Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Making jam from (stolen) plums

I was in charge of the shop all day on Friday!  The shop manager asked me to cover whilst she went to a music festival, so I had to open up, cash up and lock up all on my own.  It was fine and everything went well, we weren't that busy, but I got on with some jobs, including ordering lots of goodies from Shared Earth.  It made a change from my usual tidy-Friday routine.

I ordered a selection of winter veg and spring veg plug plants from DT Browns.  I could have sown my own, but I've been so busy on the plot that the idea of having a batch of plug plants arriving in the post was too tempting.  The winter veg plug plants arrived on Friday so I planted them out on Saturday morning.  I got 4 each of kale, cabbage, cauliflower and sprouting broccoli.  They came wrapped in white paper inside a cardboard box.  Chris had already prepared the beds, so all I had to do was plant them and water them in - you can't get easier than that!  The spring veg plants should arrive mid September.  It cost £11 + postage, so £14 altogether, which is a bit expensive, but not too bad if it provides us with veg all winter and spring.

I spotted this baby cauliflower.

Chris harvested all the onions on Saturday morning.  There was about 200 altogether, he washed them, then hung them up in the shed to dry out on some special shelves he's put up.

Me with the onions.

We harvested the pink fir apple potatoes which look weird but tasted very nice.

Picked some more toms.

In the afternoon we went for a mega bike ride, probably about 10 miles I reckon.  We saw a heron and a green wagtail and we stopped for an ice lolly.  We ended up on top of a hill and we got a bit lost so we had to turn back.  It started raining at one point and neither of us had taken any waterproofs - slightly unprepared but we'll know next time.  I was so tired and saddle sore when I got home, but I think the exercise must have done me good, we both enjoyed it.

On Saturday after the bike ride I made an allotment chilli with loads of veg off the plot.  It took a while to make (broad beans take ages to pod and then remove from their skins!), but it was worth it and I had it again for my lunch on Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday Chris cut the tops off the potatoes to allow the skins to thicken before we harvest them next week.

Our allotment neighbour's plum tree has snapped in half due to the weight of all the plums on it - it's such a shame, it's completely broken and will need to be chopped down.  The plums that were on it have started to ripen and they were just going to waste so I lent over the fence and took some home to make plum jam.  It was lots of fun making the jam and very easy too.  It didn't set as well as I would have liked, but it's fine for on toast.  It tastes delicious!  I think I may have got the jam making bug.  All I used was 1 pint of water, 4lb of plums and 4lb of sugar (it's quite sweet so maybe I could have got away with less sugar, it seemed like loads when I weighed it out).  I ended up with 8 jars, which was more than I thought.  I quite fancy making blackberry jam next.

The tomatoes are really starting to turn red now and we've already had a couple of good harvests.  They taste fantastic and I challenge any supermarket tomato to the taste test - I know the homegrown ones will win hands down!


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Party on the plot

On Friday afternoon a co-operatives consultant came to the shop to offer advice on how we run the shop, it was a useful session and she made some good suggestions.  We need to make more money or we might have to shut, so something needs to be done.

We went ahead with the allotment party on Saturday afternoon - luckily the weather forecast said it would be dry all day so we decided to go for it.

Chris tidied up the plot and set up the cooking and seating areas.  And he cooked all the burgers, sausages and sweetcorn too, he was wiped out by the end of it. 

I made a soup for the party with lots of fresh veg from the allotment.  It was loosely based on a minestrone style recipe, and I followed a few of the steps in Marcella Hazan's Essential Classic Italian Cookery book.  I added spaghetti pieces, then served it with fresh basil, parmesan and crusty bread.  Mmmm.  I also made a chocolate brownie for pudding which seemed to vanish in a flash!

We picked lots of sweetcorn and BBQ'd it for our guests.  It tasted lovely - really tender, juicy and sweet.

I bought a box of organic cider, a tray of small bottles of beer and some fruit juice for people to drink.

Lots of people came to the party - we had 3 babies on the plot at one point.  The weather stayed dry and there was even a bit of sun.  We stayed on the plot until it went dark, then we had to go home.  Unfortunately we didn't see the full moon rise as it was too cloudy.

Our friends picked fruit and veg to take home with them and everyone seemed to have a good time.  My feet were killing me by the time I got home - it was a busy day running about getting everything sorted.

On Sunday we chilled.  Chris went to the flea market but I stayed home and washed up the pots from the BBQ, then deheaded the flowers in the gardens at home. I spotted lots of caterpillars on the nasturtiums.

Then we went to the allotment for a proper clear up.

I watered and fed everything in the greenhouses and made sure all the top shoots were off the tomatoes to encourage the tomatoes to ripen.  I picked some more veg.  Below are some sungold cherry tomatoes and a large constuluto fiorentino.

The weather has been disappointing and mostly wet.  We're halfway through August and we've not had many red tomatoes yet.  It's a shame.  There's so many green ones and if they all ripen at once I won't know what to do with them all!  I guess I'll have to make soup and pickles/chutneys and give away what we can't eat.  Pictured are some green tigerellas.

I made a tomato, garlic and basil sauce from the Marcella Hazan cookbook, I followed the recipe carefully, and it turned out really well.  It tasted pretty authentic and to say I only used a few ingredients it turned out a lot nicer than bottled pasta sauce. There's lots of good tips in the book about what type of ingredients to choose and how to cook things like pasta properly.  I love Italian food, last Wednesday night we treated my Mum to an Italian meal out and it was really delicious.

I've put an application in for another job at work, working in the parks department developing activities in the parks.  Fingers crossed I'll get an interview and then I can find out more about the role and see if I fancy making the change.  I've been in my current job for 5 years, so I feel like it's time for something new.

I've been out on my new bike a few times (it's been raining some nights).

We've had quite a lot on socially over the past few weeks, so I'm ready for a quiet one this coming weekend, I feel as though I've over socialised, so my introvert side is a bit put out. 

I've been working on a tender for the art/community project that we've got funding for at the shop, so that's been taking up some time in the evenings.

I'm loving Thomasina Miers' 'Mexican made simple' TV programme.  She had a fantastic pinnie (apron) on last week, which has inspired me to make some pinnies of my own, and I ordered a Simplicity sewing pattern for aprons today.  More on that next week.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

I've got a bike!

Two of our friends popped by unexpectedly just after tea on Friday evening.  So we sat out in the back garden for a bit, then took them down the allotment for a look around.  I got carrried away with the organic cider.  By 8pm I'd drunk 2 bottles and was drunk (it's strong stuff - 7%).  We came home and watched half of the film Submarine, but Chris fell asleep so I turned it off. 

On Saturday morning we went to pick up my new bike.  I got a Giant Revel 2 in grey.  We took the front wheel off and brought it home in the car boot.  It was raining though so I didn't go out on it straight away, but Chris had a little whizz round the block to check it was OK.

On Saturday evening I went to a BBQ with my mum (she asked me to go along for some company).  I didn't know many people there and it was a bit of a drag, full of lots of 'straight heads', well, that is, people who probably think I'm odd for not being the same as everyone else.  To be honest I was glad to get home.  I purposely wore a long black witchy dress, ha.

On Sunday I set off for the allotment about midday and stayed there until 4.30pm.  I gave everything a mega weed, feed and water.  We've invited our friends around for a lunar Lammas BBQ next Saturday, and we're going to harvest the corn and have a get together, so we want the allotment to look its best for our visitors.  Chris strimmed the overgrown paths and I filled two beds with leeks.

I treated myself to two books off Amazon - Marcella Hazan's ‘Essential Italian Cookbook’, which is very thick and comprehensive.  I've already picked up a few tips.  And I got ‘Off Camera Flash’ by Neil van Niekerk which I haven't really looked at yet.

I also ordered some oils from Neal's Yard - vetiver and a de-stress blend of ylang ylang and neroli. Mmmmmm.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Delicious malteser tray bake

We went to a barbeque at my friend Emma's house on Saturday night.  I got a bit tipsy off organic cider.  She made an ace malteser tray bake cake.  Here's the recipe - it's so simple to make.

Malteser tray bake recipe

melt 4oz butter with 2 tablespoons golden syrup in a saucepan, then take off heat
melt 100g - 200g chocolate and mix half into melted butter pan
bash up 300g ish of digestives and mix into melted mix.
mix in a large packet of maltesers (grab bag or box size)
pack into a greaseproof tin
pour over rest of choc
cut in squares

Emma's garden looked brill - she had a bath with a running tap as well as a hammock.  We should definitely get a hammock for the allotment.

I've been looking at wallpaper for a feature wall in the living room, but Chris isn't convinced.  I've ordered some samples to see what they're like in real life.

I took Monday off work and I spent most of the day down at the allotment tidying around and weeding and feeding.  I picked all the garlic and shallots.  I also picked the Japanese onions, but they were tiny, so I'm not sure I'll bother with them next year, I might as well just stick with the maincrop onions, they grow much faster and bigger.  One of the cucumber Emilie plants had wilted and died so I had to pull it up.  The pumpkins are growing like mad, but not many fruits have set yet, some rotted when I didn't pull the flower off in time.  The marrows outside are growing like mad, they're trailing all over the place.  I picked some peas, beetroot, spring onions and onions too.  The peas were delicious!

There's still no red tomatoes - we need some heat!  I've just a few little sungold cherry tomatoes so far.  All the rosadas are still green...

We've had quite a few allotment teas this week.  We've had champ, onion gravy, sausages and peas.  And cheese and onion mash pie.

The Awards for All funding for the shop has been confirmed, so we're getting to work on this and we’ll be issuing a tender/press release soon. 

The voucher for my bike has arrived, so I'm going to pick it up this weekend, I can't wait to get my new wheels!

I went to jigsaw club on Wednesday and it was a nice evening so we did the jigsaw outside until the light got too low.  But it was a really hard jigsaw, with lots of sections the same colour, so we didn't finish it and it wasn't much fun!

We watched the first 6 episodes of the Muppet Show which were lots of fun. I love kermit and most of his pals - with the exception of Miss Piggy who I don't one bit, she really gets on my nerves.