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I am really enjoying our meat-free month and not really finding it a challenge so far – it’s really great to be trying out a lot of recipes that I would usually not cook because we seem to default to others. The only downside was this evening realising that we couldn’t eat fish and chips at the pub – I was pretty gutted.
Monday 16th January
Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup from the Riverford Cookbook. Pumpkin and tomato soup with a hint of chilli, topped with crumbled tortilla chips, avocado chunks tossed in lime juice, grated Jarlesburg, and coriander.
Utterly, utterly amazing. It’s always those dishes that you want to like, but don’t think you really will, maybe because it contains an ingredient you don’t think you like, and WHAM – so delicious! If there’s one recipe so far I would recommend you make, it would be this one.
Tuesday 17th January
Mushrooms, creme fraiche and pasta. This is Hugh’s mushroom risioniotto…at least I think that’s what it’s called. He does make up some odd names. It’s basically tiny pasta that looks like rice, I love it, it’s very comforting and moreish – probably because you can eat big mouthfuls of it along with some rich sauce. The mushrooms were simply fried in butter until they start to go golden, then some wine and creme fraiche stirred through to make a sauce. I miss calculated the amount of mushrooms and did half the recipe…turns out it was only for 2 people so I definitely won’t mess this up next time, as it did need more mushrooms.
Wednesday 18th January
Roasted tomato and mozzarella risotto. Another from Hugh’s trust Everyday Veg book, and one that we had been cooking regularly before we even considered doing a meat-free month. Yes, perhaps eating tomatoes in January isn’t the most seasonal choice, but my body was craving it and they were bought from Unicorn Grocery in Manchester so not as bad a supermarket tomatoes.
Hugh’s recipe uses a roasted tomato sauce that he also provides a separate recipe for – I just sliced a whole load of plum tomatoes in half and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, sliced garlic and herbs until they were soft and gooey. I think pop the whole lot through my mouli, a carboot bargain that I couldn’t now live without. If the Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup was my top recommended recipe, the mouli would be my top recommended piece of kitchen kit.
Today I have made my first attempt at vegan cupcakes, or fairy buns as I want to call them. Fairy buns because I have made them mini, although they look deceptively larger in the photos – they are in fact made in petit four cases.
I have a good friend whose little girl turns 5 next week, and tomorrow she goes to a wonderful school in a small wood, set up by her mom. Sadly my friend is really unwell at the moment and asked if I could make cupcakes for her to take to school with her.
Following yesterday’s post on processing large amounts of pumpkin puree, we put the first lot to use in a Pumpkin Cinnamon Spice Bread. I followed a recipe from Sunny Side Up in San Diego for Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread.
Originally the recipe came from this Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Butter Rum Glaze created by Willow Bird Baking – a brilliant blog full of delicious sounding recipes.
It is such a delicious, soft bread that I will definitely be making it again – I would like to try it with less sugar and more pumpkin though. It involves making a bread dough that has the pumpkin puree in, then rolling this out, brushing it with butter and covering in a sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg mix.
You get to then press it in with your fingers…
Sunday was spent mostly dealing with this beast…
This is a Zucca de Marmellata grown on our allotment, seeds bought from Sarah Raven. After doing a bit of research it seems to be an Italian variety often known as a jam pumpkin – funnily enough for making pumpkin jam.
In total this pumpkin weighed over 20kg – can’t quite believe it! As you might be able to see from the top picture it had started to go mouldy in the centre, so we will have to ‘process’ the other pumpkin we have of this size soon.
Of the four items we entered at the produce show (pumpkin, 3 potatoes, raspberry jam, and sloe gin) we won two first prizes! One for our jumbo pumpkin…
And the other for our 3 potatoes – which we were really surprised about and very pleased…
Sadly our sloe gin and raspberry jam didn’t get a prize, but I did make them pretty labels…
And the sloe gin was snaffled up by one of our local councillors…
Yesterday we spent a couple of hours at the allotment digging up our potatoes – I can’t believe the amount and size of some of the potatoes we dug up.
So just from one row…
We dug up this overloaded basketful of gorgeous red skinned potatoes…
I must admit that although I did have time to post last night after the stinky boyfriend went to bed, I instead curled up on the sofa with a very cuddly bunny to watch recorded episodes of the Great British Menu. Borage was unusually friendly last night, and even relaxed enough to rest his chin on my arm – he even had a little snooze and did lot of eye fluttering and paw twitching…I can only guess he was running through lush green meadows in his dreams. Funny bunny.
It was only two weeks ago when I posted my April garden update and yet the garden has changed so much since then – the photos were in fact taken at the beginning of the month, but still the changes are notable. The incredibly warm sunny weather we have experienced recently has probably has something to do with the growth spurt. I realise my last garden update was pretty dull, so I have taken lots of photos this time – I do enjoy documenting the changes that the garden goes through as things sprout, grow, fruit and eventually die back.
Those delicate little lettuce seedlings that I bought and carefully protected under improvised cloches are doing really well, with gorgeous glossy leaves. You might notice I’ve suffered two losses of the green batavia (one rotted early on, and the other snapped off, but left a couple of tiny leaves which seems to be recovering well if a little behind the others):
It is becoming very difficult to resist picking these luscious frilly leaves:
The first set of radishes are starting to plump up nicely into small rubies:
These are small cos lettuces that I have sown from seed:
And beautiful burgundy coloured red oakleaf lettuce:
This is one of my raised beds. I have planted to rows of peas, and in between them rows of different salads – some baby leaf, some whole lettuces.
The peas are doing so well and I can’t wait to shell my first pod and pop the first pea into my mouth:
I adore the way they curl their tendrils around the pea sticks and twine. You can almost watch them stretching out their delicate tendrils, and wrapping their fingers around whatever they can find.
I have sown two types of spring onion – ‘Guardsman’ for salads and ‘Paris Silverskin’ for pickling. Both rows are looking healthy:
The tiny carrot’s have unfurled their frothy green foliage :
The rows of oriental saladini and baby leaf salad are starting to form their individual leaves – some round, some spiky, some lush green, others deep purple:
Enough of salads and onto fruit. My strawberry and raspberry ‘jungle’ has transformed from just a month ago:
The wild strawberries are flowering and the raspberry’s have sent up lots of new suckers:
I will certainly be netting my blackcurrant bush this summer – last year the birds got most of the fruits:
In the ‘greenhouse’ the seeds that I have sown are coming along. There are sweetcorn seedlings:
Uchi Kuri squash:
And my first cucmber seedling has sprouted:
I will leave you with this lovely shot of Mr Blackbird sitting on ‘his’ spot as he does every evening as the sun sinks, singing his beautiful tune to us.