Sunday, 26 July 2009

Allotment First Aid and a little love...

I scratched myself with the tip of my secateurs whist trimming leaves on my bushy tomatoes. A scratch it was not, in fact it was a small laceration on the top of the big knuckle on my thumb. I'll spare you the details but it was serious enough. I immediately went to my shed and pulled out a little first aid kit I had in there. I wiped the cut with an antiseptic wipe and applied some pressure to stop the bleeding. My hands were dirty and sticky from the tomato plants. Time to go home. It didn't bleed for long, but my tummy was feeling a bit sicky as a result. I'd cut straight through the epidermis a couple of millimetres down to the fleshy dermis (sorry, I was going to spare you the details.) I felt a bit alone. It was the solitude which I normally love the allotment for, it's my sanctuary and my escape. Now the solitude felt lonely. I wanted my Mum.

I thought I'd to put a plaster on it to keep it clean until I got home and properly dress it. I knew it would be a bit awkward to do one-handed. I saw a neighbouring plot holder not far away who I'd spoken to her before, she had two girls with her, they looked about 10 years old. A mother, she'd help me. She'd offer me some sympathy whilst my courage wavered momentarily. What was wonderful about her was she looked at the cut and nodded agreeing it was mildly serious, then stopped, holding my hands she looked me in the eyes and asked in a genuinely heartfelt way "Do you feel all right?" her head tilting to the side as she spoke.
"Yes, I'm fine" I said, my chin twitched, really I was ready to start blubbering. Silly me, I was fine. I was just so touched my her kindness.
She washed her hands, well as best you can without soap under the tap. The girls wanted to see what I'd done, seeing it they both took sharp intakes of breath then preceded in 'show and telling' me about all their scars. My kind nurse applied Savlon and a plaster and then she told me to go home. "Thank you, I will."

Growing up I was often called Basha because of my proneness to have accidents. I'm not squeamish, I know how to clean up a injury, medicate if necessary and get on with it. What my dear plot holder offered me was the magic ingredient of kindness and love. Thank you. For that really was the healing factor not to be overlooked.

As a result of the accident, I have now scaled up my first aid kit in the shed, included some rescue remedy in case I really am on my own and some large latex gloves, which might make up for the lack of sterile hands.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

What to do with all those courgettes: #3 Hugh's Glutney

Hugh says: This is a ‘multiple choice’ recipe for chutney, designed to help you use whatever seasonal fruit and vegetables are in full glut at the time. For me, the courgettes/overgrown marrows are pretty much a staple in August and September, and they may give way to pumpkins and squashes in October and November. Tomatoes and plums are around at roughly the same time, though the tomatoes will start early – particularly if you use green ones.

Of course, no two batches of glutney will ever be quite the same – but that hardly matters. You should also feel free to play fast and loose with the spice bag. And if you like a really hot chutney, add as much dried chilli as you dare.

Serve with cheese, cold meats, terrines, pork pies etc. But also remember what a useful ingredient chutney is, with a ready-mixed blend of sweet, sour and spice. I frequently add it to curries, soups and stews.

To make about 10 jam jars’ worth:

1kg marrows/overgrown courgettes, unpeeled but cut into dice no bigger than 1cm (discard seeds from really large marrows) OR 1kg pumpkin, peeled, seeds and soft fibres discarded, and diced no bigger than 1cm
1kg red or green tomatoes, scalded, skinned and roughly chopped OR 1kg plums, stoned and chopped
1kg cooking or eating apples, peeled and diced
500g onions, peeled and diced
500g sultanas or raisins
500g light brown sugar
750ml white wine or cider vinegar, made up to 1 litre with water
1–3 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp salt

for the spice bag
1 thumb-sized nugget of fresh or dried ginger, roughly chopped
12 cloves
12 black peppercorns
1 generous tsp coriander seeds
a few blades of mace

Put the vegetables and fruit in a large, heavy-based pan with the sultanas or raisins, sugar, vinegar and water, chilli flakes and salt.

Make up the spice bag by tying all the spices in a square of muslin or cotton. Add the spice bag to the pan, pushing it into the middle.

Heat the mixture gently, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 2–3 hours, uncovered, stirring regularly to ensure it does not burn on the bottom of the pan. The chutney is ready when it is rich, thick and reduced, and parts to reveal the base of the pan when a wooden spoon is dragged through it. If it starts to dry out before this stage is reached, add a little boiling water.

Pot up the chutney while still warm (but not boiling hot) in sterilised jars with plastic-coated screw-top lids (essential to stop the vinegar interacting with the metal). Leave to mature for at least 2 weeks – ideally 2 months – before serving.

What to do with all those courgettes: #2. Pasta with Zuccini sauce

Neil Perry is one of my favourite Aussie chefs, this recipe is really easily and tasty! Don't be put off by the anchovies they dissolve in the oil and just add 'taste'... trust me on that x

200g/7oz pasta (any orechiette, fusilli whatever)
3 large zucchinis
extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
6 whole anchovies
3 cloves garlic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
dash fried chilli flakes
fresh parmesan, to serve


1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook 'al dente.
2. Meanwhile, grate the zucchinis and place aside.
3. In a large frying pan, heat plenty of olive oil and add the anchovies, crushed garlic and sea salt. Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring continuously until the anchovies start to soften.
4. Sprinkle in the chilli flakes and freshly ground pepper, followed by the grated zucchinis and a dash more olive oil. Stir for a further 2 minutes.
5. When the pasta is cooked (it should take 10 minutes), drain well and add to the sauce.
6. To serve, toss the pasta through the sauce and spoon onto plates. Grate fresh parmesan over the top and finish with freshly ground pepper.

What to do with all those courgettes: #1. Dolce Zucchini Cake

To ensure that this courgette and pine nut cake has a sweet taste, it is best made only in early summer, when the courgettes are still very small.


150g Unsalted butter, softened
175g Caster sugar
3 Eggs
225g Plain flour
1 tsp Baking powder
225g Sultanas or dried vine fruits
300g Small courgettes, grated
70g Pine nuts
1 Lemon, finely grated zest and juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 20cm high-sided flan tin or springform cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating constantly
  3. Sieve the flour and baking powder in and fold in with the sultanas, grated courgettes, 50g pine nuts and the lemon zest and juice.
  4. Transfer the thick batter to the tin and scatter with the remaining pine nuts. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40–45 minutes.
  5. When ready, the cake will be slightly brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before turning it out.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Lovin' in a Mist

Perfection in white, need I say more.
Click on for detail.

Carrot Lovin'

"Birds do it, bees do it,
Even educated carrots do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love!!"

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Rosemary Beetle

I found that my sage had been munched away but this armour-plated bug. Do click on the middle picture to see it's hammered metal casing. A fine specimen. It's so cool, I found it hard to decide if I liked it more than my sage! I think by it's name it's probably safe to assume it's keen on rosemary too.
It has been raining now in my corner of Surrey and the vegetables and I have been rejoicing. Water butts are full! Thank you x

Friday, 3 July 2009


A pretty site at our lovely allotments

Diane is unable to work on her plot whilst she is unwell but she has so many beautiful flowers it's a gorgeous site to behold. Get well soon Diane.