Last weekend…

Last weekend I spent loads of time in the garden as, for once, it wasn’t frozen and the rain was mostly only drizzle.

I planted out 8 cloves of elephant garlic (5 that I’d ordered and 3 left from the bulbs grown last year), I also plated up 5 strawberry plants in one of the huge black containers that was kicking around empty in the vegetable patch. It was a good opportunity to get rid of some of the chicken manure (basically their droppings mixed in with straw from the coops and run floors) as the containers are so cavernous that they take a lot of filling so the bottom half is manure, with some bags of John Innes on top. We have always grown alpine strawberries but never ‘regular’ ones so it’ll be interesting to see how these work out for us. dsc_0047The variety I’m planting (Mount Everest) is an everbearer variety, so small flushes of fruit, over a longer period, which I think will suit us best as these will likely be for the boys to munch on direct from the plant. This variety supposedly grows really well up a teepee, so I’ll be trying that out too.

Indoors, I started:

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi, Rainbow Blend (from Thompson & Morgan)

Sweet Pepper Worldbeater

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

Broad Bead Crimson Flowered

That’s all for sowing at the moment. There is still plenty more to add, but I’ve learnt to pull back from trying to grow too much, so I stick to things we know we want to eat these days.dsc_0046The mushrooms have been a great success, cropping over and over and providing the base for a number of meals. I forgot to say who and where they came from in the last post, but they were ordered via Amazon from Merryhill Mushrooms. They do taste amazing, in comparison to the shop bought equivalent, so I think it’s been worth it. I’d like to try an Oyster kit next time. In a linked comment, Felix has been doing Food Tech at school and (small miracle) has decided he can tolerate, maybe even like mushrooms after he was forced to include them in a stir fry. I just need to get Charlie (the vegetarian!) to eat them too, and then a whole new world of family meals opens up!ginLast thing I wanted to mention, my Sister kindly gave me a quarterly membership to the Craft Gin Club as a Christmas gift and I LOVE it!! It is expensive, I know; for the same price, you could buy yourself a fancy bottle of gin and some nice crisps etc, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Having someone else source an artisan gin, often difficult to get (this month’s have been shipped in from Iceland and are not on general sale in the UK), provide you with posh tonic and some snacks to go with it, plus a magazine with details explaining who made the gin, where and why, and how best to drink it (January’s, above, was good with rosemary and some orange zest) and ship it to you on the first Friday of the month is just heavenly. It’s like Christmas all over again. Do you like my amazing HUGE gin glass? That was the accompanying gift, also from my Sister, we know how to do a g+t well in our family 😉

That’s all……I really fancy a g+t now…but I’m being good until the weekend, only one more day to go and it’ll seem even nicer for the wait (or I’ll keep telling myself that, anyway).

Rhubarb Chutney and Guilt…

Apparently, I write lots of posts but never publish them.  Seriously, I found loads in my draft area….it could be that I did publish them as part of a re-named post and I’ve just forgotten (if so, sorry) but as it seems a shame to have put the time into writing them in the first place, I’ve decided to get them up updated and press the button to finally make them live.

DSC_0001The below post was written some time last year, since then I have bought a larder cupboard, which was a great investment for me as the kitchen here has very little storage (due to the two walls of glass, that give an amazing outlook into the garden, but at the price of space to put units).  I painted it myself to save money (it was a bit of a labor of love), in ‘Elephant’s Breath’ Farrow and Ball paint as I had two unused tins that were supplied about 10 years ago as part of the kitchen fitting (it’s the colour used inside the wall glass units in there).

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It has made a big difference to me as I have all my jams and jellies in there now, along with loads of kitchen gadgets that otherwise would be cluttering up the work surfaces.  It means I can easily get to everything instead of hunting under the stairs when I need a new jar of jam, which I’m often too lazy to do.

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I also found an awesome way of using up marmalade, in this BBC recipe for Bitter Orange and Cardamom Martinis.  They are seriously amazing, especially if you freeze the mixture and leave it for a while, it turns into a blow-your-socks-off grown up kind of slushi.  Lush.  Yes, I am – ha ha ha!  Not really.

Anyhow, back to the post as written some time last year…or maybe even the year before:

I’ve decided to make chutney for the first time in years, largely out of guilt that the rhubarb grows so well in our garden, but then often sits uneaten, despite trying out various ways of using it up (I blame the kids, rhubarb, like my lovely pink gooseberries just don’t rock their boat no matter how I present it).  To add to that guilt, and explain why I haven’t made chutney for years, below is a list of what is lurking in the cupboard, under the stairs, where I keep all my preserves (with links to their making, where appropriate).

You see the problem?  Look at those year dates.  I LOVE making jams and jellies, however no-one but me eats them, and as I’m seriously off bread (love it but it doesn’t love me, or my waistline) the poor jam gets left…for years, apparently!  The strawberry jam is no problem, Charlie loves it and gets through it quite swiftly.  When I do give in and eat toast, I will go for the blackcurrant jam or marmalade so I’m slowly working through that backlog.  I try to make puddings and cakes with the marmalade, but I have to be careful as the boys soon tire of the flavour if made too often, I even once tried to make myself chuck all the really old jams, but the honest truth was upon opening them they were perfectly fine, in fact more than fine and I just can’t justify throwing it away.  The fruit jellies will get eaten this year as sausages are appearing frequently on the menu, especially now BBQ season is upon us.’

To add to my guilt, also hiding in the cupboard are the following bottles:

  • 2 x Pontack (elderberry potion for adding to stews etc)
  • 4 x Cassis
  • 3 x Rumtopf Juice
  • 2 x Seville Gin (only just ready so not opened yet)

I’m not too worried about the above list, I’m sure I’ll happily get through that, given time 😉

So, knowing the above, why am I making chutney?  Well, because my youngest (the strawberry jam eater) yet again comes to my rescue, he’s taken to loving cheese and chutney sandwiches so I’m using it as an excuse to make some chutney, which I haven’t done for a long time.  I’ve learnt my lesson though, and I’m only making a half batch using this recipe from River Cottage.

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What else?  My sister came over for lunch on Sunday and instead of flowers, she brought me a bunch of asparagus, celery tops and herbs from her garden, which was a lovely gift…..I am seriously considering adding an asparagus bed to the garden, I know I’ll have to wait years before cropping any but it tasted so delicious freshly picked that it might just have to happen.

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There was some added protein on the parsley leaves.  I love these little tiny snails at the moment, they are popping up all over the place in the garden, I suspect I wont be quite so happy when the slugs and snails eat all my crops due to my not using nemetodes this year.  Also, really, REALLY annoyingly iPhotos has totally changed and I can no longer edit photos as precicely as I could.  I’m gutted as I had got quite comfy with the editing tools and rather relied on them to seriously improve my photos, it’s going to be a nightmare for taking my shop images, I’m just going to have to learn photoshop, I guess, life is so hard 😉