Tag Archive | Freezing vegetables

My Problem Dog & My New Kitchen Garden….

Unfortunately things aren’t going too well with our lovely rescue dog, Judy.

For those that don’t know, we brought her home from the RSPCA in October and it was evident after a few weeks that she was a very anxious dog.  By December she was so frightened of other dogs sniffing around her that she actually bit a dog….I was mortified at the time.

We then contacted a behaviourist who has been working with me since December and after six weeks of training Judy, she was ‘tolerating’ other dogs a lot better…..until a couple of weeks ago two separate dogs within two days would not leave Judy alone and eventually she reacted badly to them (thank goodness she was wearing a muzzle).  On both occaisions their owners ‘ambled’ slowly across to me oblivious that their dogs were causing Judy a problem (even though I had shouted across to them to ask them to call their dogs away).

Judy on one of the rare occaisions she stands still in the garden

Judy on one of the rare occaisions she stands still in the garden

So we are now back to square one and Judy cannot tolerate any dogs again.  So I have been walking her at quiet times around the streets instead of the park to bring her stress levels down, however this has had a knock on effect….poor Judy has been getting more and more stressed with the buses, lorries, motorbikes, people with hats on, or people with walking sticks, prams, etc.

On Monday she even got upset at some new road works on a quiet side street and just would not walk past them and I nearly had to ring Mr Thrift to come out of work to pick us up in the car and take us home!

At home she is now continually pacing around our kitchen table during the day and running up and down the garden over and over again, without stopping.  In fact the only time she settles is when I hold her next to me, or in the evening when our curtains are tightly closed and everywhere is quiet.

So I emailed our behaviourist and she suggested we gave medication a try from the vets….so this is what we have done.

I feel that I have tried so hard to train her without success and I have used plug in diffusers, collars and things to calm her in her food and nothing is now working.  It really isn’t fair on her to live this way, so I feel this is now the only option.  I am hoping that the tablets are just for the short term and the vet hopes this too, but the vet also said that some dogs do need to take them long term….let’s hope not.

The medication can take upto two months to fully work, so I will let you know if things improve.

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In between my problems with Judy this week, I have been working hard to finish freezing the crops I brought home from my allotment before I gave the plots up.

I have now frozen my celeriac, brussells and some of my parsnips:

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I do still have quite a few parsnips left to freeze though, but I will do them in the next few days:

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My New Kitchen Garden

In my new kitchen garden I have been making a new path to follow my washing line.  I know some of you may think this is strange, but I do like to hang my washing out even in winter, as it saves money when I don’t use the tumble dryer and I think things seem so much fresher when they have dried in the wind.

I started by using a couple of the weed suppressant paths that I made for my allotment last year (you can read how I made them here).  I then used bundles of ‘hazel’ tied together with wire, to line the path.  This is hazel that I grew at my allotment and brought it home when I knew I was giving the allotment plots up.

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I then finished it with wood chip that I had also salvaged from my allotment, though I am yet to finish the end of the path nearest the fence, as I am not sure if I want to go all the way down to it yet as I haven’t finished planning the garden.

  I am pleased with how it looks so far:

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I have also been replanting the fruit bushes and autumn raspberries that I brought back from the allotment.  When I first brought them home I just ‘heeled’ them in as I hadn’t prepared the ground at that stage:

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I have now planted the fruit bushes and the raspberries, making sure I prepared the ground first by removing any weeds and adding a lot of compost to it.

I have lined our wire fence with the raspberries and our other ‘chicken wire’ fence with the two blackcurrant bushes, a white currant bush and a gooseberry plant.  These were fruit bushes that I only bought from a nursery in September, so I didn’t feel guilty about bringing them home from my allotment and I also have left plenty of autumn raspberries at my plot for whoever takes over.

I have also laid a couple more weed suppressant paths so I can get to pick the fruit (eventually) without treading on the soil:

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So my kitchen garden is beginning to take shape…..it looks a lot different from the ‘before’ photo on the left:

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I have also decided to put the big metal pots that I also brought back from the allotment, outside our back door.  I will fill them when I get around to it, though for the moment I have now stuffed them with some of the nets I also brought back.  I’m not sure what I will be planting in them yet….I must finish planning my new garden!

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Last weekend I managed to finally buy some seed potatoes.  It was very, very strange just buying a few instead of the big bag I usually buy each January for my allotment.

I chose a few ‘marfona’ seed potatoes (a 2nd early which I particularly like) and some ‘desiree’ potatoes (which are a reliable red skinned main crop variety).

They are all chitting nicely in our bedroom as this is the coolest room in the house, next to my remaining butternut squashes……how romantic we are!

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Yesterday I finally got around to sowing my leeks and broad beans.  I should really have done this last month, but I’m sure they will catch up.  The leeks are a variety called ‘Lyon 2’, which I haven’t tried before (I got the seeds cheap in the autumn) and the broad beans are an overwintering variety called ‘Aquadulce’ that should really be sown by the end of January.

I have sown plenty of seeds so I can take a few plants to my mother-in-law this year, for her garden.

The seed trays are sitting nicely in my cold greenhouse now:

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To finish off with, it was my eldest daughters seventeenth birthday yesterday (where does time go to).  She asked for a ‘chocolate indulgient cake’ i.e. a cake with her favourite chocolate sweets on.

I baked a three layer cake using my usual ‘throw it all in‘ recipe and covered it with a chocolate buttercream frosting and used kit kat sticks, maltesers and chocolate orange to decorate it.  I think a little imagination goes a long way….and she seemed to really like it:

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Anyway, that’s enough for this week.  Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back as normal next Friday.

Have a lovely weekend!

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How to Make Newspaper Plant Pots

It has been a showery week at my allotment.  On Tuesday it lashed down with rain for half an hour and even hailed.  I sat in my car and had lunch watching it, but soon afterwards the sun was shining again:

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Yesterday was officially the first day of spring and spring flowers are looking beautiful.  I noticed my Hyacinths at my allotment are flowering lovely in my flower patch.  I bought these bulbs for just 10p in a sale, approximately four or five years ago and they have given a good show each spring:

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This week I have been concentrating on tidying up last year’s brassica beds, where I will shortly be planting my shallots and onions.

I started by digging up my remaining brussells and freezing them. I am very pleased with my sprouts this year, they are an F1 variety called ‘Igor’.  For years I couldn’t grow sprouts without them ‘blowing’ (which means loose, open sprouts), even though I tried everything that the experts told me to do.  In the end, I tried growing an F1 variety and I now have success:

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I washed and prepared the brussells, blanched them and then ‘open froze’ them (if you are unsure how to freeze vegetables, you can read about it here).

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I also lifted my remaining swedes this week.  I have lots of people tell me that their swedes become ‘woody’ if they leave them in the ground too long.  I have never had this problem, but I have read that two reasons for ‘woody’ swedes are either a lack of water at some stage while they are growing or a lack of nutrients in the soil.  I must admit I only ever water mine if it’s really, really dry, but I do plant mine where I have manured the autumn before and I give the ground a feed of blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks before I plant my swedes out (I sow my swedes in mid-April in newspaper pots).

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I noticed the kale at my allotment is about to flower.  It usually lasts a bit longer before it flowers, but I can only assume it is because it has been mild for the last couple of weeks.  I chopped the flower buds off in the hope it will last a bit longer as it doesn’t freeze very well and I have so much of it left for us to eat.

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I also noticed that my spring broccoli is nearly ready to pick (my youngest daughter will be pleased as it is her favourite vegetable):

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I spent time this week making the edges of my paths neat, where my ‘poached egg plants’ grow.  I love the poached egg plants I have, as they have a pretty flower (that looks like a poached egg) and they attract hoverflies which eat aphids. They also attract lots of bees too:

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But on top of this, the plants are also useful, as excess plants can be dug into the soil like a green manure.  So I think it is a very useful plant to grow and self seeds easily every year.

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Finally this week at the allotment, I forked my old brassica beds over lightly, ready for this years crops:

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At home this week I sowed some spring onions.

We all have one crop that we can’t grow at our allotment and Spring onions is my crop.  I always found that hardly any seeds would germinate, even though Spring onions are supposed to be so easy to grow.  I eventually learnt a trick to get around this…I plant a small pinch of seed into modules full of compost, which I grow on until they are a couple of inches high.  I then plant them out in bunches and they grow just fine this way:

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 I also spent time ‘pricking out’ my seedlings that I sowed on the 6th March.  These are red cabbage, white cabbage and some brussel sprouts.

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I planted the seedlings in paper pots that I made:

Newspaper Pots

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

I was once asked if I used a special tool to make my newspaper plant pots…the answer is “no”.  You can buy a ‘Newspaper Pot Maker’ for approximately £10, but I prefer to make my pots using either a baked bean tin, or a soya sauce bottle, depending on the size of pot that I require and some masking tape…(the masking tape decomposes along with the newspaper in the ground).

I thought it would be useful to write how I make the pots again, as I have a lot of new people reading my blog now.  So this is how I make easy newspaper pots:

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How To Make Newspaper Pots:

 

You need a newspaper, some masking tape and a soya sauce bottle for small pots or a baked bean tin for larger pots

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Fold a sheet of newspaper into thirds

(if the newspaper is very large you may need to fold the sheet in half first)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important:

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

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I hope this has been useful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

Preserving And Storing Crops – Part Two

Today I thought I would write about freezing our excess crops.

Last Friday I wrote about ‘Simple Living In The Modern day’.   The freezer is a modern day appliance that makes life a lot easier for us, as we now have the luxury of being able to bulk buy, cook ahead, batch bake and preserve our excess crops (or bargains from the supermarket).

One of my three freezers

One of my three freezers

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The first electric freezers were manufactured in 1945, but I remember it wasn’t until the 1970’s that my family had one.  I remember at this time, ‘freezer centres’ sprung up all over the place.  This revolutionised the way we preserve our food, as we can now store most crops in our freezers.  In fact we have three freezers that are usually fit to busting at this time of the year.

    The only two drawbacks with freezers after paying for the freezer in the first place, is they run on electricity, which costs money and if they lose power for long periods (i.e. in more rural areas in winter) the food inside will perish. 

I find the amount I save by using my ‘A- rated’ freezers to preserve my crops, outweighs how much it costs to run them and I am lucky that we live in a town as so far we haven’t lost power for more than a few hours at any time.

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In event of a power failure, a full freezer should stay frozen for up to 24 hours, provided you don’t open it to check, as warm air will speed up the thawing process.  A half full freezer should stay frozen for up to 12 hours, but it’s important you check your own freezer manual.

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Another one of my freezers

Another one of my freezers

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Freezing is easy as most vegetables just need ‘blanching’ for a minute or two before freezing.  I always thought that blanching increased the length of time you can store the produce (though I know not everyone blanches their vegetables before freezing and they seem to be fine).  However, after researching this I have found the following on ‘Wiki Answers’:

“Blanching slows or stops the action of enzymes. Up until harvest time, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or blanching is not long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colours, off-flavours and toughening.”

I have now learnt something new.

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As regards to fruit, I never blanch my excess fruit and we have fruit all year round to add to yoghurts, ice-creams, pies etc. though it must be noted it does go soft and a bit mushy when it’s defrosted but it’s fine to eat.  The only exception to this is apples as they go brown if you freeze them without blanching (though I have frozen bags of un-blanched crab apples, washed, top and tailed ready for crab apple jelly and they work fine).

 

My Fruit freezer

My Fruit freezer

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How to blanch vegetables:

…Add your vegetables to a pan of boiling water and then bring the water back to boiling point again and then boil the vegetables for the recommended time (usually 1 or 2 minutes depending on size and particular vegetable).  Drain the vegetables and immediately plunge them into very cold water, to stop the cooking process.

(I have a freezer book that tells me how long to blanch each vegetable for, but you can find the recommended blanching times on the internet these days).

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What Is Open Freezing?

This is a way to stop all the vegetables in a freezer bag from sticking together in one great big lump, so it’s easy to remove a few at a time e.g. a portion of peas when you need them.

 When you have blanched your vegetables, lay them on a tray and freeze them.  When they are frozen, remove them from the tray and pop them into a freezer bag/container and put them back into your freezer.

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Open freezing currants

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A Few Of My Top Tips For Freezing Fruit And Vegetables:

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Nearly every fruit and vegetable can be frozen in some way or another, it’s just a matter of finding out what works best for you.

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  • Courgettes can be frozen ready sliced, by open freezing them and then bagged up ready to add to spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces etc. or they can be grated and bagged up in 340g bags, ready to add to cheesy courgette scones.
Open freezing courgettes

Open freezing courgettes

  • Tomatoes can be frozen in bags (without blanching), ready to make tomato soup at a later day.  I just wash them and chop them in half and bag them up in the weight required for your recipe.
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A bag of tomatoes frozen ready for soup

  • Tomatoes can also be cooked with a little bit of water and then ‘blitz’ with a liquidizer to make a tomato sauce to use in pasta sauces, spag bogs etc. instead of using shop bought passata.  I freeze this in ready weighed out portions of 500 grams and I just defrost it before using.

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  • I find pumpkin is better to cook first and freeze in bags ready weighed out.  This way it can be added to soups and cakes etc. and it takes up far less room.

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When I need to dig up my winter crops (i.e. my leeks and parsnips) to prepare the soil for my next crops, I freeze them:

  • I wash and slice up my leeks and bag them up (again in useable quantities) and then freeze them.  Leeks and onions can make other things in your freezer smell, so I do wrap them up well in newspaper first, to prevent this.

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  • I wash and peel my parsnips and cut them ready for ‘roasting’.  I then open freeze them, without blanching and then pop them into a freezer bag.  They are great to use straight from frozen and make Sunday lunch easier to cook.

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  • I also quite often freeze excess fruit the day I pick it (e.g. Strawberries, gooseberries, currants, plums, rhubarb etc.).  I use the fruit to make jam when I have more time in the winter, by adding the frozen fruit straight into the pan.

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  • Sweet corn is delicious when it has been picked and eaten within the hour.  I blanch my sweet corn whole and freeze it in bags of four or five corn on the cobs.  It is lovely to eat this in the depths of winter.

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  • I Trim off the leaves of parsley and wash them.  I put the lot in a freezer bag and freeze.  I use it from frozen by crumbling it into my meals as I cook them.

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  • Just before my Jerusalem artichokes start to sprout in March/April time, I freeze them.  I wash and cut them ready for ‘roasting’.  I open freeze them, without blanching and then pop them into a freezer bag.  They are great to use straight from frozen and again they make Sunday lunch easier to cook.

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  • I slice my cooked beetroot and open freeze and then pop it into bags ready for use.  This gives an alternative to pickled beetroot and can also be used in a chocolate beetroot cake. 
Beetroot ready to freeze

Beetroot ready to freeze

  • I use my freezer to freeze individual plastic bottles of apple juice that I press myself.  It’s easy to pop a bottle in my daughters lunchbox in the morning and it defrosts by lunchtime, keeping her lunch box cold until then:

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I can honestly say the only fruit or vegetables I haven’t frozen in some way or another is cucumbers and lettuce as they don’t freeze very well.  Although cucmbers and lettuce can be used in a gardener’s soup, which so far I haven’t tried to make yet, but with the amount of cucumbers I picked yesterday, I may just have a go!

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I couldn’t be without our freezers as they make my life so much easier to store my excess produce.  I wonder if anyone reading this has any top tips for freezing excess fruit and vegetables too?  If so I would love you to hear from you.

On Monday I will be writing my usual monthly post ‘What to do in the kitchen garden in September’ and I will follow this next Friday with ‘Preserving And Storing Our Crops – Part 3’.

Tuesdays harvest

Tuesdays harvest

Thank you for reading my blog today.

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

The ‘Hungry Gap’ And A Cheese And Spring Broccoli Quiche

I thought I would talk about the ‘hungry gap’ today.  This usually falls between April and May and it’s the time when there isn’t too much to harvest from our plots.

An overwintering cauliflower

An overwintering cauliflower

I took a slow walk around my allotment site this weekend and took a mental note of what was growing.  There wasn’t really a lot growing on individual plots that I could see, however there were a few cabbages, parsnips and leeks scattered over the site and a few allotments had spring broccoli. This made me think about my allotment plots and what we eat at this time of year.

Overwintering leeks

Overwintering leeks

I try really hard to make sure there are vegetables to harvest all year round from my allotment, though this is obviously easier during the summer and autumn months.  I also make sure I actually use the vegetables that I have available to make meals for my family, as this not only saves us money, but I also know my vegetables are grown organically and not sprayed with chemicals.

Overwintering cabbages

Overwintering cabbages

Unfortunately, at this time of the year I have usually run out of the three vegetables that we eat the most, potatoes, onions and garlic and so I do have to buy them.  However, the things I can harvest at my allotment at the moment are spring broccoli, curly kale, cabbages, chives, lettuce, mizuna, corn salad, spring onions, spinach and rhubarb.  It takes time to plan ahead to grow these things, but I think it is worth it.

Overwintering salads

Overwintering salads

Freezers are also a great help to bridge the ‘hungry gap’.  I still have a good supply of homegrown vegetables in my three freezers, which help to spread the seasons over the year.

I have French beans, runner beans, mange tout, leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, courgettes, broad beans, parsley, strawberries, crab-apples, red currants, white currants, blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries and I even found a bag of sweetcorn that I had missed.    These will all be used up before I am able to harvest them again at the allotment.

One of my threes freezers

One of my three freezers

So I think it is possible to still have a good supply of fruit and vegetables to use during the ‘hungry gap’, if you just take a little bit of time to plan ahead to this time next year.

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Purple sprouting broccoli

Purple sprouting broccoli

I thought it would be nice to post a recipe that uses a vegetable that is in season at the moment.  I love purple sprouting broccoli and look forward to the first harvest.  It is nice to use it in different ways too, so yesterday I made a quiche with it:

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Cheese and Spring Broccoli Quiche:

One pre-cooked pastry case – (you can see how to make one here)

350ml semi-skimmed milk

5 small eggs

50g small broccoli florets

1 onion

100g grated cheese

Pinch of pepper

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Boil the onion and broccoli in a saucepan of water for four minutes and then drain.

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Spread the onion and broccoli over the base of the pastry case.

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Sprinkle half the cheese over the onion and broccoli.

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Whisk the eggs, milk and pepper together and pour over the cheese, onion and broccoli.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes until the eggs are set (but not too solid) and the top is golden.

Cheese and broccoli quiche served with salad leaves and spring onions

Cheese and broccoli quiche served with salad leaves and spring onions

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.