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.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tidying Up

Today was a day for tidying up the allotment and the garden. Though with the relatively mild weather continuing, some plants are still going!

For instance, one of the jobs today was to cut down the fruited stems of the autumn fruiting raspberries. But, several have still got raspberries on them, which is quite surprising for this time of year. So, some of the old stems got cut and some new growth got pruned back to waist height, and I set about clearing the nettles and brambles instead. There are a few blackberries, but the birds can have those....

Talking of birds, the nice surprise today were several long-tailed tits looking for insects in amongst the minarette apples and the summer raspberries. They really aren't that bothered about humans being about and so it was lovely to get some close views of them as they searched for food.

So, I then weeded the strawberry bed, and the asparagus bed, and chopped the old asparagus ferns down to the ground, putting in some sticks to mark where the plants are. I may be able to harvest one or two sticks of asparagus next year, but the main crop will be the year after.

Back in the garden after lunch, the main task was to stop the ivy taking over the planet! This ivy was taken as a cutting from the ivy growing on the garden wall of our old house back when we moved in 1999, and has gradually been spreading down the fence ever since. But it has ideas of world domination, or at very least the pavement outside the garden and inside the holly bush (ouch!), so a trim was in order. I also took the opportunity to trim back the buddleia as well but the fuschia is still full of pink and purple flowers!

While on the subject of flowers that shouldn't be still around, two of the tomatoes in the greenhouse have decided to produce more flowers, and some appear to be pollenated but I can't see many tomatoes coming before it really does go cold!

Sunday, 19 October 2014


In the allotment right now it is the apple season, with plenty of fruit coming from our minarette fruit trees.

These are the three varieties of apple that are grown. For each I have linked to a very informative website

On the left is Chivers Delight

At the front right is a Gala

At the rear right is a Falstaff

These particular varieties are in adjacent groups for fertilization purposes, the Gala and Chivers Delight being Group 4, the Falstaff being Group 3 (although self-fertile itself).

The Gala and Chivers Delight are too close together for comfort now and the lack of light, despite pruning and training, has meant some black spot fungus and downy mildew, particularly on the Chivers Delight. The latter is going to be moved across to the other side of the fruit area so that it is not suffering by being too close to the Gala and the nearby damson minarette tree.

The only thing that seems to be effective against Black Spot Fungus is Diphane-945, which isn't organic but unfortunately is the only spray that is suitable for dealing with this on fruit. It also, like such as Bordeaux Mixture (which is allowed under organic standards) is being phased out due to an EU regulation.....

Friday, 10 October 2014

Autumn is here

Over the past week or so, the weather has turned properly autumnal. Lots of rain, and windy at times, but still warmth in the sunshine. There are still some really nice blackberries in the allotment, along with the autumn fruiting raspberries down the bottom of the plot. Picked what I presume will be the last of the mini and large sweetcorn, the kernels of the large one going into shepherd's pie at the weekend.

Couch grass is a problem, and a fari amount of time has been spent trying to get rid of it, first from the strawberry bed as this was replanted (still coming back though!) and now from around the fruit bushes and trees.

Can't wait until the first parsnips are ready, you could I suppose eat them now but I prefer to wait until they've had some frost, they do taste better - it is not a myth! Salsify is the new vegetable for this year, no idea whether it will taste good or not, but you can deep fry it as chips!

Still picking apples, varieties are Chiver's Delight, Gala, and Falstaff - all minarette varieties with the Gala ones being very late, in fact most of them are still not ripe yet. All the Chiver's Delight are picked, with about half of the Discovery so far. Pears are nearly all eaten - mostly Comice , with only two Conference this year.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Harvest and thinking ahead

At this time of year, you can't walk in the allotment without finding something pick and eat!

Over the past week there was:

Raspberries (late fruiting)
Beetroot, Apples, Pears, Courgettes,
Broccoli, more Potatoes, Runner Beans.

The beetroot have been boiled with a little salt and pickled in wine vinegar - I read that the salt helps draw out the flavour and stops the water inside the beets from diluting the vinegar, thus increasing longevity.

(The wine vinegar was bought in an amazing deli in Ashbourne, Derbyshire)

Having cleared the onions and beans a month or so back, these beds have been dug over and plenty of compost put onto them - the worms and rain will take it down into the soil over winter - and then winter onions have gone where the beans were and winter cabbage will be going where the onions were.

Next month, the parsnips will be starting to come into season, along with the salsify, the leeks will be a little while yet, and there will be more apples, the remaining pears, pumpkins, more broccoli and cabbage and carrots.