Monday, 21 September 2009

Happy Birthday Charlie / Questioning our Allotment ...

Yesterday was Charlie's Birthday. He has reached the grand old age of four years. Lily went along to his birthday party with a box of lollipop cupcakes that I made for him. A combination of cake and lollipop seemed suitable for such an occasion!

This week I am facing a race against time as far as utilizing the veg in my fridge. I still have quite a bit left from my weekly veg box, plus a surprise harvest from a trip down to the allotment over the weekend. Beetroot, carrots and potatoes were the hidden gems waiting for us on our weed covered plot and we were given an armful of courgettes from Keith our allotment neighbour. Our poor old allotment ... it really does need starting again from scratch. Our previous three seasons were purely a dress rehearsal it seems. I often question why we took on our allotment. We've our own demanding business to run, two young children, a house that needs decorating and fixing in many places ... the list goes on. So why when you can by vegetables for pennies do we struggle on with mother nature to grow our own? I don't have an answer really. It's the simplistic relationship with nature, the endless marvel of seeing seeds grow into beautiful beautiful harvests (if the slugs, caterpillars, pigeons etc don't have first pickings!), the wonderful mix of friendly folk from babies to old-timers in their eighties and beyond you find down the allotment, the education it provides Lily in knowing where her vegetables come from - very early on she knew her calvo nero from her fennel. If you've ever grown anything for yourself you will understand our reluctance to do the sensible thing any time challenged family should do and cut our loses and let the supermarket look after our vegetable needs. We're going to continue to work towards our dream allotment paradise complete with raised beds, a mini orchard and a brick built barbeque. It might take ten years, but we'll get there in the end!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Last of the Veg Box

Today I collect my weekly organic vegetable box. I got back onto the weekly scheme last week owing to the results of a neglected allotment this summer, due to the birth of baby Arthur. Last weeks' box was great value for money. Every evening something from the box formed the foundation for dinner, plus I made a couple of soups, dinners for the freezer and even a (courgette) cake. One thing I really don't like is food waste. So yesterday, I took at look at what was left from my box. Lurking in the bottom of my fridge, counting down the days till it found a new home in the form of the compost bin were the best part of a bunch of limp carrots and half a yellow courgette. In under 20 minutes I gave them a new lease of life by cooking them in some garlic oil with a red onion, some spices, a can of chickpeas and some stock. Once the carrots and courgette were tender I served this aromatic 'stew' with a good dollop of plain yoghurt, a liberal sprinkling of fresh coriander and a wedge of lemon. There was even some left over for Mr G's packed lunch today.

Monday, 14 September 2009

My first ever 'proper' cake order

This weekend my first ' proper' cake order went out. I've made countless cakes as gifts for family and friends, but this weekend I did my debut 'paid for' order. The result was 36 pink cupcakes for what was bound to be a wonderfully girly pink party full of balloons, glitter, princess fancy dress outfits and of course cake!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Inspiration No.2 from a box of seasonal vegetables

The spaghetti squash is a jewel of a beast. Tonight it becomes dinner. I bake the squash whole in the oven and then add a tomato sauce made from olive oil, garlic, onion, tomatoes, various herbs, some dried chilli and mozzarella. Once transferred to an oven dish, it is crowned with a mix of fresh breadcrumbs, thyme, parmesan and cheddar and baked in the oven till golden on top and bubbling beneath.

Inspiration No.1 from a box of seasonal vegetables

This week I (re)started the purchasing of a weekly organic vegetable box . I stopped a while back as the allotment was providing us with a plentiful enough harvest, but with a new born baby and our 'silly-season' at work (My husband David and I run a PR company that specialises in contemporary furniture, lighting and homewares - the allotment has been temporarily abandoned, hence the arrival of the weekly veg box until we get the allotment going again next month. We get our box from Russell's Sussex Farm Food Store & Deli (, who in turn receives the boxes from a farm in Plumpton, 10 miles away. This week we received a true box of delights - including spaghetti squash, carrots, cucumbers, leeks, courgettes, sweetcorn, runner beans, cherry tomatoes and chard. This afternoon I used the bigger of my two yellow courgettes to make this tasty Courgette and Walnut Loaf Cake. Perfect as it is or toasted with butter.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The First Soup of Autumn

If a gun was held to my head and I had to pick my favourite season, I would plump for Autumn. It is like starting a new chapter, as summer fades away. I love all that Autumn promises, especially the food - a feast of seasonal offerings, many of which are on our own doorstep from English apples with real flavour and plump juicy blackberries to versatile squashes and earthy mushrooms - it's gonna be a rollercoaster ride for our taste buds over the coming weeks! As for meals, I crave soups, stews, bakes and roasts and hearty puddings as the nights begin to slowly draw in. Soup is something I'm am going to prepare on a regular basis with whatever produce I have to hand. It's quick to prepare and will usually stretch out for a couple of days worth of lunches. Lily will eat any soup by the bucket load which is great way to ensure she has at least one good hit of vitamins a day, essential as she is about to start school next week. Today Lily requested a tomato soup for lunch. We whizzed this up in just under 20mins with a bag of ripe tomatoes we picked up from the greengrocers for a pound. To the tomatoes we added a limp carrot destined for the compost bin, a couple of small red onions, garlic, a small potato and some dried oregano. A splash of milk at the end gave it a creamy decadence. Pure comfort in a bowl!

Emma's Museli Bars

My dear friend Emma kindly gave me her recipe for these devine Museli Bars. So simple to make with store cupboard basics and whatever dried fruit, seeds and nuts you might have to hand. I russelled up a tray this afternoon when I had a rare 10mins of peace.
Emma introduced me to these 'morish' bites when she came over just after Arthur was born. She came with a job lots packed into a tupperware box for me. They were, I guess, intended to last me for some days, but once I started I couldn't stop - yet they looked so very innocent!