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A novice's guide to producing his own food

Making a meal of it

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It seems that the hard work at the allotment is finally over. It’s now becoming apparent that the busy period is April, May, June when the beds are turned over, seedlings planted, and the weeds brought under control. 

Cone July and August, and suddenly you find yourself with fewer “must do” jobs. But, better still, you reap what you sow.  Our last few visits to the allotment have been spend primarily harvesting. Some crops (such as peas) seem to ripen all at once, then die out a week or so. Others (such as strawberries and courgettes) produce  a few fruit or veg every week over a spell of months. 

But either way, you’ll suddenly find yourself with quite a lot of produce. What do you do with it all? Well, to be honest, we haven’t grown so much that we’ve had to give it away, but we have put together a few cracking meals. 

My favourite was when the peas were finally harvested. It was a Sunday morning, and Janek and I had brought home a basket full of strawberries, peas, potatoes, courgettes and the last of the onions. We had expected a good crop  so I told Sue the day before I would like a meal which as much of the veg as possible. 

Apart from the beef and the Yorkshire pudding, the rest was from the allotment

Apart from the beef and the Yorkshire pudding, the rest was from the allotment

 

We decided on a roast beef, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, peas and courgettes in tomato sauce. I say “courgettes in tomato sauce” rather than “ratatouille” because we didn’t have any aubergines, but otherwise the recipe is the same – onions, courgettes, tinned tomatoes, seasoning – and cook for 10 minutes. My mother used to make ratatouille, but like every one of that era she cooked it to buggery, so it was just a mush. It’s much better to keep it brief, and that way the texture is firmer, and the veg tastes fresher. 

We’d picked what we thought was a mountain of peas, but it was just a about enough to feed the six of us. As for the spuds, they were very floury, so we decided to mash then. 

Sue had cooked the beef perfectly, and the whole meal was sublime. It’s difficult to put your finger of why it was so good. Was it simply because I knew I was eating what I had grown? Or did the veg taste genuinely better? I can’t say for sure, and perhaps it doesn’t really matter, but it was meal every member of the family enjoyed tremendously (including by those who couldn’t give a damn about the allotment), so it was a great success. 

On at least one level, I think all the kids did appreciate that this was a special occasion. Halfway through the meal, I looked up and saw five other faces tucking into food Janek and I had grown, and I felt proud. I felt like the man of the house in a way I’d never felt before. Stupid, isn’t it?

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