Saturday, 27 August 2016

Globe artichokes

This year I grew globe artichokes on the allotment; a first for mr digandweed and me.

The globe artichoke is a member of the thistle family and it is easy to see why. The plants are tall and architectural with large deeply lobed leaves. The edible part of the plant is the flower bud, harvested before it has time to flower. Left to flower, the artichoke becomes inedible, but produces a mauve flower very similar to its more common thistle relative.
When, a few months back, I saw a tray of little plants in the garden centre, I snapped them up and found a little corner of the lottie to plant them in.

I think I have only eaten globe artichokes once or twice before ( aside from the artichoke hearts in oil, sold in delis and favoured as part of an Italian -style antipasti platter)
The first time was as a child, when with mum and dad and my big sister we were staying with a French family in their house in the country.
Apart from keeping hens and rabbits, the family had an impressive vegetable garden.  I remember the artichokes being picked for our evening meal. 
Back then, in the mid sixties, the globe artichoke seemed an impossibly exotic vegetable, or at least it did to my childish senses.
The French 'maman' carefully explained how to eat the strange vegetable; how to peel off each leaf, dipping it in vinaigrette before eating just the tip, then discarding the hairy choke in the middle before savouring the delicious fleshy heart.

Well, fast forward several decades and it turns out that the artichoke plant is very easy to grow. Before long tiny flower buds were forming. So, about a week ago and with great excitement, I harvested our first ever artichokes.
After admiring their beauty and photographing them ( as you do!!) I lightly steamed the artichokes and proudly placed them on the dinner table with little pots of garlic mayonnaise.
But something had gone wrong.
There was no tasty tip to the leaves and the succulent heart proved to be the size of a pound coin!
As the mountain of discarded leaves grew and the reality proved to be so different from the anticipated outcome, I was reduced to fits of giggles.

I'm not sure what I did wrong. Any artichoke growing tips gratefully received!
As they say, 'you win some; you lose some'.

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Fen-scapes and thoughts

The play last week was very good.
It was one of six short plays all written by local people ( one of whom is the daughter of long standing friends of ours) on the subject of global warming.
The plays formed part of a green festival held last weekend and were performed outdoors by touring theatre company Eastern Angles.
Under the banner of Future Floodlands, the plays imagined a land lost to the invading waters.

With much of present day Fenland being just at or even below sea level, an intricate network of rivers, drains and pumping stations prevents the land from being inundated.
Global warming and rising sea levels is therefore a very important issue for this area.

 Projects like The Great Fen, which I have mentioned before, aims to restore a large area to the original wetland and is vital, not only in providing habitats for wildlife, some of which is endangered, but also in unlocking areas for winter water storage.

Having lived in the Fens for most of my adult life, it is an area of which I am very fond.
These photos were taken over the last week or so within a mile or two of the little market town where we live.

The skyscapes are beautiful. (No hills or mountains to get in the way!)
The last two photos were taken along the Nene washes.
Mr digandweed and myself were out with binoculars looking for Cranes. 
A flock of these huge magnificent birds is sometimes seen in this area, but alas, on this occasion we were unlucky.

annjenny x

Saturday, 13 August 2016

the great plum preserving marathon

It's only small, but the plum tree on our allotment has produced a gargantuan harvest this year.
I have lost count of the number of bowls, bags and basketfuls we have picked.

There have been plums in the fruit bowl, fridge and freezer.

Plums given away to family and friends.
 And plums thrust into the hands of unsuspecting allotment neighbours.
But still there are more!
And so began the Great Plum Preserving Marathon!

First up was jam from a tried and tested Delia recipe.

Then followed chutney.
 A Nigel Slater recipe which I made a couple of years ago but this time I doubled up the quantities.

And finally spiced plums in brandy from a favourite book  Perfect Preserves : Maggie Mayhew.
The recipe is straightforward though a tad expensive since it uses copious amounts of brandy.
I'm hoping they keep well and will be good at .. ahem .. Christmas!

I've already had a sip of some of the leftover spice infused brandy and it was very delicious :)

Happy weekend everyone.
I'm off out soon to watch an outdoor short play written by a friend and then to babysit this evening. It is lovely daughter and her husband's 5th wedding anniversary today.

annjenny x

Saturday, 6 August 2016


Some supermarket bought flowers - local grown Norfolk asters .
                              I can never resist the beautiful pink colour.                                 

.... and some homegrown flowers. This hydrangea was a beautiful purple colour when I bought it from the local nursery a few years ago. Despite being in a pot with ericaceous compost it gradually faded until the flowers were almost green. Last year I planted it in the flower bed and this is the result.
 I rather like the two tone colour.

And more homegrown fruit from the allotment; the first of the plums.
This is just a fraction of what is a bumper crop.
There is nothing quite like the taste of a warm, ripe plum eaten straight from the tree.

The crop is so heavy that some of the branches are dragging on the floor. The tree, although dwarf, has grown so well that I think mr digandweed will have to attack it with his pruning saw in the next week or two!

I decided to make ice cream with some of the plums and in doing so discovered two things:
1. Ice cream is very tricky to photograph
2. Our freezer is not very cold.

I followed an easy 'no churn' recipe for plum ice cream from Mary Berry, which you can find here.

As always, I decided to tweak the recipe and added some finely chopped stem ginger (about 1 lump) and a teaspoonful of the syrup, which gave the ice cream a lovely gingery taste.
This was fine by me (as you may know I love anything with ginger) but Mr D complained that it masked the flavour of the plums!!

There are still lots of plums to harvest so I will be back next week possibly with plum jam or chutney or maybe even both!

annjenny x

Monday, 1 August 2016


August 1st -
 the height of summer; long, warm days and the traditional month for holidays. 
But there is also a hint in the air of the changing season.
In the garden, the soft pinks and blues of early summer have moved aside for the oranges and yellows of crocosmia, rudbeckia and achillea.

 On the lottie, plums and apples are beginning to ripen and in the hedgerows the signs of the first blackberries.
A week or two ago, we were picking the green gooseberries on our allotment.
Now it is time for the sweeter red variety.

There are lots of them and delicious they are too, but the thorns are vicious!
Whilst picking them maybe a dangerous activity, sitting in the garden 'top and tailing' is an altogether gentler summer activity.

At the moment, most of the bumper crop is tucked away in the freezer -

 but some have made a delicious sauce to serve with yoghurt, ice cream or in this case, a little, moulded  dessert of rice and cream from this Delia recipe .

Happy 1st August everyone ( and especially to Yorkshire folk, for whom this is a special day )

annjenny x

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Beans - lots of them!

If there's one thing I've learnt so far from having an allotment, it's that no two years are the same.
Summer this year began with copious amounts of rain but very little sun. The strawberries sulked but the gooseberries seemed to love it.
The sun has only really made an appearance in the last week or so.  Consequently, the plums, of which there are many, are still quite green. But looking back through this blog, I see that, in previous years, I was already cooking with them - see plum chutney.

But we have beans: broad, runner and French.
Lots of beans!

Eldest Lovely Daughter, told me of a recipe she had made recently from Hemsley +Hemsley 's first book.
Both Lovely Daughters are interested in cooking and nutrition, following in their Nana Ida's footsteps ( and I like to think in their Mama's too!) 
Eldest daughter's interest is particularly apposite as she has a tiny mouth to feed and tiny taste buds to train.

The recipe she told me about is called Minty Broad Bean Dip:

400g fresh or frozen broad beans (or a mixture of beans and peas - and I think I prefer a mixture)
1 clove of garlic
12 fresh mint leaves
4 tablsp lemon juice
120 ml olive oil
 Parmesan or goat's cheese to taste ( optional, but it does give a creamier result)

Very lightly steam the vegetables for a few minutes only and blitz in a processor with the rest of the ingredients and some salt and pepper.
Add a little water if you think it is too thick.
Quick and delicious!

The second bean recipe I made this week was based on Delia's recipe for Mixed Vegetables a la Grecque.
This was one of my favourite recipes years ago and one I had forgotten about until I was trawling through my cookbooks looking for recipes to make with the bean harvest.
I love the pickled taste that comes from the wine vinegar and coriander seeds.
I adapted the recipe by just using French beans, but of course it is just as delicious with mixed vegetables.

We may have a bit of a bean glut this year chez fenland lottie, but, and I can hardly believe it, so far I have only picked one courgette!
I think I have finally learnt my lesson and only planted one yellow courgette plant this year, but is also an indication of how late the season is round here.

Happy weekend everyone!
The sun is still shining and it's going to be hot!

annjenny x

Sunday, 17 July 2016

summer hols

So we have been away for a few days, Mr digandweed and I. To Yorkshire, where
we stayed in a beautiful airbnb in Filey.

 And Yorkshire blessed us with some lovely sunny weather!

Filey is a quiet little seaside town with a golden sandy beach, some very elegant, Regency buildings, pretty gardens, a bandstand and fish and chips! Everything you could wish for in fact!

Using Filey as our base, we also visited Robin Hoods bay with its tumble of cottages nestled into the steep coastline and further up the coast, the busy fishing port of Whitby, birthplace of Dracula.

Robin Hoods Bay

Whitby harbour

And one evening we drove south along the coast to the rugged cliffs of Flamborough and scrambled down the rocks to the sea. 

Flamborough head

Also on our list of places to visit was Scampston Walled Garden.
Stunningly beautiful gardens designed by Piet Oudolf, gold medal and best in show winner at Chelsea in 2000.
The garden at Scampston with its drifts of herbaceous perennials and flowing grasses was just gorgeous.

Apologies that this post is rather heavy on photos, but I must leave you with just one more - a photo of mr digandweed  running along Filey beach at sunrise on our last morning there.