Friday, 30 August 2013

saved from the brink of disaster

A Saturday morning,
pouring rain,
more marrows from the allotment waiting to be used ..
.. so I decided to make marrow and ginger jam.
After a search on the internet and I found a recipe that looked good.
It used equal quantities of marrow and sugar, 2 lemons and some ginger.
ready to go
I cooked the marrow as instructed and lightly mashed it before adding the sugar, lemon juice and ginger.
But this is where I think I may have gone wrong.
The recipe was vague about what type of ginger, so I decided to use stem ginger ( the sort that comes in a jar in syrup) which I chopped very finely.
 Having dissolved the sugar, I brought the mixture to a boil, but after barely 5 minutes and before I was ready to test for a set, I realised the jam was burning badly on the bottom of the pan.
I know jam is liable to burn, but I have never known it to burn so quickly and so spectacularly!
In retrospect, I think I should have used fresh root ginger, as I think it was the sugary stem ginger which sunk to the bottom and burned.
I removed the pan from the heat straight away and salvaged what I could.
My jam would not win any prizes, as it is very softly set and with a slight caramel flavour!
However it still tastes nice and is a beautiful amber colour.



Saturday, 24 August 2013


Situated on the coast between Dunwich and Aldeburgh, down a series of long winding, wooded lanes, is Minsmere RSPB reserve.
A beautiful place to explore, which is exactly what we did last weekend.
The reserve is a mixture of fresh and saltwater lagoons, woods, dunes and a long expanse of semi- deserted shingle beach.

Part way along the shingle was this interesting art installation 'The Plastic Palace'.
 Made from old fishing nets stretched between posts and covered with plastic detritus, it was
a thought provoking comment on the amount of plastic which is thrown away and ends up in the sea and on our beaches.
Visitors are encouraged to pick up any plastic found on the beach and add it to the display.

The shingle was also home to a variety of wild flowers and plants.

This little flower looked like a tiny version of scabious, but only about 15mm across.

The other plant in abundance was sea kale, crambe maritima, an edible member of the brassica family.
This majestic looking plant is a native perennial and apparently the stems (especially if blanched by covering them whilst growing) are a delicacy not unlike asparagus.
It was particularly popular during Victorian times, but this doesn't mean we should all rush out to forage for it as colonies of the plant have diminished greatly in recent years.
It is, however, widely available from seed companies and given light. sandy soil can be easily cultivated.

Maybe one for the allotment next year!

Monday, 19 August 2013

a long weekend at Southwold on the Suffolk coast.

I love Southwold - the English seaside at its absolute best!
Picture- perfect beach huts,
pretty pastel coloured cottages,
a quirky pier
and the iconic inland lighthouse
We spent a lovely few days exploring the town and the coastline down to Aldeburgh, staying at this wonderful B and B.  - Cowshed holidays.
No towering cliffs here along this part of the coastline. This is 'the fens-by-the-sea'!
....but still beautiful.
Here are whispering reed beds edging the estuary, billowing meadows of grasses and wild flowers and fields of corrugated brown earth.
In Aldeburgh, old fishing boats line the shore and stalls sell the freshly caught fish.

And just a little further along, sitting boldly on the shingle is Maggi Hambling's Scallop sculpture.
A tribute to Benjamin Britten, the composer, who was born and lived in the area, it is a beautiful structure, 15 feet high, pierced with words from the opera 'Peter Grimes'
 'I hear those voices that will not be drowned'.



Saturday, 10 August 2013

while my back was turned.....

this happened!
The courgettes morphed into marrows! This one is 40cms. long.
So this is what I made --

 and this ...

and this ....
Photo 1 ..  Courgette and mint soup. Many thanks to Sarah at the garden deli for this delicious soup recipe.
Photo 2 ..  Quick courgette lasagne. A big thanks to Gina at Fan my Flame for this yummy recipe. Voted best lasagne by mr digandweed!
Photo 3 .. And finally another big thanks to my sister for this clever idea of using a lentil salad mixture from Jamie's 15 minute meals to stuff marrow rings.



Thursday, 1 August 2013

a glut

You know how it is.
Back in spring on a cold, gloomy day and longing for summer you visit the local garden centre and are enticed by the colourful seed packets .
The conversation goes something like this -
'Courgettes. They are a taste of summer and easy to grow'
'Yellow ones too - so pretty'
'We've got plenty of room, we could have several plants'
The weather warms up and the little plants are planted out on the allotment.
Before long, they have increased in size tenfold.
Then they start to produce courgettes .... and don't stop.
You start to scour the internet and search through cookery books to find different recipes.
Family and friends are in the same position, so any attempts to give them away are met with a shake of the head and a polite 'No thanks'
So should you find yourself in this situation, may I suggest a recipe adapted from this very useful book which my sister gave me.

Courgette and mint salad.

450g/1lb courgettes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
(I used a mixture of lemon juice and ordinary balsamic vinegar and I also added a small amount of finely chopped chilli)
fresh mint
salt and pepper

Using a potato peeler, shave off long thin strips of courgette and lay out onto kitchen paper to dry slightly. Although this step might seem unnecessary, I think it does improve the finished dish.

Then transfer to a shallow bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours

If you have not tried raw courgettes before, this recipe is quite a revelation.  Marinading them in the  dressing gives them a silky smoothness, but they still retain their crunch. 
Do give it a go!