Posts tagged ‘vegetables’

after the snow

‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished’ – Lao Tzu 

Hooray, the first of my bulbs to emerge through the soil.  Smaller than my little finger, I’m not entirely sure which of these hyacinth bulbs it is so just as well I like surprises!  

The rest of my bulbs were planted at the end of November.  Time will tell if my paper bag scribble will help me identify what’s what.  This year’s planting was a bit like painting by numbers so fingers crossed for a beautiful rainbow result and not a techni-colour nightmare.

Elsewhere on the plot post-snow survival is evident in various shades of green, yellow and brown.

The Good (wallflowers, broad beans, grazing rye, autumn raspberries)

The Bad (rotten greens, overly frosted sprouts and soggy spinach)

The Ugly (sludgy cabbages and snow soaked purple sprouting)

February 21, 2010 at 11:00 am 10 comments

King of the spuds – chatting with potato expert Andy McQueen

I went to China on a work trip once.
To a region notorious for cooking cats, turtles and snakes. Not great for a veggie so after visiting the Buddhist Temple in Guangxiao, and feeling some relief at the number of turtles and cats re-homed there, we happily wandered into a vegetarian restaurant tucked away down a side street.   Handed menus filled with photos of dubious looking fake meat dishes, with names you’d expect to find on any Chinese Take-away menu here, I pointed tentatively, whispered reassurances to myself and tried to ignore the impatience of our waitress who was clearly used to more rapid fire ordering.

me – [pointing] this potato dish please.
her – [nod]
me – this chicken one.  But it’s not really chicken is it?
her – no, mock chicken, made with potato flour
me – this dish here.  Is it good?
her – [shakes her head].  This one is better, pork.
me – what about this one?
her – [shakes her head]
me – what’s wrong with it?
her – made of  potato
me – potato’s good.  We like potato.
her – everything you order is potato.  Try something different.  Have beef

I rest my case for why spuds rule!  Wartime Woolton Pie might have proved more popular with the nation if someone had thought to fashion potato starch into chicken.  Personally I think nothing beats the simplicity of a good old fashioned baked potato.  Robinta’s my skin of choice and I’m in good company it seems after attending the Potato Day event at the weekend.

I almost called this post ‘lunching with Spud McQueen‘ but that wouldn’t have been strictly true.  ‘Pouncing on Spud McQueen while he quietly ate his lunch and chatting for ages because he was too nice to turn me away‘ is a bit of a long title don’t you think?  It was a charming conversation and Andy (that’s his real name when he’s not got his potato guru hat on) is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet (if you spot him at any of the other Potato Day events you must go and say ‘hello’).  I caught him mid chuckle in this picture as he playfully asked ‘Do you want me to comb my hair?’ 

I came away with half a dozen tubers of about 10 different varieties based on Andy’s recommendations.  Much easier than trying to make up my own mind from the 100+ available.  And I couldn’t believe how little they cost – a wallet loving £4.66.  So roll on Easter time when potato sowing season starts.  In the meantime I’m off to look for egg boxes to start chitting my tubers.  I’ll catch up with you later in the week with Andy’s Top 10. 

ps.  If you’re still wondering about those Chinese potato dishes rest assured they didn’t taste of meat at all.  Or potato for that matter.  The mashed potato dish arrived looking like a chicken though – with beady black eyes and pointy beak included!

January 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm 7 comments

National potato day events

I love potatoes (nothing new there) and over the last few years we’ve worked out which varieties  fair best at our allotment.  Red skinned Robinta potatoes are our favourite for crispy baked skins and autumn storage and Nicola our early choice for melt in the mouth butter drizzled potato salads (or tossed in olive oil and freshly picked thyme leaves as above) .   No doubt you have favourite varieties to recommend but we stick to what works because the cost in time and money is too great if the spuds we gleefully lift are a disappointment.  I know we might be missing out on something even better so you’ll appreciate my excitement at attending the annual Potato Weekend at Dundry Nurseries for the first time this coming Sunday.

150 varieties of seed potatoes will be for sale by the tuber and veteran potato expert Andy McQueen will be giving talks at 11am and 2.30pm (starts at 9.30, ends at 4.30pm).  Don’t fret if you’re not in Gloucestershire, there are other Potato Day events around the UK.  If you fancy trying different varieties Dundry Nurseries have over 100+ varieties for sale loose.

If you’ve 5 minutes to spare you might enjoy watching the Dig for Victory‘ video here, created by the Ministry of Food when they realised people would go hungry when Britain joined the Second World War.  Gardens, sports pitches and factory grounds, large or small, were given over to vegetable growing and thus allotments were born.  It was estimated that 1.4 million people had allotments by the time the war ended in 1945. 

Potatoes were promoted as a good source of energy and protein and Potato Pete’s recipe book was produced to encourage home growing, harvesting and cooking.  Recipe’s like Woolton pie. It never really took off with the British public and I can imagine why – the ingredients sound a bit beige even for my liking and without fat or flour to make a pastry topping a potato, cauliflower, swede and carrot filling topped with a potato crust is not really deserving of the name pie.

January 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm 13 comments

making kale crisps

Kale is not a vegetable on my ‘love and must grow…’ list but I have 5 bushy plants on my plot because I can’t say no to spare seedlings in need of a home.  After planting them out in June they’ve been left to fend for themselves, apart from picking off the occasional caterpillar that had strayed over from the cabbages, while I wondered how I’d eventually cook them.  Kale crisps are the only way to go now.  Not a limp chewy overcooked leaf in sight.  Just gorgeous melt in the mouth crispy frazzle.

I made these crisps for the first time in November when the white fly were still holding their ground (pic on the right).  If you’ve ever tried washing bugs off kale leaves you’ll know that they’re waterproof and have to be scraped off with your fingers (nice!).  You come to accept that a bit of unwanted bug protein is inevitable when cooking kale but if you can’t bear that thought wait until after Christmas.  My snow covered kale was entirely fly free.  There is a down side to waiting though – frozen kale is not as crunchy and doesn’t keep it’s green colour as well (opening photo is January kale, last photo is November kale)

To make kale crisps (1 serving)

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (375°F). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof  paper or similar.
  • Pick about 5-10 kale leaves (depending on how much you like your greens!). Wash, de-fly and pat dry.
  • Cut the leaves from the stalks and tear into large pieces.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil + 2 teaspoons of you favourite vinegar (I use balsamic) and a sprinkling of salt in a large bowl.  Toss the leaves thoroughly in the dressing.
  • Spread out leaves evenly on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes (some people recommend turning half way through but I never remember to do that!).
  • Enjoy immediately

January 11, 2010 at 11:52 am 13 comments

winter wonderland

It may be freezing outside but when the sun is streaming through the window, the sky is blue and the birds are singing how could you not want to go for a walk?  With a slip and slide in my step I naturally found myself at the allotment gate.  Wrestling with the frozen padlock I smiled to see I was the first visitor of 2010.  And then I realised why:  the padlock was frozen and the new Fortnocks style fencing erected since my last December visit made it impossible to break in.  Fortunately the same big freeze keeping me out was keeping sane people indoors so after a failed attempt with some borrowed WD40 and a knock at a fellow allotment holder’s door I made it plotside through his garden which backs on to the allotment site.

This is the first year I’ve been to the allotment in January and the first time I’ve had anything growing over winter.  The brussell sprouts were nicely preserved under a blanket of snow and the kale is now perfectly white fly free.   

I suspect my broad bean seedlings have snuffed it so I expect I’ll be re-sowing in in February.  So this solitary rye sun seeker was a welcome sight.

Top of my list of allotment things ‘To Do‘ in the Spring will be roofing the shed.  After clearing out all the snow and rain soaked contents that is!

January 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm 8 comments

making curried apple and carrot chutney

My chutney making addiction was ignited about 8 years ago and this recipe was one of the first ones I tried from Sensational Preserves. It has a sweetness akin to mango chutney and is spiced lightly enough to eat in the usual chutney fashion or spoon onto your poppadoms (if you like spicy food you’ll probably want to increase spice quantities to add more of a kick – for a softy like me this is just right).

To make curried apple and carrot chutney
600g/1.25 lb cooking apples peeled, cored and chopped
250g/9 oz carrots, thinly sliced lengthways
1 onion, sliced
115g/4 oz raisins
115g/4 oz fresh horseradish, grated
(I used horcica kremzska, a Slovakian condiment made with horseradish & mustard)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp mustard seeds
300ml/10 fl oz cider vinegar
225g/ 8oz soft light brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt

    • Stir all the ingredients together in a pan and heat gently, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved.
    • Bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring frequently for about 45 minutes, until the ingredients are tender, the chutney is thick and there is no free liquid.
    • Spoon the chutney into warm, clean, dry jars, taking care not to trap any air bubbles (makes about 1.1kg/2.5 lb)
    • Cover with vinegar proof lids and seal.  Store in a cool, dark, dry place for at least 2 months before eating.

Curried apple and carrot chutney was another foraging delight: made using Derek’s carrots and some windfall apples from a new friend at the local leisure centre.  Long story short, Keith and I got talking at the end of our morning swim about apples and he mentioned a friend’s orchard carpeted with apples lying uncollected on the ground.  I asked Keith where the orchard was so I could go collecting myself and I nearly fell over when he said ‘‘well, the easiest thing would be for me to drop a box in to you after I’ve collected them”. And that’s what he did, literally a whole box full.  Beautiful red skinned apples that have since been turned into gorgeous pink cordials and jellies as well as all sorts of chutneys.  The kindness of strangers is certainly alive and well in Gloucester.

I thought I’d post a chutney giveaway tomorrow.  I think I can spare one!
So watch this space….

December 12, 2009 at 9:07 am 13 comments

making beetroot and chocolate cupcakes

These beetroot and chocolate cupcakes went down a storm at a bring-and-share lunch on Saturday.  I found the recipe on the Ooffoo website after posting up my spinach and aubergine lasagne last month.  The funny thing is that the muffin recipe was posted by Mrs Green, a name you may recognise from comments on my blog, whose My Zero Waste blog chronicles her families commitment to recycling and reducing their household waste.  Discovering one of Mrs Green’s recipes was like bumping into an old friend and since the last of my allotment beets were also looking ‘sad‘ in the bottom of the fridge I decided to give the muffins a try.  My beets had been destined for soup but to be honest I was quite relieved to find an alternative –  I can’t can’t quite get my head, or stomach, round the idea of hot purple slurp.  They certainly won’t be left languishing so long next time and this recipe would be ideal for using up those larger, tougher beetroots that often end up on the compost heap.

The original recipe is no longer available on line and I’d adjusted the quantities anyway around the amount of beetroot I had and got 12 cupcakes and a 9” cake out of this much mixture.  I used a melted a bar of dark chocolate instead of cocoa and reduced the quantity of sugar a little.  You’ll not be disappointed with these muffins; they’re beautifully moist and light and a rich chocolatey brown colour which retains the purple hue of the beetroot.  And Mrs Green adds ‘here is a great snack for kids.  Full of the chocolatey sweet taste they want, but with some cunning raisins and beetroot added so that you can help them achieve their 5-a-day quota!’ 

To make beetroot and chocolate cupcakes
300g self raising flour
100g bar of dark chocolate or cocoa powder
280g caster sugar
110g raisins
3 eggs
300ml oil
375g blended cooked beetroot (about 6-10 beets depending on size)

    • Pre heat oven to 190°c
    • Cook the beetroot until soft and then blend with a hand mixer
    • Sift the flour (and cocoa powder if using) into a bowl and add the sugar and raisins. Mix well.
    • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs into the oil.  Add the cooked beetroot and mix well.
    • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix everything together lightly.
    • Spoon the mix into muffin cases or cake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until brown and risen.

ps. …about that 9” cake.  I was going to embark on my maiden freezing of baked goods but having given all the cupcakes away it was the least I could do to let George have the cake! 
Update – I posted this recipe again in 2018 using less sugar – click here if you’d prefer to see that post

 

December 10, 2009 at 8:17 pm 27 comments

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About Nip it in the bud


Welcome to my blog about growing and cooking allotment veg since 2009 and growing sweet boys since 2012. Take a walk with us through our life in Gloucester with a boy, a baby and 3 cats.

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