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Catching Up & An Apple Cake Tray Bake Recipe

Before I start today I wanted to remind anyone that is interested, that my usual monthly blog post of

‘What To Do In The Kitchen Garden In November’ can be found here.

There is loads of information in this post e.g. weather conditions expected, what to sow / plant / harvest in November, jobs to do and pests / diseases that you may encounter this month.

I hope it helps someone out there.

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This week I have started to get back to normal after decorating my daughter’s bedroom a couple of weeks ago.  It has felt nice making bread and cakes again:

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I also caught up with a few jobs I have been putting off.

  I started by flushing my plug holes with bi-carb and vinegar to ensue they don’t start to block up.  It’s great for removing food, hair and soap scum from your pipes.  It’s very simple to do:

I put one tablespoon of bi-carb in the plug hole and then I added three tablespoons of white distilled vinegar and left it for a few minutes to fizz away:

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I then flushed it all down with boiling hot water:

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I also finally brought in the tomatoes that were sitting in my greenhouse ripening.  I put them there at the beginning of October and they have ripened well:

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I left a few on my kitchen window sill to continue to ripen and I have left some out for sandwiches and salads,

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but I have also managed to make some more passatta to freeze:

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In my garden this week I started to use another batch of lettuces that I have been growing under environmesh….I pick the outside leaves of the lettuces so they continue to grow.  They should be fine growing outside under the environmesh for some time yet, before the harsh winter weather comes:

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One thing I noticed in my garden is I have somehow managed to grow a clematis.  I do remember that a clemastis used to scramble through the large photinia bush I used to have in the corner, but I assumed this was killed off when I cleared the area at the beginning of the year.

When I first saw it growing in the summer I twisted the growth around my trellis as I really wasn’t sure what it was (though I did suspect it looked like a clematis) and this week it has begun to flower….better late than never:

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I shall leave the plant where it is as it obviously wants to be there and I will prune it in February.

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I also finally bottled up the wine I made a few weeks ago.  I had a little taste and it is lovely already, but hopefully as it matures it will get even better.  These bottles will be great in my Christmas hampers:

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My lovely sister dropped in this week with some apples from the tree in her garden, as she has had a bumper crop:

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I sorted the apples and I wrapped up those without blemishes in newspaper and placed them in a cool, dark place to store them through the winter:

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I then decided to juice the remaining apples, so I started by washing the apples and then removing all the bad bits:

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Unfortunately there were rather a lot of bad bits and when I chopped the apples in half I found that loads of them were bad in the middle.  I’m not sure if they are bad due to ‘codling moth’ or wether it is the result of ‘mouldy core rot’:

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However, I did get enough good apples to do a little bit of juicing:

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It was a shame about the rotten apples but the juice we did get was absolutely delicious:

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My sister also gave me a few bramley apples, so I made an Apple Cake traybake:

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An Apple Cake Traybake Recipe:

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500g Bramley apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced (leave in water to stop them going brown)

350g self raising flour

280g caster sugar

225g soft margarine or butter

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

2 – 3 tbsp demerara sugar to sprinkle over the top.

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Preheat your oven to 180C / gas 4 / 350F and line a baking tray with greased, greaseproof paper.

Put the margarine, caster sugar, eggs and vanilla into a bowl and then seive the flour and baking powder into the bowl. 

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Mix until all the ingredients are combined and then add a little bit of water to the mixture if it doesn’t drop off the spoon easily.

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Spread half of the mixture into the lined baking tray and then arrange half of the apples over the mixture.

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Put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the apples and then arrange the remaining apples again on top

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Sprinkle the apples with demerara sugar

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Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Ensure the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer….it is cooked when the skewer comes out clean.

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Leave to cool for ten minutes and then slice.

Serve hot or cold on it’s own or with cream or ice cream.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week!

 

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Pumpkin Muffin Cakes With A Mascarpone Frosting

The clocks went back an hour last week and it really feels like Autumn is here.  There have been some beautiful sunny, crisp days this week and there have also been some rotten, wet days too:

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But the leaves are turning brown and falling and each day looks beautiful wether it is sunny or wet.

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This week I have been busy catching up in my home after last weeks decorating.  Someone asked me last week how I organise myself so that I do so much…..in truth, if I’m doing something like decorating, then the bare minimum gets done.  We have quick meals or freezer meals which I have cooked ahead of time and I keep on top of the washing, but everything else is put on hold…..as you can see from the mess in our kitchen in the photograph below:

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I have concentrated on finishing my daughter’s bedroom this week.  We had ordered some flat pack furniture that was delivered on Saturday.

The furniture is an early birthday and Christmas present for my daughter and she has also paid for some of it from her allowance too.

I have got to say that the instructions for assembling it were terrible and it took me ages to put it together and there was a small piece missing which the shop have promised they will post to us.

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But when they were finished they did look good and my daughter was very pleased:

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I also put her curtain pole back up after painting it, but found that the rings wouldn’t slide across the pole easily when I tried to shut the curtains.  So I used a wax candle to rub across the top of the pole and it now works well (this is something you can do with any curtain track that sticks).IMG_2739 IMG_2776

I am very pleased with the curtain pole, but it will look better when I get around to making the new curtains for her too.

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This week I also stained the old mirror from my youngest daughter’s bedroom, as she didn’t want it.

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As you can see in the photograph above, I used my very old tin of left over woodstain.

The mirror now sits in my eldest daughter’s bedroom, matching her furniture:

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Incidentally, my eldest daughter’s old mirror now sits in my bedroom, as the frame on my old mirror had final broken after twenty three years of use).

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As I still had some woodstain left, I used it to paint the shelves that again my youngest daughter didn’t want in her new bedroom.  The shelves now sit in my kitchen where the old chest freezer used to be before it broke.  These shelves will be great for both my daughters’ school work, to keep it tidy:

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Finally, we gave my daughters old desk to ‘Loros’ to resell and I put her old wardrobe onto ‘freecycle‘ and it was picked up by a lovely lady on Wednesday.  This wardrobe was given to us second hand, thirteen years ago and I think it still looked in good condition. So it was lovely to know that it will still be used, rather than ending up in a landfill site.

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Halloween

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Tomorrow is halloween and each year many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away and I so hate waste.  So I thought today I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes with you:

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Pumpkin Recipes:

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins….the recipe is here.

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  Don’t forget you can freeze raw pumpkin.  In the photograph below you can see the frozen pumpkin that I used to make the cake recipe below…..this is raw pumpkin that had been in my freezer since January this year and I cooked it without defrosting it first.

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Also, most recipes ask for ‘pumpkin puree’…..to make this just cook the pumpkin in boiling water until it is soft and then drain the water and mash it.  I have found that you need approximately double the amount of raw pumpkin to make the pumpkin puree i.e 600g of raw pumpkin makes approx. 300g of pumpkin puree.

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Pumpkin puree can also be frozen in batches, ready weighted out for your favourite recipes.

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This year I decided to make a different pumpkin muffin with a mascarpone cheese frosting and it turned out well and tasted really nice:

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Pumpkin Muffins with a Mascarpone Frosting:

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Pumpkin Cakes:

230g self-raising flour

150g granulated sugar

100g soft brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil

3 eggs

170g of pumpkin puree

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

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Mascarpone Icing:

250g mascarpone cheese

50g icing sugar

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Extra bit of soft brown sugar for decoration (optional)

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Preheat your oven to 180C / Gas 4 /350F

Sieve the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a bowl and set aside.

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In a separate bowl mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil until combined.

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Beat in the eggs one at a time.

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Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla.

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Fold in the flour from the separate bowl, a little bit at a time.

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Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and then bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

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Put the cakes on a cooling tray.

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When the cakes have cooled down, mix the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice together and either pipe it or spread it on the cakes. I then put an extra pinch of soft brown sugar on each cake for decoration.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week!

 

 

 

Brandied Peaches & A Plum Cake Recipe

I wanted to start today by saying a big thank you to all the lovely people that leave comments on my blog.  Your comments have given me the confidence to continue writing my blog after I gave my four allotments up…..I was absolutely convinced at the beginning of the year that no one would want to read my blog when I started to just grow vegetables in my garden.

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I have always been conscious that my blog doesn’t really fit in with other catergories of blogs, for example it’s not just a vegetable gardening blog, or just a cooking blog, etc. as I cover lots of things that I do in my normal day to day life.

We live in a three bedroom semi-detached house, in a town near a main road…..I would love a small holding in the country, but in reality this will never happen.  So my blog is about making the best of what we have and through your comments I have realised that there are few blogs that do this and I am so glad you can relate to this.

Thank you for your continued support.

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This week in my garden I have been picking lots of tomatoes from my outdoor plants and I have got to say that my harvest is so much better on these plants than from the plants in my greenhouse:

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However, I have found a problem with one of my plants that I have in a pot.  Unfortunately I have found a couple of tomatoes that have ‘blossom end rot’:

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‘Blossom end rot’ is caused by a calcium deficiency and it usually seen when plants are grown in pots and growbags.  There is usually enough calcium in the soil, but unfortunately if there isn’t a good flow of water to the plant then it is unable to access it, also if fertilisers are added to dry soil then this can also restrict the uptake of calcium by the plant.

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My watering system that I use most days (on a timer attached to my hose on our water tap), hasn’t really been working very well this year.  I have found that some plants are getting too much water and some are not getting enough, so I need to be more careful about this.

I can’t save the tomatoes that are already suffering from blossom end rot, but I can pay more attention to my watering so I can correct the problem.

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My cherry tomatoes have now started producing tomatoes too and I am picking a few each day.  They are lovely and sweet and usually get eaten by my daughters in seconds….but that is fine by me:

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This week I have managed to make some passatta with the spare tomatoes and I have frozen this to use another time.  I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to grow enough vegetables in my small garden to be to have some left over for freezing…..I have been pleasantly surprised.

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I am harvesting a lot of perpetual spinach from my garden now too (which Mr Thrift absolutely loves) and this week I made one of his favourite meals with it…..Spinach and Poached Egg Florentine:

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I was also given some more produce this week…..some apples from my husband’s aunt and some courgettes, beetroot, and plums from my eldest sister.  I am very grateful for these, so if you are reading this…thank you so much!

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I made some courgette chutney with the courgettes my sister gave me:

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And I made two ‘plum cakes’ with some of the plums (one to eat and one to freeze):

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A Plum Cake Recipe:

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150g caster sugar

115g margarine or butter

140g self raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

2 eggs

Approx. 10 plums, pitted and halved

Icing sugar for sprinkling on the top

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Preheat your oven to 180C/ gas 4 / 350F and grease and line a cake tin:

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Beat the caster sugar and margaine until fluffy:

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Sieve the flour and baking powder into the butter / caster sugar and mix until combined:

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Add the eggs and mix:

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Pour the mixture into your cake tin and then top with the plums.

Put the cake in the oven for 35-40 minutes:

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Check your cake is cooked by inserting a skewer and if it comes out clean it is cooked.

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When it is cool, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with ice cream, custard, cream or some nice homemade natural yoghurt as I do:

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Enjoy!!!

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This week I started to think about Christmas and decided to make some brandied peaches for one of my Christmas hampers.  They take three months to mature, so it’s a good thing to do now whilst peaches are fairly cheap.  I found peeling them a bit fiddly, but I think they are worth it:

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Brandied Peaches:

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6 normal sized peaches

100 grams of caster sugar

Enough brandy to cover the peaches (approx. 600 ml)

1 litre sealable jar

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Start by slicing a small cross in the bottom of each peach and placing them in a bowl of boiling hot water for approx. 3 to 4 minutes:

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Take the peaches out of the water and place them immeadiately in a bowl of ice cold water for a couple of minutes and then start to peel the skin back.  I found it difficult to remove the skin on some of the peaches so I used a peeler on the more difficult ones:

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Cut the peaches in quarters and then slice each quarter in half again.  I discarded the stones and cut off any hard bits on the peach slices where the stones had been attached:

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I sterilised my jar (gas 4 / 180C / 350F for five minutes) and when it had cooled down I arranged the peach slices in the jar in layers, alternating with layers of caster sugar:

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I then poured the brandy into the jar making sure the peaches were covered.  I sealed the jar and gave it a gentle shake:

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I placed the jar in a cool, dark place and from now on I will shake it gently every week until it is ready in three months time.

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I think that is enough for this week, so thank you for reading my blog today.

  I will be back as usual next Friday.

Have a lovely week!

Greenhouse Shading And Banana Recipes

There has been some really miserable weather this week and it’s been hard to get into the garden to do any work.

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However, in between the showers I did manage to plant my mange tout, in front of my strawberries.  I am trying very hard to use every bit of space I have to grow vegetables.

This really is a trial year for my kitchen garden and I’m not sure yet if things will grow well or not.  I was hoping that I will have picked the strawberries before the peas grow taller and take away some of the sunlight….however due to the miserable, cool weather we have been having this may not work, as there are no sign of flowers on my strawberries yet.

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You can see in the second photo, I have put wire over the peas to stop the birds from eating them and my dog from destroying them (as she still goes mad when my neighbours dog is out).

I grew the monge tout in small lengths of guttering, which I ‘slide out’ into prepared soil when they have germinated.  I find this gives me a better germination rate.

You can read exactly how I grow peas in guttering here.

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I also planted out a few of my outdoor tomatoes that I sowed on the 5th April.  You can see in the photo above that I am leaving some glass over them because the temperature outside is still quite cool for this time of year.

The tomatoes are a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’ and I have grown them now for many years outside.  One seed company describes them as follows:

“Tomato Outdoor Girl is a really tough outdoor tomato, very easy to grow and tolerant to low temperatures. Early to fruit producing medium sized fruits of good flavour and colour

I think they are spot on with this description, as they really do give a good supply of tomatoes early on, so I get a good harvest before blight hits.

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In between my tomatoes I have planted some Tegetes as they look lovely when they are in flower and they also confuse the white fly with their smell, so this will stop them from attacking my plants.

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In my greenhouse this week I took the bubble wrap down that provided a layer in insulation over winter, (before it actually fell down on its own).  I have left it in place over the last few years and it was now brittle and tore very easily.

I replaced it with shading netting that will help my plants on hot sunny days.  I bought my shade netting from Wilkinsons as I found it cheapest from there:

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Last week I planted my basil in bags in my greenhouse and this week I sowed a catch crop of radish in between them and amazingly the radish germinated in just five days.  I also sowed a row of radish outside on the same day and they are nowhere to be seen yet.

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This week I harvested my first radish from the garden.  These were sowed on the 10th April:

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 I also picked a few of my everlasting onions:

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And I had my third cut of mixed salad leaves that I sowed in a pot in March:

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(Next year I am hoping to be havesting more things at this time of year, now my kitchen garden is up and running).

The aim of my kitchen garden is to harvest as much as possible from a small space.

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At home this week:

I made a big batch of tomato and basil soup from tomatoes I grew at my allotment last year and froze (I just chop the fresh tomatoes in half and place in a freezer bag and then into the freezer).

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When the soup was ready I then froze it in portions, so I can defrost a bowl full for lunch when I want to:

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Top Tip:

This week my daughter brought some plastic cups from the ‘pound shop’ and she couldn’t get the sticky labels off:

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So I put a drop of olive oil on the sticky labels and then I used a scrubber to easily remove the sticky label and residue remaining:

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This also works for removing the sticky residue on jam jars when most of the label has been removed.

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And finally I made some banana lollies and some super quick and easy ‘breadmaker’ banana bread from the ‘whoopsied’ bananas that I bought at the end of last week and I have written bothe of these recipies below for anyone that is intersted:

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Super Quick And Easy Banana Bread In A Breadmaker:

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3 over ripe bananas mashed

200 grams granulated sugar

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

2 eggs

270g self raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

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Put all the above ingredients into your breadmaker pan and put it on a ‘pizza dough’ setting for 5 minutes.

Stop the breadmaker half way through and scrape down the sides of your pan with a spatula to ensure all the flour is mixed in well,

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When there is no trace of flour left, set your breadmaker on a ‘bake’ setting for 55 minutes:

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The result is lovely banana bread

(which incidentally can be sliced and frozen for another time):

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Banana Ice Lollies:

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2 Ripe banana’s

3 tablespoons natural yoghurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

60 grams chocolate

2 tablepoons of milk

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Use a hand blender to combine the banana, yoghurt and vanilla until they are smooth:

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Pour the resulting mixture into four lolly moulds, leaving a slight gap at the top for the chocolate:

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Put the chocolate and milk in a microwaveable jug and microwave on full power until the chocolate has melted (this only takes a couple of minutes so keep checking it).

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Let the chocolate mix cool down for a few minutes and then pour it over the banana mixture:

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Put the lollies in the freezer overnight:

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And then enjoy:

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

King Richard III & A Quick Microwave Syrup Sponge Recipe

Because I live in Leicester, I couldn’t start my blog today without mentioning King Richard III.

For those that haven’t seen the news over the last week, the bones of Richard III were found buried deep under a car park in Leicester some time ago, and on Sunday a cortege carried King Richard III’s mortal remains from Market Bosworth (where he died in the battle of Bosworth) across Leicestershire into Leicester city centre.

We were all very excited as the A47 at the bottom of our road was closed for an hour as the cortege was to pass by.  So we all walked down to see a part of history, as Richard III was the last King to actually die in battle.  There were hundreds of people lining the road waiting when we got there.

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Well I can only say it was very dissapointing for everyone, as the cortege sped by so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it.  I had my camera ready in my hand and I still only managed to take the back of it as it shot by.

It was such a shame for everyone, especially as some people has white roses to throw, but there wasn’t time.

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There had been so much news coverage over the week leading up to the day, which is why so many people turned up to see him being driven past and everyone was under the same impression it would drive past at least a little bit slower.

However, it did all look amazing in the city centre when they showed the coverage on the news…it’s a shame we weren’t in town to see it.

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This week at home I realised that my butternut squashes were beginning to go over and I didn’t want to waste them.  We love butternut squash in our house and I grew loads last year at the allotment.

My last butternut squashes from 2014

My last butternut squashes from 2014

 I really didn’t want to waste the squashes, so I chopped them up ready for roasting and then popped them into the freezer on a tray and then bagged them up when they were frozen.

When they were frozen I tried roasting a few of them straight from the freezer, by just increasing the roasting time and I’m very pleased to say they were as good as they normally are.

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So I now have butternut squash, celeriac, jeruselum artichokes and parsnips, that I just take out of my freezer and roast from frozen (it makes Sunday dinner much easier).

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This week I decided to buy some trellis for my back fence.  The fence was looking very bare, as my cordon fruit trees haven’t grown any leaves yet.

I have been looking for trellis for a while, but what I wanted was always over £10 and I needed four pieces which would make it expensive.  However, I managed to find an expandable trellis in Wilkinsons this week for just £2 each and it matches my fence colour quite well so I won’t even have to paint it:

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It easily screwed onto the fence and I am very pleased with it:

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I shall be planting sweet peas up three of them, but I’m not sure what I will grow up the fourth one yet as this one is in the shade….I will let you know when I decide.

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I had a quick wander around my local nursery last weekend and I found a pot of Tegete seedlings for 60p.  I had already decided to grow some of these plants for my new kitchen garden as they are great to attract beneficial insects to the plot, but as yet I hadn’t managed to find the seeds in the shops.  I’m sure a packet of seeds would have cost me more than 60p.

So I brought the seedlings home and pricked them out.  There were enough for me to grow on and give to my family too.

(You can read how to prick out seedlings here).

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I also bought a tomato plant that was also 60p, but it was a lot further forward that the ones I am growing.  I have potted it up, by planting it deep in the pot, as new roots will then form from the stem and make the plant stronger:

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It will be interesting to see how much sooner I will have tomatoes ready to eat.

My tomatoes sown on the 3rd March

My tomatoes sown on the 3rd March

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This week my broad beans were ready to plant out. They are a variety called ‘Aquadulce’ that I sowed on the 11th February, which was really a bit late as they are an overwintering variety.

I do have a few spare plants that I can pass on, as I am not yet used to sowing seeds in such small amounts.

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It felt very nice to finally be planting something in my new kitchen garden at last.

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I noticed that the ground must be beginning to warm up as weeds are starting to grow, so I hoed for the first time this year.  It was very nice as it only took just a few minutes to hoe the whole plot – this job would have took a whole morning at my old allotments due to the size of them.

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I also decided to tidy up my strawberry patch, that was already in a mess from fallen leaves.  This is the only raised bed I have because this area is full of roots from the Viburnum tinus and Photinia bushes behind it.  The raised bed has been placed over weed suppressant as it was impossible to plant directly into the soil.

I used my homemade compost from my allotment compost bins and the small amount of compost I had made at home to fill the raised bed, so I could plant the strawberries in January that I also brought home from my allotment.  It was the wrong time really to plant them, but they seem to have survived.

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I also removed any of the dead leaves on the plants and gave them a good watering as the ground was fairly dry – I suppose this is one of the drawbacks with raised beds, especially ones that are situated under bushes as well.

(Incidentally, the raised bed will have plenty of sunshire as it faces south, so the bushes are not a problem as far as light is concerned).

Another thing I did was to cut the bushes back a little bit, so it was easier to walk around the raised bed.  I need to give some thought on how to stop the leaves from falling onto the bed and also more importantly, how to stop the bird muck falling onto my strawberries from the birds that sit in the bushes above….I’ll let you know when I’ve thought of something.

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Around my new kitchen garden my daffodils are flowering nicely and I had a nice surprise when I saw an aquilegia was growing next to one of them too.  These are one of my favourite flowers and I can’t quite understand how I missed it when I was digging my plot over.  It obviously is determined to stay and it’s ok for it to grow in the spot it is in, so I’m going to leave it there.

I like nice surprises like this.

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The rhubarb is growing nicely now and the comfrey is just starting to poke it’s head up from under the ground.

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Some of my raspberries are showing growth, but some aren’t yet, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that they show soon and they have survived the move from my allotment.

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So the kitchen garden is coming along nicely.

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Finally I though I would share another pudding recipe that I cooked for my family on Sunday.  It is really quick to cook, taking just eight minutes in my 700W microwave and tastes absolutely lovely (no one ever knows it has been cooked in a microwave either):

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Syrup Sponge Pudding Recipe:

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100g margarine, plus some for greasing the bowl

100g granulated sugar

2 eggs beaten

100g self-raising flour

2-3 tablespoons of milk

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

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Beat the margarine and sugar together.

Mix in the beaten egg then fold in the flour.

Then add enough milk to achieve dropping consistency (so it falls off the spoon easily).

Grease a microwave bowl with margarine and then put the golden syrup in the bottom.

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Pour the sponge mixture on top of the syrup.

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Cover the bowl with a plate and microwave on high for 8 minutes (based on a 700w microwave).

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Leave it to stand for a couple of minutes before turning in onto a plate. 

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream – or on it’s own if you prefer.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back as usual next Friday.

Have a good week!

Introducing Judy Thrift And Some Pumpkin Recipes…

Last week it was half term here and we all went to Portsihead, near Bristol for a few days.  We stayed in a Travelodge and just across the road was a lovely marina, full of boats of all different sizes.

We used Portsihead as a base and spent a day in Bristol and another day in Weston-super-mare and I have got to say we were really lucky with the weather as it was so dry and mild for this time of the year.

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Weston-super-mare

The main reason for a visit to this area was so we could take a trip to a little place call ‘Clevedon’.

I had never heard of this place until a few months ago and it was a lovely, small seaside town with a wonderful pier.  You can read about the pier here if you are interested in finding out more about it.

There was a special reason we visited this pier and that was because my eldest daughter is a massive ‘One Direction’ fan and they recorded the video for one of their songs on this pier, so it made her very happy to tread on the same pier as they did.

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Clevedon really was a beautiful, quiet seaside town…just right for eating an ice cream whilst sitting watching the sailing boats on the sea…

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Introducing Judy:

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Our holiday was lovely but we all couldn’t wait to come home as we had a very special lady coming to live with us…….

I would like to introduce ‘Judy’, our wonderful rescue dog:

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We had been talking about getting a dog for a while now, but had decided to wait until after our October holiday.  However, a couple of weeks ago myself and Mr Thrift decided to go and ask the RSPCA what the proceedure was for re-homing a rescue dog and we both fell in love with this quiet, timid dog wagging it’s tail at us.

This is the photo that was displayed on the RSPCA website

This is the photo of Judy that was displayed on the RSPCA website

Poor Judy had been very frightened when she first came to the kennels at the beginning of October and was also very anxious.  All we know about her is she is a Jack Russell, Terrier Cross that is three years old and her previous owner was poorly and had to go into hospital, so I think the whole experience has been traumatic for her and she is a little bit underweight.

After we found her, I visited her twice a day at the RSPCA and took her for a walk and by day three I sat down and she jumped on my lap for a cuddle and I knew then that she was definately the right dog for us.

My daughters also visited her after school each day to make sure they took to her too.  She didn’t jump up or bark at my daughters when she first met them, she just wagged her tail which was great for my eldest daughter who has always been a bit scared of dogs.

So on the 22nd October we had a home visit from RSPCA (to make sure everything at home was as we said it would be) and last Thursday 23rd October, we brought her home and she has settled really well.

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She is still a bit anxious (especially of men), but she is having a great time with all the attention she is getting from the ‘Thrift’ family and she now jumps up all of us when she wants some ‘fuss’ and barks at passers by.

We all adore her!

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So I’m sorry to say that this week I haven’t been to my allotment, as I am only leaving Judy on her own for very short periods of time so she can get used to it.  But two things I did before our holiday was I added a new compost bin for my perrennial weeds at the back of my plot:

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As usual, I used strong string to tie the pallets together and lined it with old bits of weeds suppressant.

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I also managed to plant my winter onions which were sown in August.  I covered them in environmesh to stop the allium leaf miner laying their eggs at the base of the allium stems (the second generation lay their eggs between September and November).

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At home I had been drying a heritiage bean called ‘Carters Bean’ that I grew this year and this week I took all the dried seeds out of the pods and popped them into an envelope to store / share them ready for next year:

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Halloween

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I couldn’t finish today without mentioning Halloween.  So many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes here with you:

***Don’t forget the pumpkin flesh can be frozen to use another day****

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

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 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

 

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And Finally……

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A Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins Recipe:

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600g self-raising flour

220g soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

300g raisins

2 eggs

400g pumpkin puree

150ml sunflower oil

The zest of 3 oranges

200ml of orange juice

A sprinkling of muscovado sugar for the top of each muffin

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Preheat your oven Gas mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and sugar into large bowl and stir in the raisins.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and then mix in the pumpkin, oil, orange zest and juice.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until there is no flour visible. There will be still lots of lumps left (this is the secret of good sized muffins.

 

Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and sprinkle each muffin with a little muscavado sugar.

 

Bake for 25 minutes until the cakes are firm to the touch and golden brown.

 

Enjoy!

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And don’t forget, with a little bit of imagination you can make some spooky treats for your children and grandchildren:

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I hope you enjoy some spooky Halloween treats tonight.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Courgette Sponge Cakes With Mascapone Cheese & Lemon Curd

Just wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to ‘Argiolus‘ who identified the caterpillar I mentioned on my blog last Friday.  It is in fact an Elephant Hawk Moth and he has kindly given a link to some more interesting information about the moth here.

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I love receiving comments on my blog, so please keep them coming with your views, questions and answers, etc. which are great for everyone who reads them.

Thank you

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At the weekend Rowley fields allotment society in Leicester had an open day, so we went along.  We saw a wonderful plot (or should I say garden), so I took a photo to show you:

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How beautiful it was!

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This week at home I have once again been thinking about storing my crops, by putting my onions away.  They have been drying nicely for the last three or four weeks in one of my mini-greenhouses.

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I put them in a large netted bag in my storage boxes with my potatoes and they will store nicely over winter, provided I check them every so often for any that have begun to rot.

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At my allotment, my cucumelons are taking over my tomato plants and my poor tomatoes are struggling to ripen!…but dispite this, my polytunnel is heaving with produce:

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This week at my allotment I have been pruning my golden gage tree.  I don’t think it has been pruned for a long time and as a result I found there were a lot of dead, diseased and crossing branches to prune away.

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Also, I have been pruning my lavender bushes that looked so beautiful at the beginning of summer and attracted lots of beneficial insects.

When I attended horticultural college I was told that the council parks department use strimmers to prune their Lavender and after planting my hedge a few years ago, I also use a strimmer to prune my lavender and it works a treat.  Provided I make sure that I leave approximately one inch of the current years growth on the plant, then it grows back lovely the next year:

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I have also been picking lots of tomatoes from my allotment.  I am still expecting ‘blight’ as they succumb to it each and every year unfortunately… but as yet they are still blight free for the moment.  You can read about ‘tomato blight here.

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As well as making tomato and basil soup (the recipe is here), I have been making passata.

Passata doesn’t usually have any seeds in it, however I think life is too short to sieve the seeds out of the sauce, so I don’t.

All I do is wash and chop them in half and then cook them in a large pan with a cup of water.  When they are soft I use my stick blender to liquidise them until there are no lumps.

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I then poor 500 grams worth of sauce into bags in plastic pots and when it is cool I freeze the portions.  When it is frozen I remove the bags from the pots and put the nice rectangular shaped sauces in my freezer ready to defrost and use when it is needed.

I use the sauce in recipes like pasta sauce, pizza sauce or spaghetti bolognaise.

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 This week I have once again been busy making jams and chutneys.  I started with a beetroot chutney to use up the last of my beetroot.  My daughter and sister love this chutney, so I make it every year.

The recipe is here.

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I continued to use up the plums I picked by making more plum jelly and I also made plum ice cream sauce.  I made the ice cream sauce in the exact way that I made crab apple ice cream sauce here, but I just substituted the crab apples with the plums.

It is delicious drizzled over ice cream (especially the home made vanilla ice cream here).

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Unfortunately, I then realised I had nearly ran out of jars and I still have loads of fruit in my freezer to make different jams, etc.  I know if you buy new jam jars they can cost quite a bit of money, so I buy the cheapest jars from the supermarket, use the contents and then re-used the jars.

(Incidentally, I don’t buy pickle jars as the smell is hard to remove).

In the past I found ‘value’ marmalade was the cheapest, but this week the cheapest jars I could find contained ‘lemon’curd’ at just 22p per jar.

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I gave the contents of a couple of jars to a friend and I have been madly using the rest of them myself.

I started by making mini lemon meringues:

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My eldest daughter made a lovely victoria sandwich with lemon curd in the middle:

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And finally, we went to a friends house at the weekend and I took some little lemon curd cakes and I even managed to hide a courgette in the mixture too.  They did taste good, even though I do say so myself.

You can find the recipe below:

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Courgette Sponge cakes with Mascapone Cheese and Lemon Curd:

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6 oz of Margarine

6 oz Caster sugar

6 oz Self raising flour

3 Eggs

A few drops of Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 medium courgette

½ Jar of lemon curd

250g tub of mascapone cheese

20g icing sugar, plus a small amount for dusting

The juice and zest from one lemon

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Preheat the oven Gas Mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Peel the courgette, top and tail it and then grate it very finely.

Place the courgette in a sieve just to let any excess water drain away while you are making the cake mix.

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Sieve the caster sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl and then add the eggs, margarine and vanilla extract.  Mix until they are combined.

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Add the courgette and mix until combined.

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If the mixture falls off the spoon easily (dropping consistancy), then half fill muffin cases with the mixture.

(If the mix doesn’t fall off the spoon easily then keep adding a tiny bit of water and mix until it does).

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Bake for 20 minutes and then leave to cool.

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Remove the cake from the cake case and slice it in half and put a teaspoon of lemon curd in the middle

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Mix the icing sugar, mascopone cheese and lemon juice together and then spread it or pipe it onto each cake.

Top each cake with a small amount of lemon zest.

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Sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar to finish off the cakes

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 Enjoy!

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time next Friday.