Friday, 30 December 2016

Glistening Droplets

Well, I was meant to have finished blogging for the year, but can't resist after a short visit to the plot to pick parsnips and carrots.
The frost and fog had cleared and the dipping sun was just at the right angle.
All the netting was glistening like diamonds.
Just beautiful!
And we got our veg, after a bit of a fight!

That was 2016

This is going to be a positive post about 2016; highlighting ten good things about another lovely year within our allotment bubble.
In no particular order:
  1. Star and heart-shaped cucumbers. The moulds probably work best with small, quick growing cucumbers, like our Rocky. They're apparently suitable for tomatoes too, but we didn't try that. They didn't work on courgettes.
  2. Sunny picnics and some warm late nights on the plot. Summer started really wet with slugs and snails taking out a lot of early growth but July and August were delightful with plenty of sunshine.
  3. A blue poppy. A gift last Christmas and I was so pleased when it actually flowered as the slugs had rather a taste for it initially! I hope there will be a further showing this year...
  4. We grew a loofah. Well, that's cool, isn't it?!
  5. Ratatouille - what a colourful meal - and it tasted good, especially covered in cheese and sprinkled with chopped nuts
  6. Black tomatoes - Indigo Rose look so great but not a great flavour, this year we're trying some stripey ones. But we'll also be growing that tasty little red cherry variety Aviditas.
  7. We found a coin - a 1744 farthing! For all our searching we've only found 3 in 7 years and this was the oldest.
  8. Growing potatoes in bags - so pleasing to harvest. We used nematodes which we think worked well to keep the slug numbers down. Our favourite bagged variety was probably Orla.
    Seeing a pair of bullfinches in the hedge - the first time we've seen them at our end of the site. We saw them later in the year too, which I hope is a good sign they'll be back next year.
  9. The second HAHA/RBL Horticultural Show - such a great turnout, with over 300 entries. We're already looking forward to next year.
  10. So, it wasn't all bad in 2016.
    After all, at the beginning of the year we thought we may not have an allotment and then 5 days later we were given a reprieve....(which we're currently waiting on again....anyway, stay positive!)

    I wonder what 2017 has in store...

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

In Between Days

Christmas has been (and still is) good! Lots of fun and food. And our Christmas hyacinth actually bloomed on the day!
We received some lovely pressies including a Funky Veg Kit - my friend knows me so well! So I'm intending to have a colourful 2017.

We had our cooked Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. The starter was star-shaped seeded bread with granoVita vegetable pate (so tasty) The main was Quorn (chicken-style) with all the trimmings: sprouts, sausages, stuffing, parsnips, bread sauce...mmm, bread sauce! We finished eating and drinking in the early hours of Christmas morning.
Another pressy - some delicious recipes to try in there

We had a late Christmas Day breakfast of whisky marmalade on fancy durum wheat bread and, of course, Buck's Fizz (not the band). Christmas dinner was in the evening when we enjoyed lots of tapas dishes including Quorn chorizo, pickled onions, cornichons, tiny tomatoes (tomberries - we must try to grow them), peppers, olives, cheeses and fried corn snacks.
Oops! I only thought to take a photo when we'd already finished!
Boxing Day was a stay-in-bed day; mostly because I've got a cold but it was nice just lazing about watching films. Food was mostly cheese and biscuits and today we're having parsnips with chorizo and our home-made runner bean chutney will be making an appearance later.
New herbs for my soup plans
At some point we need to get to the allotment to pick sprouts, parsnips and carrots for our New Year's Eve meal (which will include home-grown) and I'd like to make some soup, but not today!
My new hand warmer!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

One Week To Go...

It's been a very festive December so far, which is an excuse for not visiting the allotment and not blogging for 3 weeks.
We put the Christmas tree up at the beginning of the month - we're using our fake one this year, but it's pretty realistic, and we added some pine scent. All our favourite baubles and decorations are on there: Some recent additions... Some home-made....Others which we've had since our first Christmas together 28 years ago... And some that I've had since I was little...
We put our window lights up ahead of Hungerford's Victorian Extravanganza and enjoyed mulled wine, hot donuts and roasted chestnuts amongst the beautifully decorated town lights.
We had our annual ride on the big wheel before watching the excellent fireworks display.
We had a shopping trip to Oxford. It's so beautiful, even in the pouring rain, and has such interesting shops.
I love Oxford. I was born there and my original hospital and Renal Unit are there so I've had a long relationship with the city. I have so many memories of visiting the city with my mum and the whole family used to have Christmas shopping trips there.
We went to the Newbury lantern parade, which was a delight.
There must have been a thousand home-made lanterns following the excellent drummers. I wish Hungerford would copy the idea for our parade!
I've attended a couple of Christmas events at work and had a lovely lunchtime visit to Millets Farm Christmas shop in Oxfordshire - definitely worth a visit.
Also our annual HAHA committee Christmas meal at The Bear in Hungerford - unfortunately Jamie couldn't come because he's been the unlucky one with the cold this year :-(
That's what I call a veggie Christmas meal - Red Cabbage & Apple roulade instead of meat
Now I need to wrap more pressies, post the rest of our Christmas cards and enjoy 3 more days at work before Christmas really starts! And is there a possibility of snow? Oh, I really hope so!!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Bath Time!

Tonight's the night! The loofah that I've been talking about since buying the seeds last January, is  going to be used!.

Taa-daa! It actually looks like a loofah!
A bit skinnier and darker in colour than what I've seen before. And there do seem to be a few seeds trapped in there, but you surely can't deny it doesn't look out of place in the bathroom :-)
The seeds and pulp took a lot of washing out - it would have been much easier with a hose,
But the skin peeled off quite easily.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

My Favourite Colour!

Look at the colour of that Kohl Rabi! I haven't fiddled with the photo but the camera flash has made it a perfect match for the lovely glass bowl. Turns out cameras do lie ;-)
Unfortunately two of the larger pumpkins in the greenhouse were starting to rot at the top, where the rain got at them (we really need to re-seal the roof seams). I chopped a healthy chunk out of one of them and have another week of pumpkin soup - shame, I was looking forward to using parsnips for a change but felt I couldn't waste it.
I think some creatures may enjoy that edible house over the next couple of weeks. I only took a couple of handfuls of the seeds and roasted them in pumpkin oil with paprika and a small sprinkling of sugar.
Less sweet is how our Halloween pumpkin looks now!
I noticed that the Florence fennel in the raised bed has sprouted. I'm hoping that will survive to next week and then maybe I'll have carrot and fennel soup; if I don't look at the pumpkins perhaps they'll go away!
But the big chunk has been turned into curried pumpkin soup this evening. Lovely onions fried in turmeric, cumin and paprika while the pumpkin was roasting in the oven.
The kohl rabi are for tomorrow night's version of  'neeps and tatties' to have with a veggie haggis - we know it's not Burns Night, but still it's so tasty :-)
I ate one of the Jack-Be-Little pumpkins with dinner last night. It was a good way to eat it. I chopped the top off and scraped out the seeds. A little bit of butter and 4 minutes in the microwave - perfect for a light lunch. But I made a fried patty out of the cooked flesh and had it with a tortilla and some chilli beans - very tasty!
That's the loofahs on the lower shelf. I'm taking them into work where our office is so warm and dry they'll hopefully dry out very quickly.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Gunpowder, Poison and Soup

Sorry about the title. It's the best I could come up with based on "gunpowder, treason and plot" ;-}
There's the gunpowder. A fabulous fireworks display at Newbury Racecourse last night. I know lots of animals hate fireworks - our cat, Jaffa, used to go into hiding if there was even a distant bang - but I have to admit we love to see and hear them.
And, here's the poison. Spindle berries. They're growing in the hedgerow around the allotment and are so pretty, but extremely toxic. The pink shell explodes to reveal the orange berry and those colours together are fabulous!
And, of course, here's the soup. Yes pumpkin again, but this time with carrot, onion and garlic and plenty of pepper. I left the skin on again.
The Jack-Be-Little pumpkins are quite hard to cut up but once cooked the skin is thin enough to get a spoon through, so fine for the blender to deal with and there weren't any scratchy-throat bits when I ate the last lot I made.
We visited the plot to pull the carrots and collect the other ingredients from their storage in the greenhouse. The loofahs are in there too but have a lot more drying out to do. I might bring them indoors.
The part of the plot with the sprouts, chard, kohl rabi and carrots doesn't look too awful.
But the rest of the plots look very sad and we should be clearing and tidying, but the inclination isn't here at the moment. All that dead growth collapsed after a couple of frosts we had last week followed by a lot of rain.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

So It Begins...

Someone needs to eat all the remaining pumpkins (Jack-Be-Little and Jack-of-All-Trades) and it's mostly going to me, so here goes with the first pumpkin soup of this year's season...
They look like peach slices, don't they. I removed the seeds and stringy pulp. The seeds were too small to bother saving; there'll be plenty more for toasting/roasting from the large pumpkins.
I thought I'd get through four of the Jack-Be-Little pumpkins but there was only room on the tray for two. I didn't add any flavouring, just olive oil - the flavouring was a teaspoonful of the Sicilian spices added to the onions while I fried them up.
I turned the slices once while roasting and tasted one of the chunks - quite a subtle sweet flavour.
Once nicely browned I added them to the fried onion (one of our big onions from the plot, spices (not too many this time) and vegetable stock. I left the skins on as I saw on someone else's blog.
A 10-minute blending session later and voila! The skin broke down almost completely so I'm glad I didn't put effort into attempting to skin those little chunks.
That's about 2 pints of soup, it should keep me going for at least 3 days of workday lunches. Now I need to do a bit of searching for other recipes...