Friday, 28 September 2012

Simple meals...

Pasta with broad beans...
More on the theme of simplicity!  A couple of days ago I made a really simple but delicious supper which still makes my mouth water just thinking about it!  Not only was it very tasty but I love the fact that it was made out of only a handful of ingredients and in no time at all.  Pasta with broad beans, garlic, olive oil, mint, a bit of salt & black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice - job done!

And this morning I prepared an equally simple dish for our lunch: mushroom soup!  All it needed was mushrooms (really? :-)), a couple of leeks, some garlic, thyme and vegetable stock (I did use a cube for this).  Again, really straightforward and also very cheap to make.  You can add cream to it but it really isn't necessary and if really hungry, a slice of bread on the side might go down a treat.

It just goes to show how easy it is to make a satisfying meal that doesn't need to cost the earth (quite literally).

Mini peppers...
Before I forget...I harvested some of our homegrown mini peppers again the other day to add to a roast vegetable dish.  How cute are they?  I love the different colours and shapes!  The colours are obviously due to the different stages of ripeness but funny how the orange ones are quite a lot longer/bigger.  I have kept some of the seeds to grow more next year although I am tempted to try the "normal" size variety.  They may have to be grown outside of the house though as their plants are bound to be huge.

This afternoon I will go and collect the last of the tomatoes from the garden.  They are bound to be green ones but I have decided that they need to be harvested before it gets colder.  I will turn them either into green tomato chutney or salsa (the latter can be frozen).  I'd hate to see them go to waste, so that seems to be the best option.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Of blackberries and plums

The last few days I have been busy turning blackberries and plums into jelly and jam.  It is just so satisfying to collect the fruit (the berries only as I had bought the plums) and to then turn it into jars of loveliness.  We came across a few nice blackberry bushes whilst walking the dog the other day and returned later, armed with a couple of pots to collect some.  Not long later and the blackberries turned into several small jars of jelly.  We now have a rather large supply of different jams...strawberry, gooseberry & kiwi, plum, blackberry, ...  It is rather addictive - the kitchen smelled lovely of stewed fruit and sugar yesterday when I made the plum jam and made me feel all cozy and wintery (not that it is winter yet or even autumn for that matter).  It makes you want to snuggle up with a mug of tea and a homemade treat  :-)

Foraged blackberries being cooked...

Ta-dah...blackberry jelly!

Friday, 14 September 2012


I have just finished preparing tonight's dinner (meatballs in a pepper/tomato sauce, to be served with rice) and have made the shopping list online for the next few days.  Incredible how quickly things add up but there were a few offers that I took advantage of and I suppose that saves some pennies in the long run.  I did have to review the list a couple of times as it is far too easy to load up the virtual shopping trolley and as I hate being wasteful, I try and think twice about whether we actually need something.  That way we can keep waste to an absolute minimum and meal planning very much helps with that.

When you think about it, there is really very little you truly need.  Yes, shelter, warmth, food, water and clothing are pretty essential but even there things can get scaled down a bit.  Why have an enormous house when a smaller one would do or have a wardrobe full of stuff that never gets worn?  Ever since moving here I have made some progress with simplifying things but there is still a long way to go.  I love it when I do "go simple" though.  For example, yesterday's lunch was just some bread, a chunk of cheese, a couple of tomatoes and some homemade chutney.  It was satisfying and simple - just what I needed and not more.  Perfect!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Home, sweet home

Foccacia sandwich...
It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, so I went for a walk by the seafront - it was lovely!  I decided to treat myself to lunch in a little cafe/restaurant - I had eaten there before with a friend and loved it, so I was really looking forward to returning.  Well, what a disappointment!  Now, don't get me wrong - I feel incredibly lucky that I can just go and buy myself some food and I really appreciate that.  What was disappointing was how bland the food was - I went for a veggie quinoa burger with fried potatoes and salad.  It sounded really promising from the description on the menu but wasn't tasty at all, not even after adding extra seasoning.  The only good thing was that I was full afterwards :-(
So this lunchtime I made my own lunch - homemade foccacia spread with pesto (also homemade) and topped with lettuce, feta cheese and figs...yummy!  Simple but tasty! :-)

I also harvested the first of our baby peppers :-)  Lovely taste if a little small but hey, they are mini peppers!  I might roast the next lot whole and either preserve them in oil or chuck them into a pasta dish or similar!

Homegrown mini peppers...

Friday, 31 August 2012

Muffins a la Hollywood

Just a brief post today with the latest baking adventures - mini muffins!  I'm not normally a huge fan of shop-bought muffins as they tend to be the size of a cake for four people and get a bit much after a while. These little chaps, however, are a nice size and came out a treat - I went for apple & raisin and mixed berry ones!  The recipe is yet another one of Paul Hollywood's creations, albeit slightly adjusted as I didn't have any blueberries left - but hey, the man knows his stuff!  Next time I'll probably add more fruit but these are tasty as they are.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

To blog or not to blog...

...that was the question! :-)  Frankly, I have not really felt like writing which is why there has been a bit of a pause but I am back again now with no doubt more food talk etc.

We had a long Bank Holiday weekend which was lovely - plenty of home cooked food and relaxing as well as some stunning long walks with the dog.  I find it so relaxing to prepare food and eat it - it's a big part of what we do.  As I write, I have a mixture of veg roasting in the oven which I will have tonight for my dinner - possibly with fried polenta strips...a new thing I have been meaning to try. 

Homemade lasagne...
Hubby made some delicious spelt pasta the other day which we turned into lasagne - served with homegrown lettuce and tomatoes!  Doesn't that look yummy?  If you are a vegetarian, please just imagine that it is quorn mince :-)  The whole thing was just soooo satisfying, especially washed down with a glass of red wine.  The cheese on top was Wyke Farm's mature cheddar - excellent for cooking with!  Now, from what I have heard and read about Wyke Farm, they are an old cheese-making business with great ethics.  They are paying their dairy suppliers more than the usual pittance which is great!  Not so great that this has meant that they have lost their contract to supply the supermarket chain Morrisons due to being priced out by cheaper cheese makers who, I dare say, are probably not doing the decent thing and paying farmers enough for their milk.  This is not just about eating a great product - it's the values behind it that count and deserve supporting! So, maybe if you shop at Morrisons it is time to change supermarkets or ask them to stock Wyke Farm cheeses again!  Climbing off my soapbox now...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Veg growing olympics

It's the London Olympics and I have been glued to the TV, watching all manner of sporting achievements!  It's been stunning but has meant that, given that we have had visitors as well, the blog got a bit neglected.  It's been quite nice being in a bit of a bubble and enjoying the sports - a good distraction from the bad stuff that goes on in the world.

Homegrown & very tasty...
We have been able to harvest the first lot of tomatoes - they are absolutely delicious and sweet.  I will definitely try and grow these again next year.  We have also been feasting on our blueberries and the potatoes are in now as well - smaller than hoped but tasty nonetheless. 

I don't think we will have a lot of apples this year :-(  It was just too cold for the bees when the blossoms were out, so not enough pollinating went on.  I would say we will probably have about a quarter of last year's harvest... not great!  I dare say that it is the same across the country, so I wouldn't be surprised to see prices going up in the shops.  And there are other - far more serious - implications of the current weather scenarios across the world.  The drought in the US is affecting wheat, corn and soya crops and flooding in the East is causing havoc for rice growers.  This has to be a wake-up call for all of us but I doubt it will be :-(

Monday, 23 July 2012

More homemade stuff

The sun is out and finally people and plants are getting some much needed vitamin D!  Amazing how a bright day can change everyone's mood - there are lots of smiles around at the moment...long may it continue! It's been a busy few days but productive ones at that!  There is nothing quite like making something from scratch and my pet project this week was bath bombs.  
Lavender bath bombs...

I have wanted to make those ever since watching a program on TV which made it look so easy to do - and it really is!  Mix together bicarb, citric acid, essential oil and carrier oil, press into mould (in this case a biscuit cutter), leave to dry and ta dah - bath bombs!  I made lavender ones, adding dried flowers and using lavender essential oil which should make for a relaxing bath...I will try them out today before making a bigger batch.  To keep them dry before use they will have to be wrapped in foil - I will try and get my hands on some chocolate wrapping foil which will be thinner than normal alu foil and easier to wrap around.

My other project was chutney!  As we don't yet have a glut of anything in the garden, I made spiced apricot chutney (Delia's recipe) which is made out of dried apricots and other bits and pieces.  I hope it will taste nice once it has matured a bit - we will have to wait for at least 4 weeks before trying...

Peppers anyone?

First peppers appearing...
Very exciting news: the pepper plants which have grown indoors on the window sill for the last few weeks have started growing tiny little peppers!  At the moment, there are just a couple but I can already see some of the flowers making place to some more.  I grew these plants from seed and not having done this before, I am especially proud! :-)  They are a dwarf variety but I do sincerely hope they'll grow slightly larger than they are right now :-)

With the sunshine we have been having these last couple of days the tomatoes have started turning colour - I can't wait to try one of these little fellas!  Patience....
Tomatoes ripening...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Plastic bag

Small plastic bag/purse with cork buttons
Stripey back...
Ok - I don't like plastic bags!  When we go shopping we try and always bring fabric bags to avoid having to get the plastic ones.  And yet, in the kitchen drawer and larder, hidden away in the corners lurk some plastic bags...and as a project on a rainy day, I thought I'd try and convert those into well, a plastic bag...It's probably more like a purse but could be used for cosmetics or similar. It's knitted it out of strands of plastic and has a couple of cork discs as buttons.  Quite sweet really....

Monday, 16 July 2012

What to do on a rainy day...

Well, what not to do is take the dog out before 8am and get absolutely soaked!  You know that the weather is bad when not even your 9 month old puppy is keen to go out!

Old bananas = banana bread...ta dah!
Instead, a much better thing to do is to use up the squishy old bananas that have been lurking in the fruit bowl to make banana bread...mhhhhm! I can see a slice of this with a hot mug of tea in my near future...The funny thing about this weather is that instead of wanting summer foods like salads, I am now craving casseroles and looking forward to making Christmas cake...that is just wrong in July, isn't it?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Gooseberry growing

Gooseberry & kiwi jam...
Last year our gooseberry bush had a total of 2 (yes, two) gooseberries on it and we decided to cut the bush right down to ground level.  It was either grow back better or we'll chuck you out completely...Well, fast forward to this year and I am pleased to say that I harvested 150g worth (a small bowl full). To get the most out of the crop, we decided to make jam - gooseberry & kiwi jam, in fact!  Not a huge amount came out but enough to fill a couple of small jars, so I am very pleased!  Let's hope next year's crop will be even bigger!

As can be seen from the photo, the sun is out today!  How lovely!  We still don't exactly have summer temperatures but at least it is dry today.  Quite worrying just how many floods and flood alerts are occurring throughout the UK - we are quite lucky that we have not been affected by those and just had some miserable wet days. 

Monday, 9 July 2012


First spuds 2012
Time for another post, I dare say!  As mentioned before, the weather has been shocking lately, so we couldn't do much in the garden.  With all the wet weather it now looks as if my potato plants have succumbed to blight (although I am not 100% sure).  The plants started to look very odd with dots on the leaves and then they just died...sounds like blight to me.  I did a bit of research and found that the plants should be cut down, so that's what I did today.  I also emptied one of the containers to see if the blight had reached the actual tubers and am pleased to say that whilst small, the spuds look pretty healthy.  We planted King Edward potatoes which will be great for roasting if they reach a decent size.  These little ones will be great just boiled with their skins on- might have to incorporate these into my supper tonight!

First blueberries 2012

The other exciting thing that has happened whilst we were away for the weekend is that the blueberries are now changing colour!  They look really fat and juicy but need a bit more sunshine to ripen properly.  Last year's experience told us that even if they are blue, it doesn't automatically mean they are ripe.  Patience is required!  Not one of my stronger points but I know it'll be worth it.

The pepper plants indoors are now coming into flower which is great!  Hopefully that means that there will be peppers growing on them!  We'll see!  I will have to check if they need a hand with pollination...would be a shame to have lots of flowers but then no actual fruits.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Butternut squash soup
Rainy weather is actually quite useful...I've been getting lots done indoors including all the chores!  And I have prepared a bit of food as well.. below...
I love trying new recipes and these were all previously untested - I have made houmous before but this was by far the best recipe.  Served with toasted pitta bread and vegetable crudites will make a good lunch and I can't wait to tuck in :-)  

Tomorrow morning I will make a small batch of scones to have with homemade strawberry jam...I'd better do some more running soon, given all this food around!  For that I would quite like for the weather to improve a little - I don't mind running in the rain every once in a while but when it is too often, it gets a bit tedious.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


I love this word - it means being full of energy and determination to do stuff and that's exactly what I was like today :-)  I made a batch of strawberry jam...see photo
I  also baked a pineapple cake, prepared frozen yogurt (berry vanilla flavour) and cooked a pork casserole for dinner.  Next thing on the list is a butternut squash soup as I bought a couple of those to have for dinner when my friend arrives on Wednesday but they are so enormous that we can easily share one, leaving one to make said soup.  Whether I can actually peel it now, remains to be seen...never name your vegetables or draw faces on them! :-))  Cooking doesn't get tougher than this :-)

Friday, 22 June 2012

Early bird catches the...cake

Chocolate cake...
We got up early this morning and by 8am I had already changed the bed linen, fed the dog & myself and baked & decorated a chocolate cake - not bad!  It's one of those fool-proof recipes that is just so easy to make but tastes yummy at the same time - very moist and chocolatey with a hint of coffee.  Given the occasion (a friend's baby party tomorrow), I put some pink and blue sugar pearls on top of the icing.  And although it was so early in the day, I had to try a little piece - would have been rude not to :-)

I fear today will be a day for indoor chores as it is really windy and rainy again.  Probably just as well as I do have a few things to do - more washing, tidying up, cleaning, ... It never ceases to amaze me how much time can be spend keeping a house in order.  And that's with all the time/labour-saving devices we nowadays have - God knows how long it would take otherwise if we had to wash the clothes by hand, scrub the floors etc.  So here's a big hooray for irons, hoovers etc!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Summer in a bowl...
The last few days have been really sunny and we have been trying to make the most of it by doing gardening, drying washing outside, running, walking the dog... Sheets dried by the sun just smell soooo lovely!  Another one of life's little pleasures!  Talking of which, I had some delicious strawberries yesterday - don't they look beautiful?  I love the neat little rows of green seeds on them :-)  If I had to choose a favourite food, then I would definitely have to say it is fruit for me.  So many exciting flavours and all come in their only neat little packages - simply perfect!

The sunshine has definitely helped the blueberries in the garden along as well and I hope there will be more to come, so that they can ripen nicely.  The same goes for the tomatoes!  Following my last post I noticed that there are actually lots of tiny tomatoes on all of my plants - how I did not spot these earlier is a mystery to me :-)  I have now started feeding the plants with an organic tomato feed and will report on their progress.

I can't sign off today without posting this beach photo that I took on my way to the shops yesterday -looking at it reminds me just how lucky I am!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Exciting news!

First tomatoes!
Now - if this doesn't deserve a second post today, then I don't know what does :-)  I have just been out in the garden to check on the strawberries in their baskets and what can I tell you (drum roll): 
I discovered our very first baby tomatoes!!!  Not on the strawberry plants, obviously ;-)  I had planted one of my cherry tomato plants in the top tier of the basket tower and that one now has several little tomatoes on it!  I am pretty sure they weren't there a couple of days ago but maybe I just missed them - they are tiny after all.

After all the disappointment with the slugs, this is really exciting and I am ever so pleased!  I hope that the plants I have indoors will also fruit - will keep a very close eye on all of them, so I don't miss the first ones appearing.  I guess some people may say I need to get out more ;-) but to me this is just very, very exciting, especially since I grew these plants from seed.

More bread!

I have just realised that it has been far too long since I posted something food-related :-)  I have been trying new recipes and last night made focaccia, recipe courtesy of the River Cottage Handbook "Bread".  Now, I have always thought that this type of bread would be incredibly hard to make (not sure why) but in fact it was really easy and the result very tasty!  

I'd probably adjust the recipe slightly (e.g. adding a bit more salt to the dough) but otherwise this is definitely a winner.  I am particularly pleased that I was able to use some of the rosemary from the garden to sprinkle on top, so it feels even more homemade (if that makes sense).  I have put a few pieces in the freezer and will report back on how that worked but I have left a couple of pieces out for lunch today - I reckon toasted focaccia with pesto, feta cheese and lettuce should go down a treat! :-)

One of my next missions in the kitchen is to make strawberry jam and also some sort of chutney.  I've been looking at a number of recipes and as soon as I have made up my mind, I will get started.  There is just something about filling jars and bottles with tasty things to be enjoyed later in the year - it is almost like bottling summer for the colder months!  :-)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Progress in the garden...

Lily in our pond...
After days of storms and rain we have finally had lovely sunshine today!  It's amazing what a bit of warmth can do as there has been lots of progress in the garden in just a few hours such as the lily in the pond that has been opening up and looks absolutely stunning! Hopefully we will have a few more rays over the next days and weeks, so that the crops can ripen!  No good having lots of blueberries if there is no sunshine to sweeten them!  Which reminds me that I need to put up the fruit cage...don't want the birds to feast on our fruit when it is ready!  We also have a few strawberry plants now and have tasted the first couple of berries...yum!

I am so disappointed with the failure of both the broad beans and the lettuce but have now bought a couple of plastic cloches to cover the lettuce seeds I am due to sow.  Hopefully that way they will germinate and develop without being snaffled by the slugs.  Not sure if I with bother with broad beans again - it might even be too late to get those into the ground.  I'll have to check!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

What a difference a day makes...

Unbelievable after the storms and epic downpours of the last few days...yesterday looked like this... Simply stunning!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Stormy June

It is absolutely shocking out there today with what can only be described as autumn June!  The dog was not impressed when I took him for a walk this morning - we couldn't even go to the park because trees have come down there and it is just not safe.  I dread to think what my tomato plants outside look like ... if they are still standing.  The plants indoors are doing fine - here is a picture of my pumpkin plant shortly after watering...there are quite a few more flowers on the plant that aren't showing in the picture. Very pretty!
Pumpkin in flower...
Funnily enough the ones I transferred outside don't have a single flower yet - guess it is that much warmer indoors.  I really do hope that I will get some pumpkins this year since the only one I got last time round was snuffled by the slugs :-(

Given the weather, I have been using the time indoors to do some baking - fruit buns are done (see photo) ...can't wait to try one with a hot mug of tea to go with it.  Yum!  I also prepared some bread dough, so we'll have homemade bread for the weekend!
Fruit buns...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

An update

I've been away for a few days and thought it is high time I gave an update on what's going on in the garden.  The good news is that the potatoes are doing incredibly well and are growing nicely.  The same goes for the tomatoes and pumpkins - especially the ones I still have indoors as they are safe from the slug monsters.  And here we come to the not so positive news: the little monsters have munched all of my broad bean plants, even the new ones I planted under a protective cover :-(  When I checked this morning, a big fat slug was hanging upside down on one of the plants, munching any leftover leaves that had been missed during the previous feeding frenzy.  There I was dreaming of broad bean & feta salad and all I have is a great big fat slug!  Just as well we don't have to rely on my crops for survival!  I have decided to keep one pumpkin plant, the peppers and a couple of the tomato plants indoors to see if they will crop...fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Back home now after a couple of adventures...went to a family party in Germany over the weekend, then an overnight stay in Pembrokeshire at the lovely "Jabajak" (restaurant with rooms) and a trip to Skomer island - perfect!

Puffin on Skomer island...
Now, I don't know how this happened but I have always wanted to see puffins and was terribly excited about our visit to Skomer.  The island did not disappoint - what a place!  Fields of bluebells and red campion as far as the eye could see, stunning birds including the cutest of them all: the puffin!   I managed to take quite a few photos of the little fellas (see above) and we just couldn't stop watching them!  They are busy building nests at the moment and in some cases chicks have already hatched, so you can see the adults flying in from the sea with a beak full of fish.  What a treat!  Can't wait to go back again!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Simply stunning

Chives in flower...
Here is to enjoying the small things like chives in flower looking beautiful in the sunshine!  Simple pleasures are the most profound!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Jobs in the garden

This week promises to be a sunny one, so I am making a little list of jobs to do in the garden: mowing the lawn, weeding, planting out tomatoes & pumpkins, sowing lettuce seeds, earthing up 2nd lot of spuds... That should keep me busy!  And I suppose I will have to water the veggies as well, since there is no rain at all forecast for the next week or so. 

I fear my broad beans have not survived the onslaught by the slugs, so I will plant some new seeds and hope that the protective netting "cage" I bought will be enough to protect them.  Since the pumpkins are supposed to be going out into the same cage, I do really hope this works as I doubt there'll be anything left if the slugs find a way through it.

In the park this morning everything was peaceful and glorious!  I saw a blue tit flying into one of the nesting boxes, so I guess there are baby blue tits in the making there.  I wasn't fast enough to take a photo but it was nice to watch what was going on.

I did take this slightly wobbly picture though - holding the dog lead in one hand with dog pulling and trying to take a photo is not easy :-)

Oh, and on the baking front a new favourite has been added to the list: pineapple cake!  Recently, I made a pear loaf cake which was ok but not that fruity - well, I have amended the recipe using fresh pineapple instead and the cake was absolutely delicious!  Very fragrant and so yummy that by the time I thought of taking a picture, the cake had already disappeared.  Oops - maybe next time!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Of slugs and wild ponies...

It's been a few days since my last post and since then we have had lots more rain but also some glorious sunshine over the weekend.  That mixture of moisture and warmth has meant that all the plants are growing rapidly, well, apart from those that got eaten by the slugs :-(  I have only two out of my seven broad bean plants left and the Valmaine lettuce has not even made it further than germination before they got snuffled.  The only way to protect the plants and the pumpkins I am planning to plant out soon is to get a great big cloche or some netting to cover everything.  Very frustrating but not at all unexpected!  At least the spuds, onions and garlic are still going strong as are the plants growing indoors...luckily, the slugs haven't found a way yet to break into the house and let's hope they don't! ;-)

We took the dog for a lovely walk up Cefn Bryn yesterday - it's probably one of the most stunning places on earth and really not far from where we are.  The photo doesn't do the view justice but you can see that the wild ponies were enjoying it as much as we were...
Wild ponies at Cefn Bryn...

Monday, 7 May 2012

Bloomin' marvellous

Azaleas in full bloom...
 I love the beginning of May - it's the time when both of our pink azaleas are normally in full bloom.  Don't they look stunning?  The photo doesn't even do it justice!

Just as I was looking out earlier today, a duck landed in our pond, had a little (very little) swim and then took off again.  How on earth he managed to spot our little pond from up in the air is beyond me :-)  Unfortunately, I only managed to take a quick snap through the closed door but at least I got a picture!

A visitor to the pond...
There seems to be lots happening in the garden!  Only yesterday did I notice one of the birds - a great tit - investigating our dog's tennis ball on the path and then picking off fibers which were no doubt destined to make the nest more comfortable for this year's offspring.  Again, I was amazed how this little creature realised that this strange object would be a good supplier of bedding but I guess nature never ceases to amaze :-).  I managed to shoot a little film but will have to tidy it up a bit to zoom in a more, so footage to follow...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The kindness of strangers

Every now and again something happens that puts my faith back into the human race.  This is one of those occasions:  a few weeks ago I took our puppy for a walk in the park and got chatting to a couple who were sitting on a bench, enjoying the view.  We talked for a bit, they took a couple of photos of the dog and off we went our separate ways.  Well, a couple of days ago I was on one of my dog walks again when by chance I bumped into the same couple.  They gave me prints of the photos which they had brought along in the hope they might see us again.  I thought that was just such a lovely thing to do, so thank you to my kind strangers!

Monday, 30 April 2012

October storms in April

To say it has been breezy here over the last couple of days would be an understatement - it feels as if it should be October with these storms, rain and cold!  I was very sad to see that one of the large old trees in the park toppled over yesterday but luckily, no one got hurt.  Still, it was such a shame to see such a magnificent giant brought to its knees. :-( 

What a nightmare this weather also is for the organisers of our local park festival that is due to start tomorrow for the month of May - they have to check all the trees to make sure it is safe to walk around, tidy up any fallen branches etc.

Our big old hawthorn in the garden seems to be holding up remarkably well - long may it continue!  I am just glad I did all my gardening on Saturday as it really hasn't been the weather to be outdoors.  Try telling the dog that as he still insisted on his two walks per day.  It is supposed to get brighter and calmer out there as of tomorrow, so fingers crossed...

I have planted another lot of potatoes in a large bag and am trying to protect my broad beans from the slugs - hopefully, the measures taken will be successful (nematodes, netting, plastic bottles...).  Indoors, I have now potted on all my tomato (9) and pumpkin (3) plants - the peppers are still too small and delicate to handle, so they'll have to wait for their move into a bigger "home".

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Going loco at the local food festival

Food festival goodies
As you know, I love making things, especially when it comes to food.  This morning, however, it was time to visit the "professionals" at the Gorseinon Food Festival.

After going to "just have a look" at the different stalls, we carried home some lovely rye bread, soda bread, goats cheese, nettle cheese, honey, pork pies and honey lip balm as well as a couple of bottles of local ale and some stunning Persian food.  Now, if you have never tried Persian cuisine, I shall urge you to do so at the next opportunity!  It is quite unlike anything I have ever tasted before and utterly delicious!  The dishes we took home were Ash E Reshteh (a thick vegetarian soup with noodles) and Fesenjaan (a meat stew made with pomegranate).  The latter is in the freezer ready to brighten up another day but we had the soup for our lunch - oh wow!  And we still have all the other goodies to tuck into... :-)

A bunch of people passionate about their local produce - a truly delightful way to spend the morning!  We shall definitely look out for more local markets!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Heartwarming food on a rainy day

It's very stormy and rainy today - a proper April day!  Not ideal dog walking weather...

Bramley Lemon Curd...
I tried out a new recipe yesterday - Bramley Lemon Curd... since curd doesn't keep that long and this was a new recipe, I only made a small jar as a test but I think this could be a winner.  I might use it as a filling in a Swiss roll or in a pie...or just stirred into some plain yogurt.  It's just so nice that I have the time at the moment to try out new things, something that I didn't have when I was still working in London.  I know how lucky I am and feel very privileged!

I forgot to mention that whilst looking out of the window a couple of days I spotted a male bullfinch in the garden!  Now, we haven't seen finches here for ages, so it was really exciting!  I am sure there was a female there too, so fingers crossed they are nesting nearby and that they have a brood of chicks!

Right, the dog now wants his walk, so I better had put on my wellies and rain coat...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Garden update

Gosh - I am not sure where the last few days have gone!  It is definitely time for an update as the plants in the veg garden and indoors have been growing so much!  Here are a few photos of what's been happening...
Peppers, tomatoes & pumpkin

On the window ledge, the seeds have germinated, even the bell pepper ones!  It is funny how different the growth rate is when you compare the different plants.  The pumpkin ones were large from the word go, the pepper ones are much more delicate and small.  The tomatoes are doing really well and I have planted some of these on into bigger pots with the others to follow as soon as I have had a chance to buy some more pots.  They do seem to be thriving and I haven't even started using the tomato fertiliser yet... If they all survive and crop, we will have a glut of epic proportions :-)  Fingers crossed!  Tomato salad, sun dried tomatoes, tomato sauce....yummy!

Tomato "tree"
Outside crops...
Outside, the raised bed and grow bags are also looking good!  This photo was taken this morning and since then I have earthed the spuds up again to make sure the tubers don't turn green (or whatever they do when you don't do the earthing up). 

You can see that the garlic, onions and broad beans are thriving too and I have just noticed that the lettuce seeds have germinated, so those should be coming through nicely as well now.

With the weather a mixture of showers and a bit of sunshine it's been ideal conditions and it is just a joy to see how everything is coming along!  Which reminds me that I need to order the veg mesh to protect the plot before other creatures find it as alluring!

Whilst our own rhubarb is not quite ready yet, I have bought some and made more jam - 8 jars of it, so that should keep us and family/friends happy for a bit.  Can't wait for the strawberry season, although I am already running out of jam jars, so might have to source some sooner rather than later.  There is always something to do which is exactly how I like it!  I am already thinking about other little projects like making elderflower cordial...and I am sure there is more baking to be done...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bagels with jam....

So, as threatened yesterday, I did try my hand at making bagels and was very pleasantly surprised with the result!  Not only were they easy to make but they taste great (even if I say so myself).  I can highly recommend giving these a go - the recipe I used was from my favourite book "River Cottage Handbook - Bread". They may not be as perfectly uniform as the shop-bought ones but I quite like that they look homemade :-)

With time on my hands I also made my first ever batch of rhubarb and ginger jam.  I had bought the rhubarb for crumble but had some left over, so out came the jam making kit.  It really only took a few minutes to make and I think it has set ok but we'll see when we open the first jar.  I only had enough for two small jars but I can always make some more with other fruit in season to have some variety. 
Rhubarb & Ginger Jam..
Can't wait to give strawberry jam a go, although it'll be a little while yet until the Welsh strawberries are ready.

One of the nice things about making your own jam is that you can adjust the amount of sugar to your own taste, so it needn't be as sweet as some of the jam in the shops and you can just use whatever fruit you have available.

Well, I can see a toasted bagel with jam in my near future...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Beautiful views...inside and out

Despite the April showers the park looked beautiful this morning and the view down to the sea was stunning! 

We've had lots of rain over the last couple of days which mostly fell overnight, filling up the pond to the brim.  With periods of sunshine added to the rain, everything in the garden is growing incredibly fast and I keep having to earth up the potatoes.  And even the plants inside are doing well - a tiny pepper plant is beginning to uncurl with others hopefully to follow and I now have three pumpkin plants!  High time I got more pots for planting on as they will soon outgrow their current home.

I quite fancy baking something today, so I might attempt bagels for a change.  I have never made these before but am intrigued that they get poached before baking and want to give it a go.  I will post an update later - hopefully with a photo of some yummy bagels accompanying the post :-)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Of pumpkins and perfectly horrible cakes

Grow, grow, grow!
Almost overnight two of my pumpkin seeds have germinated - I can't believe that I checked in the afternoon and couldn't see anything and suddenly, there they were.  Here is a photo of one of them...if all goes well, they should eventually carry small one-portion sized pumpkins which can be hollowed out and used as soup bowls.  I quite like that idea :-)

It has turned much colder today with even a risk of frost tonight, so I have covered the little broad bean plants and the area where I have sown the Valmaine lettuce seeds with fleece and have made sure that the potatoes are earthed up properly.  Fingers crossed all will survive the cold!  The pumpkins and tomatoes are still indoors, so no problem there.  

No news from the pepper seeds - they are yet to germinate but hopefully that'll happen over the next couple of weeks - I believe they take a little longer to develop.  I fear I might be slightly obsessed with growing stuff as I am already contemplating what to sow next. I have to remember that all these little plants need to be looked after properly as well, so I don't want to overdo it but I keep thinking that there might be something else useful and tasty I could try growing.

Less successful was my latest attempt at baking :-(  I had found a recipe for a straightforward lemon drizzle cake which I thought I'd do in little muffin shapes.  Well, big mistake!  They came out absolutely horrible with all the fat having separated and sitting at the bottom of the tin, slowly frying the cakes from underneath whilst leaving the cakes themselves dry and stuck to the paper cases.  I hate wasting food but there was no way I was going to serve these to anyone.  Very annoying!  Needless to say, there is no photo of the disaster!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

More on foraging...

Well, as is often the case, I have been thinking more about my last post on foraging and again, I have noticed just how much I have written this from a Western European viewpoint.  Having the luxury of foraging edible things as a little hobby is nothing in comparison to having to live daily on what you find.  It is very easy to talk about how lovely it is to find food in the wild when you have supermarkets etc on your doorstep.  Who knows how we'd fare if we had to go out and find our dinner...not very well, I reckon.  So, I just wanted to add this to my previous post - not to take away from the fun it is to get a few little edible things outside but to appreciate that life could be very different indeed if foraging was a necessity.

Monday, 9 April 2012


Foraged food...
It's raining heavily this morning, so I am very glad I went out yesterday to collect wild garlic leaves to make pesto.  I have always wanted to try this and found a good recipe online on the River Cottage forum that involved said leaves, walnuts, olive oil, hard cheese and a bit of seasoning.  Whizzed up and put into a sterilised jar it should keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks if it's lucky :-)

There is something quite magical about foraging for food - I haven't done much of it apart from the odd occasion when I have picked "wild" food such as blackberries but I'd like to learn more about it.  It feels basic and natural to go out there and finding something to eat.  The lives most of us lead here in Western Europe are much removed from the original sources of food but when you do go and collect something edible, it seems to resonate with something deep inside.  Since I am no expert, I would definitely not recommend just picking anything that looks tasty - that would be a recipe for disaster - but with the right knowledge, it must be very rewarding indeed.