Leek and Potato Pies -Veg from the Garden

I love the quiet time after Christmas. It’s so peaceful here. No rushing about trying to keep up with the world. I hold on to that feeling of calm for as long as I can. I’m reluctant to drive to the shops. So I look about the house and garden. Leeks and potatoes are plentiful, so I make one of my favourite recipes, Leek and Potato pie. They are easy to make, and it’s lovely to come indoors from a session in the garden and find tasty little pies for tea. Dashing about, dealing with shopping, parking and self service tills that never seem to work, can all wait for another day.

INGREDIENTS

A quantity of shortcrust pastry, or 2 rolls of filo or 2 packs puff pastry, rolled out and cut into approx 12cm squares.

800g potatoes, chopped into approx 2.5cm chunks

2 leeks

2 red onions

25g butter

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

200ml milk

130g cheddar cheese

Pinch of salt/black pepper

Optional. If you have them:

Pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper

Half tsp Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

Pinch of mustard powder

Chopped chives, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley.

1 beaten egg for glazing

METHOD

Boil the potatoes until they are just cooked, but still slightly firm. Drain and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter and add the leeks and onions and cook gently until soft.

Add the flour and cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring the mixture so it doesn’t burn.

Remove from the heat and add a few tablespoons of the milk and stir well to incorporate. Add the rest of the milk, a bit at a time, stirring well.

Return to the heat and cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring to prevent burning.

Remove from the heat while you grate the cheese.

Add the grated cheese, the seasoning and optional ingredients.

Gently fold the sauce mixture into the cooked potatoes.

Divide the mixture between the pastry squares. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray.

Pull the four corners inwards to meet in the centre, folding one corner over the other like closing an envelope. Pinch along the folds to hold the folds together. Some beaten egg will help the pastry to stick together.

Brush the pies with beaten egg.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and the filling is piping hot. The parcels may open up a little as they bake.

Sprinkle over some reserved fresh herbs.

TIP

Make picnic versions by using silicone muffin trays.

Vary the recipe by adding whatever vegetables you have in store. If you eat fish, you can add tuna. If you are vegan, use soya margarine, soya milk and brush the pies with almond milk. Add chestnut mushrooms and chopped nuts instead of cheese.

PASTRY RECIPE

300g plain flour

1tbsp or 15ml baking powder

150g butter or margarine

3-4tbsp or 45-60ml water.

METHOD

Put the flour and baking power in a basin. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sufficient water to give a soft but manageable dough.

Note: use warm water if using wholemeal flour.

The photo below shows filo pastry pies, made in muffin trays.

They don’t have to be perfect shapes. Enjoy!

Six on Saturday. What’s in flower today.

Enjoy a tour of my garden on a rainy Saturday. The temperature feels mild at 8C. I can hear a woodpecker in the orchard. Our farming neighbour is cutting the field hedge across the lane. We’ll be able to see the cows more clearly in spring. Speaking of spring…I was surprised to find so many flowers today.

Calendula Orange Flash. Grown from seed last summer. Supplied by Mr Fothergills. I’ll be growing these again in the cut flower/ veg patch. They last a week in a vase.

Calendula Fiesta seedling. Mr Fothergills again. Fades from lemon to white. Very pretty. The edges of the petals look like they’ve been cut with pinking shears.

Snowdrops. Earliest they have ever flowered here. Galanthus Elwesii variety. Originally from snowdrop festival sales at Hodsock Priory, Nottingham. It will soon be time to make a visit again. I always take my Mum, and we usually stay over in the converted stables. A little bit of luxury, midwinter. Does you no harm at all.

In my unheated poly tunnel, Chrysanthemum White Stallion is providing a few flowers for jam jar posies. Bought as tiny £2 cuttings from Chrysanthemums Direct at the RHS Malvern Show three years ago. The weather is so mild, the plants are starting to shoot early. I’m taking new cuttings today. Well worth growing. I also recommend Arctic White and Lollipop. They produce masses of blooms. All grow in 10″ pots, John Innes compost. Stand them outdoors all summer. Take in before frosts, to protect flowers. My father in law used to stand the pots in a glass-roofed corridor between the kitchen and the garage. A cold frame would also be suitable.

Alstroemeria from the poly tunnel. Just keeps on flowering. To force them into growth, pull all the flowers and leaves in September. Stop watering for three weeks, then feed and water well. The dormant period seems to encourage them to flower from November to February. Just when we all need something cheerful.

I love growing cut flowers for friends and family. I learned how to grow -for all seasons- on a course at Common Farm Flowers. Never has £100 been so well spent. I learned which varieties to grow and how to get the best out of my poly tunnel and greenhouse. I grow cosmos and sweet peas in the summer in 10 3m by 1.2m beds with little herb-edged paths in between. This year I’m growing love-in-a-mist, chrysanthemums, carnations, ammi majus, cornflowers and poppies.

And finally, I love green flowers and Helleborus foetidus is a favourite. I was just about to pick some flowers, when I spotted these ladybirds. Just shows how mild the weather has been recently. I left them undisturbed.

I’m joining in with Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/12/six-on-saturday-12-01-2019/ . Thanks to the Propagator for hosting this meme. Please feel free to join us.

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Houseplant Trends – talking on the radio

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06vgzy9

I took part in an interview for BBC local radio today. I’m live from my greenhouse at home at 1.47.39 on the timeline. Talking about youngsters getting involved in gardening by growing houseplants. No one would know, but there’s a disgruntled robin flapping around my head. He obviously considers my greenhouse his territory. I fielded him off with a spider plant. Quite funny now. Slightly off putting at the time. Do have a listen in when you have a minute. And you can laugh if you like. I won’t mind.

Houseplant Trends

I like to keep an eye on trends. I might not join in, but it’s good to know what’s in fashion. I want to keep up with the conversation. Growing houseplants is one trend I approve of.

Plants are big news on Instagram right now. Millions of people are posting photos of plants and how they are using them to enhance their homes. The hashtag #houseplants has 287,000 posts. #Plantsofinstagram has 2.2 million posts.

The RHS says social media is one of the driving forces behind the houseplant revival.

Matthew Pottage, curator at RHS Wisley, says millennials who perhaps don’t have a garden, but have a window or a windowsill are behind the latest trend.

He appeared on BBC Breakfast TV this week to talk about the latest craze. He says lots of people don’t have their own gardens, but houseplants are one way of getting involved in gardening.

Matthew suggests the spear-shaped mother-in-law’s tongue would be the best plant for a beginner. It’s virtually indestructible. Other plants showing a revival right now are indoor ferns, Swiss cheese plants, and devils ivy (Epipremnum.)

The houseplant revival is just one aspect of young people getting involved in gardening. Matthew says they are growing salads, herbs,tomatoes and micro-greens on windowsills and in window boxes and balconies.

The RHS Wisley plant shop has seen sales of salad and vegetable seeds overtake those of flowers. And conifers are also on the rise, with Wisley seeing a 50% rise in conifer sales. People are looking for low maintenance structural plants- such as conifers.

I had a look at Instagram and the trending hashtag #plantsofinstagram which has 2.2 million posts.

The hashtag #plantshelfie also has 65,700 posts.

Matthew says houseplants are good for cleansing and purifying the air. He recommends the devil’s ivy plant, which takes quite low light levels. Photos on Instagram show the plant being draped over curtain poles and along book shelves.

Pollution levels are often higher indoors than out and contain a mixture of substances emitted from furnishings, detergents, paint, carpets, and also dust, fungal spores and bacteria. These are thought to contribute to the condition known as “sick building syndrome” where people suffer from a range of illnesses; eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, and breathing difficulties. Scientists say plants have the ability to clean up our air to a certain extent by absorbing and capturing harmful substances.

Plants have been shown to contribute to improvements in mental and physical wellbeing. Reduced blood pressure, reduced fatigue and headaches, and patients in hospital report a decrease in post-operative pain where they can see some greenery.

In my home, I’ve bought a peace lily which has white spathes and green spear-shape leaves. I’m hoping it will work hard, capturing pollutants in the air, helping us to breathe more easily.

Science shows our homes, workplaces, schools and hospitals can be better places to be with the addition of plants. In some studies scientists found plants helped towards an improved mood, reduced stress levels, increase in work productivity, an increase in speed of reaction, and better concentration spans, as well as increased pain tolerance in hospital settings.

What houseplants are you growing right now? Are you joining in with the # hashtag craze on Instagram. I tried it last night to see what would happen. I didn’t quite get the 5,000 “likes” one instagrammer received for her houseplant post. I’ll have to keep trying!

* Just discovered it’s #HouseplantAppreciationDay. Well, why not join in.

Winter Walk at Melbourne Hall.

Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire will be open this Sunday, January 13. It’s a rare chance to see the house and gardens in winter. I usually post reviews of gardens I’ve visited. But this time I’m giving advance notice as it’s such a lovely opportunity to see behind the scenes, out of season.

Photo credit : Andrea Jones.

Lady Ralph Kerr will host the event between 11am and 3pm. There will be a guided tour of the house, accompanied by classical guitar music, after which you’ll be able to explore the gardens. The special opening coincides with a feature in the January edition of Homes and Gardens Magazine.

Tickets cost £10 and include a glass of mulled wine and a slice of apple and pear pie provided by Master Chef professionals finalist Sven-Hanson Britt.

There’s also a tearoom just outside the garden gates which will be open for lunch, teas and cake. I can vouch for the cake. It’s absolutely delicious. And there’s usually a log fire to sit by.

For more information, the website is http://www.melbournehallgardens.com. Tickets are available on the day. Note: There’s no card reader, so payment is cash.

The magazine article was by award winning photographer Andrea Jones. I reviewed Andrea’s book, The Garden Photography Workshop, in a blog post here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/workshop/

Six on Saturday – My Tribute to David Austin

I’m ignoring the sudden plunge in temperatures. Instead I’m dreaming of summer- and roses in particular. This is my tribute to the wonderful rose grower David Austin who died last month aged 92.

My first roses planted here were David Austin’s. Constance Spry, a glorious old fashioned-looking rose, drapes along the 40 foot pergola. A wonder. Such beauty when it’s in bloom. A fleeting glory, gone in just a few weeks. But the anticipation, waiting for the scent, is worth it.

I gather a basket of blooms. Soon the scent fills the potting shed. In a few moments, I’ve wound the roses into a mossy ring. A halo of elderflower completes the wreath.

I always prop up flower arrangements in the potting shed window to look for gaps, and to add finishing touches.

Then it’s on to the summerhouse. The evening breeze sends the scent through the open doors. A perfect place to sit and contemplate the day’s work.

You can read more about David Austin here https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/01/david-austin-obituary. A life- and work which brought so much joy to so many people, including me. My garden wouldn’t be the same without my David Austin roses.

Joining in with the Propagator for Six on Saturday meme, https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/six-on-saturday-05-01-2019/ . Why not go over and see what others are choosing for their six photos today.

What roses are you planning to grow in your gardens this year?

A walk around my garden 2nd January 2019

Cyclamen Coum. A cheering sight in a quiet corner of the wild garden. Perhaps I’ve missed my chance to clear away fallen cow parsley stems. They will just have to compost down naturally with the autumn leaves- which also didn’t get raked up last year. Time just evaporated.

I found hibernating ladybirds. They are welcome here. I hope they’ll munch the greenfly in the summer. I left them undisturbed.

And early snowdrops. Mrs Macnamara, bought from a sale at Hodsock Priory a few years ago. There seems to be an early flowering seedling too. I wonder if it’s a new variety.

Hellebores seem to get earlier every year. A sign of our changing unpredictable seasons.

Algerian Iris unguicularis suddenly flowers. Baked at the base of a south facing wall, it’s always a heart-sing moment. Such delicate blue flowers. How can they survive the cold.

Vinca, periwinkle is rarely out of flower. I love the sky blue hue – against a grey sky.

By the front gate, and all along our hawthorn hedge, there’s violets. Such a joy on a cold day. The scent is something you’ll never forget.

Thanks to Helen for hosting #EOMV meme at https://patientgardener.wordpress.com/. What’s flowering in your garden at the start of the new year?

In a Vase on Monday- flowers for Christmas

In haste. As I’ve just found another Christmas present to wrap. I bought it months ago and stashed it in a “safe place.” I’ve only just remembered where said place is! If ever I give the impression of being well organised, don’t take any notice. I’m running round in a panic half the time. Anyway, for my last IAVOM of the year, here’s some photos of my front door wreath. I’ve run round the garden and collected evergreen foliage. In the poly tunnel I found white alstroemeria, cut back in August and forced for December. White Stallion chrysanthemums have been flowering since October. They are just going over, with a pink tinge to the petals. A perfect match for pittosporum. There’s two sprigs of scented freesia left over from a birthday bouquet. They last for ages in a cool place. I always prop everything up in front of the potting shed window where I can see if there are any gaps.

My favourite hedgerow ivy and bits of conifer set off the flowers. Silk tassel bush and Scots pine add a Christmassy note. And there’s always rosehips in everything I make.

Meanwhile, all our five bar gates have been draped in willow hearts. Something to cheer the walkers as they pass by.

Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas. Thank you to Cathy for hosting my favourite meme, IAVOM. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/. I’ve enjoyed joining in this past year. Looking forward to seeing what you are all growing in your gardens in 2019. I’m excitedly perusing the seed catalogues already! And hoping to be more organised in everything I do.

Six on Saturday. Simple Christmas Decorations from the Garden.

I should be making mince pies. Or cleaning the house. Instead, I creep outside and lose an hour or two, messing about with twigs and foliage. I am happy.

This simple wreath is made from silver birch twigs, twisted in a circle and bound with twine. It’s an ever-changing scene. Ephemeral. A fleeting beauty. Blackbirds feast on the rosehips. Gusts of wind carry off the old man’s beard, back to the hedgerow where it belongs. It mirrors nature. Nothing is static. I add fresh ivy leaves, Scots pine, crab apples. Dried hydrangea flowers amongst cow parsley “stars.”

For the front door, I’m copying an American idea. I’m mocking up a container. I cut some branches of blue fir and pine and stand them in a favourite terracotta plant pot.

Scrunched- up newspaper holds everything in place. I add coloured willow and dogwood stems. In front, I place a potted skimmia, as a focal point. You could add a white hellebore, or white cyclamen if you wish. A few hazel branches with cheerful early catkins complete the display.

A collar of moss hides the newspaper. It’s a cross between gardening and floristry and no one will know I’ve just used twigs and not splashed out on lots of new plants.

As a final flourish, I add mouldable fairy lights with thin copper wire. They cost £2.50 from Wilkinson’s and can be used with rechargeable batteries.

I’m joining in with Six on Saturday, https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/six-on-saturday-22-12-201/. Why not go over and see what others are doing in their garden at this time of the year.

As it’s Christmas, I’m sure no one will mind if I add a bonus photo. I made this heart from two willow stems. Hold them both in one hand, bend the first one over and then hold in the middle. Bend the second one over, and secure with twine. Easy, and costs nothing to make.

I’m heading indoors now to make those mince pies! I feel so much better for spending time in fresh air, and the house, garden – and me – are all ready for Christmas!

Have a wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas. Try to make some time to “escape” to the garden, when you can.

Karen