Growing food successfully at home
Anyone who grows some of their own food will know that success is a moveable feast!
Two years ago my attempt at growing tomatoes outdoors was a failure. The garden is very windy and the ground just didn’t get warm enough for the plants to develop, so in 2015 tomatoes were indoors, link to the feature.
However growing indoors allows access to juicy morsels to unwanted creatures without the usual predators to control them. Always wanting to use natural deterrents I keep a pyrethrum based spray handy. However disaster struck when I inadvertently used the wrong spray.
What happened? I noticed a couple of little flies in the conservatory, the kind that lay eggs in the soil and the grubs eat the roots and the plants die. So I rushed around looking for the pyrethrum can, found it and sprayed assiduously all the plants and seedlings. To my absolute horror I realised I had used a weedkiller spray instead. I rushed around again, found the water spray and desperately watered.
To no avail, within 24 hours little brown spots had appeared on some of the leaves and over the next week everything was on the way out. There was nothing for it but to start again.
I contacted Delfland Nurseries who raise organic vegetable plugs and they sent me basil, chilli, sweet peppers and squash replacements. I resowed tagetes, nigella and limnanthes to serve as companion plants. If you are keen to find out about using plants as decoys to insects like black fly and attract pollinators like bumblebees and overfills, have a look the guide provided on the Thompson & Morgan website, from which you will see basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes, as are chives and mint.
We grow a lot of companion plants every year and will do the same this year – nasturtiums, a great space filler and colourful companion plants germinate without any help from us from last year’s seed!
Half the plugs Delfland grow are organic own vegetable plugs and each month you can choose a ‘selection pack’ of brassicas, salads, glasshouse or herbs and more. Here’s a link to the ordering options.
For those of you who find the planning of seed sowing and remembering to keep to the schedule a hassle, will find these plugs so useful when you have run out of space for early sowings or when you don’t want a whole packetful of plants from seed raising.
Delfland now have bedding and other plants for sale as well as ready-made hanging baskets and pots planted in various colour schemes – now that appeals to us!
This has to be one of the best websites we have found for gardeners who enjoy growing their own vegetables. Delfland provide really good quality plants and great service. Do have a look!
Val Reynolds, Editor
Grow Your Own Climbing Strawberries, Indoors or Out
Climbing strawberries with a fruiting period from June to September, now there’s a thing!
In 2008 we wrote an article about the Thompson & Morgan strawberry Mount Everest. It grew well for us and our readers. We had six plants to grow and hoped for great things, especially to make jam.
This year we will be trying Strawberry Skyline with climbing stems and dangling fruit from every runner! The perfect option for anyone short on space, the climbing habit also brings other added benefits – you can get to the fruit before the slugs do, there’s no need for straw to keep the ripening fruits off the soil, and no back-breaking bending to pick your crop. Plant in the soil under trellis or pea netting, or grow on the patio with the T&M Towerpot® climber system for easy access to the fruits. We will be using the Towerpot this year in the conservatory and in the greenhouse as a comparison.
Our 2014 strawberry growing was not a huge success. Here in Cumbria we have a shorter growing season than further south. So in 2015 we decided to grow our strawberries in the glazed entry hall to offset the lower temperatures outside.
For Flamenco another T&M everbearing strawberry, we used strawberry bags. They grew well, had a wonderful harvest which the mice and slugs relished so they were moved into a glazed link between the stables and the coach house*. They did well there.
We tried Eternal Love a variety from Lubera that went on and on fruiting right up to the first frosts. We have kept a dozen runners to grow on, the fruit tasted really good. This year we are trying another Lubera variety, Fraisibelle. All kinds of soils and conditions seem to suit it from light to heavy soil, partial shade to full sun.
As always we travel optimistically and have visions of rows of strawberry jam in the larder! We managed some what we called freezer jam. Much simpler than conventional jam making, although it produces a soft rather than a very firm set. There are easy instructions on the Certo recipes webpage. The ‘jam’ is so tasty and delicious on ice cream, cereal, and in cakes. We always make sure there is always some Certo in the cupboard year round. So this year it’ll be delicious freezer strawberry jam again and maybe even ice cream made from unsprayed homegrown fruit!
*Why not come and visit us? We have converted our 1700’s old stone built coach house into a self contained warm and cosy cottage for holiday lets, short and long, any time of year. Here is a link – we grow many different companion plants and insect attractive flowers to maximise our fruit and veg in the kitchen garden. Do come! We love talking gardening!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
British Tomato Week 2015 is now!
The delicious red fruit used to be one of Britain’s most beloved. But are you one of those who think tomatoes don’t taste quite as good as they used to? This may be because three quarters of the tomatoes bought in this country are now imported.
British Tomato Week has been set up to raise awareness of flavoursome British tomatoes, and help spread the word that when it comes to choosing the best, buying fresh, home-grown British tomatoes is a great place to start.
To celebrate British Tomato Week Lancaster London Hotel are offering a Tomato Week themed Afternoon Tea priced at £30 per person, which will include savoury delights made with the freshest British tomatoes, including Tomato bread, Tomato scones and Tomato sorbet. Looks yummy!
Island Grill restaurant on Hyde Park has created a special three course set menu, priced at £12.50 for two dishes or £15.50 for three courses.
However, like me, you might have some tomato plants on the windowsill or in a greenhouse. Many gardeners manage to grow them outside but up here in Cumbria the wind and lower temperatures mean indoors is the only option. I did try some outside last year but the plants were pretty much an unproductive experiment.
So this year I purchased two Ailsa Craig plants. Noted for the exceptional flavour of its fruit, which ripens early in the season this well known gardener’s favourite produces medium sized tomatoes with a uniform size and shape and an excellent deep colour.
Another popular tomato popular with gardeners and which has an RHS AGM*, Alicante, was available from a local nursery and I have placed both varieties in a glazed entry hall.
They are growing apace, in fact one Ailsa Craig has grown half an inch in 24 hours I noted this morning! I only know that because I marked the support strings yesterday just to see what rate of growth might be in the sunny and warm hall. I didn’t expect such a surge!
I have another three pots of a tomato Crimson Crush, a new entrant on the tomato market from Suttons in the conservatory that only has sun from about noon and I’ll be interested to see if there is any difference in growth rate. They are going into grow bags.
I know of course I may well be awash with tomatoes and there is a limit to how much time I want to spend bottling and making tomato puree, so much of the crop will go straight in the freezer in bags. To remove the skin easily I just dunk them in hot water, the skins slide off moreorless immediately.
If you are growing tomatoes let us know the variety and their progress … we will probably try different varieties next year.
Val Reynolds, Editor
*Award of Garden Merit
Home grown Potato using Planter Bags
We have just harvested our potatoes from the planter bags we started in April. We left harvesting for a month once they were ready and decided to move them out when there was a risk of frost.
We had a reasonable crop – we love to eat our own grown veg and Desiree potatoes are popular with the family.
We did nothing other than use fresh compost from B&Q and kept them from drying out, so regular checking and watering was a must.
Our bags were 14 litre and gave us a lot of potatoes but nothing like the T&M crop – 80 tubers in one 8 litre bag!
Details of how it was achieved
The method, hit upon during technical trials at the Thompson & Morgan seed and plant specialist’s Ipswich HQ, opens up potato growing to everyone – even those without a garden. The small but durable bags will sit happily by the front door or on a deep window ledge.
More than 80 tubers were harvested from just one of these bags, nearly treble the number harvested from each tuber in the larger sacks. The results came from Thompson & Morgan’s new Potato Jazzy – an exclusive new generation first early bred for maximum yield and flavour, but the impressive results don’t stop there.
Amateur growers tested the method this summer, too, when T&M horticultural director, Paul Hansord, challenged his local gardening club to a grow-off: three tubers of Maris Peer and three 8 litre bags – biggest harvest wins. “As with our technical trials, the club results were hard to believe. If I hadn’t cut the top growth from the winning entry and emptied out the crop myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. It was like the tubers were trying to burst out of the bags.” said Paul.
Gwynneth Hogger took the winner’s cup for producing an astounding 17.5lb of quality potatoes – a trophy well deserved!
Getting the most from the 8 litre potato growing bags is easy:
• Mix Chempak® Potato fertiliser with your compost before planting
• Set one tuber per bag and do not compact the compost
• Fill the bag with compost in one go – no need to top up
• Water evenly and do not allow to dry out
• Try auto irrigation to prevent over or under watering
Beat your neighbours to the first potatoes of the season – Harvest 12wks after planting!
Try the 8 litre potato growing bags, beat Gwynneth’s 17.5lb harvest across three bags, and win £100 of T&M vouchers. Send a photo of you and your 2015 harvest to: firstname.lastname@example.org – winners will be notified in July next year. Good luck!
For the widest selection of tuber varieties and the 8 litre bags (20 for £9.99) visit www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818 for your free copy of the 2015 Kitchen Gardener’s Catalogue.
You can imagine at In Balance we are planning on doing the same and have put in our order right away for bags and Jazzy the potato variety and of course make sure we get the bag of the Chempak® potato fertiliser!
Val Reynolds, Editor
Fab Recipe Using Parma Ham
This Parma Ham Rarebit is so much more than a glorified cheese on toast. Rich and flavoursome, this dish is sure to be popular with the family!
Grill sliced bread on both sides and leave to cool. Combine ale, mustard, eggs, Caerphilly, crème fraîche and seasoning and spread on each slice of toast. Cook under the grill until golden brown and bubbly.
Cool slightly and serve topped with Parma Ham.
Parma Ham is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product and is 100% natural. The drying process that Parma Ham goes through creates a ham that is very low in fat content, with many mineral salts, vitamins, antioxidants and easily digestible proteins. This means that Parma Ham is truly a food for everyone.
Prosciutto di Parma is produced in the hills surrounding the Italian town of Parma.
The unique taste of Parma Ham is dependent on the traditional production process passed down from Roman times, carefully controlled by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. Only hams that have passed stringent curing regulations approved by the EU can be awarded the stamp of the Ducal crown – a five pointed coronet logo with PARMA in the centre which is branded onto the ham’s skin. The Ducal Crown is now a certification trademark.
For more information, please visit the website.
Parma Ham Rarebit Makes 8
8 slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp ale
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
2 eggs, beaten
150g grated Caerphilly
1 tbsp crème fraîche
8 slices Parma Ham
Slice the bread in half if you prefer. Preheat the grill and toast the bread on both sides. Leave to cool Combine ale, mustard, eggs, Caerphilly, crème fraîche and a little seasoning and spread a layer on top of each slice of toast. Transfer to a large grill pan or baking sheet and cook under the grill for 2-4 minutes until the topping is golden and bubbling. Cool slightly before serving, topped with slices of Parma Ham.
Yum! There are lots more recipes using Parma Ham to choose from – we’ll be trying them out – watch this space!
Val Reynolds, Editor
Recipe supplied by Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma
Photography: Steve Lee Recipe and Food Styling: Dialogue Agency
Versatile Parma Ham
Parma ham is one of my favourite delicacies, so when invited to a ‘cook and dine’ event centred around this wonderful food I didn’t hesitate in letting the organisers know that I would be there!
A tube strike in full swing on the evening didn’t deter many and a warm welcome from the organisers, a glass or two of Prosecco along with nibbles of the wafer thin ham and small canapés soon made us forget about the struggle to reach the venue, the Underground Cookery School on the City Road near Old Street.
As there were quite a few participants we were divided into two groups, swapping over to make the dishes. Mine kicked off with the starter, destined to become fresh tagliatelle with black pepper, truffle oil, Parma ham and parmigiano reggiani. I was perhaps in the minority who had never made pasta from scratch before; but luckily sporting a complimentary Parma Ham apron I happily mixed the flour and egg while under the watchful eye of the chef in charge who added just a splash of olive oil to the mix; then I kneeded it until it reached the required consistency. This was an extremely effective way of dealing with the tensions of the day – all bakers should be very relaxed people! We were each in charge of our own pasta-making machine and following instructions, we started feeding the dough through it, again and again, reducing the number on the dial from 10 right down to 2 in order to reach the required thickness. Mini disasters of the dough falling apart were easily rectified by the chef sprinkling more flour on it. I think I might be more expert the next time! The machine incorporated a tagliatelle cutter, so the neat ribbons of pasta appeared in a trice; we then hung them out to dry on a washing airer, which I found to be quite novel, but very effective.
The groups swapped round and I now found myself faced with a chicken to dissect and bone until I was left with a boneless chicken breast. The very sharp knives provided had to be handled with great care but essential for the job. My rather neat piece of poultry was stuffed with a mixture of cream-cheese, onion and tarragon and then wrapped in Parma ham.
On to dessert, and after the chef had whipped up a mean meringue flavoured with lemon juice and vanilla I was given the honour (with the help of another participant) of spreading it smoothly on the baking sheet. A layer of strawberry-flavoured whipped cream was spread on top and we watched as the chef rolled it into an extremely professional-looking roulade.
We were then all invited to be seated at a long table where everyone chatted away happily. Soon our pasta starter arrived, followed by the chicken breast, succulent under its ham wrap and accompanied by a salad of new potatoes, spring onions and purple sprouting broccoli. The surprise came with the dessert, when we discovered that our lovely roulade had been top with candied Parma ham. In our leaving goody bag were all the recipes and I learnt that to make this, the ham had been placed on a baking sheet, covered with caster sugar and baked in the oven, then broken into shards when cool. I have to say that the delicate flavour of the ham was not quite so prominent here, but nevertheless quite delicious.
We all left, tired but well fed, with a souvenir apron, a booklet of tasty recipes, a folder with detailed information about the production and qualities of Parma ham, and, I’m happy to say, a small pack of superb ‘prosciutto di Parma’.
There are some mouthwatering recipes for Parma Ham on http://www.prosciuttodiparma.com/en_UK/home
Jeannette Nelson, Food writer
Small is Beautiful – Little known London Museums
Tucked away in a small sidestreet behind the British Museum is one of the little gems of London. The Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street deserves to be far better known than it is and visited far more often. One of its principal attractions is its size – small. This means that both the permanent exhibition as well as temporary ones are compact and approachable. Personally, I usually have to take a very deep breath when visiting Tate Britain, Tate modern or the Royal Academy because of the sheer volume of what’s on offer. However interesting or stunning London’s blockbuster exhibitions may be, going round them can sometimes be a feat of endurance, particularly since it’s the norm that there is no re-entry; you have to swallow what’s on offer whole. This is an ongoing beef of mine. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding my attention waning after an hour or so, and would welcome the opportunity of a reviving cup of tea and a relaxing of the eye and brain. Returning refreshed would, I’m sure, enhance the experience. The small-scale Cartoon Museum throws up no such problem. Cartoons, almost by definition, present the viewer with a lot to observe, generally captions as well as pictures, and too many at once would inevitably ‘do the head in’! And what a pleasure it is to wander around with others smiling or laughing at the humour. The content of a cartoon is sometimes acerbic as witnessed in the work of, say, Martin Rowson or Steve Bell, sometimes gentle and good-natured but always witty. The current exhibition, Bring Me Laughter, a private collection on display featuring many of Britain’s best-known cartoonists over the years, runs until the 23 February. This is followed, for me, by a real gem – a chance to get up close to the wonderful caricatured creations for the Spitting Image TV series, running from 26 February to 8 June. After that, as part of the centenary events, comes The First World War in Cartoons. Oh, and the gift shop offers an interesting selection of merchandise and is a pleasure to browse through,
London is full of quirky museums catering for all tastes. Particularly interesting are those which are private homes, offering today’s public a unique insight into people’s lives. The Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields is one such example and is packed with his collection of art and antiquities. Another example is Dennis Severs house in Folgate Street in London’s East End which offers a uniquely atmospheric experience and is not exactly what it seems; it’s extra special around Christmas time when the house is bathed in candlelight. You can even visit imaginary houses such as 221b Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes, which is guarded by a Victorian policeman who seems to spend most of his day posing for pictures with the visitors! And to offer refreshment and souvenir-buying potential for the hordes that stop the traffic on Abbey Road everyday by recreating the Beatle’s Abbey Road album cover at the zebra crossing, a small coffee/gift shop has opened right next to St John’s Wood station, thus making the attraction a museum of sorts. When a man is tired of all the museums in London, he is surely tired of life! Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, her main interest is the theatre. Having lived in London most of her life she has a fund of knowledge of interesting buildings and places to visit in the capital and we’re lucky to have access to her experience.
Chinese Tapas and Unusual Cocktails at Ping Pong, Wembley
On a wild and windy night shortly before Christmas my dining companion and I exited Wembley Park underground station and followed the banners to the recently opened London Designer Outlet. We were blown down Empire Way towards Wembley Stadium, its arch silhouetted against the night sky and then turned off into a cluster of modern, illuminated blocks. We soon entered the outlet, much of which is, unusually, open to the elements and were surprised to find, so close to the festive season, a paucity of customers. Perhaps it has yet to become established, perhaps shoppers are waiting for more spring-like weather. Whatever, we graduated to the upper levels which are home to a multi-screen cinema (de rigueur it seems these days in shopping malls) and a plethora of restaurants, most of which are new offspring of familiar chains.
Our destination was Ping Pong, one of the newer arrivals on the London eating scene, with its original venue in Great Malborough Street and an extremely popular one on the South Bank judging by the number of customers I spy there on my frequent walks past on the way to the Festival Hall or the National Theatre. Warmth greeted us as we entered, both in the ambient temperature and the pleasantness of the staff. Both of us having confessed to never having previously frequented a Ping Pong restaurant, we were enlightened as to its ethos and to its modus operandi. The neat phrase ‘Chinese tapas’ summed up the food on offer, a modern take on the teahouse stops on the ancient Silk Route that fed and watered traders along its many miles. The menu is extensive but divided into sections such as soups, fried and griddled, baked, rice dishes and, the longest section of all, steamed.
Each dish is fully explained and, indeed, what you got matched its description perfectly. The recommendation was to order four or five dishes per person – we went for seven in total to start with and found that plenty. The tapas were small but quite filling.
We indulged in one of Ping Pong’s unusual cocktails, all the ingredients blending beautifully into a delicious drink. As we expected, the tapas dishes arrived consecutively, wonderfully hot and obviously freshly prepared. The flavours and spices mingled perfectly; nothing was overpowered but everything was there to be tasted. All steamed items came in individual bamboo steamers, piled up on top of one another.
Everything we ate was delicious, and it would be quite invidious to pick out favourites, but I have to say that the spinach and mushroom dumplings were my idea of heaven, and the sticky rice parcels of king prawn and scallop sticky rice wrapped in lovely green banana leaves, were my companion’s. But, there again, the har gau (prawn and bamboo shoot dumpling), the duck spring roll and the honey-glazed spare ribs were great too!
Having no room for dessert, I rounded off the meal with an amazing jasmine and lily tea. Placed in front of me was a large glass with a strange looking ball in it. Hot water was poured over it and, over the course of two or three minutes the ball gently opened into a beautiful flower as the tea brewed. A lovely theatrical touch to a cup of tea!
Despite the weather, there was a respectable number of customers in the restaurant (that can cater for 250), considering it only had been open for a couple of days. There was a good mix, different ethnicities, old and young.
We took away our loyalty cards (which certainly will tempt me back to a Ping Pong in the near future) – even the paper chopstick holder had an offer for a free cocktail printed on it!
And we headed back in the gale force winds, this time accompanied by lashing rain, to the underground station, replete and content after our Chinese tapas experience.
Jeannette Nelson Food Critic and Restaurant Reviewer, as well as all things theatrically entertaining!
Twelve Thoughtful Gifts for Christmas
These gifts are good to give any time – they are our absolute favourites – they might just appeal. We make no apology for the gardening flavour … we dedicated gardeners just have to pass on details of products that work for us.
Plant Theatre The Dobies catalogue is full of goodies for the gardener, and we really like the Plant Theatre they sell. We have put our new collection of streptocarpus cuttings in our Plant Theatre, although traditionally used to show off auriculas.
Our plant theatre is on the floor of the conservatory at the moment but will be erected on the wall as soon as possible to keep the plants away from draughts. Essentially woodland plants streptocarpus don’t like a lot of direct sunlight preferring to be kept lightly moist, bordering on dry. If you are interested have a look on the internet, there is a vast choice. You can buy cuttings on eBay as well. Some are absolutely beautiful and unusual.
If you know someone with hanging baskets who gets weary with lifting heavy watering cans, getting water up their arms, puddles of water on the ground, our feeling is they would welcome a HiLo device. It allows you to lower the basket to a workable level for pruning, deadheading and watering. Then pulled up – carefully – to the height you want it. An essential item for any dedicated hanging basket fan. At the moment Dobies have a 3 for the price of 2 offer you might like to take up.
Know someone who is a keen ‘Grow your Own’ gardener? The Allotment Almanac provides a month by month entry to remind you, and look forward to, what could be done in your vegetable plot, big or small. A fascinating and infomative read written by Terry Walton, gardening guru of BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. A pleasant read and good guide for both experienced and novice gardeners alike.
Know someone who is intrigued by the effect of the moon on plants and their development? Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2014: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers is out now and a fascinating read written by Nick Kollerstrom. Here we learn the rhythms of the moon affect both crops and livestock. The gardeners at RHS Wisley have proved the benefits of the lunar effect under controlled research conditions. Increased yields of 20% – 30% are routinely touted. You won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to sow your carrots! Country folk know that planning their work in harmony with the rhythms of the moon produces better crops. It’s that easy. They get higher yields and better flavour in vegetables. Flowers produce stronger displays and heightened colour. This guide computes everything you need to know about the daily influence of the moon and the planets in the garden. With its full 15-month daily calendar, it creates an essential timetable for the year ahMead and a fine means of self-discipline for keen gardeners. More information on http://www.plantingbythemoon.co.uk
We absolutely love the aromas from AromaWorks. Can’t say enough good things about them, from the candles to reed diffusers, body oil to bath oil, room mists and essential oils.
We find it difficult to say which is our favourite but must note the mix of May Change and Sandalwood of the Nurture Room Mist is fabulous, and the aroma mix of Serenity is out of this world. The scent lasts for ages, it is highly concentrated, 100% pure but not overpowering. Even when we put have them away for a week or so we can still detect a feint scent for days.
These scents are well worth the money and the only room scent products we give as gifts, they are that good. See more details on AromaWorks.
Know a fan of Tolkein books? Then a series of epic stories that inspired Tolkein to write the Lord of the Rings has been published by Penguin.
The five titles of the Legends from The Ancient North are:
- The Elder Eddo
- The Saga of the Volsungs
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles
Each title is priced at £6.99. eBooks are £4.
A pair of secateurs is very useful when pottering around the garden . However we have found a very useful pair of multi purpose scissors designed by Fiskars with so many features that makes it an essential item to carry around as well with you as well, indoors and out. They are brightly coloured so less chance of losing them. I always tie a long red ribbon on secateurs which works for me.
Here’s a list of what the Cuts+More it is designed to cope with:
- High-quality blades for trimming, pruning, opening packages
- Power notch to cut light rope
- Wire cutter for cutting light wire without damaging the blades
- Twine cutter to cut twine cleanly and quickly
- Pointed awl tip for piercing small holes in cardboard, plastic, matting
- Titanium-coated, take-apart knife for cutting sheets of polythene, cardboard and sheeting
- Cover includes an integrated ceramic sharpener and tape cutter
- Bottle opener for a well-earned drink in the shed at the end of the day!
We love ours! Why not treat yourself and/or give a pair to a dedicated garden potterer? Available from B&Q and independent home and garden stores.
Apple peeler/corer/slicer – its appearance does give the impression it is an instrument of torture! In fact it makes a job that can turn into torture into a breeze. And the results are so worthwhile and easy to produce I’m surprised it has taken us so long to find it!
When I lived in France Apple Flan was a regular and delicious treat. However that was in the days when we all had time to sit round a table to peel, core and slice apple ready for the tart to go in the oven and didn’t mind having brown stained fingers.
With this apple peeler everything is done in a trice.
Here are my Eleven Easy steps:
- Wash cooking apples – it’s amazing how much dirt is removed in this one step.
- Wipe dry, roughly.
- Push onto the prongs
- Turn handle
- Watch the peel just fall down – straight into the compost bin!
- Remove the peeled and cored apple
- Cut in half
- Lay straight onto pre-cooked pastry in the flan dish (some people put in a non stick cake tin liner to make sure the baking beans are all removed.
- At this point some people put a layer of apple puree before adding the apple slices – this makes it all rather gorgeous!
- Brush the apple slices with lemon juice – you could put them under the gril to brown them a little before brushing on a thin apricot jam syrup
- Serve with beaten Light Philadelphia, or 0% fat greek yogurt. Yum!
Phew! That’s so easy! And quick! And looks so impressive!
Widely available on the web, where we bought ours.
We found several recipes on one website http://www.joyofbaking.com/FrenchAppleTart.html that you could adapt to suit.
One aspect of a kitchen sink is the space the draining board takes up, permanently, and the fact is we find it is not an easy space to use for anything else.
When we had a kitchen installed recently we asked for just a sink bowl and bought a Joseph Joseph flip side draining board – available in grey or white. This can be put away once finished with, leaving a clean, flat surface to use for other work which looks so much nicer. Ideal for two, but not very practical for a family.
Know someone who is worried about draughts and high energy costs? This is just one item we have found that really made a difference to the temperature in our hallway. It’s the EcoFlap. Fitted on the inside of the letter box it stops the draughts getting to your radiator thermostat.
We’ve just moved house and our new letterbox did leak air, seeped rain, rattled, snapped, and crumpled our mail! We quickly installed another Ecoflap – inexpensive, easy to install and effective. Can’t praise this enough!
Know someone who always has cold feet? We have tried three different products. The Carnation Silversocks made with pure silver fibre are said to relieve the pain of diabetes, chilblains, epidermolysis bullosa and circulation disorders, we like the idea of the anti bacteria element. They were rather too tight round the ankles for us, however would be fine for those with thinner legs.
Workforce socks fit the bill for when we are in and out of the cold, it doesn’t matter whether we are using boots or shoes in cold weather, they are comfortable and warm with a really comfy sole – a hit with husband!
Then we came across goats’ woollen socks – they are wonderful! By far the most popular in our house. The socks come in long, medium and short. Plus topless, ideal for anyone who doesn’t like a mark on their leg or who might have circulation problems. Available from Wiggly Wigglers whose reviews are excellent, so it’s not just us who love ’em! Here is one: “These socks are quite simply the warmest socks that I have ever worn. They wash and dry well, and do not shrink. They also make great bedsocks!!! The weather outside is doing its worst (this is eastern Scotland after all!) but my feet are warm and toasty!” Grown by Goats … for Toasty Toes … See more reviews and full details here.
David Austin roses Whoever you give a rose to will be reminded of you for years to come. We love David Austin roses and have given so many as gifts over the years and never fail to find an excuse to give another! Our favourites are the ramblers and this year we have planted Creme de la Creme, a beautifully scented climber on the pergola. We have planted a white wisteria to complement it and between these two plants we are anticipating pleasant rests in the sun.
Compiled by Val Reynolds, Christopher Johns, Liz Lovell, Rose Monro
We’ll write something about the most successful presents we have given and received this Christmas. You might like to contribute!
An Easy Parmigiano Reggiano and Cherry Tomato Tart
Here’s a simple recipe we picked up in British Tomato Week earlier this year using two of the most popular ingredients – Parmigiano Reggiano and Cherry Tomatoes
Pre-heat oven to 200 °C Cut puff pastry sheets into squares and spread with a little pesto sauce.
Divide cherry tomatoes between the tarts and sprinkle over Parmigiano Reggiano.
Brush the pastry edges with beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes.
To finish, top with pine nuts and bake again until the pastry is risen and crisp.
How’s that for speed? Suits me! And the result is so, so tasty! If it appeals to you the full recipe is below. It’s just one of many in a recipe book available
Other recipes: Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, known as ‘Parmesan’, is one of the world’s oldest and richest cheeses – still produced today as it was nine centuries ago. Totally natural – it’s the only cheese with an extensive maturation that improves the nutrition, aroma and taste. The use of raw milk and the richness of natural ingredients make this cheese a unique and superior product. It takes 16 litres of milk to produce one kilogram of cheese! The minimum maturation time for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is 12 months, but only when it reaches approximately 24 months of age, is it at its best. As well as having fantastic nutritional qualities, it’s easy to digest and is high in calcium.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product. PDOs are defined and protected by European Union law in order to defend the reputation of regional foods. This mark ensures that Parmigiano Reggiano cheese can only be produced in designated areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the west of the Reno River and Mantua to the east of the Po River.
For more information on Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, please visit www.parmigianoreggiano.com
This recipe is so easy and quick it is a great lunch when you are really busy, or when the oven is cooking something else. Provides respite at Christmas as a respite from turkey!
Louise MacLaren, Guest cookery writer
The Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano
Photography and Reportage: Steve Lee
Recipe and Food Styling: Sue Ashworth