Tuesday 28 February 2012

Tuesday Tasters......Preserving the roots.

Okay so today's taster is preserving some vegetables which I harvested off my allotment at the weekend.

My chosen method of preservation this time round if freezing. I have mostly root veg and I like to freeze them so that they are handy for when I am short on time and want to make a casserole or stew. I think freezing can sometimes change the consistency of the vegetables but for the purposes of stews and soups I don't think it matters that much and makes the whole process of making them a lot quicker.

As a personal preference I don't cook up frozen root vegetables to be put on a plate individually as I prefer them fresh.

root veg straight from the allotment

Firstly prepare all of your veg by cleaning and peeling it.

root vegetables prepared for blanchingwater boiling rapidly for blanching

Chop your veg to your desired size, as mine are intended for soups/stews etc I always dice them quite small. Then rapidly boil a pan of water and chuck the veg in for the desired blanching time.

blanched vegetables in ice water coolingblanched vegetables bagged and ready for the freezer

Once you have reached the desired blanching time strain the veg and then plunge into ice cold water to rapidly cool, package and freeze.

What is Blanching???

Blanching is rapidly boiling in water and then plunging quickly into ice water before drying off.

Why Blanch food??

Blanching is a process which conserves flavour, colour, vitamin C and the nutritional value of the vegetables as it inhibits the enzymes which would otherwise affect these.

It has been proven that deteriorate a lot quicker even when frozen if they are not blanched first.

A few tips for blanching.

Make sure your water is boiling rapidly before you add your veg.

Remember, timing starts when the water comes back to the boil again, not form the minute you put the veg in.

Timing is key in this process but if you are un-sure then 'over-blanching' is better than 'under-blanching'.

Personal preferences.

It is recommended to use salted water but I never cook my vegetables with salt and don't add it when blanching either.

I think freezing root veg, (whether blanched or not) changes it's texture so I only use it for soups and stews or casseroles and never as an individual vegetable on a plate.

Some texts will tell you that freezing swede is not recommended, I can't find a reason why and I have froze it in the past both on it's own (blanched for two minutes) and as a swede and potato mash (cooked fully and then mashed) ready
for a quick shepherds pie topping with great success.

Vegetables blanched today with blanching times were,

leeks..........2 mins
Parsnip.....2 mins
turnip.......2 mins
Swede.......2 mins.
carrots......5 mins.

You may have noticed that there was also beetroot in my first picture. This can also be blanched...same method but blanching time is 20 minutes and then the skins should be rubbed off before being frozen. I didn't freeze this though as I wanted to cook it up to eat!!

I will do another blanching post later in the year on legumes.....and maybe a look at brassicas too. In the meantime if there is anything you want to know specifically don't hesitate to ask!!


Sunday 26 February 2012

Allotment progress and produce in pictures!!

Well it's Sunday evening and everyone is tired...I have been busy down the allotment these last two weekends but as you all know I put my phone through the washing machine and unfortunately have not been able to retrieve the pictures off it so I took some more today and added a few extra.

I thought being the end of the weekend then a picture post would be nice...not so much to read and easy on the eyes!!

So here in no particular order is what I have been up too!!

root vegetables, beetrootroot vegetables, swede and turnip

I finally got around to digging up the swede and turnips...they weren't that great but that was my own fault for not thinning them out so it is one of my 'Must do' jobs for 2012. I also came across a few beetroot which are good and will get cooked up this weekend!!

fresh manureyear stood manuremanure ready to go on the heap

I told you in last weeks post how I had been playing with the manure heap....well above you can see new manure on the left...older moved to one side waiting for the potatoes on the left and then the manure waiting to go to the heap below...I got about two thirds of it moved last weekend and the rest will have to wait until I have prepared the land for the potatoes.

manure spread strawberry patchland dug over with manure ready for planting new vegetables

Above left is decided location for strawberries which I have spread and left with manure which will be dug in..well before the strawberries are planted! Right is the land where the manure has already been dug in waiting for the new crops.

leekscarrots and parsnips

Leeks, parsnips and carrots dug out today to be preserved by blanching and freezing so the land can be readied for more crops.

freshly dug soilold ceramic sink to become vegetable cleanerthe weeds of today

Above left is what I was digging over today and as you can see I till have a few leeks in the ground. Above right is an old fashioned ceramic sink which I was given. Actually I have two and I am going to build stand for them and have each one centre of my plots so I have somewhere to clean my veggies up before taking them home. Bottom is the weeds I dug out today...it's not a post if I don't show you my weeds!!

new neigbours equals tidy allotment!!

And finally is the a picture of the plot next to me. Yes I have new allotment neighbours who are very nice and have worked very hard these last three weeks getting their new piece of land looking more like an allotment than an overgrown wasteland. You don't know what a relief it is to have neighbours who give a damn....it does seem so despairing knowing I won't have huge lots of seeds blowing over from a neighbouring plot this summer!!

So that's all I have for today but don't worry there is lots happening at the minute as the seasons are turning and it's busy, busy, busy and I will hopefully get some more posts written soon!!

Hope you have all enjoyed your weekends.


Saturday 25 February 2012

Friday Forecast...week 8......25/02/12.

Yes I know it's Saturday but never mind!!

The weather has steadily warmed up over the week and we have even had some double figures temperature wise getting up to 13 degrees Celsius at one point.

Although the temperatures have steadily warmed up the weather has been varied with a mixture of rain, sleet, wind, sun and cloud....so typically British really!!!

The nights are really drawing out now and if you look to the west at 6:30pm you can still see a little light on the horizon (providing it's a clear evening!!)

I am looking forward to getting started sowing some seeds next weekend and also getting my garden at home tidied up. My lawns desperately need cutting and if the rain holds off for another day I am hoping to give them a spruce up tomorrow!!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend.


Tuesday 21 February 2012

Tuesday Tasters...mincemeat.(Recipe)

Well with the day being Shrove Tuesday I was originally going to do pancakes today but I had a request for mincemeat so that will be today's taster and I will put pancakes up next week.

The request for mincemeat came from another blogger who resides in Sweden so don't worry if you don't understand some of the measurements. And to my English readers I know it's the wrong time of year to be writing this recipe but with my love of mince pies I really didn't mind making some extra!!

Mincemeat Recipe.
4oz (2dl) currants. 4oz (2dl) suet.
4oz (2dl) raisins. 2oz (1 1/2dl) chopped walnuts.
4oz (2dl) sultanas. 8oz (2 1/2dl) Demerera sugar.
4oz (2 1/2dl) chopped apples. 1/2 tsp (1/2 tesked) mixed spice.
2oz (1dl) peel. 100ml (1dl) alcohol.

So the method is very simple...Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, cover and let it stand for two days. Put into jars and set aside until required. (N.B. Mincemeat should be made at least two weeks before it is required to allow the flavour to mature.

It's that simple!!

fruit for mincemeat
Fruit at the ready!

Any apples can be used but for mine I used cooking apples which I diced to about the same size as the currants.

2oz (1dl) glace cherries (chopped finely) can also be added if you wish but I am not very fond of them so leave them out.

For my peel I grated the skin of two oranges and used my apple peel which I cut up finely.

peel for mincemeat
Peel at the ready.

For the alcohol brandy, or dark rum are recommended but you can also use raisin wine...I don't have any of these in so I used vodka!!

I use shredded suet..if you buy a block it has to be cut up finely before being used.

homemade mincemeatAnd it's ready to mature!!

Once your mincemeat is mature then you're ready to get pie making. Any pastry can be used but because it's such a rich mixture I prefer to use short crust pastry as opposed to puff/flaky pastry.

If making small individual mince pies then you put about 1 tsp (1 tesked) of mincemeat into each one and put you lid on.

If making a large pie, because it is such a rich mixture you are better to put a layer of apple in the bottom of your pie before adding the mincemeat and your lid.

So there you are and I hope you enjoy your mincemeat pie Christina.


Monday 20 February 2012

That good old country smell!!!

Well this last weekend despite a number of things I managed to get some much needed work done on the allotment.

I have continued to get bags of manure delivered but because I didn't get any dug in last year it has literally been piling up at the ens of my plot until I thought enough was enough and i got down to business this weekend shifting, spreading and digging.

I have to admit it isn't my most favourite of jobs as it is a lot lugging stuff from one place to another and the smell isn't so great although being absolutely full of cold that wasn't so bad over the weekend.

Anyway one side has been totally manured up and then the remaining manure in the heap was all collected to another side for use next weekend and I started emptying out the newer bags first so they would be at the bottom of the heap. Now they were ripe...very fresh and very wet....not the best task in the world but it is going to be wonderful stuff for next year!!!

Needless to say I STANK. when I had finished so upon arrival home it was immediately strip down and put everything in the washing machine....and this my dear readers is why there are no pictures for this post. You see I had forgotten to take my camera but wasn't too worried as i have one on my phone...however I forgot to take my phone out of my pocket before putting everything in the washing machine. Originally I intended to put this post up last night but I thought I might be able to dry it off...as yet nothing...no power at all but I think there may be hope for it yet so the pictures may materialize at some point...if not I guess I'll just have to take some more...this time though it will just be finished work as opposed to work in progress!!

I also got the turnips and swede dug up but will tell you more about that later in the week.

All in all I think I had a good weekend out there and I am pleased with the amount that I got done...and now I don't feel so bad about what I didn't get done before the new year.

My Garlic has finally arrived so this is something I am going to be getting in probably next weekend too. I prefer to get it in late autumn but due to the delivery not arriving this couldn't happened so it will be interesting to see how this affects my crop this year.

I attended the A.G.M. last Thursday and after being nominated I am now officially on the committee.
Rent is going up again this year...with rent memberships and water charge a full plot will now be £41. a year and a half plot will be £24 per year. The reason it isn't totally split in half is because of insurances and membership...after all just be cause you only have half a plot doesn't mean you are half a member or can be half insured so I think this is fair.

Well that's all for now. Hope you all had a good weekend.

Friday 17 February 2012

Friday Forecast....week 7.....17/2/12

So another week is over and it's time to update you on the past weeks weather again.

Well it has definitely improved.

As promised the temperatures started to warm right up and by Tuesday all the snow had vanished.

With the warmer temperatures came some winds and rain however so although the temperatures were higher the wind left them still might chilly.

Not much in the way of pure sunshine but some breaks in the clouds have been nice.

Rain has been relatively light so hasn't drenched the land and has been mostly at night so hasn't bothered me too much.

Highest temperature...10 degrees Celsius..lowest...2 degrees Celsius.

Wind speeds of up to 35m.p.h. So just a light breeze really.

Spring is on it's way and it's nice to have daylight by 7am and the sun is now setting over the horizon at just before 6pm....Nearly 11 hours of daylight feels like heaven!!

Oh and little P.S. before I go...I seem to be having a problem with comments at the minute so I will answer them as soon as I can and please don't let it put you off leaving one for me to publish when things are sorted..thanks.


Wednesday 15 February 2012

Tuesday Tasters....Lasagne.

Well I realise that this post is being published a day late even before it gets off the ground but you can lay out the best plans ever and something will come along to up-skittle them which is exactly what happened to me yesterday. For this I give my apologies and hope it was worth waiting for!!

I am not a person who very often uses a recipe...or follows instructions when I cook. Occasionally when making a totally new dish I will use a recipe and method as a guide and then after that I adapt it to my own and my families tastes. The ingredients that I add often vary depending on what I have in the cupboard and what my mood is so this is just one version of many that you could adapt to your liking if you chose to make it.

Firstly I took one white and one red onion, roughly diced them and crushed a whole bulb of garlic into a pan with some olive oil to soften.
Once softened I added the mince.

Whilst the mince was cooking I took a large tin of plum tomatoes and emptied them into a pan and blended them.
To this I added a good dollop of tomato puree, a good handful of basil and about an ounce of plain flour.
Bought to the boil and simmered.

meat in sauce for lasagne
Once the mince was cooked through I strained it and added it to the sauce.
I then used the mince pan to fry off some mushrooms and added the the sauce and mince.
Then I grated two large carrots into the pan and left to simmer.(above)

At this point I always have a taste and when I made this I then added some salt and pepper to taste and a teaspoonful of marmite for richness.

I then made 3/4 pint of cheese sauce which I decided to use today instead of white sauce.(I have also used bread sauce and parsley sauce in the past).

All that's left to do then is put it all together. I use fresh pasta sheets bought from the store as I don't have a pasta press to make my own.

soaking pasta ready to use
Remember to soak your pasta sheets in a boiled water with a little oil before using to make them soft and moist.

Homemade Lasagne ready to be cooked
Then it's down to layering. Pasta, white sauce, mince...and repeat. Finish off with just a pasta and sauce on top. As you can see I have grated some cheese on mine too. I also grated cheese between the layers.

Then it's just a case of putting it in the oven. This is a great dish to make the night before and keep in the fridge until you decide to cook it. Equally smaller Lasagnes can be made in freezable pots and frozen for later. The lasagne I made fed four of us a little too well..lol!!

Homemade Lasagne ready to eat
I served my Lasagne with a little salad and the plates were nicely clean at the end of the meal so I guess the family approved.

I cooked this for about an hour in the middle of the oven on gas mark 5. However I mostly play it by ear. If your lasagne has been in the fridge or not been heated straight away then obviously cooking will take longer as the dish will need to warm up before cooking.

Many adaptations can be made to this...depending on mood I like to put in some chilli's, I also often half the amount of mince and put more veg in...or just go for all veg. The possibilities are endless if you are prepared to do a little experimenting and use a little imagination!!

Also the mince and sauce can be used for Spaghetti Bolognese...or the sauce on it's own could be poured over pasta and baked in the oven.

The possibilities with doing the dish in stages are endless!!


Monday 13 February 2012

So what has been keeping me so busy this last week?!?!?!

Well basically...it's chickens!!!!!!

No I haven't gone and got myself any chickens but I have been helping out with some and thoroughly enjoying it. I get to do the good bits which is collecting the eggs and closing them up for the night.

cockerel and hens

A few of the hens roosting...and the cockerel.

hens in the rafters

Some prefer to be up in the rafters.

hens and duck
Can you spot the odd one out?

hen nesting boxes

Just few of the nest boxes they use.

They are kept in a lovely large area and have plenty of room to roam...oh and there eggs taste divine and are soooo deliciously yellow!!
I was going to take some photos of the field but it was too dark tonight for the camera to take good pictures outside so I will take some later in the week

Also, as of this week I am going to start a new weekly feature called 'Tuesday Tasters', yes they will always be about food. Sometimes just ways of preserving and harvesting but sometimes recipes and methods and stuff so there will be a whole range for me to cover in the topic, the only thing you can guarantee is that it will be something to do with food which I am hoping all my readers will enjoy.

Something different every week...at least until I run out of ideas!!


Sunday 12 February 2012

Grow your own and gardening offers!!

I am not a person who buys a paper and I very rarely read them, I tend to listen to the news on the radio or watch it on TV...sometimes I may browse through the paper at my parents hose but that's about it.

Although I don't buy a paper my son does have a paper round and his papers tend to be wrapped in old papers and you can imagine my delight when his papers were wrapped in the below today.

special gardening offers
Extract taken from 'The Telegraph' 28/01/12.

I understand that the paper is a little old now but I just wanted to share with you the great offer that was in there. I have kept this and I am going to order some bags as I thought it would be great for my Sister who is growing some veggies this year in her small garden with the children. I am even contemplating getting myself some and trying them out for Christmas new potatoes.
They are great for anyone who only has a small garden or for the beginner...and at such a bargain price you can't go wrong!!

The Telegraph also have a website called gardenshop so go check out the link to see what they have...you might find something worth your while and I shall certainly check it out from time to time!!

And yes I do realise that this post is wholly advertising a newspaper...but the way I figure it...if I think I've found something that I think others will be interested in and may benefit them then I'm going to shout out about it!!

I'll be back tomorrow to show you some pictures of why I have been so busy this last week and didn't get a chance to post anything for you all to read!!


Saturday 11 February 2012

Friday Forecast....week 6......11/02/12

Yes it's Saturday....but I have to keep the headings in line and I did intend to post this last night but I was just too tired and with having to be at work at 6:00am I thought you would all forgive me for being a day late!!

So what's the weather been like this week????


That about sums it up.

The temperatures have struggled to get above freezing all week and the only time they did on Thursday we again had some snow. I have to say I'm not a fan of the weather right now and haven't even visited the allotment though I'm sure it looks very pretty!!

No winds to speak of though so there is a plus factor in there somewhere?!?!?!

Last night was definitely the coldest by far and when I went out to go to work this morning it was -11degrres Celsius.......I really hope this doesn't last for long. I so badly want to get some allotment time in without freezing any of my appendages off!!

I even remember one February when I had to cut my grass as it was so warm it had started to growing again!!

snowy fields
A lovely stroll through the fields.

Anyway I did have to work today and decided to take the scenic walk home through the fields to snap a couple of pictures of our snow. It's not a huge amount but the children have found enough to sled and build snowmen!!

snowy fields
Didn't take long to get home...just as well as I soon had VERY cold toes!!

Hope the weather is being a bit kinder to you where ever you are....it is supposed to warm up slowly throughout the week so fingers and toes crossed for that!!


Sunday 5 February 2012

Friday Forecast....week 5....on a Sunday!!!......5/02/12

Yes it's forecast time....yes it's late...but I really wanted to wait to see if we got the snow that was predicted.

The front garden...not exactly covered in snow....but it is quite deep in places!!

Well the long and short of it is we did get the snow...though not in a remarkably bad way though the wind was quite strong and it caused drifting in places.
The weather over the last week has been cold with most days not getting above freezing point.

In itself the snow has brought us some warmer weather and at the moment it's already thawing...the problems will occur if it then freezes overnight as the slush and wet will then be black ice and cause major disruptions!!

But all in all though a cold week quite a bright one with some lovely sunrise's and sunsets.

Hopefully the snow won't hang around for long and spring soon turns up on our doorstep...on the plus side I have been getting on with some knitting though.

Hope the weather isn't too bad wherever you're reading from.

Stay warm!!