sow it, grow it, eat it! by Annette Gibbons


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of real Cumbrian food. She hosts Cumbria’s Fine Dining Club and also enjoys her organic vegetable garden.

Last month, I waxed lyrical about living in paradise here on the Solway coast. Since then, we seem to have alternated between paradise, hell and back again! Storm Ali came to visit and spread its awful burning wind on everything in its pathway. Leaves at the top of the fruit trees have been frazzled and apples and pears have been beaten to the ground. A downside of this has been that Newton Wonder, a brilliant dual-purpose apple won’t keep this winter as it’s been bruised as it fell. So, only a few that I managed to pick earlier are now wrapped in newspaper and stored. It will be a race between me and the mice as to who enjoys them first. However, I have made jars and jars of apple chutney (combined with courgettes, dark sugar and spices), apple compote, garlic and chilli jelly, apple cake, savoury apple sauce (with cider and garlic) and good old apple pie. The freezer is packed to the gunnels. Some windfalls have been left under the trees for blackbirds and thrushes to feast on.

Storm Ali also made mincemeat out of the runner beans. These had been cropping well, reaching over two metres high. They now hang forlornly, and I’ve decided to leave the pods on the vines and let the beans develop and fatten inside. I can then dry these for winter use. Nothing goes to waste!

Talking of waste, now is a good time to save seeds! If you’re on a budget, you’ll save money too. Seeds of tomatoes, chillies, pumpkins, peas and beans as well as many flowers dry well. I’ve had a go with moderate success with all these plant types. I tend to dry seeds on kitchen paper somewhere warm and they’re then kept in a cool, dry place. Jam jars are at a premium right now with all the chutney and jelly making, but they are good receptacles for dried seeds. Don’t forget to label the jar and include the date. Now that we’re harvesting the last of the season’s courgettes and pumpkins, large patches of bare soil appear, and the soil could lose nutrients if left uncovered. Organic mulches will protect and give good structure for next year’s growing. I sometimes use autumn leaves, wetted so that they don’t blow away. As we continue to cut the grass, these clippings will be mixed with those autumn leaves and a little straw. Even wet newspaper is a good mulch.

Enjoy your harvest.

Over the past 21 years, I’ve had a wonderful experience savouring the county’s best eating places, sipping on some amazing wines and being with delightful people with my Cumbria On A Plate Fine Dining Club but as with all good things, they come to an end.

Our final dinner will be at Sharrow Bay in December, which is where I started in 1987. If you are a past member and wish to dine again, please let me know. If you are a current member you will have details. • 01900 881356 INFO@THECOCKERMOUTHPOST.CO.UK

Halloween is on the way and it’s always good fun to have a few biscuits ready for ‘trick or treaters!’ So, keeping to this month’s bat theme...

Chocolate Bat Biscuits Ingredients

125g butter - softened 85g icing sugar 1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 1 teaspoon of milk

1 teaspoon of expresso-style coffee powder. Something along the lines of Nescafé Azera or Kenco Millicano

175g plain flour (plus a little for dusting) 50g cocoa powder ¼ teaspoon of salt

To decorate the biscuits 8cm bat cutter

100g bar of milk chocolate chocolate 100s and 1000s

Piping bag with white icing mix made from 100g icing sugar and 3 to 4 teaspoons of water. You can use colouring for the eyes!

Heat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then beat in the yolk, vanilla and milk.

Sift the flour, coffee, cocoa and salt into your bowl and mix everything together to form a soft dough. Shape your dough into a rough disc. Wrap and chill for 15 minutes.

Take two parchment sheets. Lay one on your worktop. Dust the dough all over with a little of the flour and place on the parchment. Cover with the other sheet and roll out the dough to roughly the thickness of a pound coin.

Remove the top sheet and cut out your bat shapes. Carefully lift the cut shapes with a palette knife, on to the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the trimmings to make more biscuits.

To add extra interest, cut out a notch in the base of your bat, so you can sit them on the edge of a glass of juice. Remember the top of the notch needs to be the thickness of your glass to work!

Bake for around 10 minutes. They should feel sandy to touch and smell lovely and chocolatey! Cool on the tray for 5 minutes. Then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt your milk chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave). One at a time paint the melted chocolate over the wings and ears with a small paint brush and sprinkle with 100s and 1000s. Pipe on the eyes and fangs and leave to dry.

They will keep for a week in an airtight container. ISSUE 430 | 18 OCTOBER 2018 | 42

~ A HORROR STORY FOR HALLOWEEN ~ Once upon a time in the merry, 3-meals- a-day, real-food land of Britain, we didn’t snack and were slim and healthy. We farmed the earth and ate its good plants and animals. Then money-making men rubbed their hands at inventing artificial food, “We can snare people in The Snack Trap. Muahahaha.”

Adverts were the

Snack Trap’s lure: Milky Way “the sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite” (1970) “A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat” (1979) “Have a break, have a KitKat” (1958). “A drink’s too wet without one” Rich Tea (1985).

There’s no escape; tempting, unhealthy nibbles constantly surround us. They’re at work, in town, thrust at us when buying a newspaper, alongside us as we queue to pay for petrol (if we can get through the throng of schoolkids buying lurid-coloured drinks and snacks of all kinds except the healthy kind). People snack all day long.

Halloween masks, costumes and pumpkin lanterns are scary enough, but read the ingredients lists on the products for giving to dressed-up kids on your doorstep on 31st October. Check out

Joanna Blythman’s Swallow This for a bed-time story with shocks and frights aplenty as she exposes the deadly cauldron mix. How weird that we ‘treat’ our kids and ourselves with health- damaging sugar and chemicals.

No-one is defending us. It’s up to you to escape the trap by eating enough good food to keep you full and satisfied. A low-cal, breakfast-cereal-induced, blood- sugar roller-coaster virtually guarantees that you’ll be ravenous way before lunchtime. With desperate, blood- curdling cries, you’ll trample your boss underfoot to snatch the last sugary snack from the vending machine. Aaaarrrrgh!

Top tips – Eat well to escape... The Snack Trap!

Jackie Wilkinson - Nutrition Coaching 077824 77364

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