Tuesday 7 August 2012

Reggae Veggie Jalfrezi

We are collecting 'one pot' recipes that are easily prepared on a single burner camp stove or pot over a fire, preferably on a 'camping budget' -  admittedly a wide-ish target.  Please feel free to submit recipes in comments and we will collate them with a view to publishing a handy booklet for campers.

So let's chase the rain away with some spicy culinary shenanigans:  Without further ado here is my squealicious 'Reggae Veggie Jalfrezi.  Tested 3 times and all diners/campers are reported to have survived, albeit with silly grins on their faces. Why reggae?  Because it's pretty much yellow, red and green!  Curry purists beware...

Ingredients (serves 4)

Chopped onions (x 2 big-uns)
Dried green lentils x two cups
Tomato puree x two tbsp
1 x tin tomatoes
Family pack of closed cup mushrooms (chopped)
Garlic x 5 cloves (chopped small) or two big tsps of garlic powder/granules
Fresh ginger x 1/2 inch (or one level teaspoon ginger powder)
1 x Level tbsp of jalfrezi curry powder ( I used Morrisons own)
1 x tsp cumin powder
1 x Yellow and 1 x red pepper (diced or sliced)
2 x tbsp of oil or butter
Salt and black pepper to taste.
2 x bay leaves (not essential)
3 x cups of rice if required (cooked separately)

OK, here's the method, follow closely:

1. Heat oil or butter  until hot.  Tun down heat to simmer and add onions, stirring vigorously.  Stir occasionally to stop sticking.  For 25-30 mins.  Yes really that long,, until they go all soft and caramelised, not brown but golden.  Add bay leaves half way through if you have them.

2. Now add the cumin and jalfrezi spices and stir for half a minute.

3. Add the garlic, ginger, dried lentils, tin of tomatoes and the tomato puree and stir well.

4. Cook on low heat for 20 mins then add mushrooms and chopped peppers

5. Cook for further 20 mins until lentils are good texture and peppers are soft.  Stir occasionally and add salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Serve with rice or add rice into same pot for last twenty minutes along with a cup of water and cook until done.

Maybe dollop some low fat natural yoghurt on top and enjoy with your favourite person/beverage under the stars (or canvas!)  Send in those recipes!

Friday 20 July 2012


I don't do depression… I’ve never asked the doc for happy pills… and I’ve never wanted to spend the
day with the curtains drawn… BUT THERE IS A LIMIT, and I think the British weather this summer may be it!!!  

I now I understand why my friends called their baby NOAH, they clearly foresaw something the rest of us did not.

So yes, my veg and fruit have survived in their raised beds but the spinach "bolted" before 
you could say Popeye, the peas were full of Eastern Promise (otherwise known as a
damp squib)  and if I catch that blackbird snacking on my precious strawberries once more,
it won't be juice dribbling down his fine feathers!

And breathe… Hello everybody, how are you? I’ve had my rant so I'll now focus on the divine area where the weather that God has graciously bestowed on England this summer is unable to penetrate: The Polytunnel.

I’m convinced that the autumn is going to be filled with long sun soaked afternoons and warm lazy evenings… oh no, you can't keep me down for long.
So in the spirit of optimism and moving on, although the tomatoes are still green they are alive, and I have decided to replant, just in case. Agreed, the only thing I can plant out right now is RICE but all my little tomato beauties will be ready when the cloud breaks (notice I used the singular there, it is only one, joined-up enormous, all-covering, grey, drizzly  blanket) NO, NO, mustn't dwell…

Another success story, (sorry cross out another) is the herbs. Thank you Lord. It has to be said that the perfume and taste really raises the spirit. Of course a couple of glasses of Vin Rouge would probably have a similar result but thankfully the pollytunnel allows the effect from the herbs to last a little longer. I am trying to convince myself that my fine herb patch is gardening in miniature. Screw up your eyes and the parsley becomes hydrangea, tarragon turns to willow, thyme transforms into honeysuckle and basil… a palm tree?!

Yep, not depressed-----just absolutely 101% totally mad.

Must go, the oven is the only place for my head… Dam, only got a microwave J I will have to make do with cooking myself some herbilicious microwaved concoction.


ps. I wrote this blog yesterday when the wind was howling and the rain was beating down. Amazingly the weather is beautiful now and the BBC says that it will be for a while. I have therefore added photos from today, full of sunshine and joy

Sunday 1 July 2012

So as the mad rush of spring and everything that comes with it draws to and end, I thought I'd take a look back over April, May and June. Spring at Cerenety gets all the animals a little frisky. We have mating alpacas, rowdy rabbits and horny hens,... we have ewes giving birth, orphan lambs to bottle feed, baby rabbits popping out here there and everywhere, rescue baby crows and goats with false pregnancies. Whoever said living in the countryside was an education certainly got it right!

So how did we do? Well I'll start from the very beginning: 

We're hoping that our visiting male stud alpaca, Adam lived up to his name and our 2 females are currently with child (or with alpaca). Attempting to wrestle Adam back into the van after he had 'done the deed' is an experience I'll never forget. Thanks to our big, strong volunteer Daren, we managed to 'tame the beast' and get him home. The gestation period of alpacas is 11 months, so we're hoping that they'll be due sometime around March 2013.

The rabbits and chickens don't take so long, they start in spring and give birth in spring, so we currently have tiny baby rabbits and a host of chicks. Somehow one of the eggs managed to roll underneath our sitting duck, who was extremely confused when a chicken hatched out from underneath her. We are therefore rearing 'Chuck' (an ingenious name thought up by my aunt combining chick and duck!) in a slipper in the house. She/He is doing very well, if a little baffled by it's parentage.

Our own lambs that were born on site are doing fabulously. Their mums Mini and Nancy, which were our first orphans from 4 years ago, are brilliant. Farmers often take the smallest lamb away if a ewe has triplets but we were able to leave Mini with all of hers as she has lots of milk and has looked after them extremely well.

Our orphan lambs finally seem strong and healthy now. Unfortunately we had some fatalities which always happens when you're raising orphans, however we have also had some miracles. Over the last few months Lambzilla has suffered from eye infections, joint infections and parasites, but with some medication, much work and A LOT of love and attention from everyone here at Cerenety, he seems to have come through the worst of it and is now running around the field, bleating pitifully at all passing campers in order to get cuddles. We also have Dotty, Heatie, Cleo and Tommy, all of which have now been weened and are strong and healthy.

Finally our goats, Gertie and Daisy suddenly started fighting one day last week, which was very odd as they are usually joined at the hip. We discovered that Gertie was having a false pregnancy. We therefore decided to get a Billy goat to cover both our females, giving us kids next spring and more importantly a never ending supply of warm frothy milk. So yesterday we went to Holsworthy to pick up a 3 month old billy goat. We have named him Willy the Billy, and he's very happily munching hay in one of the stables as I type.

So... after the craziness of spring, I'm ready for what the summer will bring. Ponies to train, sheep to shear and Flipper to play with. The fun never stops!


Saturday 23 June 2012

The Fruit and Veg Have Arrived

After long weeks working knee deep in mud and under the torrential rain of the winter, creating a new and improved vegetable patch, it's all starting to come together now that summer is on the way. We've (well my aunt) has planted copious amounts of fruit and veg, a huge strawberry patch and a nursery of plants and young trees. Everything is now blossoming, fruiting and lots of it is ready to eat.

Peas, spinach, lettuce, herbs, garlic, onions and (my favorite) strawberries are coming up by the dozen. I've stopped bothering cooking for breakfast and lunch and taken to just sitting in the vegetable patch and munching on anything that looks remotely edible.

Now I'm looking forward to beef and cherry tomatoes, courgettes, asparagus and a hole host of 'surprise veg' that Dida has forgotten she planted.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Borage the Companion Herb

At the beginning of the year, we have a meeting and I'm told what I am allowed to plant in my veggie patch.
Then I go and  order exactly what takes my fancy!!  and once I "hit" the herb catalogue I am transported from the cold February reality to warm, fuzzy days of summer, when the aromas of basil and coriander make it a pleasure to
to get out the biggest pasta pot and invite everyone over.

As  you can tell, the catalogue is my downfall!  I am now wondering what made me want to plant... Borage for instance. What magic was it that the seed supplier used, for me to tick the "buy" box ?? Well, with the help of good old google now I remember.......Are you sitting comfortably ?  Then I'll begin:

Think of Pimms, Iced Tea, Summer soups or salads topped with tasty dressings. Borage leaves enhance
all these and the perfect blue flower, frozen into the drinks ice cubes give a soft honey flavour.

Of course I need all the help I can get to convince the "Doubting Thomases" here, that the spinach, peas, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc etc. were worth planting and the dear little Borage accompanying them as nurse and companion will help. And this is why I've popped them in between everything else and hope they have a good bedside manner.

As a medicinal herb, the benefit list is long and varied, used to help with problems from coughs and colds, to menopause and much more. 

So, money well spent, this little star is a gift from the Gods and now I can sound like a "know it all" if anyone asks me about it... I just won't tell them, that really I simply fell in love with a picture of perfect blue flowers and imagined it's head nodding at me from  my garden. Oh joy !

Didaweeder X

ps. Thank you so much to our volunteers Steve and Marie who went out and bought me the Colin's Book of Herbs whilst I was scratching my head trying to remember what on earth Borage was!

Wednesday 9 May 2012


I was racing to get the veggies on the go and the bedding plants all ready for the May Bank Holiday visitors, then the forecasters let us down again, predicting heavy rain for the whole weekend, when in fact we had mostly sunshine until Monday afternoon, which was when most people were homeward bound.

This year, along with the flowers and herbs for sale, I have young trees that I'm hoping people will take
home as a memento of Cerenety... I have to admit you'd be hard pushed to find a Christmas fairy small 
enough for these little fella's but they've got "high hopes".

Well, must go, the tomatoes need watering,
hope to see you soon, whilst the blossom is still out.
Dida the Digger. 

Wednesday 18 April 2012

New Lambs at Cerenety.

We are currently rushed off our feed with orphan lambs and lambing ewes, so this is going to be a picture heavy blog, as we're bottle feeding in 5 minutes.

Our orphan lambs from 4 years ago have now become fully fledged sheep and are 2 ewes, Mini and Nancy were put to the ram about 5 months ago.

Mini had triplets last week and Nancy had twins 3 days ago. Everything is going very well with the lambs, they are healthy and happy.

We also have 7 orphan lambs, all properly named by friends and campers: Rosy, Dot, Cleo, Heatie, Arthur, Tommy and Lambzilla. Despite some illness due to the fragility of lambs without their mums, they're are currently doing ok.

Friday 30 March 2012

Wildlife Pond Maintenance

So, what you don’t think about when you’re bright eyed and full of ecological possibilities, planning your grand dreams of a perfect wild life pond with flowers and reeds, is the fact that one day, in the fairly near future, that wild life pond will have to be maintained.
Given the nature of a wild life pond, this involves getting very wet, very dirty and very cold! Reeds must be pulled and excess weeds must be taken out. While everyone else finds it hilarious to watch a wetsuit clad girl floating around in a large pond for 2 hours in March, it’s not quite so fun for the person who can no longer feel their feet.

In all seriousness though, eutrophication can be a big problem for lakes and ponds, especially those on agricultural land. This is when nutrients from the ground, such as fertiliser, leaches into the pond creating a brilliant environment for plants and algae. Unfortunately when this algae decomposes, the bacteria take the oxygen out of the water, eventually killing much of the wildlife in the pond. For this reason, some plants and algae must be regularly removed from a pond like ours which focuses on filtration.

So, like it or not, I will be bobbing around in my wetsuit amongst the newts and frog spawn for months to come. I may not enjoy it, but I’m told the neighbours are building a viewing platform.

For more information on how to manage your wildlife pond, see the RSPB website.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Rescue Battery Chickens

The ban on battery chicken farming was enforced on January 1st 2012. The EU passed the ban in 1999, giving farmers 12 years to change technique and equipment before the legislation was enforced. Since then the Holsworthy farmer's market has been flooded with bald, scabby looking chickens with big hearts and even bigger egg laying abilities.

The staff at Cerenety may have happened upon some of these chickens last Thursday and couldn't resist their wilting crests and sad eyes. We have therefore ended up with 6 ex battery hens at Cerenety, and they're doing great! 

Letting them out into our big enclosure for the first time was amazing, they ran around in the sunshine, rolled around in the dried dirt and didn't back down from the aggressive stares of our existing (and much superior looking) chickens. These are small chickens with big characters and it feels great to have given them a home at Cerenety. We're hoping that within a couple of months their feathers will have grown and they'll be looking just like all the others. 

Bringing these hens home, was not however, merely an act of extreme altruism on the part of Cerenety. These fabulous little creatures frequently and consistently lay some of the largest and tastiest eggs out there and there's nothing like a fresh egg sandwich, eaten outside on a sunny afternoon.

Check out the British Hen Welfare Trust for more information and how you could help the plight of the unwanted chicken.

Friday 23 March 2012

Kelly kettle - quick review

So Jake kindly offered to root out her old Kelly Kettle for me to use. I'd only ever experienced one of these in passing, courtesy of nutty Nigel who has been known to show up at our midsummer solstice picnic with this mysterious alloy cylinder, shoves some grass and twigs in, lights them - then proceeds to pour a smug cuppa all on his lonesome while we philistines shiver in the advancing evening chill.

So what the hoots is a Kelly Kettle? Well, it looks like some kind of mini milk churn with two holes in the top and a hollow base.

One of the holes in the top (for filling/pouring) has a big cork in it, attached to a chain. I lose things all the time, so the chain is a very welcome feature. On closer inspection the bottle itself is kind of 'double-walled', the other hole at the top serving as a chimney/fuel port.  The alloy pan that you can see in the foregound (it's not rusty, just powdered from other rust in storage) is the ' fire base'.  Kelly Kettle's blurb states: Works with any fuel: sticks, dry grass, bark, pine cones, even dry animal dung! Awesome! I just happen to have more dry grass than I know what to do with...and some twigs. So without further ado - let's hopefully make some water boil without gas, electric or any sweat. First off I REMOVE THE CORK STOPPER as kindly warned. Boiling water in a sealed container will explode. Always remove the stopper BEFORE applying heat

Now I fill with water.  Then I load the fire base with dried grass. Packed in, not too tightly. We're going with a match, I'm sure those who are practiced with a fire stick would have no trouble setting it going. But I have a match - and (as yet) no fire stick, so onwards... :)

The grass blazes so I add some twigs, hoping that they will catch as I place the Kettle on top of the fire base.

Ok it's gone out.  Bah.  It now starts speckling with rain. Removing the kettle to try again - I'm feeling less confident.
Then I figured that I could drop a whole load more twigs into the chimney of the kettle once the tinder was alight. Hmmm...should've spotted that sooner. I think Jake actually told me about this, but hey ho...

So I wait, about a minute - and, what's that? Wait...yes... we have a bijou blaze going on down in there! I load a few more twigs in the top and the rain is coming down now. The internal fire continues unabated for another few minutes, and water starts bubbling and then literally geyser-ing in great spurts out of the top. OK, so I overfilled it a tad, but now we have hot water. I remove the kettle carefully and rest it on the wet grass.

After fetching a mug it becomes clear that there is only one (swinging) handle on the kettle and I certainly do not wish to steady a scalding hot kettle with a bare hand - so the trick here (I found) is to just tip/push the kettle forward on it's own base, using one hand on the handle, taking care to first position the mug in an optimal position to receive the water.

Verdict? I love it. Over 1.5 litres of boiling water in 5 mins, from a few twigs and some dry grass.  I make instant hot chocolate, taking care to extend the little finger while supping.  Result? One steaming mug of hot chocolate. Hear that, nutty Nigel?  Next time I'm inviting friends and sharing the love.


Upton Beach

It being such an amazingly beautiful day yesterday, I felt the need to finish work early and head to our nearest beach. Upton beach is one of my favourite beaches in the world and is an 8 minute walk down a country lane from Cerenety (according to google maps, I didn't time myself... honest!)
Fairly secret from the masses, you rarely find anyone else there, even in the height of summer. You have to know how to find it, but as soon as you spot the small gap in the cliff,  which marks the path down, you'll love it! 

When the tide is out its a sandy haven with oodles of rock pools and interesting marine life. When the tide is in, its a rocky and dramatic cove where you could imagine anything from smugglers to pirates!
Obviously we took Flipper down for a swim in the sea, climbed a few rocks and had a hot toddy while the sun went down.
It really is a fabulous place and we thought we'd share it with our campers, in the hope that you'll find it when you visit (but keep it to yourselves!)