Spinach ready for eating?

If your spinach is ready then here is a lovely recipe for you.  With a few tweaks it would also work with swiss chard if you have that ready at the moment.

Spinach is a great vegetable, but you do need to have a lot of it to make an impression!
Of course children generally don’t like it, so I would serve this perhaps as a light lunch for adults, and do a quiche Lorraine which has no spinach and plenty of cheese and bacon for the kiddies. Everlasting spinach has got to be the chosen one to plant as it lasts and lasts.

Spinach Quiche

Preparation: 40 minutes Cooking time: 25 – 30 minutes Serves: 5 – 6

Ingredients:

6oz (150g) plain flourCooked_Spinach_quiche_on_board

3oz (75g) butter

A small amount of cold water

10 oz (280g) coarsely chopped spinach

5 medium spring onions

4 eggs

2 floz (50ml) cream or crème fresh

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp chopped parsley

4oz (100g) cream cheese

4oz (100g) cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

 Directions:

  1. Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour to make a fine breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water very carefully to make a firm dough. If you put too much water in add a little more flour.
  2. Roll it out and place in a cold flan tin then put in freezer.
  3. Turn the oven on to 180°/ 350°/ Gas mark 4.
  4. Put all the spinach into a pan with 1/2 cm (1/4”) of water then cook fast for 1 minute.  This will shrink it so that it can fit into your flan tin. Let it cool. Chop the spring onions fairly thinly.
  5. Put the eggs into a large mixing bowl with the salt pepper and nutmeg then mix well.
  6. Add the spinach, spring onions, cream, cream cheese, cheddar and chopped parsley into the bowl then mix well.
  7. Take the tin out of the freezer and fork lots of little holes into the bottom of the pastry.
  8. Place the flan tin in the oven for 10 minutes, until light brown. This is called ‘baking blind’. The reason for baking blind is so that you get a good firm base to the quiche.
  9. Take the tin out of the oven and pour in all of the filling mixture.
  10. Put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes.
  11. You can eat this cold or hot, for lunch or supper it is delicious.

For a printable PDF click here Spinach_Quiche

 

Halloween special… Pumpkin Pie anyone?

From the pictures on Social Media it appears that this was a bumper year for pumpkins and squashes.  I am sure that this was not without its difficulties, particularly keeping them watered in the long hot summer.  Not something we have cause to worry about often!  But the results speak for themselves so I am sure that there are many of you in need of another pumpkin recipe so here it is.

Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

Some say pumpkins are not that flavoursome however, after spending hours hollowing them out at Halloween you can’t possibly let all that free food go to waste! So I have this recipe for a sweet pumpkin pie that makes a change from what you eat during the year.

This pie can be eaten hot or cold, and is rather nice with cream, ice cream or crème fresh. Delish!

Ingredients

Filling                                                                                           Pastry

2 eggs                                                                        6oz 170g plain flour

2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar                                  2oz 50g icing sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk                                         5oz 140g salted butter

400g pumpkin flesh                                                                  1-2 tbsp. cold water

50g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

100g pecan halves broken into little bits

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Serves: 6-8

  1. Firstly make the pastry: Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make a good dough, do not overwork the pastry.
  2. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for 15- 20 minutes.
  3. Grease a 9”, 23cm diameter pie tin and place in fridge.
  4. Turn the oven on to 190°C, gas mark 5.
  5. Now for the filling. Cut the pumpkin flesh into thin slivers or little squares ½ cm x ½ cm.
  6. In a separate bowl place ALL the other ingredients and mix hard with a wooden spoon until you have a gooey consistency.
  7. Add the pumpkin pieces and mix in.
  8. Get the pastry and tin from the fridge. Roll out the pastry to fit the tin then add the filling ingredients – If there is too much mixture you can always bake it in a little ramekin and cook separately.
  9. Lastly, put your pecan nuts into a bowl and bash with the end of the rolling pin until they are the size you want them.  I like little chips.  Then sprinkle them on top of the pie and place the pie into the oven for 35-45 minutes.

For a printable copy click here Pumpkin Pie topped with Pecans

Winter tools trial…

As its time to start preparing the garden for winter its time to think about clearing leaves,

Leaf_Picker_head_with_leaves

Leaf Picker in action

digging over beds and generally having a tidy up.  To help you, Grow Your Own magazine has completed a trial of the tools you will need.

Included in this is the Haxnicks Leaf Picker.  Deeming it to be ” An efficient, easy pick-up and discard mechanism for leaves without any backbreaking bending over”  it gets a big thumbs up from Simon Akeroyd.  Especially good for picking up leaves in flower beds where a traditional rake may damage plants it is definitely a must for the tool shed.

 

Grow_Your_Own_Magazine_article

How to photograph your garden

Be it allotment or garden.  Do you ever gaze at the beautiful oasis you have created and wish that you could capture just how fabulous it is?  To let others feel the beauty of the sun shining through the leaves?  Or the dew clinging to a newly opened rose?  Only to find that despite best efforts the image you get lacks the magic that your eye could see.   Well I decided to put this right by attending a garden photography course and wanted to share the secrets with you.

Know Your cameragrasses_in_garden

This wasn’t learnt on this course but its important, so my first tip to you is learn as much as you can about your camera.  For example on the course I did in the summer I learnt that my camera has a built in spirit level.  Not sure how I didn’t know this – I should have, its there in the viewfinder.  But I didn’t.  This one nugget has lead to much more of my images actually being level and will save hours in editing time!

I had an equally Eureka moment at a course run my Olympus (I have an Olympus Mirrorless Compact) where they told me that you could switch which functions were controlled by which dials.  This let me put the controls back where they had been on my beloved Nikon DSLR and meant that my instinctive actions were back where they should be so I could think of other things.

Help can come from a variety of places. The manufacturer will often run workshops and clinics to help you get more out of your equipment,  Failing that YouTube is full of helpful videos and if you search your camera model then you will likely find a photography forum where people will be able to help.

So on to what I actually learnt from the course.

Shoot into the Light

Japanese_anenome_backlit

Backlit is best

This is radical and takes a bit of getting used to.  The first thing we are taught when we pick up a camera as a child is to get the sun behind you to take the picture.  Try and unlearn this when it comes to your garden because what plant doesn’t look better with the sun streaming through it?  You have to avoid pointing your lens directly at the sun by blocking it with trees or foliage but all in all shooting into the light will enliven your plants and let you capture that sparkle that makes your garden pop.

In the example below I took an ordinary leaf and shot it with the light behind me to get the first image.  This is a very ordinary looking leaf.  The second image is toward the light but it is too strong and it ruins the image.  Changing my position slightly to shield my lens form the glare with the trees makes the leaf shine, showing the red tips along the leaf and giving some nice Bokeh in the background.  An ordinary slightly ragged leaf still but a much stronger image than the first one.

Leaf_shot_into_the_light

Shooting into the light brings out colour and texture

Layers and Background

It is important to look at the whole picture and not just the beautiful specimen that you want to photograph. So if you take my stunningly charismatic Swiss Chard I didn’t really want the road barriers and the car my husband is respraying in the middle of the lawn (WHY?) to feature in the photo.  A slight change of angle sorted it.  As you can see I am still learning to look at the whole picture!

Autumn_shades_in_plants

Capture the colour

See your garden as a palette of different layers – so what plants are behind your prize specimen?  Can you move round it to get a better angle and take the shot with something it will stand out against as the background?  If all else fails can you lie down and take the shot against the sky or tower above it and use the lawn as a background? This way of thinking may even influence your planting in future years.

Don’t be afraid to move.  Crouch down low and shoot upwards, shoot from directly above your plant, shoot through other plants so they form a frame.  Try 5 shots from one location and then force yourself to move, try 5 more and move again and keep going until your lettuce feels like its walking the red carpet at the Oscars!

Make Mistakes

seed_heads_waer_plants

Strong shapes like seed heads work well

Now you have a mass of photos its time to review them.  Hopefully you will have made loads and loads of mistakes.  Mistakes are good news as you can learn much more from a bad photo than a good one.  So rather than scrolling through them and hitting delete, delete, delete…STOP. Compare one you like the look of to one you didn’t.  Was the shutter speed to slow so it was blurry?  Was the aperture too small so that you had a big depth of field and could see the rubbish bin in the background?  If you don’t know much about photography then there are lots of people out there who do so join a forum, show them your image and ask your questions.  You don’t need to know the technical terms as you can pick these up as you go along.

 

I hope these few tips will help you take better pictures.  Remember for every stunning image you see on Instagram there are probably 100 disasterous ones that were delete, delete, deleted!

We’d love to see your new found skills – tag your images @Haxnicks and we can share them for you.

Wishing you luck with Fire in the Kitchen!

one One of our regular bloggers, Madeleine Cardozo has just released a new cookery book.

As well as an Fire_in_the_kitchenauthority on growing veg, Madeleine is a trained chef.  Our readers have been enjoying the recipes from her last book Plot to Pot for some time.

With her latest book she has now turned her hand to the world of teenagers.  Fire In the Kitchen tempts teenagers, and younger children with a passion for cookery, into the kitchen.  It contains lots of family favourites and new dishes that are sure to be on the menu going forward.

Always with an eye on the garden and with the last of the raspberries currently being harvested she kindly offered to share one of her recipes.  Here is her  delicious Raspberry Smoothie recipe to give you a taste of Fire In the Kitchen.

Recipe

We understand Fire in the Kitchen is selling fast on Amazon in the run up to christmas and wish Madeleine the best of luck with this soon to be family favourite.

 

Autumn is here and I bet you’d like a pumpkin recipe…

Autumn_Leaf_in_leaf_litterIn Greek mythology, Autumn began when Persephone was abducted by Hades to be the Queen of the Underworld. In distress Persephone’s mother, Demeter who was goddess of the harvest, caused all the crops on Earth to die until her daughter was allowed to return, marking spring.

I think maybe it is more to do with temperatures dropping and chlorophyll in leaves declining allowing us to see the other chemicals present but it’s a nice story!

Regardless of its origins Autumn is when the mercury drops and we can think of soup.  Lovely thick soup, warm chunky bread and melting butter.

And what better ingredient than pumpkin?  The natural bi-product of Jack O’Lantern carving, pumpkin is perfect for adding body and a creamy texture to soup.  It is also low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol and high in fibre not to mention it packs a punch in cold fighting super heroes like Vitamin C.    An all round super food so here is my very simple to make take on the recipe.

Pumpkin Soup

Lots of lovely looking hollowed out pumpkins with big smiley faces and SO much pumpkin flesh to find a home for. Autumn is the perfect time to fob everyone off with lots of exciting soups, the children will just love the idea of eating something that they have helped to prepare and grownups will also enjoy it as long as it’s well presented.

Preparation: 30 – 35 minutes Cooking time: 45 – 55 minutes Serves: 6 – 8

Ingredients:pile_of_pumpkins

2lbs (900g) pumpkins

2 medium sized onions

2 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 pints (700ml) stock

6 floz (150ml) double cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Sprig of parsley to decorate

 

Directions:

  1. Chop and fry the onions gently with the olive oil in a pan large enough to take the entire soup.
  2. Deseed and chop the pumpkin into little chunks, add these to the frying pan. Cook gently stirring occasionally for a further 5 – 10 minutes.
  3. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the cream and boil again.
  5. Now put the whole lot into the liquidiser and whizz until smooth.
  6. Serve with a few parsley leaves placed on top, hot, with delicious fresh bread on a cold winters day.

For a printable PDF click here Pumpkin Soup 

 
Easy Fleece protecting Hanging Baskets from Frost by Haxnicks

Don’t let your plants go outside without a jacket or a blanket to keep them warm!

Fleece_jacket_to_protect_from_frost

Easy Fleece Jacket (small). by Haxnicks

Plants cost a lot of money.  Plus if you’ve grown them from seeds or cuttings, then an awful lot of research, time and anxious moments too!  So you don’t want early frost to catch you out.  This could at best set their growth back and at worst kill them off.

The RHS offer several ways to avoid frost damage:-

  • Choose plants that are reliably hardy and suited to your growing conditions.
  • Cold air flows downwards on sloping ground, collecting at the lowest point creating what is known as a ‘frost pocket’ – avoid planting tender plants in areas such as this.
  • Grow slightly tender plants in a warm sunny spot like a south-facing wall, to provide extra warmth and winter protection
  • Cover plants with a double layer of horticultural fleece when frost is forecast
  • Mulch the root area of evergreens, conifers, tender shrubs and tender perennials with a thick layer of organic matter to prevent the ground becoming frozen
  • Move container grown plants to a sheltered part of the garden in cold weather and provide some extra protection by wrapping the pot in a fleece jacket
  • Leave the previous seasons’ growth on more tender plants until spring,  to provide valuable frost protection
  • Lift Tender plants or move them to a more sheltered position or greenhouse.  Ensuring that adequate heating and insulation is in place to prevent damage.
  • Protect fruit and strawberries from frost by packing with bracken or straw or fleece
  • Avoid applying nitrogen-rich fertilisers late in the season as they stimulate soft growth which is especially vulnerable to frost damage
  • Plant tender bedding plants out after the danger of frost has passed; this is generally late May in the south of England and June elsewhere. Always harden plants before planting outside

So choosing the right plant in the first place is clearly a good idea.  As is, moving them to the greenhouse if you have one, or a more sheltered spot.  A good solution but not always possible with larger heavier plants.  As the RHS recommend a great alternative as autumn approaches and early frosts threaten is to use a fleece.  The Haxnicks Easy Fleece Jacket.  is a simple way to protect exotic plants, hanging baskets and other semi-hardy plants in pots patio containers.

You may have used horticultural fleece, bought off a giant roll at the Garden Centre?  But this is unruly and requires securing.  The fleece jacket is quicker and easier.  Slip it over your plant and the job is done. Secure with the integral, rot-proof drawstring and locking toggle = instant protection against frost, harsh weather and pests.

Fleece_cloche_over_bedIf your plants are in the ground rather than containers then it may be a fleecy cloche or even a blanket you need to instantly cosette your crops.  Both have the advantage that not only will they protect crops this end of the season but, laid over the soil in Spring they can bring it up to temperature before all your friends.  This allows you to sow or plant out weeks ahead of others.  As a result it will extend the growing season and hopefully reward you for your care with an increased yield.

Haxnicks Easy Fleece Jackets are available in three sizes, priced at £7.99 per pack

Making your Garden Season Last as Long as Possible

Flower_in_need_of_dead_heading_fall_seasonThe temperatures are dropping and growth is slowing down.  But there are still some things that you can do in the garden to prolong the flowers and keep active outside this season.

Its tempting to think that the fat lady has sung and you can hang up your boots for the year.  The weather is still very dry though so don’t give up yet on watering your plants, especially the ones in pots.

If you deadhead your flowers such as roses, antirrhinums, lupins or sweet peas, they may still produce a few more flowers.

 

seed_pods_with_seed_on_table_harvest_season

If some of your dead heads are looking nice and dry you can collect their seeds to sow next spring. I often go to other peoples gardens and see flowers that I want for my own garden and collect them.  Different lavenders, hollyhocks, delphiniums people don’t tend to mind…..

You can still sow things too like herbs and winter salads.  I cleared away a nice spot in the greenhouse the other day in order to sow some coriander and lettuce.  The chicken thought that this was an extremely comfy new armchair that I had made her though! So I have sown the seeds into some recycled plastic ‘seed trays’ and will move them on later.

Seeds_planted_in_plastic_trays_planting_season

Chillies too hot to handle and coming out of your ears…

Chillli~-jam-in_silver-panThe hot hot hot weather has lead to a bumper crop of chillies this year and some gardeners are finding them just too hot to handle.  Having eaten them every day since August and made Chilli Sauce, Chilli flakes, Chilli truffles and 3 types of Chilli Oil here is a new recipe to help use the glut.

Chillies and tomatoes are great to grow but difficult to keep for long, so if you would like to remember your summer fruits from the garden chilli jam is an excellent and delicious memory. Great in a cheese sandwich, fried up with chicken or you could put a couple of teaspoons in your soup to spice it up.

Chilli Jam

Ingredients:

8 red peppers.
10 red chillies.
1 finger-sized piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic
14oz (400g) of fresh tomatoes chopped – or a 400g tin of cherry tomatoes
1lbs 8oz (750g) Preserving sugar this also helps not to make the jam too runny
7 floz (200ml) red wine vinegar

Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking time: 60 – 90 minutes

Directions:

1. Cut up your peppers and chillies keeping the chilli seeds but not the pepper ones. Put them into the food processor along with the garlic and ginger.
2. Scrape into a heavy-bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil.
3. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally – skim off any scum that comes to the surface.
4. Once the jam becomes sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 minutes more, stirring frequently
so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. It should now look like thick, bubbling lava.
5. Cool slightly, transfer into sterilised jars, cover with lids straight away to create a vacuum, then leave to cool completely.
6. Keeps for 3 – 12 months in a cool, dark cupboard – once you have opened it keep it in the fridge.

For a printable version click here Chilli_Jam 

Award Winning planet-friendly Plastic free Pots!

Haxnicks new range of Bamboo Pots and Seed Trays has won Best Garden Care – Accessories Award in the prestigious GLEE Gardening Industry Awards.

The natural pots and trays are made from sustainable bamboo and rice. The range is designed to help you make your greenhouse plastic free.  It’s estimated that 500 million plastic plant pots are sold every year. The majority are sent to landfill or are incinerated.  Very liGlee_award_with_bamboo-potsttle is recycled as there are few facilities to do so. A large amount of fossil fuel is used in the production of plastic pots which furthermore  take around 500 years to decompose.  Haxnicks Bamboo Pots once broken up in active compost will decompose in 6 to 12 months. Quite a difference!https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/garden-products/new-products

GLEE is a trade exhibition for the gardening industry.  500 leading UK and international wholesale garden suppliers exhibit so that every gardening retailer; big, small, online or on the high-street can source the very best products for you.

Damian Cardozo of Haxnicks says.  “The Products that win at GLEE are those that really move the industry forward and offer the gardener what they need.  The appetite is there for sustainable pots so it is the right time for this product. We are thrilled GLEE has recognised Haxnicks Bamboo Pots and Seed Trays and excited about playing our part in turning back the tide of plastic use”

The Pots and Seed Trays will be available online and in all good Garden Centres from December 2017.