Posts Tagged ‘Garden Recipies’

Celeriac - How To Grow And Cook Your Own Celeriac With The Rural Gardener

Christmas is around the corner which we so look forward to in our household. It’s a special time for family and friends to come together and to take time out for some well deserved rest and recuperation.

The garden is fairly quiet at this time of the year for us, but we still have a few of our favourite veg to enjoy not least my most favourite of winter veg, celeriac. We always find room to grow a row every year and have had mixed success to be honest, but this year I think I may have found the secret to growing decent size celeriac.

I start my celeriac seeds off in late may, early June in a seed tray when any sign of frost has past. The seeds are tiny so a packet of seeds will go a long way, so sprinkle the seeds thinly on the surface of the compost and firm with a tamper. Best not to water from the top or you’ll likely wash the seeds away.

I stand my seed tray in second tray of water to allow the compost to soak up the water from beneath. As soon as I see water appearing on the top of the compost I lift the tray out and stand on the seed bench.

The seed are slow to grow away but don’t give up on them as they will eventually appear after about 3-4 weeks. When they are large enough to handle I prick out my celeriac plants into 3 inch pots a celeriac have a fairly robust but fine root system and need plenty of room to grow.

It’s important to keep them well watered as celeriac hate dry conditions. In the mean time prepare the soil where you plan to plant with a good helping of compost or well rotted farmyard manure.

They are hungry feeders and prefer to have the roots in damp soil, so don’t skimp when preparing the ground. I plant the young celeriac plant about 10-12 inches apart in mid July and that’s about it until late September. As soon as the base starts to swell I add a little comfrey to a watering can every other week.

I mentioned earlier I discovered a secret to growing decent size celeriac this year, well here it is. By the way feel free to pass it on as I’m sure this made a difference.

At the beginning of November while I was weeding around the plants I thought the soil was looking a little tired, so I added a couple of inches of compost as a mulch around the base of each plant.


If you think about it I guess it had to make a difference as the roots of the celeriac are all over the fruit, so makes sense to provide more growing medium for the plants to grow.

Celeriac - How To Grow And Cook Your Own Celeriac With The Rural Gardener

Not rocket science I know, but it seems to have made a difference to this years crop. It appears to have provided the celeriac with the perfect growing conditions as we lifted the first of this years harvest earlier today and as you can see they are a bad size at all!

Here are just a few of the recipes I use for cooking my Celeriac.

1.Celeriac and Cauliflower Mash

Really simple recipe and a great substitute for potato mash if you’re on a diet. John has been on a diet since October and has lost nearly two stone! … Much of which is down to removing potatoes from his diet … But more on that later. To cook your celeriac and cauliflower mash:

  1. Clean and peal your celeriac and chop into 1 inch cubes.
  2. Add to a pan of cold water and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes until the celeriac is cooked through.
  4. After cooking the celeriac for around 8 minutes break off a few florets from a fresh cauliflower and add to the pan.
  5. Turn the heat back up to bring it back to a simmer and cook for a further 7-8 minutes until the celeriac and cauliflower are cooked through.
  6. Strain the water off, add a knob of butter and a teaspoon of cream to the veg.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Mash until smooth and serve.

One tip when your making this dish … Resist boiling the living daylights out of the celeriac and cauliflower or you’ll remove the delicate flavour. Simmer the veg gently and keep checking it.

2. Roast Whole Celeriac

To cook your celeriac and cauliflower mash:

  1. Wash and peel a medium size celeriac
  2. Take a grater and grate the sides up until the celeriac is a nest round shape.
  3. Slice off the bottom to leave a flat surface
  4. Heat an oven pan in the hob and add a little vegetable oil and a tablespoon of butter
  5. When the butter has melted add the celeriac and baste repeatedly with the butter and oil
  6. Sprinkle a little fresh thyme over the celeriac, a generous shake of smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
  7. Place in the oven for around 35 minutes until the celeriac is tender. You can tell when the celeriac is cooked by sticking a long needle into the centre. If the needles slides in easily the celeriac is cooked.
  8. Slice into chunks and serve with roast pork or poultry. Alternatively serve as a main with roast sweet potato and fresh green beans.

3. Baked Celeriac

This recipe came from watching Ruth Mott one Christmas when the children were small.

  1. Prepare your celeriac as before and slice into half inch thick slices.
  2. Place the slices in an oven proof dish and cover with a basic white sauce made from plain flour, butter and milk. Make sure the celeriac is covered completely.
  3. Season with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  4. Grate some good quality cheddar and sprinkle over the top of the dish.
  5. Cook in a moderately to oven for around 25 minutes until the celeriac is cooked through
  6. Remove from the oven and add some salt and vinegar flavour crisps to the top and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove and serve.

These are the three recipes I use most for my celeriac but have been known to boil a whole celeriac and while warm cut into small slices for a celeriac salad dressed with warm grain mustard dressing.

If you’ve never grown celeriac before I urge you to have a go as the deep nutty celery flavour is a taste of Christmas that you’ll come back to year after year! 🙂

Best wishes,


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The kitchen garden in Spring is my most favourite time in the garden and certainly the busiest. But I’m not complaining, all this physical work is welcome exercise for my waistline!

I know it sounds a bit cliched, but growing your own veg really is the way to go and you can soooo taste the difference. I also grow far too much of everything, but this year I have a plan for my surplus.

How About An Honesty Table?

Each year we grow as much fruit and veg as we need and always end up giving loads away or relegating it to the compost heap. But this year I’m going to try something new. I’m going to put an honesty box at the end of my lane. If this is as new to you, as it was to me (until my friend Ruth told me) then read on.

Basically an honesty table is somewhere where you lay out your spare produce and invite passers by to drop a couple of coins into an old box , in exchange for your surplus. Seems like a great idea. Joe Public gets to take home some lovely fresh organic fruit and veg, while you (hopefully) collect a few pounds to spend on the garden or give to your favorite charity. I suppose someone could always nab your table along with the proceeds, but hey if their they needs that great then they’re welcome to it.

We’re lucky to have a lane at the end of our plot, which leads onto another minor road that is often used by walkers, so we might attract a few passers by. But before then I need to get on with growing some produce, or we’ll have nothing for the kitchen, let alone the rambler!

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

We adopt a ‘rotation system’ at Blackbirds, which basically means creating separate and distinct plots for each of the different veg types. We’re also organic, which means we never apply any chemicals, which means we have to find ways of minimising potential threats from ground borne diseases in other ways and crop rotations certainly helps.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your plot, just so long as you avoid growing the same group in the same space for at least 3 years.

Plot 1
My first plot is planted up with a few rows of potatoes. This year i’m only growing Charlotte as it seems to like my chalky ground and I find they don’t go all mushy when I cook them. We also make a fair bit of potato salad in the summer and Charlotte works really well in potato salad.

Last years second early potato crop

Last years second early potato crop ‘Charlotte’

We eat a fair bit of salad in the summer and I find Charlottes are excellent for potato salad.

My recipe for the perfect potato salad

Cook off about a dozen new potatoes, making sure not too over cook them. They should be softish on the outside, but still fairly firm on the inside.

While they’re cooking prepare the dressing.


  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of good vegetable oil. You can use extra virgin olive oil if you prefer the taste, personally I find it overpowers the potatoes.
  • 1 – 2 Teaspoons of Maggie seasoning.
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons of warm vegetable or chicken stock. (I prefer Knorr stock cubes)
  • Tablespoon of wine vinegar.
  • Teaspoon of lemon juice.
  • Couple of grinds of black pepper.
  • Medium sized onion finely chopped, or alternatively finely chop a spring onion.
  • Small chopped garlic clove (optional).

Mix all the ingredients together really well in a bowl.

When the potatoes are cooked drain them well and while they are still warm peel them and chop into approx 1 inch cubes. Then add the potatoes to the dressing and fold the potatoes in. As the potatoes are warm they will soak up the dressing and produce the most amazing tasting potato salad. It doesn’t work nearly as well with cold potatoes.

If the mix is a bit too wet, add a teaspoon of cornflower mixed with a little cold water and fold it in and the mix will thicken nicely.

Serve with grilled sausages, lettuce and tomato salads.


Plot 2 – Root Veg

My second plot is for my root veg. I’ve sown my beetroot in modules which have started to appear at long last. I’ll transplant in a couple of weeks when the risk of frosts has past. We use a lot of Beetroot both in salads and pickling for the winter.

I’ve planted 2 rows of early Nantes carrots, Kohl Rabi, Spring Onions and Turnips. The Spring Onions will help to keep the carrot fly from laying there eggs. It’s the larvae that do the damage as they burrow into the carrot. Nasty things they are, completely ruin your carrots if you let them.

Last Years Early Nantes Carrot

Plot 3 – Legumes
So far I’ve got my sugar peas in and they’re doing quit well, which I think is because they are slightly protected by the potting shed. I’ve planted my main crop peas in pots in the polytunnel, and they will go outside in a couple of weeks.

Plot 4 – Onions, Shallots and Garlic
I like to start my onion sets off in modules, but you need to keep an eye on the watering as they can be prone to dry out. Three weeks later weeks and they’re big enough to be planted out, and but his time they’re too big for the birds to yank them out!

How to grow onions the organic way with the Rural Gardener

Plot 5 – Lettuce
This year I’m going to be a bit more adventurous and growing several different varieties of lettuce. Instead of growing them in the kitchen garden I’m going to build a small raised bed close to the house to grow my everyday salads like lettuce, radish and maybe a few tomatoes when the weather warms up.

Plan is to build a simple wooden frame out of some gash timber we have around the place and position it next to the herb garden. I’ll fill it with some top soil mixed in equal quantity of well rotted compost and plant straight into it. Should be fun.

Tom Thumb Lettuce

One of the benefits of a Poly tunnel is the early salad crops including these gorgeous little Tom Thumbs.

Tom Thumb is my absolute favourite of all the lettuce and an excellent candidate for small gardens or of you’re stuck for space. I’ve also planted Lorroroso, Cos and Rocket, all in modules. The seeds only cost me 10 pence each, so we should have salads for weeks in the summer, and all for the price of a daily newspaper.

As for the rest of my kitchen garden it’s waiting from the weather to warm up a bit so we can plant out the Sweetcorn, Dwarf Beans and main crop Peas. I have planted them this early in the past, but the weather hasn’t been great over the last few days, so I think I’ll hang on for a bit longer.

Back soon.

Best wishes.


Rural Gardener

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Bramley Cooking Apples

Bramley cooking apples make a great seasonal pudding!

It’s been an excellent year in the orchard with pretty much all the fruit trees providing gorgeous fruit. From delicious eating apples, to plums, pears, and super Bramley cooking apples.

But I was wondering what to do with my left over Bramleys, other than the usual processing options like purees, pies etc I was a bit stumped.

Then I was speaking to a friend at my sewing class and she came up with a great suggestion, which I thought I must share with my readers. It’s simple to make and has a real seasonal flavour, which is perfect with Christmas just around the corner.

Baked Apples Stuffed With Mincemeat

Basically you take a good sized Bramley cooking apple and remove the core.  I found it best not to take the whole core out, but leave a small piece at the bottom. I’ll explain why in a sec.

Bramley Apple cored

Carefully remove the core, but leave a small piece in the apple

Scoop out some of the apple to leave a good size pocket in the top half of the apple. It’s purely down to personal taste, but I like to sprinkle a little cinnamon powder inside my Bramleys for that special Christmas flavour.

Then take a large spoon of fruit mincemeat and stuff it into the hole. Make sure you press it right down to the bottom (which is why we didn’t take all the core out) and remember to leave a little extra on top, as the mincemeat tends to shrink back when it’s cooked.

Filling Bramley Apples with mincemeat

Finally, take a square of tin foil (about double the size of the apple) and wrap the apple in the foil into a neat parcel.


Repeat the process for as many apples as you can fit in your freezer and you have the perfect winter pudding!

You can cook the apple parcels from frozen, straight out of the freezer. Just put them on a tray into a hot oven, and cook for between 45 mins and an hour, depending on the size. What could be simpler!

When they’re cooked, remove the foil and pour over copious amounts of home made custard, or if you’re feeling particularly naughty lashings of cream!

Very nice indeed.

Best wishes,


If you’d like to keep this post for future reference I have created a PDF. It’s absolutely free, so please feel free to download as many times as you like, with my best wishes.


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1. Have a go at making your own compost.

Each week I’ll post a different tip from my top ten gardening tips for 2011. I hope you find them useful and maybe give some of them a try this year.

The first, and probably the most important in my view, is a compost heap. At Blackbirds we’re lucky to have a large kitchen garden, which in turn produces a fair bit of green waste material, along with the chickens spent straw, makes for a half decent compost mix.  If you haven’t made your own compost then I urge you to give it a go as it’s really easy and you don’t need anything fancy.

Making your own garden compost

The compost heap at Blackbirds is a basic box construction made from 4 posts, which are  stuck in the ground with a few old feather boards for the sides.  I like to leave a reasonable space between the boards so the air can circulate, which aids the composting process. However, you can always substitute the boards for chicken wire, which works just as well!

I tend to throw pretty much everything onto the compost heap,  with the exception of cooked food.  Cooked food on a compost heap attracts rats, and should be avoided.  After a while, if you only throw vegetable waste onto your heap your compost it can become slimy and way too rich in nitrogen. To avoid this I like to add a layer of cardboard and straw to boost the carbon content, and it helps to warm the heap, which is essential to the composting process. One tip my father gave me years ago is to add a thin layer of well rotted horse manure to introduce bacteria to the heap, which speeds up the whole process.

I try to turn my heap every 6-8 weeks to ensure the bacteria spreads throughout the heap. After 6 months we have the most gorgeous garden compost, which I either dig straight into the veg patch or use as a light mulch…as with these red cabbage plants from last summer.

Home made garden compost

Blackbirds Garden Compost Recipe

  • Vegetable waste (uncooked)
  • Egg boxes
  • Fresh or used straw
  • Nettles
  • Egg shells (crushed or they take forever to compost down)
  • Garden clippings/waste with the exception of perennial weeds

Best wishes,


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One of the exciting things about growing your own vegetables is you start with a tiny seed hoping for the best but never really knowing if you’re going to be successful or not. I remember planting out my tomatoes in ‘Organic’ grow bags and having never used them before I have to say I was a tad skeptical of the outcome.

I don’t know what we we worried about. We planted 12 plants in the polytunnel and the results have been fantastic to say the least.  We collect a basket like this pretty much every weekend.

As you can see from the photo’s we tried a number of varieties and they all cropped really well. But when it came to the taste test, (we do it with all our veg) there was quite a difference in taste.

If you have a surplus of tomatoes you can always try making your own tomato chutney. You will need:

  • 2lb of Tomatoes
  • 2lbs of Cooking Apples
  • 1 1/2 lbs of Onions
  • 1 Pint of Malt Vinegar
  • 1lb of Demerara Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds

Peel, core and chop the apples.
Peel and chop the onion finely (or bite size if you prefer your relish chunky)
Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and scoop out the seeds.
Put the apples onions and tomatoes into a pan along with the vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer until the contents are soft. (Open a window or your kitchen will smell like a fish and chip shop!)
Add sugar, salt and mustard seed and continue to simmer untill the mixture thickens. If it doesn’t thicken for any reason then add a tablespoon of cornflour first dissolved in a little cold water.

Fill a few jars with the cooled relish, add lids and store for 3 months .. unless like me you can’t wait that long and just have to try it.

Just imagine snuggling down in the middle of winter with a chunk of cheese, a glass of port and your finest tomato chutney!

Pure joy!

Best wishes,


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