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Weed Suppressant Paths And Parsnip Crisps

When I had my first allotment in 2005, I decided to have four rotational areas which I separated with Michaelmus Daisys and I must say they look beautiful in September each year when they flower.

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At first, I would walk all over the soil to plant things and dig it all over each winter.  This was easy to do with one plot but when I took on more plots four years ago, I had to re-look at how I did things.

I decided that in between each row of Michaelmus Daisys I would have four ‘fixed’ beds separated by paths, so I didn’t need to walk on the soil.  The only exception was my potato bed, where I would remove the paths each year and dig the whole area over.

I used weed suppressant that I cut to size for my paths and held it down with small tent pegs.  However, the wind had other ideas so I had to resort to holding it down with bricks instead.

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The bricks were not ideal as the slugs love hiding underneath them and I have often fallen over the bricks when I am not looking at my feet.  Also, the wind still blows the weed suppressant about, as you can see in the photograph below, but the worse thing is the weed suppressant frays like mad where I cut it and I have strands of it everywhere, which gets tangled up in my trowel, fork and even around my legs sometimes.

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  On the plus side however, the paths have been great as I didn’t need to walk on the soil, which meant I could weed when the ground was really wet (as I could just reach into the bed) and all I’ve needed to do each year is lightly fork the soil over if I wanted to and it doesn’t get compressed.

So I decided I needed to do something different.

I thought long and hard and considered the usual options of slabs (which would be far too expensive), wood chip paths (again expensive for the wood to edge the paths) and just plain soil paths (I tried this before and I spent ages weeding them).  In the end I decided to have another go at weed suppressant paths, but this time I was determined to do them properly with no edges to fray.

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I brought the weed suppressant from our allotment shop as it is only £2 per meter (with a width of four meters wide), so this is really good value, though it is a low grade weed suppressant that does need to be doubled.

I cut it into strips that were large enough to be doubled over and I left a couple of inches extra to sew the hems.

I found the weed suppressant would not pass through my sewing machine as it keep catching underneath, so after a whole morning of trying every way possible, I unfortunately had to edge the top and bottom of it with duct tape before I could manage to machine sew it.

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I sewed the sides together and then turned the weed suppressant inside out

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I then ironed the path flat (I was supprised I could iron it without it melting, but it was fine)

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I then sewed the ends up

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And then I used some Eyelets to stop it from fraying when I pinned it down onto the ground.  I also used a bit of duct tape before putting each eyelet on, to give the weed suppressant a bit more strength.

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I spaced the eyelets just wide enough to fit the double pins that I had bought, to hold the weed suppressant down.

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I’m hoping these pins will be better than the small tent pegs I used originally… but I will let you know when it is next windy.

I laid the paths at my allotment and I am really pleased with them.  I think the paths look much better without the bricks and fraying:

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If the new pins hold the paths down, then I will try and do the rest of the weed suppressant paths around my allotment over the next year or so.

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Parsnip Crisps:

I’ve not written a recipe on my blog for ages, so I thought today I would.

I like to use everything I grow in as many different ways that I can.  At the moment I still have parsnips at my allotment and it won’t be long before I need the space for something else.

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Parsnips are lovely roasted and I especially like them in a spicy parsnip soup or a nice parsnip cake.

You can also use parsnips to make ‘parsnip crisps’, which is something a little bit different and they taste wonderful when they are served warm.

  This is how I make them:

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Parsnip Crisps

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800g parsnips

6 teaspoons olive oil

Salt to taste

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Preheat your oven to Gas 3 / 160C /325F

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Wash, peel and slice your parsnips finely (I used my food processor for quickness, as it has a slicing attachment)

Rub the olive oil all over the parsnips

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Lay the parsnip slices on greased baking sheets

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And bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning half way through the cooking time

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While thay are still hot, sprinkle with salt and then enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

‘Romantic’ Seed Potatoes

I was very excited this week as I purchased my seed potatoes (little things make me happy).  I like to buy them early so I get the varieties that I particularly like to grow.  I have chosen:

‘Marfona’ which are second earlies,

‘Picasso’ which are an early main crop and

‘Desiree’ which are red potatoes.

I bought the potatoes from a nursery in Enderby, as I like to be able to pick the exact number of seed potatoes that I need for each row at my allotment.  It was fascinating to see the amount of different varieties of seed potatoes that they stock.  I must say they have an amazing choice.

However, the best price per kg for seed potatoes that I have found this year, is at Wilkinsons.  Unfortunately they don’t stock the varieties I wanted, but If I wasn’t fussy then I would definately buy them from there.  They are also selling some potatoes loose this year for the first time, so you can also just buy the exact number of potatoes you require, rather than buying a bag.

I have now put my seed potatoes in seed trays to ‘chit’ them.  You don’t really need to ‘chit’ main crop potatoes but there isn’t really anything else to do with them until April.

As per normal, I am the most romantic wife around and I have the potatoes ‘chitting’ in our bedroom, as it is the coolest room of the house.  It’s a good job Mr Thrift is a tolerant man:

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This week at the allotment I removed the environmesh over my overwintering onions and weeded.  A couple of years ago I lost most of my overwintering onions to the ‘allium leaf miner’ (you can read about it here).  When I harvested my onions last year, they were great after I covered them with the enviromesh, so I did the same thing again when I planted this crop.

After weeding I replaced the cover again.

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I also forked my green manure into a couple of beds.  I sowed ‘Phacelia’ in the beds in late summer and then chopped it down just before it flowered, but I find it never seems to die completely and keeps growing.  So now, I cover it with weed suppressant for a few months to make sure it dies back and then I fork it in.

I then covered the two beds with plastic to warm the soil ready for my onions in February or March:

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I also spread some manure around my rhubarb plants.  I have placed a bin over one of my plants to ‘force’ the rhubarb.  This way I will have lovely pink tender rhubarb a couple of weeks earlier than my other plants.

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  I inherited the rhubarb when I took on my plot number two, so unfortunately I don’t know what variety it is.  What I do know is it is a very early variety and it’s actually starting to grow already:

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Back at home I have started my seed sowing.  I used toilet rolls filled with compost to sow my broad beans in.  I sowed an overwintering variety called ‘Aquadulce’.  I will leave them in my greenhouse until they germinate.  You can plant these broad beans directly into the ground at the end of October but I find that mine always seem to get eaten by mice, so by planting them at home it ensures success.

I also sowed my leek seeds and I planted some garlic.  I am a bit late planting my garlic but it should still be ok:

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I am still harvesting things from my allotment and this week we have had some cabbages, carrots and a swede.

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One of the cabbages was huge and I have loads left in my fridge:

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One bit of bad news this week is we finished the last of my butternut squashes (which were also stored in my romantic bedroom with my pumpkins).  I made a butternut squash soup and it was lovely and thick.

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Finally, I picked my last red cabbage from my allotment and I decided to make some pickled red cabbage.  If you have never pickled red cabbage before, it is really easy to do:

All you do is wash the cabbage, shred it and then cover it with salt:

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Cover it and leave it overnight:

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Rince the salt off the cabbage and then put the cabbage into a sterilised jar and cover with pickling vinegar.

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Leave for a month before eating.

Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Monday at my usual time.

What Do You Do With Hundreds Of Courgettes?

I always look forward to the first courgette of the year as it means summer really is here.  I get excited watching it grow, waiting for the day I can pick it:

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When I do pick it, I nearly always use it in a lovely courgette, onion and cheese omelette and we always comment on how lovely it is to have the courgettes at last, as it seems such a long time since we last picked them the year before.

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The first couple of weeks are like a ‘courgette honeymoon’, as it’s so lovely to use them in our summer meals.

Every day I check for more courgettes on my plants and the plants keep producing them.  They just keep coming…

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…and coming…

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…and coming…

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…and coming!

In fact by mid-summer they seem to be laughing at me and ‘popping out’ overnight from where they have been hiding and every basket of goodies havested at the allotment has a least a couple of courgettes in:

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So what on earth can you do with all the courgettes that you pick?

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I have read quite a few articles in books and magazines on this subject, but half the recipes I’ve read are not really realistic for everyday meals, or are really time consuming recipes (and I haven’t got too much time to cook the courgettes as I’m too busy picking them).

So I thought I would talk about what I do with the millions of courgettes that I grow:-

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I use courgettes in everyday meals like pasta bolognaise, curries and chilli’s…

Pasta Bolognaise

Pasta Bolognaise

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I also use them in pies like my Chicken, Courgette and Broccoli Pie.  You can find the recipe here.

Chicken, Courgette and Broccoli Pie

Chicken, Courgette and Broccoli Pie

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Courgette Frittata’s are nice too.  The recipe is here.

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Courgette Frittata

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I also add them in the Pasta / Pizza Sauce recipe I make.  After it is cooked I whizz the sauce up with my stick blender and no one ever knows and then I use my sauce as normal.  You can find my pasta / pizza sauce recipe here.

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Courgette chutney is one of my favourite chutneys.  I use this recipe, but replace the scallopini’s (patty pans) with courgettes.  It keeps for ages and is lovely served with cold meats and on sandwiches.

Courgette Chutney

Courgette Chutney

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I also use courgettes to make savoury scones.  Cheese and courgette scones are absolutely delicious and can be frozen ready to pop into lunch boxes in the morning, before work and school.  The recipe for cheese and courgette scones is here.

Cheese and Courgette Scones

Cheese and Courgette Scones

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One of the favourite things I make with courgettes is a Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake Cake.  No one ever knows the cake has courgettes in and this way the kids get a few extra vitamins, without realising it.  The recipe is here.

Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake Cake

Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake Cake

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One other thing I do with my courgettes is to freeze them.  I have a bag of sliced courgettes and diced courgettes which I open freeze on trays before bagging up, so they don’t stick together.  I never blanch my courgettes first and they always seem to be ok for use over the winter.

I also bag up grated courgettes in the exact quantities ready to make the courgette cheese scones.  This way I can just take a bag out of the freezer the night before, to defrost ready to make the scones.

Courgettes sliced and diced ready for freezing

Courgettes sliced and diced ready for freezing

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Finally, I use the courgettes in different soups.  A particularly nice soup is a Courgette, Potato and Cheese soup.  The recipe is below:

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Courgette, Potato And Cheese Soup

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500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces

1 pint of vegetable stock

1 kg of courgettes, washed and chopped into small pieces

1 bunch of spring onions, washed and sliced small

100g grated cheese

Salt and pepper

Ground nutmeg to serve.

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Put the potatoes into a large pan, cover with the vegetable stock and bring it to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the courgettes and simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Put a few spring onions aside to garnish the soup when you serve it.  Put the remaining spring onions in the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

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Add the cheese, stirring it until it has melted.

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Take the pan off the heat and use a stick blender or liquidiser to smooth the soup.

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Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil, adding salt and pepper as required.

Serve the soup with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and garnish with the remaining spring onions.

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I hope you enjoyed my blog today.  If you do anything different with your courgettes, it would be lovely to hear from you, so please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

I’ll be back on Friday at 4pm.

Have a good week.

Preparing Onion Beds, Brussels And A Creamy Coleslaw Recipe

The weather has been strange this week.  We woke up to a layer of snow on Monday morning and have had snow showers on and off all week.  It has been so cold.

On Tuesday it was -2C outside, which is way below average temperatures for March and the weatherman reported that this time last year, the temperature recorded was 18C!

Never the less, I have managed to get a few jobs done at the allotment.

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This week, I managed to pick the last of my Brussels.  I cleared the bed and forked it over.

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I was very pleased with my Brussels this year, as I only had one plant out of ten, that had ‘blown’ sprouts on.

 ‘Blown’ sprouts are just sprouts that have opened, they don’t look as nice, but they can still be eaten.  I was always led to believe that this happens if your soil isn’t firm enough.  However, for the last couple of years I have dug the soil in autumn, danced and jumped on the soil around my plants and still they have ‘blown’.

Last year I decided to buy an F1 variety that apparently were less prone to ‘blowing’ and I’m very pleased to say, it worked.

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This week, I also managed to edge the other side of my summer raspberries with ‘lawn edging’ from Wilkinson’s.  It looks neater now and I’m hoping it will stop the fox from pushing the soil onto the path next to it.

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Another job I managed to do, was rake some blood, fish and bone into the soil, ready to plant my shallots and onions sets, in a couple of weeks.

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 Afterwards I re-covered the soil with plastic to keep the soil warm.

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My shallots are still sitting in pots in my cold greenhouse at the moment.

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Finally, this week I noticed my spring broccoli is beginning to sprout.  My youngest daughter will be pleased as she loves it.

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Mother’s Day

On Mother’s day last Sunday, I decided to have my favourite meal, instead of our usual ‘Sunday roast’.  I chose to have a homemade pizza, jacket potatoes, salad and homemade coleslaw.  You can see how I make homemade pizza here.

My Olympic Pizza

My Olympic Pizza

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I thought I’d share with you, how I make the coleslaw, as it’s very easy to make and tastes lovely and creamy:

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Homemade Coleslaw

½ white cabbage shredded finely

2 carrots grated

1 onion grated

150ml mayonnaise

2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt

Juice of ¼ of a lemon

1 teaspoon caster sugar

Black pepper to taste.

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Mix the cabbage, carrots and onions together in a bowl.

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Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

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Enjoy your lovely homemade coleslaw!

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I’ll be back again on Monday.

 

Homemade ‘Wraps’, Laundry Liquid, The Allium Leaf Miner And Seed Sowing Continued.

The Allium Leaf Miner

If you read my blog on Friday, you will know that last week, I dug up my remaining leeks and froze then.

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While I was preparing them, I found something interesting that I thought I would share with you.

I found an Allium Leaf Miner, so I took a photograph to show you.

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Plants affected by the allium leaf miner tend to rot, from the damage it has caused on the plant. If you look closely on the picture above, you can see the small brown pupae, 3-4 mm long, embedded in the stem.

This is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002. It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time two years ago.

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks. Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

Last year I lost quite a few of my overwintering onions to the Allium Leaf Miner, so this year I covered them in environmesh, though it would cost too much to cover all the alliums I grow at my allotment, so I’ll have to hope for the best.

You can read all about the Allium Leaf Miner here.

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Seed Sowing:

The seeds I sowed on the 25th February have now all germinated and are growing well:

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From left to right, I have Celeriac, greenhouse tomatoes, lobelia, lettuce, cabbage and cauliflowers.

The celeriac, tomatoes and lobelia are sitting on my windowsill inside my house and the cabbages, cauliflowers and lettuce are sitting on a heated mat in my cold greenhouse.

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The seeds I grew on the 9th January are also doing well now too:

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From left to right I have peppers, basil, broadbeans and onions.

The broadbeans are in my cold greenhouse (as they are an overwintering variety), and the rest are sitting on my windowsill inside.

Finally, the shallots I planted in paper pots on the 6th February, have all rooted and some are beginning to sprout:

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So far, my seed sowing is going well.

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Laundry liquid:

I was running short of my homemade laundry liquid this week, so I made some more.

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I love this liquid as it saves us so much money and it is really easy to make.

You can read how to make it here.

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Homemade Wraps:

Today I thought I’d show you how I make homemade ‘Wraps’.

Homemade wraps are brilliant as they are so so easy to make and I have worked out that they cost just 15 pence to make…this is just under an incredible 2 pence per wrap!

The cheapest wraps I have managed to find are currently 12.6 pence per wrap, so it’s definitely cheaper to make them.

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 Homemade Wraps:

250g plain flour

1 tablespoon of olive oil

150ml warm water

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Sift the flour into a bowl.

In a separate jug, add the olive oil to the warm water, then add this mix to the sieved flour and stir well until it all comes together into a ball.

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Knead the ball for approximately 5 minutes.  Add a little bit extra flour if the ball is too sticky.

Divide your dough ball into 8 pieces.

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Heat a frying pan until it is very hot and then turn down to a medium heat.

While the pan is heating, sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll out a dough ball into a rough circle shape.

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Put into the frying pan (with no oil) and cook for approximately 1 minute, then turn and cook for a further minute on the other side.

(Be careful not to overcook or the wraps will break when you fold them).

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Leave to cool on a cooling tray.

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How to fold a wrap:

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Half fill the wrap with your desired filling

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(in the picture I used mayonnaise, cheese and salad, but you can put whatever you normally put in your sandwiches).

Fold the top, three quarters of the way over the bottom

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Fold the left side over the right side and turn the wrap over.

Then you have a perfect, homemade wrap…..Enjoy!

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I’ll be back on Friday.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Homemade Gifts And Easy Homemade Truffles

I love homemade gifts as they are all unique and they take time and energy to make them.  It shows the person who receives the gift, how important they are to you.

I think a homemade gift, is a gift that is given from the heart and not just from your bank account.

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Yesterday, I made homemade truffles for my friend’s birthday.  I bought a lovely little gift box and lined it with tissue paper and tied a nice ribbon around it.  I was very pleased with how it looked and I would have loved to receive it.

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Tomorrow I am on Radio Leicester, on the Tony Wadsworth show at 10am.  I love going into the studio with Tony, as he is so welcoming and always makes me laugh.

One of the things I wanted to talk about is homemade Christmas presents.  So I also bought another gift box and filled this with truffles for the Radio Leicester crew to share.

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In the box, I placed a little label which describes each truffle:

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There are two different truffles in the box:

White Chocolate, Apricot And Brandy Truffles and Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles.

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I am really pleased with these and I think they demonstrate that homemade presents can look really good too.

Below is the recipes for each truffle.

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White Chocolate, Apricot And Brandy Truffles

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¾ cup madeira sponge cake crumbs

¼ cup icing sugar

¼ cup ground almonds

½ cup finely chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoons double cream

50g white cooking chocolate

1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

½ cup desiccated coconut for coating

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Mix together the cake crumbs, ground almonds, icing sugar and apricots in a bowl.

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Quarter fill a pan with water and heat until boiling.  Turn the heat down so the water just simmers and put a heat proof bowl over the pan.  Melt the white chocolate in the heatproof bowl and then stir in the cream.

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Add the chocolate and cream mix to the cake crumb mix, together with the brandy. Mix it  until combined.

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Roll the mixture into balls and then roll the balls gently over the desiccated coconut, to coat them. Place on a paper-lined tray or mini cake cases and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

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These truffles will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Dark Chocolate Rum Truffles

¾ cup madeira sponge cake crumbs

¼ cup icing sugar

¼ cup ground almonds

1 tablespoon rum (or 2-3 drops rum essence)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

50g dark cooking chocolate

2 tablespoon of pouring cream

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The Icing:

1/3 cup sifted icing sugar

2 tablespoons butter

30g cooking chocolate

2 teaspoons rum (or 1-2 drops rum essence)

¾ cup chocolate sprinkles

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Mix the cake crumbs, ground almonds, rum and lemon juice in a bowl.

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Melt the chocolate in the heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Pour the melted chocolate into the cake mixture and add the cream.  Mix until the ingredients are all combined and then roll the mixture into small balls.

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Put the balls onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow them to harden in the fridge for approximately 4 hours or overnight.

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Next make the Icing:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Stir in sifted icing sugar and rum and stir until it is all combined and smooth.  It should be the  consistency of runny cream.  If it’s too thick add a little bit of warm water from your kettle.

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Insert a cocktail stick into the truffle and coat it in the chocolate

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Straight after, dip it into a bowl with the chocolate sprinkles in.

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Put the truffles on greaseproof paper and put them in the fridge for another two hours to chill.

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These truffles will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

A Cheese Spread Recipe And A Beneficial Animal To Your Plot

We all know that it is good to attract beneficial insects and animals to your garden, but we don’t always know why.  So today I thought I’d look at the Hedgehog, as during the summer I placed two Hedgehog boxes onto my plot.

I hope you find this interesting.

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Interesting facts about the Hedgehog:

  • The hedgehog is a well known UK animal which is sadly becoming a scarcer sight.  It is the only British mammal that is covered in spines, as many as 7000.  When it is in danger, it curls up into a ball to give it protection.
  • Hedgehogs are mostly nocturnal and travel long distances in their nightly forages for food.
  • The young are born between May and September, in litters of four or five.
  • They have been known to live for up to 14 years, but most will die after two years.
  • Hedgehogs hibernate between November and early April.  During this time, their body functions slow down, almost to a standstill and their body temperature drops from 35°C to 1 0°C. This helps them conserve energy.

  • Before hibernation, a hedgehog should weigh at least 0.5kg to survive the winter.
  • They have poor eyesight but have excellent smell and hearing skills. They can also swim and climb very well.
  • Foxes, dogs, badgers, stoats are all threats to the hedgehog.

 

Why are Hedgehogs good for the Vegetable Garden and how can we attract them?

Hedgehogs are beneficial animals to the vegetable garden because they love eating some of our allotment enemies e.g. caterpillars, beetles, slugs and snails, that destroy our lovely vegetables.

You can encourage hedgehogs into your garden or allotment, by leaving piles of leaves and twigs around for them to nest in, or by making a purpose built shelter like the one we have in the photo below.

My hedgehog box

I actually have two of these boxes hidden in two different places at the back of my allotments, in overgrown areas, in the hope they will attract a hedgehog or two, to my plot.  However, you can just make a pile of leaves or grass cuttings in a sheltered area of the garden.  Hedgehogs also love unmown lawn edges as they can find insects in the grass to eat.

Things that can harm Hedgehogs:

  • Slug pellets containing Metaldehyde can be fatal to hedgehogs, so organic slug pellets are a better option.
  • A hedgehog thinks an unlit bonfire is a really good place to hibernate, so please check for them before lighting.
  • Bread and milk will cause the hedgehog to have diarrhea so do not feed it to them.
  • Hedgehogs may nest in long grass, and are sometimes injured by strimmers and lawnmowers, so check long grass before you cut it.
  • Litter is dangerous to hedgehogs. They can become entangled in plastic rings that hold cans together, or become wedged in empty tins. Dispose of litter carefully and squash all your tin cans before recycling them.
  • Despite all these hazards, the biggest threat to hedgehogs is habitat loss. Over the last 30 years, agriculture has favoured large fields and the habitats of the hedgehog, particularly hedges, have been lost. Pesticide usage also puts pressure on hedgehog populations.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Hedgehog.  I will write more about beneficial animals and insects again soon.

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Another Recipe To Share

This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to post on my blog for a while.  It’s a recipe for Cheese Spread that my husband and daughter really like.

My recipe costs just £1.10 to make and it has none of the dreadful chemicals and preservatives that shop bought cheese spreads have.

You can add garlic and herbs to it if you want, to make it exactly as you like it.

It’s important you have read all the instructions and weighed out all your ingredients, before you make the spread, as each stage must be carried out immeadiately to make sure the recipe works.

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Cheese Spread

100 grams Margarine

2 teaspoons plain flour

1 teaspoon English Mustard

125ml milk

150g grated cheese (use more if required)

1 ½ teaspoons of Cydar vinegar

1 Egg lightly beaten (just enough to combine the white and yolk, don’t over beat) 

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Fill a bowl of water ready to cool your pan and have all your ingredients measured out as you don’t want your mixture to overcook in between each stage.

Melt the margarine over a low heat.

Take off the heat and mix in the flour and mustard.

Add the milk a little bit at a time and heat until the mixture is smooth and starts to bubble.

Lift off the heat and mix in the cheese and vinegar then return to the heat, stirring until the cheese melts.

Take the pan off the heat and quickly mix in the beaten egg.

Put the pan back on the heat, mixing all the time, until it becomes thicker, (this usually only takes 15-20 seconds, don’t heat for longer or the egg will scramble or the fat will separate). 

 Remove the pan from the heat straight away and stand the pan in the bowl of cold water, still mixing, until it cools.

Put the spread into a covered container and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

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I’ve found that different cheeses alter the texture and taste of the spread, so experiment to see which you like best.  I use ‘value’  mild white cheddar, as it’s cheapest, but it’s up to you.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Leaf Mould & A Week Of Main Meals For Under £10

This week at the allotment, I have been concentrating on my ‘autumn clear up’.  There were loads of fallen leaves from my fruit trees, so I raked them into piles and put them into my black dalek compost bin, where I keep all my leaves together.

The leaves will make a wonderful leaf mould in a year or two, which will be added to my allotment beds.  It doesn’t add any nutrients to the soil, but it is a brilliant soil conditioner.  You can read about how I make leaf mould here.

I also chopped down my Jerusalem artichokes.  I prune these when the foliage starts to turn yellow in the autumn.  As I live in the midlands, I leave them as they are after I have cut them down, but if you live in colder areas you can put a layer of straw over them so it’s easier to dig them up when the ground is frozen.

I have also planted a Rambling Rose called Rosa ‘wedding day’.  I have planted it at the base of the large plum tree in the woodland area, in the hope it will ‘ramble’ through the branches and look beautiful.  I chose this rose as I thought it looked so beautiful in the pictures on ‘Gardeners World’, when Monty Don was also planting one.  I used some of my birthday money to buy the rose, as I thought this would be a lovely way to have something that will give me many years of enjoyment.

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Today I picked some Cape Gooseburys:

My daughters love to eat these and there are still loads of them to ripen in my polytunnel (provided it doesn’t get too cold in there).  The plants are really big now.  You can see them in the picture below.  The plant I grew outside of the polytunnel didn’t do well at all and there are no Cape Gooseburys in sight.

I saved the seeds of one of the Cape Gooseburys, so I can grow them again next year.  I put the seeds on a piece of paper towel, leave them to dry and sow them again next year, with the paper towel still attached to the seeds.  It works everytime.

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Today I picked an enormous swede.  I’m not sure how I missed it before.  I also picked a cabbage that had quite a few slug holes but it was lovely inside.

The swede was enough for three pans full, so we had one pan for tea and the other two I will freeze.

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On Sunday I took my daughters shopping to buy gifts for this years ‘Shoe Box Appeal’.  We wrapped the boxes and lids separately (as advised by the website) and put all the presents into it.  My girls really enjoyed doing this.

We donated £2.50 towards the shipping expenses and then took the boxes to ‘Shoe Zone’, which is one of the designated drop off points.

I just hope that two children love our boxes.  It made us all realise how lucky we all are.  If you would like to donate a ‘shoebox’ too, all the details of ‘Samaritans Purse Uk’ can be found here.

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A Week Of Main Meals For Under £10.00

This week I thought I would set myself a challenge of cooking seven main meals for my family, for under £10.00. If I can do this, it will show people that we can and do actually live well on less’. So watch this space Jamie Oliver!

To keep the costs down, I will be using my home grown vegetables and in the style of ‘Ready Steady Cook’, I will have free use of store cupboard items, which can be found on Mondays post.

The total I have spent so far is:

 Sunday = £ 3.33

Monday = £ 0.87

So my total spent so far is £ 4.20

Tonight I made a chicken and roasted butternut squash pie and served this with vegetables from my allotment (cabbage. swede, peas and potatoes).

I made some pastry and a white sauce with the store cupboard items I have.  You can find how to make a white sauce here (just omit the parsley from the recipe).  I mixed the white sauce with the last of the leftover chicken and roasted butternut squash and then I covered it with the pastry and glazed the pastry with milk.

Tonight’s main meal cost me £0.00 to make.

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Yesterday I made naan bread and promised to tell you how I made them:

Homemade Naan Bread

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Naan Bread Recipe

1 teaspoon of fast action dried yeast

1 teaspoon demerara sugar

200 grams plain flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground corianda

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

2 tablespoons of milk

1 tablespoon warm water

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Mix the yeast with the warm water in a cup.  Stir in the demerara sugar and leave the cup in a warm place for 5 minutes, until the yeast is frothy.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, ground coriander and baking powder together.

Stir in the olive oil, natural yoghurt, milk and the frothy yeast mix.

Knead the mixture for 5 minutes and then leave the dough in a warm place for 15 minutes, with a damp tea towel over your bowl so it doesn’t dry out.

Preheat your oven Gas Mark 1 / 140C / 275F

Split the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll into oval shapes on a lightly floured board.

Transfer the naans to a greased baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes, turning once, until they are lightly golden.

 

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Bonfire Night & A Week Of Main Meals For Under £10

Bonfire Night

“Remember, remember the fifth of November.
Gunpowder, treason, and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”.

On 5th November 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.  He didn’t agree with the King, James I, and plotted with a group of men, to blow up the Houses of Parliament with gun powder.

The plan didn’t work and he was sent to the ‘Tower of London’ and was later executed.

Since then, the 5th November has been remembered as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night.  Children would make a pretend ‘Guy Fawkes’ out of old clothes , stuffed with hay or paper and sit in the street asking passers by for a ‘penny for the guy’, to pay for fireworks. At night the guys were placed on the top of bonfires.

Today, children do not ask for money for fireworks anymore and most people prefer to go to large ‘Firework’ displays that are much safer.  However, Guys are still made to put on top of bonfires.

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On Saturday we went to a Bonfire party at our allotment site.  We are on top of a hill facing Leicester and we could see most of the Leicester sky that was lit up with all the fireworks from different displays.  They had a large bonfire to burn all our old bits of wood and allotment debris that can’t be composted.

Earlier in the day, my family made a ‘Guy Fawkes’ to put on the bonfire.  We used old clothes and stuffed it with newspaper and put an old mask on it.

We were very pleased with the result and we transported it to the allotment, ready for the bonfire in the evening.

It was put on the top of the bonfire and someone even put a can of lager in it’s hand, he looked so funny

You can just see it burning in the photo below.

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Everyone at the allotment brought a dish to share and there was loads of delicious food.

There was even ‘Beetroot wine’ to drink, which was actually really nice.

It was such a lovely evening.

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A Week Of Main Meals For Under £10.00

This week I thought I would set myself a challenge of cooking seven main meals for my family, for under £10.00. If I can do this, it will show people that we can and do actually live well on less’.  So watch this space Jamie Oliver!

To keep the costs down, I will be using my home grown vegetables and in the style of ‘Ready Steady Cook’, I will have free use of the following store cupboard items:

Flour (Self-raising / plain / strong white)

Margarine

Olive oil

Stock

Yeast

Sugar

Salt

Milk / milk powder / UHT milk

Gravy

Herbs and spices.

Obviously, if I didn’t grow my own vegetables then it would cost more to make the meals, but that is the exact reason I do grow my own.  I’m also hoping to demonstrate to you, that by planning meals using leftovers you can have some really nice frugal meals.

I started my challenge yesterday (Sunday) by cooking a Roast chicken, roast potatoes, roasted butternut squash, roasted onion, roasted parsnips, red cabbage, mashed swede, peas and beans.

 

Using my vegetables and store cupboard items, I only paid for a chicken that weighed 1.4kg (three chickens for £10).  So my total expenditure for Sunday was £3.33 and you can see in the photo below, I have quite a lot left over:

 

Tonight I made a curry with some of the leftover chicken and vegetables.  The curry recipe I used is here.

I served the curry with homemade naan bread (I will put the recipe on my blog tomorrow), and homemade yoghurt.

My total expense for Monday’s main meal was £0.87.  This was how much I paid for the rice and the coconut milk, everything else was made from the leftovers from Sunday, or store cupboard items.

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Homemade Yoghurt:

 

A few years ago I was given an Easiyo Yoghurt maker.  You can see a similar one here.

The idea of an Easiyo Yoghurt maker is to use sachets of the Easiyo yoghurt mixes which you buy.  I don’t do this, as I think they are expensive and I like to make mine from scratch.  This is an easy way to make yoghurt:

You will need skimmed milk powder

UHT Milk

A yoghurt starter

The first time you make yoghurt, you will need to buy a small amount of ‘live’ natural yoghurt, or ‘probiotic’ natural yoghurt.  This will give your yoghurt mix, the bacteria that it needs to make yoghurt.  Each time you make your own yoghurt, save 3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt ready to start your next batch of homemade yoghurt.  Your starter can be frozen until needed.  I do this up to four or five times only, as the bacteria seems to weaken each time.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of skimmed milk powder into your yoghurt maker canister.  Half fill the canister with UHT milk and give it a good shake.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of ‘Yoghurt starter’ into the canister.

Top up the canister with UHT milk and give it another good shake.

Put boiling water into the Easiyo flask and then add the canister.

 Put the lid on and leave for approximately ten hours.

Take the canister out of the Easyio flask and then put it in the fridge to finish setting.

 Don’t forget to save 3 heaped tablespoons to freeze as a ‘yoghurt starter’ for the next time you make it.

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 Thank you for reading my blog today.

A Pumpkin Competition And A Pumpkin Recipe Week

What do you do with the flesh that you hollow out from pumpkins on Halloween?

Years ago, I used to just throw it away and I bet loads and loads of people still do.  Nowadays, my life is very different and every single bit gets used.  I grow my own pumpkins and do not want to waste any of it.

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All of this week I will be looking at ways to use pumpkins, so they are not wasted.  The first recipe of the week is a really nice Pumpkin and Apple chutney.  You can find the recipe further down this page.

But just a quick reminder, don’t forget the Pumpkin and Orange Cake recipe that I have already written about on my blog.  It is also a good way to use up your pumpkins too.  You can find the recipe here.

Pumpkin & Orange cake

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Firstly though, I would like to tell you of my daughter’s success at the weekend…

On Saturday it was our annual allotment pumpkin competition.  Last year my youngest daughter came joint first, with the pumpkin she had grown.  This year, she tried really hard to grow an even bigger one, even though the weather conditions were not good for pumpkin growing.

Back in April she sowed six pumpkin seeds in the hope of growing a large one for this year’s competition.  She potted the pumpkins on, at the beginning of May and finally planted two of the pumpkins in a piece of ground that we had prepared.

The pumpkins didn’t seem to move until the end of July, due to the weather and then finally one of the small pumpkins grew and grew.

She was really excited when the day of the competition arrived.  There were different catorgories in the competition.

The picture below shows the pumpkins that were entered into the smallest pumpkin catorgory:

The other catorgories were the heaviest pumpkin, the widest girth and the funniest shaped pumpkin.  You can see some of the entries in the photo below:

I’m very proud to say she won two categories, the heaviest pumpkin category and the widest girth category.  Her pumpkin weighed 24.4 kg and the width was 58 inches.  We came home with a very happy girl!

Afterwards we carved the pumpkin ready for Halloween on Wednesday:

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The chutney recipe below uses the pumpkin that is left over from your Halloween pumpkins and some Bramley Apples which are in season at the moment.  It tastes really nice.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney

1.4 kg Raw pumpkin chopped roughly into 1cm cubes

4 Tomatoes roughly chopped

500g Bramley apples, peeled and chopped

1 Onion chopped

125g Mixed dried fruit

125g Soft brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Ground mixed spice

1 teaspoon Ground black pepper

750ml Cider vinegar

A handful of fresh coriander chopped

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Place all the ingredients, except the coriander, into a large pan and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Stir in the coriander and continue to simmer for a further minute.

Spoon into hot sterilised jars.

(To sterilise jars, just pop the jars and lids in the oven for 5 minutes Gas mark 4).

Leave for three weeks before using.

This chutney can be stored unopened in a cool, dry place for six months.  Once opened, keep it in the fridge.

Thank you for reading my blog today.