Friday 31 October 2008

Tomato blight and green tomato chutney

We have not yet set up our greenhouse though we have the parts for it. Setting it up is one of the big jobs for this winter. We did however pay the price for not getting round to building the greenhouse. Our tomato crop was hit by blight in September (see above). We grew them on our back patio but as they weren't under glass, they were more susceptible to blight. We managed to rescue some of the crop we has which was picked green other than a few red ones (see below). I therefore had a merry afternoon making green tomato chutney.

It was just a basic chutney I made but this is my recipe:
1 kg green tomatos
400g raisins
2 onions
400g apple (peeled and cored)
600 ml of white wine vinegar
Teaspoon of ground all spice
500g brown sugar
Teaspoon of cinnamon powder
Tablespoon of mustard seeds
Chop the tomatos, apple and onions and add to pan.

Add the raisins, white wine, mustard seeds and spices.

Heat and stir and once its bubbling away, turn down the heat but keep simmering. The apple and tomatos should produce a juice and once you have a damp pulp add the sugar and stir.

Keep the heat under the pan until most of the excess liquid has evaporated and then add to warm jars.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Veggie burgers

The increased supply of home grown onions led me to think of ways of using them up. I came up with the idea of veggie burgers as it also helped me to use up some eggs and a pile of bread crumbs I had. We still buy in eggs and bread at this point in our move to self sufficiency but I am working on acquiring our own sources of both eggs and flour. The surplus bread I had was made into bread crumbs a few weeks ago.

We grow broad beans on the allotment so in theory I could use them to make burgers. However, for this recipe I bought a tin of aduki beans from Sainsburys.

So, the veggie burger recipe:
Tin of aduki beans (you can use just about any type of bean or chick peas)
2 eggs
2 red onions
Bread crumbs
Cooking oil

Mash the beans and add about 2 - 3 heaped tablespoons of bread crumbs.

Chop the onions and add to the mixture.

Beat the eggs and add to the mixture.

Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the mixture.

Mix up the mixture! Shape into burgers. You may find at this point the mix is too damp. If so, add a small amount of flour or bread crumbs.

Fry or grill, and serve with a bit of home made chutney and salad leaves.

Sunday 26 October 2008


This is not a long post, just a photo I took of our first flowers from the allotment, a bunch of chrysanthemums, picked last weekend and supplemented yesterday with another bunch.
Other work on the allotment this weekend included digging over a new patch so extending onto ground we have not yet cultivated. I did a load of chopping back of brambles in the bottom corner of the allotment. I also moved a large pile of hawthorn branches I cut back from the edge a couple of months ago. We have a bonfire coming up.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Apple, pear and ginger chutney

I made this on Saturday night, one of my own recipes. It gave me the chance to use up the rest of the wild pears and apples I picked over the past few weeks:

Recipe - apple, pear and ginger chutney

600g apple (after being peeled and cored)
400g pears (after being peeled and cored)
400g raisins
150g fresh root ginger
450ml white wine vinegar
3 small to medium onions
half teaspoon ground cinnamon
half teaspoon ground allspice
a grating of nutmeg
3 star anice
400g brown sugar
Peel, core and chop the apple and pear, chop the onion, grate the peeled ginger and nutmeg and place all the contents except sugar into the jam pan and heat gently. The aim is to cook the mixture in the vinegar and the juices released by heating the apple and pear.

After about an our of simmering, once there is very little liquid left, stir in the sugar. At this point a thick treacley liquid forms. Heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then put into warm jars. I made 5 jars from the quantity of ingredients above.

There is a danger that the ginger can dominate the taste. The quantity above is enough to give a hint of ginger. I don't suppose there is any harm in increasing the quantity if you have a strong liking for ginger.

For this chutney, avoid cooking at too high a temperature of for too long. Otherwise you will lose a great deal of the texture of the apple and pears, though some of the pear texture was already on the soft side I made this chutney as the pears really should have been used a bit sooner after picking them. Nevertheless, I am hoping this is a bit of a crunchy chutney.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Hedgerow jelly

Hedgerows are an excellent source of fruits and berries in the autumn. There are a large number of different shrubs and trees that provide material for making hedgerow jelly. The following is my own recipe I used jelly I last week:

1kg blackberries
500g elderberries
500g rowan berries
500g hawberries
500g rosehips

Your also need apple. I used the skins and cores of apples which were the waste product of other jam and pie making sessions. They were put into a bag and placed in the freezer until needed. I added more to the bag over time as they were produced. It's a useful way to use up a waste product. It is also useful to add some lemon, in the form of lemon skins. Again, as with the apple waste, simply accumulate lemon skins where you have squeezed the lemons for use in other recipes and freeze them as you go along.

So, once you have all your berries, put them into the jam pan with the apple and lemon. Cover with water and heat, bringing to the boil. Keep the whole lot simmering for a couple of hours. Fruits such as haws and rosehips can be quite dry so you may need to add some water whilst it is simmering away. I did a couple of times.

Once it has had a good boil through, strain it through a muslin bag overnight. If you found the pulp was too dry and you didn't get much liquid off it first time, put it back in the pan and reboil with more water, and then restrain. Measure out the liquid after you have finished straining it.

Put the liquid into the jam pan and heat til it boils. Turn down the heat but keep it simmering. Add sugar - one kg per litre of liquid. Keep stirring until the boiling point is reached, then put into warmed jars. The proportion of different fruits and berries can vary. The more soft fruit like blackberries and elderberries used, the less water you need to add at the start. And vica versa.

If you add substantially more rowan, you may need to increase the amount of sugar. Rowan is very bitter and makes a good jelly on its own (it has more pectin than you can shake a stick at.) Other fruits can be used as well. I had planned to put in sloes but the crop was a failure this year.

This jelly is good for spreading on bread and toast.

I did try to press the resulting pulp through a sieve to make a fruit cheese but rapidy gave up. So much of it was pips and stones that I was rapidly onto a time wasting losing battle. So it went into the compost bin instead.

Sunday 12 October 2008

More courgette recipes - courgette chutney

I have mentioned previously that we have had a glut of courgettes on the allotment. David used the following recipe a few weeks ago to use some of the surplus. It comes from Sarah Raven's "Gardner's Cookbook" (published by Bloomsbury). Sarah credits it to the chef Paul Burton.

Courgette chutney recipe:

Pickling spices (coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds, dried chillies, allspice, ginger, black peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves)
700g courgettes
250g raisins
250g dried apricots
1 small green apple
250g sugar
3/4 tablespoon salt
500ml white wine vinegar

Tie the spices in a muslin bag.

Cut the courgettes into cubes.

In a large preserving pan, combine with all the other ingredients and tie the muslin bag on to the handle so that it dangles into the mixture. Leave it for 24 hours.

Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar gently.

Cover and simmer for at least an hour, pressing the bag of spices from time to time, until the pieces of courgette are translucent and the liquid is golden and syrupy.

Pour into warm sterilised jars and cover.

We haven't tried the results yet but it looks good.

A bit of inter-family cashless bartering

Dad called in this afternoon on the way back from his allotment with a surplus of produce for us. A large pile of onions, ordinary and red (he planted 5 times more than we did!), a large bag of potatoes, some leaks, 3 garlic bulbs (we are due to plant out own shortly) and a couple of kg of red currants (which went straight into the freezer as I am rather tight for time at the moment - one reason why I am blogging at 2am!).

In return we gave him 8 jars of jam and chutney and a carrier bag of wild pears and apples.

I did find time this afternoon to break away from earning a living (I was editing one of the publications I look after which is due for publication tomorrow, Sunday 12th October) to walk over to Lotties Wood next to our village of Sunniside. I was there last week picking berries etc for jelly making but discovered a large number of hazel trees. As I reported previously, the hazel crop this year is not great but I was able to add a bit more last week to our supplies. I decided to return this weekend for a last attempt this year to gather hazel nuts. I added about a third of a kilo to our stock. Not a staggering quantity but we at least have sufficient now for Xmas.

I did also found a large number of shrubs covered with small black coloured berries. At first I thought they were very small sloes but I found they contained seeds rather than stones. I brought back a small branch to check out what it was. They weren't bilberries which was my next thought after sloes. I'm still baffled.

News from the allotment - David spent much of today digging over the patches we used this year. We will be adding compost to them soon. We just have to ship over the contents of our two compost bins in our back garden. We are going to need an awful lot as well. Just about anything biodegradable is going into the compost bins. All the documents I shred are heading for the compost bins as well.

Courgettes are still coming thick and fast and we also had a few runner beans from the allotment today as well. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the allotment myself today. Other than my hazel nut gathering expedition, I've been stuck in front of the pc working today.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Why we need to produce more of our food locally

The Guardian yesterday had an interesting article which people can read here. It is about a report by the international affairs thinktank Chatham House about the future of food supply in the UK. Some of the key points are:

• UK consumers use food at a rate that represents six times more land and sea than is available to them.

• The equivalent of 20 Nile rivers move annually from developing to developed countries, but much of agriculture's use of water is unsustainable.

• Modern food production is energy-intensive and vulnerable to oil and gas price rises.

• Falling yields due to climate change will inflate food prices further.

• The rapid rise in world population will continue to push up demand.

• Emerging economies such as China and India are shifting to more meat and dairy products. This will cause greater pressure on food and feed prices, and exacerbate environmental and health problems.

This adds fuel to my argument that we need to produce more food locally and to do it in a way that is less envrionmentally damaging. And whilst I accept that, as so often happens with think tank reports, the language is "sexed up" to ensure it grabs public attention, the warnings on food supply are there for all to see.

Locally produced food requires less transport and storage. Local production however cannot provide all your food needs unless we are to make significant sacrifices from our diets which most people will not wish to make. We need to be realistic.

We can, however, cut down on some things which are much more damaging to produce. For example, I rarely use milk now. I have cut it out of tea and I am vegetarian through the week. It is interesting to note that as the standard of living in countries with large populations rise (such as China and India) demand for meat has soared. This produces more pressure on land and means some food supplies (basically grain) are diverted into producing high quality, protein (and often fat) rich foods. I understand it takes 10kg of grain to make 1kg of beef. This is hardly a good use of resources.

So getting an allotment and using your garden to grow even a small proportion of our food will made a big impact on the environment and give us a bit of security against international competition for the available food supplies. And it's also fun and healthy!

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Courgette and black peppercorn chutney

David made this one, not me, and he got it from a recipe book by James Martin - "The Collection" published by Michael Beazley.

So here's the recipe for courgette and black peppercorn chutney.


2 lemons

3 medium courgettes (from the allotment of course!)

2 peeled and thinly sliced onions

100ml of dry white wine

24 crushed black peppercorns

2.5cm peeled and finelt chopped fresh ginger root

pinch of salt

Peel the lemons and cut away the pith, then slice and remove pips. Then cut the courgettes in half lengthway and then into 2.5cm pieces.

Pet everything into a pan and cook over a moderate heat for an hour, stirring regularly. The cook book says there should be quite a bit of liquid at the end but once cooled it is a good consistency. Put into jars.

We were a bit surprised by this recipe. Not it is made with wine, not vinegar. we are yet to try it. Once we do, I'll post a blog.

Courgettes by the dozen

Our courgette crop has turned out to be a big success. They are still flowering and producing new ones. Leave them for a few days and go back and find large new courgettes growing. So we have been eating lots of them recently and making various chutneys. I will blog about them shortly I came down to London yesterday for a few days and even brought a bag of courgettes with me. I made them into a soup last night, along with the rather small potatoes I was able to rescue from our otherwise failed potatoe crop. It will last us 3 days.

Sent via BlackBerry

Sunday 5 October 2008

Rhubarb, ginger and apple jam

I made rhubarb and ginger jam last year and though it was popular with colleagues at work, it was nevertheless a bit runny. So this time I decided to add some of the apples a picked a few weeks ago to help it set. Here's my recipe:

800 grammes rhubarb
600 grammes apples (after they have been peeled and cored)
2 large ginger roots
1.4kg sugar

Chop the rhubarb and add to jam pan.

Peel and core the apples then chop them and add to jam pan. (Remember to freeze the cores and skins and use them at a later date for making jellies - more about that coming soon.)

Peel the ginger, then grate it and add to pan.

Apply heat and bring to boil.

Keep simmering until the fruit has broken down into a wet pulp. Takes about an hour to get to that stage.

Once it has reached this stage, make sure it is boiling and add in the sugar, stirring constantly.

Keep boiling until the setting point is reached then add to warned jars.

The proporton of fruit and ginger can be varies. Some may argue that I use too much ginger however I found the strong ginger taste went down well with many people. Some however may prefer to put in much less ginger.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Blackberry and pear jam

I made blackberry and pear jam on Saturday. Quite easy to do.
Here's the recipe:
1.5kg blackberries
1.5kg pears (weight after being peeled and cored)
3kg sugar
Add the blackberries to the jam pan. Peel and core the pears then chop them and add to the pan.
Heat up and bring to boil. You are aiming to get the blackberry juice infused through the pear. Takes up to an hour of simmering after having been brought to the boil.
Then add the sugar, stirring constantly. Bring back to boil and keep the heat on til setting point is reached. Then put into warm jars.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Not very nuts about hazel

This is the rather feeble sum total of the hazel nuts I have picked over the past couple of weekends. A very disappointing amount from my foraging. Last year I picked so many I was eating them well into the new year. This year I won't have enough to make it to Christmas.

I simply found that the trees were barely producing a crop. And I wasn't alone. When I was out foraging on Saturday, I found a couple out picking hazel and they told me it was meagre pickings as well.

Not all nut crops have been poor however. Near my house in London is a sweet chestnut tree. Plenty of nuts on it. The only problem is that I have not had a chance to pick any. And so the grey squirrels have been having a feast.