pasta was cooked and drained, I used some of the reserved cooking water to thin out the creme fraiche into a nice sauce.  Into this went the chopped chives, then the peas and pasta.  The final step was to season with salt and pepper and stir through the flakes of trout.

It tasted even better than I hoped, definitely one to make again.  Is anyone else suffering from work and life overload and struggling to feed themselves well?  I feel like I’m living on bread and dairy at the moment, and I long for the salads and fresh dinners of summer sat on the patio.

I’ve made chopped salads before and love the simplicity of the concept – chop a whole load of salad ingredients together with a splash of dressing.  Yup, that’s it.  It appeals to me when I’m working at home and want a quick but healthy sort of lunch. 

It may seem daft to sort of mush up all those lovely ingredients into one pile of finely chopped salad, but I think it actually does something to the flavour.  By chopping things together the flavours begin to mingle to create something new and wonderful.

For this green salad, I started by chopping together lettuce (a crisp crunchy lettuce like cos or baby gem work best – soft leaved lettuce will just disappear into nothing), cucumber, spring onions, and parsley (but you could use herbs and a mixture would be lovely).

Then I chopped up an avocado and mixed everything together in a bowl.  Next, I made a hollow in the salad and added my dressing ingredients – a place of mustard (I used Dijon), vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Then give everything a really good mix together so that all the ingredients and flavours can start to mingle.

At this point taste it and adjust the dressing flavourings to taste.  You can also add in other bits and pieces – I crumbled in some Cheddar cheese.

Finally, I mounded it into my bowl and topped with a generous sprinkle of crumbled Cheddar.  A fantastic way to eat a lot of vegetables – in this case a lot of green ones – and a different take on the salad.

What do you put into your chopped salad?  Pieces of crispy bacon appeal to me.

Our pre-dinner nibble – cheese and herb flowerpot bread (from Bath farmer’s market – more on that to come!), Mrs Kirkham’s crumbly Lancashire cheese, and Killerton Estate apple chutney.

Scrummy.

I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

Our allotment is beginning to take shape – finally it looks like an allotment.  That might sound funny, but it’s true.  Until the other week it wasn’t much more than a strip of motorway verge.  All overgrown and unloved.

Now it has a small lawn (currently suffering under the baking sun) for us to sit and eat lunch on, a herb garden (thyme in full flower), potatoes about to flower, sunflowers, courgette and pumkin plants, slender sweetcorn plants, and the beginnings of bark pathways.  It is so exciting!

Dinner last night – scrambled eggs my way with a generous amount of garden grown herbs (chives, mint, parsley, oregano, and chive flowers) on a fresh bagel with lettuce, homegrown rainbow radishes and a mustard vinaigrette. 

Bliss.

Some lovely friends of ours invited us round for tea last night – a scrumptious Jamie Oliver recipe from his Italy book of Sausages and Green Lentils with Tomato Salsa.  It’s one I’ve been meaning to try for a while…and now we’ve tasted it I’ll definitely be making it myself.

It’s always nice to take a little gift when you go out for dinner, so with the sun shining I headed down the garden to gather a small edible bunch of herbs. 

I collected mint, golden marjoram, rosemary, fennel fronds, flat leaf parsley and some jolly purple chive flowers.  All tied up with some purple raffia it was a simple but pretty gift that not only looked nice but could be used in cooking as well. 

We are off this weekend to visit my family and do some more wedding planning – this weekend ‘food’ is on the agenda.  We want a seasonal May wedding next year so the idea is to go to Stroud Farmer’s Market to see what’s available at the moment and dream up delicious dishes for our wedding feast.

A busy day of gardening both at home and the allotment. 

We planted out some pea seedlings that Buddy had tried to destroy previously – fingers-crossed they will survive.  They are supported with some chicken wire and bamboo canes.

I went to Kenyon Hall Farm and spent large amounts of money on beautiful herbs, more pea and broad bean plants, two Delphiniums and some asparagus for tea.

At the allotment I planted out six types of thyme:

Common

Lemon

Golden

Doone Valley

Redstart

and Vey

As you can tell I love thyme!

Next followed two chive and two heartsease plants. 

These are added to the lavender, tarragon and sage plants already dug into my new herb beds.

Happy digging!

Yesterday we finished off my new herb beds at the allotment.  We have created two L-shaped raised beds with timber planks left on our allotment by the previous owner.  In the bare patch of soil between the beds we are going to put some turf and create a small grassy spot on which we can sit and eat our lunches.

So far in my new herb beds I have planted: 2 lavender, 2 sage of different varieties and a French tarragon.  I am planning to make a trip to Kenyon Hall Farm to source the rest of the herbs to fill these beds as they have a truly wonderful selection – at least 20 varieties of thyme (which is possibly my favourite herb).

We also started digging on the next section of the allotment – I plan to divide it into four beds and plant potatoes into two of those – they have chitted well and I am behind in getting them in the ground.  Work for this week.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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