Category Archives: Allotment

Community Garden UoN

It’s been ages since I’ve given you an update on what’s happening in the garden. Many plans are afoot, we’ve been rebranded as the University of Nottingham Community Garden, I’ve been writing funding grants with other garden leaders, we’re doing epic battle with slugs (I don’t understand slugs), our courgette plants have grown their last courgettes (ridiculous production capabilities those), and we’ve got onions and garlic in the ground for the winter. This week we made an insect house and we’re planning some Christmas themed festivities too. Here’s what it looks like at the moment.

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As you can see we’ve entered ski jacket and wellington boot gardening weather. But on clear days, it’s not too bad. And our leeks are coming along slowly.

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Our kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts on the other hand, seem to be a festive celebration of fantasticalness for the slugs. I don’t think there’s any coming back from the destruction.

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The autumn colours are amazing.

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Things look a bit muddy and forlorn but they are actually growing.

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And our insect house is up! Hopefully we’ll have some fascinating bugs move in.

Strawberry Jam (with Redcurrants)

I recently moved flats for the fourth time in two years. The new flat is much bigger, there is an actual bedroom and a balcony (on which I now have two lavender plants growing). But the kitchen is smaller and dysfunctional. It’s obviously not meant for someone who needs work space. But it’s okay. I can’t get the one cupboard to close because the frying pan is too big and there isn’t anywhere else to put it (or all the other things like bowls and cake tins I’ve accumulated) but I am taking deep breaths and ignoring it. I broke in the new oven with a cinnamon buttermilk cake and some strawberry jam.

Fourth Flat Kitchen

The new kitchen. At least the sink is a decent size.

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We had a glut of redcurrants on the allotment this summer. No one was entirely sure what to do with them but I had an idea you could put them into jam. I did some scouting on the internet (because none of my books had a recipe that was useful) and between Poires au ChocolatThe Guardian Word of Mouth Blog, and Darina Allen, I worked out a recipe. In the end I just used the redcurrant juice, smashing the redcurrants through a sieve. It seemed a good enough way to use them up. The jam is wonderful, strawberry and sweet, invoking the smell of high summer.

Strawberry Jam (with Redcurrants)

1.4kg strawberries

100ml redcurrant juice

1.1kg sugar (I used 3/4 granulated and 1/4 golden caster)

1 lemon

1 1/2 sachets pectin*

Place some side plates into a freezer. Wash and rinse 9 340g jam jars and their lids. (I save all the honey jars for this. And my jar sizes ranged from 300g to 450g so 9 is a guesstimate.) Place on an oven tray and sterilise in the oven (oven at about 100C). They can remain in the oven til you need to use them.

Wash and hull the strawberries. I cut the larger ones into quarters and the smaller ones into halves. (I prefer smaller pieces of strawberry in my jam – if you like bigger pieces leave some of the smaller ones whole.)

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Smash the redcurrants through a sieve into a bowl. Reserve the juice, compost the skins and seeds.

Place the strawberries in a large jam pot and smash them slightly with a potato masher – leave some whole and some smashed. Then add in the redcurrant juice, sugars, pectin and juice of the lemon.

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Bring to a rolling boil and boil until it reaches 104C – jam stage on a sugar thermometer. This can take anywhere from 5 until 15 minutes. Skim some of the scum off the top. Then place some onto a frozen plate and return to the freezer for a few minutes. Move your one finger along the jam on the plate – if it crinkles slightly and doesn’t run excessively it is done.

Spoon into sterilised jars whilst still warm, using a funnel to keep the jars clean. Seal with wax paper circles and lids. Eat on toast, crumpets, pancakes or in yoghurt.

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*I only used the pectin sachets because I couldn’t find jam sugar anywhere. Feel free to use jam sugar and no extra pectin.

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The new view from my flat.


I know I haven’t been writing or baking much recently. First it was too hot and then I hit a work frenzy that has only recently dissipated slightly. I may have had a theoretical break-through but I’m still working on it. And on Friday I get to go to Edinburgh for 2 weeks of festival-ing, relaxing and eating. So I haven’t been doing much and have only been maintaining the garden and harvesting courgettes, because there are loads and they’re massive. So here are some photographs of what’s growing so far. The summer has been super helpful but I’m still slightly amazed that anything has grown at all! More soon.

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