Archive for the ‘tutorials’ Category

sowing my seeds

Please skip past my vegetable ramblings if you can’t (or don’t want to) keep up, and find ‘Seed Planting for the Poor’ further down.

I’ve been planning my vegetable garden for this year since January first, but i still can’t decide between permaculture (mixing in veg and flowers, letting them grow as naturally as possible)  and allotment-style (in rows) veg growing. I believe permaculture benefits plants by hiding certain veg from insect predators…but I don’t know if it will be harder to manage and get good crops that way. I think i’ll do a bit of both, but we’ll see what develops when it starts getting warmer!

My ‘must grow this year’ vegetables:

  • Cavolo nero (black tuscan kale) – best tasting cabbage leaf for steaming/braising, and i think i can get my man to eat it. I think.
  • Pumpkin  – mine’s a blue-skinned heritage variety called Hubbard Blue, and i’d really like to grow some decent sized fruit.
  • Broad beans – varieties The Sutton and Karmazyn last year i  only managed to harvest enough for one bean salad (pathetic).
  • Salad leaves and herbs – lettuce, mizuna, land cress, regular garden herbs, wild garlic and salad burnett – more on that later.
  • Carrots – never grown them by myself. I’ve got Early Nantes which you harvest quite small.
  • Potatoes – a great Christmas present from my parents, can’t wait to recieve them! Will be growing in ‘pots’.
  • Beetroot – of course. Can’t live without it. I got reliable variety Boltardy…guess what it’s bred for.
  • Courgettes – also a must. Heritage variety Early Yellow Straightneck.
  • Blackcurrants!!!!!! (and Raspberries) – thanks Mum!

Other things I’m growing:

  • Flowers for my wedding in the summer (Yes! Wedding!) – Nigella, Sweet Peas…and i need to find some Nicotiana seed.
  • Spinach, Chard, Climbing beans – because they’re easy and can freeze.
  • Tomatoes – first time and i won’t lie, i’m dead scared about it! Planting outside an Italian Plum Tomato variety. (You’re planting an italian tomato outside on the scottish border? Yes, I am.)
  • Have I forgotten anything?

And now to the tutorial/recycling ideas!

This is something i remember seeing on Gardeners’ World years ago…mum will probably remember who’s idea it was. It’s been copied since but i don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it!

Empty toilet roll tubes, Blue Peter style, squshed upright in a watertight tray/box/tin/anything. Because i couldn’t fill the tray yet i put some newspaper in to hold them up. Fill the tubes with compost and gently press each one with your fingers. Then follow your seed packet to see how deep to plant the seeds (ok i just chuck them in). The one thing i remember about planting seeds is for any type of bean seed – put them in the soil on their side. Eg: hold the bean so it makes a happy smile, then hold the top of the smile and press into the soil that way up. If you put them in flat, water tends to sit on top of the seed and makes it go mouldy.

Chuck a bit more compost on and put by a bright window, then water them a gently and wait. Here I planted some of my Broad Beans, and three of my precious, precious Pumpkin seeds. Please germinate!

And another idea: Tomato (and other seeds that like more heat) proagators.

I used big 2 litre plastic bottles, and removed the labels. Then with scissors cut the bottle in half. Chuck away the lid. In the top half you want to cut up from the cut edge about 3 inches. This lets the top half slip more easily onto the bottom half. Now, a sensible thing to do would be to make 2 or 3 holes in the bottom for water drainage with scissors or a skewer. But i didn’t have another tray to put them on so i’m not going to…i’ll just have to be careful not to OVERWATER them.

The bottom half is your pot, fill 2 thirds with compost, plant seeds, and cover with a bit more compost. Water and put on the lids. Keep an eye on the bottles – if they are covered in condensation, take the lid off and let it breathe for a few hours. The temperature should be nice and warm for seeds to germinate if left in a sunny place.

Now we wait.

Ginkotree xxx


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This post was supposed to be a very imformative and visually brilliant (ahhh shiny cutlery!) post called: The Quest for Untarnished Spoons. Alas, to date my mission has failed. But I’m going to post it anyway.

My quest started many sun-ups ago on the day of Christ’s Mass when i was given a great gift from an enchanting Good Witch; my grandma gave me her old stainless steel cutlery set.

I traversed the land (scoured google) for the solution to the curse of Tarnish upon my pretty spoons and fish forks. And thus my journey began…

Get together your cutlery and take pictures because theyre so pretty.

Line a tin with foil and put your utensils in it.

Pour boiling water to cover the cutlery, then sprinkle on a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Make a cup of tea.

Have a cuppa, or wait for 20-30 mins.

Wash them in hot soapy water, dry with a clean tea towel…and cry because they are still tarnished.

Literally hundreds of people online swear by this method. I read several first-hand accounts of this WORKING. Since this disaster i have tried:

  • scrubbing with a paste of bicard and a little water
  • rubbing hard with a dry cloth and vinegar
  • using toothpaste
  • soaking in vinegar and then scrubbing/rubbing
  • shouting at them profusely
  • and, of course, pleading.

None of them has worked.

I like them tarnished anyway…?

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my recipe for mature cheddar cheese biscuits with a bite; great as canapes with wine and cocktails, or as a treat instead of bread with soups.

grown-up cheese biscuits:
(mine made 4 baking sheets of little bitesize biscuits)

8oz plain flour
5oz stork (hard cooking margerine) or cold butter/cookeen/lard
tsp cayenne pepper
tsp paprika
heaped tbsp dried mixed herbs (and/or any fresh you have in the garden)
good pinch of salt
8oz mature cheddar, grated
an egg

this recipe is basically an enriched version of the shortcrust pastry i use for quiches, pies and tarts all the time. that’s 8oz flour, 5oz stork and 1 egg. but whatever recipe you use, the real trick of good pastry is cold hands 😉

combine dry ingredients in a bowl. use the herbs and spices you like best which compliment cheddar cheese, or use parmesan! add chilli or curry powder if you want them to lift a boring soup, or leave all spices and cayenne pepper out if youre making them for kids. or use english mustard! i’m getting excited just thinking about the variations. back to the recipe:
combine dry ingredients and add the cold stork/butter. use a knife to chop the fat into the flour, to speed up the next part: rub in the fat, just like pastry, until it looks like breadcrumbs.
add the grated cheese and gently mix it with your hands so all the cheese is coated with the dry mixture. add the egg (and a little water if it needs it) and mix with your hand until it forms a ball.
if your kitchen is warm, put it in plastic and into the fridge for 20 mins or so. if you can see your breath in your kitchen like i can, there’s really no need! roll it out on a floured surface until it’s the thickness of corrugated cardboard. that’s the cardboard that makes wine boxes, incase you were wondering!
use gayly coloured, amusingly shaped cookie cutters to make fun little biscuits, or be reserved and make them round (boring!). place them on lightly oiled trays (they shouldn’t spread, so pack the trays but don’t let the biscuits touch) and bake them in a 180 deg. celcius oven (gas mark…6?) for ABOUT 10 mins. they are cooked when they don’t squish when you poke them, and they are a nice golden colour. they are overcooked when the edges go dark brown.
note: if you wanted to do this in a food processor (recommended if youre making large batches for a party) i would first grate the cheese in it and set aside. then put butter and dry ingredients in and blitz until it looks like breadcrumbs. stop the motor and add cheese and the egg (i’ve had so many shell-related accidents by not stopping the motor in this way!) and blitz again JUST until it forms a ball. take out and carry on as usual.

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the butternut squah has got to be my favourite vegetable (go on, just argue that it’s a fruit!). it’s got such versatility in the way it can be cooked, but more importantly lends itself so perfectly to my favourite meals to cook – soups. here’s my first recipe shared through this blog, which will also be located on the ideas & tutorials page at the top.

sweet butternut soup:

(for 2 hearty bowlfuls)

half a butternut squah

a large carrot

a small white onion or handful of shallots

a sqeeze of tomato puree

half a tin of your choice of beans eg. borlotti, butter beans

various condiments and cupboard supplies!

first you need to peel and chop the vegetables. chopping them smaller means the soup takes less time to cook! put them in a heavy pan with a little oil and fry them on a low heat, moving them around a bit for a few minutes.

while they’re softening, open the tin of beans and rinse them thoroughly (or use dried beans that you have soaked in water beforehand).

pour some fresh water into the pan of vegetables, about quarter of a pint, and squeeze in some tomato puree. the reason i’m not using vegetable stock is that the butternut squah flavour is brave and will carry through the others i put in. cover the pan and simmer for 20 or so minutes until the vegetables and very soft. check a couple of times to make sure there’s still liquid – add a bit more water if it’s boiled away – and then mash it roughly.

that is your basic butternut soup, and now it’s time to customise it to your taste.

i like this soup to get sweet with earthy undertones, so i add a spoonful of honey, and then a splash of balsamic vinegar. a little salt but no pepper as i don’t want to spoil the squah flavours. and some dried herbs because i don’t have any fresh sage.

for something a little hotter, add a pinch each of chilli powder and ground ginger, or some tobasco.

for the beans, my favourite for this soup are butter beans, as they compliment the flavours so nicely. today i used borlotti beans, but i wasn’t impressed with their brownish awful colour in the tin. if you don’t like beans throw in some arborio risotto rice, and simmer until the rice has swelled and is soft.

served with my soup here are some little cheddar cheese biscuits, the recipe for which i will post for you tomorrow!

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