Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Happy birthday Dad

It would have been my darling father's birthday today and we all miss him greatly.  He was such a character.  Happy birthday Dad.

Its also been a long day at work, I have had a migraine type headache that will not shake as well which has not helped and a little toothache.  Not a good combination.   It has chucked it down with rain most of the day.  Bring out the oil can am a bit like the tin man this evening very stiff.  Never mind there's better things round the corner and better weather hopefully.  Needless to say I did not get into the garden this evening and by the looks of the weather forecast things do not look too clever on the weather front for the next few days.  If you happen to live in a part of the country where it has been lovely, fine and sunny like down in Cornwall am deeply envious. 

Sorry its short and sweet tonight; but I think an early night is on the cards to see if I can get shot of this headache.

Have a good one.



Blowing a bit of a Hooley....

Most of the night - how different to the weekend.  We have the heating back on here as it is a tad chilly for walking around in Pjs first thing.  I have to walk into work yet and it is looking a bit yuk to say the least.  It feels like one of those stay at home days where you don't venture out.  Unfortunately it is not going to be one of those days.  Oh well I will just have to wrap up.  I just hope it calms down a bit so I can do a bit more on the garden when I get home.  I think that might be a bit of wishful thinking on my part though looking at the weather forecast! It looks as though one half of the country is having lovely weather and the east coast side not so good. I am sure I can find something else to do somewhere down the line.  There's always something to do here.

Catch you later.



Monday, 30 May 2016


I am going back to work tomorrow for a rest. 

Its been busy as usual.  Went to my mum's and got some paperwork sorted and also some of the plants and other bits that needed to be moved.  Did a load of weeding and tidying there between us and sorted out the bits we are to collect at the weekend.  

It will be mostly plants and pots and trays.  Mum had a lot of these as both my Dad and her had an allotment in the village and grew all their own plants from scratch.  Dad did the graft mum did the growing which worked well for them both. In fact all of my family seem to have green fingers we were encouraged from a very young age to grow stuff. 

My brother has an allotment where he grows all his own stuff.  I had one for a short while but OH was not very happy about it and wouldn't take me down there.  It was quite a way away and as he would not help me with putting a shed on the lottie so that I could store my tools and equipment safely, I ended up having to take the tools with me each time.   He was not always helpful in taking me down there so in the end as I could not be there when I wanted to be I ended up giving it up more's the pity.  That's why with the dream house - its not necessarily strictly true that the house has to be just so - I am more interested in the land.  You can get a house just as you want it one way or another.

We also sorted the freezer and have split the contents between us and I have my share all packed into my upright freezer.

Unfortunately much as I would like to I cannot take the greenhouse.  But some good work has been achieved and it should all be tied up at the weekend.  Its very sad really but the house is going on to a new owner and new family and I hope that they will be as happy as we have been as a family under the shelter of its eaves.

I managed to do a bit of pottering in the garden before we left. However have managed to do a whole load more since we have been home. Bit of a grey cold damp start but it cheered up with the sun coming out later on.  Wind got up though and kept knocking my mini greenhouse down.  Fortunately the other two stayed up.  They have the seeds in.

I have been sorting pots and weeding and topping up with compost.  I have some rhubarb plants and I have sorted out the initial pots for them - into pots first as the ground is not prepared yet and it has been far too windy to use the weed killer today.  I don't want to kill them off before I get any of my plants in terra firma.

I have violets, lily of the valley, London Pride, a clematis that used to be my great aunt Ivy's, hopefully a rose that I bought for my Mum and Dad's ruby wedding anniversary, montbretia, aubretia, and may be a paeony (although they are good sulkers if you move them) to come from Mum's so I have been sorting space and pots for them to go into as well. 

I have sorted out further up the herb border and my grape vine has sprouted again - I need to get a trellis to put up so that it can weave its way through and then hopefully I might get some grapes at some point.  There are lots of pots and seed trays.  I also have a very tall Lemon verbena plant that needs sorting out. Its in a large planter but has got very tall and stringy but lot of sporadic growth up the stems so I think I am going to have encourage them to set roots and end up with several plants rather than just the one.

When I am tidying anything there always comes a stage where things start to look tidy and then all of a sudden it looks like a bomb has hit it.  I have reached that stage tonight (homes have to be found for a few items and some are destined for the tip)but hopefully if I manage to get an hour working tomorrow night at the herb garden when I come home things will get sorted a bit more. 

Hopefully being in the garden for a little while will also get rid of any stress built up during the day. It will be a quick simple tea tomorrow night as I want to get on and get as much sorted as I can. However I do still have a lot of herbs to get, such as Basil, Thyme, Oregano, garden mint, borage.

My brother has also let me have my mum's electric propagator so that should help an awful lot for next year particularly with getting crops sown earlier than I have this year.  Hopefully for next year I will be a bit more together.

For tea this evening I cooked a piece of silverside with Yorkshire pudding, and we had a right mix of veggies, some kale (which is a favourite here and very good for you), some baby broad beans, some peas, some broccoli, cauliflower and carrot and new potatoes with lashings of gravy.  It has gone down very well.  Right had better get a wriggle on things to do in preparation for tomorrow.

I hope everyone has had a very good bank holiday wherever you have been.

Pattypan  x

Hopes for today

I am hoping that by the time you read this I will have been up for a couple of hours (weather permitting) pottering away in the garden  as usual I have a lot to do and very little time to do it.  I like being in the fresh air and I like working with my hands.  It is very grounding and after being stuck in an office for the best part of the week I also find it very cathartic.

We have some work to do at my mum's today and once that is out the way and sorted I will hopefully be able to get back to my gardening and be able to finish off my herb garden for the time being and enjoy my last few hours of freedom before being back to work again for tomorrow. 

I think I am going to need some more compost though as I have bulbs and plants to pot as well as some more seeds to get on the go. I aim to do a few each day so that I do not end up with tons of seeds to prick out or transplant on with little time to achieve it.  So unusually I am pacing myself a little.  That was one of the reasons why I did not buy Roses and fruit trees yesterday and that I need to get the garden outlined a bit and the weeds gone before so doing.

I have four tomato plants and two courgette to pot on which my neighbour gave me, some chives to transplant, some potatoes that have chitted and new potatoes for some pots as well as some strawberry plants.  There are also some dahlias, freesias, Chinese lanterns and gladioli to get sorted as well.  I also want to pot the two Marguerite's on into planters.

Eventually we are planning on putting a patio down in the back garden that I can pop a gazebo on.  I have found the gazebo but as I have said other things need to be sorted first like the laying of slabs and a rough layout/plan of the garden sorted. After the slabs it will be some turf etc. until we work our way down the garden. There is only so much I am willing to do to a rented property - its false economy especially when we do not plan on being here forever but we still have to live.

There is still quite a bit of clearing to do but if I keep at it say for an hour of an evening when I get in I might be able to break the problem down into bite size achievable chunks.

I am however after a garden swing so that I can sit on a nice day in the garden and do some of my craft work when I am at home.  Something like my embroidery or cross stitch where I need good light to work.  I had seen a wooden one recently and I am hopeful that it will still be available if not I will search the Internet but where I saw it, it was a lot cheaper than it should have been.

Anyway I will catch you later. Its been a bit cold and dismal first thing lets hope it improves.



From this to this in a Day

I thought I had posted this - apologies for the delay but we are slowly getting there. (Please note this post is out of sequence).

We were let down again by the gardener who was chosen because of price and it would seem that his boss realised as soon as he had turned up to do the job that he had quite severely underquoted.  I thought that once you quoted whether that was verbal or writing that was the figure that the work was to be done for.  His lad had quoted me £350 to £375 depending on how many loads to the tip there were. He (his boss however) wanted £780.  Yes I know the gardens a mess certainly the first part so I declined his services, as the only reason we had declined the other lad was on price.  When you do not have much money you try and do as much as you possibly can with it.  I then got back in touch with the lad I had felt okay about and got a £50 discount because I had come back to him.  Bless him he had an appointment first thing but as soon as that was concluded he came straight round and stripped the garden out and removed the rubbish.   This has given us a heads start to really get it tidy.  He had shifted the bulk of it within the day.  I will not be able to get on to it until Sunday next week as we are doing a lot of removals from the house into the storage unit and I am having to sort stuff out the night before for OH to take it straight there from work.

So things are moving and hopefully it will continue to move smoothly along in the right direction.

Fingers crossed and toes plaited.


As it is now.  Ready for a dose of weed killer which I am not happy about using but this has popped up in the past 10 days and is mostly bindweed and the brambles are back.  I am hoping to start chucking out the rubbish at the end of the garden as well tomorrow or at least sorting it ready to go down to the tip.  However that will probably be later on.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Well its been a busy day today

Despite me having a lay in - think I have caught up with lack of sleep now.

Be warned this post is photo heavy.

OH was watching the darts so when the matches he was interested in had finished (including the ladies) we tootled off to a local garden centre called The Barn on the outskirts of Peterborough.  There were a lot of plants I was interested in - especially the Roses and Fruit trees, but I am going to have to wait a bit on that.  I only have so much room here and I am not going to be here forever so if I am going to be investing in fruit trees then I want them to come with me wherever that may be.

I have however bought some new herbs for my herb patch, two thymes, two rosemary, two sage, two marjoram, two peppermint and two marguerites.  OH does not like these but I quite like them.  They are destined for two planters.  I also bought some mung bean seeds and some sunflower seeds for sprouting and a pack of pattypan squash seeds.  OH has from the farm been enjoying from their delicatessen section pattypan squash stuffed with cheese and then in a very light oil.  I understand you can pickle them as well so that is what I have bought the seeds for.

Here is what the herb garden looked like before I started it - I have only cleared part of it - the rest will be done tomorrow - but oh it has been lovely to be out in the fresh air.  The later photos show the plants I have bought plus some I already had.

As time went on I got absorbed in what I was doing and forgot all about cooking tea until someone popped his head out of the bedroom window declaring he was starving so I came in and cooked his tea.

We have had Dexter sirloin steak for tea and I must say it is one of the nicest steaks I have had.  Usually a normal sized steak is too big for me but these were just right thick but small but with a lot of meat and flavour.  The farm apparently do not have them very often but if you ever come across them they are well worth the buy.  Needless to say I shall be looking out for them again.  We have another two but they are going into the freezer.

I served tonight's tea with fried onion, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower and fresh asparagus spears with new potatoes and gravy and it really was lovely. Unfortunately I did not remember to take a photo of our meal plated up.

We then finished off with a few strawberries and some clotted cream.  So I really have had a lovely tea this evening and I managed to eat it all for a change.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  Catch you later.



Ideas for food to store in the freezer

whilst at the farm yesterday I had a good nosey in the freezers as the food is always good out of there although a tad expensive.  Me being a tight wad as usual decided to write down the list of things I was interested in with a view to re-creating these lovelies at a cheaper price and possibly more for my money in the long run. 

I seem to remember in my youth that there was a very good monthly publication called Home and Reader Freezer Digest that used to give recipes for home saved combinations on fruit and veg including different combinations for stir fry etc.  Oh how I wish we had such a publication now.  Most people have a freezer but are possibly not freezing stuff themselves just using it as a storage facility for already frozen prepared bought items. whereas I have always seen the freezer as an extension of the pantry - its the way my Nan dealt with things. They had a large smallholding and it was ideal to put the veggies and the meat in (they had their own pigs, chickens and as I have said an extensive garden).

One of the things that took my fancy was a creamy cheese potato gratin which is a relatively easy dish to make in the first place.  However from what I could see the portions were the size of a small muffin pan however each individual portion was pricey. Well I thought to myself I have the muffin pans and this would be one more thing for me to actually produce myself and would certainly come in handy during the week when time is at a premium.  So I am going to play a little.

Yorkshire puddings - if you make too many - freeze them.  This is something that my mum used to do.

Hash browns  - yet again relatively easy to make.

Salmon en-croute a good one to make when a salmon is on offer, as well as making pate and cured salmon.

Roasted Onion, sweet chilli and goats cheese tarts.  Yet again I have a pie machine or could just make individual ones in a large Yorkshire pie tin.

Mushroom risotto.

chicken en croute

Tuscan roasting veg which consists of baby onions, carrots, courgettes baby tomatoes.

Chinese stir fry, peppers, sugar snap peas, baby corn, water chestnuts and onion.

Farmhouse veg, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, cut beans.

Peas, bean and asparagus mixture.

Parmentier potatoes.

Mixed summer berries always useful as can go into all sorts of dishes.

So the mind is in overdrive and I have to use up some of the contents of the freezers before I can start to re-stock but some good ideas just to vary the diet a little bit.

Right better get a wriggle on.

Catch you later.



Saturday, 28 May 2016

Saturday Round Up

Well its certainly been a better afternoon and really warm.

After getting back from the farm I nipped along to the Local charity shop and it was slim pickings this week apart from three mens cotton shirts the fabric of which is destined for the patchwork pile with the smaller scraps going into a mixed bag towards a hand pieced quilt.  I spotted on ebay an unfinished quilt which seemed to be worked in diamonds in effect a star worked in two different fabrics interspersed with cream which looked very attractive and I thought would be a good way of using up smaller scraps of fabric.  Unfortunately I did not win that bid with the quilt going for about £72 in the end.

However I was quite taken with that particular quilt and I liked the look of it.  A lot of work had gone into it.  I have lots of scraps to use up and I thought it would be therapeutic to do something by hand rather than just relying on the sewing machine all the time. What appeals is that  I would be able to produce something no matter how little time I had.  I have already ordered cream cotton for the backing - so I am gathering things together in anticipation and starting to sort the colours into boxes so that I can easily find them.  The quilt on Ebay was multi coloured.

After the charity shop I went to the veg shop and picked up some bits and bobs for use during the week including some apples, courgettes, tomatoes, some strawberries, peppers, pears and some squash and rhubarb.  We still had quite a few veggies in that need using so I have really only bought bits and bobs this week.

I then nipped to the Co-Op and managed to get some reduced raspberries and some lemons.  I have some white chocolate that needs using up and so I thought I might make some raspberry and white chocolate cookies.  Will probably make them tomorrow.

I did not get a lay in this morning as we were out of the house just gone 8am to go to the farm to miss the holiday crowds as much as possible.  I therefore started dropping off mid afternoon and in the end went and had a couple of hours kip which is unusual for me.  was not quite sure if I had done the right thing or not as felt blooming awful when I did wake but have come round a bit now  - probably will not sleep properly later.

Right still have things to do I hope you are all enjoying your bank holiday weekend as I said in an earlier post I wish I was down in Cornwall for the week but can't always have everything we want it does not do us any goo.  the weather has been surprisingly good here.

Catch you later.


So far today..

This morning started off overcast and the more we ventured out into the fen the greyer and more overcast it became; it was also chilly but OH thought it was more heat haze than anything else as at 8:20am it was about 11 degrees - warmer than it has been and it would appear to have been correct.  It has since warmed up a lot although still a little chilly at times.

We have been to the Farm shop at Old Hurst but first of all we had a very leisurely breakfast with my step-son and his fiancée in their café/restaurant.  Very lovely it was too.  Unusually I plumped for a proper breakfast too today and I really enjoyed it and it was just about the right size for me as I do not have a big appetite at the best of times. Not often am I in the mood for a fry up.  The piece de resistance for me though was the steaming mug of coffee.  They do really lovely proper coffee here to die for; so I indulged and have paid for it since - but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  Coffee is a really big thing for me - my system does not tolerate it but I absolutely adore it.

We then proceeded into the farm shop itself. I have come away with a big bundle of fresh asparagus (yum - this is something I actively seek out at this time of year like the Jersey royal potatoes) so I am looking forward to using that.  I have also come away with some leeks and some little gem lettuces.  Meat products we have some Black Fen sausages which were made for me whilst I continued shopping, a couple of Barnsley (double) Lamb chops, four Dexter sirloin steaks which are on the menu for tonight's tea with some of the asparagus, Old English sausages, green back bacon which is absolutely gorgeous.

Cooked meats we bought ham, roast beef and roast turkey.  cheese we bought Cambridge blue (a blue cheese - think of a cream cheese and stilton but a smoothed out version that keeps giving - and that is Cambridge Blue absolutely divine; and some Red devil (this has chillies in it), two small pies, a cherry pie and a blackberry and apple, bread a tiger loaf (unsliced) and some crispy buns.

So we are well set up to eat well over the next few days or so.

I also had a good mosey around their freezers.  The produce they sell is extremely good but can be a bit pricey and so I am looking into doing some bits and bobs myself for the freezer.  More on this to come but it has given me a lot of food for thought and lots of ideas.

Its surprising I quite often see something elsewhere and come up with my own version that adds to the options food wise for my family.  I always carry a pad with me and a pen - and when I see options quickly scribble them down.  My little book has all sorts of ideas, recipes and options written down and then I work on them when I get back home.  It also has wish lists re the house, food, drink the garden etc.  This also relates to using up bits and bobs of food and turning them into something edible so that you get the most out of your pennies rather than wasting stuff which I cannot abide.

Anyway that will have to do for now - its lovely out and I think I am going to attack the herb border again and get that sorted out a bit more.

Enjoy your afternoon.



Friday, 27 May 2016

Bank Holiday Weekend

When the children were home this weekend was always a big weekend as we always used to go down to Cornwall either with our own touring van or on the site where we nearly always stayed St Tinney Farm at Otterham, then as OH became more uncomfortable with towing the caravan we gravitated towards their own accommodation starting off with their caravan and then latterly their log cabin and country cottage accommodation. We haven't been for a good few years mainly due to OH being out of work and I do not think we will achieve a holiday this year.  However I cannot recommend this site highly enough.  It was always spotless and so peaceful and quiet about four miles from the coast in a valley where wild animals including deer often cross the land.  Did I mention that they have five fishing lakes and also their own pub called the St Tinney Arms.  Here is the website:

The last time we were meant to go was when my Dad had to have major triple bypass heart surgery and we cancelled the holiday as the operation was set for the week Dad was in Papworth and I needed to be with him.  As it turned out it was a good job I stayed as Dad was really poorly afterwards and seemed to go downhill afterwards despite the Doctors saying that the procedure was a success.  He felt very unwell afterwards and despite mentioning it to the medics and being cleared the following year he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkinson's Lymphoma level 3.  By the time he received the diagnosis there was very little that they could do for him.

St Tinney Farm is a small family run concern and it is well worth a visit - a hidden gem and the family who run it are excellent hosts where nothing is too much trouble.  If you have children - its a place for them to explore and run free and be safe (obviously with a few parameters in place). 

Anyway I digress. This is more a memory than an advert and of course it is my own subjective view.

There was always much excitement from the children as they used to love going out and being in the countryside.  We used to load everything up when towing the van and then leave about 2pm with the kids wrapped up in the back of the car and sleeping most of the time.  Breaking off at least three or four times for something to eat (especially when towing the caravan) and enjoying the journey in the process.  Then having a week or a fortnight's break.  It was one of our main holiday times -  a breaking free time if you like.

Its funny that I am relaying this to you as this is not the original post I was going to put up but the words are escaping so I feel they must have their place.  Maybe it is just the sap that is rising with me and a longing to be in beautiful surroundings not far from the sea.  Maybe next year.  Its been too long about 9 years all told but I always loved my holidays in Cornwall. 

Right I had better get a wriggle on I have to go to work but I am looking forward to the break this weekend as I am tired and ready for a rest.  Just wish I was going down to Cornwall as it really does feel like home down there and there is a lot I could keep myself occupied with.  If I ever won the Lottery I would quite like to live down there.

I had thought that we were going to sort the final bits at my mum's tomorrow but Instead we have a breakfast planned with my step-son and his fiancée at the Farm - so something to look forward to.  Right really must go.

Catch you later.



Thursday, 26 May 2016

Tonights offerings

I wanted something quick and easy for tea tonight as I was absolutely shattered.   I have had a really busy week work wise and as I do not get in at night until about 6:30pm and then have to start cooking it kind of has a knock on effect and the evening has gone before you know it.  Last night I went shopping in the freezer and  I liberated a small pack of beef mince, a pot of fresh pasta sauce (basil and tomato).  I then fried some onion and then added a little garlic, then the mince and then the fresh pasta sauce and I also had a jar of Arabiatta sauce and mixed them together with some extra seasonings.  The sauce was a little thick so I added a small amount of water just to free it up a bit and its come up very tasty.  I also added some fresh Oregano from my herb garden which really lifted the whole dish.  I love fresh herbs.  I served with some Fiorelli pasta (from M & S and bought when it was on offer) and some grated cheese and it has gone down an absolute treat.  I am now utterly and completely stuffed. 

Because of the way I shop and stock pile food ingredients its good that when we get to the end of the month we may not have many pennies left in the purse but we always manage to get a good meal.  I suppose my Pantry is my safety net so when I can I do tend to spend on good ingredients usually when they are on offer.  We have the roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs, and heat - anything else is a bonus. 

However using the combination of the pantry, the freezers, fresh items and dried goods we do not do too badly.  Unfortunately I was that hungry tonight I forgot about taking photos so I shall leave it to your imaginations.  However I do like playing with just a few ingredients and coming up with something from scratch am in my element when I can play.

OH is not too well  - I don't think the switch in temperatures is doing anyone any good and I think he may be starting with a cold.  He is flat out at the moment with his companion (Missy the Jack Russell) snuggled up next to him so I shall leave them to it.

There is a little sauce left so that can go into the fridge for later. Waste not want not and all that jazz - that will soon get used up.

Right need to get a wriggle on.  Have done the watering up for the evening as well.

Catch you later.



Not a good day today

This morning has started off cold grey and damp and I have the heating on as I am extremely stiff this morning.  Its one of those mornings where the bed is calling me to go back but I know if I do I will not get up in time so its better not to tempt providence and stay up at all costs.

I have been rootling through some of my books sort of semi planning things to come and looking for new recipes on the preserving front to have a go at this year.  I have hardly done anything like I usually do but that will soon be rectified no doubt but I do need to have a bit of a tidy up on the old shelves before I start making anything more.

The elderflowers are starting to come into blossom round here and I want to get elderflower cordial made and also elderflower champagne and wine.  I have the equipment so I just need to set aside some time to play. All the demijohns are clean and waiting.  However I do think that I need to get a couple of more brewing buckets as the ones I have are a little past their prime. I also am eying up the hawthorn blossom as there are a couple of recipes that I have come across for that as well. 

I have also been looking at apricot recipes, particularly bottled apricots now that I have the large water bath sterilising urn will mean that I am able to process in bulk.  Will have a look to see what they have at the veg shop this weekend.

Right better get a wriggle on.

catch you all later  - just hope it brightens and warms up a tad.



Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Confused of Peterborough and Wednesday night tea

Well having Monday afternoon off to go to see the Physiotherapist has severely addled my brain.  At work all day I have thought it was Thursday the day when I meet my friend for lunch.  I therefore turned up to meet her as usual - yes wait for a it a day earlier - no wonder she did not turn up.  It was only in the middle of the afternoon I realised what had happened.  Red faced or what!

Last night we took some chicken breasts out for tea; I was not quite sure what to do with them and when I am undecided like this I let things evolve.  So the first thing I did was have a recce to see what I had fresh (not much some tired spring onions, a red and yellow pepper, some cabbage and onion) and what little bits I had in the freezer (leek, cauliflower, carrot, peas) and some sliced crystallised ginger) and I turned it into home made stir fry, and I also made egg fried rice, noodles and some plain rice to go with it.  We did not have lots on the starch front but a little of each and it went down very well.

I cooked the chicken on the griddle in a little honey and five spice until cooked through and golden and the rest of the ingredients went in in order of priority of time to cook.

very tasty, not a sugar saturated sauce in sight just using what I had to hand and done this way because of OH's Diabetes.  OH was starving and is now stuffed - there's more if he wants it but from what appeared to be hardly nothing has certainly made something substantial and fed us both.  It might not be strictly traditional Chinese but the process works and its lovely in that its a something out of nothing meal - the best type of meal that does not cost an arm and a leg.

Confused and stuffed of Peterborough signing out.

Catch you later.



The Freshness of Mint

When the weather starts to get that little warmer my mind usually wanders to using fresh herbs out of the garden - (well under normal circumstances that would be the case - but not this year).  I find using fresh herbs their freshness always helps lift a meal that little bit more.  Its what I look forward to after the winter months the new produce coming in to titivate, excite and enliven the palate.  But to me it just tastes good.  I

I am particularly fond of Jersey Royal potatoes  - however I do look out for bargains not always wanting or choosing to pay full price.  Once the Jersey Royals make an appearance I love nothing more than serving these simply with a home made mint butter and tend to do at least a couple of batches to store in the freezer and take out when needed.   So the Jersey Royals are a sign post, trigger for making the mint butter.

I love to eat seasonally but I always have a mind to popping something up in the pantry for the winter stores at all times.  Whether that be by making mint butters and keeping in the freezer and serving with lamb chops or roast lamb, a keeping mint sauce for the pantry shelf, mint vinegar, or utilising in a fresh mint sauce, a raita, a syrup even a chocolate mint mousse. There are so many good ways you can use this much loved herb to very good effect and if you have a bunch that needs using up it would be sacrilege not to do so. 

Once upon a time you made the most of that seasons produce by popping as much up as  you could out of your crop but now you can buy bunches of mint in the shop so doing something with it and not wasting anything is open to all of us.

Unusually so far this year the mint has not come up in the herb garden so it looks as though I am going to have to replace it. I shall look for plants at the weekend might get OH to take me to my local nursery.  Usually by now I normally have a few pickings to turn into  fresh mint sauce.  This is how I make it:

Or alternatively home made long-keeping mint sauce for the pantry shelf. I make a few jars of this a little at a time. This is a long standing recipe that I put up every year.  It is basically very finely chopped leaves packed into small jars and topped up with vinegar which I then place on a dark shelf in the pantry (although there is a little more to it than that). 

Recipe link here together with some other recipes for utilising the mint

and here

However I also make mint vinegar to help thin the stored mint leaves down.  For the vinegar I basically stuff a large Kilner style jar with leaves and saturate with vinegar and leave for about ten days or so.  I then strain and re-decant into bottles and label up and place on the pantry shelf.  You can use the different mints to create different effects and they are useful for when making vinaigrettes or dressings for salad.  I tend to use peppermint but have used other herbs -especially Tarragon which I also put up regularly in large quantities as it is a great favourite.

NB: Equally I always start with a warmed vinegar and then either use warm on the mint or let it cool and then saturate the leaves by steeping the herb in the vinegar.  Part of the joy is finding a method that suits you and it is good to experiment with the different types of vinegars although I do tend to use either cider vinegar or a wine vinegar.

So its only a little thing but popping a simple herb up like this by whatever method helps pep up the food you eat and makes it more interesting. Make a few bottles you can always give them away as little presents at Christmas.

Catch you later.



Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Tuesday Night Tea

I don't normally do it but we have had home made chips for the second time this week.  OH fished some lemon sole fillets out of the freezer so I relented and did the chips to go with. It was very tasty.  I forgot to take a photo of the meal on a plate but had taken photos of the fish gently frying in oil and butter and the chips already cooked and decanted into a tray.

I must say that it went down very well with a round of bread and butter and some Tartare sauce.  The fish was lovely and delicate and not overdone and no bones.  I am afraid I like my chips well done sprinkled with sea salt and of late I tend to cut them nice and chunky.

Right better get on as I have some seeds to sow.

Catch you later.



I think I am a bit of a gatherer like a squirrel!

Diligently gathering her nuts in May.  Well it is May and I am just taking advantage of what is about.  Whenever I go out anywhere I am always rootling about in hedgerows or where I find interesting things.  I think this stems from the fact that my father used to walk us everywhere and give us nature lessons along the way when we were younger  and it also gave us something interesting to discuss along the way. 

It was a win win situation as it got us out in the fresh air, gave us exercise and he kept us entertained for hours.  Its always important to keep a child's interest but Dad not only achieved that he also taught us how to keep ourselves amused too. (He was a natural born Teacher).  Often it was just simple things and simple pleasures but ones that still work to this day.

Whether that be collecting conkers and then stringing them for games of conkers and getting bruised wrists in the process or collecting rosehips and drying them for use during the winter months or making rosehip cordial.  We were always allowed to be involved although more difficult safety related procedures were left to the adults to deal with as otherwise things may have got a little hairy with two very interested enthusiastic children at heel.  So we were taught boundaries too.

In the winter he used to get us wrapped up warmly and then walk us in the snow tracking animals by their footprints and being given useful information as to how to recognise the different tracks. 

In the spring months it would be gathering elderflowers for my Nan's home made Elderflower champagne, or nettles for nettle wine.  He had a deep love and respect for nature and he was determined that we were also going to be provided with the knowledge he had gained and in many respects he has proved wise in passing that knowledge on.  You never know when you are going to need that knowledge and if its there waiting to be released.

We always had butterfly nets that were used for either catching and studying butterflies or insects or alternatively used for pond dipping or rock pool dipping so we were kept entertained and the butterfly nets also got a lot of mileage.

In autumn we always went en-masse as a family hunting for brambles for the freezer and there would always be fresh home made pie which was always a big delight served with custard or my Nan's top of the milk cream.  Elderberries were harvested to make a rich sweet red wine as well as Elderberry Rob to soothe sore throats and colds.  Blackberry and apple jam and bramble jelly were also on the repertoire.  Living out in the sticks you had to make use of what came your way and also put provisions up for the winter months to help vary the diet but also put food in your belly to keep you warm.

New seasons field mushrooms were also a big treat and even to this day a find of mushrooms of this sort is still a big thing  for me especially when they have been fried in butter and then simply served on toast.  It brings back strong memories of my Dad for me.

It was the same when we went to the beach we would come back with shells and pebbles and would be rootling round rock pools shrimping with our butterfly nets. Only very rarely getting shrimps and then releasing them back to the water.  Or little bits of sea glass or drift wood.

When we went to the river we would always be watching the wild life on there and watching for fish.  I remember going to Duddington Mill - a favourite place as not only was it a beautiful working mill but we would then go on to the fishing bank with my Dad and brother and we went tiddling and came back with jam jars full of tiny minnows we always released them before leaving for home. We would also go newting.  There was a pond near my Nan's that we used to traipse down to (not allowed to do that now for conservation reasons).

So our childhoods were rich in other things and we were also taught to make use of what came our way.  There were no restrictions then on collecting wild flowers for making wine.

Yesterday as I walked to the Hospital it would seem that old habits die hard as I was nosing in the hedgerows to see what was about and I also came back with the new seasons fir cones about 8 in all.  They are on the dresser at the moment just in situ but they are destined for a garland or two this autumn as I need some autumn style garlands to deck the dresser with.  Its therefore a case of grabbing what you can when you see it.  I will hopefully get some wheat and corn stems as well come harvest time to dry and use in decorations. I am also after a Chinese Lantern plant which the little lanterns look stunning in dried flower arrangements but I want some for my garlands as well as honesty and other dried flowers.

With the packets of bulbs I also came across two Asters that I had found reduced so I will probably pop them up tonight.  Mums always put on a fabulous display come the autumn months and my mother had some in the garden which I think I may also liberate and plant up.  There is also a big patch of London Pride - Mum always had that planted up wherever we lived so it seems pertinent that I carry on the  family tradition. I also need to get the Lily of the Valley and the violets (especially the violets as they originally came from my great grandmother's garden) and the Ruby Wedding anniversary rose that I bought for my parents.  My mum used to dry the fragrant leaves for me in the conservatory so I must retain that as I always used them in home made pot pourri.  Mum loved that rose bush and for me it will be a living link to her.

Does foraging and gathering your nuts whilst you may play a big part in your life.  Is it something you do unconsciously season to season or is it something that  you want to try but don't know really where to start.

Would be lovely to hear from you.

Catch you later.



Seed sowing

One of the first things I was taught how to grow was beans runner beans to be precise.  A school project at junior school where each pupil grew a bean in a jam jar on blotting paper  and studied and drew it and watched it grow and learned the simplicities and beauty of new life. I am not sure if they still do that but it would be a good one to teach the youngsters and give an appreciation of how things grow and how to grow them.   I still damp my bean seeds in this way as I was taught as a nipper.  they are on the window sill in the kitchen and these will get sown tonight and then placed in the mini greenhouse. 

I also have sweet pea seeds a variety called Old fashioned soaking in the same way and as there are a couple of packets I decided that these would have to be popped into the compost this evening also. 

This morning I have sown mustard and cress (always nice with egg mayonnaise sandwiches), a couple of trays of mixed salad leaves and some nasturtiums. They always add a splash of colour to the garden. The seed pods can be pickled like a pea and the flowers and leaves can be used in salad dressings.  They can be cooked tempura style i.e. battered and eaten whole as can courgette flowers.

I have sown also some yellow and green courgettes but my absolute favourites are yellow they are delicious eaten raw.  I have a couple of different varieties. I have in previous years planted these up into individual pots and they have produced quite a lot of veggies.

Hopefully once I have the compost sorted at the weekend I will be able to plant my troughs up with beetroot, spinach, spring onions, carrots, pea shoots and more lettuce.

I have loads of seeds to choose from trouble is cannot remember quite what I have.  I have a list somewhere.

I already have two strawberry hangers which I have managed to keep from last year although I hope to go to the market and see what they have there.  Two small cone shaped trees to plant up into larger planters and a couple of fruit bushes a bramble and a tayberry which need repotting too.  So loads to do.  I quite enjoy getting my hands into soil.

I also have a load of bulbs to plant up, dahlias, freesias and gladioli.

I am labelling everything up with lollipop sticks procured from the pound shop so I know what I have sown.  It gets quite interesting otherwise.

When I get home tonight I shall also sort out some of the herb seeds and get some pots of those started too as well as have a good rootle through the seed packets to sort out some more seeds to sow.  Its very calming and therapeutic gardening especially first thing in the morning.

Catch you later.



Monday, 23 May 2016

Well what a kerfuffle

I managed to leave work on time and headed straight for the City Health clinic to see if I could get my foot xrays organised which they subsequently did.  the chap who dealt with them was lovely.  He did warn me though that if I get referred to the foot man at the hospital I would need further specialist xrays these ones were just the basics but were good for showing up arthritis.  My GP is at the moment not choosing to refer me to the foot man at the Hospital saying that my bunions were not  bad enough but they are apparently bad enough to affect my walking.  I am not walking on my right foot at all properly which is causing stress on my lower back and hips.  The physio is adamant that they are impacting on me quite severely and she cannot put the walking side of it right until they are dealt with although I can build up my core muscles in the meantime.  So basically I am between a difference of opinion.  However the Gp did decide to do a foot xray and said would take it from here.  I think he is primarily checking whether or not I have arthritis in my feet which I have and have had since I was little.  However going there first  made me late for my physio appointment as I had to walk to the Hospital which is a good three miles from where I live. I tried to forewarn them that I would be late and got caught up in a telephone queue that took about 40 minutes to get through on and by the time I did I was outside of the Hospital. Anyway she did see me and I have to see her again in another three weeks.  Hopefully things will be a lot clearer then rather than wading through mud.  In all reality I don't want an operation on my feet; but if it means the difference between me being able to walk properly again then due consideration has to be given as my bunions really are painful and from all accounts its a painful procedure.  My arthritis Consultant is adamant that I have to keep going at all costs and if my feet are going to stop me from doing that then I might have to stick my head above the parapet and start shouting.  Nothing ventured nothing gained.

To add insult to injury it hailed down on the way back home and chucked it down I got sodden.   I came in feeling like a drowned rat wet through to my undies.  I have since had a hot drink and have warmed up a tad now thank goodness.  I do not think I will be doing too much this evening I don't think my bunions will cooperate, plus I am still getting aggro from my hip something keeps slipping in my right thigh and when it does its quite painful.  I have just checked my walking app and it appears I have taken 16,875 steps today no wonder I hurt.  I average about 6,000 a day as a rule.  I wondered why it had not shouted at me tonight.  Now I know I have exceeded it!

We have had a nice simple tea tonight; some home made fat chips sprinkled with sea salt.  A lovely dark golden brown, some baked beans a couple of fried eggs and some bread and butter to dip into the runny yolk.  The best bit of the egg in my opinion.

Right I am off to put my feet up.

Catch you soon.



Getting the most out of our food

Our pennies are hard won and worked for therefore it makes absolute sense to get the maximum use out of those ingredients especially fresh ones as we can with the absolute minimum of waste.  After all pennies are precious and you need to extract as much out of the food you do buy to get value for money.  This particular feed has some very good ideas - some of them I already knew about and was practising but others I did not know about.  There are some good ideas there.  Especially the salad bowl one and the herbs.  It grieves me that their shelf life soon passes (as they are quite often pricey in their own right)

Equally I use a lot of fresh produce  where I can - I have a very good veg shop for basics and some of the more exotic stuff I either get from the market or the supermarket.  Therefore trying to get that little bit more out of my pennies quite appeals particularly with what this lady does with the fresh ingredients.

It all just helps to squeeze an extra penny or two out of things that you have already paid for.

Catch you later.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)