Category Archives: frugal

Black, Glossy and Less Portable than an iPhone – My Latest Love

OK, ok, it’s not an iPad but it is solar water heating and it works.  The Greener Fram group created a bulk purchase arrangement with East Green Energy, based in Kelsale.  Our house is reasonably well positioned to take advantage of the sun, but with a few niggles.  We have enormous oak trees which over shadow the house, cutting them down would not be an option but we will be doing some work to harvest a few branches for firewood and increase the light into the garden generally.  At least oak trees open later in the year than most.  We are not fully south-facing; however the early morning sun is able to hit the tubes over the top of next door’s roof, so actually this seems a slight advantage.  Even this damp, overcast early morning there is already 20 degrees being created within the collector.  My latest obsession is checking the monitoring panel where you can read the roof, top of tank and bottom of tank temperatures, we have hit over 50 degrees in strong sun. We did have a new hot water tank fitted, with three heat sources the solar, immersion and a feed from the back boiler in the winter months; putting the harvested branches to good use later.

East Green were a great company to work with, relaxed and a parting comment of  ‘any problems at all, or if there is anything you need to know or don’t understand just get in touch; any time’.  There’s not much more you could want really, is there.

East Green are at the Suffolk Show today and tomorrow –

Greenest County Stand number 682, on Flower Show Avenue,

Pop in and say hello to Robbie

And try this Spotify Playlist to create some sunshine in your life


#Suffolkdiet – Road kill rolls and Heston vs Delia Desert – Earth Day

We have a little tradition round here, a group of friends take it in turns to host a supper when it is one of the group’s big ‘O’ birthday.  This was my chance; ever one to set myself a challenge, I decided to try to source all the ingredients from Suffolk.  This is how the meal went, there is a Spotify playlist to go with the post; it was Earth Day too, so celebrating all good things around us seemed particularly appropriate.

The opening gambit from two of the friends when they arrived was, ‘so are we going to have road kill?’ – Little did they know.

Being fabulous people the first thing they asked was, “is there anything we can do?” – I explained that the one product I couldn’t buy locally was Suffolk butter. I poured some cream into a jam jar and asked them to shake it whilst they talked.  Passing the jar from one to another; we could eat once when we had produced butter.

Starters: Platters –  Salami and Ham from Lane Farm Brundish, Smoked Trout, Mackerel, and Salmon from Pinney’s of Orford, Green Peppercorn Dressing from Suffolk Mud, Mayonnaise from Stokes; mixed leaves from my greenhouse and Road Kill rolls made with white strong flour from Maple Farm, Kelsale.

The Lane Farm meats are dry and not overly fatty so really tasty to eat, especially with something a little spicy like a mustard or the peppercorn dressing.  The Pinney’s smoked fish is delicious.  The fish is soft and delicately smoked, not overly flavoured.  The Road Kill rolls were bread rolls shaped like flattened hedgehogs.  Kelsale flour is not bleached, so even their white flour comes up as a brownish roll, perfect for hedgehogs.  The flour has a gloriously silky feel when you work with it.  I was caught out though by using too much water in the initial mix, so much kneading on a well and frequently floured board was required to bring it back to a good consistency.  I proved the dough over night and did a secondary shaping and proving in the morning.

Another time I would make the rolls smaller, they did look rather intimidating.

Amuse-bouche:  Weed shot.  I made a soup using, Jack-by-the-hedge, cleavers (aka sticky willy), nettles, chick weed, sorrel and land cress from the garden and the lane.  I served the soup by giving everyone a shot glass and pouring the soup chilled from a White’s pear juice bottle.  Variously described as disgusting, smelling like drains and quite nice; I think it is possibly an acquired taste.  I’ll drink the rest for lunch, I guess it will have cleaned the palate if nothing else.

Venus and the Hunter’s return: The main course was a variation on coq-au-vin.  Made with chicken breast, Shawsgate Venus, onions, carrots, potatoes, a good bundle of fresh herbs as a bouquet garni and some chopped pickled walnuts (walnuts from one of the friend’s garden) stirred into the sauce.  I was trying to keep this course low fat, so didn’t thicken it with a roux and used skinless breasts, the little oil I used to soften the onions was local rape seed oil from Hillfarm.  With hindsight this may have been a mistake, the chicken came up rather dry and I wish the potatoes had a bit of a crispy edge to them.  Another time I think I would use a deep casserole, slice the potatoes and do as a layered topping.  The chicken, potatoes and carrots are all from local suppliers and bought at auction at Abbots at Campsea Ashe.  As there were already some veg in the casserole I just served it with a huge deep dish of Birds Eye peas.  Now I can’t guarantee these were from Suffolk but there is a fair to middling chance they were; but equally that they may be the last ones we see.  I have previously written about the pea harvest in this area; what I didn’t know at the time was that just before this year’s crop should have been planted, Birdseye would pull the plug and not renew the contract. Some of the farmers will have planted beans or other replacement crops, but various contractors have been laid off and had to find new work, all at very short notice.

Cheese: I served, Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue from Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, Creeting St Mary, and Shipcord, Hawkston from Rodwell Farm in Baylham near Ipswich.  Trying to avoid biscuits, I served them with spiced pickled pears that I made last year and some spiced peaches from Laxfield that I won in a WI draw.

At this point a friend that I knew was going to be late arrived.  It was agreed that she should try the weed shot before being allowed to proceed, she correctly identified nettles as an ingredient.

Heston vs Delia Desert: I am not a great lover of puddings and often pass on them preferring to tuck into cheese instead; so deserts with me are always a bit of a risk.  I gave each person a small plastic tub and a pipette.  The idea was to build your own desert taking as many (Heston) or few risks (Delia) as you like from the following list.

  • Baby meringues, eggs from garden, Aspall Balsamic Vinegar and Billington’s Sugar, at the time couldn’t find British Sugar.
  • Marybelle Creme Fraiche, Yoghurt
  • Coffee Granita made with Paddy and Scotts, Great with Friends Coffee
  • Tea Granita made with Sencha Wild Grey tea from Butterworth and Son
  • Beetroot Jelly made with ‘Beet it’ from Whites
  • Coulis – Wild Blackberry and Raspberry from Whites
  • Chocolate from Hadleigh Maid
  • Walnut Liquor made with green walnuts from friend’s garden (which is what the pipette was for)

Throughout the meal the drinks on offer were Shawsgate Baccus 2004 and a selection of juices from Whites.

The meal was finished off with a gorgeous cake that one of the friends had made, fizz from another friend and there should have been tea and coffee but I think by then I had forgotten that bit – oops.

I am hugely grateful to Eat Anglia, who when I was having problems getting the Kelsale flour called and asked them to deliver some for me especially, that’s service.

Jack-by-the-hedge and a soufflé potato

The weed eating season is officially here.  I love this time of year as it is possible to rustle up a tasty little something from things found in the garden.  Jack-by-the-hedge is a weed that will grow taller in the next few weeks.  In these early days though, the leaves taste of garlic and are soft; making easy eating.  You can add them to salads but I like to use them as I would wild garlic.

So take one jacket potato, that failed to be eaten last night, scoop out its innards and smush a little.  Shred some Jack by the hedge. Whisk up an egg white to form a light wind, plop in the yolk, lightly beaten; season.  Stir the whole lot together; yes it looks like something the cat threw up.

Drop the mix back into the potato skins and cook at 200c until baked (15ish minutes) and consume.

It helps to have some of these in your garden, then its a zero miles dish. #Suffolkdiet

Com Post – How Green are we at Christmas – Invite to the #12DCP & Harlequin invaders

Been at home today – always a mistake; too much time for reflection as the pile of tissues mounts at my side. Bit of a personal challenge this one, self audit looking at how green we are in the lead up to Christmas, as I’ve asked myself the questions I will be avoiding the difficult ones.

Miles Bit of a mix I cycle lots but with family all over the country car and train essential
Waste Trying Try to buy loose rather than pre-packed so only buy what need

Do freeze and use leftovers
Fuel consumption Trying very hard Bought an Owl which has been interesting. However one of the towel rails is firmly back on as better than mouldy towels and using the tumble dryer [and I avoid ironing]

Buy a green tariff and awaiting quote for solar water heating
Chemicals Gone very eco Tend to use ecover/simple/method and co-op ‘eco’ ranges. Also use borax, bicarb and non chlorine bleaches and washable dusters and cloths
Water Butts 3 water butts on the go but still not enough
Waste Compost crazy Shred receipts and use as chicken bedding

Bokashi bin for non meat kitchen waste

Homemade Wormery – which you can hear working!

Wet and dry compost bins

Council compost (takes ages to fill)
Cards Christmas cards Recycle into the next years cards see my SCD posts
Waste Council bins and village hall bins Glass, paper, tins – sad that we have to drive to get rid of tetra packs

Clearly I should start with fabric hankies and a copper to boil them in after use!

OK it’s not perfect; it is a fairly solid start though. To everyone on my Green & Gardens Twitter list you are invited to the #12DCP and of course anyone else who would like to join in – Twelve days of Christmas party, a virtual party, open to everyone. Call back during the 12 days for all sorts of nonsense. If you are coming, what ‘green’ thing will you bring? Also choose some music for the #12DCP playlist on Spotify – I will see if I can also blip the tracks for non-spotify users.

Spotify playlist for this post is on a different note. – Audit of harlequin ladybirds on a window frame – Thanks to @flashmaggie who made me aware of this in her post.

What to do with Green Plums?

There was the phone call; ‘a branch of our plum tree has come down can you use green plums?’ Then a bit of research on t’internet which led to some interesting sites covering India, Persia and Japan in their influences:

First and most amusing was two recipes using green plums to make mango/lime chutney like pickles.

The first hot and sour the second sweet and sour. I have tried to interpret the recipes. I may have some problems; the hot and sour one keeps developing a surface mould. The sweet one; once the sugar was added, became very liquid and appears to be ‘working’, creating slight fizzing activity. I suspect both would have been enhanced by Indian sunshine rather than English humidity. I’ll let you know if a) I am poisoned b) they explode c) I recommend repeating the process.

Second was – wow the result was SOUR. I can see how it might work,

certainly add sugar or honey but overall perhaps our English plums were just too unripe or bitter.

Third, well; I’ll have
to wait and see the liquid is currently off brown,

but clear and I did put in plenty of sugar, so give it a few more weeks and it might be worth a try.

Post script added 20th September 2009 – Just tasted the Umeshu and decanted it into a bottle.  It is now clear, the colour of weak tea and tastes fantastic!

Food Auctions– The country market

One of my indulgencies when I have time off is attending the local market at Campsea Ashe near Woodbridge, in Suffolk. When I first started attending this was a ‘proper’ auction market with cattle, pigs etc being brought in for sale. However, in recent years with the various diseases and changes in rules and regulations the majority of the livestock element has ceased. Now there is some dead stock (turkey, duck, chicken and gammon) a small amount of live poultry, some market stalls, a house clearance auction and my favourite the fruit and veg, sold by auction. Here a hardy tribe of Suffolk boys and gals, well above pensionable age auction items for a few pence to a few pounds.

There is witty banter, “who’ll give me 80p for a bunch of carrots – an’ they’re good ‘uns “

“Yuh goota be kidin Basil I ken get they in Tesco for 40p”

Of course we all know – a) you can’t b) these were pulled out of someone’s garden this morning or last night c) it’s all in the thrill of the chase. The challenge is also in snatching the definitive bargain, so people will refuse to raise the bidding above 40p if they think five minutes later they can get something for 30p. There is also the art of being the ‘under bidder’. This is the person

who helped raising the bids but stopped at the last minute. Where several lots of the same item are on sale and the winning bidder doesn’t take them all, the under bidder gets the second option. As the bids are called, small amounts of cash move from hand to hand across the hall; bags of tomatoes and bunches of carrots, gladioli and marrows weave their way from one part of the old pig stalls to another. Not all the items come from local gardens, some are the ‘run off’ from market traders who had stock left on a Sunday and don’t do a market on Monday so sack loads of over-ripe bananas can be had for a few pence too.

I made pints of tomato (40p a pound) sauce for the freezer, the carrots, cabbage, sweetcorn, cauliflower, were all used ‘as is’ during the week, the Sharron fruit (woppers 30p each) and avocadoes, kiwis were the basis for lunches and the peppers were turned into jars of roast pepper antipasti for sale, presents and home. The beetroot became part of a chocolate and beetroot cake.

Is it a bargain? – add in the travel, the cooking, the two or more hours out of your day…….. Of course it is; nothing in life is just about the money. I’ve been going here for over 20 years, some of the same faces are still there, buying and selling, ranting and bantering, I just wish I was free on a Monday more often.

Pea Gleaning

One of the joys of living in the country is the opportunity for ridiculous levels of frugality. One of my favourite activities is pea gleaning. Pea harvesting around here is done at industrial strength; visitors are surprised when at 3.00am the viners, lorries, drivers etc pitch up with their lights on and start trundling up and down the fields, because the moment is right. The peas are carted off to be processed all within minutes of picking.
So where does gleaning come in and is it worth it? Birdseye and others could argue that the peas they sell in the shops are at optimum condition and they are probably right; but the whole something for nothing, picking, shelling, blanching and freezing for yourself makes it worthwhile. After the pea team have left the field it is left looking brown and forlorn, with little sign of life. However, adjusting the eye to see the areas where peas might have been left untouched, it is possible to see tracks where plants have fallen into the grooves where tractors passed earlier in the season, or edges of the field where the harvesters can not quite reach. It is backbreaking and best done in the early morning or evening on hot days and certainly within 12 hours of the pea team leaving. The resultant haul was one large canvas bag full, four hours shelling resulted in about four and a half pounds of peas, which are now blanched and in the freezer. The pods went to the hens, they enjoy picking at them, nothing is wasted. Is it worth it; of course it is, all part of life, a bit of fun and a few cheap eats even if it is quite a lot of effort.
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