Spot of Adventuring: Brighton, rocks.

petalbagone

Stuffed with chocolate, squash and crisp, Petal’s bag accompanied me on a seaside adventure. The seaside adventure is slowly becoming something of an annual Summer Bank Holiday tradition. Last year, I was fortunate enough to go Bournemouth. This year, Petal and I pootled to Brighton. This was my second visit to Brighton, having travelled there for a Psychology conference. I liked to so much, I wanted to return and this time, for another and different jolly. (The conference was epic in its own right!)

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Saturday morning, and I am standing on the beach. Normandy is about 80 miles ahead of me somewhere. The sun is only just coming up over Brighton pier.

It was positively magical.

With hardly anyone around-apart from the obligatory treasure hunter with their beeping metal detector-the beach was at it’s quietest. Was also quite warm actually, nineteen degrees and soon cranked up to be scorching.

We had travelled on Friday, and thankfully weren’t at the mercy of striking train staff. I made a return visit to Planet India; Planet India is by far one of the nicest Indian restaurants I have visited. Plus, for some daft reason, there is always an Indian restaurant frequented during a holiday. I remember being in the North of Crete and going to have an Indian dinner. It happens! Planet India is pure vegetarian restaurant, and the food is amazing. If you fancy an Italian eatery, then pop to Edenum; good food and lovely staff! Two places where I have enjoyed eating, and think are worth a mention if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

On a previous visit to Brighton, I had walked passed The Royal Pavilion in the evening and it was rather pretty as it was lit up. I actually managed to go in this time, and have a good look around. On the outside, the building does rather echo the architecture of the Taj Mahal. I’ve got the advantage of having seen the Taj, so I can see the similarity. On the inside, there is a heavily Chinese and oriental influence. I do rather like History, and the history of this building made it a good visit. We even saw a bride and groom who were celebrating their nuptials as we passed through the Music Room.(She looked stunning, and had a beautiful bouquet). I have to say, that it was the first floor that got my attention; the section on Indian Army soldiers who were housed there during the war and also Queen Victoria’s apartments rather left an impression on me. Plus, as I work with veterans from time to time, seeing how the Pavilion was used as war hospital did underpin the experience.

Then there was the West Pier. I do remember seeing pictures of this and even reading about it. There were some vague memories of it being burned down, and some rather grainy BBC footage of smoke. And there it was, as large as life. The structure is all bones, and because of that, it looks a little sad and unloved. I couldn’t help but feel that it needed a bit of hug. The obligatory walk down the main Brighton pier was taken; we didn’t have fish and chips, or ice cream for that matter, but it was a nice walk.

There was a lot of walking around Brighton, and that isn’t a bad thing. A lot of Brighton is accessible on foot. We wandered around the North laine and also the older lanes. If you need a rock, a shiny one and set in platinum, then the lanes is your ticket for finding one. (So is the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, to be honest, but that was my first thought.) A lot of Jewellery shops, and lots of shiny stones; but also lots of quirky indie boutiques. We ended up in ‘That little Tea shop’ and had a lovely cuppa with cake. This place is rather cool, with war-time inspired furniture and fittings. A real gem, and a cracking good cuppa.

As you can see, the weather wasn’t bad! I have the slightly burned and crispy feet to prove it. It is always such a gamble going to the sea side on August Bank Holiday weekend. Good fun was had, with good food and a very chilled atmosphere-well, actually no, the hotel was boiling, even with the constant whirring of a fan.

All in all, a lovely adventure. Cheers, Brighton, you were fab.

 

 

Not over, not yet. #gdnbloggers

Dear allotment, I have not abandoned you. It might feel as though I have, but I haven’t. Honest.

trugglads

This year’s growing season really does feel different. As though my mojo has dipped, and the erratic weather has made it feel even worse. I’ve also spent a lot less time on the plot due to real-life commitments, and this goes towards amplifying the feel of discontent. I am seriously missing something this year and trying to reflect upon how I might improve things now and also for the future. It’s not all gloom and doom:

There are tomatoes everywhere. Green ones, yellow ones, striped ones and sometimes even red ones. I rather hoped that there would be; last year, we had triffids but no tomatoes. So we have fruit, and I’ve been clipping vines of fruit off so they ripen at home. We do have a few that whilst sat on the window sill, these have ripened. Technically, not all is lost and I have actually been able to make chutney. That did help with the lack of mojo, especially the part where I play with my preserving pan. I have, however, done a lot less playing with the preserving pan in comparison to previous years. The only preserving I have done, is the home brew! I thought I should give that a rest for  a bit, least of all on the blog. So  all is not lost with the tomatoes, at least. There is probably going to a poundage of green ones clogging up the conservatory for a brief period of time. I shall have to decide what to do with them, other than chutney.

You know, I have never ever, managed to get a proper cob of corn from the plot. Until now, that is. Mum had great success, and bounced home with three big cobs that once grilled, were a rather nice tea time snack. Needless to say, I was a bit envious. Especially, as I had sown all the seeds, and then divided everything between our two plots.  I swear, that we have different micro-climates and soil across the two and this means differences in crops.

The one thing that has actually kept me buoyant, would be the flowers. There were sunflowers on the plot this year. So glads and roses have been the main focus. Admittedly, the roses were a little slower and not as productive as they have been previously. The glads are also somewhat delayed. However, it has all been pretty. We have had stonking great big beautiful bouquets for the kitchen. (If I ever acquire a husband, he’ll have to box a bit clever should he ever want to provide me with flowers.)

 

Petal’s Preserve goes a bit…boozy #gdnbloggers

There have been a lot preserves made, in terms of jams, jellies and chutneys. I have also had a go at steeping fruit in alcohol to make liqueurs of a kind. This year, I have used fruit from the plot to test out my home brewing kit that was sat unloved for the best part of twelve months. Plus, we have a lot of courgettes, squashes and spinach flying around and this seemed a way of avoiding the gluts.

The recipe that I have used is simple enough-the Sister Sparrow fruit wine recipe-with fruit being placed into a fermenting bucket. Boiled sugar syrup is poured over the top, with yeast, nutrient and enzyme being added when the must is cool. This is left to ferment, before transferring and racking into an air-locked demi-john. Once clarified, the liquid can be re-racked. (This involves transferring from one vessel to another using a siphon and the best quality gravity that you can obtain. It is a two person job, and I tend to borrow a willing parent.) This involves drawing off the  liquid and avoiding the sediment of yeast et cetra at the bottom.

It all started with strawberries, there were quite a lot of them. This first batch was something of a learning experience, having not had a big enough bucket. I may have got a little enthusiastic with this one, and rushed the process. The wine is now bottled-prematurely,  I think-could have done with sitting for a bit and being racked again. It is however, a rather pretty pink, and tastes okay! I’ve wrapped it in brown paper, so that it doesn’t lose the pink colour.

So that was the starting point, and I have to say I was bit enthused as to what I might do next.

Today, I have some time working with two would be wines. The first, was summer wine. The second was apple wine. The summer wine involved rhubarb, left over strawberries as well a hotch pot of red, black and white currants. This was transferred into a demi-john, and will be left to clarify. This is the second rhubarb wine; a previous version involves the combination of Rhubarb and redcurrant, minus the strawberries. I have to admit, that when it is was in the Demi-John, it looked a lot like I had blitzed a plastic ‘My Little Pony’. (Please don’t do this, you do not wish to be in trouble; that is a figurative statement). That is two. Three, three involves blackberries. As a teenager, I read ‘Blackberry wine’ by Joanne Harris, so this was actually the thought in my head. If wine could talk! The batch made actually involves more than blackberries, there are plums and even more currants in there. The currants were rather rocking it this year! At some point, I will try and make some pure blackberry wine, rather than have additional ingredients.

Apple wine is a little different compared to my previous home brew experiments. I had quite a bit of apples stashed in the freezer as well as some freshly harvested ones. These were cored, peeled and sliced, combined and stewed down to a puree of a sort. Once this has cooled, the magic ingredients will  be added so that it can all ferment for a bit.

Think that actually brings the tally up to five different batches. With blackberry wine being considered, the aim of these is to practice. On the plot, there are three grapevines. These are boskoop glory and Madeline Sylvaner. Whilst these are dessert varieties, I believe these can be used to make home made wine. This is basically why I have grape vines!  Many of the experiments need to stay stashed for a while, they will need to mature and build their flavour. As nice as the strawberry wine was to sample, it will be cloistered away for a while.

S’not all roses and butterflies #gdnbloggers

gladsroses

Looks quite pretty, doesn’t it?

A staggering great big bouquet of roses and glads, all grown on the plot; do not be fooled by the roses though. They were really quite thorny and somewhat vicious as they were cut. I have the scratches to prove it!

As aggressive as the stems were, the bouquet is simple reminder of the successes that can be had in having an allotment plot.

Thing is, this year, the season doesn’t feel as much of a bumper success as it might have been. It feels rather different compared to the previous seasons, and I’m not quite sure of what to make of it.

As we broach the end of August, I will have been dabbling in GYO seven years exactly. I have had an allotment plot for a little less. Something has seriously dented my allotmenteering and GYO-ing mojo.

In the first instance, the plot is not as productive as it has been previously. I think half of it, is exactly where I want it. I know, more or less, everything that is going on and how. The rest is something of an overwhelming wilderness where it does feel as though I have quite literally lost the plot. Mum’s plot on the other hand, is heaving and we are now officially sick of marrows and courgettes.

I’ve yet to get any marrows or squashes; the slugs and snails are chopping through what plants remain. There were strawberries, all now done and dusted having gone into wine. Currants were harvested, and they too have gone in home brew. Tomatoes are actually doing well; these are trussed up regularly, and one batch of green tomato chutney has already been made. In the poly tunnel, the chillies are on something of a go slow. Potatoes need digging up, though we have had small batches as and when required.

So what is it, that makes it all feel a bit, well, meh?

I have yet to break from work for a summer holiday; my summer holiday is delayed until the middle of September. Over the last ten weeks, work has been busy and there has been less opportunity to go play on the plot. With the plot being behind where it should be, that’s a double whammy.

I do have some time in the coming weeks re-commune with plot; that’s basically where I go wander, survey and try to formulate a plan as autumn and winter draw in. I can only describe the sensation as having lost a football match where you have been subjected to something of a goal rout. There is a serious loss of spark.

On a positive note though, it will be a year this week that I self published ‘Playing with Plant Pots: tales from the allotment’. I am as proud of it now, as I was a year ago; there was also the second book as well. I am taking both of those as a reminder that being on the plot can be positive, it is a learning experience and I enjoy it. There is a third book-not gardening and also fiction-that is in progress. Part of me is twitching, thinking, about writing another gardening book. I have the cover in mind! I just don’t know what I might put into it.

This could just be a duff year, or the figurative seven year itch. I really cannot tell you.

Let’s hope the meh lifts.

 

Beetroot experiment: Bit of a pickle

Not my experiment, but my mum’s. She fancied pickling some beetroot.

The youtube link is here.

The recipe is fairly simple. A clutch of beetroot were boiled in salted water. The time given is between 25 minutes and 2 hours depending on size. The skin was then peeled away, before the beetroot were sliced and put into a jar with red wine vinegar.

Shall see how they go!

 

Chole: That’s chickpeas, to me and you

What with all of the plot produce going into Mum’s Kitchen, and it largely being Indian recipes that are being made; I could actually share them with you. There is a plethora-or a raft, if you want synonyms-of Indian recipe books, chefs, and even youtube channels dedicated to Indian cuisine. Some of which, is wonderfully simple; others are wonderfully complicated and demand you have a huge, great big supermarket sized pantry. I say pantry, as larders don’t translate into punjabi. I don’t believe in making things complicated, and I do like to share the things that are successes.(That’s also a mental note to actually share the stuff that gets made.)

Anyway, looking at the stash of squashes that Mum harvested today, I thought hmm, well, I’ll make chickpeas. I didn’t fancy battling the squashes. Not today.

You can find the youtube link here. (Well, yes, there is a channel)

What is in that pot?

  • Onions-two large ones from the plot
  • Garlic-from the plot
  • Coriander-from the plot
  • Ginger
  • tumeric
  • Chopped tomatoes from a tin, and a handful of ripened plot tomatoes
  • ground down habanero paste
  • cayenne chilli powder
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • salt
  • water
  • Chickpeas

The process then:

  1. The onions were blitzed in the food processor, with garlic and ginger being chopped.
  2. In a pan, olive oil and butter were warmed and cumin seeds added to them.
  3. Onions, garlic and ginger were then added and caramalised.
  4. With the onions, garlic and ginger golden, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some ripened plot tomatoes were added.
  5. To this, we then add spices. Garam masala, salt, chilli and turmeric. I also added some finely chopped coriander that came from the plot. It didn’t come chopped, no, Mum did that.
  6. This mixture was the cooked through, there is a visible colour change. If the tomatoes are really red, and the onion mixture already a deep caramel, this really will look quite vibrant.
  7. Next, chickpeas were put in and stirred through the mixture so as to coat them.
  8. Once coated and allowed to imbue with the mixture, water was added to make a gravy.

The point of this was to not only show a simple recipe, but also indicate how plot produce might be used. Might even do it again in the future!

Strawberry wine and beyond #gdnbloggers

From the last post, you will have seen that there was an experiment on the go with strawberries. It is time now to move the experiment on.

The youtube version can be seen here.

 

Having left the fruit to ferment for three days, the must  is suitably calm and ready to be transferred into the demi-john. It was a slow but steady process to strain the must through the scalded muslin, as I was doing it pint by by pint and there were five litres in the bucket. As you can see, this has nicely filled the glass demi-john. For now, I am using the demi john and will most likely be transferring and racking into five litre water bottles fitted with a grommet. I know that  second had glass demi -johns are available, and this is something that I might look into should the experiments work. The plan is to now leave the demi john alone, for about three months. I will need to keep any eye on the bubbles.

There is still a lot of fruit to use, and the next experiment is going to involve rhubarb and red currants. These are sat on the side defrosting.

Beyond this experiment, there is the small matter of the plot grapes.

There are three vines on the plot, red and white. These are boskoop glory and madeline sylvaner, which are dessert varieties. These can be used to make wine, the second hand wine making book suggests that acid is added to them, if these are the only ones available. I am not aware of any of the plot neighbours having vines, and there was a crop last year. So the plan-I think this has always been the plan really-is to wait til October when the now baby grapes have ripened to harvest and to try and make some wine out of them. Other than making vinegar, my other concerns in the volume grapes required. The recipes all require a significant amount of grapes, at least 13-14 lbs of fruit. Right now, the wine being produced is using 4 lbs of fruit, so that is a significant difference and depends on the vines producing enough. That, or the quantity will have to be scaled down.

At least now, there is a big enough fermenting bucket.

Blenheim Rose Garden #gdnbloggers

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The day after the hottest day of the year, and it was the second hottest day of the year.

And I got to see Blenheim Palace Rose Garden again having had a rather nice, traditional Afternoon tea. (Was the orangery, and not the Indian room, but still lovely).

I’ve not been to many rose gardens and I am sure that there are quiet a few. This was however the first one that I ever got to see, and it’s never lost it’s charm. I couldn’t tell you all of the rose varieties exactly, there are so many in the circular garden. This was my third visit, and I got see the roses in full bloom.

If ever, you wanted to propose to someone, do it here!

Blenheim is amazing anyway, it had me at the history; so the rose garden is a wonderful bonus. There is also the Capability Brown landscaping and lake to add to the whole adventure. On the side of the lake,  near the victory column, is an abandoned secret garden which is a hidden gem and worth trekking out and rummaging for. Just avoid the sheep on the way, and you’ll be fine.

bleheimme

Yes, I burned my shoulders (Yes, Bollywoods do actually burn and I am rather pasty). I missed a bit when slapping on the factor 50. It is the factor fifty that is ironically sat on the shelf post re-application. The adventuring hat-if it’s good enough for Indiana Jones-did it’s job, and the sunglasses are always mandatory in the rare, but very bright sunshine.

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