Thursday, 15 December 2011

I Love Squash

Dilemma - I forgot to go and collect veg from the allotment at the weekend (no sprouts this week) and we wanted some veg to go with our tea. What comes to the rescue? Squash.

They sit in the house happy for months (last year they were still alright in may) and they taste amazing. Tonight I roasted a squash with some home grown shallots and peppers, with a little olive oil, to have with salmon, and they tasted so good. I even left the skin on, I just washed them, chopped and de-seeded them and chucked them in the oven - what could be easier? I could have cooked the seeds as well for a snack.

These could be bordering on the perfect vegetable (I love growing them as well)! What do you think?

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Visit From Mr. Fox

Woke up this morning and went through all my usual routines, then unlocked the back door - but didn't hear the chickens going mad like they usually do when I go outside. I knew straight away what must have happened, I grabbed a torch and confirmed it.

All nine chickens dead. The fox had only taken one and killed the rest for fun, they lay around the pen, heads bitten off.

I guess I've only got myself to blame as for the last four years I've only shut them in when its been cold and the one pen I thought was pretty fox proof. I'll learn from this and make sure in future I always shut them in - being in a village with a big fence all round the garden is no obstacle to a fox!

Even though I know the fox will be back tonight I don't feel very good about waving my 12 bore out of the bedroom window in the middle of a village (even though one neighbour has asked me to) and I can't set any snares or traps due to to other wildlife.

Looks like the fox won this one.

I'll have to wait until the spring now to get some more chickens so no fresh eggs this winter.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Drying Chilli Peppers

Its that time of year again when everything has to be stored up for winter use.

My Chillies have done well this year, although we never really use many they're nice to have in the store cupboard. Last year I tried drying them on a string in the kitchen but they went moldy in a few weeks so this year I've gone back to the food dryer as that worked so well before. We're still using chilli flakes from three years ago dried in this way so it seems silly not to use it again, I might also make some chilli and tomato chutney if I can find enough jars!

How does everyone else store their chillies for winter?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

I've met hugh!

Well today I met one of my hero's, someone who I can say, without exaggerating, changed my outlook on life and my life in general.
When I brought the River Cottage Cook Book all those years ago I had no idea what an influence it would have on me (and now my wife) and I'm sure this will continue for the rest of my (our)days. This book made me look at all food differently, I planted an orchard and started to garden, made my own wine and preserves, started to eat what I shot, it influenced our first house purchase (as I wanted a large garden), it made me read more on all the subjects of food and then on other items that should be locally produced. There were other influences in my life that have lead to this but it was reading that book that actually made me start to do all these things instead of talk about them.

Of course I didn't say any of this. Just told him my name for the signing and then stood behind him for an awkward photo! Still I was beaming as I walked out of the tent!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Squash!

I think that one of my favorite vegetables to grow is the squash.

They're easy to grow (if you've got the space)

They keep right through the winter and into spring (we just keep them in a box under the spare bed).

They taste great with loads of ways of cooking them.

They look great with hundreds of different colours and varieties. This year I grew lots of different types (can't figure out which is which now though!) and although they're a little small we had quite a good harvest from them.

I can see why they were such a staple in the past.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Neglect



Well I've certainly neglected this blog in favour of my other one @ http://sawdustinmysocks.blogspot.com/

But I've still been quite busy growing and preserving. As I speak I've got a load of apples and raspberries in the food dryer and we'll be having our own cauliflower, cabbage, beans and potatoes for tea.


The allotment has suffered a little this year as there is no way we could get down there to water it as much as it needed so some crops look terrible (sweetcorn looked bad but now the mice have eaten it anyway, so that doesn't matter anymore!). But others, like the squashes, are doing well.

The raspberries are brilliant this year and from one row we're picking a huge punit each week.

I think I'll be putting some more in next year!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Planting frenzy!

I glazed my new/old greenhouse yesterday so I've got lots of new growing space.
Today I went mad and planted every type of seed I had in my box and pretty much filled the new space. Is it bad that my mouth was watering as I planted some of these seeds, thinking aabout all the tomatos, chillis, brussel spouts, strawberries.... (yum yum)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

River Cottage Weekend

For Christmas my lovely wife brought me a present (and her) of going down to Devon for the weekend and having a four course meal at River Cottage. I was excited - I've read all the books, watched all the programmes now I was going to get to eat there!
The whole weekend was just perfect, the B&B was lovely in a Victorian mansion with a 4 poster bed, at the B&B we met another lovely couple staying there who were going to the meal as well.
I got to go to Axminster tool shop (my favorite shop in the world) and the river cottage canteen during the day as well as a wonder round Lyme Regis trying to find fossils on the beach.
The meal that night at River Cottage HQ was amazing. To start with we had four different canopies, each lovely, before we were seated down two long tables. This created a really nice atmosphere as people weren't just in their little groups. Gill the chef came out and explained what we were to be eating and a little about where the food had come from.
Our courses were:
-Ham hock terrine with sour dough and piccalilli (I don't normally like piccalilli but this was lovely)
- Stinging nettle soup with a poached egg
- Black bream with Jerusalem artichokes and home made chorizo
- hot carrot cake muffing with panocotta

There wasn't a single course I'd change, it all tasted great and the portions weren't too small!

I didn't take any pictures inside but I got one of their meat curing area as we were waiting for the tractor to take us back to the car park.




Monday, 14 March 2011

Onions in!

I've finally managed to get all of my onions in, leaving enough room in the allum bed for my leeks when I get round to planting them! This Sunday the ground worked perfectly and you only had to tap the clods with a spade and it fell into the idea seed bed. My rows of shallots and onions looked as happy as little bulbs could!
We also had a big push on weeding, trying to get rid of the grass that's springing up everywhere, I think we might bark the fruit area to stop this and make it easier to maintain.We moved a couple of raised beds as well to give a larger seating area by the shed and it meant digging about 20 kg of parsnips up. I've never seen my wife make so much soup!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Allotment Orchard

This weekend Ive expanded my fruit garden down at the allotment. A nectarine, plum, braeburn apple, cox apple, redcurrant and a gooseberry bush have all gone in. I planted the nectarine on the south side of the shed to give it added protection, so I will hopefully get a few fruits from it. The apples and plum were planted on the furthest south fence so they don't shade any of my plot. I also dug in some Jerusalem artichokes in my new perennial area so that should keep us farting next winter (mind you I've never tried them so I might not like them!).

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Last Sunday's roast

The cockerel has crowed its last crow.
After a light hearted complaint from a neighbour, I decided it was time to silence the cockerel and his mate (one was just starting to crow) and make a nice dinner out of them. Not only was he noisy but he also liked to get violent, my wife didn't like to be in the pen with him.
"Little chicken syndrome"
They both had loads of fat inside them (from their mainly corn fed diet) and the leg meat was much darker than what you buy in the shops (mainly because he'd been using them). Very tasty and they fed three of us easily with big greedy portions. Might have to hatch some more meat birds later in the year.
The rest of the hen are fine and enjoying themselves, spending their days scratching in the dirt and eating all the brussel sprouts that have "blown". I will have to find these new hens homes soon so I can replant the lawn for the summer! They've just started to lay (21 weeks old this week) and I keep finding little bantam eggs dotted around the pen.

Monday, 24 January 2011

marmalade

Now I love preserving, I make jams and chutneys all the time, but I've never made marmalade. The main reason for this is because it tastes like the most bitter orange minced up into a paste with chewy bits in. But my wife likes it and she was given a large bag of Seville oranges at work so I thought it was best to try my hand at making some - at worst it would make the house smell nicer than boiling vinegar for a chutney! I found a recipe on the Internet and loosely followed it (as usual). This involved poaching the oranges for a couple of hours, then cutting them in half and scooping out the insides and pith into a separate saucepan. This pith, flesh and seeds then gets simmered for a while before getting poured into muslin cloth and suspended (precariously) over the rest of the liquid.
The peal is then cut into thin strips and added to this liquid as well. As I had about 4 lbs of oranges I added about 6lbs of sugar and after squeezing the last bits of juice from the cloth into the pan I boiled it rapidly until setting point was reached. This took f-o-r-e-v-e-r, I must buy some petin when I see it!
In the end I made 12 jars of marmalade and Claire said it was lovely (I think it smells nice and keep trying it, but every time it taste terrible and leaves a bitter taste at the back of my throat - I don't think I'll ever be a fan!). Bad photo at the end sorry!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Allotment HQ

A phone call the Thursday before last from my mothering law told me that one of her friends had a shed going spare, but it had to be gone by Sunday.
I got dad to meet me there on the Saturday with a trailer (I'd already taken it down) and we drove it up to the allotment. The shed is in great condition but it was quite heavy to carry across a very muddy field - I'm fairly sure my arms were 2 inches long by the time we'd taken the final load across.
This Saturday (with the help of my friend Terry) I managed to put up the shed at its new home down on the allotment. I've re-felted the roof but I've still got to board up the window and give it a lick of paint to make it look a bit nicer. It already feels like a nice base on the allotment - I'm looking forward to putting our little ball bearing lawn mower and car boot tools down there.
I'm really pleased with our freebie - Thanks to my mothering law!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Wassail!

Drink Hail!
I was a bit heavy headed this morning as last night we had to scare the evil spirits away from the orchard and drink a fair amount of cider in the process.
It was a bit of a random night, we went to the Flease Inn in Bretforton (the next village over from ours to join in on the Wassail. When we first got there I could see that my friend Terry was unconvinced as there were Morris dancers everywhere and "black" woman (faces painted, dressed as witches) all dancing and singing in the courtyard of this national trust Inn. We battled our way to the bar, got some "proper" cider (flat and rough - just how I like it) and after the first pint we were loving it. Toast was dipped in cider and hung from the branches and cider poured at its roots, then more singing and dancing.

I think at these sorts of events you have to just jump right in and get involved, we were all enjoying the dancing and the folk singing by the end of the night.

We met three lads who had just the right attitude, (randomly they were from Shrewsbury, where Terry used to live and they knew him) every month they pick one random event somewhere and just go along and get involved. Last year the one chap broke his leg cheese rolling and next month they're off to run with the bulls in Spain. What really struck me was how even though they'd never been to this pub before they were the first to get up and dance and get the locals up and involved, I thought that was great and I think I need to take a leaf out of their book and not stand at the side so much.
Really great night, I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Not a football fan

To anyone that knows me this will not come as a shock. I don't like football.
But today I got guilted into going to watch a match at the pub. The trouble was its the first time I've seen the sun this year and I was going to waste two hours of daylight, I wasn't happy!
In the end we came to a compromise, I would watch the football with Terry if he gave me an hour digging on the allotment. He agreed and I think we made real headway on turning the soil over on the newer half of the allotment ready for the spring. A few more Sundays like this and I'll be ready for the planting season!