Posts Tagged ‘Recipe’

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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Well, following the cultivation notice (that apparently we shouldn’t have got because we have had it less than 3 months) Jamie has worked incredibly hard on digging and planting the plot.

The new plot

The new plot

The plan is to have mainly perennial fruit on this site, so that it is lower maintenance. Also, fruit takes up a lot of space and you want to give it plenty of room. There were already three small plum trees on the plot (seen at the back of the photo below), and some Rhubarb (also at the back). Jamie has added raspberry canes with a frame, and gooseberry.

Fruit patch

Fruit patch

Once the asparagus seedlings are well established, they will go in and already have a dedicated row. The yew trees were in pots in the garden, but have been transplanted in as have a number of box plants (of course!).

This year I am going to get some space for annuals (the bare patch at the front). I already have some Charlotte potatoes chitting on a windowsill. I don’t think there’s any danger of putting the potatoes in too late. The girls have planted a lot of different flower seeds this year, so we will see if any of those are successful.

Finally, there is going to be a very small vineyard in the space shown below.

Space ready for the Vineyard

Space ready for the Vineyard

You never know, Costello home-made wine might be coming your way in years to come? Jamie has taken some cuttings of the vine that currently runs over the canopy at the flat.

Grapevine cuttings

Grapevine cuttings

We met a local grower/winemaker at a Farmer’s Market from the Old Railway Vineyard in Merstham. When we described our variety, he identified it as a good one for wine. It has a good pedigree, having successfully grown on the patio for what looks like the last century.

Finally, the first French tarragon of the year is coming through, so we picked some for our favourite dinner, recipe below.

Tarragon Chicken

For this recipe you can use either quarters, legs, thighs, breasts on the bone, whatever you have in.

Chicken pieces (see above)
Butter or olive oil for frying (depending on cholesterol count)
1/2 chopped Onion
1/4 bottle of white wine
4 or 5 sprigs of French Tarragon (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons Creme fraiche (this can be low fat or full fat)
small amount of chicken stock (optional)
lemon rind and juice (optional)

Tips: This recipe has many variations, depending on what you have in the cupboard.  Stock can be added for flavour, but you can use a chicken Oxo cube, gravy granules etc., or leave it out altogether.  I find if you use chicken pieces on the bone, you don’t need to add stock, but if you use chicken breast fillets, it might need the extra flavour.  Lemon isn’t essential, but goes very well.  The basics are chicken, white wine, creme fraiche and tarragon.

Fry the chicken pieces in the butter/oil in a heavy bottomed pan or casserole, until nicely browned on the outside.  Take them out and reserve on a plate.  Then use the same oil to fry the onion and mushrooms if using, followed by the garlic (chopped or crushed as preference).

Once the onion has gone slightly brown, add the chicken pieces back to the plan and add the white wine and half the tarragon, stirring to get the brown glaze off the pan into the sauce.  Add water or chicken stock to cover the pieces.  Add the lemon juice and rind (you may need to add a tiny bit of sugar if using a very dry wine and lemon juice).

Simmer for about 30 – 45 mins on the stove, or put the casserole into the over, checking occasionally.  Strain excess oil if needed.  Add salt and pepper and more stock to taste.

When you are sure it is cooked through and ready to serve, add the creme fraiche along with the rest of the tarragon.

Serve with rice and mange tout or french beans.

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Today we had a lovely day working on the plot. The weather was quite warm – almost weirdly warm for the time of year. Nearly everyone we know was on the site when we arrived at noon.

The girls seemed happy playing by themselves, so we got lots done. I cleared the last of the squash plants, to replant with strawberries. The kind lady who let us pick her surplus earlier in the summer offered us some of her offshoots. Her strawberries made the best jam I have ever tasted – so I jumped at the chance. We now have three small areas of strawberries. Along with herbs they are one of the best and most useful things we have got from the allotment, so it is worth dedicating the space to them. As instructed I dug in some manure first to make sure we get a good crop.

It is the end of the season for herbs now, so I wanted to pick as many as possible for drying, before they all get killed by frost. I stripped the lemon verbena plant which completely dies back in winter and have hung bunches upside down on the back of a chair to dry. I did the same with the tarragon, and also picked some thyme, rosemary, mint and sage. These can be dried and put into jars for storage and use over the winter.

Lemon verbena - the smell is just amazing

Lemon verbena - the smell is just amazing

Finally, before we left, Doug insisted that we take some of his redcurrants that were still on the plants from summer, but wouldn’t survive the first frosts when they come. One of the highlights of allotmenting as a mum has to be watching the girls’ excitement as they pick fruit. I took them over to pick a small crop and they were so thrilled with the ruby red jewel-like fruit. The only problem with redcurrants is that although they look exquisite, they do taste very sour straight from the plant. Fern did try one raw but her face said it all really. However, good old Sarah Raven has a recipe for blackcurrant cupcakes, which was well suited to using our produce. A bit of sugar definitely helps fruit go down. Not sure if that is particularly healthy, but it was a lot more fun.

It makes a pleasingly pink cake mixture

It makes a pleasingly pink cake mixture

I really must cook something savoury out of our produce one day..........

I really must cook something savoury out of our produce one day..........

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