Welcome (back) Gemma!

We are delighted to welcome founder CSA member Gemma Sayers back to the farm to work to work for us for four months to kick start the busy season on the farm and, in particular, to kick-start our new cut flower enterprise!

Gemma relaxing with her knitting at lunchtime with fellow crafting member Kaz.

Gemma relaxing with her knitting at lunchtime with fellow crafting member Kaz.

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Our salad leaves star in our new video!

Have you ever wonder what is in your winter salad bag? Or wanted some ideas of what to do with them? Our new video gives you the answers!

A big thank you to CSA member Anne Gould of Working Wordz Media for creating this lovely film!

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Ultimate winter couscous, recommended by Ruth

“This recipe, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book “Plenty” ticks so many boxes – it includes much of what is in the veg boxes; it is real comfort food; and, despite appearances, is easy to make. The quantities can be halved, doubled or whatever to feed whoever is around. It is also versatile, and lends itself to amendment according to whatever herbs and spices are at hand, without suffering.”, Ruth

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 8 shallots, peeled
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp hot paprika
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • 300g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 200g chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
  • 350ml chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
  • 170g couscous or maftoul
  • large pinch of saffron threads
  • 260ml boiling vegetable stock
  • 20g butter, broken into pieces
  • 25g harissa paste
  • 25g preserved lemon skin, finely chopped
  • 30g coriander leaves
  • salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large ovenproof dish. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, ¾ teaspoon salt and all the other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite.
  4. Now add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until hot.
  5. About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for about 10 minutes.
  6. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.
  7. To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the centre of the couscous. Finish with plenty of coriander leaves.

Bon appetit!

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A new cut flower venture here at The Oak Tree!

For a couple of years now we have offered cut flowers to our members as “Flower Shares” – bunches of flowers added to the weekly veg box during the summer and autumn. We will, of course, offer these again to our members, but this year we will also be offering  bouquets  of our beautiful, low carbon flowers by post.

Most flowers sold here have been grown overseas, doused in chemicals to make them last longer and then sent over countless “flower miles” to the UK. We offer a genuinely ecological, and utterly beautiful, alternative. We use only water to keep our flowers fresh, and they are cut on the same day that they are sent to whoever is going to enjoy them!

More details to follow in the months to come, but for now some pictures of last year’s beautiful Oak Tree Flowers, along with a first glimpse of this years first flower seedlings!

Flower seedlings just appearing now!

Flower seedlings just appearing now!

 

IMG_7605

We love sunflowers!

Veg share boxes with low carbon flower shares

Veg share boxes with low carbon flower shares

Summer Flower share

Summer Flower share

Veg share boxes with optional flower shares.

Veg share boxes with optional flower shares.

A beautiful naturally grown sunflower!

A beautiful naturally grown sunflower!

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Winter salad à la Nelson

I’ve been learning a lot about how to make best use of winter veg from fellow grower Eric (Nelson). Yesterday I posted Oak Tree Pork and Winter Veg à la Nelson and today is it winter salad à la Nelson. This time Eric’s hot tip was to grate raw parsnip and add it to a salad. I find I start to crave salads at this time of year, and while our winter salad leaves are very welcome, this coleslaw type salad makes good use of the bulkier elements of the winter veg boxes…

Ingredients (*indicates from the farm)

  • Parsnips*winter_salad
  • Cabbage*
  • Carrots*
  • Dressing made of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little honey or sugar and proper sea salt
  • Onion
  • Cooked pulses (I used chickpeas)

Grate the parsnip and carrots, and chop the onion and cabbage finely. Mix with the pulses in the home made dressing. Delicious!

 

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Winter Vegetable Stir Fry, recommended by Juliet

Winter Veg Stir Fry

Stir Fry

 

This recipe, from the book “River Cottage Veg Everyday” (By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)  was kindly provided by Juliet. Thank You!

“I think this recipe makes good use of the veg box this week using carrots, parsnips and sprouts. I don’t think you need to add sugar and I have made it with broccoli instead of mushrooms. We have had it several times and added prawns tonight for the first time which also seemed to work. We have also used cooked brown rice instead of noodles which I prefer.” Juliet

Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 small parsnip, peeled
  • About 100g shitakc, chestnut or firm button mushrooms, trimmed (Note from Editor: or Broccoli, as per Juliet’s coment)
  • About 100g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 2 nests of fine, quick-cook egg noodles (about 50g) (Note from Editor: or cooked brown rice, as per Juliet’s comment)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 shallots, or 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • ½-1 medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A good pinch of sugar (Note from Editor: optional ingredient – as per Juliet’s comment)
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2tablespoons rice wine
  • ½ teaspoon Chine five-spice powder
  • A good squeeze of lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Method:

  1. Prepare the veg first: cut the carrot into thin batons and the parsnip into thin discs; finely slice the mushrooms (or cut Broccoli into florets); finely shred the Brussels sprouts.
  2. Cook the egg noodles according to the packet instructions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the sunflower oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the shallots or onion and chilli and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the carrot and parsnip and cook for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and garlic and stir-fry for a couple more minutes.
  4. Finally, add the Brussels sprouts (and broccoli if using) and cook for another couple of minutes until wilted. Season well with salt, pepper and a good pinch of sugar and scoop out of the wok.
  5. Drain the noodles. Reduce the heat under the wok and add the soy sauce, rice wine, five-spice powder and noodles. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes, then return the vegetables and toss the lot together over the heat.
  6. Heap the stir-fry into warmed serving bowls and finish with a good squeeze of lime juice.

Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Oak Tree Pork and Winter Veg à la Nelson

Do you ever have those evenings when you can’t think what to cook, and you can’t really be bothered to work hard? Eric shared his technique of putting Oak Tree pork chops (or sausages, they work well too) on a bed of Oak Tree Veg and just bunging it in the oven….. so I have named it, “Oak Tree Pork and Winter Veg à la Nelson”. And very good it is too!

Just pork and veg from the farm, with home grown herbs, and everything coated in melted lard, along with an onion...

Just pork and veg from the farm, with home grown herbs, and everything coated in melted lard, along with an onion…

... and an hour later, after being in an oven at gas mark 6 (200 deg C) it is ready!

… and an hour later, after being in an oven at gas mark 6 (200 deg C) it is ready!

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Very first signs of the Spring!

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny Winter’s day! After the horrible combination of wind, rain and cold the previous Wednesday it was incredibly welcome, and there were some magical signs of the Spring too! Under our cloches in a polytunnels we had optimistically, but not hopefully, sown salad leaf seeds direct into the soil under cloches in the polytunnel in a attempt to lift the temperature just enough to let them germinate….

Cloches in a polytunnel with remote temperature sensors

Cloches in a polytunnel with remote temperature sensors

…and we had been keeping an eye on the temperature increase that the cloches gave compare to the “outside” temperature in the rest of the polytunnel on Richard’s Oak Tree Labs site.

Tempgraph

The blue line is the soil temp under the cloches, the green one the “outside” polytunnel soil temp. That small difference is important!

and yesterday, after a long wait,  the seedlings emerged!

mustard seedlings

Tiny red mustard salad seedlings

Tiny tat soi seedlings

Tiny tat soi seedlings

These are the first seedlings to germinate at the farm in 2015, and they will be an important, and very welcome, crop during the Hungry Gap of April/May.

But, we don’t take any chances at The Oak Tree, so CSA member Mandy was busy pricking out salad leaf seedling that Joanne raised with extra heat and light at her home (remember, we don’t have mains power or a proper building yet at the farm, though we are working on it!!)

Mandy pricking out the all important Hungry Gap seedlings into modules in the polytunnel.

Mandy pricking out the all important Hungry Gap seedlings into modules in the polytunnel.

All this is a lot of hard work, but it is important to keep our selection of vegetables are varied as possible throughout the year, because we are very unusual in the UK in only putting vegetables that we grow ourselves into our veg share boxes, and keeping those boxes going all years round! It is a challenge, but one we are getting better at year by year :)

 

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First vegetable share box of February

February is the coldest month, so we were glad to be able to put a wide range of vegetables into this week’s boxes.

2_Feb_2015

In the boxes this week:-

 

  • 75g mixed salad leaves
  • 500g cabbage (white spring, or Savoy)
  • 2 large leeks, or more smaller ones.
  • 350g carrots
  • 350g parsnips
  • 500g Brussels sprouts (probably to be replace by a little less sprouting broccoli, or Swiss chard or a cauliflower later in the week)

We put parsnips in the root cellar on Monday and heeled in some leeks for Wednesday’s harvest just in case the snow warnings are realised!!! That way we can harvest the boxes as usual.

Leeks heeled into a shallow trench and protected from frost by straw in case of a real cold snap!

Wednesday’s leeks heeled into a shallow trench and protected from frost by straw in case of a real cold snap!

 

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A sunny January Saturday on the farm!

We had a beautiful day of sunshine last Saturday for our weekly members’ working party, and we had a great time while getting lots of work done right at the beginning of the new growing season… there is still time to join us if you would like to enjoy fresh vegetables from The Oak Tree Farm this year!

Lucy and Ann busy pricking out early salad crops to be planted out in the polytunnel in the weeks to come.

Lucy and Ann busy pricking out early salad crops to be planted out in the polytunnel in the weeks to come.

Jackie and Steve preparing the fence to move the chickens into.

Jackie and Steve preparing the fence to move the chickens into.

Max the cat hard at work

Max the cat hard at work

Remember young Leon?

Remember young Leon last summer? Photo credit Jonathan Cherry

Now Leon is hard at work along with the grown-ups!

Now Leon is hard at work along with the grown-ups!

Max and Leon sharing a moment together.

Max and Leon sharing a moment together.

Lots of members took advantage of the sunshine to cycle to the farm.

Lots of members took advantage of the sunshine to cycle to the farm.

Kevin did sterling work getting the rather damp wood to boil our kettle...

Kevin did sterling work getting the rather damp wood to boil our kettle…

Ann letting everyone know its teatime...

Ann letting everyone know its teatime…

Enjoying a well earned cup of tea in the January sunshine.

Enjoying a well earned cup of tea in the January sunshine.

And look at all the work we got done! Many hands make light work...

And look at all the work we got done! Many hands make light work…

 

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