Friday, 26 June 2015


We've had our allotment for just over 4 years now; I'm gradually getting the hang of things and have grown a variety of different vegetables and fruit.
One thing I have never grown is chickpeas.
But I know a man who has!

If you visit The Circus Gardener's Kitchen you will find Steve who cooks delicious vegetarian and vegan food.
 He has grown chickpeas on his allotment.

I know chickpeas as the somewhat wrinkled, beige pulses found in packets or tins in the supermarket and I was surprised to find that they can be grown in this country.
But Steve has successfully done just that.
And he used the chickpeas in one of his recipes - chickpea cakes with curry oil.
 You can find the recipe on Steve's blog here.

I have tried a number of Steve's recipes, all of them really delicious. 
The chickpea cakes were no exception.

I decided to serve them in pitta bread with salad leaves, yoghurt dressing and mango chutney.


If you are interested in vegetarian food and also want to read some thought provoking comments on the state of the food industry, then do visit The Circus Gardener.

Happy weekend everyone and p.s. (whispers) there may be a heatwave next week!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

lately - midsummer

Tomorrow, June 21st  marks the longest day: midsummer.

Down on the allotment everything is growing apace. But as usual nothing is straightforward!
I counted about 22 tiny apples on our Rossette tree, but on the plum tree, only about 4 plums. I've no idea why there should be so few plums. Maybe something to do with the weather when the blossom was out?

This year, we are growing broad beans for the first time; a variety named Dreadnought which I bought as young plants from the garden centre and planted in the spring. I was congratulating myself on the fact that the plants were strong and healthy and no sign of blackfly ... until yesterday, when I was watering them and found several plants had a serious infestation of said bug. I've nipped off the tops and have my fingers crossed!
 But on a more optimistic note, who knew that broad bean flowers were so pretty!

Meanwhile, the gooseberry bush Hinnonmaki red is practically collapsing under the weight of fruit, its berries turning slowly to a gorgeous pink hue.

We've had radishes a plenty and baby spinach leaves to add to lovely salads.
Mixing and shaking a salad dressing in a jam jar has become one of mr digandweed's fortes!

Right on cue, the strawberries have made an appearance. I always reckon on them ripening sometime between the Chelsea Flower Show and Wimbledon and sure enough, we picked the first bowlful a couple of days ago.
Their smell and taste just shouts summer!

But although summer is here and the longest day almost upon us, I often think it is a shame that it doesn't often coincide with the warmest weather.
I harbour dreams of sitting outside, enjoying the long evenings and eating al fresco, but in reality June can be a cool month.

A few days ago I made a couple of recipes from the River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook and although we intended to eat outside, the cold wind that was whistling across the garden meant we soon scuttled back indoors.

But, indoors or out, these were two recipes I would definitely recommend.
The first was stuffed peppers with new potatoes, feta and pesto. A delicious combination.

The second recipe was spelt salad with squash and fennel. Another delicious recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks.

I have to say it is grey and somewhat cool here today.
Fingers crossed for some sun soon!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

mmm ...chocolate

Last week we visited younger lovely daughter in Nottingham, so it seemed the perfect excuse to make something sweet and chocolatey to take with us.
The recipe that caught my eye was from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet cookbook.
Who can resist a chocolate muffin? Particularly when Dan himself says 'they are simply the best chocolate muffin you will ever eat'!

The method for making them was slightly different from the usual muffin method in that cornflour, cocoa, sugar and water are whisked together over a medium heat to make a very thick custard before adding the remaining ingredients.
At this point, I accidentally left the mixture on the heat and ended up with a very lumpy looking mix. Fearing that the chocolate had seized, I carried on regardless.

I need not have worried. The recipe is very forgiving and the result was some of the most moist, light and chocolatey muffins I have ever tasted.
It seems that Dan Lepard is right!

If you would like to make the muffins, the recipe is here.

It is raining this morning in the flat fenlands.
Not the torrential thunderstorms that were forecast, but steady drizzle; soft,warm and pleasant summer rain.
We certainly need it.
The earth is dust dry down on the allotment.

Wishing you a happy weekend whether you are gardening, baking or doing something entirely different!

annjenny x

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Tales of seeds and weeds ... and a cake.

Several weeks ago, mr digandweed emptied out the contents of the compost bin on the allotment and I spent a back breaking hour sieving it to remove the stones (how do stones get into the compost?) and larger bits of debris. The result was a stiff back and a big mound of lovely compost.
I felt sure that Monty Don would have approved. The compost was like powdered chocolate. You could have sprinkled it on your cappuccino!

I lovingly spread it over some of the raised beds and sowed some parsnip seeds.
I was thrilled some days later to see tiny shoots appearing. I carefully watered them and stood back flushed with pride.
But it soon became apparent that, like the mother bird who carefully tends her chick only to find out too late that it is an imposter in the form of a cuckoo, I had in fact been carefully nurturing a myriad of tiny WEEDS!
My beautiful compost had obviously been full of dormant weed seeds which under my care had sprung into life and as a result I had a thick patch of varied and very healthy 'imposters'!
Down on hands and knees, I carefully searched the area for any seedling that might resemble a parsnip, but found none.
So in desperation and feeling not a little cross, I pulled up the lot!
I have now planted more rows of parsnip seeds.
This time, I will be carefully scrutinising the seedlings as they appear.

Now, this sorry tale has nothing to do with the cake I made, except that a piece of cake makes everything seem better!
And this cake, as you may have guessed, had figs in it.
The original recipe from a Marks and Spencer Count on us recipe book called for apricots, but since I had no apricots I used figs instead.

Once the fruit has been soaked, the recipe is very quick and easy. Just a brief whizz in the food processor is all that is needed.

The ingredients are:
50g ready to eat dried apricots or figs, roughly chopped
50g ready to eat dried prunes, roughly chopped
50g raisins
300ml strong tea,cooled, no milk
225g plain white flour
2 x 2tsp baking powder
1tsp ground ginger
125g muscovado sugar
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4
Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
Soak the dried fruit in the tea for at least 2 hours.
Put all the other ingredients into a food processor and blend to mix. Add the fruit and soaking liquid and blend again.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until cooked.
Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy.

The result is a cake which I like to think is relatively healthy with a texture and taste not unlike malt loaf.

The sun is out in the Cambridgeshire fens as I write. I hope it is with you too.
Happy weekend !