Monday, 29 June 2009

Allotmenticity - 29-06-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well firstly sad news that 2 iconic figures from the world of entertainment passed away recently. As well as Michael Jackson we shouldn't forget Farrah Fawcett who was overshadowed somewhat!

Moving on, what amazing weather, and more to come this week. It was 94 degrees in my potting shed at the weekend. Phew! I grew 2" and lost a couple of pounds erecting the shelves kindly donated by my friend The Earl of Edgbaston.

It's great to be able to start harvesting at last. I've just dug up the first of my Garlic crop that was planted last year. Some of the thick-necked have suffered slightly from being too damp and rotted, but mostly they look and taste wonderful.

I'm blanching some Broad Beans for a Risotto later. Picked young they're really sweet. Also courgettes are flying now. The one problem I get is my Peas. I don't seem to be able to get a decent crop. I kind of think I'm going to have to get some manure down for next year and boost the soil. Strange how the Broad Beans right next to them are fantastic though! Any thoughts?

The fruit is tasting sweet. It's been a good crop of Raspberries so far and the Strawberries in their first year are excellent. How about this for an odd shape?

If anyone from Birmingham, in particular Great Barr, Erdington, Stockland Green areas are looking for allotments they should either contact The Barn Social Club or come down on a Saturday or Sunday between 10.00 & 12.00, go to the seed shed and ask to speak to the Land Bailiff. The club is on Brookvale Road, Witton B6 7AJ.

Talking of fruit, this weeks recipe is courtesy of The Matron who has a wonderful blog called "Down on the Allotment" a great read with lots of helpful tips.

Until next time,

The Captain

Matron's Summer Pudding.

Basically you need a whole load of fresh summer fruits. Strawberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries etc.
Get a large pudding basin and enough slices of white bread to line it. Grease the inside and fit the slices of bread (without the crusts) to make a mould. Saving one for the lid preferably the end crust as shown.

Quickly soften the fruit in a microwave for about a minute, then pile into the bread mould covering with the crust lid. Put a plate on top and weigh it down to squash the contents and put in the fridge to chill. Overnight if you can wait that long.
Take off the weight and invert over a serving plate.
Serve with fresh cream.

Nice one Matron!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Allotmenticity - 22-06-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Another Monday morning and another 5 minutes of "Sod It" with Gary. He wasn't too well today, but the trooper he is he still made it into the studio. 6 am start when you're feeling bad is no joke.

Thought I'd do a bit of research on watering houseplants. Does anyone have any other great ideas?

Forgot to mention whilst talking about deflowering herbs (Oooh can I say that???) that a great use for all the stuff you cut off, especially Rosemary & Sage is put them on the BBQ. Gives a nice fragrant smoky flavour.

I managed to get to the Raspberries before the birds and had a tasty bowl of Muesli yesterday.

I've got a net on the Strawberry bath, so they can't get at them!

The first Courgette is growing well and should be hitting the griddle any day soon.

The first of the Garlic is slightly disappointing as some are going mouldy round the stem. They're the thick neck variety and seem to suffer from being too damp. The soft neck ones look alot better. Still the ones I've got so far taste amazing. Evidently they're known as "Wet" Garlic because the skin hasn't dried yet.

First of the Broad Beans soon and Peas. The Cos Lettuce are really tasty and good to grow in my plastic trays. I'm following on with some Rocket as I empty the trays.

There's a neighbour called "Moses" who has given me some Kalaloo. It's amazing, I've had 2 goes and failed dismally and he just sprinkles the seed on the soil and he's got loads!!!

I think we're a good 2 weeks behind my friends "Down South" but it's certainly getting warmer.

Could be a Barbie on Wednesday.

So there it is, I think Lewis Hamilton's got his car in REVERSE or maybe there's too much attention on the Pussy Cat Doll!

The Beetroot soup is a lovely change especially chilled on a hot day.


The Captain.

Igor Romanoff’s Aunt Irena’s Borsch

Igor tells me that his Aunt would make this for the family back in Russia.

It’s equally good served hot in winter, or ice-cold in summer.

It might seem a little complicated, but it’s worth the effort!

Ingredients for 4-6 people

2 pints Beef Bouillon Stock

6 Fresh Beetroot

2 Cabbage Leaves

2 Medium Leeks

2 Celery Stalks with leaves

1 Medium Onion

2 Tbsp Butter

1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

½ Glass Red Wine

Pot Sour Cream

2 Tbsp Plain Flour

6 Black Peppercorns


The first requirement is a good bouillon base. (This can be done in advance.)

Simmer the stock gently for 45 mins with the Cabbage leaves cut into pieces, the Onion chunked, the white parts of the Leeks chunked, the Celery chunked and its leaves chopped, and 6 Black Peppercorns.

Allow to cool and strain into a separate pot.

Drop the whole Beets into a pan of boiling water and cook until they can be pierced with the point of a knife. Remove and place in a bowl of cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Now the skins should just slip off.

Chop 1 of the beets finely and cover with the ½ glass of Red Wine in a small bowl. (This will add the rich colour later.)

Dice the remaining Beets.

Melt the Butter in a large saucepan and add the diced Beets stirring them for 2-3 minutes until they are well coated with the Butter.

Add the Red Wine Vinegar, cover and simmer gently for about 30 mins or until the Beets are just tender.

Bring the Bouillon up to boiling point.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of Plain Flour onto the Beets and carefully blend with a wooden spoon, avoiding lumps.

Continue stirring and start to add the Bouillon a ladle at a time until the Beets are covered with a creamy bubbling sauce.

At this stage they may need 5 mins simmering.

The Beets should still be slightly crisp when served.

Now add the bowl of chopped Beet and Red Wine and the rest of the Bouillon.

*At this point if you want to serve the soup cold you should take the pot off the heat and chill by standing the saucepan in a sink of cold water. Then when cool, refridgerate until required, adding the Sour Cream just before serving.*

If serving hot, put a ladle of Sour Cream into a bowl and thin with a ladle of hot soup adding to the Borsch. Keep doing this until the desired colour and softness have been achieved.

Season to taste and serve with fresh crusty bread. (And a glass of Vodka!!!)

Monday, 15 June 2009

Allotmenticity - 15-06-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well that was wonderful weekend and I hope everybody managed to get down on their plots and enjoy the weather. Looks like we're in for a "splash" later today, but maybe it'll save me going down to water later.

I had my first cos lettuce yesterday. Oh the taste!

The Brassica cage is looking good and healthy. There's a cou
ple of cauliflowers hearting up already. Also as it's enclosed I can use slug pellets without worry. Although I've still got the copper bracelets down.

Saturday was spent doing an intense weeding on the Asparagus bed, the Beans and Peas and Herbs and flowers.

Rain + Sun = WEEDS!

It shouldn't be too long before the first Garlic can be harvested. I forked up a tester and they're looking good.

My Carrots in the plastic trays are really tasty. I've used Suttons Parmex which are the small round variety. Keeping them in the containers has avoided the Carrot fly and because they're round, I don't have to worry about the depth of soil.

My neighbour Danny has got 12" high mounds which he flattens the top and plants his carrots ready started in 1/2 toilet rolls. He does the same with Beetroot. I'll keep an eye on that for future reference.

I'm hoping to acquire some stable manure. As much as I've been digging compost in, I think a good heap of manure will add that bulk to the soil and help it retain more moisture. I think my Onion & Garlic beds will definitely benefit. Also to readjust my rotation system, I'm going to leave the Brassica cage in place next year and just swap the Peas and Beans with the Spuds. So a good dose of manure will help.

I found some Scarlet Lily Beetles last week. The RHS has a form where you can report sightings. It's a vivid red colour about 1/4" - 1/2" long. If you can, squash it with your fingers before it lays its eggs. The larvae will eat all the leaves very quickly. You can get a spray, which seems to have done the trick, called
Provado Ultimate Bug Killer from B&Q.

This weeks recipe is a fabulous Roast Monkfish tail. I was down the fishmarket the other day and there were some fresh in, which prompted me to share this. Not a cheap meal, but great for a dinner party.

Until next time,

The Captain.

Gigot de Mer / Whole Roast Monkfish


  • 1 monkfish tail - about 18 oz.
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto - enough to cover the fish
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms - about 8 oz.
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 lb. vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 2 large cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraîche
  • a handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Set the prosciutto on a work surface with the slices slightly overlapping each other. Put the monkfish on top, belly up. Wrap it in the bacon with the ends overlapping across the belly.

Turn it over and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until browned, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, then add the wine, and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Pour this tomato sauce into a baking dish just large enough to hold the fish. Set the fish on top and roast for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400°F and roast for 30 minutes more. Remove from the oven and put the fish on a plate. Stir the sour cream and basil into the tomatoes. Set the monkfish on top and serve. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Allotmenticity - 08-06-09

Ahh, the first Strawberry of Summer! Not that the past few days has resembled a Summer, but after all that sunshine I suppose we have to be glad of the odd deluge!

Has anybody any information on the garden sharing issue?
I think with the number of people on the waiting list it could be a reasonable solution. A Pensioner who needs help maintaining their garden and someone who's looking for an allotment. The council could make sure they signed an agreement just as you would if you took over a patch, and you shared the veg or flowers you grew.
Comments please!!!

I'm down on No87 today whilst I have the opportunity. My cold frame will need a drink and I've some Leeks need planting out, as well as some weeding in the Herb bed.

I was going through some books I inherited from my Dad the other day, and came across an old issue of Mr Middleton's Garden Book. Now considering the amount of gardening books on the market it's amazing to read that nothing has really changed in the basic way of gardening.
Yes, there's loads of gadgets available to allow you to do things quicker, but if you look around at your neighbours, especially ones who've been there years, I can guarantee their still using the same old tools and methods that they've been doing for donkey's years.
Granted some of Mr Middleton's methods are slightly antiquated now, but they're no different in principle.
Let's face it there's still only one way to dig a trench with a spade!

I remember a while back one of my fellow correspondents "The Matron" was talking about the Readers Digest Cookery Book. The same thing applies. A vegetable is still the same as it always was, it's just that you can now get Asparagus all year round, or Raspberries etc instead of eating by the seasons.
When asked recently where peas come from, a school kid replied "Iceland"!!!!!!!

OK moan over, here's my Tomatoes Provencale recipe. Great as a vegetarian dish or as an accompaniment to a steak.

Until next time,

The Captain.


This is a very elegant side dish.

Slice in half and place sliced side up in shallow baking pan:

2 large Beef tomatoes

Sprinkle over the top of each tomato half:

I tsp. Olive oil

I tbsp. Breadcrumbs (or The Canadian Ambassador’s Spicy Crunchy Coating)

I tsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Dash of Garlic salt

1/2 tsp. Oregano fresh if available

1/2 tsp. Basil, fresh if available

Place in hot oven or under preheated grill till very hot and top browns a bit.

CHEFS NOTE: These can be baked ahead of time, covered with plastic wrap and pulled out for grilling as the final step in dinner preparation.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Allotmenticity - 01-06-09 Aston FM Sod It Grow Your Own

Well Gary's back from "basting the Turkey" so we're off on another Monday Madness!
I was chatting with a neighbour as she watered a bed and it was amazing how after 5 minutes only the top surface was wet. We do have a low water table, but it just shows how much it takes to get down to the roots.

The spuds in the barrel are doing well. Not long now until the first earlies with a knob of butter!

Mysterious tracks left on the table after our BBQ on Saturday.

The Asparagus bed has finally got going, so it's patience until the crowns get established.
Can't wait!

This very attractive specimen arrived the other day and posed wonderfully for the camera.
Does anybody know what kind it is? I think it's a Peacock.

And finally, here's the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and his Lady wife onstage with Steve Gibbons and yours truly performing Jailhouse Rock!

As for Man Utd, the least said the better!!!

The Captain

This weeks recipe was suggested by my neighbour Carol.

Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble.

Ingredients for 4

  • About 1lb rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into large chunks (about 7 1/2 cups)
  • 8oz brown sugar
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 8oz flour ( 4oz White & 4oz Wholemeal )
  • 4oz cold butter
  • 4oz rolled oats
  • 2” piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped



Preheat your oven to 350°F Put the rhubarb and half the sugar into a pan. Add the orange juice and zest, put a lid on top, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for around 5 more minutes, until the rhubarb has softened slightly. Spoon into an ovenproof baking dish and spread out evenly across the bottom.


To make your crumble topping, use your fingers to lightly rub together the flour and butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in the oats, the rest of the sugar and the ginger. (If you like, you can make the crumble topping in a food processor. Just whack in the flour, butter, sugar and ginger and whiz up. Add the oats for the last 10 seconds.) Sprinkle the crumble over the rhubarb and bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the rhubarb is bubbling up and crumble is golden.

Serve with your own choice of Custard, Cream or Natural Yoghourt.