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27 May 2016

Allotment Update: May 2016

It is amazing what you can do in the two hours that your children nap. To try and keep on top of the garden (and get some exercise) my husband and I have been taking it in turns to go up to the allotment during our twins' afternoon nap time. I am so thankful that they are now predictable sleepers (and that my husband regularly works from home).
He runs and I cycle. It's only about 3 miles but it's uphill all the way and a decent workout. Once there, it is an hour of digging, weeding, planting, watering then we meet up at a park half the way between the allotment and our home. We manage about 3 visits a week in total which is really helping to keep on top of things.
So far on our balcony I have loads of seedlings growing that are almost ready to plant out: celery, romanesco, cauliflower, butternut squash, tomatoes, cucamelons, cucumbers, Swiss chard, fennel, aubergines.
For the first time ever, something keeps eating the courgette plants in the allotment. I have now planted them for the third time. I'm not sure if it's birds, slugs, caterpillars, mice... Any advice on what to do?
Our plot looks pretty bare at the moment. Our neighbours have potatoes, beans and onions growing at great speed and filling the place up. I really need to get organised next year and plant some things to fill the gap between November and March.

These are cucamelons in the first picture - who knew these even existed?!

My courgette seedlings keep getting eaten. This is the 3rd time I have planted them out :(
Romanesco busting out of their shell. Planted them out...let's hope they survive.
My balcony is FULL!
My neighbour's garden, definitely a pro.
My patch. Lots of small flower and plant seedling making an appearance but overall a bit bare.

24 May 2016

Rhubarb and Almond Cake


When I started this blog I decided that I was only going to post recipes if I had grown the main ingredient myself. So far, this is my first recipe post and hopefully, this year, the first of many.

It is currently the middle of May and I have had 3 loads of rhubarbs so far. I have been picking it much younger and smaller this year because when left to overgrow it becomes woody and inedible when the stalk are too large. I am aiming to be more mindful of waste this growing season and not letting our precious crops end up back in the compost bin.

I was going to write one long post with all of the different rhubarb recipes that I have cooked using this years' crop. However, this Rhubarb and Almond cake was so good that it deserves it's own post!

This cake was really easy to make, pretty healthy and came out well both times that I made it. Here are some photos of my rhubarb in situ! I just love my little rhubarb patch at the bottom of the garden and it is one of the first vegetables (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable not a fruit) to make an appearance in the spring.

This recipe was adapted it from the lovely website, The Floating Kitchen. I wanted to be able to give it to my young children so I used a lot less sugar, less flour, and added more almonds).

  • 100g raw cane sugar
  • 113 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tub Greek yogurt (about 200g)
  • zest of one orange
  • scraping from quarter of a vanilla pod
  • 100g white flour
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 or 7 small rhubarb stalks
  • splintered almonds to decorate top of cake

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom of a 10 inch cake tin with a little butter then dust lightly with flour. Set aside.

2. Separate 3 eggs. Beat 50g of sugar with the butter until light and fluffy then gradually add 2 egg yolks and one whole egg. Then beat in the orange zest, yogurt, vanilla and cardamom.

3. In a separate bowl whisk 3 egg whites with the remaining 50 grams of sugar until you have formed stiff peaks.

4. Combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the cake batter, adding in about one-third at a time. Finally, fold in the egg whites.

5. Wash the rhubarb then cut into thin diagonal slices.

6. Spread about half of the cake mixture into the cake tin then layer half of the rhubarb slices over it. Add the remaining cake batter on top then repeat the rhubarb layering being careful not to let the rhubarb touch the sides of the tin. Sprinkle the splintered almonds and a dusting of sugar on top.

7. Allow the cake to bake for 45-50 minutes then cool on a wire rack.
I have tried this recipe with both full- fat Greek yogurt and 0% fat and both turned out well. A handful of raspberries would also work well in the middle layer to sweeten it up a bit of you find the rhubarb too tart.




Oh and here are some interesting rhubarb facts:

- Rhubarb leaves are toxic due to the high levels of oxalic acid in them so be careful if you have young children. The leaves can still be composted though.

- Rhubarb is used in ancient Chinese medicine to treat stomach ailments, constipation, liver and gall bladder problems and much more. 

- Rhubarb is very high in calcium. One cup of rhubarb has just as much calcium as a cup of milk.

- Rhubarb originally comes from Siberia.

4 May 2016

Blooming Tulips

I planted tulips in the allotment for the first time back in November. And I am so glad I did.

It is a bit of a dead spot between November and February when the frost comes but it has been fantastic to have something to look forward to appearing. 
The purple ones bloomed first, then the yellow and red and finally some cute three-pronged orange beauties. When a bunch of tulips in Zurich costs around 15 francs, it has also been a big money saver.

I plan on letting them rot down a bit, then I will dig them up, hang them out to dry in old tights (handy tip from mother-in-law) then replant them in winter.

I gave my twins a few sacrificial flowers to play with each time I brought a bunch home. In the battle between tulip and toddler, toddler won each time...

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