Another successful cooking episode

Lavender Tea Cake fresh from the oven
Lavender Tea Cake fresh from the oven

Well, that was an action packed weekend with a range of culinary activities including another batch of my impressive scotch eggs, an excellent slow cooked pot-roast goat and some lavender tea cake as well as the Glendale Show (in the rain).

The lavender tea cake idea came about after a previous post about our lavender looking good in bloom which had included  some links to intriguing recipes that make use of the flowers.

Somehow I hadn’t considered the possibility that it might be useful in cooking as well as just using it for the scent.

If you need any proof then the pictures included here show the results for the Lavender Tea Cake experiment which were reasonably successful. Apart from a slightly soggy patch at the bottom which I suspect was my fault not the recipe!

There was a pleasant hint of lavender throughout the cake without it being overpowering and it was very well received which is always a good sign!

Slices of Lavender Tea Cake
Slices of Lavender Tea Cake

What to try next I wonder?

The lavender flowers are on their way out now so I’ll have to take a wander around the garden to see what’s available. I’m not sure that Runner Bean biscuits are such a good idea but I don’t think there is  much else happening in our garden at the moment!


There’s more to the garden than vegetables

Lavender in flower with a bee
Bee on the lavender

Our lavender is looking pretty good at the moment although I really can’t take much credit for that. Apart from the fact that I originally planted it they have been left to their own devices but maybe that is the trick? It could be a lesson I should learn and apply to the vegetable side of things when i  consider the variable results I’ve had this year.

By not interfering I’ve allowed the lavender plants to develop at their own pace, as they have nicely filled the space allowed – sometimes exceeding it so I’ve had to clip them back – there has been no need to worry about weeding around them too much, just the occasional half-hearted effort.

It certainly looks like the bees love the flowers and I’m not known for my love of bees but I am coming around to them a little. They may even have a place in the future smallholding plans but only after learning more about then and taking all relevant safety precautions!

I was interested to find this link to the Newcastle and District Beekeepers association which looks like the best place to start and at least I know there’s somewhere fairly local to get help and advice!

Butterfly on lavender flowers
Butterfly on lavender flowers

I also took this lovely photo of the lavender flowers with a butterfly as well but I know very little about the different types of butterfly and further research has taken the shine off this in the end

According to my research this is a Cabbage White butterfly and is probably the reason for large holes in the leaves of the broccoli plants. More accurately this particular butterfly could be partly to blame for the damage to my cabbages earlier in the year.

I don’t like to hold a grudge though and it does look nice even if my photo doesn’t quite do it justice!

This isn’t just some idle ramblings about pretty flowers and wildlife though, I’m now curious to find out whether I can make use of the other plants in my garden for cooking and eating.

The initial signs are good and after a quick web search there are some promising recipes and ideas. Here are the first few that I think I’ll be trying in the near future

Lavender Infused Shortbread – this looks like the easiest of the lot so I may try this first!

Lavender Tea Cake – looks good and uses fresh lavender so limited preparation needed

Amy’s Lavender Still Lemonade – the recipe says “dried lavender” but I might try fresh instead

A busy week or so ahead

First up is a viewing for our house by potential buyers this afternoon – it’s only been on the market so it’s still early days and we’re not expecting too much from this viewing.

This will be closely followed by an evening appointment to view a potential property. This place is so far west in Northumberland that it’s practically Cumbria but I won’t hold that against it! A nice looking place but I’ve learnt not to put too much faith in the estate agents particulars.

Tomorrow (Sat 18) is the much-anticipated (by me at least) Falstone Show ( which was originally established in 1885 so they should know how to put on a good show by now. I’ve got my fingers crossed for some good weather on the day and after checking the BBC Weather website the prediction looks okay:


A much drier, brighter day with sunny spells developing after early mist clears. Generally dry but the odd shower is possible. Warm in sunshine and light winds.

Although not quite as old as the Falstone show,  there is  also the 120th Glendale Show ( which takes place on Bank Holiday Monday (August 27th). It makes sense to take them up on their offer of cheaper tickets in advance by buying online (£9 in advance instead of £12 on the door) so I’ll be doing that later today.

Both these events should provide great sources of inspiration for our smallholding ideas along with any number of handy shopping opportunities which we should probably try to resist until we’ve actually bought somewhere!

If you were wondering what to do over the rest of the school holidays then find a local show near you and take a look at the list on this website:

It’s just a shame that my  job is going to take up quite a lot of the week as well but that can’t be helped… yet!

Eeek… look at that leek!

I was checking the leeks the other day when I spotted one (and only one) which looked a bit different.  I’m not sure but I presume that this is a very bad sign and the other plants may well go the same way eventually.

A little Googling soon turned up a blog entry titled Gone To Seed Part 2 from last year which seems to show very similar development so I guess it’s not uncommon.

This was a little surprising to me as the plants are not very well-developed yet so I wasn’t expecting it. However we have had some very unusual weather in recent weeks – sometimes sunny and hot whereas other times we’ve had flooding – so odd things are bound to happen.

Even the RHS website confirmed my suspicions on this page about bolting in vegetables:

Some biennial crops (which grow in the first year, flower in the second) such as onions, leeks, carrot and beetroot can initiate flowers in the first year. This is due to unsettled weather conditions early in the season and usually occurs after a prolonged cold spell, often during the propagation phase. Cold nights, hot days and late frosts may also contribute to premature initiation of flowering.

I suppose I’d better come up with some recipes for Scrawny Leek Soup

Chili plants still alive…

On top of the other recent and slightly unexpected success with my runner beans, it appears that I’ve also managed to  keep my two chilli plants alive. Despite my best efforts at negligence it seems that they are both still going well although I suspect they would be much better off by now if I had paid them more attention.

Apache chilli plant
Apache – with the start of a crop perhaps

I bought just two plants from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm stand at the North East Chilli Festival back in early July (and a grand day out it was too!).

It took me a while to get around to it but both are are now in slightly larger pots which should help. However as there hasn’t been much action  I’m wondering whether I should add feed?

The Apache one (see left) is looking the most impressive with a couple of peppers developing nicely. Are they called fruit? Or is it a berry? Or perhaps a pod?

This is supposed to be a very easy variety to grow and I think I read somewhere recently that treating chilli plants poorly increases the resulting heat.

Unfortunately that could mean the poor treatment on my part is a bad move as I’m not a huge fan of extremely hot and spicy food.

Stumpy – a variety of chilli

The other chilli plant I bought at the same time was a variety called Stumpy and this isn’t quite so far along – perhaps this variety will develop more slower?

Of course I should remember that it’s called Stumpy for a good reason and is supposed to be smaller so I shouldn’t be too demanding!

I think that overall maybe it’s time for some feed or at the very least a little more regular care and attention.

Nature can work wonders occasionally but from time to time it’s nice to feel that I’m contributing in some small way as well!

I will be keeping watch on both of these plants in the coming weeks. Based on my rather limited knowledge so far I think the tactic is to harvest regularly to ensure a better crop.




Runner bean flowers

Recently when watering the runner beans that I had planted in a large tub I noticed a major achievement (for me at least) with the first signs of flowers. As I’ve never grown runner beans before this was a big deal and I’ll be checking them regularly to watch the progress.

Although this is probably nothing special to those who grow runner beans regularly, I find the appearance of the flowers to be strangely (and disproportionately) gratifying. Unfortunately I think that this probably shows the level of belief I had at the beginning that these would produce anything worth mentioning!

As a record of this momentous event I took a photo using my phone:

Flowers on the runner beans
First flowers on my runner beans

At the same time, as the first photo looked pretty good and there was some detail to catch I thought I’d try the “close up” mode that I’d noticed but hardly ever used.  I was suitably impressed with the results of that too:

Close up photo of runner bean flower
Close up

I’m now keeping my fingers crossed for even more flowers and eventually an impressive harvest to top off a successful first attempt at growing runner beans.

Weather woes… again!

After the noticeable improvement in the weather over recent days/weeks I had thought and hoped that we had finally made it to summer but it appears that I was wrong.

Yesterday (Sunday) we had yet another torrential downpour which led to more temporary flooding at the bottom end of the garden. This was not as extensive as on the previous occasion in July but it still meant that we had to venture out in it to relocate the chicken house/run.

Of course I should be grateful that it was just a minor garden problem and did not affect our house. It pays to  keep things in proportion  as it was apparently quite a bit  worse for some people according to the BBC

Just in case I thought it was a one-off for yesterday only, while sitting here at work today about 6-7 miles from home I have heard more thunder and lightning plus there has been news of various temporary road/rail closures in the general area. I guess the journey home may not be a smooth as normal!

The Met Office has a helpful Weather Warnings page which pretty much sums the situation up very nicely. At the moment looks like this: