December 31, 2009

My Christmas

It’s taken me a while to get back into blogging after the Christmas and New Year festivities – I hope you all had a good time and ate and drank well!

 

Steve and I spent Christmas Day at my Dad’s house where my disjointed family gathers and we never have the traditional turkey as no one likes it. We opted for goose as my Mum cooked it a couple of years ago and it was delicious. We nearly didn’t have it though because they’re so expensive (the big supermarkets were charging about £40!) but my Mum found them in Aldi for about £15 – bargain! Unfortunately my Dad got rid of his oven because it was so old (it’s older than me and I’m nearly 29!) and although my Mum bought my Dad one of those halogen ovens, the whole goose wouldn’t fit inside it.

 

So onto Plan B.

 

Which was to cook the goose on the BBQ! I was a bit sceptical that my Dad could pull it off, but he said “Don’t worry, I’m an engineer” and he’d done some research on recipes for stuffing the bird so he sounded like he knew what he was doing. Steve and I arrived at my Dad’s house about 12pm on Christmas Day and we could smell the goose cooking as soon as we got out of the car. It smelled so good that a hungry fox couldn’t help but investigate where the delicious smell was coming from and my Dad had to chase it away.

 

My Dad said he lit the BBQ at 9.30am and starting cooking the goose at about 10am. It was ready roughly after 2pm and we were starving. Luckily my Mum had bought a roast duck from a Chinese supermarket and so we had duck in pancakes with cucumber, spring onion and hoi-sin sauce as a starter. Very non-traditional but we liked it! After this we were pretty full but we still managed to scoff down the goose, pork sausage meat stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips and veggies. My brother did the potatoes and veggies and they were excellent. He also has a halogen oven as my Mum bought one for him too. She now owns 2 of them herself. I think she must have shares in the company!

The goose was nicely cooked, but it was a little too smoky for us which is a shame as my Dad put a lot of effort into it.

 

I did Crème Brulee for dessert. I’m still perfecting my recipe and technique, but everyone loved it and I had fun using my blowtorch.

 

I’d made a Banana Cake for my Mum as a gift. I used Andi Peter’s recipe and it worked out really well. I forgot to take a photo so will have to make it again and blog the recipe.

I’d also made some cakes using a new cake tin that Steve bought for me. It had 3 different shapes: Santa, a snowman and a Christmas tree. I was going to decorate the cakes but I ran out of time as I’d made loads of Ecclefechan Tarts as well. We still ate the cakes about a week after Christmas, but as a pudding. I poured golden syrup all over the cake, then covered it with custard and nuked it in the microwave for 1 minute. It tasted just like treacle sponge pudding! Steve had his with strawberry jam. I just used the cupcake recipe for the cakes, so I will definitely make this again for a quick and easy pudding!

Grow Your Own 2009

MAY 19TH:

Raisedbed19MayI’ve finally received my raised bed from Harrod Horticultural! There were 3 parts to the delivery and I received 2 parts on Friday 15th May, which were the boards and the corner links and one 1 metre dowel, but the other 2 metre dowel didn’t arrive until Monday 18th May. I went away for the weekend so I couldn’t have put it together anyway, but I would have preferred if the whole lot had been delivered altogether just for peace of mind!

 

The kit I ordered is called the Children’s Link-A-Bord kit and it costs £29.95 but I used a 10% discount code so I got it cheaper. I chose this kit because it measures 1 metre wide x 0.5 metre deep, so it fits really well in the space we have on the patio. Harrod Horticultural also sell a kit which is exactly the same size as the one I bought (product code GDN-749), but they are charging £30.40 for it, so I saved a few pennies getting the Children’s one!

I was going to buy my kit directly from www.linkabord.co.uk but they don’t have this sized kit, although you can order parts separately but that worked out more expensive.

 

Anyway, as you can see from the photo I’ve managed to put it together. The boards and the corner links fitted together quite easily, but I had a bit of trouble getting the dowels through the holes as this kit is 2 raised beds stacked on top of each other. I cut the dowels with a hacksaw which was easy and I left them longer than the depth of the bed as I thought I might need to tie things onto them, like a cover or net.

 

The seedlings need to acclimatise for a week before I plant them outside permanently, so I’ll leave them in the empty bed during the day and bring them in at night. The weather is really unsettled at the moment and it’s very windy, so the bed is offering some protection.

As the bed has no base, when I put the soil in I will be putting it directly onto the patio as it’s just concrete. I did check with the Link-a-Bord customer services and they said this was fine to do. Obviously I’ll put some broken crocks at the bottom for drainage and I’ve got 2 bags of multi-purpose compost at 40 litres each, so that should fill it up. I’m still debating about whether to buy some Miracle-Gro Fruit and Vegetable Feed to mix in with the compost before I put my plants in. There’s probably enough nutrients in the compost, so I’ll probably just put some feed on once the fruits appear on the plants.

 

MARCH 22ND:

 

Raisedbedsetup_thumbThe plants have been outside during the day and brought in at night all week, getting ready to be planted in the raised bed permanently.

 

  1. I bought some copper tape to deter the slugs from B&Q. It cost £4.98 for 4 metres so I had plenty to go all the way around. Apparently copper gives slugs and snails a little electric shock, so they steer clear of it. I wanted to use this instead of slug pellets as I’m growing veggies and want to keep it as free from chemicals as possible. It was really easy to use as you just peel off the backing paper and stick on the copper layer. It’s very thin and it’s a bit like that gold leaf that you put on poncey cakes/desserts!
  2. I chucked in some crocks for drainage, it was a total guess if this would be enough! I used a pot that had been smashed by the bloke who lives across the road, as he lost control of his car and drove straight into the pot which was on the front doorstep! Lucky he didn’t go through the front door! Idiot!
  3. I really thought 2 bags of 40 litre compost would be enough to fill the bed! Oh how wrong I was! Photo 3 shows the bed after I’d put only 1 bag of compost in – not even half full!
  4. So I did a quick search on Google and read that the bed should be filled a couple of inches from the top. I also read a mixture of compost and soil would be OK so I went around the garden and collected about 6-7 buckets of soil. It had loads of stones and other stuff like dead leaves, but I guessed this would be good for drainage and possibly nutrients (I’m such an amateur!). So I mixed the soil in with the other bag of compost and managed to fill the bed up just over half full.

If I’d used my brain I would have easily realised that 2 bags of compost wasn’t enough! If I’d stacked the bags on top of each other inside the empty bed then I would have seen how much of the bed they would have filled. So I think you need at least 5 bags of compost (40 litres) to fill the bed, which could work out quite expensive!

 

I bought a 1kg bag of Slow Release Plant Food from Wilkinsons, so I put in about a quarter of the bag and mixed it into the soil and compost.

 

So I’ll be planting my seedlings out over the weekend, which will hopefully make them happier as they’re looking a bit droopy right now!

JUNE 1ST:

Allplanted1labelled_thumb

Steve’s Mum kindly let me use a bag of compost she’d bought, so the raised bed is a bit fuller now. I’d watered the soil/compost the day before, so I thought it would be OK to plant everything today.

 

As you can see from the lovely photo I took (and decorated in Photoshop, isn’t it colourful!) I’ve tried to space things out so the plants have room to grow.

 

I grew almost everything from seed in peat pots, but I took almost all the seedlings out of the peat pots as I planted them in the bed to give the roots more freedom. The butternut squash were planted still in their peat pots as their roots had grown right through the peat pots.

 

  • TOMATOES: I read they needed to be 45cm apart, but I’ve also bought a grow bag and I just used the same spacing as marked out on the grow bag. So I’ve put 3 plants at the back of the bed and I’ll put 3 more in the grow bag.
  • BASIL: I read the tomatoes like to be grown near basil as it improves the flavour, so I’ve planted some in between each tomato plant.
  • BUTTERNUT SQUASH: These needed to be 100cm apart, but as my bed is only 100cm long I decided I’d try and put one plant at each end and hope for the best! They apparently grow quite big so I’ve left quite a bit of space around them, but I’m hoping they won’t take over the whole bed. I’ve also planted another plant in a big pot 11 inches in diameter.
  • BEETROOT: These needed to be about 2cm apart, so I planted the 6 seedlings in 2 short rows. I didn’t plant them very deep, only about 2.5cm.
  • CARROTS: I sprinkled the seeds straight into a 1cm deep trench and covered lightly with compost, then watered. Hopefully these will sprout!
  • ONIONS: Steve’s sister gave me some onion sets as she had loads leftover, so I’ve planted 3 in a row as they need to be about 10cm apart.
  • LETTUCE: The lettuce has been growing but it’s never looked healthy and I’m really hoping it will do better in the bed. I’ve also put some in a deeper pot as I think the ice cream tub I sowed the seeds in was too shallow.
  • PEPPER: When I went to Wilkinson’s I couldn’t resist buying a Pepper plant as it was reduced to 75p! It was already quite established so hopefully it will bear some lovely peppers.

Allplanted_thumb

As you can see from the above photo, I’ve put some green plastic things (they came with some plants Steve’s mum bought)over the plants to protect them from cats and squirrels. I’m also hoping I can train the butternut squash to grow around them in a circle. I’ve also used an empty plastic tray to cover some of the beetroots that weren’t growing too well.

 

 

 

Bedwire1June_thumb

Something dug a big hole where my carrots were! We suspect it was a squirrel as they’re always digging things up in the garden and I saw one nearby when I found the hole – pesky thing! So I’ve put chicken wire over the plants to protect them as that seems quite effective. You can buy something similar from Harrod Horticultural called Rabbit Wire.

 

Bedcover1June_thumb

This is the cover I made from a Medium Plant Fleece Jacket, which I’d bought from Harrod Horticultural last Winter. I just cut it so that it was one flat piece of fabric. As it was a drawstring bag I just put a cane through where the string had been on both ends and then staked each cane at opposite ends of the bed. I pull the cover down when it’s too hot and I don’t want the plants to get too much sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the progress of all my plants on these pages:

December 20, 2009

Oven baked Rosti Potatoes

Rosti 1

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

I’ve never had much luck making rosti potatoes in a pan, as they never go as crispy as I’d like them to be, so they’re not overly satisfying. But these oven baked ones go really crispy on the outside whilst being soft and fluffy on the inside and they are just so good! This is how good they are: Steve doesn’t really like potatoes and he ate 6, which is the same amount as me and I LOVE potatoes!

 

They do require a fair bit of effort to prepare and 1 hour to cook in the oven, but they really are worth it.

Rosti 2

 

1 small onion might not seem like enough, but you don’t need too much as you don’t want the onion flavour to overpower the potatoes. I add garlic powder for a little extra flavour, but this is optional and you can obviously use fresh garlic too.

 

  • Makes: 12
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • You will need: a 12 hole bun tray, lightly oiled

 

Ingredients:

  • 675g (1½lb) potatoes, scrubbed clean (this is roughly 6 medium potatoes)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 50g (2oz) butter, melted
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for drizzling

 

Directions:

  1. Par boil the potatoes for 10 minutes, until they are half cooked. Drain and leave until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel and grate the potatoes coarsely and place in a bowl with the onion, garlic powder and the melted butter. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  3. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C.
  4. Press the mixture into the prepared bun tray.
  5. Drizzle a little oil over each rosti and cook for 1 hour or until golden brown and crispy.
  6. Remove from the tin as soon as possible, otherwise they might stick as they cool down.

 

Rosti 3

ALTERNATIVE IDEAS:

  • Top with cheese and cooked chopped bacon 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
  • Add herbs, such as parsley, before pressing the mixture into the tray.

December 14, 2009

Christmas Cookies - Spicy Ginger Biscuits

Spicy Ginger Cookies

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

The recipe for these cookies is from BBC Good Food and it works well. The biscuits are nice and crunchy and there is just enough ginger to give your tongue a tingle.

They did spread more than I expected, so I would leave at least a 3cm gap between each biscuit.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I left my dough in the fridge overnight, so I did leave it out on the worktop for about an hour to warm up before rolling out.

 

I used my marzipan spacers to roll out the dough, so they were all an even 6mm thick. I baked mine for 15 minutes.

 

I didn’t use white chocolate to decorate as the recipe suggested, as I still had some royal icing leftover from my other Christmas Cookies.

 

I would make these again as they’re really easy to make and keep their crunch!

 

Ingredients:

  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 85g golden syrup
  • 100g butter
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 350g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

 

Directions:

  1. Heat the sugar, golden syrup and butter until melted. Mix the spices and flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1 tsp cold water. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the melted sugar mix, egg and bicarbonate of soda. Mix well. At this stage the mix will be soft but will firm up on cooling.
  2. Cover the surface of the biscuit mix with cling film and leave to cool, then put in the fridge for at least 1 hr to become firm enough to roll out.
  3. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. (At this stage the dough can be put into a food bag and kept in the fridge for up to a week.) Cut the dough in half. Thinly roll out one half on a lightly floured surface. Cut into shapes with cutters, such as gifts, trees and hearts, then transfer to baking sheets, leaving a little room for them to spread. If you plan to hang the biscuits up, make a small hole in the top of each one using a skewer. Repeat with remaining dough.
  4. Bake for 12-15 mins until they darken slightly. If the holes you have made have closed up, remake them while the biscuits are warm and soft using a skewer. Cool for a few mins on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool and harden up completely.
  5. Break up the chocolate and melt in the microwave on Medium for 1-2 mins, or in a small heatproof bowl over simmering water. Drizzle the chocolate over the biscuits, or pipe on shapes or names, then stick a few silver balls into the chocolate. If hung up on the tree, the biscuits will be edible for about a week, but will last a lot longer as decorations.

December 10, 2009

Christmas Cookies – trial run!

All

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

Everyone seems to be making cupcakes and I decided I wanted to do something a bit different. I really liked the idea of decorated cookies as there are so many different shapes you can make and I felt there was more freedom to be creative.

 

For my first attempt I’m really pleased at how they turned out. Admittedly I did choose very simple designs for the snowflakes and Christmas trees, but you have to learn to walk before you can run! My reindeer definitely needs some work, but that was just a bit of fun!

 

I absolutely loved decorating these cookies and can’t wait to try different designs and shapes. I found it very relaxing and therapeutic icing the cookies and I would LOVE to do this as a job, so I’m going to practice as much as possible and hopefully I can do something I enjoy for a living!

 

Blue Tree

 

I’ve never made/decorated cookies like this before, so I had to do quite a bit of research about how to do it and what equipment I needed before starting. I did borrow Peggy Porshen’s ‘Romantic Cakes’ book from the library which was quite inspiring and gave me an idea of what I could achieve after some practice! But as a complete beginner it didn’t really give me the information I needed. So I was really glad I found a fantastic website called Cake Journal where there was absolutely loads of information and tutorials.

 

Blue Tree Pink and White Snowflakes

THE COOKIE DOUGH:

I chose to use the Vanilla Sugar Cookie recipe from the Cake Journal website and it worked really well as they didn’t spread and they tasted good!

The recipe suggests using half confectioners (icing) sugar and half normal sugar. I actually used all normal granulated sugar, but I whizzed it up in the food processor on its own before making the cookie dough, to make it a finer texture.

 

I made the dough in a food processor rather than a mixer. The dough was very sticky and like wet sand, so I was a bit worried it would be too soft to work with. But after chilling in the fridge it was fine and very easy to work with (the recipe states to chill for 2 hours, but I actually had it in the fridge for 4 days as I was suffering from a cold and too ill to bake!). I did find some big lumps of butter in my dough when I came to roll it out, so I will probably use a mixer next time! I only used a small amount of the dough for my trial run of cookies and I’ve kept the rest in the freezer.

 

I used quite small cutters, so I only needed to bake the cookies for 15 minutes. I baked the first batch using my Magic Non-Stick Liner and they browned a lot more evenly on the bases than when I just used normal non-stick paper.

 

Pink Tree

THE ICING:

Cookie decorating seems to be very much an American thing, so all the books and websites I’ve read have a recipe for the royal icing that you need to use. Luckily in the UK we can buy all-in-one royal icing in a box made by Silverspoon, which is available in most supermarkets. I’ve never used this type of icing before, but it was easy as you just add water and then mix for about 5 minutes with electric beaters. Getting the consistency right for piping is something I need to practice, as I think I had it just a tad too thick. I did follow the advice on another great website I found called Sweetopia as there’s a great tutorial on cookie decorating, in particular the consistency of icing.

 

I had loads of icing leftover and I thought it would be OK to store in the squeezy bottles as they had screw-top lids. But the icing split and didn’t look very good after a few weeks, so I threw it away.

Snowflake white

THE EQUIPMENT:

The Cake Journal How To flood cookies with royal icing tutorial was really helpful in discovering what I would need to buy to decorate my cookies. So here’s what I’ve bought so far:

  • Squeezy nozzled bottles as they looked so much easier to use than piping bags and I loved that you can store any unused icing in the bottles. www.cakescookiesandcraftsshop.co.uk is the only website I could find that sold these bottles in the UK and luckily they were reasonably priced so I bought 6. I would say the nozzles on these bottles are a size No.3 and I found the holes a little big to draw neat lines, but they would be perfect for flooding, which is what Louise from the Cake Journal website suggests them to be used for. She says she prefers to use an icing bag to outline her cookies, but I found a squeezy bottle with a No.2 nozzle on it worked really well for me.
  • I also bought marzipan spacers from the same website as they were quite cheap and they really made rolling out the cookie dough to the right thickness so much easier and quicker.
  • To colour my icing I used Wilton Icing Colours which are concentrated pastes of colour so that it doesn’t water down your icing. They’re really good as you only need a tiny amount to colour your icing to a vibrant shade.

Snowflakes

Resources/inspiration:

www.cakejournal.com

www.sweetopia.net

www.cakescookiesandcraftsshop.co.uk

www.customcookieco.co.uk

www.peggyporschen.com

Here are some more I did recently:

Xmas cookies new

November 27, 2009

Ecclefechan Tarts

Ecclefechan 2 

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

You’re probably wondering, what the heck are Ecclefechan Tarts?! Well Steve and I only became aware of them last year when we attended a Sainsburys Christmas Press Show and we were offered one to try.

 

It is a traditional Scottish tart which is a combination of treacle tart and mince pie and it is a traditional recipe from Ecclefechan in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland.

Although they’re available in Sainsburys all year round, we haven’t actually bought any since we tried them. Instead I decided to try making them myself and I managed to find a recipe online. I plan to make these as Christmas gifts, so this is sort of a trial run to see how it works out.

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

Unfortunately the recipe didn’t state how much pastry was needed or how many tarts it made. So I just used the 225g of homemade Pâte Brisée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry) that I had in the freezer. I managed to make 12 tarts from this amount of pastry, but I had so much filling leftover that I think I could have made double the amount of tarts. I have put the leftover filling into a airtight container and stored it in the fridge for another time.

 

The recipe doesn’t tell you to put a lid on the tarts and the ones we had at Sainsburys didn’t have lids, but I had little bit of pastry leftover so I thought I’d made some little Christmas trees to put on the top and I think they look good. They don’t look anything like the ones from Sainsburys as they’re not as deep and the treacle has turned quite a dark colour on mine, but that is the most delicious part of it!

 

Ecclefechan 1

 

I wasn’t sure how these were going to turn out as the recipe seemed a bit strange with the vinegar, but you can’t taste it. I added less fruit than the recipe suggested because it seemed like too much. I also whizzed up the nuts using my mini-chopper so they were quite fine instead of just chopping them by hand as I think it gave the filling a better texture.

 

TASTE TEST:

Steve and I really liked them and they tasted just as good as the Sainsburys ones (well we think they did, as we ate those ones back in July 2008 so it’s hard to remember!) and Steve’s Mum did like them but thought they were a bit too sweet. We all agreed though that they’re much nicer than mince pies and would prefer to have these at Christmas!

 

  • Makes: should make at least 24 tarts
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • You will need: 2 x 12 bun tins

 

Ingredients:

  • At least 500g (I think!) Sweet Shortcrust pastry/Pâte Brisée
  • 125g (4oz) melted butter
  • 200g (6oz) soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar (I just used white wine vinegar)
  • 200g (7oz) mixed dried fruit (I used sultanas and currants)
  • 50g (2oz) nuts, finely chopped ( I used walnuts and almonds)

 

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mix the sugar and melted butter together, then add the beaten eggs.
  2. Stir in the vinegar, then add mixed fruit and nuts.
  3. Roll out your pastry to about 2mm thick and cut out circles to line your bun tins. (As you’re not blind baking the pastry first, put your lined tins in the fridge for about 10 minutes to prevent them shrinking).
  4. Fill each pastry case with about a Tablespoonful of the mixture (give it a good stir first as the fruit and nuts will sink to the bottom of the bowl).
  5. If you have leftover pastry then you can cut out shapes to lay on the top as lids.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C until golden brown.
  7. Leave to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack (I usually wait until the tin is cool enough to handle but don’t leave them too long in the tins otherwise the treacle will set and you’ll have a job getting them out!).
  8. Eat them whilst they’re warm!

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • I used up the other half of the filling by making 9 tarts, but this time I used a slightly bigger cutter so they were deeper and could hold more filling. I baked them for 25 minutes.
  • As an experiment I have put one tart in the freezer and I will thaw it out and reheat in the oven to see if they can be successfully frozen. This will be handy as I plan to give these as gifts so I can make them in advance. Watch this space! These freeze perfectly! Just defrost in the fridge overnight and then pop into a preheated oven at Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C for 15-20 minutes.

November 17, 2009

Banana Cake

Banana Cake

 

MUNCH RATING: 3/5

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE: 

I wanted to make an oil-based Banana Cake, so I found a recipe online and I added my own tweaks. First of all, I used a loaf tin instead of a 7-inch round tin. Secondly, I added some chopped walnuts to add texture. Thirdly, I added some freshly grated nutmeg and some ground cinnamon for added flavour.

 

TASTE TEST:

The cake turned out OK, but it wasn’t very sweet (4 Tablespoons of sugar isn’t much) and it didn’t have a very strong banana flavour, despite the bananas being really ripe. I personally don’t like Banana Cake to have a strong banana taste so this suited me, but I would like it to be sweeter. We liked the walnuts, but I couldn't really taste the ground spices, so I would increase the amount I used next time. Overall it was quite a bland cake, but the texture was quite nice. It was much lighter than some Banana Cakes we’ve had in the past.

Steve and his Mum had it with butter on (because they call it Banana Bread and therefore butter is a necessity!) and Steve tried a bit toasted and he said it brought out the flavour a bit more.

 

The recipe says to grease and line your tin with baking parchment, but I just used my new Cake Release from Lakeland and the cake came out perfectly.

 

I now have 2 other Banana Cake recipes to try: one by Andi Peters which is in the Show Guide from BBC Good Food Show/MasterChef Live, and one in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. They both use butter instead of oil, so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.

Banana Cake-1

 

  • Serves: 8
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Oven shelf: middle
  • You will need: a 18cm (7-inch) round deep cake tin or a loaf tin (mine was 23 x 12.5 x 6cm)

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, ripe bananas, about 400g in total, weighed with
    their skins on
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons light muscovado sugar
  • a few grates of fresh nutmeg (about ¼ teaspoon of ground)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (will try adding more)
  • 6 Tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 6 Tablespoons semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g walnuts, chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. Grease your tin (and line the bottom with baking parchment).
  3. Peel the bananas, then mash with a fork.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir
    in the sugar, grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon.
  5. Whisk together the oil, milk and eggs and
    fold into the flour mixture.
  6. Gently fold in the walnuts and mashed bananas until just incorporated – don’t over-mix or the cake will be tough.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50–55 minutes or until the banana cake is well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then loosen the edge of the cake with a knife and turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • The banana cake can be kept in an airtight tin for up to 4 days.

November 16, 2009

BBC Good Food Show/MasterChef Live London 2009

Panorama1

 

First of all, I apologise for the bad quality of the photos. I only took my old Sony compact camera and I had to zoom-in quite a lot, so a lot of the photos are blurry.

Anyway, Steve and I enjoyed the show on Friday and we got to taste a lot of nice food by just wandering around the various stalls and picking up taster samples. We ate so many things that we didn’t even buy any lunch!

 

The venue was Olympia and I think it’s a good venue for the show, as it’s quite big so there is plenty of space for all the stalls, demo areas and people.

 

As we first walked in, we picked up a free Show Guide which detailed when and where all the demonstrations would be taking place. It also had a map so you could easily see where all the food stalls were. The guide is also chock full of recipes!

 

The first demo we saw was at one of the small Hot Tips Pods, as we were just in time to catch Theo Randall and his ‘Pasta For Beginners’ demo.

Theo Randall demo Theo cracking his eggs for the pasta.

 

I saw Theo making his pasta on Saturday Kitchen Live a few weeks ago, but I was still interested to see him make it again. He uses a lot of eggs in his fresh pasta, to give it a much better flavour and the colour was amazing.

Theo Randall demo-1 Theo whizzes up the eggs, Italian ‘00’ flour and semolina flour in a food processor.

 

He made the pasta dough in the food processor, so it was very quick and easy (apart from the equipment not being set up for him when he arrived!). Then he said you should let it rest, but he carried on with the demo to show us how to roll the dough out using a pasta machine.

Theo Randall demo-2 Theo starts rolling out the pasta.

 

He said the best brand of pasta machine to buy was Imperia and you can get a decent machine for about £35.

Theo Randall demo-3 The pasta is all rolled out and ready to use.

 

Theo said you shouldn’t fold the pasta when you keep rolling it, otherwise it will crack and all fall apart when you cook it.

Theo Randall demo-4 Theo makes ravioli.

 

He made a filling of spinach and ricotta to make ravioli. He simply placed balls of the mixture onto the pasta sheets, then folded it over to encase the mixture, making sure to press down to squeeze out any air bubbles.

 

Unfortunately he didn’t have the facilities to cook the ravioli so that we could try it. But he said it was easy to cook in boiling water for a few minutes and then fry in a pan with some butter and sage.

 

It was a short demo, but I was inspired to learn more and afterwards I queued up to speak to him (I had to wait for all the giggling teenage girls to finish having their photo taken with him and get his autograph) to ask if you could freeze the ravioli and/or the pasta dough. He said you can freeze the ravioli and it’s best to make sure they’re all separated on a tray when you freeze them and also when you come to defrost them. He said the pasta dough can also be frozen. I also asked him about resting the dough in the fridge and whether it should be covered. He said it should be well covered to stop it drying out. I thought his demo was excellent and I would love to have a go at making my own fresh pasta now! Theo was also a top bloke and very nice to chat to.

 

Oishii Japan Next we stumbled into the Japanese area, where you could buy a bowl of freshly cooked Udon Noodles, buy Japanese ingredients and sample sake.

 

Sushi demo 1 There were also Sushi making demonstrations and this is Takanori Kurokawa from Nobu, showing us how to mould the sushi rice into the correct shape. He did it incredibly quickly, so it was amazing to watch. Apparently if you’re too heavy-handed with the rice and squash it too much in your hands, then it will be too compressed and difficult to eat. That’s why it takes so many years for them to train to perfect moulding the rice.

 

Sushi Demo 1-1He topped the rice with salmon and wasabi (which they were promoting) and also avocado and an onion dressing. Steve and I got to try the salmon sushi and it was amazing as the texture of the rice was so soft and melt-in-the-mouth. We weren’t too keen on the wasabi though! Unfortunately we scoffed the sushi before I remembered to take a photo!

 

Blue elephant We then walked through the ‘Restaurant Experience’ area where you can buy dishes from some top gourmet restaurants. You had to purchase Dining Currency from one of the booths and then go and order your food. The menu and decorations from the Blue Elephant caught our eyes, but we weren’t that hungry from all the taster samples we’d eaten. The other restaurants were: Roast To Go, Cafe Spice Namaste, Launceston Place, Skylon, Boxwood Cafe, Urban Caprice, Theo Randall at The InterContinental, Min Jiang and also The MasterChef Restaurant (featuring dishes by past winners).

 

Blue Elephant Fruit Beautiful, intricately decorated fruit.

Olly warms up the crowd

We then found the ‘Cookery Experience’ section just as the Cook-Off between Nadia Sawalha and Thomasina Miers was about to begin.

I didn’t think we’d be able to see this part of the show because we’d only bought a standard ticket and I thought this stage area would only be visible to those who had paid an extra £6. But the extra money only gets you a seat in front of the stage, so it’s really not worth it as we got a pretty good view just standing outside the sectioned off area.

Anyway, our favourite wine expert Olly Smith was hosting the event and got the crowd suitably warmed up with his “I’m the lovechild of Draco Malfoy and Pat Butcher!” gag.

 

Masterchef Live-1Then on comes John Torode and Gregg Wallace. I’m personally not a big fan of them and they put me off watching MasterChef. But I wanted to see what Nadia and Tommi were going to cook. Nadia went down the savoury route and knocked together a fried egg dish similar to Huevos rancheros, whilst Tommi did flat puff pastry discs with raspberries and custard. The judges weren’t that impressed with either dish, but they had to choose a winner and it was Tommi.

 

The Cook-Off wasn’t all that exciting really and it wasn’t very well organised as the cooks didn’t have all the equipment they needed, so Olly Smith and James Martin had to run around looking for things like tin openers!

 

So James Martin was kept busy before doing a book signing at The Book People stall, where I picked up a copy of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook for only £4 (RRP. £16.99!). I was disappointed to read lots of bad reviews about this book on Amazon when I got home, as people have complained about the recipes not being tested properly and therefore the quantities and timings are completely useless. But some people have raved about the book, so I have been messaging them and asking which recipes have actually worked. I guess it will be a good challenge trying to use this book!

There were also lots of other cookery books on sale (Ching, Rick Stein, James Martin) and also some gardening books, all at very cheap prices.

 

James Martin spun sugar We caught the end of James’ cooking demonstration as he was doing spun sugar. The housewives’ favourite got a big cheer and this picture of him shown at the end cracked me up:

James Martin

UPSTAIRS:

Producers village signUpstairs was called the ‘Producers Village’ and there were lots of stalls selling their fine food and drink. We bought some excellent fudge from Yum Yum Tree Fudge as it was so soft and the flavours were really good. We got Mint, Lemon Bon Bon, Cappuccino and White Chocolate.

 

I did consider buying some green tea from Choi Time as it was very nice, but when I asked if they could do a discount on 2 packs of tea costing £14 each and they offered me the deal of £30, I walked away as they obviously had no clue on how to add up! Their product is good, but they need to make it clearer as to the quantity you’re actually buying in each packet.

 

One other stall that impressed us was Lauden Chocolate, as the designs were absolutely amazing. Unfortunately the only sample we got to taste was the Champagne flavoured ones and neither me or Steve like Champagne! They contained real Marc de Champagne, so the flavour was very strong and intense. These were very well made chocolates and this was reflected in the high price tag. They would make a brilliant gift for someone who likes posh chocs, but everyone we know just likes Cadburys!

 

Nadia Cooking Demo There were also more cooking demos and here is Nadia pounding the hell out of some meat.

Overall the show was quite good. The stalls were very generous with all their taster samples, so we didn’t go hungry. If I’d had more cash to splash then I probably would have bought a lot more things (take cash with you as the cash machines in Olympia charge you and not all the stalls take cards).

 

I really enjoyed the cooking demos but the whole MasterChef thing was a waste of time in my opinion. I’m glad we only bought standard tickets as there was enough for us to see without the upgrade.

 

So the question is: would I go again?

 

Yes, if I could get free tickets! Apart from watching and meeting the chefs, there isn’t that much that is new if you’ve ever visited shows like Spirit of Christmas or the Ideal Home Show, as the stalls are generally the same. But it was a good day out and I might go again in a couple of years time.

November 6, 2009

Vegged Out Macaroni Cheese

Vegged Out Macaroni Cheese 1

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

Macaroni Cheese is one of those comfort foods that I really love, but I don’t make it very often as it can take a long time to make from scratch – this took me about 1½ hours!  But it was a labour of love that was really worth it, as all the veggies made it really tasty and slightly healthy to offset all that cheese!

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I actually halved the amount of cheese that the original recipe suggested, as 400g seemed really excessive! The addition of all the veggies adds a lot of flavour, so you really don’t need loads of cheese. I also changed/omitted some of the veggies to suit what I had in the fridge. I also used Panko breadcrumbs instead of fresh, as that is what I had to hand.

 

TASTE TEST:

Steve wasn’t sure if he liked the breadcrumbs, as it reminded him too much of fish pie, which he isn’t keen on. But he said he wouldn’t have known they were breadcrumbs if I hadn’t told him – he thought it was just crispy golden cheese. But I liked the breadcrumbs on top, as they gave the topping a nice contrasting texture. Steve said this was the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever made and he literally licked his plate clean!

 

  • Serves: 4
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
  • You will need: a large ovenproof dish, lightly oiled

 

Ingredients:

  • 400g macaroni
  • 150g streaky bacon, thinly sliced (I used a small packet of pancetta cubes)
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced (I used 1 medium onion, finely chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced (I used small orange peppers)
  • 150g broccoli florets (I omitted this because I couldn’t be bothered to chop it up!)
  • 110g frozen peas
  • 100g tinned sweetcorn, drained (I used a whole small tin)
  • 60g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 600ml cold semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 400g mixture of mature cheddar, red Gloucester and Cheshire cheeses, grated (I used 200g mixture mature and mild cheddar cheeses)
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used Panko instead)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
  2. Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the pack instructions until al dente (my pack said 13 minutes, so I cooked for 8 minutes). Drain well and run under cold water. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook the bacon/pancetta in ½ Tablespoon olive oil until crisp and golden, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the sliced leek/onion to the pan without adding any extra fat and cook over a medium heat, until very soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened, then throw in the broccoli (if using) and peas. Add a splash of water and cook for 1-2 minutes until the broccoli is still a little crunchy and the peas are just tender. Transfer to the bowl with the macaroni in, mix in the sweetcorn and set aside.
  4. Make the cheese sauce: place the butter, flour and cold milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil whisking. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, whisking all the time. Once thickened, cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the mustard and ¾ of the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.
  5. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and vegetable mixture and give everything a good stir, then spoon into a large ovenproof dish. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the top of the pasta and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and bubbling.

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • The recipe said you can freeze this dish, so I froze half of it without any cheese or breadcrumbs on top. Apparently you can freeze for up to 1 month – we shall see if it tastes just as good once defrosted and reheated! To reheat: bake at Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C for 40-50 minutes.
  • This can obviously be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon/pancetta.

 

Vegged Out Macaroni Cheese 2

Profiteroles (Choux Pastry)

Profiteroles

 

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

 

After watching the episode of Good Eats called ‘Choux Shine’ I decided to follow Alton Brown’s advice of using bread flour when making choux pastry. I didn’t use his recipe though, I just used bread flour instead of plain flour in a recipe I already had, because his recipe makes 48 profiteroles and I didn’t want that many. I’m not sure the bread flour makes a huge difference, but they did puff up in the oven and didn’t deflate when I took them out, which is the problem that some people have.

 

Profiteroles 1

 

I’m not a huge fan of cream, so I filled them with ice cream instead. The chocolate sauce is really gorgeous and so easy to make. This quantity of sauce will be enough for 6-8 people, so I just put the remainder in the fridge where it can stay for 3 days.

 

I will try Alton’s recipe next time, as this recipe only makes 12 and they went down very well, so I’m sure that more will be needed for next time!

 

  • Makes: 12 profiteroles
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C then reduce to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • You will need: a deep saucepan, a baking sheet lined with parchment or Magic Non-Stick Liner.

 

Ingredients:

FOR THE CHOUX PASTRY
  • 25g butter
  • 150ml water
  • 50g plain or bread flour
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 egg, beaten
FOR THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE
  • 100g plain chocolate (I used Asda Value)
  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 Tablespoons golden syrup
FOR THE FILLING
  • Vanilla ice cream (I used Carte D'Or)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C.
  2. Sift the flour onto a piece of greaseproof paper.
  3. Put the butter and water into a deep saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil.
  4. Then add all the flour at once and quickly lift off the heat, beating hard with a wooden spoon until you get a smooth, thick paste that comes away from the sides of the saucepan (about 30-40 seconds). If necessary replace the pan over the heat and beat for a few minutes.
  5. With the pan off the heat, add the egg yolk and beat really well until it is incorporated (it might seem like it has curdled and won’t mix in, but persevere!), then add the beaten egg a little at a time (you might not need it all) beating continuously. The mixture should be thick and shiny and be able to stand up on its own.
  6. Place the choux pastry into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle and pipe blobs in a circular motion onto the lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at Gas mark 7/425°F/220°C, then reduce to Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for 20 minutes, until they are golden brown and feel dry to the touch.
  8. Remove from the oven, then use a skewer to poke a hole in the bottom of each one to allow the steam to escape and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Split the profiteroles in half, then sandwich the halves together with a generous teaspoon of vanilla ice cream.
  10. To make the sauce: Place the chocolate, double cream and golden syrup in a small saucepan and gently heat until the chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth and glossy. Pour over the profiteroles.

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • I recommend watching Alton’s ‘Choux Shine’ episode to get a really good idea of how to make choux pastry, as he shows you what the texture should be like. It’s also quite an amusing episode!
  • Since my piping bag busted, I used a plastic food bag instead (like Alton suggests) and it worked really well.
  • I made the pastry by hand, which was fine, but when I try Alton’s recipe I will use a mixer because it is a much bigger quantity and it will be easier to incorporate all those eggs!

Profiteroles 2

‘Choux Shine’ episode Part 1

‘Choux Shine’ episode Part 2

 

November 4, 2009

Rachel Allen’s Irish Apple Cake

Apple Cake-1

 

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

 

I’ve had this recipe on my blog for a long time (since August 2008) and according to my stat-counter, it is one of the most searched for recipes. I hadn’t made it for ages, so I thought it was about time I made it again and also updated the photo, because the old one was truly terrible and made the cake look really unappetising! To be honest, these photos aren’t that much better and don’t really do the cake justice!

 

This cake is really very good. It’s super crunchy on the outside, with a soft light sponge centre. Perfect with a cup of tea or equally delicious as a pudding drowned in custard.

 

Apple Cake 2

 

I have made this both by hand and in the food processor. It is a sticky dough type cake, rather than a sponge batter, so I really recommend using a food processor, otherwise it’s a bit messy!

 

CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:

I make a few small changes to Rachel’s recipe. First of all, I only use 1 eating apple instead of 2 Bramley cooking apples. This is because I’m not a big fan of Bramley’s and also because we always have eating apples in the house that are past their best and this is a great way to use them up. Secondly, I use 1 Tablespoon of Demerara sugar on the top, instead of caster sugar, as I think it gives a crunchier topping.

 

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 40-50 minutes
  • You will need: 20cm/8inch springform/loose-bottom cake tin, lightly greased and lined
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Oven shelf position: middle

 

Ingredients:
  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g (3.5oz) cold butter, cubed
  • 100g (3.5oz) caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 100ml (3.5 fl oz) milk
  • 2 medium Bramley cooking apples (or 1 eating apple)
  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven and put a baking tray in the oven to heat.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, then rub in the butter with your fingers until the texture resembles breadcrumbs (alternatively whizz up in a food processor).
  3. Mix in 100g of the sugar, the egg and enough of the milk to form a soft dough - you may not need it all.
  4. Spread one half of the dough into the cake tin - it's quite sticky so this part is a bit messy!
  5. Peel, core and chop up the apple into 2cm squared pieces and place on the dough in the tin.
  6. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar and the cinnamon.
  7. Gently spread the other half of the dough on top of the apples to cover them completely.
  8. Sprinkle over the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake on the baking tray for 40-50 minutes (mine only took 40 minutes in a Gas oven) until golden and crunchy on the outside.

 

COOK’S NOTES:

  • Even if the recipe doesn’t say to do so, I always sift my flour and baking powder to introduce air for a lighter sponge.
  • When greasing and lining your tin, make sure the disc of greaseproof is well stuck to the bottom, as it will make it much easier when you come to spread out half of the dough on the base. I am quite mean when I spread the first half of the dough, so that I know that I will have enough to cover all of the apple with the other half. I find the best utensil for this is a small plastic spatula.

November 3, 2009

Grow your own Butternut Squash 2009

  • PLANT: ‘Hunter’ Butternut Squash
  • PLANTED IN COMPOST: 6 May
  • PLANT OUT: In June (I did it a bit early on 22 May!)
  • FRUITS PER PLANTS: 4 or more
This butternut squash has been specially bred to grow in the British climate.
I planted them in moist compost in peat pots, covered with cling film and left them on the windowsill. The instructions said to plant them vertically, but as they’re tear-drop shaped I wasn’t exactly sure which way up to plant them. So I planted 3 with the point-up and 3 with the point-down.
The photo below was taken on 11 May:
Squash11Maycopy1
2 out of 3 of the point-up seeds sprouted.
Only 1 of the point-down seeds sprouted and the sprout was pointing down into the soil, so I used a pair of tweezers to extract it and turned it upside down.
 
 
The photo below was taken 18 May:
Squash18May
Well I can’t being to tell you how amazed I am at the growth rate of the butternut squash in just one week! 3 of the other seeds have started to sprout which is good.
I’ve been reading that these plants grow pretty big and grow 4 or more fruits, so I’m a bit worried about planting them in my raised bed, in case they take over all the other vegetables! So I’ll probably grow most of them on in large pots.
 
The photo below was taken 22 May:
SquashpreplantingOf all the plants I’ve grown from seed, I’m most shocked and pleased with the butternut squash. I still can’t believe how quickly they’ve grown and they seem to be really strong plants. The roots have totally busted out of the bottom of the peat pots! So I planted the whole thing in the raised bed. I’m a bit early planting them outside, but I think they’ll be better off out in the sunshine and with more room to grow.









I’ve got 4 strong seedlings, but only planted 2 in the raised bed and 1 in a large pot (11 inches diameter) as they need a lot of space.

Squash planted Squash in a pot
 
 
 
 
 
The photo below was take 1 June:
Squash1June1
The squash are all doing really well – the 2 in the raised beds and 2 in separate pots. I’m not sure when they will start to grow flowers for the fruits, but it’s looking good so far!
 
 
 
The photos below were taken on 13 June:
Squash pot 13 JuneMost of the squashes are doing really well, but this one that’s in a pot on its own is doing the best! I think they like a lot of space and this one has its own water source using a water spike I got from Harrod Horticultural, which is good as they’re thirsty plants.
 

 
The photos below were taken on 25 June:
Squashes25June
As you can see the squash plants are getting MASSIVE! They are about 13 inches wide and 15 inches tall now. I am using green plastic things that Steve’s Mum got with some plants she bought (as seen in the small brown pot in front) to train them to grow upwards as I don’t want them spreading too much. Not quite sure what I’m going to do once the fruits start growing!
Here’s a close up shot of the new leaves growing and I’m wondering if that little tendril thing in the middle is the start of some fruit growing?
The photos below were taken 29 June:
Squashtrail29June1
The weather has been very hot during the past week and a heat-wave is expected this week! So all the plants have grown a lot in a week and the squash are fast outgrowing their pots/containers! They are growing really long trails/branches and they’re already about 18 inches long, so not sure how big they’re going to get! So I would advise anyone thinking of growing squash to make sure they have plenty of space!

Squashflowers29Junecopy
I think I might have some flowers growing on the squash now but I’m not 100% sure – they could just be new leaves! So I’ll be keeping an eye on these. I’ve just done a quick search online for pictures of the flowers and they’re yellow and look like courgette flowers. Apparently one butternut squash plant produces both male and female flowers, so the bees need to do their handiwork to pollinate them.
The photos below were taken 11 July:
Squash12July3
The squash plants have gone absolutely mental! They’re trailing all over the place and getting quite tangled up with each other, so I had to separate them and I used a cane to tie some of the longer ones up to train them to grow upwards, rather than all over the floor.





Squash12July2
The squash plant growing in a pot on its own is the first to bear fruit! It has 4 fruits growing on the long trailing bits, so I’ve got rid of my lettuce (I wasn’t eating it anyway) and given that space to 2 of the fruits.


















Squash12July
In this photo you can see a bit more of the flower, which will open up into a pretty yellow flower just like courgettes. I had no idea how the squash would grow, so I’m pretty excited about these!
 
 

 
 
 
 
The photos below were taken 18 July:
Raisedbed18July
The squash plants grew loads during the week, so I had to detangle all the trailing bits. The snails had somehow made their way into the raised bed and had munched on some of the leaves, but luckily the squash weren’t affected as you can see here they’re doing rather nicely! I didn’t get to see the flowers open which is a shame, but I’m still so excited at the progress of the squash!





Squash18JulyThe plant in the pot on its own has the biggest fruit so far.





















Squashpot18JulyI saw on the Good Food channel a man talking about growing giant vegetables and he said he put them in his wife’s stockings and tied the stocking to a cane. This will support the fruit and the stocking will stretch as it grows, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve left the other one just resting on the soil in the pot.











SquashRaisedbed18July
With the squash in the raised bed I’ve tied all the trailing bits to canes as well to try and keep them off the floor as I think that’s how the snails got in, even though the trailing bits have spiky little hairs all over them. I’ve got at least 4 fruits on each plant now, so I have cut back any trailing bits that don’t have any fruit attached.


 
 
 
 
The photos below were taken 25 July:
Squash25July The largest squash fruits are  from the plant growing in the large pot and they are now 3.5 inches long. I have removed the stocking, as Steve thought it might rot if it remained wet. I have used a rubber band to tie the fruit up on a cane so that it gets lots of sun. The other one is just resting on the side of the pot so it’s not sitting in soggy soil.






Squashflower25JulyThere are now quite a few open flowers and I think they're quite pretty. They are 5 inches in diameter and the ants are getting stuck inside!









Squashandflower25JulyHere you can see the flower at the end of a squash fruit. The flower dies and falls off when the fruit gets bigger.







The photos below were taken on 1 August:
Squash1Aug
The squash resting on the pot has grown quite a lot in the past week and it’s now about 4 inches long.










Squash1Aughanging
The one that I had hanging up on a cane is still making progress, but isn’t as big as the other one, so I’ve taken it down and I’ve rested it on the edge of the pot as well.





















Squash1Augtogether
Here you can see the difference in size and shape.













The photos below were taken 4 August:
Squash4Aug
I was so impressed with the squash that were growing in the pot that I failed to spot this beast growing in the raised bed! It’s 5 inches long and a completely different shape to the others! I’ve used some chicken wire to create something for them to rest on, so that they’re not directly on the soil.




Squash4Augdying
Some of the squash aren’t doing too well and I think it’s because I had them tied up on canes. So I’ve now removed all the canes and am letting them grow at ground level. I’ll give them a week to recover and if there are no signs of improvement then I will cut these bad fruits off.













Squash4Augdying2









The photos below were taken 9 August:
Squashinbrownpot9Aug
This is the squash that is growing in a brown plastic pot at the back of the garden. I don’t check on these plants as often as the ones in the raised bed which is right by the back door. So I didn’t notice how big it had grown and it’s now 4 inches long.



















Squashrotten9Aug
This is the other fruit that was growing on the same plant and unfortunately like many other fruits it has gone rotten. I did some research as to why this was happening and it’s because the female flowers weren’t being pollinated properly. So I have done a separate post for how to pollinate by hand in case the bees aren’t doing their job properly!




Squash bad leaves 9 Aug-1
The other problem I’m having is some of the leaves have yellow spots on them. I have a whole list of pests and diseases that could be causing this, but to be honest it’s all a bit over my head and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause!








The photos below were taken on 15 August:
Squash15Aug
These are the fruits that I pollinated by hand and unfortunately it didn’t seem to work as they are starting to go all wrinkly. The flowers did drop off the day after I did it, so maybe I didn’t do it in time? I must have lost about 10 fruits already which is really disappointing.





Squashinpots15Aug
I moved the squash in the terracotta pot to the back of the garden with the other squash and the tomatoes in pots because it was being eaten by a slug or snail (well the slime trails were all over the leaves but I could never find the culprit!). The leaves are still yellow on both plants and the squashes don’t seem to be growing any bigger. Steve’s Mum suggested I add some more compost and some fertiliser, so I’ve done that and fingers crossed they will grow a bit more!
The photo below was taken 18 August:
Squashgonebad18Aug
My largest squash, which is growing in the raised bed, has started to rot! It feels all squidgy at the end where the flower was. I’ve looked on the Internet for what might be the cause, but I can’t find anything. I have been watering the raised bed almost everyday as the weather has been quite warm recently, so maybe I’ve been overwatering? I’m pretty gutted this squash is poorly as it was doing really well growing – it’s 5 inches long and the circumference around the largest part is 10 inches, so it was well on it’s way to looking like a proper squash!
The photos below were taken 21 August:
Squashrotten21Aug
Steve and I went away for a few days and I was hoping their would be some improvement in the rotting squash, but my optimism wasn’t rewarded and I came home to find it had got worse. So with a heavy heart I cut this bad fruit off to give some new fruits a chance. I did some more pollinating by hand on the new fruits, so fingers crossed they will do better!





Squashnew21Aug
I spotted this one hiding at the back of my raised bed and it’s doing pretty well at 4 inches long. I cut back some of the leaves to allow some sunlight to get to it.







Squashbadleaves21Aug
The plants at the back of the garden growing in pots are not showing any signs of improvement since I added more compost and slow-release fertiliser. The leaves have lots of yellow spots and from what I’ve read, this could be mosaic virus OR a magnesium deficiency – it’s so difficult to tell!
The mosaic virus is spread by aphids and apparently you should destroy all affected plants to prevent it spreading to your other healthy plants. You should wash your hands and tools to stop the disease spreading. I really don’t want to destroy the affected plants in case it’s not the mosaic virus and it’s just a case of magnesium deficiency, which can be cured by spraying with Epsom Salts.
So I’m really not sure what to do. I’ve removed all of the yellowing leaves and I think I will just follow the advice from this website.
The photo below was taken on 23 August:
Squashinpots23Aug
These are the squash growing on the plants that I believe to be suffering from the mosaic virus. It looks quite healthy in this photo because I’ve removed all the yellowing leaves. But the squash haven’t grown since the beginning of August and they are now changing colour, so I doubt they will grow any bigger. I decided to not destroy the plants and just see how they get on – the squash might be really tasty! The other plants in the raised bed are still doing OK and I’ve got new fruits growing, so fingers crossed I will have some decent sized fruit!
The photos below were taken 29 August:
Squash29Aug
I’ve had so many squash fruits that have started growing, only to go bad and rot. The hand-pollinating doesn’t seem to be working, so I’m not sure what else to do. So now I’ve only got 5 squashes and 3 of them are the ones that have stopped growing and are changing colour already.



Squash29Aug1
But the one shown above and below are still growing steadily. The one above is now 4.5 inches long and growing rounder. The one below is about 3 inches long and just seems to be growing straight. Hopefully they won’t go bad like the other big one I had – it was almost heartbreaking when that happened! The chicken wire is doing a really good job of keeping them off the soil.
The photo below was taken 5 September:
Squashmildewleaves5septAnother day, another squash problem! I think these white furry spots are mildew. There are 2 types of mildew:
  • Powdery mildew affects both sides of the leaf.
  • Downy mildew usually appears just on the undersides.
The leaves only have the white spots on the top of the leaves, so I’m pretty sure it must be downy mildew. Apparently this type is caused by splashing water, whereas powdery mildew is airborne. An organic treatment is apparently milk, as it has anti fungal properties. You should make up a spray of 1 part milk to 9 parts water. I’ve cut off all the affected leaves and I will spray the remaining leaves and the plant itself tomorrow, as it’s a bit late in the day to be making the plant wet (I don’t want to encourage more mildew!). This treatment should be applied at least once a week. So we’ll see how well it works!
The photos below were taken 19 September:
Squash19Sept I had a couple more fruits making attempts to grow, but it’s far too late for them now as next month is the time to harvest. So I’ve removed those new tiny fruits and most of the leaves so that all the energy is going into allowing the mature fruit to ripen.


Squash19Sept1The 4 mature fruits that have fought against all odds (mainly the diseases that I have dubiously identified) and have made it this far are changing colour and ripening. However, they have all only grown to a pitiful 4 inches long! It will be interesting to see how these miniature squashes will taste.




Squash19Sept21








The photo below was taken 1 October:
Squashtoripen1Oct09
My 3 smallest squash looked like they had ripened to the right colour and they sounded hollow when I tapped them, so I followed the advice I’d read in books and cut them off the plants, leaving as long a stalk as possible. Then I left them in the sun to harden the skins for storing, although I already had in my mind that I would eat them rather than store them because it’s not as if I had a bumper crop! As you can see from the photo, the larger squash are still a bit green.

The photo below was taken 3 October:
Squashforsoup3Oct09Well today was the day that I took the plunge and decided to eat my baby butternuts. I was very dubious that they would even remotely look like normal butternuts inside, so I was pleasantly surprised when I cut them in half to reveal vivid orange flesh. Once they were peeled and chopped into chunks, I had enough to make my Winter Vegetable Soup and it was just as tasty.
The photos below were taken 13 October:
Squash13Oct09

Despite the mild weather we’ve been having lately, I’m not holding out much hope for my last 2 squash going ripe as they’re still pretty green and it’s just getting colder and colder. It’s a shame as it’s been a bit of a struggle to grow the little blighters and I was hoping to be able to eat the fruits of my labour! Ah well, I’m looking forward to trying again next year with a different variety of squash. I’ve already bought my Uchiki Kuri (Red Kuri) seeds and they’re bright blue which is pretty cool!
The photos below were taken 3 November:

Squashweighed3Nov09Squash weighed_2 3 Nov 09Well I finally picked my last two squashes. The weather has been so mild for the time of year that they did ripen quite a bit, so I’m pleased I left them on the plants. I basically completely ignored them for the last 3 weeks. Didn’t water them. Didn’t even look at them. So when I went to pick them yesterday I was really surprised that they had changed colour. They are still a little bit green, so they probably won’t taste amazing. I’m going to simply roast them to bring out as much sweetness as possible.

I was curious as to how much they weighed, as these were the biggest ones that I managed to grow. 381g and 341g is pretty pathetic compared to the ones you get from the supermarket, but I’m still proud that I’ve grown these from seed and they survived!
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