Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A Garden for Free

Oot the front
When we bought our first house last year, one of the main things we were looking for, having previously been constrained to shared back yards, was a decent bit of outdoor space. We hit the jackpot a little bit as we've a paved area and a sort of rockless rockery out the front, and a decent bit of lawn out back. I spent part of a very pleasant day today tidying up, so I thought I'd bung up some pics.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Seeds, Sprouts, Buds and Sun

Carrot Seeds. And my hand.
The coinciding of a bank holiday with some of the finest weather of the year so far allowed us to put in a pretty full day on the plot on Saturday, sandwiched around a very pleasant and allotment-related trip to Wylam Nurseries. Much was sowed, prepared, bought, tilled and picked, the highlights of which herewith.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Recipe: Charred Leeks and Salmon, Sauteed Potatoes, Preserved Lemon Mayo

After pulling up the first of our over-wintered leeks on Sunday I had wanted to do something a bit more interesting with them than bung them in a soup, stew or curry; something a bit more befitting of a vegetable only two hours out of the soil. The overture to a stonking feast at House of Tides recently (did I mention we'd been? Yes, I think I did...) started with a whole steamed baby leek with onion puree and truffle. I liked the idea behind this, so thought I'd do something vaguely similar with our own. I've enjoyed them charred in fancy-pants restaurants before, so steamed-then-charred it was. Salmon fillets, spuds and a lemony mayo seemed like good companions for these mini-alliums. I pretty much freestyled this on the hoof, but it came out great. As far as recipes go it's a little bit of a faff on, but the whole thing only took about an hour to prepare from scratch, so not too onerous. If nothing else, I'd seriously recommend doing the leeks in this way on their own, especially as bbq season swings into view. Done over coals I reckon they'd be even better.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mad, Bad and Dangerous Upon Which To Grow.

Full of chit
Don't let anyone ever tell you that allotments aren't wild and dangerous places to be. Within just a minute or two of arriving on site Sunday gone, and while doing my customary scout round checking for new growth and progress I was very nearly brained by a massive sheet of corrugated plastic, released from its moorings on our neighbours' greenhouse by a ferocious gobbit of wind. Having leapt out the way, pausing only to screech out some choice expletives, I did my best not to curse the neighbours' workmanship, reasoning that these things happen. Whether I'd have felt so magnanimous if I'd been decapitated by the thing is moot.

A fate that sadly became of this fellow. What is it, a female blackbird or a thrush or something else? Something had a right go at it, feathers everywhere. Must have been a cat I thought, although someone at work reckons blackbirds themselves can be absolutely ferocious and sadistic killers when the mood takes them. Anyone else heard of that? All of which excitement and alarm has hopefully grabbed your attention, but has admittedly been top-loaded into this post. That's the gore and murder done with, now let's talk about potatoes. Again...

Friday, 4 April 2014

Restaurant Review: The Fat Hippo Underground, Newcastle upon Tyne

Can ever a foodstuff so ostensibly humble have been so venerated, so lusted after, so - hyperbole klaxon! - fetishised as the burger? Having had to put up with some bloody awful specimens over the years, these sceptered isles have in recent times seen a wholesale improvement in standards, thanks in no small part to a certain London-based chain of grease-houses and all who followed in their slippery wake. Whole websites are now devoted to the things. My own personal epiphany came over a Dead Hippy a couple of years back. Holy effing shit! I remember thinking, as the perfectly calibrated mix of sweet, salt, meat, cheese and tang zeroed in on the cerebral cortex. Pretty much everything else has since then seemed sepia-tinged and tired by comparison, and so I'd basically given up on burgers, deciding that there's a glass ceiling on how good they can be in anything other than the most expert of hands.

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