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Winter Warmers

October 27, 2014


I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by these beauties weighing in together as they did at over 3 Kilos. But after a quick google for recipes I was inspired to make a griddled butternut squash risotto and a delicious soup. This used up the smaller one and the other can now be kept for further inspiration.




Griddling on the top of the stove fills the kitchen with black smoke so instead I put the long weighty griddle plate in the oven on the top shelf and turned the oven temp to 220 degrees. I tossed the sliced squash in olive oil, added red onion and  an oregano salt mix and once the oven had reached the high temperature spread the slices over the very hot plate. After 20 minutes the pieces were turned over and cooked for about 15 minutes more.  It worked a treat and resulted in smokey slices of squash that left no trace of smoke in the kitchen. Half were added to a risotto and after reading lots of mouth-watering squash soup recipes on-line I amalgamated several from what I could add from the fridge.






A large onion finely sliced and fried in olive oil till just turning golden brown about 15 minutes.

2 cloves of crushed garlic and a finely chopped chilli  were added next and cooked for three more minutes.

The griddled butternut squash, some thyme and some very good chicken stock from the freezer went in next.  A vegetarian stock would work just as well plus salt and pepper to enhance the subtle flavour of the squash. After simmering for 15 minutes it was left to cool then liquidised before re-heating with some torn rocket  leaves.  It was rich and unctuous and the texture and flavour contrasted well with a sour dough loaf.


On the allotment the garlic bulbs planted two weeks ago are showing healthy green shoots through the soil and a row of Ammi major sown from seed in the summer is looking very strong. It makes a fantastic cut flower and survives in the vase for nearly a week.


Here it is added to a vase of roses…DSCN3392

I filled two window boxes on the balconies with white heather and will under-plant with snow white Thalia daffodils to come through in April.


Changing Colours

October 19, 2014


The leaves of the Amelanchier canadensis have flared into an intense orange and behind them a walnut tree, planted next door, has leaves of  pineapple yellow.  It’s a brief moment but glorious with dramatic colours in the garden and wider landscape and makes sweeping and bagging up the fallen leaves more than bearable.



On the allotment a row of Pak Choi Red Choi F1 is battling it out with the nasturtiums …



And marigolds, cosmos and dahlias are still going strong….




And I planted onions, shallots and garlic today plus 24 yellow tulips to come up through the rhubarb. And I have to mention these since it would be irritating to wait until they’re in flower and no longer available but I bought a hyacinth bulb in a glass hyacinth vase neatly boxed up in the Pound Shop-need I say more?


Bristol Needs You To Vote For Grow Wild

October 14, 2014

Bristol is up against four other sites across the UK in the Grow Wild Competition. The winner will be decided by public vote and receive a Big Lottery grant of £120,000. Bristol’s project The People’s Plant Collection is all about transforming dull, abandoned areas into vibrant, colourful, wild flower spaces that communities across this wonderful city can enjoy. Cumberland Piazza would be the ‘flagship’ site and benefit from a huge new investment to improve the space.  You can find out more and vote here.


The proposed site, Cumberland Basin, is in a beautiful historic part of the city that is the main entrance to the docks. The backdrop on one side is the lushly green Ashton Court Deer Park and on higher ground Leigh Woods clothes the Avon Gorge and surrounds the far side of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The site contains the old bonded tobacco warehouses and already provides fabulous cycle paths which bring you into the Cumberland Basin from the city centre. On bike or on foot or by bus (with a gentle walk back) you pass the SS Great Britain and some great cafes and bars. Adventuring on from the proposed site in the other direction you can walk or cycle along the Avon Gorge under Brunel’s Suspension Bridge in unspoiled and dramatic scenery.

Mud Dock Warehouse

To encourage you to vote and because the bonded warehouses in the Cumberland Basin inspired our product Warehouse we will be giving a set of City Lights Warehouse away on December 1st. If you would like to be included in the draw please say and all names will go in a hat and be drawn by Helen and we will notify the lucky blogger by email.


It’s been very wet so no chance to garden either here or on the allotment. I am beginning to suspect my next plant passion might be gladioli. But because of the space they need this can only happen on the allotment and will be dependent on keeping the badger out. He dug up my attempts to grow them three years ago, but these beauties really make me want to try again.


Bulb Planting

October 6, 2014


I have taken a chance and planted bulbs of the exquisite Fritillaria meleagris on either side of the stepping stone to the tap. They thrive in damp meadows so these beds are the nearest I can offer and it’s open ground and not too shady with shrubs on either side.iris edward


The very sweetly scented reticulata iris ‘Edward’ flowers in February so I’ve filled two tall terracotta pots near the kitchen door to get the full benefit.

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On the allotment I planted 25 Ranunculus Aviv Red in the cut flower bed. I love the intense red and the tightly layered form of the flowers. The bulbs are very strange rather like a clump of bunched bananas and it’s this end that goes in the soil.


It’s nothing to do with gardening or cooking but I have to pass this on. It’s how to remove pills from fabric and knitting and it works…




I rounded up nasturtiums and dahlias for my favourite pale green jug and then found it very difficult to photograph. The light was poor due to heavy rain here but the combination is lovely and it helped confirm my paint sample colours  for the kitchen walls – it’s to be a soft chalky yellow.

Autumn Fruit

September 29, 2014

autumn raspberry

I was lazy about watering my autumn raspberries this year and after months of dry weather the result was a poor crop.  So this weekend I lifted the entire row out and cut the stems back to 20cms. I thoroughly weeded the bed and forked in plenty of 6X- a commercial organic fertiliser which is six times richer than farmyard manure. The roots of raspberry canes are very near the surface of the soil which probably explains why deprived of water they performed so badly. They are now re-planted and have been given a good soak which I will do regularly throughout autumn before mulching with leaf mould in a month or two.



A friend brought a delicious jar of  jam she’d made from two bags of mixed fruit from the supermarket freezer section and why not ? it’s simply frozen fruit.  Inspired I rounded up all the small bags of blackcurrant stashed in my freezer but decided to leave other fruit for puddings. So it’s not mixed fruit but I followed her jam making expertise which is err on under sweetened and don’t worry if it’s a bit runny.


1 kilo of currants defrosted and the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1 pint of water added to the preserving pan. You need to cook the fruit until it’s just split open otherwise the currants will be hard in the finished jam. I added 750 grams of granulated sugar that I’d heated in the oven for ten minutes and stirred until it had dissolved. After 20 minutes of boiling it just about wrinkled on an ice-cold plate from the freezer and made 3 pots of very tasty jam.



Autumn on the Allotment

September 22, 2014

I love the look of this gone-to seed globe artichoke and it will be great food for the birds …


Incidentally these artichokes are easy to grow from seed but they must be allowed to form substantial plants before planting in the ground. I have had two attempts and each time lost them to slugs so now four healthy plants in the cold frame will be nurtured in pots till next June/July.

With summer over it’s relaxing on the allotment with all the hard work completed and many of the beds cleared and fed. It’s also very pretty at this time of year with nasturtiums, French marigolds, Californian poppies and Cosmos ‘Sensation’ blooming away…


The second crop of climbing French beans planted in mid-July is looking good.  Before planting I dug a trench and filled it with comfrey leaves before pulling the soil back over and then I gave it a good soaking. The beans were sown at home and came through in less than a week and were planted out on three tripods and here they are…



This butternut squash was spotted lurking under a mass of nasturtium flowers….




Two rows of Spring onion White Lisbon were sown this weekend direct in the soil at the end of two beds…DSCN3201

I’ve gone on a bit about dahlias this year last year it was hydrangea and I’ve no idea what it might be next year and below is a neighbour’s patch of dahlias on the allotment.


He left them in the ground last winter and to his surprise they survived.  But it was a mild winter so best to follow the advice on the blog below on growing and caring for beautiful dahlias


There are the usual suspects in the vase below plus the blue-green leaves of Euphorbia wulfennii to add a bit of substance…DSCN3227

Green Tomatoes

September 15, 2014


I’ve been willing my allotment tomatoes, all 2.5 kilos of them, to turn red but gave up when someone arrived with a huge quantity of ripe red plum tomatoes (she does have a greenhouse). I set to and made green tomato chutney and added a Madras spice which gave it a fantastic flavour.


600 g  green tomatoes

1 large onion

250 g of sultanas

250 g brown sugar

1 tblsp Madras curry powder

half tsp of chillie flakes

500 ml malt vinegar

Wash the toms and discard any with blips and roughly chop them. Put in a heavy-based pan with the chopped onion and the rest of the ingredients. Cook gently till the sugar has dissolved then simmer for an hour-it may take longer and should not be too wet – a thickish chutney consistency is what you are after. I started with these quantities to experiment with the Indian spice and will now make more.




My other succesful recipe this week was a thinly sliced cucumber pickled to eat as a relish with an Indian meal. I peeled a large cucumber and a shallot and sliced them both on a mandolin on the finest setting.  Then I added 2 tblsps of rice wine vinegar, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Memorable.



I rather liked these huge and bold green nasturtium leaves mixed with Sedum ‘Autumn Glory’….


…and the flowers look very pretty in a short cream pot.


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