This is an attempt to document my efforts to grow and eat locally around Melbourne, Derbyshire. My family own a nine acre smallholding on which we grow fruit and vegetables and keep bees, and chickens, but that won't feed us alone, so the idea is to get to know our local produce and to see how easy/hard it is to follow a diet that is local to within 30 miles. The fun part is also trying some new (easy) recipes that use home-grown and local produce. Feel free to comment, send in recipes, and share your experiences of buying and eating locally.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Toffee Apples

For Halloween party this week. So much better made with local apples. This recipe is so easy too. I did have the help of a sugar thermometer though, which is a worthwhile investment if you make jam or sweets.

Makes: 15 toffee apples

  • 15 apples
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 350g golden syrup
  • 350ml water
  • lollipop sticks

Lightly grease a few baking trays. Insert lollipop sticks into the whole, stemmed apples.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Chicken tractor

Here's a picture of my lovely new Chicken Tractor. People have said to me that chickens can't drive tractors, but they are missing the point! Chicken tractors allow the birds to do the work of cultivators by eating the weeds and manuring as they go. I had this one especially made to my design and it can be moved by one person and it's designed to fit over a four foot vegetable bed. So far it's doing a great job and when the chickens have cleared one area I move it onto the next bit. Soon to be available to order I hope.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The finished beeswax candle

Looks like an orange but smells like honey!

The Melbourne Area Transition Apple Press

Here's the MAT Apple Press in action at the Real Food Fair at St Peter's church hall on Saturday 20 Oct.

Apple cake - a simple seasonal favourite

This is the easiest cake to make at this time of year. You just mix all the ingredients together and bake. If you want you can add raisins or even chocolate chips. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it!

12 oz SR Flour

Pinch of salt

6oz margarine

6oz soft brown sugar (light or dark)

2 eggs

14oz chopped apple


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Rub marg into flour.

Add sugar, apple, salt and eggs

Mix well and add a little milk if too stiff.

Put into greased cake tin.

Bake one and a quarter hours until a skewer comes out clean.


We got a little honey this year which was good as it's been a terrible year for bees due to the cold, wet weather. We did have an excess of wax so I'm going to have a go at making candles. I boiled up the wax combs with tap water from the water butt for half an hour and then waited until cool. The wax floats to the top and the rubbish and water stays at the bottom. I then strained through kitchen paper in a warm electric oven. The instructions came from the Reigate beekeepers website. Just looking at honey extractors now.


This is a Delia recipe. The majority of the ingredients sadly are not local but the apples are my own Bramleys. This is so easy to make.  I doubled the recipe to make the two kilner jars shown above, but it's no harder to make double the quantity than to make a single quantity. 

 Makes 3 lb (1.35 kg)

You will also need 3 x 1lb (350ml) preserving jars and 3 waxed discs.

This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s Christmas.


All you do is combine all the ingredients, except for the brandy, in a large mixing bowl, stirring them and mixing them together very thoroughly indeed. Then cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for 12 hours, so the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop. After that pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼, 225°F (120°C). Cover the bowl loosely with foil and place it in the oven for 3 hours, then remove the bowl from the oven. Don't worry about the appearance of the mincemeat, which will look positively swimming in fat. This is how it should look. As it cools, stir it from time to time; the fat will coagulate and, instead of it being in tiny shreds, it will encase all the other ingredients.

When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir well again, adding the brandy. Pack in jars that have been sterilised (see below). When filled, cover with waxed discs and seal. The mincemeat will keep for ages in a cool, dark cupboard but I think it is best eaten within a year of making.

NOTE: To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop into a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350F, 180C, for 5 minutes.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Apple harvest

Not many this year - the trees are still young and the weather has been terrible for fruit. But still they taste good and a basket is off to the Real Food festival at St Peters Church Hall tomorrow to be pressed into juice.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Pumpkin and sweetcorn chowder

This was enjoyed by all.  The recipe is a basic pumpkin soup (liquidised) and then with sweetcorn and fried onions and roasted pumpkin added.   All the ingredients were homegrown apart from the soya sauce, stock cube and fish sauce used to season.  It was definitely a hearty meal and really seasonal.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Borlotti Bean and Squash Mole

I found this recipe online after picking the three main ingredients in the garden this afternoon - a happy coincidence. The addition of the chocolate made a really rich sauce which, mixed with chilli, was delicious.

~1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) fresh borlotti beans
~1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) winter squash
olive oil
4 - 5 big leaves of kale (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 - 4 red jalapeno chiles, halved, seeded, and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound of fresh plum tomatoes, chopped or 14-ounce can
2 teaspoons paprika
1 ounce of almonds, dark roasted and finely ground
2 ounces dark 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the borlotti beans and cook for about 10-15 minute until they are just cooked or even slightly undercooked. Drain and cool under cold running water, and set aside.
Cut the squash flesh into good-sized chunks, about 2 cm or 3/4-inch squares, place them in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil. Roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized on the outside but still firm. Reduce the oven temperature to 130C/ 250F / Gas mark 1/2. (hs note: alternately, you can brown the squash in a skillet.)
Without removing the central stem, cut the kale across the leaf into 2cm / 3/4-inch slices. Melt the butter into an oven-proof casserole dish (pot) and fry the onion and chilies gently over a low to medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized. Add the garlic and fry for three minutes more. Add the tomatoes and paprika, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the ground almonds, chocolate, squash, borlotti beans, kale, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven to cook gently for 2 hours.
Serves 4.
These borlotti beans were really easy to grow and were grown as part of a "three sisters" planting - sweetcorn, squash and borlotti beans growing up the sweetcorn.  Borlotti beans work really well for this type of planting because you don't pick them as you go along - you just wait until they are all ready and pick the lot in one go, so you can pick them once the sweetcorn are finished and don't risk damaging the sweetcorn plants whilst they are in full flow.  The yields weren't enormous but all I did to plant them was to stick the beans in the ground in around May, so they were very easy.  (well in fact my nine-year-old planted them).   Apart from anything they are incredibly beautiful so worth it just for that.  The seeds I used were Franchi seeds, bought from Swarkestone nurseries.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A local toastie

Apparently toasties are making a comeback - but if you are going make one then it should be a free range local ham and artisan cheese, like this one from the East Midlands Food Fair.

Roast lamb lunch

This was bought today at the East Midlands Food Fair at Melton Mowbray today, served with a delicious salsa. Unfortunately it was a bit greasy and so I went in search of a strong liqueur to act as a digestif.

Duck breast - pan fried

This duck was bought at the East Midlands Food Fair and was just really simply seasoned and pan-fried.  It was delicious.

Ruby chard at its best

This is so beautiful at the moment and I'm using loads of it.  It should last for months though as a cut and come again.  The seeds were sown in the greenhouse around April and planted out in June.

Duck in Apple and Port sauce

Duck bought at the East Midlands Food Fair today.  I roasted the legs after flash frying them.  Added apple and port to the roasting pan to make a lovely sauce.   To be truly local I could have used Elderberry Wine which tastes very much like port.  The breasts I pan-friend separately.  It was a real luxury but worth it when you get access to such exceptional local produce.

Buttered Cabbage Parcels

Thank you Jo for this lovely recipe.  The cabage was cut into quarters and then smothered in butter, thyme and salt and pepper and wrapped in baking parchment and then foil and put in the oven for about an hour.  The flavour was exceptional.  I love ways of cooking veg to make use of the fact that I have the oven on, and can just bung in the veg and go off and do something else whilst it all cooks.