It seems to have taken longer than ever for the blossom to come, but it has eventually happened. I think we probably missed some of it because the foul weather at times has driven us back indoors! Hopefully by the time you read this we will be enjoying a blissfully warm and pleasant summer month. So, on the plus side late blossom has missed the frosts and we should get a bumper fruit crop. We more or less missed out altogether last year when the early start to the year petered out leaving us feeling that we had been robbed! Our summer had been stolen. This year will be different; already the barbecue has been cleaned and used a couple of times, and I am really keen to make the garden easier to maintain so that we can have more time enjoying it and spend less time working on it!
The garden is full of blossom! But we are, by all accounts, three weeks behind the natural season. The long winter has eaten into our precious spring! It is a bit of a shaker to think that the longest day is only a matter of 6 weeks away and that we are still looking at relatively low soil temperatures.
I am writing this without knowing exactly what the weather will be like when you read so please forgive me if nothing matches up with reality, but that’s the way it goes. I have a day in the garden today and there is very little growing yet. The soil is more or less ready to sow and I ‘m dodging in and out between some really heavy rain showers which is not unusual for this time of year. All in all nature which catch up and bring everything into line at some point; day length is absolutely fixed and there’s no way of fooling the earth in its orbit to get extra days of summer.
May is a manic month! Everything growing and the weeds trying to outdo the plants you really want!
You can sow virtually anything now and it will grow, just make sure that the seed has enough moisture to keep it growing after the seed has actually germinated. Don’t drown it but keep it moist. Some crops, and flowers, need longer than others to reach maturity so do read the seed packet to avoid wasting your energy on things that will never work.
Always time to sow salad and other leafy vegetables including spinach and so many exotic leafy crops that make exciting salads. It is not impossible but it is rare for there to be night frost in May in this part of the world so French beans, runner beans, peas, sweet corn should all be sown or planted out now. Courgettes should also be safe although young plants always need protection from cold winds. Either a covering or a windbreak constructed from the white horticultural fleece is ideal. Leeks and winter brassicas should be transplanted.
Lavender is a great favourite for many gardeners; it really is a romantic flower that most of us get the urge to plant in the garden sooner or later, adding real value many ways with its shades of blue flowers and silver leaved backdrop, its scents and the fact that it attracts all sorts of insects and butterflies.
‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are two of the hardiest and most often planted cultivars of lavender. They are both compact forms that work well as hedges or in groups of 5 or more. Other taller varieties work equally well and to successfully grow lavender, it needs to be planted in a warm, well-drained soil with full sun. Lavender however, does not like ‘wet feet’ as it promotes root rot. Dampness is often the reason that lavender does not perform.
There’s more than a bit of head scratching going on. Winter has dragged on seemingly forever and the weather to date has been less than encouraging. However as I am writing this a few weeks ahead of you actually reading it, I had better not dig myself too deep a hole! I would be better to enthuse about the blue skies, sharply focused blossom, sudden heavy showers and the warmth of an April morning. That is surely why England is such a wonderful place to live? Few parts of the world offer the same spring delights with strong new growth from dormant plants daily changing the colour of our landscape. Nothing can compare with this. The clocks have now changed with the extra hour in the evening, giving us a little extra time to make progress with the outside work. Read the rest of this entry »
200g chocolate (milk or dark)
3tbsp golden syrup – gently warmed
100g rice crispies or cornflakes
You will need approx 3 chocolate mini eggs for each nest
- Melt the chocolate and butter together
- Add the warmed golden syrup and stir well
- Add the rice crispies and gently stir making sure all the crispies are coated in chocolate
- Divide mix into 12 cup cakes and place the mini eggs in the centre of each one
- Leave to set
Created by Shaun Carthy, Head Chef at Orchard Park
24oz diced venison from Lagan Farm Shop
3oz diced streaky bacon
1 bay leaf
2 juniper berries
1small carrot, onion, leek
2 tbsp olive oil
1tsp redcurrant jelly
2 stalks celery
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp tomato puree
20z frozen redcurrants
1 glass red wine
2oz dark bitter chocolate
Dusting of flour for venison
- Peel and roughly chop onion, carrot and celery
- Add tsp olive oil to pan and sweat chopped vegetables off gently until soft
- Place veg in casserole dish and set aside
- In same pan as veg softened add another tsp of olive oil and diced venison and brown off
- Once brown add the flour to the venison and stir through
- Place the venison on top of the veg in the casserole dish and place on low heat on hob
- Add the red wine and slowly reduce down
- Once all above cooked through add tomato puree, stock cube, bay leaf, thyme, redcurrant jelly and juniper berries
- Place in oven at 150c for 2 hrs
- 15mins before end of cooking time add the chocolate and the frozen redcurrants
- Season to taste and serve with celeriac mash and roasted root vegetables
Here’s a great recipe for Rice Pudding:
Rice Pudding (serves 8)
2 cups of rice (Basmati or brown)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup milk
¼ cup double cream
3 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp nutmeg
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup currants
Cinnamon sticks for garnish
- Steam the rice and once cooked set aside
- Pre-heat oven at 18c
- Put raisins and currants into a small saucepan and cover with hot water and bring gently to the boil, remove from heat and allow fruit to soak and plump up
- Stir butter into cooked rice – leave to stand
- In a mixing bowl whisk together milk, cream, eggs yolks, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg
- Pour mixture into rice and stir through
- Drain raisins and currants and fold into rice mixture
- Grease 9” x 9” baking dish with butter and add rice mix
- Place in oven for 45 minutes, uncovered
- Serve garnished with a cinnamon stick and serve warm
Potatoes from your plot….
With the shortage of potatoes having driven the prices up in the shops, it makes sense to grow a few spuds yourself this year! They are easy and rewarding to grow and it’s good exercise too! Here are a few tips to getting started;
- Choosing seed potatoes from the garden centre (on sale now!) These are certified as being pest and disease free which is key to getting a good healthy crop. The seed potatoes are clearly marked on the packs:
- First early – choose these varieties if you want new potatoes early in the season. Plant mid to end of March to crop mid to late June
- Second early – plant these varieties early to mid April to crop late July to early August
- Maincrop – Plant mid April to crop early – mid August. These can also be stored fro autumn and winter use.
- Chitting – Just means encouraging the seed potatoes to produce sturdy green shoots before planting. Place in trays or egg boxes with the end with most buds uppermost somewhere light and cool (and frost free) until you’re ready to plant.
- Soil – Potatoes love an enriched soil – lots of home made compost or bagged rotted manure or similar. A general fertilizer is a good idea too but avoid using lime with potatoes. Read the rest of this entry »
Ingredients to serve 6 – 8;
- 1 1/3 cups ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup milk
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 50g butter
For the honeycomb butter;
- 250g unsalted, softened butter
- 100g sugar honeycomb (crushed)
- 2 tbsp honey
- Combine Ricotta, milk and egg yolks
- Sift flour, salt & baking powder – add to Ricotta mixture
- Whisk egg white and fold through the batter – do this slowly a little at a time
- To make the honeycomb butter place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well – put to one side until pancakes cooked
- Heat large frying pan using a little of the butter (do not leave pan unattended)
- Using a small ladle (remember these need to be small pancakes that stack) put mixture into pan and cook on low to medium heat for 2 minutes
- Using a palate knife to loosen the edges of the pancake and gently toss the pancake into the air so it comes down onto the pan on the uncooked side – cook for further 2 minutes.
- When evenly browned remove from pan and place on plate and cover with foil
- Cook the next pancake using the same method
Put a layer of sliced banana on the first pancake, top with 2nd pancake and top that with dollop of the butter and decorate with a little icing sugar.