A place of my own

I have moved house again and finally gotten my garden back together.

I suppose I should begin this blog with an apology, I have been away a long time and my garden has taken a bit of a back seat with one thing and another.

However, to focus on the positive, I finally have a piece of garden that is only mine. I have a hedge! I was less excited when I had to trim the hedge with the shears I borrowed but it is definitely satisfying to hack at disobedient foliage for a couple of hours.

So the garden definitely isn’t what I would have made it. It was clearly designed for low maintenance and is basically comprised of many different types of mulch (slate, bark and gravel, all of which seems determined to amalgamate into some sort of agricultural Bombay mix). It also has a pit. The pit is so the basement can have a window and therefore conform to fire regulations. It is absolutely not permitted to turn the pit into a water feature/hot tub.  Believe me, I asked.

The encouraging thing is, even with all my other commitments, my garden has hung in there. I still have tomatoes (they seem to be what I am best at for some reason) and lots of herbs.

Today I planted my winter salad (purslane, land cress, rocket, corn salad and lettuces) along with some Chard and some extra herbs.

I am hopeful. Since I have much more space now I won’t have to squash my plants in so much and perhaps they will grow better.

Mum and Dad bought me a bucket (not an exaggeration) of plumbs so I am busy destoning, freezing, stewing and giving them away as fast as I can. You’ll hear from me again soon.

Keep Gardening!

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

Preserving at Home

What to do with the September gluts to make them last all the way through winter.

Returning home to bring in the harvest seems like an old-fashioned notion but in my family it is still very much the done thing.  My dad is a little too gifted at growing for domestic uses given I was confronted with the following: a bucket of tomatoes, a bucket of peppers, a bucket of insect covered redcurrants and 2 pounds each of raspberries and blackcurrants.

Given the bucket of redcurrants I figured that redcurrant jelly was a must. The recipe I used is here (http://goo.gl/9bHlMf) however I would have to recommend against buying a Kilner jelly strainer if you are considering investing in one. It was poorly designed and resulted in something that looked like the vegetarian equivalent of the Texas chainsaw massacre. Definitely make sure your jelly bag is well secured before adding the redcurrants.

I decided to turn the raspberries and blackcurrants into both coulis and jam. The jam recipe can be found here (http://goo.gl/MNbWYE) and it was utterly delicious. If you haven’t made jam before or are nervous of it then I would recommend this jam as a good starting point. It sets relatively easily because of the high levels of pectin in the fruit. Also, my rule for jam is that I would rather have great tasting jam that is a little runny than some perfectly set jam that tastes vile because it is burnt. Runny jam doesn’t last so long but if it tastes good it won’t need to. We collect jars all year so we have some for jam making season but if you don’t it might be worth looking for some on www.freecycle.org or in pound shops before you splash out on expensive ones from a shop.

The coulis I made was simply a pound each of blackcurrants and raspberries plus 400g of sugar. This was just bought gently to the boil and then left it to cool. I then ladled it into containers for freezing.  I also froze some in individual ice cube trays. These are the perfect size to drop into some plain yoghurt for a fruity treat.  This also might be a good idea if you have young children and you want to get them eating healthier yoghurt with less sugar and additives.

With the buckets of tomatoes and peppers I made a delicious soup with the roasted peppers and tomatoes. The recipe can be found here (http://goo.gl/6Em55v ). I froze most of this huge batch of soup since it is nice, with winter fast approaching, to have some healthy, vitamin rich soup to tide you over, especially since tomatoes and peppers remind me so much of summer.  Though gathering this amount of produce is hard work, it’s definitely well worth doing. It is satisfyingly thrifty and most of all delicious!

Halloumi and roasted pepper bruschetta with tomato dressing

August 2013

A light supper or lunch ideal with a crisp salad and a nice glass of wine. Serves 2


3 peppers in a variety of colours
A sprig of rosemary, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
150g halloumi cheese, sliced thickly
2 slices of good quality bread

For the tomato dressing

two large tomatoes, finely diced.
a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Fresh leaves to garnish (I used radish tops but rocket or lettuce would be great too)


  1. Cut the peppers into eighths and place on a baking tray, sprinkle over the rosemary and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake in a 180 degree oven for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the tomato dressing and set aside.
  3. When the peppers are tender, turn off the oven and leave them there to stay warm.
  4. In a griddle pan, fry the halloumi until golden brown and toast the bread.
  5. To assemble, place the toasted bread in the centre of the plate and lay over your soft peppers. Place the halloumi on top and garnish with your leaves. Drizzle over the tomato dressing and enjoy.  

Simple Italian tomato salad

August 2013


250g of tomatoes
10 leaves of basil, finely chopped
Half a clove of garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
Salt and pepper


  1. Slice your tomatoes, and place them in a shallow bowl.
  2. Scatter over the basil and garlic and drizzle over the oil and vinegar.
  3. Season just before serving. A brilliant edition to a mezze or BBQ salad selection.

Classic Spinach, bacon and potato salad with basil and garlic tomatoes

August 2013

Serves 4 as a light main. A speedy simple supper.


400g of new potatoes 
200g spinach
8 rashers of bacon
25g butter
150g of cherry tomatoes
10 leaves of basil, finely chopped
Half a clove of garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
Salt and pepper


  1. Scrub your potatoes and place in a large pan of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, should be around 25 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, slice the tomatoes and combine them with the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and season to taste.
  3. When the potatoes are 15 minutes into their cooking time grill or fry your bacon until crisp.
  4. When the potatoes are tender, drain them and toss them in the butter.

To serve, lay the spinach on your serving plates to form a bed for the potatoes. Sprinkle over the tomatoes and their dressing and top with your slices of crispy bacon. 

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.