Sunday, 12 April 2015


Recipe for Mexican Tortillas


3 chicken breasts
1/2lb frying steak
3 peppers
1lb mushrooms
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
3 mugs full assorted dried beans (red kidney, butter, blackeye)
1 can plum tomatoes
Tortillas and/or tacos (8-16)
Vegetable oil for frying.
2 chillies or a teaspoon of chilli powder - reduce or increase to taste, can use red, green or jalapeƱo chillies. 

Serves 9 portions, ingredients can be increased as necessary.

Important: Dried beans must be soaked in cold water overnight and then the water changed before boiling for 45 minutes.

 Wash hands thoroughly after handling chillies or wear clean plastic gloves.

While the beans are cooking, wash and slice up the peeled onions, mushrooms and de-seeded peppers and peeled garlic. Core and slice the chillies if using. Place these in a large saucepan with some vegetable oil and start frying up, stirring occasionally.

Whilst frying the vegetables, slice up the steak and the chicken into strips and the put in the pan with the vegetables

Cook until the meat is cooked right through, this is usually 10-15 minutes to be sure, it won't harm if kept stirred and turned over and prevented from sticking with oil.

Add the tomatoes and chilli powder if using. Warm through.

Warm or microwave the tacos or tortillas.

When ready, serve beans and other ingredients inside tortillas/tacos.

Toppings include melted cheese, salsa, iceberg lettuce, chipotle sauce

Sunday, 5 April 2015


Today was, I think, the warmest day this year. At least 15degC. So, it was time for the peas to leave their home in the greenhouse for the allotment.

A row of peas had been planted already, but the birds seem to have had a nibble, well more than a nibble and some of them are little more than shredded stumps, so a bit more protection was needed.

I can't take credit for the construction, my youngest daughter and my wife were busy as well with the CDs and the mesh, though I went round after this photo was taken to put in lots of twiggy sticks for the peas to climb up.

Some of the peas are already flowering! So, I have sprayed with an organic garlic spray to stop pea moths from laying eggs, and therefore peas getting maggots in.

Also, as well as a generous compost dressing (manure was spread over the patch at the end of last year), and then some organic, wildlife friendly slug pellets.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Update - Indoors

 First of all, how did these get to a first floor bedroom?

At least they are not the 13cm Spanish ones on the news recently!
 Planting new peppers for coming year into a long tub that sits on a windowledge in a second floor bedroom.
These peppers are not far off ready, peppers appear to be able to germinate at any time given a radiator, light and watering! My aim is to get all year round peppers which I think should be possible in the house. 

The tomato plant, saved as a rooted cutting from our now deceased 5 year old one, is now producing tomatoes. 

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

Even though it is still quite cold, in fact yesterday was only about 5 deg.C (today was warmer with the sunshine), there are signs of new life in the allotment. 

 Rhubarb - this rhubarb originally came from a root split from my mum's rhubarb, she lives within the Yorkshire "Rhubarb Triangle", so it's good stuff!
 These are the onions and garlic overwintered from plantings in September 2014. This means that there are onions from mid June ready to harvest. Garlic is easy, to begin, buy a clove of garlic from a supermarket or greengrocer.. Plant in September and leave overwinter. Some shoots will grow below the end of the year anyway. When picking in July, save the biggest one for splitting in to cloves and planting again in September. Over time it becomes adapted to the soil and selecting for the biggest ensures a good crop every year.
The onions are the "Japanese" kind which are winter hardy.
 Sprouting broccoli. Takes nearly a year to get to this stage but if you like broccoli, is pretty prolific if you keep cutting the heads regularly.
Shoots on the pear tree. These are minarette type, one of the trees is Comice, the other Conference. The Comice last year was the most prolific.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Stir Fry - with lots of home grown produce

Stir fry is easy to cook and can vary according to taste, meat content and type, vegetable variety etc. This version is using some home grown vegetables and some shop bought items to produce a tasty meal.

The good thing about stir fry is that it can scale up easily according to the number of servings required. In this dish there's enough for about 9 servings, 5 of which were consumed on the day of making with two servings keeping in the fridge for the next day and two in the freezer.

I have included brands which I use in this particular meal , many others are available and if there is a Chinese supermarket nearby the list is seemingly endless!

The vegetable and meat preparation and initial cooking (before adding sauce) is gluten free, and can still remain gluten free providing the correct sauces and noodles are used.

Ingredients (* indicates home grown)

3 cloves of garlic *
2 or 3 medium onions *
3 red peppers *
12-15 mushrooms               
12-15 mini sweetcorn *
2 tins of Blue Dragon water chestnuts (or 1 tin water chestnuts and 1 tin bamboo shoots)
1 packet of beansprouts (from supermarket - usually with pre-packaged stir fry vegetables)
4 large chicken breasts (from local butchers)

1 * large jar of Sharwoods or Blue Dragon stir fry sauce (Hoi Sin and Plum / Sweet and Sour / Chow Mein / Black Bean - many of the Blue Dragon ones should be gluten free - please check with the manufacturer)

Soy Sauce (in this case Clearspring Japanese soy sauce which is gluten free)

Sharwoods dried egg noodles and/or gluten free rice noodles (Amoy do some "straight to wok" rice noodles that are gluten free although dried ones can also be obtained.

15 fl. oz Brown rice - cook according to packet - the nicer ones take longer to cook, usually 25-30 minutes.

Optional - if doing sweet and sour then 1 * small tin of pineapple slices or chunks can be added.


Ingredients can be prepared in advance of frying if required, do the vegetables first and then the meat. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat and ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly through before serving!

Pre-heat vegetable oil in a wok (to cover the bottom of the wok - more can be added later if things are sticking to the wok. However, the trick is to get the wok hot enough and keep food moving enough to prevent this from happening)

Peel, rinse, dry and slice the onions and add, as shown opposite.

Start to cook the onions until going soft, usually about 4 or 5 minutes

Take the pith and seeds out, wash and then slice the peppers and add to the wok.

Break off 3 cloves of garlic, peel, wash, dry and then dice the garlic up very small and add.

Wash and slice the mushrooms and add to the wok,
stirring regularly to ensure even cooking.

Slice the chicken up into strips about an inch long (2-3cm) and
about half an inch (1-2cm) wide.

Add to the wok and stir fry until cooked right through - i.e. entirely white inside. Wash your hands after handling raw meat!

Whilst the chicken is cooking, drain and add the water chestnuts and/or
bamboo shoots.

Add the beansprouts. These usually do not require washing
if bought in a sealed packet from the supermarket.

Keep stirring and mixing to allow even cooking and to
make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the wok.
If food starts to stick, add a little bit more oil and give the food
a scrape at the bottom of the wok.

Allow the contents of the wok to cook through 
before moving onto the next step. 

The contents of the wok should now look like the picture

Add your chosen sauce and then allow to simmer for 10 minutes or so, longer if wished.


Whilst the sauce is simmering, prepare the noodles according to the packet

Serving Suggestions


Thursday, 1 January 2015

Digging over

Today has been a day for digging over. The remains of the sweetcorn were still in the ground, so I uprooted these and then weeded and dug these areas of the allotment.

A lot is said in gardening books about digging over. To dig or not to dig seems to be the question that is raised a lot. Now, if you have permanent or raised beds then digging shouldn't be needed after the initial creation of the bed. Hoeing and weeding, yes, but for these, putting layers of compost or manure or your favourite mulch on the bed and leaving nature to do its work is the right way for these in my opinion. (Preparation of the bed is a different matter, digging out and putting in as much organic matter as possible)

For rotational beds, I always turn these over at a spit's depth (a spit being the length of a spade end) after hoeing thoroughly. I then scatter compost and/or manure onto the bed and let the worms do their work. The local blackbirds and robin take quite a keen interest in this activity and often are quite fearless - one year one female blackbird would even take worms from the hand! The birds will also hoover up grubs and caterpillars.

Manure - peas and beans, courgettes, pumpkins, potatoes, fruit bushes and trees.
Not roots as this encourages forking.

Compost - anything really - everything benefits! Although some vegetables need a richer soil than others, consult the seed packet.

Having just about dug over where I wanted to today, rain and wind stopped play!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Transplanting fruit bushes and trees

It is getting crowded in our fruit patch!

At the back of the allotment we have two apple trees - Chiver's Delight and a Gala as well as a damson tree, all of which are minarette and we try to keep them to six or seven feet tall, as that is what has been laid down as a condition when we sought permission to plant them in the allotment.

Over time, the Gala has shaded out the Chiver's Delight and we have had problems such as this downy mildew.

So, now the trees are dormant, it is a good time to move them. So, the Chiver's Delight has moved down a section (we have 5 sections to the allotment, 4 rotation and 1 permanent) to the other side of the asparagus bed, and hopefully there it will have much more light and growing space. In fact when I dug it out, it's root ball wasn't that big which suggests that it has been crowded out.

Also moving was a blackcurrant bush to where the old asparagus bed was.

To transplant the apple, I dug a hole deeper and bigger than the root ball, and put plenty of manure and compost into the hole, then transplanted the tree, filled in with more compost and earth, pressed down the soil firmly and staked the tree. The blackcurrant was done in a similar way, though these don't need staking.

Jobs also done at the same time were stripping and moving the bean frame to the top section (rotation), and trimming back the lavender and the hazel.