Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Strawberry & Fudge Cheesecake / Strawberry Curd Recipes

What to make with lots of strawberries? Well, with my first batch I made this awesome strawberry & fudge cheesecake.

  • 75g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g HobNobs biscuits 
  • 250g vanilla fudge 
  • 300g mascarpone  
  • 400ml double cream, softly whipped 
  • 250g strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
1. Lightly butter a 23cm springform cake tin. Pulse the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined and clumped together. Tip into the base of the tin and press down evenly. Chill.

2. Meanwhile, put 200g of the fudge in a large bowl and melt in a microwave for 1 minute on High, or until it forms a soft paste (or alternatively melt in a pan over a very low heat). Cool slightly. Beat the mascarpone in a bowl with a wooden spoon until soft, then add to the melted fudge and mix until combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

3. Chop the remaining fudge into small chunks and stir into the filling. Add a few chopped strawberries too. Spoon over the chilled biscuit base, smoothing the top. Cover and chill for 6 hours or overnight – the fudge will set the cheesecake.

4. Once set, put the strawberries in a bowl and toss with the icing sugar. Set aside to macerate for 20 minutes. Cover the top of the cheesecake with these strawberries.

Serve chilled.
This is my work-in-progress shot...

And the final thing, ready to take to share at work.

I also made strawberry curd. Only made lemon curd before so wasn't sure how it would turn out. It isn't as set as a lemon curd but thickened ok and tastes amazing - actually just like a strawberry cheesecake!

  • 500g (1lb) strawberries, washed, hulled & halved
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) white granulated sugar
  • 60g (2 oz) salted butter, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
1. Place strawberries plus 2 tbsp of water in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the strawberries are really soft.

2. Pour into a mesh sieve over a clean, heatproof bowl and use the back of a spoon to push the strawberry pulp through into the liquid. 
3. Place the heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on medium heat. Make sure the bowl fits snugly and that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the sugar, beaten eggs and butter to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter melts. Continue to stir constantly for about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the heat up and continue to stir for another 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens. It's important to keep stirring otherwise the mixture could curdle.

5. Carefully pour mixture into hot sterilized jars and seal.    (Makes 2 jam jars)

Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Happy harvests

Harevsting is starting to pick up at the allotment with lots of goodies ready for picking. The garlic I planted before Christmas is finally ready so I've hung that out to dry. Looking forward to using this. Not as big as I was expecting but I am happy with the results. I think next year I will plant double the amount.

The first proper strawberry harvest weighed in at about 2lbs. Not quite as many this year as last from the looks of the plants, but that is probably my fault for not sorting out the bed early enough so they had a lot of competition from the weeds. I think I need to plant out some additional plants to boost the health of the row. Lots more strawberries ready for picking soon. This batch got made into a strawberry & fudge cheesecake and 2 jars of my very first strawberry curd.

Amongst the harvest were some freaky-looking strawberries! These made me laugh. Tasted just as nice as the others, though you wouldn't see these in the shops. I wonder how many cosmetically-challenged strawberries get wasted...?

My first mangetout (left) and first kelvedon peas were tasty, eaten whole and super fresh.

I've got a BUMPER harvest of blackcurrants this year again. This haul was from just 2 bushes and only half of what is there. I didn't bother netting these so just imagine how much more I'd have if I did! I wouldn't be able to move for blackcurrants!

Courgettes are ready for picking. I wonder if they'll be as prolific this year as last. Probably! At least I now have courgette recipes :)

Post-holiday catch up

So, what is happening at lottie? Well...

The view from the road is looking good. Nick's been doing a great job looking after things whilst I was away & now things are really coming along. He even edged this big bed. Bless.

The californian poppies look great with the gladioli. They make me smile :)

And this bed of flowers is coming into bloom.

The sweetcorn block is really growing and the oriental salad I put around the bottom is nearly ready for picking.

I planted out some leeks I grew from seed before I went away. They all seem to be doing well. I could, perhaps, have planted too many! Hey ho. I do like leeks ;)

The shed end is also going great guns. The cornflowers are working well with the sugarsnaps, giving them something to hold on to whilst looking pretty!

Back at home the seeds I planted out on my balcony are also growing well. The borage is on the verge of flowering (I nearly lost it when I was away but luckily a good soak revived it), the rocket and coriander will be harvested soon & the bellboy pepper is starting to produce.

My replacement tumbling tom tomatoes, grown from seed, are also doing well. Thank goodness for that!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Back from hols :)

Hello! Been away for a relaxing week in Pembrokeshire. Lovely weather :) Hope you're well. I am yet to go to lottie to check out what's new down there. I am looking forward to getting back to it. I snapped a couple of lottie-related pics whilst I was away...

This is a nice looking lottie plot I spotted near to a candle makers, next to a stream.

And this one is a well-used and interesting potting shed in an open garden in the hills.

This is one of my fave places in Pembs. Strumble Head. Love it! Spent a good couple of hours seal-watching here :) Terribly wonky horizon on this pic - whoops!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Wigwammery, strange finds & a radish recipe (Sunday's work)

Remember my nursery snaps from earlier? Well, I went ahead and made a wigwam like the ones I'd seen. My join was a bit higher up than the ones I saw but I am pretty happy with the sturdiness of it. Last year the plants pretty much toppled the A-frame shape I made - *pic here*!
I used 8 canes, tying it together with string. I also added some string around the base to stop the canes from moving outwards with the weight of the plants when they get bigger. To support them as they grow, I made this star-shape. It will also guide the 2 black-eyed susan vines out to the canes. I got them to grow with the beans as they're so pretty. Nick thinks it looks a little cult-ish but was impressed with the wigwam itself :) So, there are 8 runner bean plants. Will see how they do.

In front of the wigwam, I planted two rows of self-blanching celery. I gave up trying to get the seeds I had to germinate.

I also planted some 'diablo' dahlias surrounded by celariac. There are 2 identical beds like this.

Whilst I was weeding the 2nd bed to prep for planting, I had a very random find. This rotten egg was in the soil! I wonder how it got there.

So, now the 'road end' bed is looking quite good. I also did lots of raking. It will look great once everything is established. I have some purple sprouting broccoli to go in, spring onions and some leeks. I've read up on how to plant the leeks out as my lot last year just died. I know my error now - not planted deep enough. Gonna get the dibber out :)

I also needed to do something with the 1st batch of radishes I harvested. I thought perhaps pickling would be something to try. I found a recipe and made up a batch.

I have to say, the end result looks disgusting in this photo! I am yet to try any yet. The recipe sounds tasty though :) It's all foamy as instead of getting a bowl to mix the vinegar, sugar and soy, I shook it together in the jar. The proof is in the eating I guess!

  • 20 radishes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tblsp soy sauce
  • 3 tblsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tblsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

    1. Clean the radishes and cut off both ends - make 2 or 3 small slashes on each one to allow the pickle to infuse, but keep whole.

    2. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 5 mins.

    3. Mix the soy sauce and vinegar in a separate bowl, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. (This is where I shook the ingredients together in the jar.)

    4. Pour the pickle mix over the radishes and finally dribble in the sesame oil.

    Store in the fridge.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Gooseberry & green peppercorn chutney

From last year's harvest, my freezer still contains lots of fruit that needs using. Amongst the goodies were lots of gooseberries. Stewed fruit is NOT my cup of tea, so I needed to make something with them that I would eat. I spotted this recipe for gooseberry & green peppercorn chutney a while back - it has been on my recipe list (see the side bar) since last year! Anyway, this morning I cooked up a batch...
  • 600g green or red gooseberries
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 300ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp green peppercorns
  • 175g raisins
  • 175g brown sugar
1. To make the chutney: put the gooseberries, onions, garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a preserving pan and pour over two-thirds of the vinegar. Add the peppercorns and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.

3. Add the raisins, sugar, the remaining vinegar and a pinch of salt. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for up to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then store in the fridge for up to a month. Alternatively, pour the hot mixture into hot sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool, dark place.

I am storing two jars as a preserved chutney which should be ready in a few months - they may even make good Xmas presents. I kept one jar to go in the fridge to use straight away. I think it will probably have a bit of a kick to it.

Local nursery trip - the purchases

So, I went to Dundry Nursery yesterday. Seems like a good find. Lots of healthy plants at good prices and a vast range of seeds. Of course, I didn't leave empty-handed! I found these pretty marigolds in amongst the more ugly (in my opinion) usual marigold varieties. These are 'disco mix'. I also got some dahlias, salvia and a vegetable spaghetti plant - I have given up trying to grow one from seed! The veg-spag plant is quite upright so I may train this up some canes. It seems Dundry are not only potato specialists, but also cultivate a vast number of chillis too. I didn't get any this time but will remember them for next year.

I also snapped a couple of ideas I may use down the allotment. This low, sturdy trellis could be recreated with scrap wood...

...and these wigwams are a bit different from how I'd normally do it but they look pretty funky like this tied lower down. I think I might try this with my runner bean/black-eyed susan vine plants.

I thought I'd take a couple of pics of the 'shed end' as it is starting to come together. In fact the whole plot is really shaping up.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Thinning out, planting & harvesting

Last night I popped to the allotment. Just for a little while after work... but then stayed 'til it was dark! That's a habit I am getting into. Too many jobs, not enough time.

My seedlings did pretty well sown directly into the soil in rows, under the cling film cold frame. I took the frame itself off a while back when the frost had gone and almost everything I planted has gone great guns. So much so, I think I have too much! The kohl rabi was my task last night. I thinned out all the seedlings and planted them in-front of the sugar snaps/cornflowers. There was a reasonable amount of weeding to do but the soil is lovely up this (shed) end of the plot and the weeds came out easily. I am very pleased with the kohl rabi seedlings and I am hoping they will now start to swell. I had some seedlings left over so I gave some to a plot neighbour and some to a friend at work. She also got a chinese lantern - seedlings are popping up from one I bought last year which I thought had died a death, and some cosmos - also self-sown from last year's plant.

I also harvested some radishes which look mighty fine :) I thinned the seedlings a couple of weeks ago to give them room to swell. I like this photo :) Anyone know any good radish recipes?

These are leeks I grew from seed. I am going to thin these out too and sow them in place. I ran out of time last night.

I read somewhere you can germinate shop-bought seeds. This is my 'bean experiment' so I will see if anything grows. Just a bit of fun really. Not the end of the world if it doesn't work!

I picked my first ranunculus too. It is a bright poppy-red but looks orange on this pic. Pesky camera!

I also planted out the aubergines, patty pans, butternut squash and marrow plants I bought from Potten Farm in Kent. I did this is the dark though so no photos yet!

I've just been to the nursery near work to get a few more things. As the seeds I planted did nothing and I want to grow them, I bought a tray of self-blanching celery and two trays of celariac. I also got more seeds and some flowers. Photos to follow :)

After saying I wouldn't grow them again, like I did with the tomatoes, I bought a pot of runner beans! Aww, but... there were 8 healthy plants in one pot... it wasn't much money... last year's were super-tasty (but SO prolific!)... ah, I am sure I will enjoy them this year. Note to self - create a STURDY frame this time! No idea what sort they are. It just said 'runner bean'. Hmm!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Local nursery trip - the plan

As I am a little short on plants and time is ticking on, I am going to get some fillers. It is what I did last year - I was too late to plant seeds then. Next year I'll see if I can get better results from growing from seed.

I think this weekend I will take a trip to Dundry Nursery. I stumbled on their website when I was browsing seed potatoes a while back. It seems they are somewhat of a specialist in such things. Their website is: if you wanted a nosey. Looking forward to it :) My purse probably isn't!

When I was away in Kent over the bank holiday, I bought some plants at a great nursery called Potten Farm - last year I bought from them too. If you're in the area, I suggest you pay them a visit.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Planting out 'the survivors'

The survivors from my grown-from-seed selection got planted out last week. Disappointingly there weren't as many as I'd like, but then that's the way it goes. I guess it is all part of learning. Most things got planted in the big bed at the 'road end', the one I'd divided into 9 sections. I put the squashes/courgettes etc here as it is closest to the water source. Should be easier on my poor back!

This is how it looked post-planting. Flowers nearest to us: nicotiana, cosmos, dwarf rudbeckia; above them to the left of the photo is the 'med bed': aubergine, tomatoes, yellow pepper (more to add here). The rest of the squares contain various courgettes and squashes. Some squares are still empty but they'll soon fill up :) As you can see, the squashes etc are pretty weeny. Hopefully they'll sort themselves out asap.

If you're wondering what those are by each plant, they're cut-off bottles, to focus the watering. Last year I didn't do this and I expect water was wasted. I know some of the leaves got scorched, so hopefully this way will be better. While the roots get established I am watering normally, then I'll move onto just watering in the bottles.

I also planted out into the mini-beds. My chitted rooster spuds went in one, and the surviving early extra sweetcorns went next to them.

The flowers planted a while back in the first row of mini-beds are taking their time. The only one looking promising is this bed of gladiolus, poppies and mixed annuals, even if it does look messy. I am sure half are weeds!

I also netted the blueberry with the clothes-peg & cane system.