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Freeze mint ready for mint sauce

Freezing mint ready to make mint sauce later in the year.

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There’s nothing like fresh mint sauce, made with freshly chopped mint – and freshly frozen mint is almost as good.  If your mint bed is is thriving, now is a good time to pick some and freeze it.  Just chop it and seal it in plastic bags.  You can do the same with parsley ready for parsley sauce.  I also freeze small quantities of basil, oregano, marjoram, coriander and tarragon for adding to meals like spaghetti bolognese and curries.

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I have two varieties of mint in my garden, apple mint (on the left) and peppermint (on the right).

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I find apple mint is the best variety to add to early potatoes to get that ‘new potato taste’ and to make mint sauce.  Peppermint leaves are delicious with Pimms, mixed with lemonade, lemon slices, cucumber slices, strawberries and ice.

To make mint sauce:

Mix together in a jug:
1 tblsp chopped mint leaves (fresh or frozen)
1 tblsp malt vinegar
hot water (ideally cabbage water)
1 tsp sugar

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Special Sausage Rolls

Special Sausage Rolls and Sausage Plait

These sausage rolls are really tasty and not peppery. You can make this recipe as traditional sausage rolls or as a sausage plait – ideal for parties.

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Ingredients:
1lb (500g) pork sausagemeat
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
4 mushrooms, finely chopped

2 tsp of dried mixed herbs or, ideally, chopped fresh herbs as follows:
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp marjoram

1lb rough puff pastry (frozen or you can make your own)
Flour for rolling out pastry
1 egg, beaten
Poppy or sesame seeds

Thoroughly mix the sausagemeat, onions, mushrooms and herbs.

Sausage Rolls
Roll out the pastry to an oblong about 5 mm thick.  Spread the sausagemeat in a long roll down the centre of the pastry.  Brush one edge of the pastry with beaten egg, fold over the pastry to form a long roll.

Cut the roll into 35mm lengths and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.  Brush the rolls with beaten egg.

Cut small slits in the pastry with scissors and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

 

Sausage Plait
Roll out the pastry to a rectangle.  Mark into thirds lengthways.  Spread sausagemeat evenly over middle third.

Cut pastry either side into strips (see photo) and fold strips alternately over sausagemeat to form a plait. Seal ends with left over strips, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake in oven 230C (220C fan oven) for 10-15 minutes until the sausagemeat is cooked (maybe a little longer for sausage plait).

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Pastry:
8 oz (250g) flour
6 oz butter or butter/lard
Water for mixing

Rub 4 oz of the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add water and mix to rolling out consistency.
Roll out pastry to a strip, mark into 3 and spread rest of fat on one third in small pats.  Fold into 3, roll out gently to a strip again and fold into 3, then roll out to the shape required.

 

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Squash, Apple and Sage Soup

Squash, Apple and Sage Soup

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Ingredients:
50 g (2 oz) butter
1 kg (2 lb) squash (or pumpkin) peeled and diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, skinned* and chopped
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 level teaspoons of sage (fresh sage** is best)
1 level teaspoon of thyme
2 pints stock (vegetable or beef – stock cubes are fine)
Black pepper

*to skin tomatoes easily simply put in a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave to stand for about a minute and the skin just rubs off.

**Sage is a perennial so it grows all year but is better picked during the summer. For ease of use I pick lots in the summer and freeze in small quanities in plastic bags, or chop it and freeze in ice cube trays. Then it’s all ready to use for sage and onion stuffing in the middle of winter.

Method:
Fry the onion in the butter gently until soft,
Add the pumpkin and stir for a few minutes,
Add the apples,
Add the tomatoes
Add the stock
Stir in the sage and thyme
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
Cool slightly, puree in a liquidiser or food processor.
Add a sprinkling of black pepper and serve.

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Spring plants that rabbits like

There are lots of spring plants that rabbits like and, fed in moderation, they are really good for them – too much green stuff can upset their digestion – but a few leaves of a few different plants  every day is fine – and they really enjoy them.

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Comfrey leaves and flowers are a favourite – not to be confused with foxglove which has the same shape leaves.  Comfrey is very easy to distinguish at this time of year as it’s in flower and foxglove is just leaves.

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Foxglove is digitalis and very poisonous so make sure you pick comfrey plants with flowers.

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Rabbits like most herbs, these are chives which have a slightly onion smell.

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Another spring weed in garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-hedge which has a mild garlic scent – rabbits like flowers and leaves – smaller plants are most tender.

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And of course the dandelion, just leaves and again in moderation – just two or three leaves a day.

I like to give each rabbit a choice of leaves and see which they eat first – they don’t all choose the same ones first.  Dandelion likes comfrey and Fiver likes chives.

Every day I get real pleasure from picking a few choice titbits and watching the rabbits enjoy eating them – the hens like some plants too, particularly the brassicas, but their favourite is always bread and they come running when they see me carrying a basket.

 

New Zealand White Rabbits

New Zealand White Rabbits

New Zealand White Rabbits

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Rabbits form an integral part of my recycling programme as they like the plants my hens and ducks do not like so I can recycle nearly all the weeds in my vegetable garden and the peelings (eg apple) and trimmings (eg spring onion tops). Also any surplus vegetables provide food – my hens love courgettes – and marrows if I’ve missed one! And the ducks and hens love slugs and snails – and caterpillars and other insects that damage my plants.

Every day I get real pleasure from digging up some choice titbits for the hens, ducks and rabbits and watching them enjoy them along with their regular food.

Food plants that rabbits like: * feed in moderation
*Apple – whole fruit, peelings,
Twigs and leaves of most fruit trees including hawthorn
Borage – young leaves and flowers
*Brassicas – broccoli, sprouts, cabbage,cauliflower, kale – feed sparingly to avoid urinary problems
Carrot tops and thinnings (contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not keen on carrot roots but they do love carrot tops)
*Celery
Chickweed (although I find hens prefer this – particularly chicks – hence the name!)
Chives
Clover (they love Clover)
Coltsfoot
Comfrey
*Dandelion
Grass
*Groundsel
Jerusalem Artichoke
Kohl Rabi
Leek
*Lettuce
Marsh mallow
*Nasturtiums
*Parsnip tops
*Parsley (useful tonic)
Plantain – young leaves only – avoid roots and seeds
Raspberry – young leaves – good for pregnant does (as we humans have raspberry tea when birth is imminent!)
Salad burnet
Sage – young leaves useful for digestive upsets – in moderation
Shepherd’s purse – also useful for digestive upsets – ad lib
*Sorrel
*Spring onion and onion – green tops
Sow thistle (not common or creeping thistle)
*Spinach thinnings or young leaves
*Strawberry – young leaves