Thursday, 25 August 2011

A Recommendation...

If like me you are a blog whore and are always looking for more to read can I recommend a new blog to you...

I found Jo through twitter and he chicken chat never fails to make me giggle. She is a big fan of chooks especially ex batts and I know a lot of you are too. She has a lot of interesting things to say and lots of sweet chicken photos for those like me who love to oggle a hen. And don't miss out on Chicken Cuddling Wednesday!

She's at

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I've got worms...

I never thought I would be so proud to share this with an online community.

On August the 5th I turned 23. This is old. I know. I feel the presents I got just about sum up my life- a pair of vintage diamond earings from The (lovely) Boyf and a compost wormery, the can-o-worms. glam.

As this was also the day I was unchained from my desk and allowed to go on holiday, I got an "IOU" for the actual worms from Wiggly Wigglers.

Naturally, I sent off for the worms as soon as I got back from holiday and the little loves will be winging their way to me soon. Of course, as soon as I get them settled in I will post and show you all my gorgeous new pets! Anyone got any tips for a novice?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Gone to seed...

Last night, after two weeks away I decided to brave the allotment. Whilst we were in France The Boyf's mum had been looking after the plot, watering and harvesting so we knew nothing would be dead...quite the opposite in fact. Everything from the broccoli to the chard has gone to seed.

Now, I feel the normal reaction to this would be disappointment but the hippy in me was pretty pleased. Who knew broccoli turned into such beautiful flowers? It almost seems a shame to eat it. The bees were absolutely mad for it and that makes me just as happy as having a plate of steamed broccoli...well almost.

Interestingly, for those who are inclined to neglect their veggies, chicory also transforms from a horrible hairy bitter vegetable into a lovely flower...although I won’t be wasting space with them again as they’re yicky.

My chard, another vegetable I have been particularly uninterested in this year has grown to absolute mammoth proportions, at least 6 foot. Do you think I could enter it into the tallest sun flower competition?

I also found this beauty growing up my runner beans...I think it could be a beetroot or a radish gone wild...pretty though eh?

My wildflower section, which is my favorite part of the plot was absolutely blooming when we got back. Full of bees and bugs and lovely things. I cut lots of little bunches of flowers to take home and fill the house. And the sweet peas are still going!

I have decided next year to focus more on fruits at the allotment as I think it’s the most value for money and I get the most pleasure from them, jams, pies, compote....yum yum yum. Alongside the usual raspberries and strawberries I have also been growing goldenberries, which taste like a cross between a tomato and a pineapple apparently- they’re the things you sometimes get on the side of your pudding in restaurants, in the Chinese lantern like leaves. Mine have been falling off the plant too early which is no good, but at least the chickens are enjoying them. I have collected and frozen a few but I’m not really sure what to do with them! I have also picked up a goji berry for a couple of pounds in a garden centre sale, I don’t know if it will grow but we’ll see. Does anyone have any recommendations for interesting fruits which are fun to grow and productive?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

In Which I Return...

Never fear dear readers, I am back. I nearly stayed in Provence but I was dragged cruelly from my pool side lounger when the wine was dried up, the cheese finished and all the fruit and veg eaten.

Eating has been the theme of my fortnight- it’s so easy to eat constantly when all the food is so absolutely beautiful. Even the most simple dish of pasta becomes a gastronomic delight when you add freshly made sauce, herbs straight from the garden, locally produced cheese and a carafe or two of wine from the vineyard down the road. I was in food heaven.

One particularly beautiful restaurant, where we sat nestled amongst lavender flowers and surrounded by butterflies and hummingbird moths and later bats sticks in my mind as some of the most beautiful food I have ever eaten. Most small French restaurants don’t do so well with the old vegetarian option, the veggie main option on a very limited menu, explained at great length by the owner was- “tomato”- I wasn’t expecting great things. How wrong I was. The starter of summer salad was bejewelled with stunning edible flowers, miniature mushrooms and interesting leaves. Even The Boyf, the ultimate salad dodger was impressed. The “tomato” main blew me away as I was presented with a platter of more types of tomato than I could count, in every colour from black to green to yellow, interlaced with a mixture of fresh and smoked mozzarella. I ate so much I had to be carried back to the house.

The town we stayed in had some stunning markets -it was easy to see where the restaurant got their produce from. Tuesday morning is the big one, the whole of the town is taken over by stall after stall of homemade bread and crafts and home grown fruit and veg. For next to no money you could fill bags full and spend the next few days eating nothing but fruit, veg, bread and cheese. Returning to the tomatoes, I was completely baffled. How can one farm produce so many different types of tomato every week when Sainsbos and Waitrose can only deliver watery red tomatoes whose variety extends to small , medium, large? I think we’re being diddled! (I am, needless to say, already drawing up plans for a greenhouse where I can gow my own!)

There was also a small, more local market on a Saturday morning. Here old farmers from the small holdings and farms around the town bought their weekly wares to sell. There was everything from cut flowers to olive tree saplings- including one very elderly man selling tiny little bunches of Parsley and nothing else. They won’t let you buy anything until you have had a taste so you come away feeling as if you’d eaten dinner. It was absolutely stunning.

I am still in my sunny foody day dream, despite arriving at St Pancras international in the rain last night and being plunged right back into the madness that is London on a Saturday night. To go to work tomorrow seems like a complete travesty! Tomorrow it is back to reality, the post holiday diet must begin and I must venture to the allotment. But for now, I lie back, eat a tomato and dream of Provence.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A creative weekend...

This weekend the sun has been shining and I had four long sunny days off work...bliss. So I decided to get my creative hat on. The last time I dusted down my creative hat the experience ended in a paddy that the ingredients I wanted for my gruyere and asparagus quiche had not magically found their way into the fridge. I was left holding four eggs and a smashed up quiche tin. Bad times.

Taking it easy I decided to go for one of my famous “allotment” prefixed recipes...allotment soup, allotment jam, essentially anything I can get my hands on mixed together. Now I have a new one to add to my list, Allotment Coleslaw. An assortment of raw allotment veg covered in mayo. No quiche tin involved. Despite almost losing a finger tip in the onion cutting process- this came out lovely. A massive bowl of Coleslaw for lunch and dinner yum. I used one of my amazing red cabbages (which have really taken me by surprise this summer), a red onion, some of my lovely little French market carrot (a little tricky to grate- I really am surprised I came away with 10 fingers after this...) and one of my many many courgettes.

During a particularly productive internet recipe porn session I came across and recipe for Rose Petal Jam. The whimsical, Enid Blyton sounding name of it was enough for me to head out with my secateurs, determined to serve it with lashing and lashings of cream and ginger beer.

I think the essential recipe is to match whatever you have in rose petals with sugar and a squeeze of lemon. I kind of blagged it. But a word of warning- 5oz of rose petals is a lot of roses! I ended up going feral and collecting wherever I went- it took me about 3 days to get enough petals. You have to cut off the white bit at the bottom of the petals and then boil the rest with sugar. I did read somewhere that you should only use white, red or pink petals. I haven’t yet got a nice photo of the jam. I think that says quite a lot- it’s not very pretty. The texture is a little strange because I used fairly big petals, next time I think I’ll cut them up and mix with some fruit. It didn’t taste that bad though- just not as good as my lovely raspberry lovely.

With a slightly different creative hat on, The Boyf and I travelled up to Oxfordshire on Sunday morning to build a Princess Fort. Oh yes indeedy. I say we, obviously I was supervising from the sidelines whilst The Boyf and my cousin my lovely baba cousins Tabitha and Scarlett their castle, complete with slide. What talents that boy has!

Tonight I am going blackberry picking- I can’t stand the thought of going on holiday and leaving all that lovely fruit lying around to go off by the time I get back. I will pick as much as I can, with the help of the long suffering Boyf and his massive blackberry picking boots and stick (flip flops will not cut it on this mission!) and freeze them, ready to make jam and compot when I get back from France.

I hope you’re all out enjoying the sunshine!