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.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Home made apple labels

I will never now forget which apples I've stored for the winter.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Making cheese

I has some milk that has turned so I made it into paneer. It was a very simple process and the resulting cheese is mild and creamy. I did use real full-fat milk.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Making cider

I hired the Melbourne Area Transition apple press tonight to make a demijohn of cider. I added a tsp of yeast and the first couple of days will start the fermentation off without the airlock and just with a bit of tissue in the hole. The apple press was so easy to use and I did not get hoardes of family members offering to help but managed quite ok on my own.

Melbourne Food Festival 2013

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Redcurrant wine

Last year, with a glut of redcurrants, I made redcurrant cordial which nobody really liked, so about 3 months ago I decided to make it into wine. It was really simple - I put two bottles of cordial in a Demi-John and topped up with water, added a tsp of yeast, and that was it. It's the most beautiful, jewel-coloured rosé wine and tastes good too (better than the cordial!). I've racked off today as there was a lot of sediment. I think I might make some more now.


Figs from our tree. The two year old fig bush in a pot outside the back door has produced about 10 delicious figs this year.

Racking off rhubarb wine

I made this wine back in the Spring. I think rhubarb makes the best home-made white which is very drinkable. I find some garden wines too heavy. I'm racking it off to another container but actually there is surprisingly little sediment so it won't be long until it goes into bottles. You have to taste it when racking off as you get a mouthful anyway, and it looks like it's going to be good.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Squash Supper


Local Squash stuffed with chicken curry and Garden Corriander.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Beautiful organic cauliflower

This beauty was grown in the school garden and picked and eaten by the children today. Thank you to Swarkestone Nurseries for the donation of the plug plants.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Artichokes again

Baby carrots and fennel

This is the first year I've grown fennel and I'm thrilled with how it's coming on. Can't wait to taste it.

Organic strawberries

Today we picked 4.9 kg of strawberries from the garden which at Tesco organic prices are worth about £40!

All homegrown summer salad

This salad had shredded lettuce, mange tout peas, broccoli and baby carrots in with an oriental dressing made with soya sauce.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Elderflower champagne

Use empty plastic water bottles, which should be sterile.

36 elderflower heads

1 lemon

680g caster sugar or granulated sugar works fine too

2tbsp white wine vinegar

4.5 litres water


Make sure there are as few insects as possible on your elderflowers. 

Put them in a clean bucket along with the juice of the lemon, its rind without any pith, sugar and vinegar.

Add the cold water and leave 24 hours.

Stir from time to time to dissolve sugar.

Strain through muslin into sterilised bottles.  Screw on tops.


Leave 2 weeks.  Check fizziness and let off excess build-up.

Sunday, 7 July 2013


These grown from seed last year and really productive now in forest garden. Yummy with French dressing.

Edible lime - Tilia Cordata

Lovely eaten raw in salads.  The leaves are best when young, so it is a good idea to coppice the tree every few years to keep it manageable with lots of new leaves. 

Alpine strawberries

I love these tiny little alpine strawberries.  They have quite a different taste to normal strawberries, more like little sweets.  Best eaten straight from the bush - I have been snacking on them whilst working in the Forest Garden. 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Forest Gardening

I gave a talk this week at the Derbyshire Forest Schools Day on the subject of Forest Gardening.  The presentation (minus a few photos) is now on their website  at

The talk was very popular and I was so pleased to be able to spread the word about this most productive but sustainable type of garden.  I particularly looked at the ways that forest gardens can benefit forest schools sessions, eg by growing resources to use, but also looked at food plants and trees of particular use to schools.

It reminded me of a visit here by a national delegation looking into carbon and woodlands two years ago, at which I took this photograph.  The photo shows some of the forest garden produce we have available and how productive woodlands can be, not just for timber but food, craft resources, medicines, herbs, bee plants, fodder, fertility and much more.  The background in the photo is much changed in the last two years, as during that time we have planted 2000 trees at the bottom of the field and dug two ponds. 

Elderflower Drizzle Cake

I made this today from a recipe in the Guardian - yummy and very seasonal.  It's very rich and would be lovely as a pudding with fruit and a dollop of cream. I love simple recipes and this is very simple, being basically a Victoria sandwich with drizzle topping - but the end result is so much more.  My cakes don't seem to be rising very well at the moment, so I added 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda to make it lighter. 
Serves 6-8
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self raising flour, sifted
(raising agents - see above)
For the icing
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
100ml elderflower cordial
2 tbsp sugar
1 Line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one. Incorporate the flour and mix well, until smooth and creamy.
2 Turn into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until well-risen and golden brown on top.
3 Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then prick all over with a skewer or fork.
4 Heat the elderflower cordial, lemon juice and sugar in a pan until hot, but not boiling. Drizzle over the cake, encouraging it to run into the sink holes. It should sink in and leave a crunchy crust.

Rhubarb wine

This is my favourite home-made wine as it makes a very drinkable white wine which is not too sweet, unlike many fruit wines.  Rhubarb is also usually so bountiful if you grow it yourself, and you can usually cadge some off a neighbour if you don't.   It's very easy to propagate by digging up and replanting part of the plant.  This wine was a great hit at the summer fruit evening last year and I'm glad I made 20 litres of it.

Here's my recipe:

3 pounds rhubarb
3 pounds white sugar
1 gallon hot water (doesn't have to be boiling)
wine yeast

or for a larger metric quantity:

4 kilos rhubarb
4 kilos of sugar
13.5 litres water
wine yeast.


Pick the rhubarb and then chop it up and put in the freezer in plastic bags for a few days.  This breaks down the cells and releases the juice when the wine is made.  It's an essential step so don't miss it out. 
Put the rhubarb in a primary fementor (large bucket) and cover with the sugar.  Leave for 24 hours.
Add the hot water (doesn't need to be boiling) and mix.  Then strain out the rhubarb and put the liquid back into the primary fermentor and when it is luke warm add the yeast.  Cover and leave for 3 - 4 days, then syphon the liquid into demi-johns with air locks.  Leave to ferment.  Rack it into new demi-johns after around a month as there will be a lot of sediment.
Bottle up around 6 months, and then it's best to drink after about a year.  
The two year old wine that we are drinking at the moment is also good.


Sunday, 5 May 2013


Inspired by Vicky at Strawberry Kitchen Bakery, at Melbourne Food Fair today my son decided to make cupcakes and ice them with the icing set that he was given for his birthday ( helped by big sister). Absolutely yummy and I'm sure the use of Claybrooke flour makes all the difference.

Thursday, 2 May 2013


No-one else in the family seems to have noticed the first shoots of asparagus poking their heads through the ground - dilemma, do I eat them for my lunch whilst everyone is out or share two spears between four other hungry mouths later on?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Mileburn Restaurant

I was incredibly lucky to be taken to the Mileburn in Melbourne for my birthday this year.  I've no idea why it's taken me so long to go there, as I have read they are champions of local food.  What I didn't realise is how fresh and exciting their take on local seasonal produce would be.  We had the six course taster menu on Thursday night for an incredibly good value £26.00.  Their house white was exceptionally good, and for £16 was not overpriced.  My only gripe about the wine would be that we do have good local wine in Swadlincote which could have been on the menu.  All the wines were from the new world so air miles were large.  I do think that any restaurant serving local food should also think about local drink too!

Anyway, back to the food, the six course menu (8 courses at the weekend for £35) allows the chef to prepare good food for a good price with, presumably little waste as he know exactly what everyone is going to eat.  Great idea.  The first course was celeriac soup.  Now, if you are a grow your own or vegbox person they you will have had celeriac soup coming out of your ears by this time of year, but this soup was exceptional - smooth, sweet but with bite.  The second course was something my other half said he never would have thought he would have enjoyed - grilled cabbage and humous, but the cabbage was sweet and the humous had a little crunch of seeds on top.  Course 3 was smoked trout, which was exceptional fresh and unusual, served in a cup with fruit and a tangy sauce.  This guy definitely knows how to put flavours together.  Course 4, the main, was the most disappointing - only because the duck was not cooked well and was a little tough.  Otherwise the flavours was intense, although the promised rhubarb (seasonal tick) didn't hit the palate.  Course 5, the cheese course was  unusual and exciting, being a sandwich of biscuits and cheese, with a creamy blue cheese which was both rich and moreish.  I also approved of serving the cheese before the pudding in the French style.  I do like to keep my sweets and savouries separate.  Finally, a deconstructed lemon meringue.  I think it was called lemon meringue, although I'm not sure where the meringue part was, but maybe the chef was just too clever for me and was hiding the egg whites somewhere.  Anyway, when the separate parts were mixed together on the palate they were incredibly fresh and zingy.  It would have been good to have had a good glass of pudding wine for that course but sadly they don't serve it.  They are missing a trick I think on that one, as it was the perfect meal to end with a nice glass of something sweet.  But minor are my criticisms - it is certainly the best value for quality meal I have had in a very long time and I will be back...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Melbourne Food Fair at Assembly Rooms

Today was the first Food Fair held at Melbourne Assembly Rooms.  The organisers are hoping that it will be repeated every two months.  There was a great selection of stalls selling everything from cheese, pies, cakes, chocolate, fudge, fruit and veg, and much more.   Our lunch therefore consisted of cheese from the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company, a Pork Pie from Brocklebys of Melton Mowbray, Indian Snacks, fudge and homemade cakes.  The photo is of Brockleby's Blue chesse, and "real" Red Leicester.   A steady stream of local people arrived throughout the day, and the atmosphere was really friendly.  It was lovely to be able to ask the stallholders what was in their produce, and I even managed to buy a wheat-free slice of chocolate cake. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Home-made yogurt in the AGA

Home Made Yoghurt in the AGA
- thank you to Helen B for this recipe.

This is a recipe designed for an AGA, but it should in principle work just as well in a slow cooker or the airing cupboard!

1 tablespoon natural yoghurt

1 tablespoon dried milk

1 pint (600ml) sterilised milk*

Cream together the natural yoghurt and dried milk with a little of the cold milk. Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan to blood temperature. Pour the warmed milk onto the yoghurt mix and stir to combine.

Cover the bowl with a plate, then a tea cosy or towel.

If you have an AGA stand in a colander on top of the simmering plate and leave overnight to set. Next day transfer to the refrigerator to cool.

If using a slow cooker the low setting should work. Airing cupboards may require some experimentation.

Use to make a yoghurt sundae. Spoon fruit puree, coulis or honey into the base of a sundae glass, cover with a layer of home- made yoghurt, and top generously with granola** or muesli.

*Your milkman will deliver sterilised milk on request or it can be readily found in the milk section of your local supermarket.

**Jordan’s granola is especially good for this.