Monday, 16 March 2009

OK - well, I had better introduce myself. I am the Allotment Widow. At least that is my blogger name. Its not quite accurate though in that we have actually only had the allotment about a week and in fact my partner, the Head Gardner, has only actually been on it once for any length of time. The point is that I imagine myself to be an allotment widow at some point in the not-too-distant future apart from the fact that I will be keeping this blog and photographing everything. That, and the fact that my Octogenarian Mother actually owns the allotment.

So, I hear you ask, how did this come about?

Let me take you back about ten years to when I met the Head Gardner through doing improvised comedy in Belfast (I kid you not).

Fast forward to sometime later a to a house where the Head Gardner reigns supreme over a few pots of herbs in the otherwise barren landscape of a mean street behind the Ormeau Bakery.....

and then to leafy south Belfast with a huge back garden

And then to Holywood with a tiny one and a three legged cat called "Gilbert" and his much neglected brother George who is much more sensible and thus still has four legs. That my friends, is another story. for another time.

In this house in Holywood with the postage stamp sized back garden The Head Gardner has four plots, two fig trees, a grape vine, a pear tree (with partridge - well it was a christmas present) and a shed which has been "converted" into a green house with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, courgettes, need I go on?

In short, The Head Gardner has always been a closet allotment holder. Until now. North Down Borough Council (BAH HUMBUG) have significantly failed to help him out of the closet for several reasons:
1. They are trying to sell the land formerly known as the holywood allotments off for a profit so they can build stadium lights behind our house (so sue me)
2. The allotments in Bangor require a considerable drive and someone to die before you can get one.

Enter my Octogenarian Mother, who, while loving the idea of growing your own, is to gardening what Attila the hun was to race relations. Plants tend not to live in her house. I feel I should add here in case, dear reader, you think I am using or neglecting a person of the elderly persuasion, my mother is fitter than I (granted not hard), walks miles every day and swims 60 - 80 lengths of the pool three or four times a week. She is working up to a length for every year.

She is also annoyingly successful in competitions. Last year we came home from a trip to Canada (I told you she was fit) to find that she had won an allotment with Ards Allotments! YAY!!!!!

Last week we got our keys sorted out. Yesterday we had our first day on the allotment.

I feel I should say that I am a complete novice at this growing gear lark. At one point I offered to help and the Head Gardner said,
" Well, you could hoe that bed then" and handed me a hoe.
I said, "You are going to have to show me what to do"
"Yes - you just hoe that bed"
"But how?"
"With the hoe"
Eventually I had to say,
"You are going to have to show me how to use the hoe". Between the three of us
we got two beds dug and planted red onions, borlottis, garlic and leeks.

My Octogenarian Mother has very kindly offered to buy us half a shed each for our birthdays, both of which are in March this year. Well most years. Fortunately this adds up to one shed.

So this will be where the Head Gardner will spend every available waking hour. I suggested he might like to put up a calendar entitled something like "Sheds and Girls" but thankfully this title doesn't exist. I am sure we could find something.

Maurice the helpful farmer and landowner has said that there will be a diary competition for next year so that would mean that we could be in with a chance of winning our allotment again for another year. He has given me a spreadsheet with the following questions so I feel I should answer them in true Bridget Jones style:

Hours spent - 4 1/2
Activities; Lots of digging and swearing (especially the Head Gardener)
two beds dug
garlic borlotti leeks and onions planted.
cost of seeds - nil except they came from a gardening magazine which cost almost £8.
value of produce - not a lot just yet

So to today's recipe:

We made initial contact with our "allotment neighbours" and one gave us some leeks so we were even able to cook our first "allotment dinner" with it later on last night. I would really love to say that The Head Gardener grows everything and that I cook it but that unfortunately would be a lie! We both cook but we both have certain things that we do and this is one of his:

Zeytinyagli Pirasa or "Leeks in Olive Oil" to those who don't speak Turkish.

Ingredients (serves 4 -6):
2lbs leeks
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 small Spanish onion finely chopped
2 carrots sliced
1/2 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup finely chopped italian parsley
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Trim leeks and remove outer leaves
slice leeks one inch thick length wise and wash thoroughly.
Slice leeks into 1/2 inch wide slices and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
Cook onion until soft but not brown
Add the leeks, carrots, rice, parsely, sugar and lemon juice.
Season with salt and stir.
Pour in 2 cups of hot water, cover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes.
Place in serving dish and refrigerate for one hour before serving.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

I do have a picture of it but unfortunately it is still in my camera and it is now very late and if thie post goes on any longer it is likely to give War and Peace a run for its money so I will sign off now.

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