Saturday, 31 December 2016

year end

After a very mild Christmas, the weather changed and gave us the sort of crisp, sunny and frosty mornings that always lift the spirits.

So hard was the frost the other morning, it looked like snow and on the allotment transformed even the mundane into things of beauty.

Such hard frosts are not so welcomed by the birds and this little robin was hopping hopefully from fence to fence.

And what is the best thing on a cold, frosty morning but a bowl of porridge.

.... and with juicy, tart cranberries, even better.

We come to the end of 2016 with thankful hearts chez fenland lottie and wish everyone a peaceful, healthy and happy 2017.


Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas ..... and a time to celebrate

This year Christmas at fenland lottie is extra special.
Over the last 3 months our dear girl has undergone a gruelling series of chemotherapy treatments to treat her lymphoma.
There is no denying that the treatment is brutal ; extreme nausea, exhaustion and the loss of her beautiful auburn hair just some of the side effects BUT  two weeks ago her treatment finished and the latest scan shows that it has been 100% successful and the cancer has totally gone!
As you might imagine, this news was met with jubilation and not a few tears!

Though the past few months have been very challenging, as a family, we have received many good wishes and met some lovely people along the way and amidst all the bad news in the world, it has been heartening to be reminded that most people are warm and friendly and caring.

There has been little time for blogging over the past weeks, but I am hoping that normal service will resume in the new year!

Wishing you a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

annjenny x

Monday, 31 October 2016

The power of plants

I am always amazed at the power of plants to sustain and even heal the body. Recently, a plant with amazing life-saving properties has come to my attention.
Many gardeners will be familiar with periwinkle ( Vinca Major and Vinca Minor) as a useful ground cover plant with pretty blue flowers. In the same family is the Madagascan periwinkle; native to the rain forests and with pink flowers, this little plant was responsible for one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. 
 The plant, though highly toxic, had been used in folk medicine for many years and as a result came to the attention of 2 Canadian scientists who after the 2nd World War used it to develop Vinblastine and Vincristine, two very important chemotherapy drugs used to treat Leukaemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma. So important was this discovery, that it is credited with raising the survival rate of Leukaemia in the second part of last century from 10% to 95%. 
Vinblastine is one of the drugs forming part of our daughter's treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

On a more culinary note, there are many plants with 'superfood' status which can have a profound effect on our health. One of these is turmeric whose health boosting properties have been well documented of late. You may have seen the BBC 2 programme 'Trust me I'm a doctor' which documented its anti inflammatory and potentially anti cancer benefits.

Turmeric is most often sold in powdered form but I have recently found whole turmeric in Waitrose.

It's easy to see when looking at the strange twig like roots that it is a relative of ginger.
And it partners well with ground ginger and cinnamon in a lovely warming drink just right for these darker evenings.

Turmeric latte is easily made.
Simply warm a cup of milk, in this case coconut milk, and whisk in a tsp each of ground turmeric, cinnamon and ginger. 
Try it! It's like a warm hug!

I have also been adding turmeric to one of my favourite soups. 

Using butternut squash from the allotment with a dollop of red thai curry paste, a sprinkle of turmeric and enriched with coconut milk it makes a yummy soup.

The darker evenings are now with us. I actually like this time of year.
Time to cosy up, light a few candles, pull on some woolly socks.
I hope you are enjoying the cosy evenings too.

annjenny x

Friday, 7 October 2016

Popping by ...

October is a beautiful month. The month when Nature wears her best outfit of gold and red.
So far this year, October has brought some beautiful autumnal sun.
It was on such a sunny day last week, that I spent a slow, peaceful afternoon with both lovely daughters and Tiny Girlie.
We passed a few leisurely hours wandering through the gardens at Burghley House.
It was a time of much needed outdoor therapy.

A few weeks ago, beautiful younger daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.
It was a complete shock; a bolt from the blue. Since then, we have been plunged into an alien world of hospital appointments, scans, blood tests and now chemo. Our daughter has faced it all with courage and a sense of humour. We are full of admiration for her.

As a family, we have also been touched by the huge amount of love and concern which has been shown our daughter. She has received good wishes from near and far.
Mr digandweed has likened it to a network, a grid of tiny lights which has been illuminated, each light connected directly or indirectly by love for our daughter.
It is a lovely, positive, life affirming image.
 The treatment will take her to just before Christmas and we have been told that there is no reason why she should not make a complete and full recovery.
Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post.
Best wishes.

annjenny x

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In case you are wondering ...

Apologies for the sudden silence here at fenland lottie.
Our family has received some worrying news which we are currently working through and which is taking up a lot of my time and energy, so I know you will understand when I say blogging has fallen way down my list of priorities.
I hope to be back before too long and also hope to pop back from time to time to catch up with your news via your own lovely blogs.

'Till then best wishes to everyone.

With love from annjenny


Saturday, 3 September 2016

Harvest Festival

I was reminded the other day of the wonderful Brambly Hedge stories written and illustrated by Jill Barklem.
When our two girls were small, we read some of the stories together and I still have those books on the bookshelf here.
I think I was captivated by the stories as much as were our daughters. It was the beautiful and detailed illustrations of the mice and their life of cosy self sufficiency which I loved; tales of mice eating buttered toast around a roaring fire and sipping steaming cups of blackberry leaf tea.
With the start of September comes the onset of autumn. The nights are drawing in. The blackberries and hips are starting to appear in hedgerows. I imagine the mice gathering in the wild harvest to see them through the long winter months.
Romantic and idealised I know but I love this whimsical illustration  from the Brambly Hedge Autumn Story.

I love the arrival of Autumn.
It is true that on the lottie and in the garden many plants are past their best. Decay is setting in, but with decay comes a final surge of fruitfulness.
The apples from our little 'Rosette' tree have been harvested. Now in its second full year it produced a good crop.

There is still lots of Swiss Chard to pick, as beautiful as any bouquet of flowers.

And just as all the other berries have gone, the luscious Autumn Bliss raspberries make an appearance.

All this talk of harvests and Autumn doesn't mean summer has completely deserted us though. Mr digandweed has a few days off next week and the forecast speaks of an Indian summer.

Let's hope so!

annjenny x

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Globe artichokes

This year I grew globe artichokes on the allotment; a first for mr digandweed and me.

The globe artichoke is a member of the thistle family and it is easy to see why. The plants are tall and architectural with large deeply lobed leaves. The edible part of the plant is the flower bud, harvested before it has time to flower. Left to flower, the artichoke becomes inedible, but produces a mauve flower very similar to its more common thistle relative.
When, a few months back, I saw a tray of little plants in the garden centre, I snapped them up and found a little corner of the lottie to plant them in.

I think I have only eaten globe artichokes once or twice before ( aside from the artichoke hearts in oil, sold in delis and favoured as part of an Italian -style antipasti platter)
The first time was as a child, when with mum and dad and my big sister we were staying with a French family in their house in the country.
Apart from keeping hens and rabbits, the family had an impressive vegetable garden.  I remember the artichokes being picked for our evening meal. 
Back then, in the mid sixties, the globe artichoke seemed an impossibly exotic vegetable, or at least it did to my childish senses.
The French 'maman' carefully explained how to eat the strange vegetable; how to peel off each leaf, dipping it in vinaigrette before eating just the tip, then discarding the hairy choke in the middle before savouring the delicious fleshy heart.

Well, fast forward several decades and it turns out that the artichoke plant is very easy to grow. Before long tiny flower buds were forming. So, about a week ago and with great excitement, I harvested our first ever artichokes.
After admiring their beauty and photographing them ( as you do!!) I lightly steamed the artichokes and proudly placed them on the dinner table with little pots of garlic mayonnaise.
But something had gone wrong.
There was no tasty tip to the leaves and the succulent heart proved to be the size of a pound coin!
As the mountain of discarded leaves grew and the reality proved to be so different from the anticipated outcome, I was reduced to fits of giggles.

I'm not sure what I did wrong. Any artichoke growing tips gratefully received!
As they say, 'you win some; you lose some'.

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Fen-scapes and thoughts

The play last week was very good.
It was one of six short plays all written by local people ( one of whom is the daughter of long standing friends of ours) on the subject of global warming.
The plays formed part of a green festival held last weekend and were performed outdoors by touring theatre company Eastern Angles.
Under the banner of Future Floodlands, the plays imagined a land lost to the invading waters.

With much of present day Fenland being just at or even below sea level, an intricate network of rivers, drains and pumping stations prevents the land from being inundated.
Global warming and rising sea levels is therefore a very important issue for this area.

 Projects like The Great Fen, which I have mentioned before, aims to restore a large area to the original wetland and is vital, not only in providing habitats for wildlife, some of which is endangered, but also in unlocking areas for winter water storage.

Having lived in the Fens for most of my adult life, it is an area of which I am very fond.
These photos were taken over the last week or so within a mile or two of the little market town where we live.

The skyscapes are beautiful. (No hills or mountains to get in the way!)
The last two photos were taken along the Nene washes.
Mr digandweed and myself were out with binoculars looking for Cranes. 
A flock of these huge magnificent birds is sometimes seen in this area, but alas, on this occasion we were unlucky.

annjenny x

Saturday, 13 August 2016

the great plum preserving marathon

It's only small, but the plum tree on our allotment has produced a gargantuan harvest this year.
I have lost count of the number of bowls, bags and basketfuls we have picked.

There have been plums in the fruit bowl, fridge and freezer.

Plums given away to family and friends.
 And plums thrust into the hands of unsuspecting allotment neighbours.
But still there are more!
And so began the Great Plum Preserving Marathon!

First up was jam from a tried and tested Delia recipe.

Then followed chutney.
 A Nigel Slater recipe which I made a couple of years ago but this time I doubled up the quantities.

And finally spiced plums in brandy from a favourite book  Perfect Preserves : Maggie Mayhew.
The recipe is straightforward though a tad expensive since it uses copious amounts of brandy.
I'm hoping they keep well and will be good at .. ahem .. Christmas!

I've already had a sip of some of the leftover spice infused brandy and it was very delicious :)

Happy weekend everyone.
I'm off out soon to watch an outdoor short play written by a friend and then to babysit this evening. It is lovely daughter and her husband's 5th wedding anniversary today.

annjenny x

Saturday, 6 August 2016


Some supermarket bought flowers - local grown Norfolk asters .
                              I can never resist the beautiful pink colour.                                 

.... and some homegrown flowers. This hydrangea was a beautiful purple colour when I bought it from the local nursery a few years ago. Despite being in a pot with ericaceous compost it gradually faded until the flowers were almost green. Last year I planted it in the flower bed and this is the result.
 I rather like the two tone colour.

And more homegrown fruit from the allotment; the first of the plums.
This is just a fraction of what is a bumper crop.
There is nothing quite like the taste of a warm, ripe plum eaten straight from the tree.

The crop is so heavy that some of the branches are dragging on the floor. The tree, although dwarf, has grown so well that I think mr digandweed will have to attack it with his pruning saw in the next week or two!

I decided to make ice cream with some of the plums and in doing so discovered two things:
1. Ice cream is very tricky to photograph
2. Our freezer is not very cold.

I followed an easy 'no churn' recipe for plum ice cream from Mary Berry, which you can find here.

As always, I decided to tweak the recipe and added some finely chopped stem ginger (about 1 lump) and a teaspoonful of the syrup, which gave the ice cream a lovely gingery taste.
This was fine by me (as you may know I love anything with ginger) but Mr D complained that it masked the flavour of the plums!!

There are still lots of plums to harvest so I will be back next week possibly with plum jam or chutney or maybe even both!

annjenny x

Monday, 1 August 2016


August 1st -
 the height of summer; long, warm days and the traditional month for holidays. 
But there is also a hint in the air of the changing season.
In the garden, the soft pinks and blues of early summer have moved aside for the oranges and yellows of crocosmia, rudbeckia and achillea.

 On the lottie, plums and apples are beginning to ripen and in the hedgerows the signs of the first blackberries.
A week or two ago, we were picking the green gooseberries on our allotment.
Now it is time for the sweeter red variety.

There are lots of them and delicious they are too, but the thorns are vicious!
Whilst picking them maybe a dangerous activity, sitting in the garden 'top and tailing' is an altogether gentler summer activity.

At the moment, most of the bumper crop is tucked away in the freezer -

 but some have made a delicious sauce to serve with yoghurt, ice cream or in this case, a little, moulded  dessert of rice and cream from this Delia recipe .

Happy 1st August everyone ( and especially to Yorkshire folk, for whom this is a special day )

annjenny x

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Beans - lots of them!

If there's one thing I've learnt so far from having an allotment, it's that no two years are the same.
Summer this year began with copious amounts of rain but very little sun. The strawberries sulked but the gooseberries seemed to love it.
The sun has only really made an appearance in the last week or so.  Consequently, the plums, of which there are many, are still quite green. But looking back through this blog, I see that, in previous years, I was already cooking with them - see plum chutney.

But we have beans: broad, runner and French.
Lots of beans!

Eldest Lovely Daughter, told me of a recipe she had made recently from Hemsley +Hemsley 's first book.
Both Lovely Daughters are interested in cooking and nutrition, following in their Nana Ida's footsteps ( and I like to think in their Mama's too!) 
Eldest daughter's interest is particularly apposite as she has a tiny mouth to feed and tiny taste buds to train.

The recipe she told me about is called Minty Broad Bean Dip:

400g fresh or frozen broad beans (or a mixture of beans and peas - and I think I prefer a mixture)
1 clove of garlic
12 fresh mint leaves
4 tablsp lemon juice
120 ml olive oil
 Parmesan or goat's cheese to taste ( optional, but it does give a creamier result)

Very lightly steam the vegetables for a few minutes only and blitz in a processor with the rest of the ingredients and some salt and pepper.
Add a little water if you think it is too thick.
Quick and delicious!

The second bean recipe I made this week was based on Delia's recipe for Mixed Vegetables a la Grecque.
This was one of my favourite recipes years ago and one I had forgotten about until I was trawling through my cookbooks looking for recipes to make with the bean harvest.
I love the pickled taste that comes from the wine vinegar and coriander seeds.
I adapted the recipe by just using French beans, but of course it is just as delicious with mixed vegetables.

We may have a bit of a bean glut this year chez fenland lottie, but, and I can hardly believe it, so far I have only picked one courgette!
I think I have finally learnt my lesson and only planted one yellow courgette plant this year, but is also an indication of how late the season is round here.

Happy weekend everyone!
The sun is still shining and it's going to be hot!

annjenny x