Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Rhubarb Recipes

Cate and I visited Ben and Emily's allotment near Stockton on Sunday (oh, and the Forbidden Corner on Saturday, but that's a different story). They've scaled it back to the basics this year, as they only get a 45-minute gardening slots while little Phoebe is asleep. Their rhubarb however has taken off brilliantly, so here come some recipes after I "helped" "thin it out" a little. Yum.

Breakfast: Rhubarb Porridge

50g rhubarb
40g oats
50g yoghurt
2tsp sweetener or sugar

Chop the rhubarb into chunks and heat in a saucepan with just enough water to cover the bottom. Add 2tsp sweetener or sugar. Cook until water has just evaporated and rhubarb is softened. Add more water if necessary.
In your cereal bowl, stir boiling water into the oats - I cover the oats plus another centimeter or so. Either cover with a plate and set aside for 5 minutes, or microwave for one minute to thicken.
Top with rhubarb and yoghurt and eat while porridge is hot and yoghurt is cold. I really enjoy the different textures in this breakfast.
(200kcal if served with fat-free yoghurt and sweetener)

Dessert/Pud/Snack: Baked Rhubarb Mousse

This is one of my staple recipes at the moment, as it is a protein boost with no added carbs or fat, and I'm on a mission to weigh as little as David one day. So, if you like your puddings delicious and truly low cal, this one is for you. If you prefer the full energy load, just switch to the ingredients in brackets.

Pre-heat your oven to 160-180C.

400 g cottage cheese 0.4% fat (or full-fat cottage cheese or ricotta)
200 g cream cheese 0.2% fat (or mascarpone)
2 medium eggs
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
4 tbsp sweetener (or caster sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend these ingredients together with a hand blending stick until smooth. Then blend for a further 2 minutes to ensure the mixture turns creamy when baked. This mix makes a nice cake in itself, and works with a variety of fruit and chopped nut bases. Here's this season's rhubarb version:

200 g rhubarb
2 tsp sweetener (or sugar)
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Chop rhubarb into chunks, mix with sweetener and ginger. Microwave for 3 minutes (or soften in a saucepan), then scatter in the base of an 18 cm / 7" non-stick cake tin.
Pour mousse mix evenly over rhubarb and bake for 35-45 minutes until just set, but not brown in the middle - we're aiming for a soft creme brulee consistency, not dehydrated omellette!

Allow to cool and then upturn onto a large plate. Serve with yoghurt.
(80kcal per 1/8 of cake slice for the basic recipe - otherwise a lot more! Also, 1.4 g fat, 5.4 g carbs, 11 g protein.)

This recipe is naturally gluten-free. For a dairy-free recipe, substitute the cottage and cream cheeses with 600 g silken tofu (the cheap tetra packs are best), and for a vegan recipe don't add the eggs either, but bake a little longer to set.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Free seeds!

I had intended to do some digging / fencing at the allotment today, but it's pissing it down out there, which is seriously deflating my enthusiasm.

What did make me do a little hop and smile, however, is that my free seeds from the BBC Dig In campaign arrived today. There's basil, carrots, courgette, mixed salad and french beans. If they still have some left you can sign up for your own free seeds at http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/digin/.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Satellite view

[PARANOIA UPDATE EDIT 30/4/2010] I've removed the pretty map. We have no control over who views our blog (which is how it should be), but have concerns that someone might pop by when we're not looking and do something with the allotment that would make us cry. So if you're following this blog and are interested in visiting some time, please get in touch.
I had intended to take lots of lovely photos of my fencing efforts on Sunday, but have realised I forgot to bring my camera with me. So to make up for the lack of visuals (and the blog really is much better with them), here's an interactive google map of the allotment.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Wild garlic and new potato salad

I'm away at college this week, so I won't be able to access the allotment until the weekend, when I'll be getting on with fencing, fencing and more fencing. Until then I have a few moments spare to talk a little about the wild garlic we recently transplanted to the allotment and share another very simple, but very tasty and healthy, recipe with you.

Wild garlic is a fantastic herb that grows wild in many locations in and around our towns and cities. The chances are you have some near you - you'll know it by the seriously pungent smell as you pass by. Unlike regular garlic, you just use the leaves, which taste similar to chives and which you use in much the same way. However, it isn't around forever and now is the time to pick it, so get out there pronto unless you want to wait till next year to enjoy it.

We're keen to garden using permaculture principles, one of which involves planting crops that will pretty much take care of themselves with little or no input from you. Wild garlic is perfect, as it grows like a weed and it's really tasty, so we dug up some we came across while on holiday a week or so ago and transplanted it to a nice shady spot in the allotment. Hopefully it'll take ok, so fingers crossed.

Only pick a few of the bigger leaves from each plant to allow the rest of the plant to keep growing and provide more tasty leaves for next time. Also, make sure you wash the leaves thoroughly before eating, as you never know who's been doing what to it before you picked it. When using it in your food, don't be shy with quantities, as it's a lot milder in taste than garlic cloves.

My favourite way to use it so far is in a simple potato salad.

Wild garlic and new potato salad

  • New potatoes
  • A small handful of wild garlic leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of sea salt
  1. Boil some lovely new potatoes whole and in their skins (salt the water if you like)
  2. In the mean time, wash the wild garlic leaves and chop them finely
  3. Once they're cooked, give the potatoes a gentle bash with some kind of blunt implement (a potato masher is ideal, but don't over do it) to roughen them up and break them up a little. The oil and flavour will be better absorbed by the potatoes this way and the texture is lovely.
  4. Mix through the olive oil, salt and chopped garlic leaves.
  5. Mmmmmm!

A quick note on sea salt and extra virgin olive oil...

You should always use sea salt rather than table salt, as table salt contains chemical additives that stop the granules sticking together, whereas sea salt doesn't. If you find your salt sticking in the shaker, just put in a teaspoon of rice, which will prevent this from happening.

Lots of people don't know the difference between extra virgin and regular olive oil. It's really simple. They're both processed in the same way, but extra virgin olive oil uses olives that have been freshly harvested, whereas olives used in the 'normal' oil may have been sitting for some time before being pressed. I'd go for extra virgin every time.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Beetroot salad recipe

It might be a bit early to harvest beetroot, but I'm about to sow mine, which made me think of my seriously tasty recipe for beetroot salad.

  • Some beautiful beetroots, straight from the allotment
  • Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon
  • Some sunflower seeds
  • Some Pumpkin seeds
  • A little salt
  • A little pepper
  • Some olive oil


  1. Grate the beetroot and put into a big mixing bowl.
  2. Add the lemon juice and pour on some olive oil.
  3. Add a wee pinch of salt and a little pepper (not too much though, you want it subtle, like).
  4. Toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a dry flying pan, along with a little salt (the pumpkin seeds should be popping a bit, but don't burn them).
  5. Serve with the toasted seeds on top.

I love this salad and it also works well with carrots. Don't spare the lemon juice, as this makes it taste nice and fruity - the olive oil will tone down the acidity a treat. It'll keep in the fridge for a day or two.


Sowing brassicas

Finally, my nightmares have had the wind taken out of their sails. The brassica seeds are in, and I haven't missed the season. What a strange dream to have you say? I completely agree. I didn't ask for it.

Anyway, three trays have joined the others, each half sown with purple sprouting broccoli, F1 hybrid broccoli, chinese cabbage, brussel sprouts, red cabbage and greyhound cabbage. So there, that's done. I shall try and beat the slugs and caterpillars to it this year. All suggestions as to the methods welcome - please leave as a comment!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Rabbit fencing at the co-op

OK, here's my top-two of the to-do list:
Job1: get over how many jobs are to be done asap
Job2: put a line between where the resident rabbits will be and won't be - the latter being on our veg patches. So, 3 strainer posts, one gate, 5 fence posts and about 100m of dug trench and hung, tensioned and part-buried chicken wire and 4 days later, we're nearly there.
Here's a picture of the hole Malcolm and David's dug to plant the first gate post - temporarily filled with Cate. Malcolm, that hole really has to be deeper!
And here's the finished product - Cate has been replaced by the left-hand gate post, you'll be glad to hear.

The rabbit fence diaries:
Day 1 - the first 12 metres of trench and fence:

David hard at it, and - ahem - posing with chicken wire. I never thought I'd write that.

Carrots and tatties

I'm gonna grow carrots. I'm going grow orange carrots, red carrots, blue carrots, long pointy ones, short round ones and some of those huge amazining conjoined octuplet carrots you only get at the farmers market*.

And potatoes. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of them. And beetroot and parsnips.

Then I'm going to eat them all until I burst apart at the ears and nipples (my mum told me that's where the joins are). And then I'm going to eat some more.
*(the photo to the right isn't an actual carrot, by the way, it's a man in a carrot costume, but that's the only way I could give you an accurate idea of the size my carrots are going to end up)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Local residents

Yesterday, I heard a rustling noise as I walked past the bee hive. It came from under the raised paving slabs. Sure enough - a little face peeped out and looked at me, with fox-brown fur, a soft shiny brown snout and beady brown eyes. It disappeared in an instant and with another rustle, and reapperaed from under the slab a little closer to me. I stood as still as I could - in quite a wind - while it popped in and out, coming closer and closer while checking out what that big new thing on its turf is. I thought it was a rat, until I noticed the round ears and its cheeky attitude - attitude is a very apt word for this wee guy. It finally popped out fully and stood up, just over a metre away from my feet, revealing its bright white tummy fur while standing on its hind feet and sniffing the air like a meer cat. A kingdom for a camera! He soon lost interest though and wandered off under the long row of slabs, popping out its head occasionally to check on the situation outside.

Today, I saw him again, under the paving slabs on the opposite side, under the deceased bee hives. It came out fully, sniffed, disappeared and re-emerged to dump a grey bundle about half its size in front of it. I fumbled for my camera as it ran off towards the pumkin patch, where I demonstrated my failure as a wildlife photographer. Here are the results:

out of focus
hm, great action shot but no head...
best of three, but the rabbit's missing (or: does my bum look big in this?)
I really like this little guy. I hope he still comes in to our patch through the chicken wire or over the wall once it's fenced in. Our all-natural rabbit removal service!

Our resident pheasant Morag is a much more static model. More so than her current boyfriend below.
The single remaining bee hive is doing better now spring is here - still practicing getting them in focus though!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Wild garlic salsa

Here's one we whipped up while on holiday - a nice side dish for David's tortilla (recipe coming up).

3 ripe tomatoes
20 leaves wild garlic
1 small red onion
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
olive oil, parsley, oregano, black pepper and salt to taste

Dice tomatoes and onion, cut wild garlic into thin strips (I use scissors). Mix these ingredients vigorously with generous amounts of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, chopped parsley, oregano, black pepper and salt. The resulting juicy dip should have a coarse soup consistency when the tomato juice is released. Refrigerate for up to 2 days, but be aware, the garlic taste gets stronger!

Wild garlic dip

Inspired by the time of year - and invariably returning from woodland walks with one hand full of broad-leaf wild garlic - here's a recipe that's quick and lovely:

10 leaves wild garlic
1 pack cream cheese or quark or yoghurt (200g)
1 squeeze lemon juice
salt to taste

Pick off individual large leaves of wild garlic - ideally away from dog walking routes - wash thoroughly and chop (I use scissors). Mix with other ingredients and refrigerate overnight to bring out the best of the flavours. Serve as a dip with crudites and breadsticks, or on toast topped with smoked salmon. Watered down, leftovers make a great salad dressing.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Our first co-op plants

With rabbit fencing begun and ongoing, we've concentrated on putting out the less tasty plants:
4 rows of pink fir potatoes (from the Castle Douglas health food shop organic sprouted pile for 50p), one row each for Sarah, David, Cate and Malcolm. We planted the sprouting potatoes in deep grooves, covered with horse manure and kept soil aside to fill in as the plants grow to encourage more root growth. David dug in 3 further rows of charlotte potatoes a few days later (the bolted variety off the reduced shelf at homebase)
We - David and Sarah - dug up a good square metre of broad-leaf wild garlic plants while on holiday in Dumfries&Galloway, and transported them back in three baking trays we had brought along. They travelled back precariously balanced on top of our bags in the back of our miniature car, in sweltering heat - well, not bad for Scotland anyway. The two hour trip back to Edinburgh with open windows was - well - aromatic.
Nenya spent a couple of afternoons tending to the bulbs and distributing them in the far-end woodland patch. I feel a recipe coming on!
On the way back, we stopped by David's dad's place, dug up a large potato patch in his back garden to get them started, borrowed a couple of tarpaulins and offered to thin out the rhubarb patch. Here's one of the six root pieces now in our "pumpkin patch":

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The co-op gets real

We're just back from "talking business" and now officially renting a spade-bogglingly large and mind-bogglingly beautiful plot of land to turn into a co-op allotment for 5-6 members. So from today, this blog will contain sowing, picking, cooking and eating posts from two sites: the staff/student plot and the co-op.