DIY Strawberry Planter

Last year when we put up the polytunnel we moved two old strawberry plants into it. They had been in the same pots for about 3 years and we had enjoyed loads of strawberries from them in previous years but they didn’t grow back and so were destined for the compost heap (once we got it but)

While they were sitting in the polytunnel though they started to grow,  we ended up getting  20 runners or baby Strawberry plants from them which I now need a home for.

After A LOT of time searching Pinterest I decided to make a planter to allow the plants to grow out the side keeping the strawberries off the soil.

We’ve collected a lot of building materials over the years, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and all that,  so I had to work with what I had.

I found an unused inspection chamber for a septic tank, and some 4in pipe

I drilled 3 inch holes around the side (but if doing again I would make them smaller) 

I then drilled holes around the pipe and wrapped it in weed matting to allow water to flow out of it without the holes getting blocked up with soil. 

This will allow me to water the plants from the middle so the soil won’t wash out the holes

I filled upto the bottom row of holes with rocks and soil

I added Strawberry plants and a mixture of compost & old horse manure 

And repeated until full

I’ve 8 plants around the outside and 8 in the top. 

I’ve more Strawberry plants to be repotted and am interested to see the difference in yields from the different methods. 

Have you ever tried growing strawberries?How did you plant your?  I’d love to hear how it went? 

Laura x

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2017 A year in review.Β 

I’m trying to plan the layout for my polytunnel and what I’m going to grow this year and have been looking back through some of my pictures so I thought I’d do a quick round up of what I have grown so far and how much we have achieved on our journey to self sufficiently. 

Putting the cover on the frame

It took us 2 months deciding where to put the polytunnel 

We bought the frame second hand and made the door ourselves out of decking boards we had saved
It’s withstood snow & storms 

We got the polytunnel up in mid July so we were late planting but I bought a few plants and seeds and thought I’d see what happened! 

Courgette, tomatoes basil, spinach, chives, rocket, lettuce
Lettuce, rocket, spring onion, tomato, yellow cherry tomatoes

Cooking apples. This tree was a cutting from an apple tree in gerards grandas garden he’d taken about ten years ago. It was basically a twig, and has been moved and replanted three times but it had a bumper crop this year. These are just some of the windfalls

My mum and dad got us two apple trees as a wedding present. They are the juiciest eating apples 

We had 18 tomato plants given to us by a family friend, they were small and only starting to flower when we put them into the tunnel in grow bags with some rather ropey makeshift scafolding staging
We sent lots of visitors home with goodie bags
We grew our own pumpkins 

We grew the three green one’s. I’ve plans for a big pumpkin &  squash patch this year

There still is a lot of work to be done, I’m not sure where I will find the time to do everything I want, but I’ve realised it’s a way of life I am looking for. I don’t need nicey laid out paths and an insta worthy veg patch (yet πŸ˜‰) I need to enjoy the journey I am on. 

Cucumber, tomatoes, chilli’s, rocket, lettuce, runner beans

I bought a pepper plant for 50p in b&q in August. We got two peppers!

There were lots of tomatoes
Runner beans flowers 
I want to grow more varieties of tomatoes next year
The chilli’s were unbearably hot!
I picked the last of the tomatoes in December and ate the last one in a turkey sandwiche on boxing day!
The Last of the apples
We got 21 runners off two pots of strawberry plants. They were basically dead whe we moved them into the polytunnel
And I can’t forget the 5 blueberries

One of Emma’s first tastes was apple & blueberry puree all homegrown! The recipe is here 

Growing my own fruit and vegetables is is my release. It’s my time to be me. Cooking with them is my passion and something I’m looking forward to doing more of this year 

There was a lot of tomato sauce made
And tomato salsa
And tomato & chilli chutney
I made sun dried tomatoes
Tomato & spinach Crustless quiches 
I nailed the tomato soup
Tomato soup and tomato &  brie croissants
Venison lasagne with our own tomatoe sauce & venison shot by gerard
And bolognese with salad
The peppers didn’t ripen on the plant but this wee trick worked a treat πŸ˜‰
Then came Apple crumble season

I’ve more apple recipes here 

We foraged blackberries & made jam
And blackberry gin

You can find the recipe here 

Rosehips & sloes

And some toffee apples for our porridge

We grew thyme, coriander, spinach, lettuce, parsley &  celery and have cabbage, brocolli, carrots & parsnips in now but they’re not ready 

Tiny carrots and parsnips
Mummy’s wee helper

Growing my own fruit and vegetables is my way to find some me time. . .  To find something other than mum. . . To help me relax.  I’ve been suffering with post natal depression I spoken about it before here and some days are hard.  The struggles of daily life with two young children when you’re sleep deprived (I’ve not had more than a 4hr stretch in 10 months) have meant I’ve not got as much done as I would have liked by now but I am going to accept that everything won’t be the way I want it without me making the time and putting the work in, but sure, can’t we all say that about something? The jeans we strive to fit back into, the relationship we’re chasing, the business were trying to grow?  I won’t get what I want if I don’t work for it, and I need to make the time to do it, for myself mentally aswell. The last few months when I haven’t been out as much I’ve really noticed my mood dip so I’m excited to see the first signs of spring and to see what we can achieve this year!  

We got climbing roses as a wedding present too. I hope to grow lots of flowers this year (not just for the gram πŸ˜‰) 

I plan to keep better records this year of what I’m growing and what I harvest and hope to try to grow as many different varieties as possible. And of course, there will be more regular updates and recipes on here too! 
Laura x

Celery & Pea SoupΒ 


Ingredients

1 onoin chopped 

Β½ bunch celery chopped 

1 clove garlic crushed 

2 potatoes thinly sliced 

1 litre water

2 stock cubes

Cup of frozen peas

Small bunch of parsley chopped

Knob of butter 
Method

Soften onion, garlic and celery in pan with butter then add potatoes, water and stock. Simmer for 20mins add the peas and parsley and cook for another 5mins, blitz & enjoy

For a richer soup add cream to finish 

Pavlova wreathΒ 

I alway make a pavlova at Christmas, it’s one of the few desserts I can make and it’s best made ahead of time as you need to leave it in the oven to cool. You can make this a few days in advance and store in an airtight container so all you have to do on the big day is top it. 

This year I was inspired by Mary Berry who’s recipe you can find here.
Ingredients 

Pavlova is one of them desserts everyone has their on recipe for, mine is simple, 4 fresh egg whites and 200g caster sugar. Nothing else. It just works for me. 
Method 

Before you start preheat the oven to 160Β°C fan and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Draw round a plate and cup to get you outlines for your wreath and weigh out your sugar. 

I alway use a clean stainless steel bowl, and whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwisk, if your pavlova alway ends up seeping syrup this is probably the cause. 

Slowly add the sugar while mixing until the eggs are silky smooth and glossy and back to forming stiff peaks, you will be able to turn the bowl upside down without it falling out!

Spoon into a piping bag and pipe between the lines on the greaseproof paper creating texture to form your wreath shape. I found lots of small blobs gave a good effect rather than the smoother, flatter surface you would get if you piped it in one fluid motion. 

Pop it into the oven and immediately turn down to 100Β°C fan and cook for 1Β½ hours then turn it off and leave it in until completely cooled. Do not open the door at any time. Its the sudden drop in temperature that makes pavlova crack and then sink. 

I’ve topped this with cream and tinned fruit i found at the back of the cupboard but I want something  more elaborate for Christmas, I’ll have to get onto Pinterest πŸ˜‰
Let me know if you try this recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and what your favourite toppings are? 

Laura x

Homemade chicken stock

Soup season is well and truly on us and i make a few pots of soup a week. I normally use stock pots when making soup, but I found myself with none in the larder and a stripped rotisserie chicken carcass so I decided to make my own stock for a change, and do you know what? It was far nicer, cheaper, used up leftovers, and I made enough for two big pots of soup.

Ingredients 

Stripped chicken carcass 

2 carrots 

1 onion 

2 sticks celery 

Bay leaves

Peppercorns

Water


Method 

Heat chicken bones in a large pot then add roughly chop vegetables, no need to peel, just give them a wash, cover with water, add Bay leaves, peppercorns & simmer for 90minutes

Pass through a fine sieve and your done! You can now use this stock to make your favourite soup. 

Why don’t you check out some of my soup recipes over on my instagram feed 

I don’t know why I’ve never made my own stock before? But I’ll definitely be making stock this way again as I roast a chicken every week. 

Laura x

​Goats Cheese, Tomato & Spinach Crustless Quiche


Ingredients 

6 eggs

3 tomatoes sliced 

2 spring onions finely chopped 

Handful spinach chopped 

Handful rocket chopped 

6 basil leaves torn

6mint leaves torn 

Goats cheese 

Chilli & tomato chutney (Lidl do a great one.!) 

Method 

Seperate 6eggs and whish the whites until fluffy. 

Mix the yolks with a little milk, spring onion, spinach, tomato & rocket and fold into the egg whites. 

Pour into a cake tin and top with goats cheese and tomato & chilli chutney. 

Pop in a preheated oven at 180Β° for 15-20mins until the egg is cooked through.


 

*we great the tomatoes, spinach, rocket, basil & mint and I served this with a salad of our own mixed lettuce, tomatoes, spring onions and cucumber

**this is also great served cold and is a firm favourite for picnics. Just add a bit of kitchen paper to your tupperwear to absorb stem if storing it whilst still warm. Picnics aren’t just for the summer! And don’t have to be sandwiches!

***try alternative fillings; bacon pieces with mushroom, Red Leicester & Brown Sauce. Ham & Cheddar. Smoked salmon, spring onion,  peas & horseradish. Caramelised onion, bacon & brie. 

DIY ICE BALLS

If you,

like me,

like a cocktail or two these are a simple way to jazz up you cocktails and impress friend when entertaining. The ice also melts slower and so does not dilute your drink as quickly!

All you need are balloons,  cooled boiled water and an empty plastic bottle.

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I’ve made this one to go into my blackberry Infused Gin recipe along with ginger beer.

You can fill the balloon before filling with slices of fruit, edible flowers, or berries

Fill the plastic bottle with cooled boiled water and put the balloon over the top

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Hold it over the sink and squeeze until the balloon is filled to desired size,  tie a knot in the top then freeze. You can do this a few days before you need them just be careful not to squeeze too many in your freezer at once or they will not come out round.

One frozen peel off the plastic

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If the balls are too big for your glass hold them under running water for a few seconds and they will shrink.

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Add your favourite tipple and enjoy!

Laura x

Venison Quesadillas

Quesadillas. . Fajitas. . Tacos. . Pulled Pork. . Spachcok chicken. . Spicy Rice. .

I make my own spice mix and use it for them all. It doesn’t have salt, additives or preservatives,  is cheaper than the store bought sachets as you probably have everything you need in the cupboard and you can adjust it to your own personal taste. I normally make up a batch and store in a Mason jar to be used as and when needed.

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Ground cumin, paprika, dried garlic, ground coriander, cayenne and crushed chilli flakes

 

I used 1lb venison mince we had in the freezer but you could use beef, pork, Turkey or Quorn mince or just extra veggies if you prefer. I fry this off until brown in a dry pan (this one was my nana’s ❀️) 

Add 3-5 teaspoons seasoning mix according to taste

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Then add Β½ red,  yellow & green pepper, onion, Β½ tin sweetcorn & a tin mixed beans and fry for a further few minutes

Lastly I add a jar of pasatta (about 50p in lidl), reduce and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  If it does add a splash of water. 

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To make the quesadillas I layered wilted spinach the mince mixture and a good sprinkle of grated cheese between two tortilla wraps and warmed in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few moments each side and cut with a pizza wheel

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I served the quesadillas with lettuce and my avocado smash. We also like corn on the cob or sweet potato fries with this and I plan to make tomato salsa when the tomatoes and chilis are ready to harvest

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Avocado Smash

A mashed avocado,  ΒΌ cucumber deseeded and cubed,  a chilli finely chopped (if you like it spicy), juice of Β½ lime & a squeeze of mayo

 

This is a great midweek dinner serving 2-4 people, depending on sides,  can be prepped beforehand and goes down well with all the family

Laura x

How’d you like them apples…

There is nothing as nice as being able to pick an apple straight off a tree for a snack when working in the garden.

Whether you grow your own,  have a neighbour with an apple tree or find your always throwing the last few out of your fruit bowl as they’ve gone soft before they were eaten, Here are a few of my favourite recipes with apples…. 

 

Apple Sauce

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French trim pork loin, freshly dug potatoes and homemade apple sauce

Perfect accompaniment to pork, a roast or loin chop, you can’t go wrong with Apple sauce. Peeled chopped and stewed for a few minutes to soften in a pan and finished with a knob of butter

When I have a glut of apples I make up a large batch and put in jam jars to used over winter.

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

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Peel & chop apples and soften in a pan with a little water and sprinkle of sugar for a few minutes then add handful of blackberries.  Put in an oven proof dish and top with crumble mix of 6oz flour, 3oz butter &  3oz demerara sugar rubbed between fingers until a fine crumb has formed. I sprinkle with a teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons oats too for extra crunch.

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Warm crumble straight out of the oven & ice-cream

Apple &  apricot stuffing

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Stuffed rolled pork loin with Apple & Apricot stuffing

I freeze the heals of bread as they are never eaten in our house for making stuffing and take them out as needed.  Using my mini food processor I wizz up the heals with an onion,  bunch of parsley,  grated apples and dried apricots (or cranberries) for sweetness along with a knob of butter and salt &  pepper. Great for a whole stuffed chicken,  individual stuffed chicken breasts, stuffed bacon rolls (a quick midweek dinner) or for stuffing pork loin or fillet.

Apple Salad

We serve this as an accompliment to bbqs and it always goes down a treat. Leaving the skin on I mix diced red and green apples, sliced grapes, walnuts, finely sliced white cabbage, grated carrot, and some tinned orange segments with some mayo, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

I also like to grate an apple into a mixed leave salad for added sweetness

 

I plan to use some of my apples as Christmas tree decorations this year,  but they need to grow a bit more first!  Check back to see how I get on!

Laura x

Blackberry Infused Gin

I’ve never had a goto drink, and tend to have a cocktail or wine if I’m out so when I came across this blackberry infused gin recipe when trying to figure out what I was going to do with all the blackberries I have been picking when out walking with the girls I had to put a bottle down to try!  It couldn’t be easier so why not have a go yourself and let me know how it turns out!

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I plan to use it to make one of my favourite tipples the bramble or you could served it topped up with prosecco or sparkling water!

IMG_20170817_224746_132Picking the juiciest blackberries I layered them with 100g sugar in a clean glass jar (i used a pasatta jar as it was tall and the neck wide enough to get the blackberries in easily) and topped up with the gin.

 

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I used Gordon’s as it was in the cupboard,  but will be trying a cheaper gin next time (maternity wages πŸ˜‘)  any gin would do, or vodka or whiskey if that’s your tipple of choice.  Then all you have to do is put it in a dark cupboard for a month, shaking every few days, strain through a cheesecloth into a sterile bottle and voila. Done. Simple. It’s best to let it sit for another few months before drinking but I’m not sure if it will last that long in this house!

I’m going to try rhubarb gin too and wonder what else I can forage or grow to top up the drinks cupboard? I will also be decanting some into small bottles to keep for Christmas hampers! (sorry,  I know I said the C word!)

Check back to see how the cocktails turned out and my diy ice balls!

Laura x