Category Archives: cooking

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Kale and allotment snobbery

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I do love vegetables, to me they are the ultimate plant. Many have long histories, they are fascinating to grow and the amount of varieties keeps even the humble carrot interesting, the best bit of it all, you can eat them!

This is a staple in our house, we all love it, Kale.

It’s a meaty veg with a proper bite to it. Tastes wonderful in stews with all sorts of meat, amazing with pasta or just on a plate with butter and cheese grated on the top.

One of the reasons I particularly love it is, well apart from it’s taste is, it looks beautiful. Curly Kale with it’s zig zag edged leaves, it’s adorable – it’s a tough old bird too. Especially the dwarf kind.

She’s not bothered about shade, full sun, soil type as long as the soil isn’t water logged she will grow through it all. I sowed these last spring and she is still giving wonderful harvests in winter too. Slugs don’t really bother it, maybe the odd caterpillar in summer and pigeons aren’t the least bit interested, it’s a tough cookie for sure.

I mentioned allotment snobbery, well that’s because I was shocked to my socks by a comment from another allotment holder last year. I was minding my own business picking a huge basket of it one sunny day, when the bird song and serenity was broken by a woman who invited herself onto my plot.

“Kale I see” she said in a voice which reminded me of a school teacher.
“Oh yes! Isn’t it lovely? It’s really tasty” I replied.
“They feed it to horses you know, I don’t bother with it” and off she tromped in her golfing shorts and head visor.
I sat there for a minute slightly confused, “what was that all about?”

Well The moral of this little tale is thus…

As I walked down the allotments last weekend to have a look what wonders and exciting things people were up to (there’s always something) I walked past her plot, I could help but notice it was barren; nothing to eat at all!

So my golf short wearing friend. ‘I’d sooner eat like a race horse all year round, than like a King just in the summer! (I’m also blowing a raspberry too) X

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Stuffed marrow

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Thought I would take the opportunity to bring in my marrows.

Storms are headed toward the UK with 90mph winds forecasted so baton down the hatches. Bring in what you can would be my advice or else it’s going to get bashed to pieces out there.

I checked my sprouts are all firmly in place too, they hate being swirled around in the wind, if they aren’t firmly planted they will sulk and open their sprouts into tiny cabbages on their stalks. Which I have to say, taste fine but won’t store.

So back to the marrows, I have given them a wipe down to remove any mud from them dried them thoroughly and will store them in a cool place. They really do store excellently. I did an experiment 2 years ago to see how long they would store for, and I got one to store for 18 months! How unbelievable is that!?

They just don’t like a damp environment to keep them dry and cool.

These bad boys will be either stuffed or made into marrow chutney, and don’t forget to keep the seeds for next year! Why buy new ones when you can just grow your own!

Stuffed marrow recipe

Preheat an oven so it’s pretty hot I go to about 200 degrees

Slice and de seed one marrow by carefully slicing lengthwise making a boat. (Keep some big fat seeds for next year)

Fry some mince, I usually use minced lamb.

Fry onions and yellow peppers

Add to the meat, onions and yellow peppers some stock and add garlic and tomato purée to taste. Plus your favourite herbs, I use Rosemary.

When it starts to thicken up fill both sides of your marrow boats

Line a baking tray with tin foil to save on cleaning time!

Carefully put your marrow back together and wrap in more tin foil.

Then bung in the oven for a couple of hours turning occasionally.

To test if it’s cooked through use a knife to pierce the marrow, it should just slice through like butter, if not keep in the oven!

Serve with boiled new potatoes and more gravy.

That’s how we stay nice and warm on a winters day in the North West of England. X

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The last of the Purple Potatoes

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All dug up and ready for storing. I love purple potatoes, these are called Purple Majesty and they taste wonderful!

I love the fact that they contain such high levels of antioxidants keeping my family healthy. They say vegetables with a deep purple colour are rammed with a chemical called anthocyanin which protects your cells. I found steaming them kept their colour better and that’s the name of the game, keeping all that colour so your body can absorb as much as possible.

So here’s what’s left from my potatoes bags I will give them a little brush down and pop them into a sack. I’m rather glad I did potato bags this year they have worked a treat. Usually the slugs destroy my potatoes which I plant in the raised beds. So I’m going to loads more of these potato bags next year… Oh next year you seem so very far away.

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Home made oven dried tomatoes or tomato Jerky

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I’ve made them into sauce, I’ve done chutney, I’ve frozen them, so now I’ve dried them for ‘homemade sundried, well oven dried tomatoes’.

I’m known locally as the tomato lady, as the old folk see me totter up the road with my basket giving them away. I’ve had so many tomatoes this year it’s crazy, I cannot give them away fast enough, before more ripen.

I was running out of ideas, when a flash of inspiration hit me. I can dry them nice and slowly then pop them into a couple of jars filled with olive oil.

So that’s what I did.

Washed and sliced in half lightly sprinkled with sea salt and chilli flakes and put on a low oven, all day! Yes all day!

Just before it was time for my daughter to goto bed she helped me pick the best ones which we put into jars then filled up with olive oil.

Nice and simple and they tasted good just dried we called the dry ones ‘tomato jerky’. They were so sweet and chewy! They didn’t make a storage jar and we stuffed them into our mouths lol, and anyway like I said they were ‘less than perfect’… Honest!

If your thinking of giving this a bash, get loads of tomatoes as they dry flat. I did two baking trays full and even though we did eat quite a few, you can ram loads into a jar. And keep the oven warm but not too hot or they may burn.

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Cucamelon pickling

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I picked a tub of my cucamelon’s and pickled them today. After soaking them for 24 hrs in salt water. I threw them into a jar with pickling vinegar, garlic, dill seeds and a few bay leaves for extra flavour.

I’m going to leave them in the fridge, that’s why the jar looks cloudy, I keep a cold fridge! Cannot wait to try them. Should be ready in a couple of weeks, I’m just letting the flavours infuse..

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Sweet & Spicy Tomato Chutney

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The tomato jungle is beginning to take over the Poly tunnel. So it’s time to take action and get making chutney.

I’m not an expert at cooking but I will have a go and wow it’s good! It’s not as spicy hot as I wanted but at least my 6 year old daughter will eat it. To be honest she will eat spicy food but I didn’t want to go crazy. You may want to add extra chilli sauce to give it an extra kick, or even better actual chilli’s.

What I used

A collider of Tomatoes halved or quartered depending on size
2 large onions roughly chopped
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard
2 table spoons of smoky Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons of hot chilli sauce.
200ml of white balsamic vinegar

And you lob it all in a big pan, bring to the boil while the sugar dissolves then put it onto a gentle rolling boil to reduce, about 45 minutes.

Then put it onto clean jars, and store in a cool cupboard or the fridge.

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I have guests for dinner, quick do a salad

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I rushed out to the allotment grabbed a few leaves, tomatoes, nasturtium flowers and a cucumber…

Then got carried away making a pattern, what’s that about? I almost don’t want to serve it now!