Get gourmet all in one pot


I love this book, The One-Pot Gourmet Gardener by Cinead McTernan, for combining great gardening hints and tips with some great recipes. Even if you’ve only got the smallest of spaces, this book shows great things to grow together in one pot, and what to do with what you grow.


one pot gourment


There are recipes and growing plans for picnics, soups and salads, quick suppers and even drinks and puddings. I really like the idea of lemon verbena, rose geranium and thyme posset, which would taste great as well as smelling great when it’s growing in a pot outside the back door.

It covers growing vegetables, salads, herbs and fruit, so there really is something for every taste, and not to mention every level of gardening ability from beginner onwards.

Published by Frances Lincoln, this is currently £14.89 on Waterstones. Perfect for gardeners and cooks alike, you could add some great seeds or a pot to this as a great total gift. Though it might make it feel like a long time to wait for dinner to grow.


Lovely sale goodies at Hen & Hammock


I really like Hen & Hammock, it’s a great site with a well curated choice of products. Their sale has just started and there are some good choices of things either for yourself, or maybe thinking ahead to gifts you might need later in the year.


Veg Calendar from Hen & Hammock - perfect gift for a food lover who likes to grow it themselves


Probably one for yourself, but if you haven’t got one sorted already, then the Vegetable Calendar is attractive and might inspire you to definitely eat your five a day, or get some planting going on in the veg patch!


Oyster mushroom farm from Hen & Hammock


And if you want the easy approach, then how about the Oyster Mushroom Farm? You don’t need acres of land, and will be enjoying them sooner than you might think.

There are savings on seed collections as well, so you could definitely be getting your veg patch into order, for a little less. Worth a look!


So, how was my crystal ball gazing?

What trends does your crystal ball show?


Back in December 2009 (which really does feel an age ago) I wrote a piece about what 2010 might bring for food and food lovers. So, should I give up the day job and take up with a crystal ball? Hmm, lets see…

* We’d all continue to rediscover the joy of homemade. Tick. But fairly safe bet I think. And even to back it for this year, as no sign of things getting imminently better. That said, according to Google trends, there were less searches on jam making last year than in 2009, perhaps suggesting we’re all properly set up now with equipment and into the swing of things.

* Not sure if politics is my thing, although we certainly got a change in government. My predicted swing to the right perhaps didn’t quite come off, and I’ve not noticed any great resurgence in nationalistic cooking. However, if we win the Ashes outright, then maybe we’ll see that happen. I did say I thought that nostalgia would reign big in food, and I think we’ve seen quite a lot of that, from traditional puds through to all the old fashioned sweets still going strong.

* An explosion in Turkish food. More like a damp squib I would say, but as food didn’t even feature in the official programme for Turkey’s year as European Capital of Culture then I guess I’m not really surprised. If it wasn’t important to them, it was hardly going to shake the world food scene. Shame, because I still think it’s a cuisine with an awful lot going for it. Which the citizens of Farnborough would seem to agree with, as they led the way in searches on Turkish food.

* I think growing your own salad probably did get a good look in, as we got quite a spell of sunshine, and there was continued featuring of the cost and conditions of bagged salad, not to mention a couple of e Coli cases linked to lettuce. Tomatoes appear to have been the most popular salad item to grow, which given their ease to grow even in small spaces is perhaps not great surprise. The fact that Nottingham leads the way in interest in the subject may be more of a surprise.

I’ve not done my Mystic Meg act yet for the year ahead, and I do wonder if much will change. Although there are two European capitals of culture this year: Turku in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia. I can imagine Finnish food having a moment (if only because it would allow me to buy the Moomins Cookbook) but Estonian? Not sure, will need some research as it’s a cuisine I know zero about. What do you think? Where’s food going this year and what will we all be worrying about?

Crystal ball shot by Richard Lamb Photography.


Visiting the Ministry of Food


MGG and I headed up to the smoke yesterday, so that I could finally get to the Ministry of Food exhibition that I’ve written about several times. It always felt like it could feel like stepping into a current magazine article, but back in time when growing your own and minimising waste was a necessity, not a lifestyle choice.

And it did. So for those of you looking to be even partially self-sufficient, or reduce your food bills, or just live in a more sustainable way, then I think you’ll find it fascinating.

Who’s keeping chickens now? Well, they were doing that then.


Hens, the great recyclers


For those who are setting out on keeping bees, there was a useful poster. It appears modern beekeepers are doing it all wrong. You just needs a sports jacket, braces and a trilby, none of that silly white outfit!


Beekeeping for beginners, 1940s style


This was a family effort, and I know from my own experiences that involving kids in food growing makes them more likely to try the fruits (and veg) of their labours. Look at this lovely example of a cosy night in as a family planning your veg patch!


Happy nights of planting planning


I’d never heard of Gert and Daisy, but they were like the comedic front runners to Two Fat Ladies it seems. I loved the recording of them discussing cooking a murkey for Christmas, which turned out to be mutton.


Gert & Daisy cook a “murkey”


And some things never change it seems, even in wartime. I can imagine the faces of teens of today if the Oslo Meal was served up. Which are probably the same looks parents got in 1943!


Teens today, don’t know they’re fed


For those of us busy preserving and canning, it’s most definitely nothing new!


The WI to the rescue!


And for the fashionista foodie, I bring you the mushroom housecoat!


The mushroom housecoat


Which you could top off with the seed packet scarf.


Seed label scarf


I love that the Company of Cooks have followed through on the theme and converted the catering over to a version of the 40s as well. My corned beef salad with roasted beetroot was definitely retro but tasty, and even the kids stuff had things like carrots and salad cream, and cheese wrapped in greaseproof paper. The beetroot and cocoa cake was a bit on the dry side, and not packed with flavour, but interesting to try.


1940s style food in 2010


The big gap in my knowledge was that the years of austerity are after the war, and things really got tough then. You can see that you could cope when everyone was pulling against a common enemy, not to mention the Americans were sending food to the UK. That ended nearly as soon as the war did, and things got very lean. I love this picture from a butchers window, sums up the black humour of the day.


And you thought times were bad now!


We had a great day at the museum, and it was worth the ticket price for this exhibition. If you need other distractions, then there is also the Terrible Trenches on from the team behind Horrible Histories, so really something for everyone. If you want to see more, then there’s more photos over on my Flickr page.


The Friday Five – Working towards the good life

The Complete Book of Self-sufficiency

I wrote at the weekend about getting ready to plant your veg, or plug plants, ready for having crops of your own later in the year. It’s amazing what a little bit of sunshine can inspire you to do! So for this week’s Friday Five, here are 5 books to help you towards self sufficiency, from all out to just a little bit at the weekend! Happy digging!

1. The Self-Sufficiency Manual – may as well start with a classic text! This is an updated version of John Seymour’s classic text which is, as it says, for dreamers and realists. Need to know how to milk a cow or plough a field? It’s in here. Not just for those of you with a spare 100 acres of land, John Seymour believed you should aim to cultivate whatever you had, even a windowbox. You can always dream!

2. The Self Sufficient-sih Bible – if you’re not going to go all the way, then this might be better reading, particularly for those living an urban life, but that just want it to be bit more green. It’s probably a bit more realistic for most of us, as true self sufficiency takes not only lots of land, but a big time commitment too. But just doing a bit will be rewarding, and give you some tasty stuff to take back to the kitchen!

3. How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self Sufficiency – there’s no point growing lots of great stuff only to watch it turn green and mouldy in the corner and end up straight back in your compost bin! This little gem of a book will help you maximise the life of your fresh produce by ensuring you know how to preserve it for added longevity. From canning to bottling, stringing onions and even finding something interesting to do with marrow (I fail to be convinced however) then this book covers it all.

4. Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes – not so much how to grow them, but what to cook with them when you have them. Once you start down this road, you will find dealing with gluts becomes an annual event, and this is a good standby to inspire you when you’re faced with more tomatoes than you know what to do with! Once you’ve given away as many as you can, then try turning to this before you resort to doorstep courgettes. Trust me, if you don’t know what it is now, you will!

5. Self-sufficiency Hen Keeping – keeping hens has to be next on the list for foodies who want to be a bit self sufficient. Even if you can’t bring yourself to dispatch them to the oven or pot, then they can at least keep you eggs on a daily basis. This is a great straight-forward guide, telling you everything you need to consider before you turn some of your garden over to chickens. And maybe even move on from there to bees.

If you want to work out if it’s for you or not, maybe an afternoon catching up on The Good Life will let you know if a life of nettle wine is for you!

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Sunshine and chitting


Green shoots are coming!


Finally, it feels like the longest winter in history may be over, and the big yellow thing has returned to the sky. I misheard Best Foodie Friend last week when she said she had started chitting potatoes. Thought it sounded unusual.

Which means it’s time to start looking at the raised beds again, plotting to grow so many things, and then at least ending up with a glut of parsley and mint. Plus the glut from BFF’s allotment and new garden. But if you’re worried about food miles and provenance, not to mention taste, then no matter how amateur you are, you can always grow a few things yourself, and they’ll taste so much better. In fact, smug virtuousness ought to named taste number 6!

Need some inspiration? Here’s some of my favourites:

* I think this is probably the laziest way I know to get a veg garden going. A Rocket Garden voucher makes a great gift, for someone else, or even for yourself if you’re either a new gardener or a very lazy one. I have very little success with seeds, so someone delivering little plants already underway would be a huge bonus.

* If you’re going down the organic route, then check out The Organic Gardening Catalogue. If you’re good, you can choose from all kinds of seeds, or there are plenty of choices in plug plants too. Also try more unusual things, like growing your own horseradish, ready to accompany a great rib of beef later in the year.

* Want bragging rights and something unusual to show at the local horticultural show? Then try growing heritage varieties, things that haven’t been seen down the garden centre in a long time. The Heritage Seed Library is preserving species at risk, and if you become a member you get to grow up to 6 varieties a year. This would be a great gift for a foodie with serious green fingers, as they get to delve into the delights of Glory of Devon peas, Rent Payer broad beans and Bunyard’s Matchless Lettuce. If you just want unusual potatoes, then try Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, dispatching now but act quickly, stocks are limited.

* Sarah Raven feels like the Daylesford Farm Shop of seed and plant catalogues, in that it almost suggests to me no mucky hands are involved, and she clearly understands her target market. Conforming to type, I will therefore be ordering the Foodies Tomato Collection, seedlings of 3 tasty species along with some basil. It’s like a tomato and basil salad waiting to happen. In a similar vein, just not quite so pretty, try Crocus and their plug plant collections, like Luscious Legumes and Credit Crunchy Veg.

So go pull on your wellies, get your trug out and at least have a look at where you might plant stuff. It could be on small step on the road to self-sufficiency. Or at least a tasty tomato crop.


What do foodies do in Spring?


There are very vague signs of Spring: mornings are lighter, if I slink off sharpish it’s still light when I leave work, and there are some small green shoots in the garden.


Green shoots are coming!


And in the kitchen all sorts of things change for me. I know that it’s Spring when I start reaching for Bill Granger cookbooks and put away Delia’s Winter Collection. I start craving different things to eat, lots of South East Asian, lots of lighter stuff. What else might be going on?

1. The casserole might be heading back into the cupboard, and the wok might be heading out more permanently. Quick, easy and full of fresh flavours!

2. The grow your own foodies will be busy prepping their fruit and veg plots, as well as working out what seeds to order in. I am really keen on Seeds of Italy, and there are some really unusual varieties of tomatoes and basil, as well as things like spelt and garlic chives. I am told I should be chitting potatoes, but misheard that the first time. If you’re not great with seeds, then order in seedlings ready to go in the ground. I like Sarah Raven and Thompson and Morgan, and I won’t tell your more green fingered friends if you don’t!

3. The pancake loving foodie will be dusting off their crepe pan ready for Shrove Tuesday. The less well co-ordinated will be looking at their ceiling and worrying. The really inept amongst us might choose an electric crepe maker!

4. The globe trotting foodie will be lured around the world to track down a huge variety of flavours. They were probably in San Francisco yesterday at the Crab Festival, and next weekend they could be at Menton in the South of France for the Lemon Festival. And you could head anywhere with a Chinatown next weekend ready for Chinese New Year.

5. Those of us with just Oyster cards will be enjoying a Parisian experience in W1, by heading to Pierre Herme’s instore patisserie at Selfridges for some truly magnificent macaroons. These are exquisite looking, and taste as good as they look. If you want to try recreating them, his book is only avaiable in French through Amazon France, although I can recommend a read of the experiences over on the He Eats blog. I particularly want to give the Salted Caramel and Apple ones a go.

So, even if more snow comes, just hang on in there, the Spring is on it’s way along with all the bounty that will bring.

Interesting shot of shoots by sciondriver over on Flickr.


Snowed in? Plan your veg garden!


Getting planning your home grown goodies!



Lets face it, it appears we are in the worse winter since God was a boy and sent us the last Ice Age. Which means we don’t have to feel remotely guilty about not setting foot out of doors. Personally, this is the time of year I like to spend curled up with the seed and plant catalogues, full of good intentions of all the things I am going to grow.

Regardless of how much space you have, you can grow something, and it will taste better than lots of stuff you can buy. There’s nothing like leaning out the conservatory window to pick some rosemary that goes straight into the kitchen. I can think of no shorter supply chain!

You can either buy seeds, plants and kits for the foodie in your life, or just order in the catalogues and let them make some choices. Here’s where I’m looking for some inspiration this season:

1. Seeds of Italy is new to me, and I want to grow loads of stuff from here. Given that we have 3 raised beds and a patio, I shall have to be strict! There is an amazing choice of varieties of tomato though, and I really do like the look of the Costoluto Fiorentino and the Yellow Pear Shaped. Something to keep even the most experience vegetable grower interested and trying something new!

2. Sarah Raven has lovely things, although not necessarily the cheapest. If your foodie is new to growing their own, then the Beginner’s Garden Veg Collectionis a great gift for a beginner, as it says on the tin. Looks very pretty, and useful seeds like french beans, lettuce and parsley. For the more advance, there are things like Beetroot “Burpees Golden” and Courgette Trombomcino (yes, it does look like a trombone, kind of) not to mention edible flowers. If you’ve got mini gourmets to buy for, then also worth taking a look at the Easy Veg for Children kit.

3. If you want to grow unusual, heritage varieties, then the Heritage Seed Library is a perfect choice. You have to become a member, and you get to grow up to 6 varieties a year. It’ll certainly give you something different to show at the horticultural show, not to mention benefit from tastes that have all but disappeared. Membership is just £20 for the year, definitely an unusual but useful foodie present.

4. Lets not dismiss Thompson & Morgan just because you can get them in every garden centre. They are big on research, and are big on seeds and plants for small spaces. Check out the vegetable pouch collection, which allows you to grow things like salad leaves and runner beans in a pouch hanging on a wall. Only got patio space? They have varieties for you to be able to grow everything from blueberries to cucumber, not to mention some patio veg planters.

5. I’m not brilliant with growing from seed, with last summer being my most successful. If you really want the lazy route, or a brilliant gift, then check out Rocket Gardens, who will send you little plants all ready to go in the ground. They offer everything from patio container and window box versions, through to a full Mediterranean vegetable garden. You can order and give the vouchers any time of the year, and the plants will be sent when the time is right for planting. You do have to plant them yourself and tend for them, but this is lazy gardening that should lead to great and tasty results!

So, get snuggled up in front of the fire, get your graph paper and coloured pens out and all the seed catalogues, virtual or otherwise, and put these cold nights to good foodie use!

Shot of great looking raised beds by greengardenvienna on Flickr.