Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Don't Forget the Apples!

I don't know how it happened but apple picking time has come around already. It took me completely by surprise.  It shouldn't have, the apples on the little trees in our back garden are ALWAYS ripe on the last day of August or the first day of September.


Of course there is always one 'cling on' in every crowd, that one last apple which refuses to let go.


So... in the next day or two I'll give him a little wiggle to see if he is ready to let go.  


In the meantime, I have plenty of apples to enjoy.  If you have apple trees don't forget to test them in the next day or two.  You may need to do some picking too. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Chocolate Courgette Cake

Some people call them zucchini. Some call them courgettes, when they get big they are marrows.  Whatever you call them it's that time of the season when everyone who has even one squash plant now has a glut of fruit. 


No matter how you try, you can't eat them fast enough and they JUST KEEP COMING!  Here's a recipe we used to make in the States where zucchini would take over the world if you give them half a chance. 


CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE 

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C.  Butter and flour a square cake pan and set it to one side while you make the cake batter.

1 cup plain all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 medium eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup grated courgette (aka zucchini or marrow)


Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir them with a large spoon to combine them.  Add the eggs, oil, vanilla, and grated courgette and stir until all of the ingredients are well combined.  Do not overmix .... this batter doesn't need to be beaten.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Leave the cake in the tin to cool.  


Now, you can simply sprinkle some icing sugar over the cake and serve it or you can add this simple but delicious chocolate icing. 

CHOCOLATE ICING

1 ounce butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1-2 Tablespoons milk
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) icing sugar

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add the cocoa powder and cook over low heat for about a minute.  Remove from the heat, stir in the milk.  Add the icing sugar and beat with a spoon until the icing is smooth and glossy.  Pour the warm icing over the cake and gently smooth it out to the edges of the cake. When the icing has set a bit you are ready to serve.  

I suppose there are worse problems than having too many zucchini...especially when you can have CAKE!  

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Plot Progress Report

One month ago today we took over the much neglected allotment plot that is located directly behind our back garden fence.  You may recall it looked like this when we started.....  pretty scary! 


This is how the plot looks today.....


There is still A LOT of work to do, as you can see, but we are getting there... once spade full of dirt at a time.   

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Taking Lavender Cuttings or Hedging One's Bets

Yesterday I managed to enrage about half the bees in East Devon,  I pruned back our overgrown lavender hedge.  It had to be done.  All the flowers had suffered from the heat and drought and besides, it was just time to do it!



As the mound of spent flowers and fragrant foliage grew around my feet it dawned on me that I should be saving the most viable branches for cuttings. I mean, have you seen the price of lavender plants when shopping at the garden centre?  The multi-packs of small plants start at £7 for six little sprigs.  I was standing on a small fortune!  



I collected a big handful of cut lavender boughs and plonked them into a jar of water.  This morning I filled a couple of deep plastic trays with compost and set to work taking cuttings.  Now, I know my method isn't how a proper gardener would do it and this will send a real horticulturalist around the bend but with a little luck some of these sad little sprigs will take root.



If only a handful grow into proper lavender plants it will have been worth the time, effort, and cost of the compost.... not to mention how proud I will be to have grown my own new lavender hedge.  

CLICK HERE to learn how to take lavender cuttings properly.