Monthly Archives: June 2012

My Mission of Veggie Disguise!

I know I’m not alone here in having issues with The Littlies eating their veggies and so I thought it about time I blogged specifically on this dear to my heart topic. As my son get’s older he’s becoming increasingly wary of vegetables which can more than frustrating at times. Like most babies he started off the weaning process eating pretty much all the good stuff thrown at him, but particularly loving a huge array of veggies whether they were steamed, raw or his favourite roasted. Then suddenly from about the age of 18 months onwards he’s steadily rejected all the previous favourites one by one and now at just over two he’ll only eat broccoli, peas and sweetcorn on their own. Admittedly at least he’s eating some veggies, but I’d rather it was a greater variety and in my quest to bring diversity I’ve had to become increasingly more cunning in my disguise of his veggies. And you know what, it’s not that hard to defeat these toddlers!

Thankfully, my daughter, who’s now nearing four, is a little easier on the veggie war. Admittedly she’s not the most enthusiastic eater in the world and is no natural foodie but with encouragement (and admittedly often a fair degree of good old blackmail) she’ll eat quite a few veggies these days.

So here’s our favourite veggie disguises of the moment, the ones most popular with my monsters that no matter what veggies I put in they’ll gobble them up leaving me with a happy glow of satisfaction that they’ve effortlessly reached their five-a-day. As a general rule of thumb dice the veggies finer the greater the fear of rejection

In order of popularity in the Chez Foti house:

Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice
Absolutely without a doubt Jacques’s favourite dinner which can be loaded with an amazing array of finely diced veggies under the brilliantly disguising flavours of ginger, Chinese 5 spice and soy sauce. He rarely has less than two big bowls! I make this at least once a week, often just with egg and veggies and at other times substituting the chicken for prawns, pork or beef (and all go down equally as well).

Kid’s Bolognese

My super vegged up version of a classic Bolognese sauce always goes down a storm with both kids and has the added convenience of being able to be made in large quantities that can be frozen in individual portions for easy convenience dinners.

Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

Ironically both my kids prefer these to the Sunday dinner that would have preceded them a day or two before! Especially Jacques who will have undoubtedly refused to eat any of the veggies on his Sunday dinner plate but once I’ve chopped and mixed all the leftovers up, formed them in a patty, crumb coated and shallow fried he’ll always eat at least two whoppers!

Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce
Another popular choice that can be handily frozen for a quickie last minute dinner. Both kids adore it, creamy and tomatoey and hides an umpteen of blitzed up veggies in it’s midst. Can even be pimped up with the addition of tuna at the end of the cooking process. Be generous with the pasta-sauce ratio to ensure they get a fair bit of the good stuff, and top with cheesy sprinkles.

Super Soups
Just like the 5-a-day pasta sauce my kids will eat any veggies blitzed into a soup just as long as the overriding flavour is a good one! My winter Squash & Chorizo and Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup’s were always a hit as is my recent Cream of Veggie Super Soup. Don’t be put off by the seasons, kids will eat soup whatever the weather.

Omelettes and Tortillas. In writing this I’ve realised that in all this time I’ve not blogged a single omelette or tortilla recipe yet we easily eat them once a week and are one of Jacques’ fave lunches. I always pile the veg in mine and he’s yet to pick out the pepper, courgette, spinach or chard that he’d normally reject. My Bejewelled Eggs are also always a hit.

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

 Another highly flavoured and popular dinner that I can even get away  with sizeable veggies without any rejection fear.

Super-Vegged Up Chilli

A recent hit with my kids is this child friendly chilli con carne that’s been given a Chez Foti super-vegging up! Perfect to be made in large quantities and frozen.

Kids Fish Pie

Most kids love fish pie and you can really veg it up as much as you dare. I always use spinach and peas, but have often added finely diced carrots, leeks, broccoli, chard and sweetcorn too.

And last but not least there’s always Sandwiches!. Try adding a little finely chopped salad to your child’s favourite sandwich filling and they probably won’t notice and even if they do they won’t be able to pick it out. Crated carrot or finely chopped red pepper works wonders in cheese or hummus sandwiches, or cheese and hummus sandwiches. Finely chopped tomatoes and cucumber with egg, pepper, sweetcorn and/or sweetcorn in tuna mayo, cucumber….be inventive they might just like it!.

Here’s a few other child friendly whoppers of veggie disguise: Chicken & Apricot Tagine, Lou’s Lasagne, Sweet Potato Daal for Babies & Toddlers, Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara, A Simple Chicken Stew, Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese, Roasted Veggie Lasagne

So what cunning methods do you deploy in your mission of veggie disguise? What are you own tried and trusted recipes of deception? I’d really love to hear from you as I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration. Feel free to link up your favourites!


Chochori, Swiss Chard & Potato Curry

Bigger Kids, Grown Ups

We seem to have been eating quite a bit of meat lately, at least on the cyber world of the blog we do anyway, and I thought it time for a few more veggie dinners especially as my veg patch is busily coming into its own. This was one of our first ‘free’ dinners of the year with the two main ingredients, swiss chard and potatoes, both being picked and dug fresh from the garden minutes before. In fact these were our first potatoes of the year, and I can think of no better dish right now to celebrate them more than this fabulous curry. It still gives me a buzz to eat things I’ve grown myself and I’m convinced they always taste just that little bit more amazing. And it goes without saying they’re naturally all 100% organic.

The recipe, at least in the main, came from the lovely Nisha Katona of Curry in a a Hurry and her maa. Weirdly enough I was thinking of making a chard curry when would you adam and eve it, up popped a tweet from Nisha about her maa’s chard curry video. I watched, laughed (her maa’s a star!), absorbed and set to to make my own using all the same spices but guessing on quantities. So my apologies now to you both if I’m way out but the resulting curry was no less than wonderful in my opinion. And further apologies to maa that I didn’t use mooli, there’s no way I’d be able to source it in rural and notably un-multicural rural France! The spices I was lucky enough to have in, and I could even make by own fabulously fragrant Indian 5 spice seed mix called Panch Phoron (equal quantities of fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and celery seeds, the latter added to replace the traditionally included black mustard seeds that I didn’t have).

Indian 5 spice seeds, Panch Phoron

I’m thinking you could happily use any veggies in this curry substituting part or all of the chard or spinach, but I was on a mission to use up as much chard as I could in one dinner so kept it simple. Great as a very healthy main served with steamed rice and/or chapattis or as a side accompanying other dishes.

Enough for four as a main or lots more as a veggie side:

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil
3 heaped teaspoons of Indian 5 Spice seed mix, Panch Poran
an onion, finely diced
500g of potatoes, new or old, roughly chunked (I left the peel on mine)
2 whole dried chillies (I used birds eyes)
700g of Swiss chard, spinach or other veggies (including mooli if you can source)
a heaped teaspoon of turmeric
½ a teaspoon of dried chilli powder
a generous pinch of salt
a heaped teaspoon of English mustard powder thinned down in a tablespoon of water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and throw in the 5 spice. Cook for a couple of minutes or so until you can really smell the spices, but not so much the spices blacken.

Tip in the onion, potatoes (and any other slow to cook veggies you may be using) and whole dried chillies. Cover and cook for about ten minutes until almost soft, stirring regularly so nothing catches, and adding a splash of water rather than more oil if the pan dries out.

Meanwhile prepare your chard or spinach. If using chard tear any thick stems from the leaves, slice the stems and shred the leaves, keeping both separate. Shred the spinach.

Throw in the chard stems to the curry and cook for a few minutes. When the potatoes and chard are soft and cooked through add the chilli powder, turmeric, salt and shredded chard leaves or spinach. Cook for a moment or two longer until the leaves are wilted then take off the heat. Season with the thinned down mustard and a little more salt to taste.

Serve with steamed rice and/or chapatties, lovely with a little homemade mango chutney on the side.

How about trying some of my other curry recipes: Aloo Gobi Kaddu (Potato, Cauliflower & Pumpkin), Beetroot, Spinach & Chick Peas, Jamie’s Empire Chicken & Bombay Potatoes, Sweet Potato Daal for Babies & Toddlers

Be sure to check out some of Nisha’s excellent home curry making videos, a great way to quickly and easily learn how to cook authentic indian fodder.

Super Vegged-Up Chilli

Toddlers & Young Children, Big Kids, Grown Ups.

I haven’t made a Chilli con Carne in ages and thought it was about time. I usually make mine with big chunks of braising beef marinaded in cumin, coriander, chilli and cinnamon following one of my favourite ever Leon recipes (The Best Chilli con Carne ever!). But this time I thought I’d go a bit more 80s retro and make something more suitable for the wee ones using good quality mince but with a super-vegging Chez Foti overthrow!. These days I seem unable to make too much without throwing in a barrage of veg, as you’ve probably noticed. As my son becomes increasingly fussy about eating his plain veggies I’m becoming increasingly cunning in my vegged up disguises! Ha, you will eat your 5-a-day my boy.

As for your choice of veggies, you can pretty much add anything you happen to have in, though I like to go with tradition on the carrots and pepper. I threw in some frozen chopped french beans (I’m trying to clear out the freezer before this year’s glut starts) and a couple of large handfuls of swiss chard from the garden. If cooking for kids go easy on the chilli. I use just ½ a teaspoon of hot chilli powder, though personally I’d like a little more heat so feel free to bump it up if you’re a chilli fiend.

Use good quality lean beef mince here, preferably some that you’ve seen the butcher mince in front of you. It really does make a difference.

This makes quite a vat of chilli, but keeps very well in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen. The first night we ate it with rice and the second in wraps with grated cheese, sour cream, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and avocados (again very 80s retro tex-mex, but nevertheless pretty darned tasty!).

Enough for 4 to 6 grown up folk, depending on greed!. Or two family dinners. 

3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

2 onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely diced

a red pepper, diced

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon

a pinch of salt

a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

½ to 2 teaspoons of hot chilli powder (depending on who you’re cooking for!)

500g of good quality lean minced beef

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons of cocoa powder

a handful of french beans or any other veg you so happen to have in

2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

a couple of very large handfuls of spinach or chard, finely shredded

Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Throw in the onions, garlic, carrots and pepper (or any other hard veg you want to use) and cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the cumin, cinnamon, chilli powder, salt & pepper and cook for a couple of minutes whilst continuously stirring. Add the beef and allow to brown, stirring every now and again.

Once the beef’s browned stir in the chopped tomatoes, cocoa powder and any softer veggies you’re using, in my case the french beans (but not the spinach or chard which is added later).

Cover and allow to gently bubble away on a very low heat for at least an hour adding a little water if it looks like it’s drying out. Now throw in the final ingredients of the kidney beans and spinach or chard and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit (though no additional salt if making for littlies).

How about trying some of my other super vegged-up recipes? Kid’s Bolognese, Lou’s Chicken Fried Rice, Noodles with Pork & Veggies, Cream of Veggie Super Soup or my Chicken & Apricot Tagine

Ha, the boy happily eating his veggies!

Lou’s Blue Cheese Barbecue Burgers

….or my fat b*****d burgers as I usually call them in less polite company. I’ve been making these barbecue burgers for years and they always go down a storm. So incredibly quick and easy to put together yet worlds apart from any commercial burgers. And more importantly you know exactly what meat’s gone into them which is always a concern of mine. They can handily be made in advance and stored for a few days in the fridge, or even frozen.

My blue cheese of preference is definitely Gorgonzola as it has a nice little kick to it without being overbearing, and is perfectly creamy and a good melter.  For a slightly mellower flavour use Dolcelatte or Cambozola. Or for added kick go for Stilton or Roquefort.

The quality of the beef is crucial, use the best mince you can get hold of and preferably minced in front of you by a butcher.

Enough for four very large burgers!

a medium onion, finely sliced

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

650g of very good quality lean beef mince

a teaspoon of salt

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

80g of blue cheese, divided into 4 equal cubes

4 large burger baps

Cook the onion in the oil for about 10 minutes until very soft, stirring regularly so the onions don’t catch and burn. Allow to cool.

Once cool mix the onions, beef, salt and pepper in a large bowl. This really is a job best done with your hands, unglamorously squelching everything together through your fingers.

Divide into four and shape each quarter into a patty shape. Press a cube of cheese into each and shape the beef around it so it’s buried and sealed within.

Place in the fridge until you’re ready to barbecue.

Cook over hot coals for about 4 minutes on each side. The meat should be a teeny weeny bit pink towards the middle and the cheese just oozing. Cook a minute or so more on each side for well done.

Serve in big floury baps with all the normal sauces and sides. Enjoy! You will.

How about trying my Pork & Veggie Kebabs on your barbie too? Or some of my other summery recipes, Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet or Asparagus, Lemon & Pea Risotto

Cream of Veggie Super Soup!

6 Months +, Weaning, Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Children and Adults

Okay I know it’s June and I really shouldn’t be soup making but it’s been more than a tad cold at Chez Foti lately. It’s certainly not been the gloriously sunshiny south of France I signed up for. Besides my kids’ll happily eat soup any day of the year. In truth I’ve made very few soups recently, my interest wained once the pumpkins finished. But this week the humble veggie soup has been revived and my kids just couldn’t get enough of it!.

Soups are a fab way to get your littlies to eat a copious amount of veggies, you can cunningly throw in all the ones they’re none too keen on and they’ll never know. I sneakily add a little tomato puree to disguise the green veggies. Works every time. Most kids seem particularly partial to tomatoey flavours, as they do to the addition of creamy creme fraiche. I tend to bulk out with carrots as we always have them in and particularly like a little zing of red pepper, but feel free to add absolutely any veggies you  have lurking. Everything’s substitutable.

I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon for veggie soups which is a particularly flavoursome base. If you’re making soup for babies either use plain water or get hold of some baby stock cubes (available in bigger Boots stores in the UK) which have no added salt.

If you want to make the soup a wee bit more substantial add a handful of cooked pasta shapes and/or top with grated cheese. I serve mine with wholemeal toast ‘dippers’. This recipe makes a pretty thick soup which is easier for little ones to eat, but older kids and grown ups might like to thin it down a little with more stock, water or milk.

Messy pics I know, but this was Jacques’ third bowl and he’d kind of done with eating by the time the camera came out!.

Enough for 8 to 10 little servings or 4 grown up ones:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

an onion, diced

4 carrots, thoroughly washed and sliced (no need to peel)

a medium potato, washed and diced (no need to peel)

½ a head or broccoli (stem inc), or a handful of green beans or any other green or other veg you have lurking, diced

a red pepper, diced

a litre of vegetable stock

1.5 tablespoons of tomato puree

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and stir. Add the other veggies as you wash and dice them. There’s not too many timing rules here! Stir from time to time so nothing catches.

Once all the veggies have been added to the pan pour over the hot veggie stock and stir in the tomato puree.

Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat to low. Cover and allow to bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes until the veggies are all tender.

Take off the heat and blitz until very smooth in a blender or food processor or with a stick blender. Stir in the creme fraiche.

Here’s some other Chez Foti soupy recipes: Pumpkin & Bacon Soup, Butternut Squash & Chorizo with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup), Creamy Roasted Pumpkin

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

Toddler & Young Children, Family Dinners, Only Grown Ups

Another firm Chez Foti family favourite! Both kids love their noodles, or rather ‘wriggly worms’ in our house, as much as we do. A very quick, easy and satisfying dinner that injects a fair amount of lovely veggies into little tums, and you can’t say much fairer than that!. In truth I’ve steered clear of blogging Chinese style recipes for their lack of authenticity, but have decided to occasionally blog my Western stylie family versions as they’re so much enjoyed at Chez Foti. Purests, you’ve been warned!

You really can use an almighty array of veggies in stir fries, use whatever’s in season or you happen to have in. Before growing my own I tended to make Chinese style food with the usual carrots, peppers, broccoli florets, peas, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, mushrooms etc. Once I had my own ready supply of veggies in the garden I soon realised that you really can use almost any veggies in Chinese cookery, or Indian or Thai. As well as the usual suspects above I’ve very successfully cooked with swiss chard, spinach, aubergines, courgettes, asparagus, french and other green beans, broad beans, cauliflower, squash & pumpkin, kale, celery, leeks, sprouts, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, swede…..I think you’re getting the idea. Vary the cooking time and size of dice accordingly. Anything woody and hard, like a carrot, parsnip or swede should be cut a little finer than other veggies and/or cooked for a little longer. Leafier veggies like spinach, chard leaves or pak choi cook down very quickly and should be added towards the end of the cooking time.

So tonights noodles were made with handfuls of my ‘veg of the month’ Swiss Chard,  a red pepper and a courgette. A couple of my swiss chard plants from last year are back in full glory now (though about to go to seed) and producing an abundance of wonderful leaves. I also planted a whole new row a few weeks ago and these babies are almost ready for the eating too. Chard is a wonderful veg to grow, minimum effort for maximum and very quick return, and the plants can last up to a staggering eighteen months. It’s such a versatile veg too, great in an assortment of Asian curries and stir fries, stews, casseroles and pasta dishes.

You can happily swap the pork for beef, chicken or prawns, or omit altogether for a veggie dinner. My kids like a touch of chilli in their food, but leave out if you or yours don’t. If making for adults only you might want to increase the amount of chilli, fish, oyster and soy sauce, I try to keep my salt levels as low as possible when cooking for kids.

Enough for four:

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a heaped tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

a dried birds eye chilli, finely chopped, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

a medium onion, diced

a red pepper, cut into thin strips (about an inch long)

a courgette, cut into thin strips (about an inch long)

200g of swiss chard leaves and stalks, stalks removed and both leaves and stalks shredded separately

300g of pork loin or fillet, cut into thin strips (about an inch long, the same as the veggies)

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

200g of medium egg noodles, cooked to packet instructions and cooled

a teaspoon of fish sauce

2 dessertspoons of dark soy sauce

2 heaped tablespoons of oyster sauce

100ml of hot chicken stock

Heat the oil on a hot heat, in a large high sided frying pan or preferably a wok. Throw in the ginger, chilli, onion and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring briskly and almost continuously.

Add the courgette, pork strips, shredded chard stems and garlic. Stir regularly and cook on a high heat until the veggies are almost tender. This should  be about 4 to 5 minutes. If the pan is very dry add a splash of water rather than more oil.

Stir in the shredded chard leaves, cooked noodles, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and hot stock.  Keep on the heat until the chard has wilted and the noodles are piping hot. Have a taste and add a little more oyster and soy sauce if you think it needs it, though it’s not advisable to add any more if cooking for little children.

How about trying some of our other Chez Foti family favourite dinners, Chicken & Veggie Fried Rice, Chicken & Apricot Tagine, Sausage & Courgette Carbonara or Pasta & Meatballs.

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

‘Tis barbie season finally and we’ve been making the most of it this week, partly because of the great weather and partly because we’ve had our seventeen year old nephew James staying with us. I’m not terribly sure how we’re going to cope without his super-nannying skills when he leaves this afternoon (both with kids and dogs!). I’ve mainly been doing a few of my usuals on the barbie, various veggie and meat kebabs, my fat b*****d blue cheese stuffed burgers, chilli pork chops etc, all recipes that I’ll be blogging shortly plus a few exciting newbies on the block.

For today it’s my Greek Stylie Pork and Veggie Kebabs with fresh oregano. I’ve no idea how many times I must have made these last summer. At least twenty times I’m reckoning, and later in the summer using peppers, aubergines, courgettes and onions fresh out of the garden. I can’t wait to be able to do that again, rock on summer! They tend to be more of a side dish rather than a main event for me, but served with hummus and/or tzatziki, a greek salad and pitta bread they make a very substantial main. Great also with chicken instead of pork or without any meat at all (just up the quantity and variety of veggies).

The meat and veggies are best left to marinade for a good few hours, so try to make in advance if you can. And if you’re short on time, as I always am, it’s particularly handy to get all the hard work done in advance anyway, then all you have to do is a bit of skewering up just before barbecuing.

As I grow oregano in abundance I love to use it as generously as possible. It’s the chief flavouring in these kebabs, but if you don’t have a source of fresh oregano you can replace with three teaspoons of dried. I’m entering this post to the Herbs on Saturday blogging challenge held by the lovely Karen at one of my favourite blogs, Lavender & Lovage. I’ve been meaning to take part for quite a while now, but my organisational skills are not the best at times! Have a look at her blog as there’s sure to be plenty of herby and other delights on offer.

Oregano growing in my garden

If you do lots of barbecues I’d think about investing in some metal skewers, they’re so much better than the flimsy easily burnable throw away ones. My Mum and Dad gave me a set years ago that they’d brought back from Istanbul. To be honest they sat at the back of a drawer unused for some time before I got into barbecuing recently, and now they’re used countless times every summer.

Enough for six to eight kebabs:

a medium onion, white or red

a large pepper (any colour)

½ an aubergine or a small courgette or both!

the juice of a lemon

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

a handful of fresh oregano sprigs, leaves removed and roughly chopped or 3 teaspoons of dried oregano

350g of pork loin pieces

Start with preparing your meat and veggies. They should all be cut to a similar size so everything cooks fairly evenly. Half the onions, then half again then again into eighths. Then roughly separate the layers. Cut the aubergine in quarters lengthways then slice into pieces about 6/7mm thick. If using courgette slice  into 6/7mm thick rounds. Cut the pepper to a similar size. Finally dice the pork the same size as the veggies.

Now put together the marinade ingredients in a large non-metalic bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt & black pepper and oregano leaves.

Tip the pork and veggies into the marinade and give everything a thorough stir. I use my hands. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade away in the fridge for a few hours.

Just before barbecuing, remove from the fridge and skewer up, alternating the veggies, onions and pork. Brush any remaining marinade over the kebabs.

Cook on a hot barbecue, turning every few minutes until they’re evenly browned on all sides and the pork and veggies are thoroughly cooked through.

Great served hot with pitta breads, hummus, tzatziki and a large greek salad on the side (again made with plenty of lemon juice and fresh oregano) or as a side dish to the rest of the barbecue. Any leftovers are fab eaten cold in a pitta sandwich.

May in the Garden

Well it’s been a very busy month for my veg plot, lots of rain, lots of blistering sun and lots of happy growth…and lots of weeds. And lots of hard work, slotted in at nap times and after bed times.

Finally everything seems to be taking off after a rather slow start to the season. The patch’s rapidly filling up and almost everything for the next few months have happily been sown and planted. YIPPPPPEEEE.

My tomatoes are going great guns. Suddenly from teeny weeny seedlings I planted out a few short weeks ago some of them are now flowering and growing handsomely tall. I did a count a couple of days ago and realised to my complete surprise I had fifty four plants, YES 54 PLANTS. I somehow kept sowing more seeds, in the belief that most of them were failing to germinate. They were, just slowly. Do you think that may be a tad excessive for a family of four? I feel a whole host of tomato recipes coming along shortly!. At least there’s some variety though, with cherries, beef and plums.

The cucurbits are all fairing pretty well too. My courgette plants (7), cucumbers (8) and pumpkins & various squash (31 – again a tad on the excessive side me thinks but they do store so well!) are all steadily growing. I so can’t wait for courgette season to commence, one of my favourite and most versatile veggies. I’ve re-sown melon seeds three times now as some sweet-toothed little thief keeps eating my seeds and seedling tops. Fingers crossed this time they’ll come good.

One of the many Pumpkin Plants

A Courgette Plant

The peppers and aubergine seedlings were planted out last week, and although the plants were all on the very small and scrawny side they seem to be loving our soil and finally growing some. Good, another two of my fave veggies. And the brussel sprouts are finally on the off, yay!

A Brussel Sprout Seedling

My potatoes plants are prettily starting to flower which means they’ll be ready soon, though I’m not too keen to go rummaging around them too much after yesterday’s experience of finding my first ever viper camping out under their cool canopy. Believe it or not we’re now into June and I’ve still not finished planting all my tatties out, there’s still another row or two of ‘old’ potatoes to get out there. This week’s priority without fail.

The Pretty Potato Flower

After a terrible rate of germination last month (I don’t think the extremes of weather helped too much) I’ve had to re-sow most of calabrese, swiss chard, purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions, swede, french and borlotti beans. And thankfully they’re all looking pretty promising this time around.

What we’ve got to eat: We’re happily munching on lots of holy rocket (badly attacked by the greedy flea beetle but nevertheless tastes great….after a thorough wash!), as well as my favourite rocket & Parmesan salad we’re loving it in chorizo or merguez sandwiches or with prawns & chilli in a simple pasta sauce. There’s also plenty of salad leaves finally ready for the eating and spinach galore. I made a fab Spinach, Courgette & Prawn Thai Green Curry last night, but we’ve been enjoying it mainly so far simply wilted with plenty of olive oil, lemon and black pepper. The Swiss Chard is also ready for the eating and is starting to grow in abundance, happy face here! It’s great in stir fries and curries, used just like spinach, but I’m looking to be a little more inventive this month and celebrate it more in it’s own right. There’s also a handful of peas every now and again which the kids greedily eat like sweets, but they don’t seem to fair well here…possibly too hot and not enough water? Last but not least there’s the herbs which are flourishing (thyme, thyme and more thyme, chives, parsley, oregano, coriander on it’s way, rosemary and sage) and the veg plot favourites of radish and strawberries. We’re miraculously getting about a punnet a day of strawberries which we’re all loving, the kids especially who get to pick them.

Holy Rocket

Popeye-tastic spinach

Swiss Chard

Just the odd pea pod or two

Strawberry plants

The Herbs in Flower

My next tasks are a major weeding operation closely followed by mulching, probably with grass cuttings as that’s what we seem to have a lot of.  Has anyone any experience of mulching?. I certainly haven’t but am figuring it’s benefits would be two fold, good for water retention and to stop weed growth. And planting out the rest of those damned potatoes!.

Well that’s it for this very busy month of May, and very much looking forward to an equally busy June. Before I go, here’s one last photo of a very happy and fat caterpillar munching on my parsley,


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