Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Mancunian take on Foodie Penpals

Ms Tagalong tried not to get her hopes up too high this month. The non-arrival of August's Foodie Penpals parcel made her so sad!

But with impeccable timing for Halloween the parcel from the lovely Kim in Manchester arrived bursting with sweeties!

Sweeties? 'Mmm, not food but just as good,' said Mr Ideasman as he watched Ms Tagalong decant the Halloween jelly beans into a bowl.

Kim said they are very good beans, no artificial flavourings, no additives and Ms T is determined to eat them before any little ghoulies or witches turn up on the doorstep demanding treats.

Kim also sent some of her favourite large smartie type sweeties called vice versas. No colours here just chocolate and more chocolate! The package included some black pepper ramen crackers and a pack of herby snack biscuits of Mediterranean origin. Variety being the theme of her pack she also sent a tin of Polish chicken pate!

A pack of On the go trail mix will pop into Ms Tagalong's pocket the next time she goes off investigating some garden or the other!

As Ms Tagalong's Foodie Penpals recipient is not a blogger this is a photo of what was sent her, herbs and spices from the Mediterranean plus ingredients for a Catalan Romesco sauce.

Ms Tagalong just loved tasting this Romesco sauce on her travels and so ths is a link to a recipe for it. 

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Mersley Farm - Garlic Farm 

All good gardens should have an ample supply of garlic growing, but which variety is best? Ms Tagalong set off to find out by visiting the world famous Garlic Farm in the Isle of Wight. Tucked into the lee of surrounding hills, protected from prevailing winds and with abundant spring water the farm buildings come into view as you drive up Mersley Lane.

Man has lived on this site for at least 6,000 years but there seems no proof that garlic has been grown here for that long!

In fact garlic was brought to the island for homesick French soldiers during the last war and as garlic is now a staple for most kitchens its popularity is timely.

For thirty years the Boswell family has scoured the world for the best varieties and strains to grow here. They supply over 15 types brought from as far as Kazakhstan and Central Asia. 

You probably don't need so many in your community garden! Ms Tagalong and friends walked around the farm with nary a field of garlic in sight. Apparently their rotation requirements need the farm to use other farmer's land for their crops.

Moldovian garlic is great for bread, elephant garlic great for baking and Chesnok Wight a very fiery one to be used with care. 

Trying the different garlic products in the education centre was a highlight which Mr Ideasman deemed necessary to repeat after the walk! Vampire pickles, mayonnaises, mustards and relishes were all on sale in the well-stocked shop where Flavia was serving for her fourth year. Not a local, she comes from Shropshire every year with her parents for her summer holiday and spends it working in the cafe. A secret teenage garlic lover who has read too much Twilight?

Ms Tagalong bought a few varieties to sample but sadly can't bring them back to Australia. That might be good for the alliophobics amongst you! (people with an irrational fear of garlic)

Garlic facts you might not know, (courtesy of Mersley Farm)

  1. Gardeners can use a spray of crushed garlic in water to combat aphids, whitefly, spiders and other pests.
  2. Folklore has it that carrying a garlic clove with you when travelling over water will prevent you from drowning. (Ms Tagalong wished she knew that before she got on the Isle of Wight ferry!)
  3. Fifteen pounds (about 7kg) of garlic would buy a healthy male slave. Now that's interesting! Oh, this was in the reign of King Tutankhamun of Egypt, all those years ago.
It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What to do with 1,221 random wooden objects!

No gardens in this one but a lot of recycled wood! Mr Ideasman, as you may know, is happy to be working with, viewing, touching, planing, varnishing or even just sanding wood, so the boat sat on the dock in Weymouth drew him like a magnet to its shiny surface. Forget Olympic sailing for a moment or two, let him find out about this boat.

He spoke to Don Manson, one of the builders of the boat. He, like Mr Ideasman, was running his hands over the bow, touching the outlines of numerous objects used for their wood.

‘They’re not just random pieces,’ he said, ‘ for instance this hairbrush here was donated by someone who used it to brush the hair of stars at Elstree Studios.’

Every piece has a story. Don showed Ms Tagalong his donation, a clothes peg, its outline clear amongst the hockey sticks and tennis rackets. Even the sawdust was saved and made into bookmarks. Ms Tagalong’s bookmark states that it is made of the Victory, a shelfing unit from Ikea, boxwood planted in 1166, the floor of a Royal palace amongst a wonderful collection of 1,221 pieces indeed.

This unique idea dreamt up by two artists over ten years ago received Arts Council funding and it was even part of the UK’s bid for the Olympics, so where better for it to be displayed than at the Olympic sailing venue.

The boat which took over 18 months to be built by four professional boat builders and teams of volunteers actually sails, although Don hastened to add that it was not a racer!

So with that Mr Ideasman pushed Ms Tagalong along the quay to see some real racing!

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chocolate and beetroot?

Never one to miss an opportunity Ms Tagalong visited a vegetable garden high on the White Cliffs of Dover.   She and Mr Ideasman were whiling away a few hours before their ferry to foreign climes, spending time in the National Trust cafe at the cliff viewpoint and walks located directly above the port.

Queuing up, a notice proclaimed that the chocolate and beetroot cake used beetroot from the garden and garlic also for the garlic mushrooms on toast, both specialities of theirs.

Vegetable slice with salad and chicken and bacon salad though were the order of the day for these two garden adventurers.

Lorna, behind the counter, gave directions and Mr Ideasman trotted dutifully behind Ms T up the hill towards the National Trust offices. If truth be known, Mr Ideasman helped pull Ms T up the steep path! Two men on ladders painting looked confused as the intrepid duo poked their heads over the top of the fence searching out the luscious beetroot.

Once spied and duly photographed, Ms T hotfooted it back (easier down than up!) to acquire the recipe for that fantastic cake.

'Oh, the chef has gone home', said Lorna.

'Yes he has but it's all online now,' said a young kitchenhand.

So if you are wondering how to make this with those lovely beets from the garden, here is the link:
Montacute House Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

Ms Tagalong wanted an excuse to visit Montacute House!

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.