Welcome Back

Ele’s return to the garden after a stressful spring.

It has been a long time since you heard from me in sunny Norwich. Since concluding my third year of university things have been very much in flux and my future is slightly uncertain but somehow my plants, despite my general neglect, are mostly hanging in there.

My ever resilient herb pot still contains sage, oregano and some parsley which I am hoping to take seed from. If you only attempt growing one thing I would recommend a pot of mixed herbs. It is definitely the pot I have gotten most culinary use out of and in terms of value for money it has saved me a lot of money on fresh herbs which I love to cook with.

The new additions to my new patch have, however, been largely devoured by snails. “The little courgette plant that could” has somehow produced three (granted quite small) courgettes whilst possessing approximately five eighths of a leaf. How this has happened I don’t know but I am going to take them off and eat them soon, if only to give the poor thing chance to produce a few more leaves. My beans are also abundant despite intimate acquaintance with my slimy neighbours.  

I think I am having problems with my compost in some cases because the containers of onions and lettuces haven’t really done much. I think maybe fertiliser or something will fix it -something to bear in mind when I plant my next lot of plugs. The strawberry pot is also a little quiet on the progress front so maybe I won’t get anything from it this year. At least they can be kept over winter and, with feed, might do better next year.

The real success story is my tomato plant.  It seems to have thrived on my neglect and looks magnificent (if I do say so myself). It even has a few little green developing tomatoes on it. I am very excited to taste them. For reasons best known to themselves the snails have completely ignored it and I am thrilled. You will hear from me again soon. Happy gardening. Ele

Mediterranean Mixed vegetable tray bake with sausages

Serves 4

This recipe is perfect for an easy, healthy summer supper after a busy day.


  • 1 aubergine
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 5 large tomatoes of various colours
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 15 mls olive oil
  • 2  teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 2  teaspoons of sugar
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 30 mls Balsamic vinegar
  • 8 good quality pork sausages
  • A small handful of fresh basil, chopped finely


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (fan assisted).
  2. Cut up the aubergine, peppers, tomatoes and courgettes into 2cm cubes and add them to a large roasting tin to make a layer roughly 3 chunks of veg deep. The size of the tray is important: too big and your vegetables will stew, too small and they will burn.
  3. Finely mince the garlic and sprinkle it on top along with the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally when you see the vegetables in the top layer begin to caramelize.
  5. After 30 minutes clear a space in the middle of the tray (the vegetables should be softening and oozing juice) and lay the sausages along with an extra drizzle of oil if necessary.
  6. Cook for a further 25 minutes until sausages are golden brown.
  7. To serve, set the sausages aside and mix the finely-chopped basil through the vegetables and season to taste. Pile the veg into individual bowls and lay your sausages on top. Garnish with any remaining basil and serve with lots of crusty buttered bread.

Creamy Courgette and Bacon Carbonara.

September 2013

I wasn’t a fan of carbonara until I tried this recipe; the courgette and rosemary really freshens the dish up. Serves 2.


200g spaghetti
4 rashers of bacon
2 medium courgettes
a good pinch of black pepper
a sprig of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
100g crème fraîche
1 good handful of parmesan or other hard cheese


  1. Place a large pan of water on to boil for your pasta.

  2. Chop the bacon and fry it in a large frying pan until beginning to crisp and colour.
  3. While the bacon is frying, dice the courgettes into 1.5cm cubes discarding the middle of the courgettes if they are beginning to become fluffy and full of seeds.
  4. Add the courgettes to the bacon and continue to fry on a medium heat. When the courgettes are beginning to soften (after about 4 minutes) add the pasta to the water which should now be boiling.
  5. Finely chop the rosemary, discarding the woody stalks and add it to the courgettes and bacon along with the garlic and black pepper.
  6. Mix the egg yolk with the crème fraîche and 3 quarters of the cheese.
  7. When the pasta is tender, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the pasta immediately to the courgette and bacon and remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Mix in the egg and cheese mixture, adding a little of the pasta’s cooking water until you have a smooth and shiny sauce that coats the pasta. Serve immediately sprinkled with the remainder of the cheese. 

September Stew with Parsley Dumplings

With the winds getting colder and the nights drawing in, it’s good to have something seasonal and comforting to eat in the evening.

Serves 4.


For the stew

500g stewing steak, cubed
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 large onion
3 medium carrots
1 medium courgette
1 large potato
1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of yeast extract  (marmite)
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce

For the dumplings

100g self-raising flour
50g suet
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons of water


  1. Fry the stewing steak off with the oil in a pan large enough to hold all the meat in a single layer. This stage is the most important because here we are caramelising the sugars in the meat and building up flavour.
  2. While the mead it browning, chop your onion.
  3. When the meat is well browned and any liquid it has released has evaporated add the onion and continue to fry on a medium heat.
  4. Chop the rest of your vegetables and add them to the pan when the onion is starting to become tender.
  5. Sprinkle the flour on top of the meat and vegetables and stir it through. At this point brown crusty deliciousness will be beginning to form on the base of your pan. Add enough boiling water to just cover your meat and veg and use a wooden spoon to scrape the delicious residue from the bottom of your pan.
  6. Add the bay leaves, yeast extract and Worcester sauce and cook for about an hour and a half. Your stew is ready when the meat is tender and soft.
  7. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Add the dry ingredients and parsley to a bowl and mix in the water to a soft dough.  Set aside until required.
  8. When your stew is 15 minutes from serving, roll your dumpling mix into balls roughly 2cm in diameter and drop them onto the surface of the stew leaving room between them for expansion. Put a lid on your pan and cook for 15 minutes.
  9. Serve either on its own or with a big chunk of bread. This is not a dainty dish but it tastes like a hug in a bowl!

Prawn, Chorizo and Courgette Spaghetti

A gorgeous summery dish perfect after a hard day.

Serves 2

A lovely dish, with a light delicate flavour, for summer evenings, preparation time 25 minutes. 


200g spaghetti
100g chorizo
200g courgette, diced
half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
6 medium-sized tomatoes
2 teaspoons of tomato puree
a small glass of white wine
200g cooked and peeled prawns
Juice of half a lemon
a few leaves of basil (for garnishing)


  1. Place a large pan of water on the heat ready for your spaghetti.
  2. Peel the chorizo and cut it into mouth-sized chunks. Place in a heavy based frying pan on a medium heat. As the oil begins to seep from the chorizo, add the diced courgette and fry gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Blanch your tomatoes in the water you will later use for the spaghetti and carefully remove their skins and most of the seeds. Chop finely and add to the sauce along with the wine and continue to simmer.
  4. Throw in your spaghetti and boil for 12 minutes.
  5. 3 minutes before your pasta is cooked, add the prawns to the sauce to warm through, check your seasoning, I find this sauce benefits from a liberal grind of black pepper.
  6. When your pasta is cooked, remove the sauce from the heat and squeeze in the lemon juice.
  7. Drain the pasta and, in the cooking pan, combine the pasta and the sauce. To serve, sprinkle with basil and eat immediately.