Winter Garden

We had a good summer, but that seems an age ago now, a wonderful summer, glorious weather and abundant harvests, we’ve fed ourselves from the allotment, at least in staples. And now we’re picking the last of the fennel and beetroot. The chard’s slowed down but should keep producing as long as we don’t get any prolonged frosts. The Kale is doing well and we have leeks to pick.

We’ve found this delicious recipe, which Denis has modified for a gluten free diet:

Beetroot & Caramelised Onion Tart
Adapted from BBC Good Food:


175g rice flour
100g buckwheat flakes or rice & buckwheat flakes
100g butter
100g grated carrots
3 large onions, sliced
3 medium raw beetroot, peeled and grated
3 medium eggs
250ml milk
Couple of serving spoons of Greek Yoghurt (optional)


  • Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  • In a food processor grate the carrot. Set aside.
  • Pulse the flour, rice flakes and butter in a food processor until crumb-like, add the grated carrot and continue to process until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Alternatively rub the butter into the dry ingredients, add the carrots and press together until a ball is formed.
  • Carefully roll out the pastry and line a metal 25cm pizza dish or shallow tart case. The pastry may break up but don’t worry, it’s easily patched up when you’re putting it into the case.
  • Alternatively roll out the pastry on a sheet of cling film & ease it into the tart case. Chill for 30 mins.
  • Gently cook the onions in oil until beginning to caramelise.
  • Place the beetroot in the pastry case and cover with the onions.
  • Whisk the eggs, milk (& yoghurt if using) together, season and pour over the onions and beetroot.
  • Bake in the oven, lowering to 160C/140C fan/ gas 3 after 15 mins, for 40 mins or until firm and golden.

We’ve found that the mixture of rice flour & buckwheat flakes produces a wonderfully light crumbly pastry.

allotment winter



A superfluity of courgettes!

They’re like buses: they are either as scarce as hens’ teeth, or they arrive in convoy. Our courgette plants behave like buses: last year we picked exactly 3 courgettes from 8 plants, this year we are giving them away to complete strangers! The summer of 2011 in the South East UK was cold,wet & windy & the plants produced lots of male flowers. September was warm but it was too little too late.  Our pumpkins behaved in a similar manner & we only picked 6 mature fruit from a very vigorous couple of Italian Tondo Padana plants.

This year our earlier sowings in March for planting out in May failed to germinate; I re-sowed in May & they made it into the ground in mid June in time for the rains! However, I had them covered with large bottle cloches & they survived & started producing in July as the heat hit the South Downs. They’re slowing down now as temperatures plummet, & they’re unlikely to produce many more female flowers. Although pollinators have been less in evidence, we do have a wild flower bank & lots of Sage & Borage which attract a lot of bees & hoverflies into the allotment.

I thought you might like to try one of my recipes adapted from a traditional recipe, originally published by Arto Der Haroutunian(1982):

Teresa’s Courgette Pancakes [adapted from Middle Eastern Cookery, Arto Der Haroutunian, 1982/2010]

This recipe is based on Levivot or fried potato pancakes, taken with them by Russian Jews when they emigrated to Israel. Levivot are still called latkes by Ashkenazim Jews in the USA and Europe. Similar to Boxty from Ireland.
Courgette makes a good substitute when they’re in plentiful supply. You could also try them with grated parsnips or carrots if you have some to use up. Amounts are approximate so I suggest you try it & adapt to your own preferences.

Ingredients [enough for 2 hungry people]
1 large courgette or 3 large potatoes
1 small onion
2 small eggs or 1 large
3 tablespoons of plain flour (use buckwheat or gram/chickpea flour for glutenfree pancakes; try wholewheat flour instead of white flour)
1 teaspoon salt – (try and use good salt not cheap chemical laden varieties!)
black pepper
corn oil for frying
2x tablespoons of chopped parsley or coriander
1x finely chopped fresh chilli
plain yoghurt [to serve]

1.Finely grate the courgettes/potatoes (no need to peel skins, just scrub well)
2. Place in a clean teatowel in a sieve or colander to drain – place plate on top with something to weight it down with – leave for @15 minutes. Use teatowel to squeeze as much liquid as possible from the grated potato/courgette – save the liquid and use in soups.
3. Place grated vegetables in a large mixing bowl and grate the onion into it.
4. Add the flour, egg, salt and pepper and mix to a batter.
5. Add the chopped parsley or other ingredients if making a variation.
6. Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and when hot add tablespoons of the batter to make a 3-4 inch pancake when flattened with the back of a spoon or fork.
7. Cook over a moderate heat for 3 minutes, until brown. Turn and cook on the other side for a couple of minutes. 5-6 minutes should ensure the pancake is well cooked through.
8. Remove and drain on kitchen paper; serve with a tomato sauce or with fresh plain yoghurt seasoned with salt and pepper, or a pinch of cayenne pepper, if liked.


Potato Pastry

This from a War Cookery Leaflet issued by the Ministry of Food,
There is no vegetable more useful than the homely potato. Potatoes are a cheap source of energy […] They contain the same vitamin as oranges and ¾ lb. of potatoes daily will give over half the amount of this vitamin needed to prevent fatigue and help fight infection.

This leaflet, as did all the others published by the Ministry, stressed the value of home-grown vegetables, in the context of a war economy, rationing and the Kitchen Front. Emphasis was placed on the duty people had to think imaginatively about what food they had available: So don’t think of potatoes as something to serve with the meat. They can be much more than that. The resulting diet is close to what nutritionists are advising us to eat now. But could we go back to only eating from seasonal produce?

We’ve tried various potato pastry recipes with differing degrees of success, but keep returning to both the Ministry recipe and Peter Thomson’s basic recipe in Gluten Free Cookery.

The recipes below are for a good floury potato such as Bleu D’Auvergene but we’ve also used Desiree, which is waxy. Depending on the variety of potato being used we adjust the amount of flour slightly, usually adding around 1 oz extra of cornflour.

We’ve also used parsnip, and beetroot as a substitute for potato. Both work well. The beetroot makes an unusual looking pastry but with no noticeable difference in taste or texture.

Basic shortcrust potato pastry
6 oz (175g) cooked mashed potato (a ricer is good for this)
3 oz (75g) rice flour
2 oz (50g) cornflour (or corn meal)
4 oz (100g) butter (well chilled)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Combine potato, flours, & salt. We use a food processor. Then add the butter cut into small pieces.
Knead the dough lightly on a clean, floured surface. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out on a well-floured surface (I use rice four). Keep moving the pastry to prevent it from sticking. Roll out quite thinly & press into pie dish or tartlet cases. Bake blind in a preheated oven, gas mark 7, 425F, 220C, until golden. Add filling & pastry top if making a pie; return to the oven & bake until done.

Potato Pastry (from the Ministry of Food War Cookery Leaflet)
8 oz (200g) mashed potatoes.
4 oz (100g) flour.
1 oz (25g) cooking fat.
½ teaspoonful salt.

Mix the flour with the salt. Rub in the fat and work into the potato. Mix to a very dry dough with a small quantity of cold water. Knead with the fingers and roll out. The recipe calls for this but we refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking blind in a preheated oven gas mark 7, 425F, 220C, until golden.

Monday 2nd January,