Monday 26 January 2015

Harvest Monday - parsnips (and a starling murmeration)

 I headed to the plot for a few hours on Sunday, it was a bit overcast to begin with but then brightened up....lovely. I did some more work on my hugel bed (which I'll report on another time) and spent a bit of time moving one of my enviromesh covers. It was only covering a couple of small cabbages and a purple sprouting broccoli, so I decided to use it over my leeks, chard and some self-seeded lambs-lettuce, which are all growing in the same bed, slowly but steadily.

And in the morning we'd watched the birdies in our garden, to take part in the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch (14 individual birds with 8 species, which is our best year EVER!). There were lots of birds around the plot too, including two robins having a bit of a fight.

Anyhoo, on to the week's veggies which I was pretty pleased with, all from the plot on Sunday:

 Some kale (nero), a little cabbage and my last onions from the shed.

A leek, some little carrots that I'd missed before (they were so sweet, we ate them raw), and two massive parsnips!

Here's one of them cleaned up - no canker, which is good for me. I roasted these lovelies.

And here's why I missed last week's Harvest Monday. I was visiting my folks for a few days down on the south coast. I usually try and get across to Brighton, especially in winter when the huge flocks of starlings roost under the pier.

This is where they used to roost - the West Pier. Not much left of it now, damage from fires and storms. I popped here first as the sunset was so lovely, to get a few pics.
 This is where they roost now, It used to be called the Palace Pier but now is just Brighton Pier. This pic is just to show how far apart they are.
I could easily fill up the blog with dozens of pics of starlings and the piers but will stick to a couple of videos of the mumeration (the name of the flocking action) taken from Brighton Pier on my little camera (you get a great soundtrack from the pier rides and stalls too!)

Looking west, a large flock, just before coming in to roost right under my feet
Looking east, another large flock that flew around for a while longer after the ones on the other side had already headed under the pier.

It was the largest murmeration I've seen there for a few years. I had a feeling it was going to be a good one, there'd been lots of starlings in Norwich too (we even have a reasonable murmeration in the city at the moment, which roosts on an office block).

I love seeing people notice the flocks, they're hard to miss! One of nature's spectacles for sure. And the sound when they've come in to roost, thousands of birds right under your feet!

Apologies for the digression, I just had to share :) and it's the reason I missed last week.

Monday 12 January 2015

Harvest Monday - another roast (and some seed sprouting)

Wow, it's been really windy the last few days and some heavy rain too. But I did get to the plot on Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours and made a start on a hugel bed (ooh).

This is where you layer up material, starting with logs at the bottom, then smaller branches then twiggy stuff, green stuff and then top off with some soil. I've got the first two layers done. Not sure exactly what I'm going to top it off with as I don't have any spare soil, but I might be getting some horse poo soon. The idea is that over time everything breaks down, levels out, and feeds the plants grown on top. Or if you build one as a toblerone shape you can plant-up the sides and top too.

I had a spot which was in a big dip, next to a big buddliea, so thought I'd bring up the level by making one of these beds. I am taking pics which I'll share later in the process. I'm planning on growing a couple of squash plants here but I'm a bit worried that slugs and snails will find it a nice place to live too. Though I found a couple of toads which might help (I moved them somewhere safe).

On to the harvests this week...not too much!

I forgot that sprouting seeds would count as a harvest - these are alf Alfa. My pack of seeds is 2 years old! I didn't sprout seeds for ages and they went out of date. So not that many actually germinate, but enough do each time, this is about half.

This is the start of the process - put in a couple of teaspoons of seeds, add some water and let them soak overnight. Then leave them in a light place and give them a rinse twice a day. After a few days they'll have sprouted and you can enjoy in salads, sandwiches, add at the end of a stir fry etc. There's loads of different seeds you can sprout too, like mung beans, lentils, chickpeas. This container has holes in the lid for the water to drain out and the green arm thing keeps it leaning at an angle. But you can just use an old jar and make holes in the lid (best to use a plastic one).

Yesterday I thought I'd use up some of my smaller squashes, one had started to go mouldy (it was one which came late from a self sown plant from the compost and probably hadn't cured properly)

But half of it was ok

And the others in half too:

The larger squash had big enough seeds to roast, so I did some of my hazel nuts at the same time (I roasted the amount that I could crack open in the time it took the squash to roast, which wasn't too long because I'd chopped them up quite small.)This is them before roasting, all that remains is in the paper bag. I roasted on gas mark 4 for about 10 mins (after the squash was finished on gas mark 6).

The roasted squash...YUM! With some of last week's chestnut roast from the freezer. Other veggies not home grown!

And a few of the hazels (all eaten now... SO TASTY! I hope I get more this year). The skin flakes off once they're roasted, making a nicer flavour.

That's me for for the week. Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions



Monday 5 January 2015

Harvest Monday - chestnut roast

I had a baking day on Saturday. The weather was terrible with heavy rain but I'd had a good session on the plot the day before, making a start on moving a strawberry bed and setting up a stretch of fence to grow peas or something up. So I didn't feel guilty about staying in all day!


I made two loaves - a chestnut roast (left) using chestnuts we'd collected in the autumn (the same recipe as we had for Christmas Day - see recipe below ) and a chick pea loaf using Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen's recipe (right).

To prepare the chestnuts, I sliced them length ways, boiled for 15 minutes, let cool a little bit then peeled. If you let them cool too much they're harder to peel. When slicing the nuts, I check inside each one to look for grubs (I did have to discard a few nuts because of this). Normally you can tell from the outside, as there's a little hole which is a bit of a give away but sometimes they're hard to spot. I'd kept the nuts in the fridge since we collected them, having read somewhere to keep them in plastic bags (with holes for ventilation) and stored in a single layer. Actually, when I still had loads left they weren't in a single layer (due to space) but seemed to keep ok anyway, with lots of holes in the bags. It's the first year I've tried this, so will definitely do it again.

Some herbs picked from the front yard also went in the chestnut roast - Rosemary and sage (I don't have any thyme).

Shaheen's recipe for chickpea loaf was really easy. I include it here as I did use my own onions and mini greeny-red pepper that was the last on my plant I'd brought indoors (above, with my remaining chillis). You can see my remaining squashes in the background too.

I also made a carrot cake but that didn't involve any home grown or foraged ingredients!

Other things picked this week - I found a few more potatoes! I was forking a bed a bit to temporarily move some strawberry plants into it and discovered these, in good condition too.

I picked a couple of the chillis, making a massive soup (with some other ingredients of course!)

And today popped to the plot in my lunch break to pick a bit of chard that went into a curry tonight.

That's me for the week, linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions

Chestnut Roast recipe (Chestnut, walnut and mushroom nut roast. Serves 4-6)

So we got this recipe from Jan's mum, and not sure exactly where she got it from but the scanned page we have says 'inspired by Rose Eliot and Sarah Brown.' My instructions written below are adapted from the recipe, to cut down on washing up!

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 tsp olive oil

1 red onion finely chopped (I used a normal onion)

1-2 small carrots, grated or finely chopped

200g mushrooms, finely chopped (or in my case, roughly chopped)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

200g chestnut purée or mashed chestnuts

125g walnuts, finely chopped (we used a mixture, and they were roughly chopped, for varied texture, and laziness)

1-2tbsp fresh herbs finely chopped. Eg Rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme

1tbsp tamari or soy sauce (I found this too salty, as the cheese is salty too, so the second time, used half a spoon)

1 egg

1 cup (100g) grated tasty cheese (We used mature cheddar each time)

black pepper

1. Grease and line a loaf tin

2. Preheat oven to 200 C

3. Heat oil in large pan and fry onion, celery and carrots for about 5 mins. Add mushrooms and garlic and fry another 5 mins.

4. Turn off, and let it cool a bit (as you're about to add the egg and otherwise it will start cooking). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

5. Spoon in to the loaf tin and bake for 45-60 mins

6. Let it sit for about 10 mins then turn onto a serving dish

7. EAT!

You can adjust the recipe loads of ways eg add chilli, different nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.