Tag Archive | How to store onions

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.

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Preserving And Storing Crops – Part One

Today and on Friday, I thought I would talk about how I preserve and store my crops.

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We all plant our seeds and nurture our plants, until they grow big enough to start producing a wonderful harvest and this year really has been a wonderful harvest.

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After we have picked and eaten as much as we possibly can, what do we do with the rest so it doesn’t go to waste and end up in the compost bin?

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Preserving And Storing Crops.

Years ago, if you didn’t preserve your crops then you would possibly starve.  Today it isn’t so life threatening to do this, as we have supermarkets to fill our food gaps.  However, the food has usually flown thousands of miles to get to us and doesn’t really taste as nice, as it has been bred for its long shelf life rather than its taste.

I love growing vegetables for my family and I know it’s far cheaper to grow my own fruit and vegetables rather than buy them from the supermarket.  I also know that the produce that I harvest are grown organically without the use of pesticides, so it makes sense to preserve and store my produce, ready for use over the winter.

I do buy the odd vegetable in the winter, but mostly I use produce that I have stored, preserved, or I dig up the winter vegetables at my allotment.

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During July, August and September I spend most of my days picking, digging up, preserving and storing my crops.  It gives me a huge sense of satisfaction to be as self-reliant as possible and I feel such a pleasure when my family are eating the food I have grown.

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So How Do I Store And Preserve The Crops I grow?

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Nature:

Firstly, the most natural way to store my vegetables is to leave them to nature.  Crops that are frost hardy such as leeks, parsnips, cabbages, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, celery and spinach will sit happily in the soil over winter until I need them.

  I understand that carrots, beetroot and swedes can also be left in the ground over winter if you mulch them with straw, but when I tried this they suffered a lot of slug damage, so I don’t store them like this anymore.

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Storing:

Some crops are better lifted and stored.  A good example of this is potatoes as the longer you leave them in the ground, the more slug holes you seem to have in them.  Years ago, root crops would have been stored in a ‘clamp’ in the garden, which is an inexpensive way of insulating the crop.  You can still use this method if you want to.  You can read about ‘clamps’ here.

I prefer to store some of my vegetables in a dark, dry, frost free place.

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Garden ‘Cushion Boxes’

 After I have dug up my potatoes I leave them out to dry for a few hours on the soil, turning them once.  I then put them into sacks to store them.  I keep them in boxes (which are actually cushion boxes from B&Q) and even though the temperature has been below freezing for quite a length of time in the last few winters, my produce has been fine.  However, I do live in a town and I’m not sure if these boxes would remain frost free in a rural area.

My potatoes drying in the sun

My potatoes drying in the sun

Early potatoes don’t store as long as main crop potatoes, so we use them first.  Also any that have slug holes or blemishes are eaten first too, as these just don’t store well either.

TIP:  Don’t store potatoes in plastic bags as the humidity will rot them and do check the potatoes for any signs of rotting every so often, as one rotten potato will rot the a whole sack if you don’t notice it.

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I also store carrots, beetroot and swedes in my ‘cushion’ boxes.  It is easy to store them and very convenient to pop outside to get something to prepare for dinner.  I lift the vegetables and twist off the tops and then put them into a wooden box on top of a layer of compost (you can use sand for this too).  I make sure the vegetables aren’t touching and then I cover them with compost.  This way they store beautifully over the winter.

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When my onions and shallots are ready, I lift them and dry them on racks under cover for two or three weeks.  Books tend to tell you to lift them and leave them on the ground for two weeks in full sun…but when do we ever have two weeks of full sun in the UK?  After two or three weeks I put the onions in nets and again I put them in my ‘cushion boxes’.

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I also store my apples over winter. Early varieties of apple don’t store very well, so I store the apples from my later variety of apple trees.  All I do is wrap each apple up individually in newspaper and stack them in a box.  Again I check them every so often as one bad apple can destroy the whole box.

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Finally, winter squashes can be stored for approximately six months in a well ventilated place.  The RHS recommend that winter squashes are kept between 10C and 15C.  I keep mine in our bedroom on top of our chest of draws on a tray, which I know is not the most romantic thing to do, but the squashes last for ages as it’s the coolest room in our house.

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Before storing winter squashes it is important to ‘cure’ your squash.  All this means, is to leave them outside in the sunlight after you have cut them from the plant, for a week to ten days (more if possible).  Ensure you cover them or take them indoors if a frost threatens.  I cure mine in my greenhouse, which gives them some protection.

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I think I’ve written enough for today, so on Friday I’ll continue to write about freezing and preserving our produce.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post.