Monthly Archives: October 2010

What’s Left? Autumn & Winter Veg

The garden has been a bit neglected recently with my trip away so this morning I had a good clear up. There’s not much left now just the Autumn and Winter veg. I took down the runner and french beans and have about a 100 pods to take beans from for stews and soups over winter. The kale and chard looked a bit miserable so I stripped the worst of the damage and they’ll survive for a while to give some welcome winter greens. There’s around 70 parsnips which I’m looking forward to harvesting to go with the roast dinner tomorrow. I always wonder about parsnips as they take up space for pretty much the whole year but the doubt is disspelled when they come out of the roasting tray!

In the front bed I harvested the last of the beetroot.

They won’t win any prizes but will provide some welcome colour and sweetness on the plate at this time of year.

I tidied up the brussels which had fallen over.

There’s some good sized sprouts already.

And the sprouting broccoli has survived the cabbage white attack.

The Onion sets I planted a few weeks ago have sprouted nicely, I am hoping they survive the winter.

The Jerusalem Artichokes are looking good, still in flower, and will provide another different vegetable over the long winter months. Well worth growing as they are very easy, I gave them no attention at all, and provide a useful screen about 6-8 feet tall.

Rach is making pumpkin soup today. I grew Rouge Vif d’Etamps from the seed Maureen sent me. They look great and I’m sure the soup will taste lovely.

If you would like some seeds to try next year just send me an email with your address and I’ll post some to you. I have loads to go around and they are a great variety for anyone trying pumpkins for the first time or looking to expand their number of varieties.

Have a great weekend!

Last of the Peppers

The time has finally come to harvest the last of the greenhouse peppers as the foliage is starting to die back.

We’ve been dining on peppers for a while, had around 30 in total, and they’ve gone into various recipes like spag bol for the girls or this nice stuffed pepper recipe.

But what could be more fitting them putting them in a veggie curry especially now I’ve just restocked the spice cupboard. Here’s a quick and easy recipe:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 small piece of fresh ginger chopped
8 oz Veg
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
3 tomatoes chopped
600 ml water
Salt to taste

1) Fry the onions in the oil until golden brown. Then add the ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.
2) Add all the spices and fry for a further minute. Add 200ml of the water and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
3) Salt to taste, add your veg, the rest of the water and cook until done. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice and/or breads.


Curry of the Week – On the Road

No home cooking in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been on the road for a few curries instead. First was The Royal Jaipur (7/10) in Landford, New Forest where I had a Gosth Chilli Fry. Followed by two curries in Salisbury, a lamb chilli balti at the Shah Jahan (8/10) and Laal Mans, (a lovely Rajastahni-style slow cooked lamb dish), at Hox Brasserie (8/10).

Then it was up to Derby and a Sheekh Tawa at The Raj (6/10) in Allestree. The following day we paid a visit to Christchurch Meadow, home of ‘the Nailers’, the mighty Belper Town F.C., who reside in the Evo-Stik League. They beat Shepshed Dynamo 2-1 watched by 217 hardy souls. Pukka Pies supplied the half-time snacks but it wasn’t the greatest game I’ve ever seen although it was good to get back to grass roots football after the World Cup debacle, the Wayne Rooney saga etc.

On the way home I dropped a friend in Leicester, just off Narborough Road, and replenished my spice cupboard from one of the many Indian grocery shops.

And I couldn’t visit Leicester without a trip to Ajay’s Sweetmart (111, Narborough Road, LE3 OPA), who makes the best vegetable samosas I have ever tasted. He was doing a roaring trade in the run up to Diwali. We’ve been going there for years, and he also does a mean Onion Bhaji, or a pepper stuffed with peanut masala, and for the brave, a fiery Potato Bomb. Well worth stopping by if you are in town!

Jack’s Back!

Jack has returned with a vengeance in South Wiltshire this week. He first hit on Sunday and then lingered on and off for the next five days. Reducing the Dahlia bed from this:

To this:

In less than a week. My favourite plant, a summer powerhouse of growth and flowers, reduced to something resembling wilted spinach in double-quick time. Summer is officially over!

I had to keep the mourning period brief as I was setting off to Derby in a few hours and the tubers had to be lifted to guarantee their survival through the winter. I took a knife to the thick stems, some of which I could barely wrap my hand round.

And cut the foliage down to ground level. The stems are amazing, more like drain pipes with water trickling back out when cut. An important point to remember Dahlias need lots of water through the summer months.

Using a fork I lifted each tuber remembering to label and note the bloom colour for next year.

After an hour the job was done.

The tubers have really grown in size since planting. The prize has to go to Kennemerland, the largest tuber by some distance. I took off what soil I could before putting them in the garage to dry out. I’ll deal with them properly next week. They need to be dry and frost free to get through the winter successfully.

The last job was to dig up the celery, which was in a more sheltered spot so unaffected by frosts so far. I’ll clean them up and freeze most of this for winter use in stocks and soups. I’ll keep a few stalks wrapped in tin foil in the bottom of the fridge as this keeps them fresh for ages.

It’s been a great first year for growing Dahlias. They are easy to grow, I’ve had no real problems this year. If you want great flowers in your garden or for cutting all the way through to October then I would recommend giving them a go. If you want to have a dabble in the local show then you can go further by stopping and disbudding. And who knows I might try a higher standard next year.

Have a great weekend!

The Trail So Far

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love hill walking. There’s nothing better than getting away from it all up in the hills. Unfortunately South Wiltshire isn’t blessed with mountains and rugged scenery, I like the rolling chalk downlands but it’s not really a challenge.

A friend and I vowed to complete the Pennine Way, Britain’s number 1 National Trail, 270 miles long stretching from Edale, in Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park, to Kirk Yetholm just over the Scottish border.

Over on my Pennine Way page is the story so far. Time being precious, and the birth of my two children, means this mission has been stretched over quite a few years now. We slowly creep ever further North, one long weekend at a time.

I’ve loved the walk so far and here’s my top 3 sections that you can do as day walks:

Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale – limestone country, Malham Cove, and the views from the top of Pen-Y-Ghent are superb.
Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton – classic waterfalls of High Force and Cauldron Snout plus the sublime beauty of High Cup Nick.
Dufton to Garrigill or Alston – the peaks of Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell are a challenge in this high-level Pennine Way stretch.

I hope to finish it in the next couple of years. Still to come is Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot Hills, can’t wait to get back out there!

Sloe Down Boy!

On our first foraging trip we collected elderberries and now have some wine fermenting away. Next came a hunt for sloes and to be honest they weren’t hard to find. Back to the same hedgerow that was packed with elderberries and there they were the plump, dark berries, just waiting to be picked.

And it wasn’t long before we had a couple of pounds in the tub.

Also known as blackthorn the sloe is a predecessor of the cultivated plum but is extremely bitter until mixed with sugar and gin to make one of my favourite winter drinks, sloe gin. You should pick sloes after the first frost (which was this morning in our case) but you can replicate this by putting them in the freezer. Then take a pound of sloes (prick them to help release their flavour), about half a pound of sugar and half fill your bottles topping up with gin until almost full, then seal. Leave for a couple of months, turning the bottles every now and then to mix up the ingredients. Perfect for a Christmas tipple!!

Here’s some tips on making sloe gin. Enjoy!

October Colours

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Even in mid-October there are some great colours on show in the garden.  The Dahlia’s are still producing dozens of blooms with no signs of slowing down.  And in the greenhouse there’s a few tomatoes, peppers and chillies to ripen.  Hopefully the frosts will stay away to let this continue for another few weeks yet.  The array of colours really does lift the mood, even on the dullest of Autumn days!

Update 17th Oct – spoke to soon the first Autumn frost hit this morning!  The curse of the commentator, should have kept my mouth shut!!

Don’t Lose Your Bottle

With the brew ready it’s time to bottle up. Final measurements were taken and according to the formula I quoted in my first post I’ve got a beer around 5.5%ABV. Not bad for a beginner.

Before I could syphon the beer into bottles they needed cleaning. I managed to borrow 40 bottles, caps etc from a friend but the bottles had been in the shed for a few years.  Thankfully Rach stepped in and with some broken up denture cleaning tablets we let nature take its course and soon the bottles were sparkling again. Then they were sterlised and rinsed out. Lastly I added 1/2 tsp of sugar to each bottle before syphoning the beer from the fermenting bucket into each one and capping off.

I’m giving them another couple of weeks before the first tasting session and if all goes well they’ll be consumed in the run up to Christmas. Or, if luck isn’t on my side, they’ll all go down the drain!

Too Many Peppers?

I have a bit of a pepper glut going on at the moment as the greenhouse plants start to ripen. There’s Californian Wonder (Red), Etuida (Orange), and Yellow Bell Peppers so I have a great mix of colours. Some went into a spag bol for the girls but I wanted to enjoy them in more of an adult dish.

We’ve just had roasted peppers with chillies and tomatoes from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” book and they were really good.

A great way to use up your peppers!!

The Winner Is……

Two weeks ago I started a free giveaway competition for a copy of “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey, a pocket sized guide for any would-be forager.  All you had to do was leave a comment on the post to have a chance of winning.

There were 25 entrants battling for pole position: Craig, Jan, Lucy, Ian, Jo, Rob, Sue, Una, Andrew, Amy, Jade, Maureen, Louisa, Flighty, Mellisa, Ellie, Hillwards, Jenny, Niece, Mark, Brittany, Sarah, T.J., Carolyn and Angela.

Choe made the draw, independantly adjudicated by Emily, from her Peppa Pig Wellie boot.

And the winner is………………


Congratulations!!!  I’ll be in touch shortly.  Happy foraging everybody!