Tomato – Brads Atomic Grape

If you visit the Bakers Creek website you will understand why I chose to grow this tomato last year. First developed by Wildboar farms in 2017, where it gained best in show from the Heirloom Tomato Expo ,this is potentially an heirloom variety of the future. My photographs don’t really do the colours justice, starting off a lime green purple and gradually ripening to an olive and red, possibly with a little purple still. An amazing coloured tomato but was it going to be all show and no flavour?

Broad Bean – Crimson Flowered

One broad bean has clawed its way back from extinction. First mentioned in 1778 and later discussed in a London Horticultural Society report in 1831 was the “red blossomed” broad bean.

Parsnip – Hollow Crown

It was a toss up for the Christmas Eve post. Brussel sprouts? Potatoes? Carrots? Brussel sprouts divide the nation, I’m not great at growing carrots yet and growing a decent non salad potato that isn’t eaten by slugs still evades me so today it will be parsnips. As tomorrow will be celebrating the birth of the King of Kings this parsnip also one with a vaguely royal theme. Happy Christmas everyone and lets pray for a better 2021!

Pear Williams Bon Chretien (Bartlett)

 I’ve always been a bit wary of the phrase “a good all rounder”. At school I was described as such and it always seemed to say competent at most things, master of none. It’s a very unexciting phrase.
So I feel a little ungenerous describing the pear Williams Bon Cretein as a good all rounder but in this case it is a fair description. This English heritage pear, first found in 1765 and later sold by Richard Williams has a smooth buttery flesh and real pear flavour.

Pear Conference

Let’s have a conference about pears…..conference pears that is. Conference is the most widely grown pear in the UK, probably not because it is the finest tasting although it does have good flavour, but because it is easy to grow and easy to store. It is a true heritage pear though, being bred by one of the most famous Victoria fruit tree breeders, the Rivers nursery.

Potato – Rocket

There is something very satisfying about scraping back the soil to reveal your first potato harvest. If you just can’t wait to try your homegrown potatoes then a small sowing of Rocket may be for you. Rocket is a first early and is one of the earliest potato crops in the UK. It probably just pips Swift to the crown of earliest potatoes. Rock can be lifted, in warmer parts of the UK where frost protection has been given as early as late May, for most it will be about 10-12 weeks after planting.

Blueberry Herbert

If I were to ask you what the top ten selling items in a supermarket in the UK by value were many of you would guess milk, some chicken and you would be right but I wonder how many of you would guess blueberries? If you did, you would be correct. These little berries reputation as a “superfood” means these little bad boys fly off the shelves even though they are not cheap to buy fresh.

Kale Cavolo Nero

Kale used to be one of the only fresh green vegetables that could be grown in the UK over winter and tough little numbers like Hungry Gap would brave out the winter frosts, snow and wind. The trouble is that toughness to survive a winter storm lead to toughness on the plate and once supermarkets started flying in vegetables from around the world people turned away from their less palatable staples. Kale was gradually abandoned and started to sink out of peoples memory.

It took  The River Cafe  which opened in the late 1908’s to bring kale back in to the spotlight but not any kale……..This was a kale of which we’d never seen in the UK before or if we had it had long gone out of production. The kale was Cavolo Nero

Shallot Tart Tatin Roses

These look desperately impressive and taste fantastic but are actually very easy to do if you are buying your own pastry.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Chilli Mayo

  This year I have bought some purple sweet potatoes to grow in the allotment.  I will probably grow them in the poly tunnel as they need a slightly better climate than the UK can offer, originally coming from central/South America. The purple sweet potato is one of the staples of the Okinawan diet in…

Chilli Paneer

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that one of my favourite Indian dishes was actually Indochinese, an Indian homage to China, found in many Chinese restaurants in India. The Chinese equivalent I suppose or chips with curry sauce, the chow mien or the UK’s favourite dish, chicken tikka masala.

Brave Potatoes

Having been a bit sniffy about deconstruct foods like deconstructed apple pie being blobs of apple, crumble and custard on a plate I’m going to give you today a deconstructed patatas bravas only so that you can use it as a canape. Pop a cocktail stick in to the potato to save your guests sticky fingers and use the tomato sauce as a relish, for this reason I’ve made it a bit more chunky than the traditional Madrid recipe which is more like a pouring sauce. For that reason I don’t think you can really call this Patatas Bravas but it’s really good,  trust me! 

Pepper, Red Onion & Halloumi Skewers

  I’m cheating with this canapé a bit as it isn’t 100% vegan so doesn’t quite fit in with the advent plant based canapé theme for but you could swap the halloumi for firm tofu if you prefer. Again this is really simple to make and most can be prepared well in advance so all…

Spring Vegetable Gyoza

Gyoza are the Japanese version of Chinese pot sticker dumplings and both make ideal canapes or appetisers.

In supermarkets now you can buy a variety of ready made gyoza, both meat, prawn or vegetable based to keep in the freezer until cooking.  Itsu  is a brand that you will often see. In oriental supermarkets you will get a much wider choice and you can also buy gyoza wrappers to make you own.

Summer Rolls

For todays canapé I’m going back to Vietnam and although these are served all over Vietnam, rather specifically in this case I’m thinking of the Mekong Delta. We stayed in a wooden homestead on the delta and were served on our first night, make your own summer rolls with pineapple and a fish which looked a little like a piranha! I’m not going to show you that but suffice to say the addition of pineapple to the rolls is now something I always do as it brings a lovely sharp, sweet tang.

Beetroot – Golden Detroit

Love beetroot but fed up with you and your kitchen looking like a bloodbath after? If so then you could try giving yellow beetroots a try. There are two main yellow varieties, Burpees Golden which dates back to the 1970’s and Golden Detroit from the 1820’s.

Gnudi with pumpkin and panchetta

The biggest difference you will see between the UK and the USA/Canada at this time of year are the halloween decorations. Even though the UK was the home of the pagan Samhain which is the father of halloween, it generally passes most people by. In contrast in the US and Canada there were streets of…

Peppers – Shishito

In the USA growing increasing popular it is the Japanese cousin of the Padron tapas pepper, called the Shishito. In Japanese the name is Shishitōgarashi the word translates to chilli pepper that looks like the head of a lion

Tomato – Ildi

As a young child I hated tomatoes. In the early 80’s tomatoes in the UK were horrible things, flavourless and often underripe to stop them being damaged in transit. Gradually people started asking why the tomatoes eaten on holiday in Europe were just so much better than you could get here and things started to change.

Cucumber – Cucino F1

Do you ever get a bit fed up of buying massive supermarket cucumbers, wrapped in layers of plastic to make them grow straight and prevent them going floppy in a few days which inevitably you can’t eat all of it and find it mouldering a few days later in your salad draw? If so why not give growing some of the new baby cucumbers a go? Each one is perfect for a snack or in your lunchbox.

Strawberry – Mara Des Bois

If you want to watch a pastry chef drool just mention the strawberry Mara Des Bois. This French variety bred by Jacques Marionnet in 1991 was bred specifically to have the flavour and scent of wild strawberries but with much greater productivity, especially in spring.

Potato – Casablanca

Here’s looking at you spud! Of all the allotments in all the world, you had to walk in to this one! Cook it Sam, if you can cook it for her, you can cook it for me!

I spent some time trying to find a little about this darling modern variety of potato including how it got its exotic name. Is it named in honour of the film, the city? Does it originate from Casablanca (unlikely)? If anyone finds out then do let me know.

Grow Your Own – Lemongrass

If you’ve ever spent any time in southeast Asia or if not at least visited your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant you would almost certainly have tasted the perfumed taste of lemongrass. You might not realised it but it is an actual grass, but one with a fragrant citrus and slightly coriander taste and scent.

Chargrilled Asparagus with Parmesan

It’s time to put my asparagus to bed for the year but there is still time for one last meal and to take advantage of the box of free range eggs given to me by a friend from his own chickens so what could be better than asparagus dipped in to a a freshly boiled Legbar or Plymouth brown rock egg?

Falafels

Falafel can easily be bought from the supermarket and you seem to be able to buy them in an increasing array of flavours from sweet potato to beetroot. Interesting as they may be, nothing beat the taste of freshly cooked hand-made falafel.

Slow cooked BBQ pork belly

Kung Hei Fat Choi everybody! Today is Chinese New Year. This year is the year of the pig so it is an ideal time to do a BBQ pork recipe.

Traveling around China and Vietnam we’ve eaten many pork related dishes. One of my favourites in Char Sui Bao which are a sweet steamed bun filled with char Sui pork. In Suzhou outside the “Humble Administrators” Garden we found some piggy shaped buns (helpful when you don’t speak the language) alongside some apples grown in the shape of Buddha.

Climbing Borlotti

Whilst many vegetables could be considered attractive to look at, one or two could be considered works of art. Turks Turban is one and borlotti beans another. These Italian beans have pink and white splashed outer pods hiding several rich creamy white beans with a Jackson Pollock of purple, pink or red splashes. They are a beautiful as well as an easy to grow and delicious addition to your allotment.

Chilli and Lime Sweetcorn

In August and September the fields around here are filled with maize. It’s perfectly possible to get disoriented walking through the giant stalks of ripening maize, rustling in the breeze. On the allotment you can’t get lost in my sweetcorn patch but the ripening sweetcorn is stunningly sweet, better than any you will buy in the shop and if you use it in this recipe you will find it a-maize-ing!

Tabbouleh

There aren’t many children in the UK lucky enough to grow up with quality Lebanese/Armenian food on their doorstep. I was one of the lucky ones and there are numerous stories of me as a small child refusing to eat something that my long suffering mother had cooked and instead “running away” to my best…

Hong Kong Omelet

I was made one of these omelets for the first time staying in a friends apartment in Hong Kong.   I’m not always the humble eggs biggest fan, boiled egg yes, fried egg no. Poached maybe, cheese omelet no no no no no.

Roasted Vegetable Chilli

I first started playing around with a recipie for vegetable chilli when I found a tin of jackfruit in our local supermarket. Jackfruit is all the rage at the moment as a meat substitute as it has a texture similar to pulled pork and a mild taste so cit an be used in vegan pulled…

Gigantes

My memories of Greek and Turkish holidays often revolve around foods that we ate. Especially wonderful were the meze, small plates of tasty bites to share.

Nộm Bò Khô – Dried Beef Salad

We first had this sitting on kindergarten sized chairs in a small street cafe in Hanoi old quarter with wail of mopeds horns buzzing by echoing in our ears. The place was so tiny that the owned produced only a handful of dishes, completely fresh, zingy and alongside the street bustle a wonderful assault on the senses.

Massamam Curry of Squash

Thai food is one of the most fragrant and vibrant cuisines. However most of the pastes and sauces that you can buy from supermarkets fall far short of the mark. Making Thai food from scratch produces something that will make you jump up and down with sheer delight with it’s aromatic, vivid and punchy flavours….

Tomato – Dancing with Smurfs

The tomato and potato breeder Tom Wagner is responsible for some of our more unusual tomato plants including Green Zebra. Dancing with Smurfs is another that got tongues wagging at my local allotment.

Mujaddara

I’ve seen almost as many ways to spell this dish as recipes. Mujaddara is a middle eastern grain and lentil dish with fried onions. It is an ancient dish dating back to at least 1,226 although folk law says that this is the dish that Jacob used to buy Esau’s birth right in Genesis.

Squash – Turks Turban

Lumpy, bumpy and decidedly funky. Like a spaceship wrapped multicoloured silk, Turks Turban is the Salvador Dali of the cucurbit world.

Squash – Uchiki Kuri

If you are used to thinking of squash as the ubiquitous butternut squash you can buy in supermarkets then this one will knock you over with it’s intense chestnut flavour. It is one of my favourite squashes and I grow it every year.

Potato Purple Majesty

You would be forgiven for thinking these crisps are beetroot. In fact they are a purple potato called purple majesty.

Tomato – Sungold F1

Sungold is the taste topping tomato sensation. This cherry tomatoes unusual orange colour and intense sweet taste make it a joy to eat and is almost universally popular with amateur growers