Tag Archives: gardening

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

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

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

First garden grown meal of the year – homemade minestrone and fresh stawberries (not together)!

The garden is soggy but productive. We have not spent as much time out there as we would want to; the rain has been horrid and the packing has kept us busy. I thought I would have a wander down the garden this week to see what I could find.

I was delighted to pick the following selection of lovely garden yummyness.

If you look carefully you may spot courgettes, baby carrots, celery, fennel, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, new potatoes and spring onions.

This all inspired me to turn it into a hearty minestrone soup.

I only added some tinned tomatoes, chorizo (to provide a depth of flavour), ready cooked leftover pasta and some stock. The result was delicious and is always a favourite in our house. It’s never the same twice and is a great way of using up a vast selection of pickings.

This is even better the next day, so we make plenty!

To top it all, as I was picking the spinach I noticed a glimmer of red in the fruit cage, could it be? Yes, we have our first ripe strawberries!

The other berries were not quite ripe but these tasted great as they were.

Her x

The packing has commenced – look out garden, here we come!

We have started the horrible process of packing up our house ahead of our garden adventure. I love my garden very much. I just hope I feel the same way after living in it for 6-8 weeks while we have some building work on our house.

Hubby and I have been planning this for a long time. We dream of more indoor space, better storage and an upstairs bathroom. Unfortunately the only way to get that without moving is building work.

We have made the brave (or stupid) decision to live in a tent in our garden for the duration of the building works.  We need to set up some sort of living space. I think we are considering two tents, a summer house and outdoor camp kitchen at the moment.

I am thinking that the long summer nights will be perfect for pottering round the garden, tending to the veg garden and enjoying the outdoors. Is this a rather romantic view of it?

So, we started the packing. We have lived here for nine years and in that time have filled the loft, every cupboard and every nook and cranny. Packing is not a job I look forward to or enjoy. Hubby is more keen, I think he sees it as an opportunity to throw out things he thinks is useless and I see as interesting.

There is actually two of my children hidden in these boxes. They developed a great technique for assembling boxes – one would wear the box on their head while the other taped it up!

Little lady was a bit sad to pack all the cuddly toys away.

Our house has been slowly filling with boxes ready to go into storage.

So far, we are one-third through the loft, kids’ rooms are packed up except for beds, books packed and under the stairs area sorted!

Still a long way to go….three weeks left until we move out.

Her x

Garden flower pot makeover on a budget

The glory of the spring bulbs had faded and we were left with sad-looking pots. I have been growing lots of flowers in the greenhouse this year and I wanted to see if I could grow a good selection for container planting.

I tipped out the old plants, saved the bulbs for next year, and put the old soil on the compost heap. I filled the pots with general compost, added a handful of organic chicken pellet fertiliser, and planted up some dwarf cosmos, ganzia and lobelia.  Not much I know, but I have gone for three different heights. The packets of seed probably cost less than £5.

So, what do they look like?

Before…

After…

They don’t look great at the moment but give it a few weeks and they should be blooming.

There were a few pots with pansies in that didn’t look too bad. I just gave these ones a mini makeover and I was really pleased with the result.

I usually just go to a garden centre and buy a selection of plants for my pots. It will be interesting to compare how these budget pots look in comparison to previous years.

Her x