Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Baking, veggie chilli, more seeds, down at the allotment and a lovely wildflower

I baked some yummy chocolate chip muffins on Friday. I would have posted a photo, but they got eaten before I had chance to snap them! I used Mary Berry's recipe from her Baking Bible book. Which is, by the way, the best baking book I own, and I own a few. If you only want to buy one baking book then make it this one. The recipes always turn out as expected, and she covers most types of cakes in there, it's well set out, with lots of lovely pics. Mary Berry is the baking queen.

I also made a lovely vegetarian chilli. I used a tin of organic ratatouille, which I fancied trying, frozen peppers (I usually buy fresh, but they're pricey and sometimes get wasted, so I'm guessing frozen will work out better in the long run - cheaper, less waste), chopped tomatoes, red lentils, onion, garlic, cumin seeds, fresh coriander, smoked paprika and sweet paprika. Served with tortilla wraps, rice and sour cream. It was really good. I used one of the Ring of Fire chillies I pickled last year. Crikey, the pickling hasn't dampened their heat much, they still blow your head off! They're too hot really, so I've gone for milder chillies this year, but I had some Ring of Fire seeds left from last year, so I've sowed a few for this season. Whilst I do like things spicy, there is such a thing as too hot!

We washed this down with a nice bottle of Rioja red wine. I'm searching for an affordable, rich and deep flavoured red wine that doesn't taste like vinegar. This was the best out of recent trials, but still not perfect. It was oak aged, which we could taste, so I'll try a non oak aged Rioja next. I don't really like buying Australian, American or African wines because it seems like a long way for a bottle of wine to have to travel to my table, carbon wise. So I'm hoping to find a nice European wine to settle on as a favourite.

I helped my other half fit my Mum's new fence panels on Saturday, which were pretty heavy.

My DT Brown seed order arrived. I think DT Brown is now my favourite seed supplier. They are cheap, have a wide selection to choose from and the seeds germinate and perform well. Conversely, I think Thompson and Morgan is now my least favourite seed supplier as 3 sets of seeds from them have germinated very poorly this year and will be going back for a refund. 

I sowed some more seeds on Saturday - hot chilli mix, bullhorn pepper, nicotiana sylvestris and lime green, verbena bonariensis, aubergine (second sowing due to slug damage), cosmos, anagallis . Further to the photo in Alys Fowler's Edible Garden, I sowed some black tuscan kale 'cavolo de nero' seeds, which I had to buy on eBay. I also sowed the squash seeds for this year - marrow, rouge vif d'etampes pumpkin, hunter butternut squash, mars pumpkin, atlantic giant pumpkin. And I sowed some seeds to grow outside - spinach, lettuce (sativa, little gem, reine de glaces) and some mixed leaves.

On Saturday afternoon I took a short break with the Guardian and enjoyed sitting out in the first warm sunny day of the year. I might be able to wear my new Native sunglasses soon!

On Sunday morning we went to the local flea market and I bought 2 Delia cookbooks for £1 each and a DIY book for 50p.

Down at the allotment on Sunday I planted the redcurrant bush next to the row of gooseberries. It was hard going digging the hole because the soil is full of compacted broken bricks and stones which are really hard to extract. But the bush is in there now, so we've got a fruit crumble and jam destined path full of gooseberries, redcurrant and brambles now.

I got my blusher brush and pollinated the peach tree by hand, as it's in the greenhouse and not many insects get in there. I saw a baby elephant hawk moth caterpillar hanging from the peach tree. It was the size of a normal caterpillar (the one I saw last year must have been fully grown - it was the size of a cigar).

I weeded too, mainly docks. I put some slug pellets down near the radish seedlings, because it looked like a few had already taken a beating. I also dug up the last of the leeks, about 10 of them, and dug over the patch.

Later on I sowed the mixed morning glory seeds from DT Brown, after soaking them in tepid water for 24 hours. They looked so pretty in the catalogue. I also split up the Shirley and Moneymaker tomato seedlings as they were getting cramped.

The bloody slugs have eaten some cabbage seedlings and one sweet pea so I laid down some organic pellets and went on a night time torch search - I didn't find any slugs, but the pellets under the sweet pea had gone the following day. I'm sorry slugs, but I've got to protect those baby plants. Slugs or plants. It's a choice I've had to make, and I'm sorry slugs, I really am.

'You Grow Girl' by Gayla Trail finally arrived on Monday night. It took a while to come as Amazon had to order it in for me. It's a cool book, very girly and fun. Noticeably Canadian, but there's some new stuff in there and I would recommend it, just because I love reading about gardening from the point of view of a young woman like myself.

My foxgloves gardening gloves came and they were the wrong ones - they sent me foxgloves grips so I have sent them back. Gutted! The grips have silicone pads on the palms - not that great seeing as I was buying them to protect my hands without losing sensitivity.

I saw a lovely little wildflower at the allotment and I took its photo so I could identify it when I got home. I asked a fellow allotment holder if they knew what it was and they said 'no, but it's definitely a weed'. A weed?!! It was certainly NOT a weed, but a beautiful wildflower. How could anyone call it a weed?! No wonder our wildflowers are disappearing if people class them as weeds. They're the flowers that are meant to grow in our country and I wish there was more of them as our wildlife needs them. A weed to me is something that takes over an area aggressively. Anyway, it turned out it was a common dog violet. My camera battery died after taking the pic, so there's not many photos in this post sorry.

But I did take a nice photo of a ladybird!

My other half was feeling crafty again and put his woodworking skills to good use and fitted us a custom TV cabinet, finished the floor to ceiling 3-door cupboard and made a horse (a thing joiners stand on/lean on) and a carry box for his nails and screws. Hence a lot of hoovering and sweeping up of wood dust for me.

We nipped in evil Homebase on Sunday (to buy for wood for the aforementioned items) and I spotted some bargain pansies and cordyline on the ill plants shelf for £1 each.  So I've brought them home to try and nurse them back to life. I like playing plant doctor.  Last year I bought a really wilted and floppy poppy for 10p, but all it needed was a good drink and some TLC and a few weeks later it was pumping out lovely orange poppy flowers.

I've put the first lot of spencer sweet peas outside to harden off. Some of the sweet peas in the toilet roll tubes have grown little mushrooms inside them. I'm bringing the sweet peas in at night time and then they go back out again in the morning. I'll keep this up for just over a week then its planting out time for them. They were taking up too much precious space on the greenhouse staging. This weekend it's time for the peas, broad beans, and french beans to be sown.

We're still checking out new suppliers for the eco shop. We're booked in to visit the local chutney, jam and pickle maker's business on the 21st April, so I'm looking forward to that. We get to sample some of their stuff. Yay! Hope I get a freebie to take home. I fancy some kind of chilli affair or maybe a damson jam. Or even chilli and damson would be good.

Hemp milk has come highly recommended, but is not currently available to buy locally, so I'll see if we can find a local-ish supplier for the shop.

I've still not eaten Mr and Mrs Duck!

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