Saturday, 24 June 2017

afternoon tea..

'There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea'  Henry James A Portrait of a Lady.

I couldn't agree more.
The last few strawberries from the allotment, a slice of homemade cake and a cup of tea is more or less my idea of heaven!

Here is a cake perfect for an afternoon tea time treat.
Mary Berry's Crunchy Top Lemon Cake from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book.

A soft, fluffy cake with a pleasing hint of lemon and a crunchy top to add texture.

(I know there is a lot of sugar in this cake and sugar is one thing we all seem to be trying to reduce. But it is a tea time treat after all so I reckon it's allowed!)

Happy weekend one and all.


Monday, 12 June 2017

allotment tasks

It's a busy time on the allotment, so all help is gratefully received.

There are important tasks to be done: watering, stroking the thyme plant to release the aroma and ....

... most important of all, pouring water onto the paving stones to see how they change colour.

We picked the first of the gooseberries and several bowls of strawberries plus some radishes.
There are beetroot, broad beans and swiss chard to come soon.

And if you have red onions and cucumber, (or other crunchy veg) either homegrown or bought in your fridge, here is a very quick and simple pickle to add a pop of flavour to summer meals.

Recipe adapted from the June edition of Waitrose Food magazine.

Hoping the week ahead is a good one for you.


Sunday, 4 June 2017

a taste of summer

Is it just me or is there a proliferation of buttercups this year?
The meadows round here seem to be have an abundance of these sunny little flowers.
So good to see.

And on the kitchen windowsill, these little seedlings which with a bit of nurturing, will hopefully produce lots of delicious Butternut Squash later in the year.

On the allotment, the artichokes are growing well. I'm hoping they will be an improvement on last year's harvest.

It seems a little early to be picking them, but they are already quite big.
Not sure what to do. Any ideas?

Self seeded Sweet Williams from the allotment and cornflowers, scabious and roses from the garden.

And finally, a delicious summer lunch using English asparagus in a creamy filling on puff pastry.
The recipe is from Kellie at Food to Glow. Her blog is a real treasure trove of inspiration and information.

The recipe can be found here.

I loved the addition of capers in the filling and dressing, which gave a lovely hint of acidity.


Saturday, 20 May 2017


Beautiful Holkham beach on the North Norfolk coast.
Miles and miles of almost deserted sand.

Mr digandweed and I walked several miles along the seashore on a beautiful, albeit rather windy day, to Wells Next the Sea .....

... a pretty seaside town and harbour where we had lunch.

....and then walked back again through the pine forest and dunes which fringe the shore.

Simply beautiful!


Sunday, 14 May 2017


Climbing bean : Cobra

I have 9 of these little plants waiting to be planted out on the allotment shortly.
No long, leggy, spindly bean seedlings this year! Finally, I learnt my lesson and instead of getting carried away and sowing the seeds in March, I waited until the last week of April
It took some nerve!
Within a week of sitting on a sunny windowsill they had germinated.
Always a magical moment - how does a new plant grow from a small brown seed?
And I am rewarded with strong, sturdy plants.

I also saved some seed from last year's butternut squash.
These too have germinated and I have 4 small squash seedlings to plant out.

And at last, after a couple of very cold days last week, we have some warmer weather.
Warm enough to have lunch in the garden today.
This recipe from the April edition of Waitrose Food is light and summery.

Quick and easy to make ... and delicious too.

Hoping the week ahead is a good one for you.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Old Sulehay Forest

It was mr digandweed's birthday last weekend.
We went for a walk with Tiny Girlie, her mama and daddy to the most magical of woods not far from here.
Old Sulehay forest is just one of a few small fragments remaining of Rockingham Forest, an ancient  royal hunting ground which originally stretched from Wansford to Kettering.
We wandered through acres and acres of bluebells and wild garlic ...

amidst Oak, Ash, Field Maple and Hazel.
We listened to the birds singing high up in the branches and spotted holes in some of the tree trunks made by woodpeckers.

When our legs got tired ( that would be the older people, for Tiny Girlie seems to be able to walk for miles!) we spread out a rug for a picnic lunch. 
A nearby tree stump became a 'table' for the birthday cake and much to Tiny Girlie's delight we lit a solitary candle and sang 'Happy Birthday'

Mr Digandweed declared it to be a most perfect birthday party!

Time was short in the run up to Mr D's birthday, so the cake in the woods was a rather nice carrot cake from M&S
but later in the week, with an accumulation of bananas in the fruit bowl, I squeezed in time to try out a recipe from queen of cakes - Mary Berry.
It proved to be a success.
A delicious, moist cake with a texture not unlike gingerbread and lovely honey overtones.

Here is the recipe should you wish to try it.

I'm hoping the sun is going to make an appearance later for there is gardening to be done!

Happy weekend.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Lately on the lottie - April end ...

Mr digandweed and I spent a couple of hours sprucing up the allotment the other day.
I love it when the grass paths are freshly cut.
Everything is looking green and healthy, weeds included!
The plum blossom has gone over now. Last year the plum harvest was a bumper one. Sometimes it seems that the tree takes the following year to recover, so we will wait and see what this year's crop is like.
Lots of beautiful blossom on the apple tree too.
( The beautifully tilled earth beyond the plum tree is our neighbour's plot.)

I planted up a new bed of strawberry plants, as some of the original plants are about 5 years old and didn't fruit very well last year. But I now can't bring myself to pull up the old plants!
I'm also having a bit of an issue with the raspberry canes.
When we planted them about 3 years ago, I had no idea how invasive they would become. 
Despite digging out some of the runners the other week, yet more have appeared. They pop up all over the place, sometimes several feet away from the original canes.
What to do?!
Though they are delicious, I am seriously considering removing them altogether.

This is a busy time of year on the allotment, with seed sowing, planting and weeding to be done
.... and watering. 
So far this year Spring has been very dry and cracks are already appearing in the ground.

I pulled a few sticks of rhubarb to bring home.
And if you have rhubarb, you have to make crumble.

Gooey and crumbly - the perfect comfort food!

The sun is out.
I shall make a cup of tea and sit in the garden awhile.

Happy weekend one and all!


Saturday, 15 April 2017


The weather has been beautiful. New life is everywhere.
The garden is blooming.
and on the allotment, there are buds, blossom and green shoots.

I made a cake for the Easter weekend. You have to have cake at Easter!
Not a chocolate one this year, but a pistachio and rose polenta cake.
It's a fairly straightforward cake to make, packed with pistachios and ground almonds.
I cannot comment on the taste though until we have cut into it and that will have to wait till tomorrow!

We are having a lovely family weekend, with all my little 'chicks' at home here.
Hoping you have good plans too.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter-time.


Saturday, 1 April 2017

April ... and some thoughts past and present.

The month of March seemed to disappear in a flash and here we are in April.

The last few days of March seemed like summer in this corner of the Fens with the temperature reaching an unseasonal 20c on one of the days.
Mr digandweed and I took a trip down to the allotment.
This month marks 6 years of having our allotment and 5 years writing this little blog!
How time flies!
One of the jobs on the lottie  to-do-list was the re-painting of the shed.
It is 6 years since lovely younger daughter first painted it for us and wind and rain had taken its toll.

It seems that at Easter in 2011 when the photo below was originally taken we were also enjoying beautiful weather.

A lot has happened in the intervening years. 
Lovely older daughter got married and now is a mama herself.
Dear younger daughter gained a Masters in occupational therapy and now works with mental health patients.
Last year, of course, was a very worrying time for us with younger daughter's illness but she is recovering extremely well. 
She is back at work full time.  Her beautiful auburn hair is starting to re-grow and it turns out that a short pixie haircut really suits her!

With health and diet still very upper most in my mind and with encouragement from older daughter, I have been experimenting with fermented vegetables.

Why the recent interest in fermented foods?
Well, fermenting as a way of preserving is not new and the process is probably thousands of years old.
But as well as preserving food, lacto-fermentation produces beneficial bacteria or probiotics, which are good for the digestive system and enhance the immune system ... plus fermented foods taste good!
They often have that elusive sour/salty flavour, the so-called fifth flavour - umami.

For more information, I found this article straightforward and informative.

The recipe I followed for Pink Chilli Kraut is from HEMSLEY + HEMSLEY and provides, I think, a simple introduction to the art of fermentation.

Pink Chilli Kraut

recipe from Hemsley and Hemsley

Makes a 1itre jar

1.5 kg red cabbage, finely shredded
3 cloves garlic, sliced
30g root ginger,grated
1 tablespoon sea salt

Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and retain for later.
Shred the remaining leaves fairly finely.
Put the cabbage plus the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and wearing rubber gloves give everything a good squeeze for several minutes.
Leave for a minute or two and then squeeze everything again.
The aim is to produce a good amount of cabbage juice which with the salt should create a good brine.
Pack the mixture into a sterilised jar, pushing it well down until the cabbage is submerged in the brine by at least 2 cm.
If there is not enough brine, add 1-2 tablespoons of water and give the jar a little shake.
Roll up the reserved cabbage leaves and place on top of the cabbage to ensure it remains submerged. This is very important as any exposed cabbage could start to encourage bad bacteria.
Seal the jar with its sterilised lid and leave at room temperature.
After a few days ( mine took about 3 days in a warm kitchen) fermentation should be complete.
Transfer to the fridge and enjoy as a delicious condiment.
Remember to use a clean spoon each time you remove some kraut from the jar so as not to introduce bad bacteria.

I found the kraut quite addictive and a delicious addition to lots of meals, from salads to sandwiches, but one word of warning - if you are not used to eating fermented foods just start with small amounts at a time.
Anymore can result in stomach cramps as I found out to my dismay!

This is just a start on my journey of food fermenting. Has anyone else tried - do tell!

Happy weekend!


Saturday, 18 March 2017

wild harvests.

These last few weeks, signs of Spring have been everywhere.
We have had days as warm as any summer's day when coats have been discarded and it has been a pleasure to slowly amble along on a walk feeling the sun warming the skin.

Then just as suddenly, a day or two later, it seemed that winter returned and gloves, scarves and boots were pulled back on.

Older daughter had an idea to go foraging for some wild harvests.
Now is the perfect time to collect young nettles and wild garlic.
I am an anxious forager, fearing disaster at every turn, but nettles with their fierce sting and garlic with its distinctive smell are easily identifiable!
So armed with gloves and a bag, we sought out some doggie - free areas. 
Nettles are abundant everywhere and we quickly picked a bag full of nettle tops.
Tiny Girlie only got as far as putting on gloves which was probably just as well. She can already identify nettles having had some nasty stings on her knee during one of her many outdoor escapades with her Mama.
I have to admire our daughter and her husband. They take their tiny toddler on numerous nature adventures.
There is nothing she loves more than squelching through mud, playing with sticks, admiring a stone, a bud, a flower.
As a result, at the age of barely two and a half, she knows the names of an impressive array of natural features.

She probably also has a very developed immune system.
Back in the 80s when our daughters were babies, it seemed that everything had to be cleaned and sterile. 
Consequently, I doused cups, plates, spoons, toys, work surfaces, practically everything in a solution of Milton and wouldn't let either of them within a mile of anything muddy!
Now, numerous studies have shown that some dirt is good for toddlers in developing a good immune system.

Armed with our bag of nettle tops and some wild garlic ( from daughter's garden) we returned home with the idea of making pesto.
We gave the wild garlic and nettles a good wash in plenty of cold water (remember the rubber gloves!)  then blanched the nettles in boiling, salted water for a couple of minutes.
At this point, our bag of nettle tops had reduced down to one small fistful, which, rather like spinach, needed a good squeeze to remove excess water. Nettles lose their sting after being cooked.

The quantities were roughly as follows, but feel free to adapt to taste:
2 handfuls nettle tops
1 handful wild garlic
50 grams nuts ( I used a combination of pine nuts and pecans as this is what was in the cupboard)
50 grams Parmesan cheese
150-200 ml olive oil
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to season.

Lightly toast the nuts in a dry frying pan, then when cool, grind finely in a food processor.
Add the chopped wild garlic, nettle tops and Parmesan.
Blend, then add the oil gradually with the motor running until it reaches the desired consistency.
You may not need all the oil.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice and spoon into a sterilised jar. Cover with a thin layer of oil to act as a seal before putting on the lid.
The quantities made two small jars and it should keep in the fridge for a week or two.
Should you be interested, this article gives information on the nutritional value of nettles and further recipes and tips. 

The pesto turned out to be rather delicious and was met with approval by mr digandweed.
It has a definite garlic kick and was lovely with crackers and raw vegetable sticks, but would also make an excellent topping for soup or stirred through pasta for example.