Thursday, 29 April 2010

Finally, a break

Work has rather taken over my life for the last couple of weeks so there hasn't been much time to blog, garden or even cook which is a shame. Luckily I have tomorrow off and with the bank holiday that means a 4 day weekend!

I will be sowing like mad, so far I have the tomatoes and salad things going, as well as the peas, hopefully beans, herbs and courgettes will soon follow. I managed to plant half the strawberry runners my Mum kindly potted up for me, I'll get the rest in tomorrow. The leeks are hardened off and I hve made a second sowing of beetroots and lettuce.

The asparagus is going like mad so I popped to the plot on Wednesday night to check for spears and also to water the onions and garlic. I'm still recovering from the shock of the weed growth so I think some serious weeding is also on the cards!

What have you got planned for the weekend?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Potatoes are in

This week has turned out to be rather hectic and it is already Wednesday! The weekend was just incredile, two days of sunshine and as it looks set to stay. I finally got around to planting the potatoes, which turned out to be a bit more stenuous than I had anticipated. Somehow the potato area always seems to need to be twice as big as I planned but after 3 hours of digging and lining and measuring I had the four rows planted up. No doubt we'll see just ho9w wobbly my lines are when they start growing!

This year I bought my potatoes from the local garden centre, mainly because of the cost of postage, this limited choice a little but I have Charlotte as usual and Desiree for Maincrop. I don't think the quality of the potatoes is as good as the ones I have had in previous years, the chitting was certainly slow but hopefully now they're in the ground they'll get to work.

At the same time as buying the potatoes I treated myself to a bag of Shallots, it was quite late to be buying shallots so I started them off in modules and planted them out this weekend. They have put on great growth and had excellent roots so hopefully they'll cope with the transplanting and I'll be on course for a bumper shallot harvest (well you gotta hope).

The coldframe is almost full so I have started to harden off the salad leaves, white beetroot, leeks and celeriac which should mean that I can sow some more seeds this weekend. Finally it seems the growing season is on the go.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Cooking horizons are broadening

I tend to get stuck in a meal rut where week after week I’ll cook the same recipes, obviously I’ll vary the day a little but still it gets a bit predictable after a while, so I have decided to make Saturday night my experimental meal night. Maybe I won’t always manage it, sometimes only pizza will do but I’m hoping it will encourage me delve into my many recipe books and actually try to cook something new.

Last Saturday I kicked off with a fantastic recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook for Spinach ??? which is a basically an easy and slightly cheaty (in my opinion) way to make spinach ravioli. Spinach was featuring on my mind because despite the odds my spinach patch survived the winter and has begun to re-grow; suddenly have an abundance of baby spinach leaves. Sarah Raven’s book is perfect for these situations because the recipes are divided by ingredient; gluts are instantly turned into opportunities!

Spinach Malfatta

for 4:
500g spinach
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 egg white
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
100g breadcrumbs
plenty of fresh grated nutmeg, to taste
1 tablespoon spring herbs (parsley, chives or fennel)
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon flour
Tomato sauce to serve

Remove the stems from the spinach and finely chop the leaves. Cook in a little salted water until tender and then drain and squeeze out the water. Combine the spinach with the garlic, egg white, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, herbs, salt and pepper.

Shape the mixture into small balls about the size of walnuts. To cook, lay them in a steamer lined with lightly oiled greaseproof paper, you can do 2 layers at once if you need to. Steam for about 10 minutes.

I served them with the last batch of tomato sauce from the freezer.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sun, Spring and Sheds

This weekend has been all about the letter S!

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for an allotment visit. Spring seems to have finally arrived so I was keen to finish digging the plot before the ground dries out any more. Several hours later and I could no longer stand up straight but at least the last of the plot was dug and ready for the potatoes. Obviously you are now wondering how there can be so many weeds in the photo of an apparently dug over allotmnet so let me explain; by dug over I mean that the soil has actually seen a spade in the last 5 years. The area I have been clearing this weekend had some impressively big weeds but now that the soil has at least been turned I should be able to focus on preparing the ground for some planting.

By some rare force of nature I was joined by OH (this is a very unusual event) and he put himself to good use pianting the shed. Yes it is blue and Yes I did choose the colour. One of the books which encouraged me to take on an allotment was "The Allotment Book" by Andi Clevely and the picture at the start of The Perfect Allotment chapter is my idea of a dream shed so the blue paint is just the beginning. Hopefully I'll have some pot of flowers growing around and even up it this summer.

Back in reality the garlic is growing well, including the bulbs in storage so I used a few of the sprouting cloves to plug the gaps in the garlic rows and I also put in another row to bring the total number of garlic rows up to 4. I'm really trying not to grow as much garlic this year but it does seem a shame to waste them. The forced rhubarb is ready and has just been baked in orange juice with star anise, I'll be eating it for breakfast this week.

In the cold frame the leeks and beetroot have germinated and the aubergines and celeriac are growing well. I have sown some more sweet peas and also 3 pots of tomaotoes; Minibel, Red Cherry and Latah. I still think I'll need to buy some Sungold or Gardener's Delight seed before I feel the tomato side is done. Next week I really need to get the potatoes planted but with the sun set to shine all week I don't think that'll be too much of a chore. Enjoy it.