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Archive for the ‘Dahlias’ Category

What a weekend!   We managed to fit in both allotments, twice, and go to Petersham Nurseries for some inspiration.  The activities culminated in making a batch of blackcurrant cupcakes.

First I must show you the photos I took at Petersham Nurseries.  It is one of my favourite places for inspiration – whoever runs it has got such a good eye for colour, and puts things together beautifully.  I noticed they had a job going and boy am I tempted…..

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The displays really make you want to buy something, but the price tags are breathtaking.  It makes me wonder whether it would be fun if money really was no object.  I think it is more satisfying to get ideas, then try to recreate your own version in a thifty way.

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If you look at the objects, there is nothing inherently special about any of them, but the arrangement together just works somehow.  Having said that, they just seem to have a knack of picking objects that work together.

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There is also a fabulous restaurant there, run by Skye Gyngell and a tea room for those like us on a more limited budget.

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There is usually something interesting there in the way of plants too.  This time of year, they have gigantic dahlias.

Allotment June 15 039We bought one for Jamie for Father’s Day, and brought it back to the plot.  I have to say it looks a lot more modest than the one in the shop, but they do flower continuously from June to October, so there is plenty of time!

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Last year we made redcurrant cupcakes, and they were a great success, so we decided to use some of our bumper crop of blackcurrants to make some more.  The secret was not to add them to the mix, but to press them onto the top just before they go in the oven.

Blackcurrant cupcakes

375g Self raising flour
115g butter
200g caster sugar
2 very large eggs (or 3 medium)
1/4 vanilla pod
1 tsp vanilla extract
175ml milk
Some blackcurrants – a few handfuls

Beat together butter and sugar till fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Split vanilla pod, scrape out seeds and add to mixture.  Fold in the flour, then when mixed, add and mix in the milk.  Spoon the mixture into muffin cases, then add blackcurrants to the top as shown below.  Then pressed in the blackcurrants into the mixture, but so they were still on top.

Allotment June 15 172Put into a preheated oven at 180degrees C, and leave for 20 mins or until golden on top.

Allotment June 15 068I know it is a cliche, and one I use very often, but the tartness of the blackcurrants against the fluffy sweetness of the vanilla cakes turns a childlike treat into something more interesting for adults.

Finally, one more photo from 8pm this evening – the peas flowering.  I picked a handful of yellow podded peas, just in case I can’t get back to them for a couple of days.  It looks as though there will be a lot more where they came from!

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This is the third year of having an allotment, and I have to say that the initial burst of energy has eased to a slower pace.  So it is really nice when something genuinely captures new enthusiasm.  One of these was the sweetcorn that I sowed direct in the soil a couple of weeks ago.  Horrendously late, it needed a soil temperature of 18 degrees C according to the packet.  I wasn’t sure whether UK soil ever reaches this temperature, but it really was my last chance to get them in before June began.

Here is the patch on the 29th May:

Sweetcorn seeds went in just before the warm spell

Sweetcorn seeds went in just before the warm spell

And again on the 12th June:

18 degrees and counting......

Sweetcorn shoots in just two weeks

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw them!  They will even need thinning at some point because I was so pessimistic about their chances of success that I have crammed them in, expecting the odd seed to germinate.  I have got two varieties – Ashworth Early and Hopi Blue.  Another way of looking at ‘early’ crops is ‘faster growing’, so I am hoping this means I will still have time to get sweetcorn cobs before Autumn.

The other surprise this week was that the dark blue lavender bush is ready to crop:

Lavender ready to pick

Lavender ready to pick

It is a darker blue than the Carshalton Lavender plants which we  inherited.  I thought it would be good to dry out the heads for decoration rather than scent:

Lavender heads drying on the patio

Lavender heads drying on the patio

The later crop will be in July, when we will pick some of the silvery heads for lavender bags etc.

Finally, we got our first crop from the blackcurrant bushes given to us by Jamie’s Gramps and Mum.  The recipe of this week is a glorious blackcurrant frangipane tart, from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook.  A bit like bakewell tart studded with blackcurrants, it is one of those recipes where the tartness of the fruits is perfect with the rich pudding.  Lovely with an afternoon coffee on the patio after work:

Frangipane and blackcurrant tart

Frangipane and blackcurrant tart

I will put the recipe on to follow:

Following the loss of almost all our Dahlias in the frosts this year, I bought a two at 70p at Chipstead fete this weekend.  Not even knowing what colour or type they are will add a frisson of excitement later this summer.

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