A New No Dig Bed

We had a very productive day on Saturday making a new “no dig” bed with old flattened out bike boxes covered with an inch or two (up to 5cm) very rough homemade compost.

It’s where the old asparagus bed was and the ground has been “rested” for about 3 years.

I’m going to put a new strawberry bed on part of it.

I was lucky to have help from Rebekah for the first part of the day.

We were fortunate the weather had warmed up again after a few days of hard frosts.

I pegged out one of my late father’s old lines and neatened the edges where the grass had started encroaching into the veg garden.

It was just the right length and I had visions of him using it years ago when he first laid it out.

I used a semi circular edger and composted the grass/weeds that I gathered.

The spade was not for digging – honest! It just helped me to edge the grass sward. In the foreground to the right you can see parsley which is self seeding and germinating like mad

I also laid compost around the rhubarb and the rest of the fruit bushes that were missed out last year when I ran out of homemade mulch.

I mixed in some potash from the wood ash from our fireplace to lay around the redcurrants – apparently they like it!

As do overwintering onions which will have to wait their turn until I’ve had a few more fires.

I have inverted an old metal dustbin over one of the rhubarb crowns to force a few pale pink spears for an earlier harvest like I did last year.

Rhubarb
Last year’s champagne pink rhubarb which was forced. Once the bin is removed it quickly reverts to a dark green and red. The hazel behind it has been coppiced and the soil around it has been covered in cardboard to stop weeds and mulched with compost

I’m also weeding the gravel path with a flat shovel/spade – using it almost like a hoe to sever the weeds off at the roots. But I’ll have to be careful to avoid the beautiful clumps of chives which thrive in the edges next to the rhubarb. They spring back year after year then die back to nothing in winter.

This what the chives will be like in three months time – just about to break into spiky round purple flowers

The brick edging is also getting the same treatment – it should look very smart in a couple of weeks time.

I guess you could say this time of year is about preparation – my Dad always said a garden’s made in winter!

This includes going through old seeds, discarding some and keeping others.

I have ordered some new ones including two varieties of beans, “Greek Gigantes” and “Czar”. The former is for drying and keeping as a giant butter bean and the latter can be eaten as a runner bean or also dried for storage for winter soups and stews.

I’m going for celeriac this year and a new variety of beetroot, “Sanguina”.

I would like to plant a persimmon tree but I’m not sure which variety yet.

One of the enduring images I’ve retained of the late autumn landscape in Japan is the orange globes hanging on the bare branches of a tree that had shed its leaves — against a piercing blue sky.

Recently I bought some seed potatoes “Sarpo Mira” – a blight resistant variety from a lovely old fashioned ironmongers and DIY shop in Stalham. I might also plant red skinned “Mozart” as they were so good last year. They will need chitting on a windowsill before planting in April.

I’m planning go to the Norwich Seed Swap in a couple or three weeks time which yielded some great finds last year.

There’s a bit more compost to come  – this is maturing under the makeshift cardboard cover and should be ready in a month or so

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese

I hate to whinge but I’ve been suffering from really bad sciatica.

The physio thinks it’s referred pain from the lower lumbar spine.

The doctor thinks it’s bursitis or inflammation of the hip joint.

Then my acupuncturist suggested that I revert to the ‘healing’ diet I followed for a good year or two after I had breast cancer.

It’s  quite restrictive – but in the past it has worked wonders!

It was prescribed by biopath,  Gudrun Jonnson, who I used to travel to London to see.

Lots of leafy greens but no tomatoes or other nightshades (peppers, aubergines or potatoes) or citrus fruit and no bread or pasta.

And other stimulants like tea, coffee or alcohol are out.

One of the things Gudrun did leave on the list was seeds – as long as they are soaked overnight.

The seeds in the bowl are soaked for 12 hours and – as you can see – compared with the dried ones on the board they swell quite considerably

So I did that with some sunflower seeds and  drew inspiration from this recipe.

It’s called a dip but I think of it more as a cream cheese as I add chives, dill and sometime parsley which reminds me of the French cheese Boursin – that was so popular here in the 70’s!

I added chopped umeboshi plums (a salted plum from Japan) as well as lemon juice.

You can see the umeboshi plum at the back of the board behind the herbs and garlic

You could also use umeboshi plum puree or ume shu (a “vinegar” which is really the brine left over from the pickling process) – all are available in wholefood shops.

But you don’t need to use it if you want to just use the lemon juice on its own.

Anyway – feel free to follow the original or my version – either way it’s delicious.

By the way – the salad and beetroot is from the garden but the herbs in the cream cheese are bought!

Hopefully next year I can keep some going through out the winter without having to resort to the supermarket!

5 from 1 vote
Sunflower Seed Cream Cheese
Servings: 2
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • !/2 cup sunflower seeds, covered in water, soaked,drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 whole umeboshi plums, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients, except the fresh green herbs, in a blender and grind to a smooth paste/cream.

  2. Stir in herbs and serve.

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Spaghetti with chard

Ruby chard yields great harvests throughout most of the year – especially now when it’s still mild and hasn’t been clobbered by frost.

It’s nice washed and wilted with either garlic sliced and softly sauteed in olive oil or sultanas or raisins and toasted pine nuts.

I’m also picking sprouting white and purple broccoli, bulb fennel, red cabbage, kale, parsley, chrysanthemum greens and wonderful salad leaves.

The overwintering garlic and onions, planted in autumn, seem to be doing well – despite some of the new shoots being nibbled by something! They’ll be ready later in the year in early to mid summer.

I’ll also sow some Bedfordshire Champion onion seed under cover next month to supplement these.

They and some shallot sets will be planted out in spring.

In other allium news – the leeks are almost all gone.

I’ve been madly cooking with them over the past month before they go to seed or succumb to rust. Look back at my previous recent posts to find the original recipes for my leek, chestnut and apple pie and the leek, lemon and walnut pilaf.

I’ve made some good leek and potato soups. One I tried to jazz up with white wine and lemon juice – it was OK but I realised simple is best.

This one was made on a rocket stove at the allotment and took more than 2 hours to come to the boil!

It was comprised of a couple of finely chopped shallots, a medium onion also chopped, and about three large leeks well washed and sliced or chopped – greens included.

I threw in a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and about two large peeled potatoes diced maybe 1.5cm or half and inch square.

And covered that with veg stock.

I cooked it for twenty minutes or half and hour.

Then I blended half of it smooth and left the rest chunky. I think a good handful of finely minced parsley lifts the whole thing.

Add a dash of soya cream or milk  just before serving if you like.

Cider update

Well I’m almost ready to bottle – I’m hoping to inveigle friends into helping me.

Tony Davey – a good friend of mine gave me a dozen of his one and a half litre Grolsch bottles which he described as ‘gold dust’.

He also passed on some of his old pressure barrels to make wine.

Thanks Tony!

I should be able to bottle half my 25 litres of cider in these 1500ml bottles

The three barrels he’s given me will allow a little experimental wine making – most likely with the glut of currants and gooseberries that are in the freezer at the moment!

These are some of his demi johns in his amazing wine cellar!

Back to the garden and you can see the chard’s a more intense ruby red than ever.

I’ve given bags of it away to friends.

I learnt a couple of new ways to cook it from Steve who came to stay over New Year.

He made a wonderful tomato, chard, olive and caper pasta sauce with garlic and onion and a slug of red wine.

It was so tasty I had thirds.

The other recipe was a chard and ‘cream’  sauce with nutmeg – also for pasta.

You need to wash the chard well (at least three times in my opinion).

Separate the leaves from the stems and roll them up and slice into thin ribbons.

You fry the chopped stems and onion first in olive oil for about 10 minutes and then add the chard leaf ribbons – stir frying with two spatulas to keep it all in a large frying pan.

Then add and stir in soya cream (I use Provamel) and nutmeg and a little vegetable bouillon  and cook for a further couple of minutes – delicious.

The key is not to swamp the spaghetti.

Spaghetti with chard
Servings: 4
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 400 g Swiss Chard or Ruby Chard stalks and leaves included
  • 250 ml soya cream or oat cream
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • 1 level tsp ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Wash the chard well and separate the main bits of the stalks from the leaves. Cut off any ragged untidy ends of the stalk too.

  2. Chop the stalks into small dice the same size as or slightly larger than your chopped onion (no bigger than your finger nail) 

  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and chard stalks over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't brown.

  4. Then add the chard leaves which you've stacked, rolled and sliced into fine ribbons and cook for another five minutes - keep the leaves moving until they wilt down.

  5. Add cream and the bouillon and the nutmeg and cook gently for another five minutes until the cream has started to thicken and is well incorporated into the chard and onion. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

  6. Serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle ( about 370 g dry weight for 4 people). Don't be tempted to swamp the pasta just a couple or 3 tablespoons of the sauce per person should do.

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Spanish Inspired Pumpkin and Bean Stew

I have a new cook book called Vegan Recipes from Spain which I actually bought from a wonderful bookshop in Norwich called the Book Hive  and not through Amazon!

I bought it because it has a lot of recipes featuring veg I grow in the garden – but surprisingly it didn’t have any pumpkin or squash recipes.

I was in search of a good recipe because some of my pumpkins are going mouldy and need using!

I cut away the affected parts – mostly around the stem – and roasted the rest in thick slices with the skin on.

I then cut them up in chunks and froze them for use in soups or stews.

But I kept some back and still needed a decent recipe for lunch today for my friend Dianne.

So I made this up.

I had a good look through the Vegan Recipes from Spain book and worked out what kind of spices I might use.

Last week I made a Spanish style lentil and squash soup with roasted garlic and sweet paprika. It was good but a little bland.

So I decided to increase the amount of spices I would use in this stew.

I used about a quarter of one of the half a dozen Hungarian Blue pumpkins I grew this summer.

I love the slightly antiseptic taste of saffron which is quintessentially Spanish.

Along with the paprika it gives the stew a great depth of flavour.

I should have used my own borlotti beans which are dried and stored every year but this was all last minute and I didn’t have time to soak them.

I had a couple of tetra packs of organic white beans in the cupboard which I ended up using instead.

The bright colours lifted our mood this grey January day.

It was all I had hoped for and more!

The rest of the pumpkin is in the freezer and will be brought out when I need to make this again – maybe with the borlottis next time round.

I will grow the Hungarian Blue variety again this season.

They are so delicious – not too sweet yet not at all bland.

They also hold their shape well.

Spanish Inspired Pumpkin and Bean Stew
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
 
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Pumpkin
Servings: 6 people
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 750 g roasted pumpkin (skin left on)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 15 strands saffron, soaked in a little hot water
  • 2 tsps sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sharp paprika
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cans cannellini beans or other white beans (460g drained net weight)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 500 ml vegetable stock (2 tsp of bouillon powder added to hot water)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 30 or 40 whole sage leaves
Instructions
  1. Toss in a little olive oil and roast pumpkin between 40 mins and 1 hour or until soft (but not mushy). Then cut into 1 inch cubes (2.5 cm square). Place to one side for use later on

  2. Fry onion & garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan on medium to high heat until transparent and turning pale golden

  3. Add sweet and sharp paprika and stir for a minute or so

  4. Add tomatoes, drained cannellini beans, stock and saffron with its soaking water. Add cubed roasted pumpkin pieces and cook for 40 minutes on a low simmer or in the oven on a low heat

  5. Season to taste with salt 

  6. Rub a little olive oil into sage leaves and either fry (it doesn't take long on the top of the stove) or roast in oven until crispy - about 5 to 10 minutes 

  7. Add chopped parsley to the stew and stir in then top with sage and serve with basmati rice or couscous or cooked bulghur wheat

 

 

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Fruit Sorbet

A couple of weeks ago I looked out onto the garden and saw tiny orange globes hanging from an evergreen shrub in the main border.

I knew my father had planted the Japanese bitter orange as an ornamental specimen. It has shiny smooth green leaves and small fragrant white flowers in spring and early summer that stand out against the dark green yew hedge. It also sports the most vicious looking thorns a couple of inches long!

But I’d never really noticed the small orange fruit. I picked some of them and left them to settle in the kitchen while I wondered what to do with them.

Two weeks later – after Christmas – my friend Steve, came to stay again and pruned the apple and pear trees as well as the quince.

I cut back the gooseberries and redcurrants which were overgrown and tangled in the centre of the bushes to give them some air and to stop disease from creeping in.

The blackcurrants will have a third of their branches taken out when I harvest the fruit in summer.

And the Damson and Victoria plum trees will be pruned in the early spring or summer after the risk of silver leaf disease is over.

“Prune in June,” says Steve!

I’ve also coppiced the hazel tree – which really was overgrown and shading some of the vegetable beds. I cut the whole lot down to the base of the main trunk.

It should send up new growth which will make new hazel poles for use as supports. The twigs I will use as pea sticks.

I also turned the compost heap, forking a lot of the main pile into two black plastic dalek style bins – it’s breaking down nicely and should be ready for the new growing season in a couple of months time.

In other news: We are still able to pick salad including lettuce and curly endive growing under thick fleece, as well as parsley and chrysanthemum greens and stridolo – an Italian herb. I brined some oriental mustard leaves recently which are very tasty – and pungently hot!

Leeks have been great in soup and raw grated beetroot has been a refreshing salad with sliced orange and half moons of red onion dressed in red wine vinegar and olive oil.

As well as cooking together – Steve produced some amazing meals. I’ll post three recipes of his – using the ruby chard you can see below – next time.

He also found a use for the bitter orange which is very similar to Japanese wild orange or yuzu. It’s not eaten as a fruit but is used primarily for it’s scented juice and zest.

He used this to lace a black fruit sorbet with a tantalising tang of citrus.

Steve defrosted some of our blackcurrants and blackberries and macerated them overnight in sugar before adding a small amount of gin, the zest and tiny amount of juice from the bitter orange as well as an ordinary orange and blending it.

Then it went into the freezer and emerged a grainy, luscious sorbet the like of which I haven’t tasted for a long time.

He did the same with tayberries (a kind of raspberry), redcurrants and ordinary orange zest and juice with a couple of large jiggers of gin.   Again – a taste sensation!

What I liked was he didn’t try to sieve out the pips – he used the whole fruit – and I think it’s better for that. Anyway – the basic recipe is from this amazing website.

It’s worth mentioning that Steve didn’t use an ice cream maker or take the sorbet out and stir it as it was freezing and it still worked.

Thanks Steve. You’re a culinary and horticultural wizard!

Finally – I wish everyone a very happy, productive and resilient year ahead.

Thank you for reading my blog.

You can see Steve half way up the Bramley apple tree to the left of my head!

 

 

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