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Archive for the ‘Blackcurrants’ Category

I have to confess that I prefer most of my food fairly plain and unadulterated.  Apple crumble is a case in point, because I normally like to keep it plain.

However, I’ve spent the last two weeks being ill with flu and a chest infection, so I decided I needed a few more vitamins to fight off the winter germs.  We have got a wealth of red fruit in the freezer, just waiting to be put into pies and crumbles, so I decided on a change.

I sprinkled a load of sugar on to taste.

The red fruit adds a nice pink colour to the mixture.

I included coarse oatmeal in the crumble to add a bit of bite:

The result was pleasantly tart, and a very vivid red colour!

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Well, what a fantastic day.  Many, many people picking lavender at the Stanley Road site in the name of the local community project, Carshalton Lavender.  It is so spiriting to see how many people came and enjoyed picking Lavender, buying lavender products and generally joining in.

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We even had a few Far Eastern tourists taking photos of the allotment, making us feel a bit like one of the exhibits.  All great fun – as our plot is right next to the bit where most people pick the lavender from, we are used to being a living demonstration plot.  One year we almost had a creche going on in the Wendy House, with lots of children joining in with our girls playing.  It is always so nice to talk to people, who are invariably interested, and if it means people see the possibilities of gardening with children, so much the better.

The lavender day is on tomorrow as well, so it isn’t too late if you fancy stocking your dried lavender supply.  I can vouch for the fact that it is the very finest quality.

http://www.carshaltonlavender.org/p_2009_Harvest.ikml

As I sit here typing, Jamie has arrived back with some more lavender.  The smell of the lavender is very powerful, almost medicinal, and has already filled the house.  It is supposed to be relaxing, so that bodes well for a chilled out evening.  I can feel the lassitude washing over me – it seems to be willing me to rest.

Lavender day

Happily, this co-incided with possibly our best harvest ever.  We have an abundance of fresh produce at present, and this is heavily influencing the menu in the Costello household.  We are getting large numbers of extremely tasty potatoes. I have to say that although they make a very boring photo, but they are delicious boiled and coated with butter and a bit of salt.

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Next on the menu is the set of novelty courgettes.  Novelty because there are different varieties, and also because some of them have grown into marrows – oops.  That will teach me to be more vigilant.  How they have soaked up enough water from our soil to get that big, I will never guess?  We did have thunderstorms last week I suppose, but they must have a decent root system.  The round ones look worthy of a new recipe, probably involving rice and parmesan.

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Other elements of today’s harvest are some french beans, delicious with the potatoes and some black-and-redcurrants from Doug’s plot.

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He offered them to us, as they were so small it hardly seemed worth him picking them.  He has got a LOT of fruit bushes.  I am hoping to make this later on, blackcurrant ripple parfait.

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I will take photos if I make it later – that is if the lavender induced lethargy doesn’t get to me too much.

Finally, we have discovered that the plum trees on the new plot yield the most delicious, tiny, fragrant plums.  They taste almost like cherries, only sweeter.  The girls had their fill, and this is what was left.  With a fruit-laden damson tree in the garden and three of these plum trees on the plot, I am looking forward to a glut and to all kinds of plum jams, crumbles and chutneys.  Friends be warned to expect plum related presents this Christmas, especially if I do give up work.

Lavender day 014Happy gardening!

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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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