Thursday, 31 July 2008

Qara baghli mimli bil laham - Maltese Recipe - stuffed marrow with meat - with a difference!!

Firstly, I have to apologise - there are no photo's for this post!
I know - sorry, but the recipe turned out so good and smelt so heavenly when it came out of the oven that there wasn't time to get the camera.
Secondly - this is a little Anglo twist on a Maltese dish.
Husband is English and he likes Shepherds / Cottage Pie (well so do I)
I am Maltese and I love stuffed marrow
So I came up with the idea of combining both and ended up with......
Racy Stuffed Marrow with Potato & Horseradish topping (Thank you Ralph for naming my new dish)
OK - so here is what you do, and there are choices
A) make up your own stuffed marrow as you normally would - prepare some mash as you normally would - spread it on top with some horseradish sauce spread on the mash and bake for 45 mins at around 200
& this recipe will be more than enough (with some left for next time) to fill 2 medium marrows.
B) Take 2 small onions, peel and slice. Take 2 cloves of garlic, crush and chop. Put around 1 tbs of olive oil in a frying pan, heat and fry onions and garlic. Then take 500g beef mince (room temperature) and add to the onions and garlic to brown. Next is 2 tbs of tomato puree and 2 tbs of Heinz organic tomato ketchup, add to the fry pan and mix together. Then add a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Finally pick some fresh basil, roughly chop and add to the pan. Allow to cool.
In the meantime you should have your potatoes boiling or steaming (however you do yours) and ready for mashing - again - do them how you like them - gloopy, smooth or lumpy - it's up to you.
Next get your marrows and half lengthways - scoop out the middle and discard or better still add to your compost!
When the meat mixture is cool enough, spoon into the middle of the marrows. Then put some mash on top and smooth like you would on a shepherds/cottage pie so the top is totally covered. Next take some horseradish sauce - I use Salisbury's as it's Gluten Free - and spread on the potato. Finally freshly grind some black pepper, put the marrows on a baking tray and place into a heated oven (200degrees) for around 45 minutes.
When the timer goes, just get your plates, forks and knives ready and enjoy your
Racy Stuffed Marrow with Potato & Horseradish topping.
p.s. needless to say, I used home grown marrows & potatoes for the making of this recipe!!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Tarting it up......

As you can see, our new "lounge" area that we fashioned the other day already looks better with a few wood chippings down
We then continued to level and de-weed all our paths and put more wood chippings down
Which has really smartened up Plot 142 !
We (that is Susan and I) would like to thank her husband Robert & my hubby Ian for all their help and hard work, sweat and toil on the hottest day of the year (so far) -
without them, this achievement would not have been possible in a month of Sundays!
Right - off to look for Courgette Chutney recipes now - will let you know what happens.
Catch up with you all later.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Twirly to the rescue and other goings on.......

This is our lovely Site Rep - Carl. He was telling me that his cabbages were being attacked by the dastardly pigeons (that word "pigeons" always brings Manuel from Fawlty Tower to mind!!) and he asked to borrow my Twirly - well how could I say no? My Twirly went to the rescue and I hope it is doing a good job. Needless to say, Carl didn't get away scot free - I made him pose for a picture.
On Saturday, I met Susan at plot 142 and she had a brainwave - yes, she was sitting down at the time and despite being hot and perspiring (us ladies don't sweat you know!) she actually came up with a good one........
These are the tree stumps from the new wood chip pile that has recently appeared on our allotments to share and in this wood chip pile is an assortment of stumps which we fashioned into little stools (we plopped them down ha ha) just in front of Tatty. It's a great spot as it's in the shade, so when we need a well earned rest, we now have our own seating area with a lovely view - the other plots!
Now to Plot 144 - the moment you have all been waiting for.........
Just a quick reminder of where we left of last time (see picture)
Yes, this is 144 on Thursday / Friday after the Bramble Fairy Derek did his thing......

And this was my layout for my new pea bed - I got stuck in and made progress, however Derek saw what I was planning and had his own ideas - as you can see below....

Yes. The pea bed grew and grew and before I knew it, I had a HUGE amount of space to be getting on with. Derek showed me how to get the roots out, and not the stones as they are good for drainage (apart from if you want to grow carrots that it!) After a few hours of raking, scraping, piling up roots and clearing, this is what happened !

Yes, the peas went in, thanks to Nigel opening up the shop and supplying me with the necessary materials for the job, then next to them went some sunflowers (can you tell that I LOVE sunflowers???) and then in went an Aubergine plant, which I bought from the garden centre. I then had the brainwave of moving my pepper plants across from 142 as they would get more sun in 144, so I did that and lastly I put in a row of pinks which Derek kindly gave me which will help make it all look pretty. I then put a little corner fencing in, but I think I need to mallet the posts in a little more!!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

One Man and his stump!

This is my Lotty neighbour from 143
His name is Bryan and apart from being sandwiched between my 142 & 144 plots he has another major problem - his stump.
It's not just this one mind you, there are others, but this is the biggest and baddest of them all!
He has dug, chopped, sweated, toiled, sworn (more than once) and wiped his brow on several occassions - but all this with a big smile on his face!
The lovely smiling Bryan is now cruising the seven seas, and I have offered to water his plot. He and his wife Elena have done a good job on clearing half their plot in a very short space of time and have lots of lovely veg growing including corn, tomatoes, lettuces & runner beans.
I am going to look after them all for them for the next 10 days by watering with loving care so they will all be well and super veggies by the time Bryan and Elena return !

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sunflowers & Toe Rags

I though I would start this post off with a cheery bright picture of my Sunflower - the one of two that survived. She is over 5ft tall. I am definately going to grow LOADS of these beauties next year as they don't take much ground space and look fabulous!

This is my plot number - which we have to have by Lotty Law - especially as our Open Day is just around the corner. So I dug out my old rusty milk urn, which my Uncle John painted years ago with little daisies that you can just make out, and painted 144 on it! When I took it to the Lotty, Nigel was impressed and Derek was equally admiring. However the advice was to fill it with stones, which Derek kindly did for me. I was then advised to move it away from the corner of my plot, which is by the gate, as some one would pinch it!!! So to my dismay, I moved it to the other end, for now, where my shed will eventually go.

I think I will have to get a temporary sign on the go for now, and just put 144 milk urn in place for the open day, and then put it back next to the shed (once it arrives) as a more permanent position. Like Doug said - we don't want the Toe Rags getting hold of it!

Doug told me that him and his Mrs. were admiring my Hilda Scarecrow, and wasn't it a shame that the Sutton in Bloom competition, didn't have a "Best Scarecrow" catagory!!

Derek then offered to spend an hour or two getting rid of my every growing mound of brambles - how could I say no? You guessed it - I couldn't!! I rushed home in search of a can of Ginger Beer and some biscuits to keep him refreshed & ran back down to the Lotty again after a quick cup of tea and a few words with Hubby who was busy perfecting his lawn.
I then set about helping Derek who was already busily swinging his mattock around!
I was in charge of metal, bricks, large stones and rubbish - and there was alot of this!
The metal had to be taken down to the shop area - the rubbish had to be sorted - some of this was rotting garden waste, so that went on the compost, in one bag there was a dead fox, and in another there was lots of crawling things to which I let out a really girlie scream and jumped backwards!

Despite all the girliness, I got on with things and Derek carried on swinging his mattock. I just over 1 hour, he manged top achieve so much - I was amazed.

We are going to give it another go tomorrow - Derek is like a godsend - he really is. Nothing seems to daunt him.

Now, one last mention. On visiting the lotty today, I was so excited to discover that some of my tomatoes had started to produce little green fruits (on the vine) - look at those little lovelies. Ah.

That is one thing I LOVE about the allotment - it's the excitement it delivers to you on every visit, it's the community spirit that seems to have gone from our normal every day lives, it's the fact that you can pick what you have grown and have it fresh on your plate within hours or even minutes and it's the satisfaction of watching that tiny speck of a seed grow and grow and give you so much pleasure......

Right - off to the lotty now for a few hours whilst the weather promises to be good to us all.

Toodle Pip.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Giving them another chance.........

..........Only one mind you!

Yes - it's those carrots again - I have re sown Nantes and Amsterdam.I have put them in pretty much the same place as they were before - in between the onion sets.This time I made a small trench and made sure it was stone free.I then filled the trench with compost and broadcast the seed from top to bottom.

After watering in, I covered the seeds with a little more compost and marked the row.
So I now have a row of Nantes (according to the packet they are "easy to grow") and a row of Amsterdam - you never know, I might get some Tulips instead!

Still, it can't be worse that the last attempt, or could it?

I have asked around - Brenda a lady with a plot in the dip who can grow the most enormous calabrese, can't grow carrots. Mavis, my plot neighbour and vegetable growing expert, can't grow carrots, and I have just read that my latest hero - Mr Valentine Low (One man and his dig) and his wife have tried every method possible, and can't grow carrots. In fact, I think he mentioned something about the fact that hiring a limo and going to Fortnum & Mason's to buy some of their carrots would have been cheaper than what they had spent on all their efforts, not to mention seeds!

I think I will have to have a wander around Stanley Road Allotments this evening to ask anyone willing to stop for a chat, if they can grow carrots - so I'll be around 3 hours then as most people stop for a chat!!

This could be the great carrot growing mystery?

Who grows them and WHERE do they grow if the supermarkets are full of them?
As promised from the last post - these are the pictures of Susan's lovely new vegetable identification signs - just in casee - and yes - she can grow carrots !

Monday, 14 July 2008

Lavender Open day at the Lotty

Before I mention anything about the Lavender, I have to mention this great book which my mother in law bought me for my birthday
If you love allotments and like a good read and a laugh then go and buy this book.
You can also visit his blog and buy the book online
I read it at every spare moment I have - even if only for a few minutes!
Anyway, to continue.........

This weekend 12th & 13th July they held an open day for the lavender fields that are attached to the Lotty. It was a PYO affair with some great stalls selling lavender products e.g. beauty creams, pictures, cards with Carshalton Lavender on them, sleep pillows and more importantly a Tea & Coffee stall!

It looked really busy there all day, but some of us had to work, but that started after a cup of tea and some honeycombe to keep me going!

After lot of weeding (what's new) and some admiring, lots and lots of chatting and some here and there tweaking, I had a chat with Nigel about my peas that I had put in earlier in the week.

He advised (clever him as that means a sale for the shop) some pea wire netting thingy stuff that you support with canes that you interweave and therefore create an upright structure for the peas to grow up!

OK! OK! I know some of you are going to look at this picture and say "How many peas has she planted in such a small space?" and my answer to you would be this -

(a) My space is limited and (b) this is my very first attempt at growing peas so I have to have a learning curve - if it works it works, if it doesn't I will write it up in my book and not do it again next year.

There are a few things now that the old boy flat cappers have sucked their breath in at and rubbed their chins in utter horror, but for me - ok apart from my carrots - so far so good.

Like Susan said yesterday - she planted her potatoes too deeply and they haven't given her a brilliant yield, but next year she will plant them in a more shallow trench - she will learn from this year to the next.

When Susan is at the Lotty at the same time as me we chat for England. We still weed, and tend and sow, but chatting all the way. We decided, probably not for the first time, that Susan does mystery gardening. For instance - what she thought COULD have been cabbages, or maybe brussels (from the leaves) now turn out to be Kolhrabi ! However, one thing that she knew were cauliflowers are indeed cauliflowers and very handsome chappies they are too!

Luckily Susan's friend bought her a great present - visual assistance to help identify what she has planted - pictures will follow.

Friday, 11 July 2008

After the rains......

My first rain dodging visit to the Lotty this week was on Tuesday evening. The sun was shining and the ground was wet and muddy, but things needed checking over! I checked it all - onions, beetroot, parsnips, lettuces, more onions, spring onions, tomatoes, chillis, peppers, brussels, brocolli, leeks, rocket, more baby spring onions, pumpkins, courgettes, butternut squashes, runner beans, cobra beans and more tomatoes along with a variety of herb plants, the sun flowers (3 surviving) and not to mention Tatty & Hilda - all seemed ok, all seemed to have survived the downpour! Just a little "Tweaking" needed here and there, but nothing major.

I met Mavis down there - I gave her one of my baby "snacker" cucumber plants (see picture below) and in exchange she gave me the above pictured marrow which I told her that I had spotted the other day! How kind of her. I took it home and the next day I made Qara baghli mimli bil laham - a Maltese dish that I remember from my girlhood days - Marrow stuff with seasoned minced beef. It was SO lovely and smelt so devine when it came out of the oven that I forget to take a picture of it - next time eh?

This is my first Brocolli head - I will be having this for dinner tonight along with some baked fish. It's a shame the tomatoes are ready yet - we need some sunshine for them to ripen first.

I picked another Brocolli head and gave it to Mavis as I didn't think a baby cucumber plant was a fair exchange for such a huge and delicious marrow.

This is one of the flowers on my Butternut Squash - I just had to take a picture as it looked so beautiful in the sunshine. I have now put this as my computer wallpaper, so when I am not at my Lotty I can look at this lovely flower and wish I was there!!

Last but not least - my Butternut Squash has grown since last weekend - it must be all the rain that has helped it along!!

After all that picture taking and tweaking, I decided to put in my baby cucumbers and peas. I put them in where my earlies had come out.

There are still more peas to go in, but I will have to wait until some more spuds come out.

I have only put in little canes to start them off, as I didn't have anything else to hand, but I will of course change these as the plants grow.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Last Weekend.....

I had a lovely Birthday - Two trips to the Lotty and a fish "n" chip lunch in the garden.
I was then treated to a night away at a lovely hotel Buxted Park in Uckfield
Sunday was a washout and as I don't do mud - I had to wait to get back down to the Lotty.
This happened on Monday. I was going to the postbox anyway, and although it had been raining pretty much all day, it was in fact worse that Sundays' washout, I popped to the Lotty as I needed some spring onions and a courgette - fortunately it wasn't THAT muddy.
To my surprise - this is what a wet weekend can do......

Yes, these are my 1st ever tomatoes - They are the Marmande variety. I am SO excited - just think, I will soon be able to stop buying tomatoes from the supermarket! How very exciting.

I also noticed lots of flowers on my chilli plants and peppers, so hopefully they won't be too far behing the Tomatoes.

Then this happened - Yes, this is my butternut squash - the one I grew from seed from the gourd that had been in the fridge for a week. I was searching through the leaves for a courgette to take home and I found this instead!

Last but not least - This is Susan's latest harvest - yes a straight carrot!

Well done Susan.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Scrap Green Garden Waste Collection Charges in SUTTON!

If you live in Sutton, and oppose the new £35 per bag charge for clearing your garden waste (a great idea from the Lib Dems NOT!!) please sign the petition by clicking on the link and then pass it on to all your friends and neighbours that this effects.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Sunflower goes down.......

I took this picture of the Sunflowers last weekend - they have got soooooo big they are nearly as tall as I am! I was very pleased to note that the flower head seems to be forming too, but unfortunately there is a sad end to this tale.

When I went to the lotty last night (1st July) the smaller one of the two - the one to the right of the photo - was on the floor! I don't know how this had happened as it was securely fastened to an 8ft cane! I have put it in my watering can full of water to see if it revives. I will know later when I pop back there tonight to get some bits for dinner.

Now these two lovely purple things are my first Beetroot harvest. I only pulled up 2 as I didn't know what to expect really - I have only eaten beetroot that has come from a jar before now. Well I have to say that I just peeled and sliced and enjoyed them (well one of them) in it's natural state and it was sweet and delicious. So now, if I ever feel peckish down on the Lotty again I will just pick one, wash it, peel it with my pen knife and devour one!

Here they are again, laying on some freshly picked salad leaves (cut and come again variety) and along side a couple of spring onions. I have never been known to cry when cutting spring onions, but these little tikes did exactly that to me! I was blubbering and sniffing away within seconds of putting the knife in. They are strong and full of flavour. Lucky that I have another 2 lots growing - sown a few weeks apart - so I will have a pretty good supply.

Now, one person I have to mention is George - Yes the laughing Jamaican George. He was offering some Pak Choy the other day, but as i didn't have any space I innocently said "Oh George, I will just have to wait till yours grow and then we can have a swap!" to which his cheeky reply was "yes, OK, but I may not want any vegetables!!!!"

What could he be implying here?


Another mention is my friend Susan. We do bump into each other down at the Lotty quite a lot - sometimes during the week and sometimes at weekends. It's all a matter of timing you see. We have a good laugh and a chat. The other day Susan told me that she offered to water Mavis's plot as Mavis was away for the weekend and it was a scorcher. After getting all the beans done (that's just the one plot) she went on a bit further down. The pressure from the tap is not brilliant, so she did quite well with the trickle that was coming out of the end. However on her way back to the tap, I said to Susan - "Oh, are you only going to do those bits then?" Little did she realise that Mavis works 4 plots!!! hahaha 1 hour later and Susan had finished - bless. She deserved the manicure that she had booked after that!

We have decided that she is going to write a book - Susan's Guide to Gardening. It will show you how to plant things and not tag them, so when the little rows start to appear, you haven't a clue as to what they are. She will also add a section on dropping seeds willy nilly e.g. "I don't know how that courgette plant got there!" and also "What the hell is that?" would be another favourite. She makes me die with laughter as her happy go lucky approach to allotment garden is so funny. She grows better weeds than I do too - lucky thing - as they are easier to pull out. Susan has had loads of harvesting success with this novel approach - peas (some of the first on the whole plot to be harvested I have to add) Broad Beans, courgettes, carrots (which are lovely and straight not like my curly ones) and there was another one but I can't remember - haha - I doubt if she will either! She has Rhubarb growing and has just planted some mange tout !