From frosty leeks to hearty winter leek and potato soup

Post-Christmas we often turn to soup as a way of getting over the inevitable feeling of over-indulgence. For a home-grown homemade ingredient, this time of year is all about leeks for us in the Willow Cottage Garden. So rather inevitably soup du month is leek and potato.

This morning was one of those beautiful winter frosty mornings. Fantastic for walking the dog, but not so great for harvesting a couple of rows of leeks. I always find prepping leeks a bit of a faff to be honest, so prefer to do more han I need when I’ve got the time to do it. The frosty leaks were frozen through. They haven’t been looking so great this year either, but we had plenty for what I needed today.

Frost leeks

Frosty leeks


I use the spade to do some of the rough trimming of the roots and leaves which saves bringing any of the mud (and lumps of clay) into the house.

Leek trimmings

Leek trimmings, for the compost when I warm up


My hands were so frozen I’ve decided to leave these for when I’ve warmed up a bit and can pop them onto the compost heap.

Next up is cleaning the leeks up for cooking. I usually do this in the sink, and drop the trimmings straight into a bucket. 

Prepping leeks

Prepping the leeks


One thing I’ll never understand is how bits of mud work their way right into the leaves of the leek. It’s impo rant to get the mud out or you’ll end up with gritty soup!

Cleaning leeks

How does the mud get in here?


Onto cooking…
Ingredients (for serving 4-6)

Butter for softening onions and leeks

1 onion, diced

225g/8oz potatoes, cubed

2 medium leeks,sliced

1.2 litres/2 pints vegetable stock

150ml/5fl oz double cream, crème fraîche or a pinch of greated cheddar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Homegrown leeks and onions

Homegrown leeks and onions


Method

1. Soften the leeks and onions in a pan. Add the potatoes and cook for three to four minutes.

Softening leeks

Softening leeks. I do this in a frying pan then add to the soup pot.

2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add seasoning and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

3. Blend the indregients together. Reheat and add the cream, crème fraîche or cheese to serve.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup, with cheddar cheese


Yum, and now I’ve warmed up, back to the garden!

Him

New bespoke sign for the house

It’s been more or less a decade since we moved to Willow Cottage and in all that time we’ve never had a house name on the building.

We’ve been through several postmen and postwomen and, after several trips round the village locating parcels, the’ve all learned over the years that we’re the ones tucked away in the corner.

One of our friends has just set up a new business creating beautiful bespoke signs from cut steel – so we thought this was the perfect chance for us to solve the house sign problem.

We comissioned a couple of signs – one smaller one for the house front:
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…and one larger one for the garden (naturally):

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We think they’re lovely. You can see more of Lucia’s products online at Wild Ink.

Him

A tour of the garden in July

I managed to get out and take a few pictures in-between rain storms today. I thought you might like a look.

The borders are looking full and green. The roses, lavender and cosmos are flowering well.

The orchard is recovering after a hard winter. We were unsure whether the grass would come back. The chickens and ducks are enjoying the growth and if you look carefully you can see that it was actually long enough to mow a path down the middle.

Lots of change in the veg patch. That scarecrow is in desperate need of a makeover.

The spinach is already going to flower, the potatoes are cropping well and the courgettes are huge! The only thing not looking great is my runner beans.

Do you remember that I am trying to grow my runner beans along side my sweet peas? Well, so far, neither look great. They are about 50cm high and still have a long way to climb up those poles we put in! You can just see the purple sprouting broccoli plant down the middle. They are doing really well.

We have a new addition to the garden – a rather handsome rhubarb forcer.

Here’s hoping the sun shines…

Her x

Boy’s 8th birthday campfire party

When the boy turned eight whilst we were living in the garden, it was only natural to hold a campfire birthday party for him. It seems so long ago now but the evening was fantastic and the boys all loved it.

We had a birthday tent for sleeping…

We had a campfire tea and breakfast. This was cooked mainly by the boys: some had only ever seen a BBQ before so looked quite startled when we told them to make a fire if they were hungry.

They toasted marshmallows on the campfire too.

We went on a night hike with torches. The boys ran off loads of steam and were tired out when we got back and certainly ready for bed.

We had a donut cake tower for supper and everyone was asleep by 9.30pm.

It was a great concept for a party and one we will all remember for a long time. Partly because of the building work, partly because it was so different, and partly because the boys loved it so much.

Her x

We’re back in action!

Phew! Well, it’s been a busy nine months or so, but we’re pleased to be back in action on what seems to have been the first sunny and warm(ish) day of the year.

Where have we been? Well, we mentioned a while back that we were going to have some building work done. We had great plans in place to blog our summer living in the garden. We had a bit of a go, then the building work took over…

The rain finally stopped and after a few weeks house-sitting for friends on holiday and sleeping on the living room floor at the in-laws me managed an impressive six weeks under canvas in the back garden.

The builders thought we were crazy, but were very good at leaving things like a pipe for water (operated by spanner), a toilet (open to the elements) and an electric socket so we could boil the kettle or operate the slow cooker (but not at the same time).

We had some particular highlights: the boy’s 8th campfire birthday party (no toilet access for the night but a bucket covered ably); drinking wine from jam jars because we packed all the glasses; and just generally going to sleep when the sun went down with the sound of Nature around you.

Lowlights, on the other hand, were: toilet facilities (for girls in particular), washing (people and clothes) and there are only so many variations on slow cooker food that one family can possibly enjoy (crunchy rice a particular favourite).

Building work

We’re pleased with the results…but just looking forward to getting back to the garden.

Him and Her x

PS. We’ll add some posts from garden adventures soon

Willow cottage gardeners are pleased to annouce the arrival of our first red tomato!

This rainy weather has been upsetting the greenhouse. We are finding that this year growth seems to be slow and spindly. Despite this we are pleased to announce the arrival of our first red tomato!

This is a plum variety called Roma. We are very proud parents and hope to have many more to follow this one.

The greenhouse looks very different to this time last year.

I feel that I am still waiting for it to grow. The tomato plants are covered in flowers but look very ‘thin’ despite a weekly feed. Any suggestions from fellow gardeners on why this is?

Maybe it is these ‘organic’ grow bags, or the cool temperatures or something else.

I am sad to say that my cucumbers died. They were looking so good and then they were attacked by black fly. I thought I would spray them with some soap mix. I must have mixed it up too strong as the next day they were past recovery. I have managed to source a couple more plants that I will put in and watch what happens. It is sad to see empty grow bag space…

Her x

Beautiful berries – raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, red currants and dessert gooseberries.

The berry patch looks like a jungle; all the rain has produced loads of lush green growth that has tangled together. The fruitcage looks like it may fall down at any moment, but  it is doing its job. The birds seem to be leaving the berries alone and despite the weather the berries  are ripening.

Picking them is not for the faint hearted as you really do need to fight your way in. During a break in the rain this afternoon, I braved the jungle and was rewarded with a fine selection of produce!

There are still many un-ripened berries on the bushes with no sign of any blueberries yet. I picked a few from each bush but the glut has still to appear.

I think the first berry crop needs to be eaten as it is, fresh and unaltered. Others I will jam, freeze, stew and jelly but these I think will just be enjoyed in the pure form – yummy! I love the taste of fresh summer berries and hope this harvest will be the first of many more.

Can you spot the glimmer of berries hidden in the bushy, wild and overgrown fruit cage?

The only pests we have are slugs! They have been having a wonderful  munch on my strawberries that I having lovingly tended all spring.  The straw surrounding them is very soggy, probably providing a cosy home for slugs and snails. Hubby suggested a beer trap – I think I will give it a try!

Her x