Category Archives: Food

Wild Garlic Pakoras

The sight of ramson shoots popping their fresh green through bare woodland floors is a welcomed one after the winter months, it means spring is finally arriving.

This year I have tested out a new recipe to add to the annual spring pesto which was very nice and went down very well at the ‘bring a dish to share’ lunch I took them to.

Wild Garlic Pakoras – I loosely based on this recipe.

My recipe:

  • Pick a large bowl full of ramson leaves, wash and pick out any that don’t look nice.
  • Finely slice an onion and put it in a mixing bowl. Roughly chop the ramson leaves and mix with the onion.
  • season with salt and black pepper, a little chilli powder and turmeric
  • add gram flour; mixing as you do so until the leaves and onion has a ‘dusting’ over them
  • Add an egg to the mixture and mix so as everything sticks together
  • separate the mixture into the size portions you want and deep-fat fry until golden brown
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Sowing 2014

The veg garden has undergone a redesign during the early part of this year. Partly prompted by the back log of deep bedded houses to clean out and partly so as it is easier to manage with more defined growing areas and straighter, wheelbarrow friendly paths.

Raspberry bed with sheep sulk decoration. Extra yellow raspberry canes were added to the bed early in the year and a bag of daffodils to add some spring colour to the vegetable garden ~ April 2014

Raspberry bed with sheep sulk decoration. Extra yellow raspberry canes were added to the bed early in the year and a bag of daffodils to add some spring colour to the vegetable garden ~ April 2014

There is still some work to do including some refencing, the clearing of an area and the erecting of a small polytunnel we bought seconded-hand a few years ago and the clearing and reskinning of the 30ft polytunnel we bought with us when we moved from Herefordshire some 20 years-ago but we now seem to have a much clearer vision of what the end result should look like.

Seed sowing began last month and has reached the stage of the bath and shower being filled each night with plants that are spending their days outside and the windowsills have been filled with second or third loads of trays, modules and root trainers. This year the focus has been on using what we already have in readiness to buy ‘pure’ seeds; moving away from large brightly packed seeds from multinational companies with no ethical code or care for if the seeds are suited to back garden growing to plainer packets from small UK based seed companies and handwritten notes from people with a passion for what they growing.

Oca starting off inside; these plants have such lovely leaves at this age ~ April 2014

Oca starting off inside; these plants have such lovely leaves at this age ~ April 2014

Of course new seeds have been aquired; ‘at the till’ packets have been impulsivly bought, seed swaps have been attended and a few carefully selected packs have been picked out. The most noteable of these being Oca tubes from a seed swap, a plant which I have been wanting to try for a few years and Pumpkin Nut squash which I tracked down after reading about them on The Snail of Happiness’s blog last year. How they shelled the pumpkin seeds for eating had been something I had been pondering for a while and this provided the answerer!

Germation rates have been hit and miss as some of the seed is so old, some of it with sow by dates dating back to the early 2000’s from my dad’s boxes of seeds, and I haven’t been really keeping a record of what and how much has come up instead tipping half or whole packets into pots and seeing what happens.

I haven’t kept complete records of what has been sown either as I only started in March and had already sown some tomatos and started off onion sets in pots by then but from then it is roughly as follows.

Tomato seedlings ~ April 2014

Tomato seedlings ~ April 2014

March 9th: leeks sown

March 20th: Dwarf french been sown

March 22nd: Sweet dumpling squash, cauli, lettuce and cucumber sown

April 5th: Climbing french beans (purple), black cherry tom, goldena, zuchini, black beauty and tondo di piacenza courage, uchihi kuri and pumpkin nut squash sown

Pink Fur Apple potatoes planted out.

April 13th: Yellow pear, yellow stuffer, black cherry, yellow tumbler and garden pearl tomatoes, firestorn runner beans sown

April 21st: Sunbaby, sweet million F1, darby striped and tiger tom tomatoes, Zucchini, golden and nano verde di milaon courgettes, greyhound cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, quick heading broccoli, magic mix and all the year round cauliflower, lemon cucumber and little gem lettuce sown

My chickens have been providing a more balanced end to the slugs and snail collecting I have done, using them as a tasty treat feels a more comfortable disposal than the dilemma I was faced with before

Winter

The seasons have slide their way smoothly from one to the next here; the mornings have a chill to them and I had began leaving for work in the dawn light before the clock change. The harvest moon bought with it heavy rain and winds to bring down the first swirls of bright yellow, orange and red coloured leaves and since Samhain some of the dark evenings have held the promise of bright frosty mornings but as yet first light has only revealed rain soaked grounds or views hidden beneath a layer of mist.

Changing forest; October 2013

Changing forest; October 2013

The sheep have busied themselves searching out acorns before the wild boar begin to creep closer to the village edge in search of easier foraging and trips out with the goats have been spent underneath the sweet chestnut tree searching out the larger nuts before the goats snaffles them up. Sweet chestnuts are my old nanny’s favourite autumn treat.

Garden

At the end of September I spent some time reorganising my front garden to make it more of a usable space instead of an ‘unfinished projects’ staging area. I cleared the spreading mass of alpine strawberries, cut back bushes and removed a compost bin from the only area of soil and found space for two raised beds. These were filled with home made compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure from the patio’s potato buckets and now boast a mixture of cauliflowers, purple sprouting and leeks. On the table in the kitchen there are paper bags of onion sets to fill in the gaps.

After more alpine strawberry clearing I have managed to turn the rest of the ground I have between the steps and the patio into two separate-but-connected areas; one has been planted with kale (which I hope will recover from the caterpillar attack) mixed with wallflowers and I shall add garlic to the area. The other patch is defined by being between a winter flowering heather and the new raised beds; this area I have added spring bulbs to borage and self-seeded feverfew amongst a few paving stones I have added for access. In the spring I plan to sow poppies, sweetpeas and sunflowers and hope some of them survive the slugs.

Livestock

During the summer we have downsized on the number of goats we have and thankfully have managed to find lovely homes for the three ‘rescue pet’ goats we had. We now have our six breeding females and a meat wether. It’s so nice to be able to spend time out on the greens with them without having to arrange for two people to be there. The reduced feed cost has also meant that we have been able to think more carefully about the feed we use and have changed to a goat mix that has no GMO ingredients; something we are trying more and more to be aware of in all areas of our purchases.

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when with had some sun: August 2013

Bella and Broiny grazing the green back when we had some sun: August 2013

Earlier in the year we had scab in our flock of sheep, the better summer we have had has helped them recover but it has meant that none of the fleeces have been suitable for sending off to be tamed and so we are keeping everyone on for this winter. (Fingers crossed it will be mild and they won’t need too much extra feed.)

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

My new chooks; roosting for the night: October 2013

During some time off work in September I also got myself some chickens for the garden at my house. I had been toying with the idea of getting myself some hens for a while, there is nothing like collecting your own eggs from your own garden. Me and mother had gone to collect some hens for her and in amongst the barn of fowl to be rehomed were three small black chicks. I wanted them as soon as I saw them and so they also came back with us.

They have already grown a lot since I first got them and are much more use to people, where they came from was an amazing place where the chickens were safe to just run free (seemingly no fox problem there) and in the spring a lot of the hens had gone off to nest and returned with their chicks in tow a few weeks later. The fourth hen I have I don’t think has anything to do with the  chicks but they were quick to follow her lead and she is very pretty.

The cupboard was bare…

I’m sure that to almost all reading this self-sufficiency and gardening are subjects close to your heart. It’s something I am always striving towards in any small way I can and am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Home grown courgettes; possibly the only vegetable that is producing anything in my garden. August 2013

Home grown courgettes; possibly the only vegetable that is producing anything in my garden. August 2013

On Wednesday I found out that ‘the country’s cupboard was bare’ – if all of the harvest grown in Britain was stored and started to be eaten from January 1st we would have run out on Wednesday meaning the UK has to import over a third of the food we need, an increase on the amount of food that we had to import 1991 according to the NFU*

As the NFU has worked out these figures I don’t think it will include freshly picked, home grown, back garden food which shows that even so long after the the original ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign growing your own is still am important part of this Country’s ability to provide for it’s self.

The government last month announced that it is investing 160 million pounds in farming technology to help make Britain a “world leader”. I really hope that some thought has been given to sustainable methods and won’t just be ploughed into GMO’s, pesticides and fossil fuel hungry machines.

* The radio 4 report I heard on this did not give exact figures for the increase just that in 1991 Britain produced 3/4 of it’s own food and that this figure has now fallen to just 62%

Rhubarb cordial

Rhubarb ~ May 2013

Rhubarb ~ May 2013

I have been playing around with the rhubarb patch in the garden and think I may have finally found away it is palatable; Cordial.

I’ve tried two different recipes, the first one from Colour It Green this one has a very strong rhubarb flavour which I oddly really like.

And the second recipe I based the second batch on was from Life on Pig Row. I did change this one a fair bit but it has more water in it to start with and it does make for a weaker flavour so I think I shall be playing around with the first one a little more. When I first read the second recipe I was sure that I read it had ginger in so a whole hand of ginger went into stew with the rhubarb and I couldn’t find the grater for the orange peel so no orange went in.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

Am: Am early start this morning as my house-mates car is in the garage for it’s MOT and I have said I will take him into work and collect him again later. After dropping him off I take a hot drink back to bed and knit for about am hour. I am making a baby hat for my new niece which is going to look amazing when it is done but seems to be building up so very slowly. After I get up again I go and start the days chores of feeding and checking on everyone and between me and mother we get most things done in a reasonable time. I spend an hour or so cleaning out one of the goat sheds which is not currently being used. The weather is glorious, it has to be the hottest day of the year so far and it is bright sunshine. The bees are making the most of it and are out flying busily.

Lunch time: At about mid-day I go back to my house to have some lunch and spend the afternoon in my garden.

Afternoon: It’s still really warm out and it is lovely working outside. I sort out bits and piece and start planting out potatoes in old flower buckets. This year I haven’t bought seed potatoes but have some bags that were sprouting and reduced in the supermarket (Shetland Blacks and Exquisa) and I’ve added a few others from the veg shop to these (Benji and Maris Piper) and have been sent some free Rocket and Piccolo Star. I only manage to plant half of the Shetland Black’s and maybe a third of the Exquisa but it is a good start. Then I carry on into the back garden and plant out the garlic I have had growing on in pots, the blackbirds here seem to love garlic and onion sets to I have taken to planting them in pots with a cover over and then planting them out when they have got going enough for the birds not to be interested.

Late afternoon/evening: After collecting my house-mate from work I go back to finish off the goats for the day. My sister is there when I get back with her baby, it’s the first time she has walked home since the baby was born and we spend some time in the kitchen before having to go off and look for some sheep that have been reported out in the next village. It’s almost 100% certain they’re not any of ours as ours are all in as there has been an outbreak of Scab mite and the free roaming animals have all had to be brought in for treatment. Ours have all been treated and we are just waiting for everyone else to before ours can get back out on some grass. There’s no sign of the sheep so after half an hour or so of driving around we go back and I finish the goats for the day and go home.

At home the Green Party candidate for the council elections drops some leaflets off as I’ve said I’ll post some through letterboxes locally. It’s still really warm outside so I carry on pottering in the garden and then sit out whilst the sun goes down and watch the bats as they start flying in the dusk

Spring signs; Rhubarb

Spring seems to be such a long time coming this year but there are finally more and more signs including the long-awaited shoots of rhubarb

First rhubarb shoots - 5th April 2013

First rhubarb shoots – 5th April 2013

I don’t personally like rhubarb but it is a sure sign that the soil is warming up and that the few seeds I have dared to sow might have a chance of making the garden some time soon.

Last autumn I put an old tyre around the clump of rhubarb and filled it with old straw to help encourage early shoots this year but it is already far later than last year

Saturday, March 30th 2012

Many years ago, when I was being made redundant from my first job which was in a community radio station, a colleague suggested that I should made an audio diary of my day-to-day life. I’ve always liked the idea but as the project folded and I became busy with other work and just general life took over I’ve never gotten around to it but it has remained an idea I’ve liked. I thought I would revive the idea here with a monthly post of what has happened during the day…

Morning: Woke up early as normal but made myself go back to sleep for a while. Yesterday I started a new job (HURRAY!) back working with young people, the shifts are long but not that much longer than I have been doing and fewer each week. When I wake up again I stay in bed for a while watching the end of an episode of A Touch of Frost I started watching the night before and ‘surfing’ (facebook/email and wherever those take me). Outside there is still some snow left but it is only really around the edge of the fields and where trees throw shade over the ground. It looks nice enough but still cold. I get up and go over to mothers spotting a ewe and her lambs we have been trying to get back from the edge of our run (the area of common our sheep roam over), the patch of grass she is on is long enough for her to stay for a while so I carry on back and collect mother to make bring her back easier. We bring her back and check the others. At the bottom of the pen is what looks like a dead sheep but lucky it is a ewe who has cast herself (when a sheep rolls onto their side, normally with their legs up hill and can’t get back up) When I reach her I found a MASSIVE lamb cuddled up behind her. I stand the ewe up, she is very wobbly on her back end not really surprisingly given the size of the lamb. I check the lamb over; he is fine but has only been half cleaned and the ewe (a first time mum) goes straight off to join the others without a backward look. We bring them both back to the house and put them in a pen, he gets a bottle and she gets a bucket of feed and some hay. We carry on with the other bottles, Enchantments and we have three lambs too. Then phone our feed merchant to check what time they are closing today it being Easter weekend. There is time to have a hot drink and hay and water the goats before we have to leave to collect the weeks feed.

Lunch time: We collect feed and a van full of hay and go back home for home made chips and butter bean curry.

Afternoon: It’s still cold and not at all conducive for working outside even though there are plenty of jobs to be done and stopping to eat lunch has made me realise how tired I am, so me and mother agree not to try with any of the extras today. We take hay and water to the ponies. At the moment my brother is fitting a kitchen and we have no outside tap, even if we did I would have thought it would have been frozen, so watering everyone involves filling our collection of 5 gallon water containers with an old plastic milk bottle from the kitchen tap. On the way home we stop by at a neighbours to drop off some feed and have a chat. Everyone is feed up of this weather; the frozen water buckets, the lack of grass, the driving wind that goes right through everything and all the extra jobs it makes. Back home I finish the goats, more bottles and I collect some eggs to take home. We open the bees and place some more fondant in with them, it isn’t really warm enough to open the hive but there was an alert go out the other day about feeding because of the cold weather and when we open the hive to add more they are out so good job we did. The sun comes out and the wind dies down and they start to fly for about ten minutes whilst it lasts. I feed the donkeys and call in on my sister on the way home to drop some bits off and cuddle the baby then home.

Late afternoon/evening: Back at home I get a second wind and can’t sit still for long so occupy myself with cleaning and starting an over due sort out whilst watching more A Touch of Frost. I have too much stuff; too many bags of things saved for craft project I’ve never even started, too many piles of paper work that needs filing and too many bags of ‘recycling’ so as I don’t have to put too much into the landfill bin. I think maybe next month I might try to de-clutter one thing each day; take one item I know I will never use again to the charity shop, put the bag of batteries out for collection, offer the pile of used jiffy bags on freecycle and tick off one of those sort of little jobs to stop hoarding so much of it. I find lots more packets of seeds and fill a bag of egg boxes and borrowed clothes to return to my sister. I stop at some point for some fried egg butties for dinner. It’s light until just gone seven pm and all of the snow seems to have gone from the fields, not so at mothers which still has a layer of white anywhere that is not in the open. I go to bed just after nine pm

Pancake Day

Pancakes are much more than a one day a year food here. We like thick, crispy pancakes with many different fillings all year round.

Garlic mushroom stack - December 2012

Garlic mushroom stack – December 2012

My personal favorite at the moment is pancakes with garlic mushrooms and grated cheddar cheese made into a ‘Pancake Stack’, such a simple dinner and so delicious and filling. It’s very easy to go over board when piling the layers on.

Method: Melt some butter in a small frying pan and add the sliced mushrooms. Chop as much garlic as you I wish, I am very anti-social and use half a bulb plus, and added to the pan, cook until it is all soft and put to one side. Heat some oil in the frying pan (I put the mushrooms and garlic in a bowl and use the same pan as it’s my favorite), add a small amount of ‘tester’ batter to check you have the right heat and cook your pancakes. As you serve them layer them with the mushrooms and garlic and sprinkle with cheese before adding the next. Put one final pancake on top to complete the stack or leave without depending on what you want.

To make the pancakes thicker and crisper I don’t add water or so much milk to the batter 

Garden up-date ~ January

It’s been a fair few months now since I gave up my allotments and that time has been working well for putting in the ground work and planning my garden at home; now I don’t feel guilty for making time to spend at the allotments there are so many “half hours”, “spare ten minutes” or even “an hour before I go out” that I have spent out through my back door being followed around by the cats who thought that the jungle was theirs.

The plan for the whole garden has been developing for a while but I already knew where I wanted my main vegetable beds to be. So that’s where I started;

The start of my vegetable garden ~ 22nd August 2012

The start of my vegetable garden ~ 22nd August 2012

This is the very top of my garden and it is a nice 14′ 2″ by 15’4″ sized space. When I started work on this area the weeds where higher than me! The part of me that hates anything to go to waste even weeds started the work and so I was careful cutting everything, sorting it and putting into sacks and taking what could be home for the goats and setting aside the rest for compost or burning – this was taking an age and so in the end I just went in with a pair of hand shears and a hedge trimmer.

The back garden is on a steep-ish slope, it’s by no means the most sloped garden I have seen but still has a good incline especially when carrying sacks of manure up or anything more than hand tools really and the access to it is up through the front garden, through an alleyway around the house and up a set of 11 steps to where the back garden is at almost the same height as the first floor of the house. The soil in the garden seems lovely; dark and rich and crumblerly but is full of old bonfire patches with the rusty nails and springs that go along with them and many pieces of black plastic where it has been covered over for so long the plastic has split and broken up. It has also been left to it’s own devices for many year I would guess.

The top part is now mostly cleared now with just a heap of weeds and hedge trimmings I thought it would be quicker to burn than gather up, carry down through the garden, down through the front garden and to the car to take to the recycling center. I can see why I thought that was the quickest way but I forgot fire and water aren’t the best of friends and it just hasn’t ever dried out long enough for this to work. Time to put Plan B into action I thinks…

Vegetable garden some months on - Decmber 2012

Vegetable garden some months on – December 2012

Above is what it looks like at the end of last month; the first bed is in, filled with manure and covered and has been for the last couple of months now and work is well underway with the second. There is still the bonfire heap in the way of most of it but it is taking shape. I am leaving a path all the way around all the beds apart from the top one and below the second bed there is room for one more and then it is down into the main garden.

When I was first planning this bit of the garden I pictured the beds running down the slope towards the house, I don’t know why but it took a good few weeks of pondering how to make them before I realised it would be much simpler to make them running across the garden instead of down.

The lower part you can see in the photo has also been cleared and cardboard laid in readiness for a row of raspberries.

Raised beds - January 2013

Raised beds – January 2013

Carrying on down the garden a lot of it is under weed suppressant and thick black plastic sheets but there are three raised beds in and filled. These I put in and filled whilst carrying on the clearing work at the top; I have a late sowing of beetroot in one (middle bed) that was just a little too late to come to anything, one (top bed) I have tried growing cabbage and over wintering onions in but the slugs ate the cabbage as fast as they came up and the birds have had the onions sets out that many times I have put them in pots to get going and plant out later and the third (bottom bed) has just been filled ready for spring and is being used by blackbirds as a worm feeding station. I think there will be room for one more raised bed below the last one but need to have a proper look.

The area that is currently covered over I think I am going to turn into a main crop bed that can have rows of things put in that can be more or less left to it between planting and harvesting; squashes, kale, etc.

The other place I have worked on is the bank outside the kitchen window;

Kitchen Bank: before (left) and after (right) being cleared - October 2012

Kitchen Bank: before (left) and after (right) being cleared – October 2012

It took almost a whole day to clear it of the ivy, brambles and other things that were completely covering it. The bank runs along side the steps up the garden, doesn’t get much light at all and is even steeper than the rest of the garden. It’s now been planted with wallflowers, which seem to have had it in the first frost, and crocuses. I’m not really sure what to try in this bit as it is so hard to work with and so shady for most of the year. I might try some salad low enough down it to be reached from the path but it would be nice for something further up that would look nice/be useful/keep the weeds down. Mints maybe?

I’ve got lots of ideas and gardening projects planned for this year. I think it is one of the more important things I should be concentrating on, the more I read the more I mistrust mass produced food and I know I probably will never be able to cut it completely out but growing more of my own is step in the right direction and I enjoy it.