Friday, 30 May 2014


It's nearly June and so I think that qualifies as being summer - well early summer anyway and one of the first of the soft fruits to be harvested at this time of year are gooseberries.

I am not sure why, but gooseberries, one of our traditional British fruits, seem to have fallen out of favour, especially with the supermarkets and it is often difficult to find them, except maybe a very small punnet at an exorbitant price.

This is a huge shame as gooseberries are very versatile, making delicious desserts as well as sauces and preserves.
When we first got our allotment 3 years ago, one of the first things to be planted was a gooseberry bush - variety careless.
But it is true to say that it has struggled somewhat.
In the first two years it was beset by mildew; last year, maybe due to the cold spring, it produced a mere handful of fruits ...
but finally, this year, we were able to pick a delicious bowlful.

Just enough,
when lightly cooked, sieved and mixed with equal quantities of vanilla yoghurt and custard, to make a summery gooseberry fool.

Last autumn, we planted another gooseberry bush, this time Hinnonmaki red  in a different part of the allotment. It already looks strong and healthy and has a few fruits developing. I'm thinking that come the autumn, moving the original gooseberry bush to another place may improve its oulook.
Here's hoping!
p.s The lovely Stephanie at Millefeuilles has a maytime giveaway of one of her beautiful hares. The link is here. Do take a peek.

Friday, 23 May 2014

lately on the lottie - mid may

I always think May is a beautiful month and this year has been no exception.
We have had an almost perfect balance of rain and sun and the plants are responding accordingly with soft green growth.

Every gardener knows there are always successes and failures and the moral of the story is to learn to take the rough with the smooth.

Highlights chez fenland lottie this month include:

chives buzzing with busy bees!
lots of flowers on the strawbwerry plants
red onions growing well
lots of tiny apples on the little apple tree. which is very impressive given that this is its first year. Maybe the mycorrhizal fungus has helped it to establish.
delicate frilled flowers on the sweet williams
rhubarb plant going mad - again!
garlic growing well

But we will gloss over the fact that the parsnip seeds planted several weeks ago seem to be refusing to germinate
and that my salad leaves are peppered with tiny holes, despite using the creepycrawly defence system.

Finally, the blackbird in the photo above has been singing his heart out in the bushes next to our lottie ...beautiful.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

hugh fearnley-whittingstall's magic bread dough

merguez chickpeas with flatbreads

Some suppers are 'spur of the moment, rummage in the fridge type meals'; others require forward planning and this is one of those although, having some of the magic dough  tucked away in the freezer shortens the preparation time considerably, meaning the only thing you have to remember before stumbling off to bed the night before is to put some chickpeas to soak
( and even this step can be omitted if you have the handy canned sort in the cupboard)

The flatbreads are easy to make. Simply roll out a piece of dough the size of a lemon into a very thin disk and cook in a very hot preheated pan for about 2 minutes on each side.
 Keep warm in a clean tea towel.

The recipe for the merguez chickpeas is from River Cottage Veg Everyday and can be found here.
A few minutes spent googling revealed that the term merguez refers to a spicy North African sausage, but maybe you knew that!
 Here, the same North African spices are used as a basis for a dressing for warm chickpeas.
I added more cayenne and the zest and juice of a lemon to the original recipe.

Great as part of a tapas style lunch or supper.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

chargrilled aubergine pizza

Aubergines are not a veggie that we have ever grown on our allotment, mainly because two important things are missing; namely, reliably hot summers or a greenhouse!
However, I love aubergines.
 They are real beauties in the vegetable world with their glossy, smooth skin in shades of deepest ...aubergine.
Aubergines are always eaten cooked and often with olive oil which transforms the flesh into silky unctuousness.

The inspiration for this recipe came from drizzle and dip and I used Hugh's magic bread dough  for the base.

Once the dough is made... (and the handy thing is that the recipe makes more than enough for one good sized pizza, so the rest can be squirrelled away in the freezer) ...the assembly is quick and easy, meaning you can have your pizza in the time it would take to have one delivered.. well almost!
For the topping you will need:
1 aubergine
a tablespoon or 2 of pesto, bought or home made
the same amount of tomato sauce, tomato paste or well drained chopped tinned tomatoes
grated mozzarella, as much or as little as you like
goat's cheese (optional)
olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting
 Cut the aubergine into thinnish rounds, brush lightly with olive oil and grill until just softened.
Take about a third of the dough and roll out as thinly as possible. Spread a thin layer of pesto over the base, followed by the tomato sauce.
Sprinkle the mozzarella over, then arrange the aubergine slices on top and dot with blobs of goat's cheese and season with black pepper.
Slide onto a preheated baking sheet or pizza stone and cook for about 15 minutes.


Friday, 2 May 2014

mum's date crunchies

I've mentioned before that my mum was well ahead of her time in believing in a healthy diet.
Strange as it may now seem, back in the sixties and seventies, the idea that what you ate had much bearing on health was seen as slightly weird.
 But mum was very interested in a vegetarian diet and also did a lot of baking using wholemeal flour. She had a recipe book from a company called Prewett's and one of her go-to recipes was date crunchies.
Quick and easy, these delicious treats can be made in moments.
The story goes, that if unexpected visitors were spotted coming along the road, mum could have these mixed together and in the oven before they knocked on the door!
Here is my adaptation of that recipe:
5oz/150g oats
5oz/150g self raising flour (white or wholemeal)
2 and a half oz/60g brown sugar
5oz/150g softened butter
2 blocks of dried dates about 1lb/500g in total
Place the dates with about 3 tblsp water into a saucepan (or covered bowl in the microwave) and heat gently until they soften to a spreadable paste.
Meanwhile, rub the remaining ingredients together as though making pastry.
Press half the mixture into the base of a rectangular baking tray 11x7'' or 28/18cm.
Spread the dates on top and then sprinkle over the remaining oat mixture and press down lightly.
Bake at 180c for about 30 minutes.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
 And just as a matter interest and to show that there are fashions in everything, even the way we photograph food, here is the photo from the original book.
and  complete with a chart !