Tidying and Cooking…

I haven’t had much of a chance to get into the garden with the weather recently, if it’s not raining it’s windy or just a bit too cold to have Mr C outside (he has rather a tendency to remove clothing no matter how tightly I zip him in).  I did, however, force myself to do a tidy of the vegetable patch, it was getting a little out of control and the empty buckets from this years planting that I had cleaned and left in the sun to ‘bleach’ were blowing all over the place.  I have now weeded and cleared all but one of the raised beds so can look out without shame.

I have made some time for cooking the squash, it has looked very pretty sitting in our living room but I wanted to make sure some at least, is used whilst in it’s prime.  I am not big on soups and need to hunt online for a nice pumpkin/squash cake recipe, I feel sure there must be one, probably a loaf cake with ginger maybe?  For now I settled on a squash pizza from the book Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros.  I love this book, it is chock full of beautiful photos and childhood memories, it’s ‘family’ food, largely aimed at children but ‘proper’ food if that makes sense.  The layout drives me nuts from a quick cook point of view as it’s laid out in chapters by colour, but as a nice reading book with some wonderful images and recipes it’s great.

For the squash pizza, I used one of the Buttercup Squash, as you can see it was an amazing colour and tasted very sweet once cooked, almost a bit too sweet (must try a cake with the other one).  Sorry there is no photo of the finished ‘pizza’ but it was dark by then, it was rather good though, the boys weren’t all that impressed but M and I happily ate it up.

You basically peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds, cut into long strips (max 2 mm thick), dip in flour and layer in a round flat dish with a drizzle of oil between layers.  Season, slop on (I’m sure Tessa doesn’t ‘slop’ ) some Tomato Passata (I used some I had in the freezer made from our toms this summer) scatter with a good pinch of oregano and cook for 50 mins at 180.  You then grate over cheese and pop it back in for 10 mins.  Job done.

We also just found out we are home alone for Christmas, my sister is heading to her holiday cottage in Yorkshire and my Mother is staying ‘Up North’ as she has people staying directly before and after Christmas, so it’s just us.  F is very excited this year (4 yrs old) and C will love it (2 yrs old) so it’ll be nice.  I did think I might do a cold lunch, as I am the only person really interested in the whole Christmas dinner thing, but I just can’t as I love Christmas lunch, so instead I am preparing as much as possible ahead so there is little or nothing to do on the day.  To this end I made a nice stock from a recent roast, made it up into a gravy and popped it in the freezer.  Please don’t laugh, making gravy is a pain when cooking a full roast so the idea of just taking it out of the freezer and heating up appeals!  I am sure I will let you know more of my pre-prep lunch as it happens (you wait with baited breath, I know) but time to put the boys to bed and think about dinner.

Buttoning down the hatches…and it’s true, never work with children!

As I wrote in my last post, I have started to tidy through the garden.  I intend to do small bits every day in the hope of getting through the work, I find otherwise there are lots of things I would prefer to do, I am a fair weather gardener it seems!  A while back the two Kales that were growing in the greenhouse were munched entirely by caterpillars, but I left their remains in hope that there would maybe be a recovery, I also planted seeds direct in my huge containers (free after lifting the Squash).  The container ones are growing, slowly, but the greenhouse grown ones have made a good recovery so today I planted them out (one Cavalo Nero and Red Bor).


I then decided to cover them in the largest of my cloches, to make sure they settle in OK .


The cloches have been very useful since I bought them two years ago to protect emerging plants from the rabbits.  Sadly I only have 3 left as the boys spent last summer using them as Buzz Lightyear helmets.  I had to wash and disinfect them as even though they had been stored clean, they were a bit green looking.  I also put one of the longer cloches over some of my tender Salvia’s after cutting them back to ground and applying a mulch, they are not supposed to survive the winter, but with a little help I find they do.


As I had the warm soapy water out, I made myself wash half the glass in the greehouse.  There is very little in there this year, but we are having one of our coldest days today and I suddenly realised if I don’t get some of my pots (such as the verbena sissinghurst pink as above) inside they wont last much longer.  The Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) as planted in early Autumn are growing well, I usually put them outdoors at this point but this year as the greenhouse is so empty I am going to leave them inside.


The only other things in there are my sweet peas and a handful of Hardy Annuals for the cutting patch.


As part of the greenhouse clear out I brought the Amaryllis indoors and gave them a soak so they can ‘hopefully’ start growing.  This will be their third year so I am not entirely sure I will get new flowers, they have been in the greenhouse over summer with regular feeds and in about August I left them to dry out.  I usually then move them into the dark after cutting the dead leaves back, but this year they remained outside, I had also intended to remove them and re-pot in new soil before starting their growing cycle but I also forgot this, oops.  Hopefully with a bit of TLC and some plant food they might do OK.  The three bulbs together are Hippeastrum papillo, which has a number of smaller flowers on shorter stems.  The larger one is a regular white Amaryllis, sadly I can’t remember the name but it always looks suitably fabulous as in this shot from my work space last February.


Lastly, as referenced in the title, Charlie ‘helped’ me in the garden by pretty much sitting in the bucket of water so I had to abandon my work to get  him indoors and dry.  I left him for a moment whilst I turned off the water and closed the greenhouse door only to hear him running outside looking like this.


He had helped himself to the gloves I was using and was running around being a scary monster.  Oh well, it was a good excuse to abandon work and come inside to write this post!




That was a bit of a blogging break then.  As you can imagine, the garden has slowed right down, there is need of a big tidy up which I started this week and the greenhouse needs a good clean but I have been busy over at The Linen Cat, blogging and trying to get Christmas products on-line.

We have also just spent half term in Yorkshire, staying in my sisters newly re-furbished cottage and visiting family.  There has been some walking




some watching the salmon try to jump upstream



and rather a bit too much eating.  I have a bad habit of eating my way through memories, if that makes sense, especially as we have the boys with us and I kept buying them the sweets of my youth to try.  They loved these lollies which we always ate as children, shown here with Yorkshire Mixture boiled sweets.


They have become rather partial to Whitaker’s (of Skipton) mint wafers.


And no trip to Yorkshire would be complete without a trip to Bettys for some Fat Rascals


which are a sort of mix of scone and rock cake (they freeze really well BTW).  If you have ever been to the Dales you may have heard of Bettys, it’s a famous small chain (Harrogate, Ilkley, Northallerton and York) of cafes that serve a mix of traditional English (with a Continental influence, especially in the chocolates) food in a Victorian style.  They are big on cakes and afternoon tea, the prize being the Fat Rascal as above.  They sell on-line at Bettys by Post, if I could recommend one thing to order online it would be their Italian Ricciarelli Biscuit Tray which aren’t cheap but are oh so amazing.  Oh, should mention, there is nearly always a wait for a table at busy times so come early or take out.

I have also been making a head start on Christmas food after treating myself to Delia’s new book.


I will admit to abandoning D’s last TV series, it annoyed me but she does do great traditional food and I like this side of her cooking.  On first glance there are a lot of re-worked recipes but I am OK with that as there are also a number of new ones and the book is beautifully presented.

I have made mincemeat, last year I made ‘Pear and Ginger suet free mincemeat’ from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook (No 2) which was great but I was inspired by my new book to go back to Delia this year.


I have also returned to her classic Christmas Cake recipe.  Last year I tried Christmas Plum Cake from the Duchy Originals Cookbook, with a nut glaze topping (from D’s old Christmas book).  It was nice, but I fancied a more traditional cake this year.


It is getting it’s weekly brandy feed at the moment and I intend to go for a marzipan and icing finish.  On the right of this shot you can just see the last of the early Christmas food in the form of Spiced Pickled Prunes in Armagnac (also Delia) and still waiting to be transfered my Sloe Gin from this earlier post.


Whilst we all about food, my final photo is from a 1974 Women’s Weekly magazine that I brought back from Yorkshire (as part of my Gran’s knitting pattern collection).  I couldn’t help but notice this page of recipes, the middle one being curried Eggs and Pineapple! What were they thinking?

OK, I am hoping the mass of photos might get me off the hook for such a slow post rate recently, I guess in the rather quiet gardening time the blog will be more about cooking, but as I wrote at the beginning, I love the memories and traditions of food and especially at this time of year so I have plenty to share.  There is still a good deal of work to do in the garden so there will be gardening posts and I need to take the time to update all the links on the RHS.

Enough, time for wine and X-Factor, on which note WHO KEEPS VOTING JEDWARD IN!!!