Soup. Also known as a very grown up way to use the inside of your Halloween pumpkin!
The great thing about soups is that they are such flexible recipes. Using our very basic guide you can make any number of inventions. You could use home grown veggies straight out of the garden, oddments you've found in the fridge or pull out one of those freezer boxes you prepared a few weeks back. It' even up to you how you cook it, if you fancy some quiet time in front of the hob then carry on... Or if it's a lazy Sunday afternoon, then fire up the slow cooker and flop on the sofa. Like we did!
Our basic ingredient guide:
Your ingredient pile might end up looking something like this:
The plan was to make a spicy pumpkin soup but apparently we're too early in the season... So we improvised! Do us a favour, when you tell your friends about this amazing recipe, can you tell them it was pumpkin for a spooky Halloween soup please?
Step one: Deseed and peel the squash (cough PUMPKIN cough) and cut into chunks. Season with pepper and chilli flakes then roast for about 30 minutes in a 200 degrees C oven. If you can't be bothered to roast it, fair enough! Put the roasted (or not) squash in your slow cooker pot or pan on the hob.
Step two: Roughly chop your remaining vegetables (or open your freezer box) and add to the pot/pan.
Step three: Add your stock. How much is up to you depending on how thick you want your finished soup. If you're using the hob about a pint is a good place to start. Slow cookers need less liquid so we used a mug and a half of stock. You can always add more water later on if required. Add your seasoning.
Step four: If you're using the hob, leave to slowly boil for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If you're using a slow cooker, turn it to high and take a four hour nap or turn it to low and take a day trip.
Step five: Blend to the consistency you like.
Step six: We're hoping the Queen might call in so we primped our soup with garlic oil, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
Hints and tips:
The main flavour - make sure this is the bulk of your ingredients.
The secondary flavour - Use odd little bits of whatever you like, but if you want to make your soup look pretty at the end, use vegetables that are similar colours to each other.
Dried pulses - Dried lentils, beans or chickpeas are great thickeners but just be careful. They can take more cooking than you think, so soak them first and follow instructions on the packet.
Dairy - Cream, cheese, yoghurt or crème fraiche are all excellent options for thickeners or garnishes, but remember they reactive differently depending on how you are cooking. If you're using a hob and want to add cream or cheese then add it with the stock and stir occasionally. However if you're using a slow cooker you are at greater risk of the soup mix splitting and curdling so add it just before you blend the soup.
Have fun improvising with your harvest this Halloween!
Keep a look out for a post closer to Halloween. We have a carved pumpkin alternative for any crafty grown ups out there, but thought you might have read enough for one day... Check back soon...
The growing season might be nearly over, but that doesn't mean we can't start thinking about next year.
There is something special about growing your own, well, anything. Flowers, veggies, the odd few herbs, and small space growing is a great place to start. No matter where you live there is always something you can grow.
The nights are starting to draw in and the evenings are getting chilly. Why not use some of that sofa time to start thinking of what you might like to grow next year. Then when you're stuck for something to do on the weekends turn your attention to crafting a fancy planter all of your own. Pretty much anything can be turned into a planter, just remember a few key points:
Once you've got your planter, you can start planning your plants! If you're growing from seed, toilet roll tubes make excellent compostable seed trays. Fill your toilet roll tubes with compost and pop your seeds in. Once seedlings are ready to be transplanted just reposition the whole tube in the desired pot. As you water your plant the tube will break up allowing for root growth.
Small space inspiration...
You can experiment with colours, decorations and finding the best position around your home or garden. You may have to do a little research into what will grow best in your conditions e.g. window sill growing, shady corners or north facing gardens, but that can all be part of the fun. If you're growing edibles, make sure you choose things you will actually eat. We don't want anything going to waste, do we?
If you've got a little more space, then maybe something like this could be an option:
Jo made this planter out of old unwanted pallets that would have otherwise gone to waste. The planter was lined with leftover polythene sheeting. Gravel was repurposed from the garden to add drainage to the bottom, and then filled with compost. The herbs were saved from the clearance section of asda's fruit and veg section and replanted. With a little tender loving care they've come back strong and healthy... Just ignore the mint in the background, that's already had several months of use and is starting to give up the ghost ready for next year. By using unwanted materials, odds and ends of equipment he already had, Jo spent less than £10 on the whole project. To buy new planters of a similar size could easily cost you £50 or more. Well done Jo, that's quite the saving!
A quick tip...
When reading guidance on seed packets or plant pots you're usually told how much space you should leave between each plant. To make the most of your small space growing, go a little mad and cram as much as you can fit in. Remember if your plants start to look a little cramped you can always take one or two back out... And then move them to other planters you've been busy making haha. A word of warning, once you catch the bug it can get a little addictive.
But oh so worth it!
We have lots of things to talk about at Abbotswood Action Group. We're sure you do too, get in touch if you would like to be a guest blogger...