Slow painting

Wednesday 30 September 2009


My walk to work takes me past an allotment site. Every morning it tantalises me - here am I, heading into an office, when just the other side of the fence is where I would rather be.

Still, it makes for a good start to the day.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Only three

Strange only to be pulling three beetroot instead of four. These little reminders that I now have a son away at university pop up in the most unexpected places.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Rainbow chard - THE receipe

For a while I've been searching for something else to do with rainbow chard than steaming or sauteing with chilli flakes. I like it this way, but the rest of the family is lukewarm about it. Now, at last, I've found THE receipe, which everyone likes, which makes chard into a meal, which is as good cold as it is hot, which can be taken to work for a packed lunch...

It's by Thomasina Miers, from the 'Soul food' section in The Times newspaper.

"Swiss chard pastilla pie

Serves 4-6

6 sheets filo pastry
50g currants
50g raisins
1 bundle of chard, about 600-800g
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts
100g Parmesan
2 lightly beaten eggs
75g feta, crumbled
zest of a lemon
70g melted butter

Pre-heat oven to 180C/Gas 4. cover the currants and raisins in boiling water. Brown th epine nuts in the oven until golden brown. Run a knife along the chard stalks to remove the leaves. Wash and slice the stalks into strips (you may need to use only half), then wash and cut the leaves into large strips.

In a pan heat the oil and soften the onion and garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper. Meanwhile blanch first the stalks and then the leaves in boiling salted water until tender and drain well. Add this to the onion mixture and heat through to evaporate any excess liquit. drain the currants and raisins and add to the chard along with the pine nuts. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan, feta, eggs and lemon zest and allow to cool.

Grease a frying pan with an ovenproof handle or shallow round baking dish (about 20-25cm wide) with melted butter. Lay five sheets of filo pastry in the pan at angles, brushing them with butter as you go, making sure that some of the sheets hang over the sides. Now fill the pastry with the chard mixture.

Place the last piece of filo on top of the filling and fold the overhanging pieces of pastry over the filling. Brush again with the melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. If you like, transfer to the hob and heat for a few minutes to ensure that the bottom is crisp.

Serve either from the pan or slide out onto a large plate, dusted lightly with cinnamon. Good with a mixed leaf salad."

I didn't use currants and raisins, as we don't like sweet/savoury dishes. I didn't use feta, as we had Wenslydale cheese in the fridge which is a bit like a British feta. It still tasted good!

Things are busy just now, and while I'm keeping up with other blogs I'm not managing to leave comments very much. There's so much out there to enjoy, and so little time!

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Doing nothing

On Sunday afternoon I took the house compost pail along to the plot, and intended to do some work while I was there. But I saw nothing that wouldn't wait another week, the sun was warm, and I was tired. I'd left husband sawing up large IKEA shelves (Ivar, for those on first name terms with the IKEA range) to make smaller IKEA shelves, daughter practising her clarsach, and son away at university in Glasgow. For a brief spell there was no obligation on me to do anything at all.

I looked out across our plot and our neighbour's, listened to the wind in the trees, and soaked up the sunlight that is beginning to slip away now. Sunrise today was 6.47 a.m., sunset will be 7.28 p.m. Almost at the equinox. It felt good just to sit, at this turning point of the year, and look.

From my deckchair I took these shots of what was around me.

Seeding dill:

Elephantine rhubarb:

The door plank splintered in the last break-in attempt on our shed:

A bee on a marigold:

And for once I felt no Calvinist guilt about doing nothing.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Nothing doing

Seeds sown on 23 August, and so far only three carrot seedlings have come through. I sowed more lettuce a week earlier, and there's no trace of that either. Too warm for the lettuce to germinate? Too late for the Autumn King carrots, probably, despite their name. I had a rosy picture of lettuces going on into the autumn under cloches. It's been a funny old year for germination.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Onion harvest

We do have more than one onion. In fact they've been our most successful crop this year, to the extent that we're running out of space to dry and store them. We haven't had two dry days/nights together for a very long time, so leaving them on the soil to dry off, as the books optimistically advise, isn't an option.

After removing (with no loss of life) the snail nursery:

parts of our old fridge/freezer come in handy, as drying racks in the shed:

But the shed's full, and now we have overspill into the garage at home, where because it's so rainy the washing drying on the Victorian pulley is deliciously permeated by the smell of onion. We don't own a tumble drier, so when it's wet this is the alternative. Teenage noses are beginning to wrinkle.

Another item on the list for the forthcoming shed interior makeover: drying lines on the walls.