Varying Degrees Of Ab-stonishment

Waiting for sediment to settle.

No, that’s not a metaphor Dear Reader, I’m getting my portable pond ready. The seeds are really starting to grow, well, two did at least, I had to dig deep to get some heavy clay and after a rinse through and a lining with pea-gravel I have to wait and see how clear it’ll get. I realised I haven’t been keeping you abreast, astomach?, of my recovery from my abdominoplasty, mostly because there hasn’t been much to report. It’s getting better, but it’s already so amazingly wonderful, no I’m being serious, it’s hard to tell when small changes occur. I’m in a no swell stage again, it relapsed before so I’m just letting it carry on, no twinges in a while and the scar is starting to fade a little. I’m prone to heavy scarring so it may never really fade that much. Such is life, Dear Reader, it’s why I talk so much about healthy eating and good diets, you don’t want to face what I have and will have to yet. I do want to see an end, but I just can’t think about it all the time, it can eat away at you. Someday I will sit here and talk of the end, no too soon I hope.

Roses grown from cutting to replace old ones.

The old ones lasted two and a half years and they weren’t supposed to last more than a few months.

I can’t speak in terms of certainties in regards the pond or mushrooms, but I can share the steps and we’ll all see where this takes us. If you want to try then go ahead, but don’t blame Jack if it all goes wrong, if it goes better than me then don’t tell me either. The pot is about forty five litres, I bored two overflow holes in the sides, just jammed a knife in there as it’s rubber, that way if the water level rises it won’t spill over the edge and drag out the plant. That’s the idea at least, I still have to plant the germinated seeds and that’s scary, we have a heatwave incoming so I’ll let it settle and see how hot it gets, I don’t want to risk shocking them. The mushroom still hasn’t gotten the dreaded death fuzz and I think I see a little of the spawn creeping to the top. Somehow in-spite of terrible weather there are still worms alive in the wormery. I gave them ample bedding and have to fashion a permanent cover to keep out the rain, I still can’t see how it gets in, but flooded worms are a no-no. The bokashi is almost full, there isn’t much run-off, maybe when it rests?, but it’s nowhere as useful as the wormery juice so I won’t complain. I’m curious to see how it’ll affect the compost in the bins.

The Snakeshead is open.

I like them, curious to see the Honeybells too.

I’m slowly planting all that will grow this year. I want to get more seeds down tomorrow if we see this promised heatwave. I have carrots down, I was a little crafty this year, I scraped off all the top soil down to about an inch, cleaned and weeded it, put it into a bucket and then gently smoothed the bed, sprinkled the carrot seeds as thinly as I could and returned the soil, dampened it and lightly press it down. The key is keeping it moist, once they get large they’re pretty easy, admittedly a heatwave can cause issues, but as it may not last I need to take a risk and use the heat for germination. I have two squashes starting now, I love this part more than any other, one harlequin and one honeybear. I haven’t planted too much this year, there was so much waste last year, but I’ll have nearly forty seedlings, the cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. I have basil started too, that can be fussy, but I’ll keep an eye on it. I’m still eating pesto made from last year’s harvest. I think I’ve bored you enough for one night, Dear Reader, take care.

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Plodding Progress

Starting to swell.

Fully swollen. The floater was removed as it had gone bad.

I really like hyacinth.

I don’t actually have much to report, Dear Reader, but as we had a little sun I readied a few more things, but again the rain and here we are. As you can see the water lily seeds have swollen, I hope they’ll sprout, but I’m at least learning something new. The wormery is going fine so far, I see the worms, striped like their namesakes, so I assume they’ll start establishing themselves. There is an urge to feed them like a fretting grandmother, you’re so thin!, they’re going to be fun to watch and they will provide so much. The liquid feed can even be stored so that’s a mark in their favour as opposed to the bokashi run-off which needs to be used right away. When I finally fill and ferment I’ll update you with messy photos of sloppy fermented kitchen waste. Hey, it’s organic! I’m currently trying to cobble together a second bin, I have ideas, but no weather with with to saunter out into and put them to the test.

Bottomless containers turned out to be perfect.

Returning aquilegia.

Horseradish returning too.

I have seeds under cups, under bubble-wrap, seeds that must be from flowers that self-seeded, I have some life starting at least. The weather is warming, but very slowly. I still have pesto from last year, but I have put down my four basils of the year: Genovese, Thai, Lime and Lemon. I can’t eat citrus so it’ll be interesting to see how these will fare as flavouring in my cooking. Assuming they grow. Basil can be extremely fussy in this climate of ours. The first batch of cabbage seeds have started and a few cauliflower have popped up. I like the little pieces of green here and there, slow but steady. I’ll still get excited as a child at Christmas when I see the first of the squash starting.

Siberian Iris.

Seaholly.

These are new. They were free. Whatever kind of daffodil they are.

Of course you can buy started seedling, but they can be too pot- bound, too early or can suffer from being taken from the warm shop and put outside. Not to say it isn’t useful, but I enjoy start certain crops from seed. Onions I will always buy as sets, but the brassicas will be seeds for as long as I’m gardening. It’s a tiresome year, but I’ve at-least learned patience, I know to slow and space my planting to match the weather. I never go by the seasons, only the weather. Okay, I’ll go back to m absurdly huge composting setup, we’re just two houses worth of waste here, why am I doing this? Why not, ever the refrain of Jack, Dear Reader.

Moss rose and morning glory. Hopefully they’ll start.

Jalapeños.

That’s a gutter-brush. That tray is specially…shut up, it’s recycling!

I’m trying the bubble-wrap out as a covering.

Rain, Sandpaper and More Rain

Not new, but a handy combination. Microwave Buckwheat Cake and Microwave Caramel Sauce.

Did you know I could use a power sander? Me neither. The things that Jack can turn his hand to never cease to surprise people. I guess I just never tried, always try, dear reader, never stop trying as you never know what you’ll discover about yourself. The wait for the next set of surgeries, a special trifecta because my life is always a different route, means I’ll have time for my garden. Thinking of it I’d be rather lost without the garden, wouldn’t I? Things balance out in a good way, sometimes at least. So, yes, dear reader, Jack with the Surgically Repaired Abs, Buns of Steel, shush!, and a Heart of Gold is off again. I can’t tell you of the difference the surgery has made. That awful tiredness, that I just assumed was a lack of stamina, is now gone. I still clutch at my back, phantom pains I guess. I must have been in more pain than I’d allowed myself to realise. I had to do so to cope I suppose, dear reader, but I’m on the better side now and we have better topics to talk of today than Jack’s old issues.

My current issues are still plentiful.

That tall rose is my rose. I found it in an abandoned garden. It has a backstory, it’s the repayment of a thorn in Jack’s side, let’s say I’ll always look at it with glee. The other is sixteen years old, taken from a neighbour’s wife’s grave, now it’s on Jack to tend to it and as you can see it’s happily sprouting in its new home. The bulbs are, again, salvaged, they were starting and you really shouldn’t move bulbs when they’ve already started to grow, but I figured that having a house bulldozed over them might be detrimental to their further progression. Call it gardeners intuition. I have some rose roots drying in the shed too, they haven’t started so I’ll hope they’ll be okay until I can plant them. The weather is still bitter cold and wet, so when it’s somewhat dry I get outside for a while.

Look what I found.

You wouldn’t think this was after, but trust me, there was so much paint removed.

You’ve probably seen this type of planter, it’s like a halved barrel. You probably haven’t seen one with a few layers of house paint on it. I had to attack it with a power sander, then when that proved problematic, paint melts when hot, who knew? Everyone? Oh. Then out came the trusty penknife and the entire area surrounding the planter was just flecks of paint. I’ve taken as much off as possible, next up will be an undercoat of whatever paint we have then I’ll paint the bands black and the planter red. Why red? Because as soon as I placed it there a robin alighted on the rim. They say that that’s a person coming back from heaven. They also say you have to chase, across fields if needs be, a single magpie and find its mate or you die. I just like red. It’ll look nice when I’m done, it’s rough looking, but it’s better than it was when I found it. A little care and careful restoration, filling in the cracks with whatever I have at hand, and it’ll make a nice display piece. Waste not what Jack can make into a planter. Or whatever that saying is. Until later, dear reader.

Fresh Parsley Jasmine Rice

I’m cleaning up some of my recipes pages, dear reader and splitting off the ones that have become too crowded. If possible I’ll update these with photos in the future, but for now this will have to do. I’ll schedule these so they won’t overrun the site.

Ingredients

1/2 Cup of Jasmine Rice
250ml Water and 1/3 of a Chicken Stock Cube
2 x 1/2 Tbsps Butter
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/8 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped Roughly
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

Method

1. Heat 1/2 Tbsp Butter and Olive Oil in a pot on a medium heat. When Butter has melted stir in Rice and cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Rice should be slightly translucent and may brown slightly. Then add Chicken Stock, Salt, Black Pepper and stir up the Rice and bring to the boil, turn the heat down to medium (3 on hob) cover and let it cook for about 12 minutes.

2. After the 12 minutes is up, remove it from the heat. Let it stand for another 10 minutes or so. After 10 minutes, lift the lid and take a fork and fluff the Rice. Then stir in the remaining Butter and Parsley and serve.

Herb Butter

I just had enough sage.

Original can be found here. You know this recipe, you’ve seen it dozens of times, there’s nothing new here, it’s just that I’ve never had a reason to make it before. Herb butter sounds great, but I don’t often use better when coking, at least not when I’m using herbs. But, I figured out a use. My mother makes stuffing and uses fresh sage, but often the sage isn’t ready when she’s making it, so since she fries her onions in butter I thought this would be an ideal solution. I did tweak it one way as you can see below. You’d be best to use freshly picked herbs, the smell of the fresh sage is intense, even for a older plant. I hate to make something like this without reason, last year I froze herbs in olive oil and struggled to use them, I think a fair few went into the bin, this is ideal as they’ll be used up fairly quickly. If you want really fast stuffing you can also blitz the onions and freeze them the same way. A quickie, but handy to know. See you later, dear reader.

Already popped and bagged.

Ingredients

110g Butter, Softened
1/4 Fresh Herbs, Chopped
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Can be frozen.

Method

1. Add everything to a bowl and stir together until Herbs have been evenly distributed throughout the butter. Scoop in a container, roll into a clingfilm log or fill into ice-cube trays.

Peanut Butter Banana Curry

 photo WP_20170610_002_e_zpspxqosq28.jpgUpdate, 10 June 2017: I changed up the recipe so the sauce reduces more.

 photo WP_20170315_001_e_zpswumcr1ns.jpgSadly most curries are the same hue and make for pretty dull photos.

You thought it was a smoothie when you read it first, didn’t you, dear reader? Nope. Nyeh. Nah. It’s another peanut butter curry! Why? Because peanut butter is vastly cheaper than other nut butters. So, can I speak freely for a moment? Slough the shacks of time and go back, back to the bitter early start of, well, me? One problem I often face in these recipes is the portions. They’re suitable for me, but what of theoretical you? What if it’s too much? What if, what if, what if? Which makes me think of those angry early days, when there wasn’t a recipe that didn’t need a tweak and there was no one to hold my hand and guide me. So, I could stay bitter and angry, I could also think too much of the potential eater of these recipes, but now? Well, now I balance it out. I post the recipe, helping as much as I can, but I leave the adapting to you, if you need help I’m here of course, but the fretting and panicking isn’t there now, because I remember the struggles I had. I’m here as the person I needed then, offering recipes that cover so many allergies, especially the nightmarish nightshade intolerance, that’s enough of a burden for anyone. So, you get these, maybe not great, but certainly decent, recipes, a good bit of understanding from yours truly and I just get a break here and there. I put enough effort in to help, but never enough to hurt. It might sound silly, but that’s who I am, was perhaps, a helper until it hurt, but never getting the same back. Balance s important, your mental health is important and let’s face it, dearest reader, I do have a huge range of curries and if someone can’t tweak them it’s their loss. Now, in all that being said, I’m not attacking anyone passively aggressively, just venting to clear my own head. You’ve all been really amazing, all of my dear readers mean the world to me. It’s why I do all I do, it’s not much, but I hope it helps. Now, onto the curry and get that look of disgust off your face! Fruit and Nut curry is a great idea!

This recipe is slightly different in that I’ve grouped together the ingredients to make it easier to prepare, if it looks daunting then have no fear it’s really simple, just a bit more organised. I had the idea of a fruit and nut curry as I have plenty of either, but none of both combined. Banana and peanut butter are a pretty common combination, I coupled them with the usual add-ins. The lime, salt, sugar etc have all been used time and time again. The whole comes together really easily, the end result is a smooth, rich curry, with a refreshing taste with a little pop of sweetness and banana flavour. It can be reduced if you’d rather use less coconut milk, I just don’t want to waste the tin so I use it all. If you wanted a vegan version you could just omit the Chicken and replace it with vegetables, I’ve found all work well, but squash takes longer. You could even make this as a pour over sauce, I don’t know what it is about banana curries, but they remind me of “chip shop” curry. I imagine having a little to dunk your sweet potato fries in would be delicious. Not much to say, I wish there were other nightshade free recipes I could work from and create even more, but my limits are there and I can only work with what I have. Still, I do okay. Better than when I started with nothing at all, having to learn how to make a base curry that could make a wealth of others, but I learned and you can too. See you later.

Ingredients

First

1 Chicken Breasts, Chopped
1 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
1/3 Chicken Stock Cube
100ml Hot Water
Juice and Zest of 1/2 a Lime

Second

1/2 Large Yellow Onion, Roughly Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Cut in Half
1 Tbsp Sized Piece of Ginger, Peel and Chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Third

160ml Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream
1 Large Banana, Chopped
1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp Nightshade Free Hot Curry Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Parsley

Optional: Fresh Parsley to Serve.

Method

1. Mix together everything from the first list, but the Chicken, until a paste has formed. Set aside.

1. Heat Olive Oil in a pan and when hot add Onion, Garlic and Ginger then stir and let cook for 5-10 minutes, on a medium heat, or until soft.

2. Add Coconut Milk, Banana, Curry Powder, Brown Sugar, Salt and Parsley then stir together and heat for  5 minutes, then pour into a blender and blend until smooth, return to the pan and bring to the boil. Add in Paste and stir until everything has combined then add in Chicken, reduce heat and let it simmer on a medium heat for 20 minutes.

Butternut Squash Gravy

2017 Update: Due to a problem with Photobucket, see here, there will be a lot of recipes without photos. I will be slowly redoing the recipe pages, as best I can, but many other posts will be impossible to replace. I’m doing this in my own time, while continuing to update the blog with new recipes and posts. If you’d like to donate, any amount appreciated, you can do so here. The site will always be free, the recipes will never be locked behind a paywall, but this is a lot of additional work. I’m not demanding or begging, just putting it there so if you feel like repaying my hard work you have that option. I don’t make any money from the site, all that I do here is to help others, I couldn’t charge for that.

I tried to make it fancy…Really.

I’ve seen a few vegetable thickened gravies around, but the problem was  either a vegetable I couldn’t eat or there was just too many ingredients or, rather, too specific ingredients. So I decided to tackle it myself. This is pretty loose as ingredients go, you could take out the herbs here and replace them with what ever you’d prefer. Add a bay leaf, toss in fresh meat juices, whatever you like. I really was surprised how little this tasted like Butternut Squash in stock, the taste is there, but it’s not over powering, the herbs really shine through and the squash gives it a rich, thick texture without being heavy. I’ll be honest, gravy for me was usually just packaged stuff so I don’t really have any tricks or secrets to share. Fresh herbs are a game changer, but dried are fine too.

It’s stupidly simple, but a really tasty gravy.

The problem with being a single cook is that a squash leaves a lot left over. I had some Sautéed Squash with this and I still have three servings of gravy in my freezer. It’ll be fine, I’ve had a similar recipe in my Squash Pasta and that heats as well after being frozen as it does when cooked fresh. You could conceivably use any vegetable, but you may be best to stick to something that wouldn’t over power the dish. I remember seeing a recipe for white sweet potato gravy, somewhere. Sadly I can’t get a wide selection of vegetables where I am, but the squash works well. If you needed a nut free, flour free, vegan etc option this would be great for the holidays, or any day. I have one more recipe, hopefully it works out, incoming, but that should end the deluge of posts. Back to normal next week or as normal as this posting schedule gets. Until later. Goodbye and good gravy!

Ingredients

300g Butternut Squash, Peeled and Cubed
600ml Stock (Chicken, Beef, Vegetable etc)
1/4 Tsp Sage or 1 Tsp Fresh Sage, Chopped
1/4 Tsp Thyme or 1 Tsp Fresh Thyme
1/4 Tsp Parsley or 1 Tsp Fresh Parsley, Chopped
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Makes 4 Servings. If making individual servings portion it out (About 200ml each) after blending and freeze it. Defrost when wanted and use as normal.

Method

1. Add everything to a pot and bring to the boil, stir it up, reduce to a simmer and cook until squash is tender.

2. Pour into a blender and blitz until smooth or use a stick blender. Return it to the pot or a pan and cook on a medium heat until gravy has reduced to desired consistency.

It’s not soup. Well, it is, kinda. Let’s call it gravy.