Saturday, January 30, 2010

An easy chunky, healthy, stewpot

Did you have snow today?  Is it freezing cold?
 It is here - so I popped on a stewpot to warm us up.

The ingredients are all those which I have in my freezer, or fresh, and is really easy to make.
From the freezer I used the following home grown veggies - peas, climbing French beans, and  asparagus tips.  Fresh veggies I had in my fridge - celery, onions, carrots, parsnips and onions.  From my store cupboard I used a tin of tomatoes, and a tin of mushrooms.  

The peas were still frozen straight out of the freezer so I quickly cooked them with some smoked bacon chunks.  Instead of buying bacon slices, I by offcuts from the village butcher - they are far superior and cost me £1.65 for a pound - no fat - just wonderful meat.
In a big casserole dish I browned two big onions and leeks, sliced, and two chicken thighs.

I added the parsnips, and carrots.  The chickens a friend 'grows' for me and they are huge.  The cost of these thighs work out at £3 total

I added boiling water (no need for stock as there are so many flavours already in the pot) and then added the other green veggies and cooked it for half an hour or so until the chicken was cooked through.

I added the tinned tomatoes and mushrooms, and bacon chunks, and a little more water, brought it back the boil and simmered it until some of the liquid had evaporated leaving a lovely thick stew.

Here it is ready to serve - with home grown mashed potatoes
There is enough here to serve six chunky meals.
And it would have cost at most £7 to make.

Some of it I will chill and freeze for a quick meal another day.
It's great on it's own too or for supper with a nice crusty chunk of bread.

Basically you can add whatever veggies and meat you like.   Just make sure you brown the meat and onions first before adding the other ingredients and boiling water or stock.
Add whatever tinned veggies you like - beans, peas, chick peas, sweetcorn, red kidney beans (wash the latter thoroughly until the water runs clean before you add them).

Try it with dumplings - its great - just skip the part when you reduce the liquid to thicken the stock - add the dumplings pop on the lid and cook until they are light and fluffy.

I am an impulsive cook - and never plan from one day to the next what we will eat - I just look at what I have and put a meal together!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First visit to the allotment - 2010

It all looks rather good

This is the front end - grew the pumpkins in these raised beds

This fenced in area currently has green manure in it which I will need to dig in when the land has dried out a bit.

I also grew all my climbing beans in here, sunflowers, courgettes, parsnips, carrots

and leeks.  It wasn't a good year for leeks, because of the drought, but I dug up quite a large clump. Behind them is the big fruit cage, with redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries and a loganberry

This is the far end of my allotment  beyond the fruit cage.
 In the foreground I grew all my potatoes, so this year it will be my courgette and pumpkin patch

In this fenced off area I grew all my brassicas, peas onions, carrots, parsnips and radishes.

The Russian Kale is ready for  picking and I picked some greens for the bantam babes at home.

In the raised beds I grew bush french and haricot beans. 
The bushes beside them are gooseberries.  I am hoping for a good crop off them this year, as I moved them the previous winter from the bottom of my allotment which I gave up.

In the foreground are jostaberry bushes that I grew from tiny cuttings.

As well as a row of compost bins at the bottom of my plot, I have also built some huge compost areas for the horse manure a friend brings for me.   Doesn't look like much at the moment, but when it's rotted down its pure rich black compost - and works a treat.

Next time I am up here, I will be doing some serious work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The right to roam! Egg Total: 3

I was out all morning, but when I came home lunchtime the sun was shining - the first time it has shone for any length of time this year - so I decided that today was the day I would let all the bantams out.  I should have left it until tomorrow or maybe Thursday, but I figured that they might not be as bright as me, so wouldn't know they were being let out early.

First out were the old girls, Daisy, Gozzie in the middle, Scrabble at the top
They were out of the run, like athletes out of their starting blocks.
They flew and ran hell for leather to their favourite spot.

Next out was Twiggy, and Lola, followed by Zola
All three of them jumped out, stood in a row and flapped their wings.
They made lovely little noises and got more and more excited and started practising vertical take-offs, like Harrier Jump Jets.

And ran and flew to join the others.  Twiggy is doing a happy little jig

They has such a great time expoloring.  They scratched about on the flower beds and tasted some new sprouting leaves.

Zola: Look mother hen, don't I look handsome!
Me:  Don't be silly Zola - that's not you in a mirror - it's Lola looking at you!

Twiggy: What's in here mother hen?
Me: Well Peckingham Palace used to be in there, but I have moved it out onto the patio, now I am going to use it for my strawberry plants and salads - so the rabbits can't get them.

Oh they had such fun exploring all the garden, the woodland areas, around my studio, behind my studio, even around the garage.  Scrabble joined them and did a good job of showing them all the best areas for worms
Meanwhile the two little Sebrights were still in the run deciding what to do.
The silver one, yet to be named by our youngest granddaughter, was walking up and down on the wooden 'doorstep' trying to pluck up courage to jump.
She kept cocking her head and looking down to the patio, and then walking up and down flapping her wings, then repeating the process.  It was as if she was saying 'My that's a steep step down to the patio.  I'll jump down in a minute.  Right here goes, I'll flap my wings and fly now.  Erm. O.K. next time I will do it.  She was making happy chirruping noises then all of a sudden she jumped!
Landed, flapped her wings and called out to Poppy the golden Sebright, named  by Luke my four year old grandson.  We were all surprised that he didn't call her Power Ranger!

They soon joined the triplets on the gravel path

And scratched about in the leaves, pecking at bugs

It was obvious by the sounds they were making that they were so very happy

When the triplets went off exploring, Poppy and 'silver' didn't feel so adventurous

So after a little discussion they decided to pop back into Peckingham Palace's garden

They had a quick look around then flew back inside

They had a whale of a time having the place to themselves.
They rolled around in the hemcore, they dug out dustbaths and
flicked the hemcore all over them

The silver Sebright is looking around guiltily - but it's OK to scoff the cabbage whilst the others are out.

This is what it looked like yesterday when I brought it back from the allotment!

They all spent a wonderful afternoon and were reluctant to go back inside until it was dusk.
I went and checked up on them, and counted how many there were in the Peckingham Palace bedroom.
Shock horror - there were only seven,
I picked each one up and stroked them and saw that it was Scrabble who was missing!
I searched the garden high and low and eventually found her, and popped her into bed too.

I am glad they had such a brilliant time today, as the weather forecast for the rest of the week is dreadful!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gotta cook a pumpkin or two boy - gotta cook a pumpkin or two!

Last year I bought some rare Blue Hubbard pumpkin seeds.  They were £2.50 (plus postage) for five seeds.

I managed to get three plants - which I was thrilled with.   We had a drought of a summer here in Norfolk, and my allotment plants had to fend for themselves without any watering from me.

Amazingly I got a really good crop of squashes and courgettes and made lots of roasted mixes for use over the winter,  Most of which I have used up now - so it was time to get cooking again.

I had some stored in the lean too - these are HUGE

Because of their size - I can only lift one at a time -
I needed to wait until Pat could help me - and was in the mood too.
I just can't cut through the thick skins myself and he had a job

We couldn't manage all of them - it was too much work for me

Look at this lovely flesh.  I have saved lots of the seeds

Here is what's cooking

Every oven, every tin I possess

Some used more than once - some with chilli powder too

Cooked up a treat

Chilli on the left, olive oil on the right

My goodness they smelt lovely - all this work for this

This is a massive bowl of the scooped out pumpkin which I have mashed
I'll have biceps like Popeye!

Guess how much this pumpkin mash weighs

A whopping 18lbs - yes eighteen pounds.

All bagged up now in one pound bags and frozen.

And I still have more to do!

And it is the best pumpkin flavour I have ever tasted!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My modern flower arrangement

I went on a workshop Friday afternoon, and made a modern flower arrangement

As you can see it is a large semi circle which I made using three Oasis foam blocks glued together, then cut up to shape.

The other ladies were lucky as they had seen the arrangment before, but I had no idea of what it would like like. 

I had to collect 100+ leaves all the same.  Everyone except me brought ivy leaves to cover the sides.

Silly me picked bay leaves from my tree, and took a great deal of time trying to get them a uniform shape and size.  Instead of just placing the leaves on at random - as you can with ivy, those being all different shapes and much bigger too - I decided that the bay leaves would look nicer following the line of the semi cirle, and made a 'fan' shape.  Patrick says that it reminds him of Roman 'things'. (They were made out of laurel though, but I didn't tell him)  I had both sides to do and each one is pinned into shape, and I used more than 100 leaves - and I was the slowest!  Why do I make things hard for myself?  It just comes naturally he he.

The next bit usually makes people gasp when you do it.

To fill the middle of the 'sandwich' I used roses - just the tops -
so the long stems were snipped right off!

It is infilled with tips of yellow conifer and pittosporum

With carnations, dried pink berries
and creamy pearl beads.

The flowers and rosebuds are all opening up in the warmth of the room making a really striking display.  And oh those bay leaves - they do smell wonderful.

It was quite a challenge doing a 'modern' arrangement, and I was surprised that I had the patience to pin every single leaf symmetrically - not like me at all!