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A Busy Easter Holiday, Mincing And Sowing Parsnips

Hi all, I hope you had a lovely, restful Easter.

My pots of bulbs, courtesy of 'Spalding Bulbs'

My pots of spring bulbs, courtesy of ‘Spalding Bulbs’

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I had fun with my two new gadgets over Easter:

First was the meat mincer (with a sausage making attachment) that I told you about here.  I was disappointed to find that there were no instructions in the box, but I did manage to easily work out how to mince the beef that I had bought, thanks to the pictures on the box.  I am yet to make sausages.

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I wanted to work out if it was cheaper to mince my own beef, rather than buy the ready minced beef.  I spoke to the butcher at Morrisons (as we don’t have a local butcher) and I’ve got to say he was extremely helpful.  He told me that brisket is usually the cheapest cut of meat that can be used for mincing and it is fine to use, however he pointed out that ‘topside’ of beef was actually half price and worked out cheaper  per kg, than the brisket.  So I paid £10.69 for a lovely joint of beef.

The beef was beautiful.  It only had the smallest bit of fat on, which I cut off before I chopped it into chunks.  I then put it through the mincer.

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I must say though, my arm did ache by the end of it, but I managed to get eight bags of mince beef, all weighing 250 grams, which I froze.

I worked out that it would have been cheaper to buy the prepacked ‘value’ minced beef, but it was certainly cheaper than buying prepacked ‘lean minced beef’ and I had the benefit of knowing what is actually in the mince beef we are eating.

I was very pleased with the meat mincer I bought and I will definitely be mincing my own beef from now on.  I will now be looking out for bargain beef joints.

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My 2nd ‘gadget’ is something I have been wanting for a while….a bread slicer.  I have never been very good at slicing my nice homemade bread, which sometime spoils the overall look of it.

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Normally these slicers retail at nearly £90 (which I certainly could never justify), but we were killing time one day a couple of weeks ago and found Debenhams had a half price sale and had reduced it to £40.  They only had one left, which was in an extremely bashed box and my wonderful husband managed to haggle them down to just £35.

This was such a bargain and I am really pleased with it.  It cuts my bread beautifully and I have also sliced ham with it and it cuts it as perfectly as the ready cut ham, that you buy from the supermarket.

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Over Easter I had another jam making session.  This time I made rhubarb jam (my favourite), with rhubarb I still had in the freezer from last year.

I also made some crab apple jelly and crab apple ice cream syrup, from a bag of crab apples that I had frozen last year.  You can find the recipes here and here.

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I also finally opened my Wilkinsons ‘Starter Wine Kit’ that I had purchased in the New Year sales for £10.  Unfortunately some of the items were missing from the box and we didn’t have the receipt.  However, Wilkinson’s were fantastic and changed it anyway for a more expensive kit and gave us the remaining items from the old kit as a goodwill gesture, which we thought was fabulous customer service.

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I have never made wine before, so it is all new to me, which is why I chose a starter kit.  Hopefully when I have sussed it out, I can use some of the grapes from the vines I planted at my allotment last year, when they are established and fruiting well.

So it is now bubbling away nicely.

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I’ve also been ‘pricking’ out my seedlings and they are sitting nice and snugly in my heated greenhouse.  I try to stop the temperature falling below 10c, but unfortunately it has been dropping to approximately 8c on the cold nights we have been having.

My peas that I sowed on the 22nd March in guttering, are doing well now too, they will soon be ready to plant out:

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The peas have a bit of protection in my coldframe.

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The lettuces I sowed on the 17th March are doing nicely and I will be planting these in my polytunnel this week:

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I also sowed my parsnips on Saturday:

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I have always had such a problem with my parsnips ‘forking’ when I sow them direct, or not germinating.  I have dug trenches and filled with compost, I have filled holes with compost and sown into them, but nothing seemed to work until I came up with the idea of sowing the seeds in kitchen roll tubes.

I fill the tube with compost and sow three seeds in each and keep the tubes on my windowsill.  As soon as the seeds germinate, I move them outside into my coldframe and then a few days later I plant the whole tube into the ground.

This way I get straight parsnips nearly every time.

I have been asked in the past if this works with toilet rolls, but it doesn’t.  The reason for this, is the tap root on a parsnip is very long and grows down a long way before the seedling shows above the compost.  Therefore the tap root hits the bottom of the toilet roll tube, which causes it to ‘fork’.  However, as the kitchen roll is longer, the tap root has a longer distance to grow before it hits the bottom.

My parsnips

My parsnips

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Finally, over Easter, I decided to plant my onion sets into seed trays to start them off, as the weather showed no sign of changing.  This will give me a little bit of breathing space before I need to plant them in the allotment.  At least they will have developed some roots and this will help to stop the birds from pulling them up.

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So all in all, it has been a busy, but enjoyable Easter.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Friday, at approximately 4pm.

I hope you have a good week.

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A Frittata Recipe With ‘Leftover Vegetables’ And A Week Of Allotment Work

It has been a very busy gardening week at my allotment.

I started by feeding my fruit bushes and trees with ’sulphate of potash’, which is a good feed for fruit and flowers.  I sprinkled it around the plants and forked it into the soil and then I gave them all a layer of my own allotment made compost:

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I also planted broad beans at my allotment.   I sowed the beans in December and they had sat quite comfortably in toilet rolls, in my cold greenhouse at home.  I raked some blood, fish and bone fertiliser into the soil before I planted them  (it is better to rake this into the soil two weeks before planting, but I was a bit late doing this).  I planted two double rows, each plant 20cm apart and approx. 60cm between the double rows:

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Another thing I planted was the garlic I had sown in pots in my cold greenhouse over winter.  Unfortunately, I lost most of the garlic I planted directly into my allotment soil, before Christmas.  I think this was probably due to the constant wet weather we had.  I’m glad I planted the garlic in pots as a backup now:

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Remember my bean trenches?  I finally finished filling the second trench with peelings etc. and I covered the trench with soil.  The runner beans will love to be planted here at the end of May, as they love deep, moist, fertile soil.

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I also received the snowdrops ‘in the green’ that I ordered a couple of weeks of ago and planted them in my new woodland area.  If you have read my blog recently, I ordered these so I can remember my friend who passed away last month due to a brain tumour.  Snow drops were in flower when she died and the snow fell heavily during her funeral and she would have loved how pretty it looked.  It seemed fitting to plant snow drops in my woodland area that will always remind me of her:

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It has been a really tiring week as I started to prepare my potato patch ready for planting next month.  I started by digging up my remaining leeks and parsnips:

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After this, I forked in loads of manure.  When I am moving and spreading my manure, I always wish I was a 20 year old fit male, instead of a 46 year old struggling female!  I find this job such hard work and I’m glad I’ve finished it now.

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Later, I froze the parsnips by peeling them and chopping them into roughly equal sizes.  I blanched them for two minutes and then froze them on a tray before bagging them up.

By freezing the parsnips this way, I can remove the required amount of parsnips from the freezer and roast them from frozen with my roast potatoes on a Sunday lunch time.

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I froze the leeks exactly the same way.  These will be used in soups, spag bogs, chilli’s etc.

You can read how to freeze vegetables here.

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Today, I thought I’d share a really easy recipe with you, that I cooked this week.  It’s a good way to use up cooked vegetables that are left over from the night before and it is so filling:

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Frittata with Leftover Cooked Vegetables:

8 eggs

Leftover cooked vegetables e.g. potatoes, peas, carrots, French beans

1 Courgette (I use ready sliced courgettes that I froze last summer)

1 Onion

A handful of parsley (again I use parsley that I froze last summer)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

A handful of grated cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

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 Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.

Fry the onion and courgettes over a medium heat, until soft.

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Add the leftover veg and continue to fry until they are heated through.  Add the parsley.

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Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and add the salt and pepper.

Pour the eggs over the vegetables and cook gently, without stirring, until the egg is approximately two thirds cooked.

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Sprinkle the egg with the grated cheese and put the pan under your grill for a further few minutes until the egg is set.

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Slide the frittata onto a plate.

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Cut into slices and serve hot with a nice crisp home grown salad.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I’ll be back again on Monday.

Living ‘The Good Life’ and How To Make Newspaper Pots

On Friday, Ed Stagg from Radio Leicester, rang and spoke to me regarding ‘The Good Life’, as the wonderful Richard Briers had recently passed away and he was discussing ‘living the good life’, on his Saturday program.

This week Ed Stagg was joined by a model, a cook and a happiness expert.  They had quite an interesting discussion after Ed had played my phone call and if you have a bit of time spare, have a listen and tell me what you think.

You can hear the discussion here (approximately 1 hour 38 minutes into the program).

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Over the weekend I have been busy freezing my Celeriac, Turnips and the Jerusalem Artichokes that I picked last week

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If you have never used Jerusalem Artichokes before, this is how you prepare them and freeze them:

Scrub each of the Jerusalem Artichokes to remove the soil

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Chop the ends off each one and remove any damaged areas.

Chop into ‘roasting’ sized pieces

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You can then roast  them in olive oil (approximately 45 minutes, Gas mark 6) or freeze them (to roast from frozen another time).

To freeze, all you need to do is blanch them for two minutes. 

What is blanching?

….Boil a pan of water, then put the Jerusalem Artichokes into it.  Bring the water to boiling point again and then time it for 2 minutes and then drain.  Immediately plunge the vegetables into very cold water, to stop the cooking process.

Lay the Jerusalem Artichokes onto a tray in a single layer and freeze.  When they are frozen, put them in a bag.  By freezing them in a single layer on a tray, they won’t all stick together and it will be easy to take out just the required amount that you need.

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How to prepare and freeze Celeriac:

Celeriac is a bit easier to prepare as you just need to remove the skin, wash and chop into usable sized chunks.  Again, I freeze mine at this time of year, so we are never without them.

To freeze, blanch for two minutes, exactly the same way as the Jerusalem Artichokes.

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Turnips

I use the turnips in a different way to roasting, I use them to make a cheesy gratin as a side dish with meals.  I’ll show you how I make it another day.

I left the turnips a little bit too long in the ground and the biggest weighed 1.9kg!

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I froze it exactly the same as the Celeriac and the Jerusalem Artichokes above, only this time I blanched it for just one minute.

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Newspaper Pots

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On Friday I promised to show you how I make newspaper pots.  My shallots are sitting happily in my cold greenhouse in the pots I made.

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Newspaper pots are great to make as they are extremely cheap and environmetally friendly to use, as the recycled materials decompose when you put them in the ground.  This also helps the plants that do not like root disturbance, e.g. swedes, that can be sown in the pots and then planted a few weeks later, still in the newspaper pots.

The plants find it easy to grow their roots through the damp pots when they are in the ground.

You can actually buy a ‘Newspaper Pot Maker’, it costs about £10, but I prefer to make them using either a baked bean tin, or a soya sauce bottle, depending on the size of pot that you require.  This is how I make them:

How To Make Newspaper Pots:

You need a newspaper, some masking tape and a soya sauce bottle for small pots

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Fold one sheet of newspaper in half and then into thirds

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Roll the paper around the bottle, so the newspaper is over lapping the base of the bottle

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Ensure you don’t roll the newspaper too tightly, or it will be hard to remove the paper from the bottle.

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Use a small piece of masking tape to secure the paper at the top and then fold in the newspaper over the bottom of the bottle.

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Secure the bottom of the pot with a small piece of masking tape.

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You can use different sized tins and bottles depending on the size of pot required.  For example, I use a baked bean tin to make pots ready for when I ‘prick out’ my tomato plants.

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I find it’s best to make the pots and use them straight away, as sometimes the masking tape becomes ‘unstuck’ if you make them too far in advance.

Also, when your plant is ready to go into the ground, make sure all of the newspaper is under the soil, or the paper will act like a wick and dry the compost out.

I love newspaper pots.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I’ll be back on Friday at approximately 6 pm.

A Winter Warming Spicy Parsnip Soup Recipe & The Love Food Hate Waste Website

I’m really really pleased today as a picture of my Mini Christmas Cake is on the home page of the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ website and it links to a page with my recipe on it.  I am so proud and happy to have my recipe on their website, I could burst.

You can find their website here.

If you are visiting my blog for the first time via the above website, welcome.  I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Parsnips

Parsnips are said to be sweeter after there has been a few good frosts.   So now we have had a few frosts at the allotment, I consider my parsnips ready to be dug up and eaten.

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For quite a few years I had a problem growing straight parsnips, as they would always ‘fork’, which means they develop more than one root and they twist and turn as they grow downwards.  They say not to grow carrots and parsnips where you have recently manured, which I did and still they forked.

The way I grow my parsnips now is by sowing the seeds in kitchen rolls, in my greenhouse, until they germinate.  Once they germinate, I plant the kitchen roll into my allotment soil with the germinated seed still inside.  This way my parsnips are nearly all large and straight, without forking.

Below is a photograph of the parsnips that I dug up to use in the following Spicy Parsnip soup recipe.

I put a ruler next to one of the parsnips to prove to you that it was an incredible 44cm long.  I was very proud of this parsnip:

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The recipe I have written today is Spicy Parsnip Soup.  I love this soup as it is really thick and warming and great on a cold winters day.

I think this soup is so special,  I served it as a starter on Christmas day last year.  I made it on Christmas Eve and just reheated it on Christmas day.  I served it with a swirl of double cream on the top and it looked fabulous.

Everyone really enjoyed the soup.

mrs-claus[1]

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Spicy Parsnip Soup

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1.1 Kg Parsnips peeled and chopped

2 Medium onions chopped

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 pints of boiling water

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tablespoons lemon juice

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Heat the olive oil and fry the onions until they are starting to soften.

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Put the parsnips, cumin, garam masala and ground ginger into the pan and fry for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the boiling water  and crumble the vegetable stock cube into the pan and stir.

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Cover the pan and simmer for approximately 25 minutes, until the parsnips are soft.

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Blitz the soup with a hand blender or in a liquidizer.  Add more water if the soup is too thick for you.

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Reheat the soup and then add the lemon juice.

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Serve with some nice homemade bread.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.