Monthly Archives: May 2014

Low(er) calorie rice pudding


This is a version of Nigella’s rice pudding from ‘How To Eat’, which is one of her first, and in my opinion, definitely her best cookery book. Find it here

I love rice pudding, and I’ve adapted it to make it a larger dish and a little lower calorie. It’s still lovely and creamy, but less sweet and rich than the original. My daughter loves it, my parents less so as it wasn’t sweet enough for them!

I doubled the ingredients except the sugar and butter (I drastically reduce the butter). I omitted the grated nutmeg too, but you don’t need to (she sprinkles it on before putting in the oven) She uses full fat milk, I use semi-skimmed. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work with skimmed. Let me know if you try it!

120g pudding rice
40g brown sugar (any sugar will do)
1 litre semi-skimmed milk
Good teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
A few blobs of butter

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.

Put the rice in a baking dish

Add the sugar and pour over the milk

Add the vanilla


And give it all a good stir.
Dot a bit of butter over the top (it will float).

Pop it in the oven and give a stir after about half an hour. It should be ready after about an hour and a half to two hours. Keep an eye on it as towards the end the milk seems to be absorbed quickly and it can end up a bit thick. In which case just add a little milk as you serve it if you like a more runny consistency.

Eat and enjoy! It also freezes well in portions (if it lasts that long!)


Grow Your Own – Planting the plot


Earlier in the year I decided to convert the flower bed closest to the house into a vegetable patch. The soil wasn’t very good so I decided raised beds were the answer. I got them from Harrod Horticultural. They seemed to be the best price around.

They were pretty easy to build and I filled them with a mixture of top soil (best and cheapest place I found for this was my local garden centre, who delivered two big builders bags), manure and compost about a month ago. They are partly on soil and partly on paving slab. I put a layer of cardboard underneath them to suppress weeds.

They’ve been covered in black plastic. Largely to keep the cats off, but today was the day for planting!

I also put a layer of copper tape around each one to try and defeat the slugs and snails. Fingers crossed it works.


I’ve been growing lots of seedlings indoors since February/March, and some stuff I will direct sow.

I’ve blogged previously about the great ornamental veg garden course I went on at Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill, and I found more inspiration yesterday at the Chelsea Flower Show. There was a fab potager garden on the Marston & Langinger trade stand.


I’ve learnt that I really like the mix of flowers, fruit and veg all planted together. Which means my planting plan

which I designed before going on the Sarah Raven course, had to be revised. Well completely thrown out the window!

I’ve never really grown vegetables before, so I’m going to blog about what I am growing, and how I get on.

The beds are 1.2m wide and one is 1.8m long and 45cm deep. The other is 2.4m long and 30cm deep.

I found this seed and measuring spacer from Burgon and Ball really helpful. I used it to create channels for sowing the seeds (on its side, pressed into the soil), and it has a guide to spacing which is a handy reminder. As well as measurements in both imperial and metric.


This is what I have planted in them. Some as seedlings (grown myself from seed) and some as seeds.

Smaller bed:


– chard (lucullus)
– spinach (Bordeaux)
– rocket (runway and wild)
– mustard (red giant and red frills)
– beetroot (burpees golden, bolthardy and chioggia)
– carrots (Nantes, little finger and chantenay)
– pac choi
– sorrel (red veined)
– lettuce (little gem, merveille de quatre saison, Descartes, Seurat and reine de glace)

The idea is to have lots of cut and come again veg to use in salads. I’ve tried to pick ones that look as good as they taste.


I’ve also added lots of flowers around the edge. Including different types of marigold, viola heartsease, nasturtiums and dahlias (at the back). Both for aesthetic reasons and to attract pollinating insects. They’re all edible flowers too.

For bed two I planted:



– sweetcorn (luscious, popcorn fiesta and minipop)
– butternut squash (just one plant)
– courgette (black beauty and soleil)
– broccoli (cardinal, summer purple, red arrow, Rudolph, autumn)
– Brussel sprout (rubine)

Again I’ve put lots of flowers around the edge. Same as the other bed, but with some rudbeckia thrown in for good measure.


And I built a cage to hold netting out of bamboo and some clever little rubber gizmos that I bought at Chelsea Flower Show. This is mostly to keep the cats off the bed whilst everything settles in.

Really looking forward to seeing how things get on.

Update 1: only a week later and some of the seeds are already sprouting little seedlings.


The copper tape seems to be working really well at keeping the slugs and snails away. But the netting hasn’t kept out my naughty cat, who had already been in and knocked a few things around. I have now lengthened it in an attempt to stop her getting in. Fingers crossed!

Update 2: only two weeks on, and lots of signs of life




Pac choi and little gem lettuce really coming on

Update 3.

Been away for two weeks at the end of June. I think the weather has been hot. I gave it a really good water and left it to it and the plot has gone crazy!! Here are some before and after photos. Just two weeks apart.

Before (mid June):





After (end of June):



I actually can hardly believe it!!

And here is what I picked.

From left to right:
Mustard red frills and giant red, lettuce merveille de quatre saisons, rocket, lettuce reine de glace, pac choi
Plus some (strangely shaped) beetroot

Not bad for 6 weeks after planting!

Inspiring Gardens – Perch Hill


Earlier this week I spent a lovely indulgent day on an ornamental vegetable garden course at Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill. See here for details.

I’ve just installed two raised beds in my garden.

They are right outside my back door and can be seen from the house, so I wanted some inspiration for how to make them as productive and pretty as possible. The course at Perch Hill seemed perfect.

I’m going to share a little about the course, and lots of photos of Sarah’s lovely garden. The course was mid April. Most of the tulips had gone over, but the garden still looked fantastic.

The day was an absolute delight, starting off with tea and homemade biscuits in the greenhouse.


There were probably about 30 people on the course. Just one man!
The training room was nice and light

And frankly I could move into the loos with all those books!


The course itself was really useful. Key things I learnt included:
– Plant cut and come again veg so you don’t get gaps in your beds
– plant veg and flowers together
– when picking cut and come again pick ‘in the round’ (round the outside) to minimise impact
– how to make climbing frames for veg from willow and hazel
– plant artichokes, dahlias and alliums in one bed
– chop down artichokes to get them to repeat and give more lovely heads

And so much more!

But enough of my waffle. How about some lovely pictures of Perch Hill in April?…














Related Posts: Inspiring Gardens – Majorelle Gardens – Marrakech, Inspiring Gardens – Nymans Rose Garden