After the progress I made in the first year of allotmenting, autumn and winter came and went and it was back to the drawing board. Despite the hard work last year, things quickly became overgrown and the weeds were back with a vengeance. This year I'm taking it a lot more slowly and doing everything meticulously to try and make things easier to maintain in the long run. It's a bit of a slow and painful process, especially when I think about all the veg I could be growing but I know that it will be worth it in the long run. Now the days are longer and I can go over after work, I'm enjoying it a lot and am very proud with the progress.
Step 1 was to try and clear the very overgrown area at the bottom of the plots - see the size of the brambles below!
After a couple of sessions hacking away I created a nice pile of brambles and a clear-ish area. I then dug up the bulk of the bramble roots and nettle roots (so satisfying) and covered it with black plastic to save to work on next year.
You can see how much I'm enjoying myself on a sunny day!
The weather turned a bit colder but gave us the perfect day for a fire. We burned all the bramble cuttings and other weeds I'd been collecting over the past few months.
All ready for the next phase - all the digging!
Here's a pretty little snapshot of what the allotment looks like now (well, about a month ago!) You can see that the top section is now done, with raised beds and woodchip paths. I'm so excited to have got it to this stage as it was a bit painful at the time. My lack of patience does not help when it comes to creating level ground.
I started off by digging, which I absolutely love. It's so nice to spend a couple of hours after work digging whilst listening to an audiobook or music and watching the day turn to dusk. My back appreciates it less so however.
Next came my loathed task - levelling. I actually got the hang of it towards the end and taking it in small sections meant it wasn't quite so daunting. I tried once hastily and lay the beds out, then decided to redo it a week later. I'm pleased I did as it made a big difference to the look and feel (first attempt below).
I put down weed suppressant membrane, filled the beds and then covered the paths with mulch from the big communal pile on the plot. I'm not sure how well this is working for the smaller beds as they are quite shallow and things are struggling to grow, but is working really well for the weeds.
Here's the before and after - what a difference it makes! This stage being done lifted a lot of my worries and felt like a great accomplishment.
A few weeks ago, for reasons unknown, I had a hankering for lamb burgers. I'd never made them before but found a recipe in my 'The Burger' cookbook that seemed simple but tasty.
They are a bit crumbly, so probably not ones for the BBQ, but if you've got a good quality griddle it works wonders. Serve with a feta and pomegranate salad and fries, or in a pitta.
Lamb Burgers with Tahini Yoghurt
Gluten Free, makes 8 small patties
Preparation10 minutes, Cooking 15 minutes
You will need:
1. Preheat the griddle or grill to high. Mix the lamb with the feta, onion, coriander, salt and pepper, and cumin together and shape into patties.
2. Grill patties for 5-7 minutes on each side.
3. Meanwhile, mix the tahini, yoghurt, garlic, and lemon juice together and sprinkle with coriander and paprika.
So I have an exciting new project to share!
Okay, so it's not actually that new as I got my very own allotment in March 2016 and have been battling since then to get it into some kind of productive and pleasant state. It has been an interesting challenge so far, to say the least. Last year I was very eager to get stuck in and start growing and had a very good harvest for the first year, including so many courgettes that T never wants to eat a courgette again. This year, the main aim is to make it an enjoyable place to relax and hang out at. Although I find it very peaceful, there's no nice grassy or seated area and it's frankly a bit of a mess. I got a copy of 'Food From the Fire' from my lovely Mum for Christmas and am now enamoured with the idea of setting up an analogue kitchen consisting of (to begin with) a firepit and smoker.
Getting an allotment to begin with
Getting an allotment was relatively straightforward in Bristol compared to some of the stories I've heard about 10 year waiting lists and so on. I saw an advert on twitter that Bristol Council were offering half price allotments which needed work doing, so enquired with the council and they put me on the waiting list for a few different sites. The first one I went to had quite a few free plots, but there was a LOT of work that needed to be done and I wasn't sure about them. When I was making my mind up, one became available at another site, which was perfect. It still needed a huge amount of work, but it's a lovely little corner plot and everybody I met seemed really friendly.
Although the cost of renting the allotment was fairly cheap, most other things aren't. So far I've taken it slowly and used as much as what was left on the plot as possible. I managed to get some sleepers for raised beds from the Bristol Wood Recycling (£7.50 per metre) but they are few and far between.
This really got on top of me in the summer. SO SO SO many weeds. I did manage to grow things only going down once or twice a week, but it wasn't ideal.
Organic vs. Non Organic
Although it would be nice to have chemical free veg, I decided it wasn't worth it to begin with. There were (and still are) so many brambles on the plot that were impossible to dig up from the root. So there's lots of weedkilling on the go, but for me the environmental impact of growing and eating my own veg is already massively improved.
Covering and Digging
Raised Bed Construction and Planting!
So that's a whistle stop tour about what happened last year! I'm so excited to share the progress this year.
I've been waiting a little while to do a blog post about these, as I wanted to ensure the recipe was perfected and take some photos in the light (boo dark evenings). Whilst it's still a bit dark for the photos, I couldn't hold out any longer as this is possibly my favourite ever dinner (and even T said that carnitas are even better than Mission Burrito - shock horror!)
'Carnitas' apparently just means 'little meats' in Mexican (thanks Wikipedia) and are basically slowly cooked meats with lots of Mexican flavours, served in tacos, wraps etc. I do these in the slow-cooker and serve either in homemade flatbreads (see here or here), taco shells or standard tortilla wraps. The real thing that makes them amazing is the reducing down and caramelising of the stock at the end - if you don't have a slow cooker that can go on the hob you can just do this in the oven or transfer to a separate pan.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Gluten-free, dairy-free, serves 8
Preparation 30 minutes, Cooking 10-12 hours
You will need:
Juice the orange and limes and mix with the garlic and seasoning. Use as a marinade to the pork shoulder and leave overnight (although it doesn't matter too much if you skip the marinading). Place in a slow cooker with the chopped onion, stock and leave for 10-12 hours on low.
Take the pork out of the cooker and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce the liquid in the slow cooker down until sticky. Chop the pork into large chunks (about 3cm cubes) and mix with the reduced liquid. Serve in some kind of wrap with avocado, salsa, sour cream, fresh coriander and any other Mexican sides.
Simple as that! But amazingly delicious!
Happy New Year everyone! I can't believe I haven't blogged since back in October but I'm super excited that I've finished my Masters degree and now have weekends back. It's just the best thing in the world. In typical new year fashion I'm trying to use the time to get a bit more fit and healthy... although excitingly this seems to be involving cooking really tasty dishes like this one!
I was sent a ginormous leg of organic lamb from the Rhug Estate farm in Wales and couldn't wait to get stuck in to cooking it. I'd been salivating over this Nigel Slater aubergine and lamb recipe for weeks so it was perfect to test it out with, but I was completely worried about getting it all wrong and ending up with an overcooked flavourless lump. However, there was absolutely nothing to worry about as roasting the lamb was so simple and ended up perfectly pink!
This recipe uses a boneless leg, but a bone-in leg without the stuffing would work just as well.
Aubergine Roasted Lamb
Gluten free, serves 6-8
Preparation 15 minutes, Cooking 1 hour
You will need:
Serve with yoghurt - it's that simple!
Leftover Lamb Flatbreads
It's a well known fact that one of the best things about roast dinners are leftovers (when there are some) and this was perfect to go into some flatbreads. Use this recipe for non-gluten free, or try gluten free ones here. Then just add your choice of guacamole, salad, halloumi, feta, hummus, tzatsiki, cous cous, coriander and the leftover lamb and aubergine to fill it up!
This was such a fun experiment with lamb and I was really pleased with the results. It worked really well as a healthy alternative to the traditional sunday roast, with amazing leftovers for light meals throughout the week. You can also find a range of healthy lamb recipes from Eat Welsh Lamb - I'm so eager to make some lamb and feta burgers now!
Does anybody else have some healthy lamb recipes they'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!
Disclaimer - Lamb and ingredients costs were provided by PGI Welsh Lamb but this post is entirely my own content, opinions, recipes and photographs.
I'm so excited about this place! Full of natural light, amazing fresh food (and eek, marshmallows!) and an amazing atmosphere. T suggested it a few weeks ago and we picked up a fantastic Wriggle deal for sandwiches and coffee!
I started off with a latte and a rose marshmallow and went on to the smoked salmon baguette which was utterly divine - look how lovely and flaky the salmon is.
And this marshmallow was so sooo sooooooooo good!
The cafe itself is set over two floors with a big open area at the bottom and a small deli and bar at the top. It was also lovely to get a little bit of work done in my favourite new comfy yoga leggings...
If you fancy popping in, Salt Café is open Tuesday - Saturday for breakfast, lunch and cakes. I'd definitely recommend!
When I was younger I always loved blackberry picking in the autumn. Growing up in Swanage, I was really lucky to be able to walk up to the end of my road and be immediately in the Dulston Nature Reserve. We now have to venture out a bit further for rich blackberry pickings, but there's no shortage of countryside days out around Bristol. The National Trust in particular have a Great British Walk campaign going on and, as you've seen in previous posts, we love a good day out with the NT!
Yesterday we popped up the M5 to Newark Park, which is an old hunting lodge surrounded by miles of Cotswold countryside. We strolled around the 3.5 mile route, tupperwear in hand and enjoyed the late summer (or early autumn?) sunshine. Although a bit late in the year for filling boxes with blackberries, we managed to pick plenty to make these delicious friands!
Friands are pretty much my go to bake for a quick and easy treat - they are little cakes made of egg white and ground almonds which are so light and fluffy. They also only use 50g of flour which is really easy to substitute with a gluten free blend and get the same effect. I also make them in small muffin cases so they are like little bites and you can completely justify eating 5 in a row!
Gluten free, makes 12-16
Preparation 15 minutes, Cooking 25 minutes
You will need:
2. Sift in the icing sugar and flour then add the ground almonds and melted butter. Mix gently until combined.
3. Distribute the mixture into muffin cases to about 2/3 full. Press in the blackberries gently.
4. Cook in an oven at 190 degrees centigrade for 20-25 minutes. Using the small cases they tend to brown quite quickly, but don't worry and continue to cook until cooked in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then on a rack.
5. Serve dusted with a hearty amount of icing sugar.
This morning we woke up to the sun streaming through the windows and felt the excitement of the weekend, so we changed our original plan of cooking a fry up to venturing out for one instead! One of us* was also a little bit hungover and thought a hearty stroll and breakfast would do just the trick.
We wandered down to the Star and Dove in Totterdown, Bristol as it's not too far away from our house and I've been wanting to try their Saturday Breakfast menu for sometime. Although it's a pub, we've been down a couple of mornings previously to cosy up with a coffee by the fire and it always has that homely feel. What we didn't realise was they had an amazing sun trap of a beer garden out the back, plus plenty of blankets and a resident cat! What more can you want?
After a bit of confusion about the gluten-free options on the menu (my confusion - stemming from being half asleep and torn between two dishes) I was so happy that I chose the baked eggs served with crispy buttery gluten free toast. They were in a truffle and thyme sauce that was just irresistible and felt very decadent. T went for the full english which included hunks of fried bread and black pudding.
We could have sat out in that sunny garden all day, T reading the paper whilst I laughed at some of the soulmates adverts (sorry) and filled him in on the entire season 3 of Orphan Black I watched last night. A perfect autumnal Saturday morning!
This exact time last month, we arrived back from 10 days exploring the Philippines and didn't quite know what to do with ourselves. Despite the adventure we had, I was delighted to be back in our lovely little home and doing all the cosy things you do when coming back from a long trip away. One of which involved planning healthy and fresh meals for the next week, given that we couldn't rely on enjoying fresh mango or watermelon juices every day *sigh*.
Inspiration came from the Sunday Observer, with Nigel Slater's recipe for spicy sausages served with feta and avocado immediately making my mouth water - I don't know how I've gone from hating avocado to being totally addicted to it in the past year. I've also now ordered his 'Eat' book and can't wait to dig in to some of the amazing looking recipes in this too.
You can find the original recipe in the Guardian here.
Sausage, Feta and Avocado Dinner
Preparation 5 minutes, cooking 20 minutes
You will need:
Cook the sausages for 20 minutes in a frying pan, using a little oil on a moderate heat. Meanwhile peal and chop the avocados - I left them as chunks but you could mash them slightly. Chop a handful of each of the herbs then add to the avocado with the chilli. Fold in the feta and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the sausages and serve.
I also added some steamed tenderstem and cherry tomatoes, and a glass of white wine to wash it all down.
I'm Pearl, currently living in Bristol and enjoying the finest the city has to offer in terms of food, culture and adventures.