Wednesday, 29 February 2012

29 Feb 2012 - Potatoes & Fartichokes

I'm loving this mid-week day off!  I decided that instead of writing a list of things to do, then not get round to doing them all, I'd write the list as I did things and achieve 100%.  I ran out of sunlight at the allotment, but as "planting broadbeans" wasn't on the list, I didn't not do it!

So, my decision at the start of the year to do only an hour at a time at the allotment failed once again.  I did two hours and watched the sunsetting ;-)

I was also fortunate enough to find a frog in the pond - can you? 

Well, onto the work then..... I was so pleased with the way the day ended I have updated the front photo to today's look. 

First job was the potato bed (which is actually on the masterplan as 2 beds, but that will happen next year).  I was truly surprised to see the amount of greenery under the tarp.  They couldn't have been getting any light at all, surely?  Anyway, it was quite easy to dig them up as the soil is quite sandy. 

I've now got the front row as Vales Emerald, the second row as Kerrs Pink and then as the bed widens a bit more, I've split that in 2 squares, so the top left has got the King Edwards and left room for the Pink Fir Apples we got at the seed swap to go top right.

Then it was time to sort out the Jerusalem Artichokes, more than one person has called them Fartichokes - as we've never tried them before, I guess we'll find out!

Artichokes protected
While I was there, I snapped a few photos of how things are coming along - there are a few holes (which may be the rabbits being nosey) around a currant bush, garlic and asparagus - I'm guessing they don't like those, cos they didn't stay long.  I've protected the potatoes and artichokes straight away tho, and will give Mike the good news about his next jobs later!
Garlic shoots
transplanted rhubarb
old strawberries
new strawberries

currant robbers
asparagus investigations

Sunday, 26 February 2012

26 Feb 2012 - Ellie's Plot

Well, this is a little different, but I've been asked to help little Ellie grow her first plants, which I'm over the moon about!  Been patiently waiting for my Mad-Aunty duties to be needed!

I was asked around the start of Feb - the week before all the next-lot-of-snow warnings, so I put it off.  Now it's getting a little better and I've seen daffs and blossom out, we're going to get started.

I want it to be her plot, so I've found a few interesting flowers and veges to grow and she can choose the ones she wants.  All the packets have pictures on, so it'll be much more exciting than pointing to a boring seed! (I hope...)

We've bought her a little spray bottle for watering (not drowning), some labels so she knows something's down there and she's got a choice of:

Chinese lanterns
Peacock Orchids
Freesia (scented)
Californian Poppy
Gourds (decorative)

Lettuce - red, lambs or corn
Coriander - smells fab
Kale -pick a leaf
Rainbow spinach - pick a leaf
Dwarf Beans - burgundy
Pink Fir Apples (potatoes) - 2, complete with egg carton to chit

It is a lot to choose from, but pretty sure she won't want them all - it'll be cool to compare what each of us thinks is a great choice - considering we're a few years older than Ellie....
Aunty: Sunflower, Rainbow Spinach, Peacock Orchids, Burgundy Beans, Potatoes, a Lettuce.
Uncle: Chives, Sunflower, Californian Poppy, Burgundy Beans, Potatoes.
Mum: Burgundy Beans, Rainbow Spinach.
Dad: Californian Poppy, Sunflower.
Actual: Sunflower, Californian Poppy, Coriander, Kale, Potatoes.

I'll be updating with pics throughout the year, so you can just filter by "Ellie's plot" to see how it's growing!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Well here's another first attempt at an Alison Holst recipe from my book that's decades I have to warn you, or you just understand that I probably haven't followed it properly and what I used is in brackets again....
T = tablespoon
t = teaspoon
c = cup

1kg potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
2T butter, 1/2 c grated cheese, Milk - for mashing potatoes
1/2c grated cheese - for topping the mash

1c kidney beans (1/3 each of black turtle beans, marrowfat peas and Pinto beans)
2 large onions, chopped
1 red or green pepper, chopped (orange)
3T wholemeal flour
1t vegetable boillion (bay syrup)
1t dried basil (2t mixed herbs)
1t dried oregano (none)
1t paprika (are they trying to kill me!)
2T parsley (1 T feverfew - I'm new to this herb)
1t dark soy sauce (balsamic vinegar)
1.5c bean cooking stock
2T tomato paste

Because I forgot to soak the beans overnight, I fast soaked them, which means I brought them to the boil for 2 minutes, then let them stand for a couple of hours.  Keep 1.5 cups which will be the cooking stock (above).  I've kept the rest to use in other recipes that need a stock.

Next time, I'll soak them overnight. 

check out the colours!
Cook the onions in butter until golden brown, stir in the pepper, then the flour.  Stir over a moderate heat until the four has browned slight then add the boullion, herbs and soy sauce.  Stir in the bean stock and tomatoe paste.  Bring to the boil, stirring constantly.  Add the beans, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Put the mixture into an oven friendly pan and cover with mashed potato then sprinkle with cheese.

Cook in the oven at 180c (160c for fan oven) for 20-30 minutes, brown the cheese under the grill (if you want).

Serve with green veges if you like, and maybe a glass of wine or beer. (honest, the recipe said that!)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

19 Feb 2012 - Seed Swap Day

Well, Lovely Greens has been involved with planning this day for a while, and I've really been looking forward to it.  Yesterday we got some snow and I was a bit worried we wouldn't get there afterall because of the hills in and out of the area, but I still got my seeds ready - in eager anticipation.  Snaefell is already closed this morning, due to snow.

Bramley Corner recently went to a Potato Swap Day, which I was very jealous of, so hopefully this will make us even!

Going to catch up with The Looney Leadleys and hopefully meet some people from our allotments since we haven't been there long!  I've put my blog address on the back of the seed packets so that hopefully there will be more of us on here chatting away and passing on tips, although it is great reading what people are doing in other areas as well!  (Claire, you've created a monster!)

Of the 24 packets I made, the seeds I chose were: Capsicums (jalapeno), Kohl Rabi (green), Carrots (orange), Artichoke (purple), Spinach (rainbow), Komatsuna (Japanese spinach), Scorzonera (black salsify), Brussell Sprouts (red), Perpetual Spinach (leaf beet), Aubergine (purple).  So, not too many, but enough variety and some exotics in there as well ;-)

Girlie Gardening set up a wee stall in one corner
The weather turned out okay, no problems - the Laxey Sailing Club very nicely put the fire on for us and the turn out was so good that they were running out of members to sign us all in! 

Mike & the Looney Leadleys
Seed Swap table

We caught up with Alison & Tony and the skeet from The Braiid allotments, and we all shared our findings, so we have a few things to experiment with and can compare notes later - see what grows better in the north and centre of the Island!  Also caught up with Vic & Karen who are neighbours at our new allotment, got some potatoes from them and Vic giving us tips on what did well down there for them in previous years.  No sign of Richard, but did find out which plot is his, and it's not the one with the cage.

So, what did we end up with?  Well, we're now the proud owners of Feverfew (herb), Jerusalem Artichoke, Pink Fir Apples, Echinachea, Black Forest Squash, Cape Gooseberry, Garlic Chives, Brocolli - white and purple and Amaranthus Calaloo Red Leaf (which we think is a Jamaican spinach) - so all in all, a fab afternoon spent chatting about things we love! 
What more could you want in life?

If you were there, I'd love to hear what you thought of it, what you got and what you swapped!  If you weren't there, I'd love to hear what other allotment groups get up to!  Thanks for reading.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Lazy Risotto

This is one of my favourite recipes to make - partly because before this, I was rubbish at cooking rice (could kill a man with my rice, just by throwing it at him!)

In my true fashion, you'll be noticing a pattern with my cooking...... it uses one pot, and I don't stick to the recipe much.  Officially, it's Bacon & Leek Risotto.  I've done that a few times, highly recommend you try the original as well as my combinations, and then, pretty soon you'll be making it up as you go along!  My version is in brackets, you'll get the picture.

Technically, it serves 1 - it's a large portion, doubling the recipe serves 3.

1 Leek, sliced (brocolli, sprouts, cabbage, beans)
all the ingredients!
Some Bacon, cut up (tuna, chicken, corned beef, sandwich ham, kippers)
Oil for frying the above
3 types of herbs, about 1 teaspoon each (whatever I've got, spices or herbs)
1/3 oxo cube, other brands available (who cuts one of those up?!  Just don't add salt)
Salt (only if you cut up the oxo cube)
125ml uncooked rice, it might sound odd, but do measure it in mls (300ml serves 4)
Boil the kettle - you'll need 3 times the volume of the rice measured out

Preheat oven to 180c (160c for fan).  You'll need a saucpan with a lid that can go in the oven, or transfer to lidded dish when hob-work is done.

Fry the vege, when soft transfer to a bowl so you can fry off the meat.  When the meat's cooked, put the vege back in and mix.  Add in the herbs, oxo cube, salt and rice, stir for a few minutes to wake up the rice.  Add the water and stir until boiling. 
chicken & leek risotto

Put the lid on and put in the oven, 
Walk away for 40 mins. 

It's also really nice having for lunch the next day,
hot or cold.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

5 Feb 2012 - Tidy up time - Part 4

 Today's job for me was to finish the new strawberry bed that I started on Friday in the freezing cold.... 
strawberries - after
strawberries - before

Mike was going to prune the blackberries and move the tool box so there was a bit more room for walking round.  He even had time to sort out the wire "fence" between our plot and Vic'n'Karen's.
behind the beans - before
behind the compost - before

And here's the final result, quite happy with our work, feeling like we're getting somewhere and it's all coming together nicely ;-)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Hearty Bean Pie

After the bean casserole going down so well, I thought I'd give another bean recipe a go - still simmering the kidney beans for about an hour (15 mins of it boiling).  For 4-6 servings:

2 medium onions, chopped finely
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
1 tablespoon oil
100g mushrooms (I used carrots instead), sliced
1 tsp sugar (forgot, didn't matter)
1/2 teaspoon each of: salt, marjoram, thyme
black pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sour cream (optional, I didn't have any)
about 2 cups cooked beans or lentils (I used 1 can each of kidney and black beans)
200-300 pastry (home-made or bought)
Saute the onion and garlic.  Add the vege(s) and sugar until onions are browned.  Stir in salt, herbs, pepper and flour.  Pour in water slowly, stirring constantly until it's a thick gravy, remove from heat, add the sour cream and stir in the cooked drained beans.  Leave to cool.

Roll out pastry for a 20-25cm pie dish.  Line the pie dish with pastry and add the cooled filling.  Put a pastry lid on the pie and put fork holes in the top.  Bake at 220c for 20 mins.


Verdict - described as a meal that makes you feel happy and smiley!  Guess we'll be having that one again some time!

3 Feb 2012 - Tidy up time - Part 3

 This morning was an early start because I was being a lady-wot-lunches today - perhaps a little too early, because the Pond next door still had ice on it.  It was a little too cold for comfort, but that turned out to be a good thing later on.....
Forcing rhubarb

I had planned to dig over the grass on the other side of the black weedmatting to make an L shaped strawberry bed - but as it turned out, the ground was basically frozen solid.  It's usually quite sandy, but I couldn't get a fork in the soil you see here.  I decided that I'd stop after the hour because If I couldn't even dig the soil, what chance would the new strawberry runners have?
new strawberry bed - after
New strawberry bed - before

If you noticed the clump of grass under the tree, well it was pure evil!  It had grown on top of some carpet I couldn't see, but after I found that, I was slowly trying to pry it free and managed to bend my fingernail back a bit further than they are designed to go ;-(
This is where the cold came in handy - didn't hurt quite as much as it might have, and I think my blood was actually frozen).  I did win eventually, me 2 v 1 grass.  I just want sympathy!  Here's how big the clump was.....
the wounded finger
evil clump of grass gone

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

1 Feb 2012 - Tidy up time - Part 2

Second job on the list was the strawberry
bed.  As you can see, it needed it.

I really thought I was there to dig it over.  It all looked so dead!

Pleasantly surprised to find not only a lot of strawberry plants survived, (you can see little green bits with a magnifying glass) but I managed to get quite a few runners, so I'm going to start a new bed tomorrow - I don't know if this bed has had it's 3 years or not, so it's getting just one more.  The fork is by either a really annoying dock leaf that refuses to budge or another horseradish....grrrrrr to both!