12 Meals of Christmas – Day 11 – Vegetable Crumble

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

Winter Vegetable Crumble (Serves 3)

We’ve all encountered a sweet fruity crumble at some point in our lives. It’s in the same league as the Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips and more. Yet, like every recipe featured on this blog, I don’t just want to settle for the norm. Instead, I’m turning the idea of a crumble as a dessert on its head by making it savoury.

Introducing the winter vegetable crumble. Packed full of nutritional goodness, you won’t feel guilty tucking into this before the big day.

Three carrots, chopped into chunks

One onion, chopped into large chunks 

A leek, sliced

One head of broccoli, chopped

A clove of garlic 

50ml of veggie gravy, created following packet instructions

75g of oats

75g of butter

25g of walnuts, chopped

25g of pumpkin seeds

A teaspoon of sage

Seasoning 

A drizzle of olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C. Place your vegetables into a roasting tin and drizzle over the olive oil. Season, dash the sage over the top and then add the vegetables to the oven for 35 mins or until they start to crisp and brown.

In the meantime, pour your oats, butter, seeds and nuts into a mixing bowl and, using your fingertips, crumble together until it resembles traditional crumble. Once the vegetables have begun to crisp, remove from the oven and make your gravy. Then pour over the crumble topping and return the dish to the oven for a further 10 minutes to give the topping a good crunch.

Serve with roast potatoes or on its own as a great alternative feast for a Saturday or Sunday lunch.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all of the meals featured.

 

12 Meals of Christmas – Day 1 – Roasted Leeks and Parsnip Mash

We all fancy ourselves as a cooking pro, right?

Of course, not all of us have the time, equipment or the money to be a gourmet god. Or perhaps we do?

To celebrate Christmas, I’m launching a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

All of my meals are veggie, as I am a vegetarian. However, you can add meat to dishes such as today’s offering. In fact, this leek and parsnip mash dish is highly versatile – add roast potatoes and vegetables and you have yourself a far healthier version of a meaty feast, or leave it in.

When buying your ingredients, grab an extra leek, yoghurt, paprika, cumin, tumeric and garam masala for tomorrow’s recipe!

Roasted Leeks and Parsnip Mash (Serves 1)

One leek, halved

A tablespoon of honey

A dash of vegetable oil

Three parsnips, peeled and chopped

A tablespoon of magarine

A teaspoon of cumin seeds

Two pinches of rosemary

25ml of soya or cow’s milk

Seasoning

Whack the oven onto gas mark 6/200C. Taking a baking tray, lay out your two leek halves. Drizzle vegetable oil, a dash of rosemary, honey and seasoning over the leeks before placing them into the oven for around 35 mins.

Into a saucepan, drop in your parsnip chunks. Cover these with boiling water and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Add your cumin seeds, before placing the lid over the parsnips and cooking them for around 20 minutes, or until the chunks are fairly easy to slice through with the knife.

Once this is done, remove your parsnips from the boil and drain. Taking a masher, begin to combine the margarine, seasoning and the soya or cow’s milk in with the parsnips. Once the mash is smooth, set to one side.

Take the leek halves out of the oven and serve up. Add your parsnip mash on the side and finish off by making gravy. This recipe can be adapted for roast dinners and more – make it as big or as small as you like. More importantly, sit back and enjoy your moment of gourmet godliness.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with all of the meals featured.

 

Macaroni Cheese with Butternut Squash Makes Squasharoni Cheese

Squasharoni Cheese. There it is, I’m coining it.

What more could you want from the winter than a dish of pure stodge? With the addition of butternut squash, onion, a nice bit of garlic and some herbs, you have a much healthier version of the popular classic though. And wait until you see just how orange and vibrant the squasharoni looks when it comes out of the oven!

I enjoyed this squasharoni cheese for dinner and for my work lunch the day after, saving me all that money on meal deals and expensive subs. Follow the recipe below to make your very own meal of cheesy indulgence:

Squasharoni Cheese (Serves 4)

Half a butternut squash

A couple of cupfuls of Macaroni

One onion, chopped

Five mushrooms, finely chopped

50ml of milk (soya or cow)

Bunch of fresh basil, chopped

Two cloves of garlic, crushed

Seasoning

Begin by turning your oven onto gas mark 6/ 200C. Taking the squash half, carefully remove the skin and de-seed. Chop into thin chunks and place these into the top of a steamer, or into a pan with boiling water. Into the bottom part of the steamer or into a separate pan, pour in your couple of handfuls of macaroni. Cover the pasta with water, place a lid over the top and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Leave the pasta and squash to simmer for around 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through and the squash is soft.

Into a large mixing bowl, drop in your cooked squash. Taking a blender, blitz the squash until smooth. Next up, add the sliced onion and mushroom, along with the basil, garlic and seasoning too. Stir in the 50g of milk then grating the cheese into the bowl. Finish by adding the macaroni pasta, and combining everything thoroughly.

Pour everything into an ovenproof dish, grating a little extra cheese over the top so that it’ll brown up nicely. Place into the oven to bake for 35 minutes or until golden on the top. Once this is done, serve up and tuck in.

I’ll be running the 12 Meals of Christmas to help you keep save money and that belly for Christmas. Make sure you follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date!

 

Goats Cheese, Butternut Squash and Leek Pasties

Whenever I head home, the sight of a takeaway is rare. And this is where my love for homemade food comes from. With my stepmum also being a vegetarian as well as an advocate for Riverford veg boxes, the food is rich with variety and flavour. On a recent visit back to my hometown, I came away with some gorgeous roasted vegetable pasties, and this is what has spurred me on to try my own.

Boy, were the results worth it!

First of all, there’s something about combining squash and goats cheese that takes you to another level of happy. But then, by putting this into wholesome shortcrust pastry along with onions and leeks makes it even better.

Perfect for having anytime of the day (yes, even breakfast if that’s how you roll), these pasties will keep in an airtight container for three days, meaning easy work lunches too.

Goats Cheese, Butternut Squash and Leek Pasties (Serves 2)

Ingredients

Half a butternut squash, de-seeded and with the outer skin removed

Readymade shortcrust pastry

An onion, diced

One small tub of goats cheese

A leek, chopped

Pinch of cumin seeds

Olive oil

Pinch of rosemary

Seasoning

An egg yolk

Set your oven to gas mark 6/200C. Lay the squash onto a baking tray and drizzle over the olive oil. Scatter your salt and pepper over the chunks and top this by adding some fragrant cumin seeds. Slide the baking tray into the oven for around 30 minutes. In this time, lay out your shortcrust pastry and, using a bowl, cut out three or four circles. Lay these onto another baking tray.

Once the squash has roasted up nicely, remove the tray from the oven and start placing your slices onto one half of each circle. Layer your diced onion and leek on top of this and finish with a hint of rosemary and a good dose of goats cheese. After the filling has been prepared, take the other side of your pastry and roll it over the filling, pressing down the close with a small roll of extra pastry.

Taking a brush, cover each pasty in a thin layer of egg yolk. When all of your pasties are covered, place the baking tray back into the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pasties are golden.

Serve these wintry delights up with a green leafy salad and some wholesome boiled baby potatoes for the full effect.

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Did you enjoy this recipe? I’d love to know what you thought – hit me up in the comments below.

Why Choosing the Right Pots is Important For Small Space Gardens

Do you ever get tired of eating a tomato in your salad that just isn’t quite juicy enough? Or that bland piece of broccoli on the side of your plate? When you grow your own food, you don’t have any of these problems. If you’re clever about it, you can also save money, too.

And it’s easier than you might think. For myself, two hours gardening a week is a luxury because I’m often in five places at once. So, whether you’re a single parent with barely a couple of hours free, a busy worker or a student – in my new Small Space Garden series, I’m going to show you how you can master healthy homegrown food and a busy life.

Winter is here. As you read this, I’m 100% certain that the idea of going outside and gardening is the last thing on your mind. Yet, doing all of your preparation this side of Christmas means no hassle when the work starts picking up again and the growing season is in full-swing.

So, if you’re interested in starting your very own small space garden on your windowsill, balcony or terrace, picking up the right-sized pots is a good place to begin. Check out the video below for my guide to finding the best pots for the highest quality crops:

 

Are you starting out on your gardening journey in 2018? What are you focusing on this winter? Let me know in the comments below

Here’s a Way to Help You Keep the Weeds Down

I would be lying if I said that I was an organised gardener. My allotment certainly takes on the “wild” look and this also extends to the piles of pots and lost tools that I spend endless amounts of time trying to find. As an unorganised gardener, I also have a big problem with weeds and slugs and, if you’re reading this, I imagine you must do too.

I would love to have days and days to spend neatening up my allotment plot, but the reality is that other things like work come in the way. If you’re young or you’re new to growing your own food, seeing an entire plot of land consumed with weeds is not motivating – particularly if you only have a couple of hours a week to spare gardening.

So how do you deal with weeds and more with so little free time?

I’ve been asking myself this question for months. If you don’t get rid of the weeds, your delicious crops lose all of their energy, the slugs have a place under the weedy growth to thrive and decimate plants and, if they even survive all of that, growing so close to these dominating neighbours will result in harvests that are tiny and sad.

But now I have a plan, and you should try it too

By taking out my phone and timing myself on one patch, I discovered that it only took 10 minutes to do what was a couple of square metres of earth. My allotment is big, but by multiplying this time by the ten or so plots I’ve created on the allotment, I worked out that I could get the entire stretch done in well under 2 hours. And this is clearing weeds that have been allowed to establish for months!

Granted, much of the weedy growth on my plot has been killed back by placing cardboard, newspaper, manure and veg waste thickly over the greenery in the past three years. However, even a tougher job, when broken down into a specific time, looks much more achievable.

Now, moving forward, I can plan to do anywhere between ten and twenty minutes of de-weeding a week. Furthermore, I can be sure that next year’s crops will grow and flourish the way that they are supposed to, without bindweed clambering, grass sprouting and brambles clinging.

This isn’t a ground-breaking new technique to get the whole plot done in less than a second (although please let me know if you do manage to do this). Yet, like almost everything about gardening and growing your own food, it’s all about changing your mentality and making life easier.

If you’re working on a new garden or allotment this year, or you’re struggling to keep on top of things – remember – it’s far better to break large jobs into smaller chunks than attempt to do it all at once.

Do you have any tricks for managing weeds and juggling a busy life? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t Let the Weeds Bring You Down

Chances are that if you’re reading this you’re either a very neat and tidy grower or you’re a messy one like me. Yes, contrary to the professional (cough, cough) pictures, my allotment is more on the wild side than it is the Gardener’s World side. The site is big; I’ve inherited a whole batch of great plants – yet I’ve also inherited a very well-established hoard of bindweed, which is nigh-impossible to get rid of.

On a typical trip up to the allotment in mid-summer, I can often come away feeling disheartened. Even if I get on with a good bit of de-weeding, the grass stands wild and tall and the pesky weeds dominate the plots once more. In the end, I’ve come to the realisation that I should simply embrace it.

Young Growers – Don’t Give Up Over Weeds

I’m appealing particularly to my generation of young gardeners here, as it’s with first-time gardeners and growers that weeds win.

Across my youthful allotment site, I often compare younger gardener’s plots to older people’s. What I find is that, where there had been good intentions – growing a range of tasty, organic fruit and veg – what instead happens is the manured beds and cleared edges become perfect breeding sites for thick weedy growth.

Many of these people give up their plots after a short while and abandon the idea of growing their own food completely.

As a passionate advocate for growing your own food, and as someone who has his fair share of weedy worries, this makes me very sad. So, I want to tell you something:

Weeds Will Always Grow Because Nature Has More Time on Its Hands

You can’t stop weeds entirely, so move that thought aside. When you see pristine allotment plots, notice the little tuft of grass near the bed’s corner or the creeping vine – no one is perfect and no allotment is either. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to improve conditions, though.

By mulching your growing beds heavily in the late autumn with leaf mold, horse or cow manure and things like newspaper or cardboard, you can kill off a lot of weeds by starving them of light. Then, when the few sprouts begin to surface, book yourself in for a weekly de-weeding session that only needs to last 10 minutes. Do a quick scan of your beds and pull a handful out here and there. By keeping this consistent (use a phone calendar if you need to) you’ll have more time to focus on your veggies.

By raising the soil up, you can also stop the weeds from spreading. The trick is to smother and starve any unwanted plants underneath. Then, once your growing beds are ready you won’t have to worry about weeds. So long as the weeds aren’t growing or creeping over any growing vegetables, just keep them a little managed.

It’s also healthy to let the grass grow. Remember that lots of wildlife relies on tall grass for coverage, pollination and much more. So you only need to give that a cut once it reaches your anywhere before your knee. If the grass is going to seed, it’ll likely spread across your beds. Don’t worry though – as long as you keep up a little bit of weeding each week and learn to embrace the messiness of nature, you’ll do just fine.

Whatever you decide to do – remember this: if the weeds are too high, don’t give up. It’s nature’s job to grow – and you just have to work with that. What’s more important is that you get something out of your garden or allotment. You know, there are even professional gardeners and veg growers out there who use weeds and permaculture to make their crops better.

 

Small Space Garden Episode 2 | Sowing Tomatoes and Peppers

Last week I created a small bed, this week I’m sowing tomatoes and peppers.

The Small Space Garden series continues. This time, I’m looking at sowing some late tomatoes and peppers ready for containers in the garden.

Tomatoes and peppers are fantastic little plants for limited spaces and you’ll get rewarding crops at the end of it all too. It might be easy picking up that pack of peppers or those vine tomatoes, but you’ll never get the same flavour as you do by growing your own. Follow me and join in on this fun growing adventure.

If you haven’t seen Episode One, you can watch it here.

Happy planting

Small Space Garden | Episode 1 – Building A Small Raised Bed

I’m 27 and I have a great passion for growing food. For five years I’ve been on a journey to learn about how I can get more colour, flavour and excitement into my meals. From allotments to balconies and windowsills, I’ve grown in a variety of spaces. Now, I want to share what I’ve learnt with you.

In towns and cities, space is becoming increasingly hard to come by. If you’re interested in growing your own food, but you rent a home, you don’t have a garden or you just don’t have the hours to commit, the idea of growing your own food might seem impossible.

I have great news for you though: you only need a windowsill, a balcony or a small raised bed to grow some delicious crops. In my new series, I’m going to show you exactly how you can get the most out of growing your own food in a small space.

In the first episode of the Small Space Garden, I’m building the small raised bed that I’ll be using for the project. All you need is some thick material to keep the bed together, compost, food scraps, woodchip or dead leaves and you can turn your small or paved garden into a fresh food feast.

Check out Episode One, below:

Setting Up A Greenhouse Without the Cost

A few weeks ago I took a risk. Indtead of following sense and investing in an expensive but reliable glass, I decided to buy myself a cheap £30 model from Wilko. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps I have gone mad if I think that I can keep a plastic sheet and frame up against the wind on my exposed allotment site. Yet, £30 is a bargain against the £250+ that I would be expecting to pay for a sturdy greenhouse or polytunnel. Even a self-build polytunnel is a lot of time, energy and money – especially if you want the plastic sheet to keep the space warm.

Even as I pressed the order button, I was doubting my own competence. Surely a cheap plastic greenhouse like the one I’d ordered wouldn’t last more than a day on a windy allotment site?

Well, three weeks on from setting up the greenhouse, I can confidently say that it’s managed to stay up. Of course, it’s still too early in the year to tell whether the model will keep up throughout the rest of the growing season. However, £30 is still a massive saving on the expensive rates needed to buy a new frame, or the time and energy and transport needed to move a “free” model from a Gumtree advertiser’s home.

What kind of magic have I used to keep something so cheap up against the torrents of wind? Read on to find out more:

Dig Your Greenhouse In

Now, by digging in I don’t mean bury it like a plant. What I mean is measure out the space needed to fit in the base and dig down to around a spade’s depth. Once you’ve set up the greenhouse, slot this into the space. The ground on all four sides will both stop the wind from getting under the frame and lifting the greenhouse up. The ground will also be pushing the sides in.

Cover the Base, Push in the Sides

Once you’ve firmly placed the greenhouse inside the space, it’s also a good idea to get some woodchip or gravel and run a layer of it over the top of the base to secure it even further.

In addition to this, you could do what I’ve done and dig two wooden crates or supports into the ground either side of the greenhouse. This will add to the structure of the frame and stop the wind from getting anywhere vulnerable.

Reinforce Those Joins

More often than not, the problem with plastic greenhouses has been the poles coming out of their joins, causing the entire frame to fall in on itself. To stop this, I’ve reinforced all of the greenhouse’s joins with strong camping tape to keep everything in place. Alternatively, you could use any kind of strong tape to keep everything together. This is an important step, because the tape will also ensure that the frame has structure.

Follow all of these steps and you should hopefully have a greenhouse that also stays up. Just to give you an idea of how windy my allotment site is, even the strongest plastic polytunnels can suffer at the hands of the harsh gales. These thrifty ideas will give you that warm and sheltered growing space to start off some healthy vegetables this year at a fraction of the cost, time and energy needed to build a greenhouse or polytunnel.