You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Evologia

One day this week we woke up to discover it was a beautiful sunny day. We immediately set to work making ourselves a picnic and decided on the Evologia gardens in Cernier as our destination.

historiqueEvologia was initially an agricultural college founded by Frédéric Soguel in 1885. For over a hundred years it was the site of the École cantonale d’agriculture until 1995 when the school was moved to a new location and a committee was appointed to develop the site. Today Evologia still holds agricultural at its heart promoting nature and its related professions to the general public. Throughout the summer there are numerous events that take place up in the gardens and exhibition centre from music concerts to art workshops.

I knew there was an exhibition on currently called Tractorama which I thought would be right up the children’s street but I also knew that what they would appreciate most would be being able to run free around the gardens after being cooped up because of the bad weather.

Cernier is a beautiful spot high up in Neuchâtel in the Val-de-Ruz backing on to the Jura Mountains. I am a mountain girl. I once had a conversation with someone where we discussed there being two types of people: mountains and lake people vs sea and beach people. If I ever had to choose it would definitely be mountains and lakes. Heading up there I immediately got that mountain feeling which causes me to relax and immediately lifts my spirits.

Evologia

We started off with a bit of an explore of the gardens and M was in his element! He has gotten so steady on his feet now and he just loved pushing his way through the slightly over grown bushes, admiring the butterflies and generally running in all directions. I thought at one stage I had lost him to a giant flower pot but he reemerged looking very chuffed with himself.

M's favourites

E found different interests. She was intrigued by bamboo which we found round the back of the greenhouses. I can only imagine at her height how impressive it must look. I explained to her about how we use bamboo in gardening to support plants and even for decoration, when we found some colourfully painted in another part of the gardens, but I don’t think she quite believe me. We also found some “Christmas Trees” which E decided she had to spend a good 10 minutes decorating with dried grass while singing loudly to herself.

E's favourites

It was getting pretty hot so we found ourselves a shady spot for a picnic before we continued our exploration. Unfortunately I forgot our picnic rug so improvised with a towel which actually worked pretty well absorbing all spills and being easier to clean. I suspect we got a little carried away in making our picnic as we had tonnes of food but we had a good selection of sarnies including some jam ones from my batch the other day. There is a restaurant, la Terrassiette, up in the main building but a picnic suited us much better.

picnic

After lunch we went in search of some tractors. The exhibition Tractorama closes for lunch but reopened just in time to prevent WW3 as both kids fought to ride on a tractor just outside of the exhibition room. It turns out that all of the antique tractors are actually all in working condition. They are all owned by one man who has a major tractor addiction (by his own admission). He buys them and then restores them to like new. There were plenty of old American models like the ancient blue Titan and a classic John Deere below but I think M was less than impressed by the fact I wouldn’t let him ride on them in the exhibition with the caretaker observing us.

tractors

It was a lovely free day out with something for all of us and I would definitely take the kids back up there. Enjoy your weekends!

The view

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Wow! Garden Suprises Again!

Despite my utter uselessness when it comes to gardening we have actually been lucky enough to inherit an obviously previously very well-tended garden which keeps surprising us again and again.

The first summer we bought our house we had tonnes of apples. Seriously, it was insane. I had at least 20kg of them off of one tree and ended up composting all those that were slightly nibbled as there are only so many apples you can use. I even broke my juicer through over use! Since then harvest has been much less spectacular but then the poor old tree did take a beating when it had to be chopped back to put railings up to keep the kids from falling off the wall that runs behind it.

Last summer after we had moved in I also discovered scores of raspberries down the bottom of the garden which I made into icecreams, jams and even ate fresh or in jellies. They had to be used very quickly as they were very ripe when I found them.

raspberries

This summer for the first time we have had cherries (which the birds mainly got although the kids managed to get a fair few of the low hanging ones too). I wasn’t upset about the loss of the cherries though as I enjoyed having the birds in the garden.

This week on returning from our travels we have had the happy suprise of finding out that not only do we have one fruiting plum tree but we seem to have three!

plums

One is a Damson tree, another is a Mirabelle tree and is nearly ready and the other has what I believe to be Greengages on it. I managed to get most of the Damsons before the birds got them giving me about 2 kilos of plums to deal with. Unsure of what to do I started googling and quickly found some interesting recipes.

I didn’t particularly want to make any desserts as I have some other cake ideas on hold at the moment (there is only so much pudding you can eat). However, I did have plenty of fruit I had frozen before leaving to go on holiday and so some of the plums got de-stoned and added to the mix to make some Summer fruit jam.

jam batch

After all that de-stoning I was keen on something which required less work (Damson flesh tends to stick to the stone). It was a toss up between a cordial or a flavoured liqueur… Damson Vodka won!

It was a very simple recipe that I borrowed off Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian.

Damson Vodka

Ingredients

  • 1kg Damson Plums
  • 500g Sugar
  • 1l Vodka (use good quality or else you’ll regret all your hard work).

damsons and vodka

Instructions

  • Prick the plums all over with a pin.
  • Place in a 2.5 litre sterile container (I used a 5 litre jar which I sterilised by baking  in the oven at 125°C for 20 minutes before taking it out to cool).
  • Add the plums and then the sugar.
  • Add the vodka.
  • Seal the jar and place in a cool place out of sunlight.
  • Invert the jar every week or two for 6 months.
  • After 6 months filter the mixture through a muslin.
  • Keep for another 6 months minimum.

damson vodka instructions

Easy peasy! My jar is now sitting in our cellar room and my phone is programmed with reminders so I don’t forget about it.

The fact that the kids get to grow up eating produce from our own garden is fantastic for me – although they definitely won’t be trying the vodka! Can’t wait for the rest of the plums to be ripe and I’m very excited about next summer!

I wonder why some trees don’t fruit every year?

Does anyone have any suggestions for Mirabelle or Greengage recipes? It looks like there are a lot more of them than we had Damsons!


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What Went On and Froggy Fun!

I told you how things were starting to kick off here in Neuchâtel as spring starts and we did our utmost to see as much as possible resulting in a busy but fabulous weekend!

quinzaine & jardins

Our weekend started with a wander into town to see the Quinzaine Neuchâteloise. We wandered through the Jardin Anglais which they have just finished replanting for this year towards. The dragon in front of the Casino was looking very smart in red and green and E gave him a roar just to show who was boss.

A little further down there was a brocante going on filled with second hand items in varying states of wear. We also stumbled across one of the Boîte à Trocs (a neighbourhood swap box) which you find all over Romandie. There are 6 in Neuchâtel and although I have read about them I haven’t actually seen one yet. I love the idea of having a place you can put books you’ve finished with or some of the kids old toys for someone else in the area to make use of. Unfortunately it was looking pretty empty so we will have to pop back and fill it up. Goodness knows the kids are growing fast enough to fill one with their clothes that are now too small.

Carrying on past the brocante the gardens turned into a series of lily pad arrangements complete with a flower fog and a golden princess who’s dress and hair were made of plants. A garden wreath design told us that this is to celebrate Neuchâtel’s 200th anniversary of it’s membership to the Swiss Confederation.

Town was packed with stands mainly linked with the shops taking part in the Quinzaine but there were also other stands which I didn’t expect to see including one by the Jardin Communautaire. Unsurprisingly they were also taking part in the Fête de la Nature that I also mentioned. The Jardin Communautaire is trying to create a communal garden on the rue du bassin in the centre of Neuchâtel with the help of the neighbours. Along with this project they are trying to create awareness of urbain flora and fauna and associate themselves with various cultural events. To celebrate the Fête de la Nature that weekend they were doing tastings of various plants made into cakes and cordials. Among others we taste Nettle (Ortie), Dog Rose (Églantier) and Lemon balm (Mélissa) cordials and even a nettle chocolate brownie – all of which the kids enjoyed thoroughly. The ladies were very busy but I managed to get them to pose for a photo before we headed on.

bol d'or collage

It was a beautiful day and the Bol d’Or was stunning to watch from the lakeside – unfortunately for them it was rather laking in wind so it was perhaps the slowest race they have ever had…

Festival goer

That afternoon the kids and I popped over to Cornaux to get a little preview of what was in store for the Corn’Rock festival that evening. A few local connections meant that we sneaked into the sound checks and had a play in the festival grounds soaking up the sun. Even Teddy got to join us on our outing as a rare treat.

stars and hearts

Treats continued as we made ourselves a rather spangly tea using all our biscuit cutters to create a rather appetising feast. If your kids ever decide to get fussy I’m almost willing to bet you can get them to try anything if it is star or heart shaped and colourful.

froggy fountain

That Sunday we decided that we needed to make the most of the fact that it was the Fête de la Nature and head up to the Botanical Gardens to see what exciting things were going on. However, when we arrived the place was so busy we headed on into the forest which was a lot calmer. On our stroll along the path from the Rocher de l’Ermitage (a large rocky outcrop above the gardens) we came across a little frog water trough which over ran down a little stream into a pond teaming with tadpoles.

Well one adventure turned into another and we ended up with a family of frogspawn to look after but that’s another story!

Hope you are all keeping well and stay tuned for news on our new tadpole babies.


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Herbs?

I am aware that many people don’t use herbs in cooking or are unsure with what to use and why they are using them. So after my last post I thought I might give you a little introduction to cooking with herbs and to those that I chose to plant in my kitchen garden.

What’s so great about herbs?

While herbs are great for adding an extra dimension to your dishes they also are great for your health. Herbs and spices have long been used in remedies and for preserving food. It is only now that we are starting to understand the full health benefits that they hold and how they can help with many of the most common diseases we suffer from today such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancer.

Why use fresh herbs over dried?

Quite simply because you get more nutrients from them (as with fresh vegetables) and often get more flavour. In making tea with fresh Lemon Verbena leaves I find the taste to be much more citrusy. One thing I love about having fresh herbs is that they can lift any salad. Most people know about adding basil to tomato salad or mint with yoghurt and cucumber salads, but I also like to chop any herbs I have lying about into everyday salads to give them a lift. Have an experiment.

Should I cook with fresh herbs in the same way that I cook with dried herbs?

Yes and no. You can add the same herbs to the same dishes but while dried herbs and fresh woody herbs (sage, thyme and bay leaves) should be added at the start of the cooking process, fresh tender leaf herbs (such as basil, chives, coriander, dill, and  parsley) should only be added at the end. 1 teaspoon of dried herbs generally is the same as 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs.

aromatic herbs

Curly leaf and flat leaf parsley are the most common forms of parsley out there. Flat leaf has a bit more flavour and is more peppery than the curly variety but the texture of curly leaf parsley is sometimes more desirable in certain dishes.

I often use parsley to neutralise the garlic I add to dishes. In fact parsley is a great breath freshener if you chew on some after a meal. Parsley is also good for cutting through rich dishes with lots of cream or egg. Parsley pretty much goes with everything and it’s great for decorating dishes. Heston Blumenthal has even paired Banana and Parsley check out his recipe here.

It is not only the leaves that are useful but also the stalks which you can use to make a bouquet garni for flavouring casseroles, stocks, sauces and soups. A bouquet garni is a little bundle of herbs that you tie together (or put in a little muslin bag) – think Bridget Jones and the blue string incident – and it acts a little bit like a tea bag in that you use it to infuse the dish and remove it at the end of cooking. It often includes parsley, thyme and a bay leaf although there is no set recipe and vegetables and pepper corns are sometimes added .

Coriander (Cilantro)

While it looks quite like parsley and is sometimes termed “chinese parsley” it is not. Coriander is a herb which does not keep and doesn’t freeze very well (unlike parsley) tending to lose its taste.

I use it mostly with Indian cooking where you tend to add it as a garnish at the last minute as it loses its flavour when cooked. There is nothing better than a lamb curry, daal (lentil stew) and raita (yoghurt based sauce) with plenty of coriander.

It also goes really well with Mexican cooking as coriander pairs excellently with avocado, chicken, fish and shellfish, peppers and salsa.

Coriander is also linked with many health benefits like most fresh herbs ranging from antioxidant properties to being useful in treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Dill

Dill has a fairly distinctive taste being a mix of fennel, anise and celery. It is most commonly added to fish or pickles. I mainly associate it with Scandinavian cooking where it is added to almost everything you eat: soups, grilled and boiled fish, gravlax, potatoes and vinegars. However it is not only the Scandinavians who love Dill: in Eastern Europe it is often added to hot and cold (creamy) borsht. They use it in salads (much like I describes above) or in creamy dressings and sandwich spreads. Dill sauce is also used for poultry, eggs and potatoes.

In Asian cooking Dill is also commonly used and in India they believe it has good digestive properties and is also often given to mothers after childbirth.

The Greeks also use Dill pairing it with yoghurt and cucumber in Tzatziki – Yum!

Feeling a bit braver with Dill yet? Next time you are preparing poultry, fish, eggs, salad or a creamy sauce add a bit and see what you think.

Basil

I reckon basil is the most used herb in western cooking thanks to the popularity of Italian food although the plant originally comes from Asia and plays a major role in their cuisine too.

The Italian basil I chose is the most commonly sold in the supermarkets and is known as sweet basil while the Greek basil is much more peppery and has a stronger flavour. I’d use the Greek for salads but the Italian one more for cooking or pesto.

One tip I learnt off an Italian ex was to never cut basil with a knife but rather tear it to release the aromas. Obviously this isn’t practical when making pesto but I try to stick to it when making salads.

Basil pairs excellently with tomato and most vegetables, as you probably know, but it also goes great with other fruit such as pineapple or strawberries.

Another basil tip to be aware of is when picking your basil never pick the tips of the shoots but select the larger leaves from below allowing further regrowth.

Basil is another well noted antioxidant and various studies have been done linking it with cancer preventative properties. Basil is also good for high blood pressure.

Verbena

I planted Lemon Verbena as I love using it to make teas, you just pop a few leaves in some boiling water and drink it as is. Lemon Verbena is also great to use in cooking as it adds a lovely citrus taste to dishes without the acidity.  You can add it to marinades, dressing or sauces and it pairs great with fish and poultry. I’ve also seen it being used in jams to add a freshness or summery aspect.

Verbena is galactagogue (which means it promotes lactation) so it is great for breastfeeding mums. I tend to drink it as a tea in the evenings after dinner as it aids digestion and has certain sedative effect. I’ve also heard that it has antibacterial properties and is effective against yeast infections. It is also good for menstrual cramps making it a good standard for any woman’s garden.

Camomile

Another soothing tea which tastes so much better fresh and helps with digestion. German chamomile, which I planted, produces daisy like flower which you should trim and make the tea out of. This one is not recommended for nursing or pregnant woman, however, as it can cause contractions. The flowers can also be added to salads or can be made into an herbal beer.

Chives

Funnily enough I’m not a big onion fan but I love chives as its much more of a delicate taste which cuts nicely through rich dishes with eggs or cream, for example, I’ll add lots of chives to my scrambled eggs. You can add chives to any dishes which you would normally put raw onion into such as salads. They are also great for decoration or even snipped into mash or soups.

Like other allium family members, chives possess thio-sulfinites anti-oxidants. Thio-sufinites breaks down to allicin when chives are processed. Studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. Allicin is also a vasodilator compound which is great for those with high blood pressure.

Thyme (silver leaf and lemon)

Thyme is a lovely fragrant herb which I associate mainly with Provençal dishes. It goes great with with Mediterranean vegetables, pork, lamb, fish and game. I love thyme with eggs in omelettes or in mushrooms dishes.

You can use it in stews, stuffings, marinades, omelettes or even in scrambled eggs.

Lemon Thyme adds a citrus dimension to dishes which is especially nice with fish and can be lovely sprinkled into salads.

Thyme goes excellently in quinoa or rice dishes. Lemon thyme and mushroom risotto is gorgeous and very easy to make. I don’t generally follow exact quantities when I make risotto but I’ll try and write it down for you. For 3/4 people I tend to sweat down one onion and a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep pan and then add a clove of crushed garlic.  Once all of that is mixed and soft I add a tea cup of risotto rice and coat it with the mixture. Then add about 250g of chopped mushrooms and a tablespoon of chopped thyme and cook the mushrooms down. Risotto is a dish which once you start you have to stick with until it is ready as it needs to be constantly stirred. Keep the pan on the Next add about a ladle of stock and stir until the stock is absorbed then add another (I often add a slosh of white wine instead of one of the ladles at some point during the process). Continue in this way until the rice is cooked (it should be firm but with no hard bits remaining) and then add some grated parmesan (about 2 tablespoons) and stir through. You can add anything to risottos which is great for using up leftovers. If you have any left over vegetables or meat you can also stir it through at the end.

Tea can also be made from thyme by immersing a sprig in water.

Another herb with a lot of health benefits, Thyme has often been used throughout history to preserve food and to disinfect, the ancient Egyptians even used it in embalming. Thyme had also been linked with various anti-aging properties.

Oregano

Often know as the “Pizza Herb” I only discovered it relatively recently. The British recipes I grew up with always just substituted parsley and oregano was not readily available in supermarkets. This is one of the few herbs which actually has a stronger flavour when dried. Oregano is a sweet herb with some spiciness that adds warmth to any dish. It pairs particularly well with tomatoes, aubergine and lamb.

Oregano is a great barbecue herb and goes great with grilled meat or fish and vegetables. It goes well on Greek salads and Turkish cuisine you often find it as an extra seasoning next to the salt and pepper. You can even use a large bunch as a bed on which to roast a joint. Saying that oregano is generally added just at the end of cooking, so that it retains its pungency.

In Greece and the Philippines oregano is used to treat sore throat and coughs when brewed in teas. It is another herb with antimicrobial properties I have heard it is good for fungal infections.

Mint

English mint, which I planted is apparently less invasive than other mints although those roots are sprouting out all over the place and trying to take over already. It is a sweet, spearmint type rather than a peppermint mint and is very versatile.

Mint is a common ingredient in Thai food like rolls, as well as in Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh, and in traditional mint tea from North Africa. It goes well with lamb, aubergine, desserts (such as chocolate), salads, vegetables, and fruit.

It’s not unusual to see mint used in jellies, sauces and cocktails. I planted my mint thinking mainly about the cocktails. I will be watching Wimbledon and making Pimms (a traditional English gin-based drink) this summer although I seem to be drinking it mainly in tea on a daily basis (keeping it cut back so that it doesn’t take over).

Mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid with upset stomach or indigestion it is thought to help to speed and ease digestion. Mint also contains menthol, which is a natural decongestant and it can also be effective in tea for relieving sore throats. One health benefit which I didn’t know about previously linked with the fact that mint contain an antioxidant called rosmarinic acid. Because of rosmarinic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties it has been studied for its effectiveness in relieving the symptoms of hay fever.

Sage

When I think of sage I remember one of our first holidays with E where we went to a lovely little place in Tuscany, Italy called Villa Pia. We found it through a site called Baby Friendly Boltholes when we where desperate to get away to somewhere child friendly which wasn’t a resort hotel. Villa Pia was a lovely communal setting, they really looked after us and even provided babysitters to keep the children while we could take an on site cookery class. During this class we made everything from meatballs to various sorts of pasta. One of these dishes was a gnocchi with a fried sage butter sauce. Never had I known something so simple could be so delicious.

Sage has a lovely strong flavour which is a good herb to pair with foods traditionally considered heavy, rich, and creamy. It goes great with poultry, sausages (or stuffing), pasta, beans and certain dairy products such as cheese and cream (ravioli with sage cream sauce), as well as sweet and savoury breads.

The botanical name Salvia is from the Latin for “to feel well and healthy, health, heal” referring to the herb’s healing properties. It has a long history of medicinal use and the Arabs associated sage with immortality. The praise for sage is not unfounded: It is often used as an herbal remedy for afflictions including gas, bloating, poor appetite and excessive sweating. Sage has also been seen to be effective in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Leafy Herbs

So there you have it: my reasoning behind buying quite so many herbs and why I am so keep to buy more. I hope you find this post useful and I have convinced some of use to use more herbs if not for the flavour then for the added health benefits.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekends!


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Practical and Easy Gardening

Armed with my Royal Horticultural Gardening Bible and a very keen 2 year old I attempted some more green fingeredness. I couldn’t face the mess that is main garden yet but we decided to create a little kitchen garden.

As a cook having herbs is a necessity to give flavour but having them fresh out of the garden is like a dream come true. I have never been able to keep my herbs happy indoors. They just drink so much water I can’t top them up enough and I end up with very sad shrivelled looking things.

We took a trip to the garden centre down the road in Gampelen to get all the equipment we needed and our herbs. The problem is that when you go to such a place you invariably get side tracked. We went in for a couple of herb pots, some soil and herbs and came out with a proper kitchen garden complete with:

  • Parsley (curly and flat leaf)
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Basil (greek and standard)
  • Verbena
  • Camomile
  • Chives
  • Thyme (silver leaf and lemon)
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Sage
  • A bay tree
  • Radish seeds
  • Two tomato plants (cherry and vine)
  • Pots (2 large, 2 medium and one small)
  • Ceramic drainage beads
  • Plenty of soil
  • 1 purple child’s rake

Whoops….

plant purchases

(The only reason there is no tarragon is because it is still too early for it and I have already Rosemary taking over the main garden as it is.)

The problem is is that E and I just got so over excited at the prospect of making our garden so we kept finding more “good ideas”. Plus its all useful stuff. “Just think at the savings we will make over time no longer buying the everything in small bunches overtime,” I explained later to the tutting hubby.

Firstly all the herbs were on offer and they were right next to the seeds (I remember planting them as a kid and how easy it was) and then E spotted the tomato seedlings.  Then I found some great big plastic pots that looked just like real terracotta ones by an Italian brand called Marchioro. Going in I had no idea how much soil it would take to fill a container and so was very happy when I found the drainage beads (a less costly method to fill the base of the pot). It also seemed a good way to create a water reservoir for the plants (as per the manufacturer’s handy instructions) however, I have since learnt on the gardening forums that drainage wise it makes no difference.

 

pot preparation

So about 15 unloading trips to and from the car later we had all our materials ready to go in the garden. I filled up the pots and then E fetched the plants for me and helped me to remove them from their pots, slightly separate the roots and place them in the new containers.

PLANTING

I had previously done some research on which herbs I could put together after previous experience with some mint that killed all my herbs in one pot. It turns out mint should be planted in its pot in the container to try and limit its roots spreading and strangling all the others. Aromatic herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage and chives are all very happy to be planted together but should be kept apart from herbs such as parsley or basil. Thus we had one pot for the aromatics (including mint) and another for the rest. The Bay tree I planted in a small pot alone and the tomato plants both had a pot each on the sunniest side of the patio. I had been told that I could simply plant the tomatoes into two grow bags cut open and place one on top of the other but since I fell in love with my Peter Rabbit style pots the grow bag was used for the radishes instead.

Once the grow bag was cut open we made some holes for drainage in the side and then made a series of holes to pop the seeds into which we then recovered with soil.

We also kept one bag of soil for our potatoes . We put 3 in a bag, made some holes for drainage and closed it up to keep them away from the sun.

Now it was E’s turn to be a watering demon with her little blue watering can.

The next day our herbs looked extremely happy and perky much to my relief after their extreme watering trauma which left them a little flat.

Indeed they have all gone from strength to strength except for the basil which I might have to relocate. The Greek basil seems to be more resilient but I think they need more light and the other faster growing herbs are smothering them.

Growth

Our radishes are also sprouting well but I think the initial watering washed them all to one end of the grow bag, leading to slightly cramped growing conditions.

radishes

Check out the tomatoes and potatoes! Now we are just waiting for the flowers on the potatoes to give us an idea of when they are ready. We need to wait for the flowers to come and then wilt and hopefully we will have a sack full of spuds.

potatoes and tomatoes

E is turning into a proper little gardener as she learns along with us and she is very happy with her little rake.

gardening fiend

I’m generally very pleased with our latest gardening experiment and am thoroughly enjoying using herbs every time I cook… I actually have to use herbs every time I cook or else they will take over (they are thriving that well).


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Foraging for Dandelions

Today turned into a lovely day and we spent the afternoon in the garden admiring our beautiful weeds.

Recently the local market has been full of dandelion leaves. I really love dandelion salad. It is great with lardons and a olive oil and white wine vinegar dressing but considering the state of our garden I couldn’t actually bring myself to pay for some. So finally today I did a little research and found out what I should be looking for when I pick my dandelion leaves.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that you should go for the younger plants which haven’t yet given a bud or flower as they are less bitter. You can also eat the flowers and the buds. Apparently the buds go well in omelettes and you can tempura the flowers. The flowers are bitter but have a sweet taste and I am definitely going to start using them in my salads for extra colour.

You can eat this?

Now when I started explaining to E that we can eat dandelions she was a little skeptical but did taste a few admitting that they were ok but needed a bit of salad sauce. I think our dandelions might be getting a bit bitter but I managed to find a decent selection of fresh leaves for a tonight.

Then E found one lone blossom that had already turned to seed and I showed a very excited little girl how you can blow them and watch the seeds fly away.

Dandelions collage

E also picked a bunch of dandelions for Teddy in-between scooting around on her tricycle.

 

picking dandelions collage

After all our salad picking we sat down for a little tea party with Teddy and tried out a batch of some homemade Jaffa cakes. I am still perfecting the recipe though so bare with me on that one.

IMG_0759

It was a lovely day in the sunshine and the only shame was that poor M has been under the weather and slept it all away. Fingers crossed he will be back on form tomorrow.

Hope you enjoyed your weekends too!


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Potato Monsters

We have been gardening again!

I normally get my vegetables from local suppliers and they come in brown paper bags meaning they last longer but for some reason I had to go to the supermarket for a change and ended up with a bag of sprouted spuds. It seemed a shame to simply compost them especially as they had rather beautiful furry purple shoots. So after some close examination we decided to do some gardening.

sprouting

E was initially a little afraid of the almost caterpillaresque sprouts but after having a feel of the little hairs she felt more at ease.

We put some potatoes into jam jars filled with water on the windowsill and some into some soil outside.

The indoor ones quickly grew fine roots and started producing leaf shoots. A couple in jars, however, just rotted and the outdoor ones have been very slow probably because it has been very dry recently. We will try and update you on our outdoor success another time.

Potato to monster

E has loved watching them grow over the past 7 weeks as you could see changes every day.

Soon we had some rather crazy green potatoes which my Hubby termed my “potato monsters”.

I decided to make them truly monsters by using permanent marker to draw mouths, fangs and noses on white electrical tape. These I then cut out ready for E to stick onto our potatoes. We also had a selection of googly eyes which I decorated with the markers to give extra variety.

E decided some monsters would be really scary while other would be more friendly. Some potatoes had eyes for noses while others had 3 eyes and no nose.

The tape was sticky enough to be able to try numerous combinations of monster features and here are a selection of some of our creations.

monsters

Have fun decorating vegetables!