Sunday, 17 November 2013

Stash-Busting Crochet Pattern

It's probably (hopefully) just this time of year, but there seems to be a slightly endless list of requests from Carrot-Girl's school for donations of food, donations of items for the Christmas Sale, for the Children in Need Sale, followed by a request to send in your child equipped with cash to buy items back from said sales. And then there are the quiz nights, the Pop-Up restaurants, the school photos and the Christmas Tree sales.

They are good causes and I don't mind helping out where I can, it's just starting to seem a bit relentless at the moment. She's only been there 6 weeks, and the above is just what has come off the top of my head.

Anyway, the current "please donate items" is for the Christmas sale, where the children then buy back items to give as presents, for 50p or £1.

I didn't really want to buy things to donate, given that I'm attempting to save as much as possible, so it seemed an ideal way to do a bit of stash-busting and make some quick items.

First things (and I forgot to take pictures of these) where little crochet flowers which I sew onto brooch pins. But, I got to thinking that since "Dad Presents" are often difficult, they were probably going to be short of this type of gift at the sale.

So, a bit of research on Ravelry later, I decided to go with iPhone covers. My pattern is inspired by one from Lottie's Creations which she published on Ravelry. I've altered it a bit, and am not very experienced at writing patterns down, but here goes!

It's written in UK crochet terms.

Firstly, any yarn will do. I have used DK cotton and some aran-ish wool-mix and both have been fine. I am particularly trying to stash-bust the aran-ish stuff, as it has a texture which reminds me of baler twine. No good for anything next to the skin, but for a phone case which will get bashed and bumped in you handbag, briefcase or pocket - perfect.

Leaving a good long tail (20cm), chain 26 (ish) and sl st to form a circle. Measure it around your phone, it should stretch to fit quite snuggly. I used a 4mm hook and 26 chains worked well. But you can increase or reduce to suit your yarn and tension, but it must be an even number of stitches

DC all the way around the circle (26 stitches). You are going to work in a continuous round, so no need to sl st to join.

Skip the first stitch, then DC & TC into the next. Repeat this (Sk, DC & TC) and your iPhone cover will soon grow. This combination of stitches and skips gives a really nice texture:

When it is the right length get ready to start your final row. Make sure your tail is at one side of the cover, when squashed flat and the stitch you are ready to work next is in the centre.

Then work a row of DC (26 stitches) to give a nice firm top edge.

Chain about 16-20 and sl st back onto the row of DC, so you have a loop. Fasten off.

Use the long tail to whip stitch firmly along the bottom and sew in the remaining tail

Sew on a button, so you can close the loop and TA-DAH! It's done!

A quick (about 2 hours) and easy stocking filler present which uses up your odds and ends of wool.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Despicable Me 2 - On the Cheap

Hello again, and thanks to everyone for their kind messages and tweets after the storm.

Our trees survived intact, thank goodness, as did everything else - we didn't even loose a fence panel.

By 9am the next morning the wind had dropped a lot and it was a beautiful sunny day, I got a load of washing out on the washing line, to make the most of the free-drying power of the wind, after all the rain we've had, and we set off for the cinema to see Despicable Me 2.

It was Carrot-Girl's first trip to the pictures and I'm not sure my explanation of what to expect was fully understood ("it's like watching the television on a very big screen, in the dark, with lots of other people. And you have to sit still").

The prices of cinema tickets is very high. For example, a regular ticket t in my local cinema it's £10.45 per ticket. And I wasn't going to pay that three times to then have Carrot-Girl freak out and decide she hates the cinema after 5 minutes.

So, after a bit of hunting the Odeon website, and found the Kid's Club section. It's a much better deal, the films aren't brand new (DM2 came out in the summer) but all tickets are £3.00!

Adding to the fun (in Carrot-Girl's opinion) was the fact we went there on the bus (she LOVES the bus) and that she got to eat popcorn.

The finances at Carrot-Towers don't stretch to cinema priced popcorn and drinks, so like the frugal-mum that I am, I went equipped with a drink and made my own popcorn - it's cheap, easy & very entertaining for children to hear it pop.

The bus was the cheap option too. I'm lucky that our nearest big town has a excellent Park & Ride bus service, as the car parks are extortionate (at least £1.50 per hour). Carrot-Girl and Carrot-Man both travel for free on the bus, so it was just £2.20 for me.

And the film? The film was fantastic! We laughed all the way through, loved the Minions, loved the new love-interest & loved Mr Ramsbottom. The only slight disappointment was the fact the Julie Andrews wasn't in this sequel, as she was hilarious in the original film.

If you aren't familiar with the Minions, enjoy this trailer of their very unique take on The Beach Boys classic, "Barbara Ann":

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Gathering Storm

I, like most of the population of southern England, am living in an area covered by the Amber Wind Warning, ready for the storm on Sunday/Monday.

Is it just me, or do the words "Amber" and "Wind" just bring to mind baked beans? It's probably just me, isn't it?

Anyway, enough with the childish fart-gags and on to business. Yes, we have an Amber Wind Warning and a Yellow Rain Warning here. I am hoping the Met Office is wrong for two reasons:
  1. I Don't want a tree through my roof on Sunday night
  2. I have just booked three tickets to see Despicable Me 2 (Carrot-Girl's first trip to the pictures!) on Monday morning - now if you are a fan of the Kermode & Mayo Film Review Show (and if you aren't, you should be) you'll now totally understand why I'm sniggering about fart jokes while I'm writing this, as their commentary about DM2 included an actually Minion's Fart Gun in the studio

But, this is meant to be a serious post! Enough with the Fart Gun!

Last time we had a major storm in the UK was 1987 and the thing that made it so devastating was the time of year it happened - mid-late October - because the trees were all still in leaf. And it's now late October and the trees are all still in leaf.
This is the view from the back windows of my house

And this is the view from the front:

Pretty tree infested. So I am taking some steps to get prepared and I thought it might help to share them. Please add your own in the comments box below.
  1. Charge your phones
  2. Have you got wireless landline phones? They won't work if the power goes off, so, if you have one, dig out your old plug-in phone from the loft/cupboard under the stairs and check it still works
  3. Check your torches and get spare batteries. Carrot-Man is a sucker for those Gazillion-Candle-Power-Mega-Torches, so his job today will be to find them and charge them
  4. Got a battery-powered radio? Dig it out, check it works and buy spare batteries. If the power goes off, there's no TV or plug-in radios
  5. Candles & matches
  6. Longlife milk
  7. Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers (or is that just me?)
  8. Blankets - two reasons: a) No power, no central heating b) no power, the freezer goes off, so you can wrap it in blankets to keep the cold in for longer & stop your food going off. Once the power is off, don't open the freezer door.
  9. Emergency numbers. The Red Cross has a great downloadable Home Emergency Contacts & References Sheet. I've just printed it off and will be filling it all in.
  10. The Red Cross also have a great section on How To Prepare of Emergencies. All excellent advice
  11. Follow your local police, the Met Office & local BBC on twitter for immediate updates (assuming you have power or charged up smartphone)
  12. Put away all your garden furniture and dismantle your garden trampoline and any other kids toys
That should get us started. In the meantime, I am hoping the wind blows hard-ish for the next 48 hours and blows a lot of the leaves off the trees before the storm arrives, as I really don't want to miss Despicable Me 2!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Fabulous Fish Pie

I've been a bad blogger this last week, life has got in the way - manic crocheting, birthday partying & busy at work too.

Anyway, back to blogging this week and I'm having a go at a completion, taking part in the #MarisPiperBritMums Challenge with

Given that I am a Carb-o-Holic a recipe using potatoes is easy for me. I count crisps as one of my 5-a-Day and can't imagine a meal without carbs in some form or another (guilty secret - a chip butty, with proper chip shop chips, now that's heavenly).

But, this isn't a recipe for the perfect chip butty (although that blog post may come one day), but for Fabulous Fish Pie.

Most of the ingredients are interchangeable - it's a great way of clearing out the bottom of the fridge.

Here's the basic recipe:

450g maris piper potatoes
3 eggs
320g fish pieces
1 onion, chopped
100g mushrooms
1 courgette
A carrot or two
250g crème fraiche
1 tbsp. mustard (I like either Dijon or wholegrain, but any will do)
Olive oil

I buy "fish pie mix" in the supermarket - they're often in the 3 for £10 deals in Sainsbury's or Tesco and they freeze really well.

You can swap things in and out depending on what you've got - use spring onions instead of normal onions, add a handful of peas, some veg left over from a roast dinner, stuff in the bottom of the fridge that's only got a day or two left in it.

Here's what you do:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut to an even size. Boil for 10 minutes, then drain and leave to cool a bit
  3. Hard boil the eggs (10 minutes) then cool them in a bowl of cold water
  4. When you can handle them, grate them on the large-hole bit of your grater
  5. Grease your casserole/lasagna/whatever dish and put the fish in the bottom.
  6. Then add chopped onion, sliced eggs, sliced mushrooms, carrots, courgette & anything else you are using
  7. Mix the crème fraiche and the mustard together in a bowl, then spread over the pie contents
  8. Top with the grated potato, sprinkle (I was going to say "Drizzle" but that always sounds a bit poncey to me) a bit of olive oil over the top then grate some black pepper
  9. Bung in the oven for about 30 mins

And this is what you should end up with. The cooking time is a bit variable, as it depends on your dish. A deep casserole will take longer than a shallow lasagna dish. I poke it with a metal skewer after about 25 minutes, then about every 10-15 minutes after that. Touch the skewer to your lip and when you burn yourself, it's done.

A lovely one-pot meal, not too much washing up and it re-heats really well too (this recipe serves 4, so we often have it two nights running.

So, what do you reckon? A winning dish?

Friday, 11 October 2013


I love sausages, I really do <insert your own joke here>

I love them fried, grilled, hot, cold, in a sandwich (oh, yeah! On shop-bought sliced bread, with lots of butter), in a casserole or stolen off Carrot-Girl's plate, when she's not looking (you snooze, you loose when it comes to sausages).

I think it is genetic. Apparently as a child and teenager my Dad (that would make him Carrot-Dad, I guess) lived off sausages and his mum (Carrot-Nanny) was a soft touch and indulged him.

Then he met my Mum, got married and found she wasn't willing to cook sausages seven days a week, so learnt to eat other food (and I will tell you about her speciality - Crispy Lasagna - another time).

Anyway, I often make a sausage and onion casserole, but felt the need to stretch my sausage-based repertoire, so here is a wonderful new* recipe: Sausage, Apple & Cranberry Casserole.

* Well, I say new, it's adapted from one I found online. You might call that plagiarism, I call it "Paying Homage".

Here's what I used:

  • As many sausages as you need. I like three per person
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 apples, peeled and sliced - doesn't matter what sort, these are windfalls from a box outside a house I cycle past on the way to Carrot-Girl's school
  • 2 tbsp. cranberry sauce
  • 2 tbsp. mustard - I like wholegrain best for cooking, I love adding a bit of texture
  • About 150-200ml chicken stock (use 1 cube)

And here's what to do:
  1. Put the slow cooker on to warm up (or cook the casserole in the oven for 1-1.5 hours)
  2. Brown the sausages - no need to add oil
  3. Remove sausages (leave the fat) then soften the onion
  4. Make the stock with boiling water, then add the cranberry sauce and mustard. Give it a good stir
  5. Put half the onions in the slow cooker, then half the apples, then the sausages, then the rest of the onions, then the rest of the apple
  6. Pour over the stock mix
  7. Leave to cook for 4-6 hours

Serve with Delia-Mash, which I blogged about a week or so ago and a glass of red wine

It tastes really good. Half way through eating it, I texted my Dad "I have invested a new sausage dish!!!". I swear the phone was ringing within 10 seconds of me hitting "send". You see, he might eat normal, grown-up food now, but inside, his genes are saying "Feed me Sausages!!"

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Earning through Surveys

Let's be honest from the outset, you are never going to make your fortune this way, plus, it can be a bit tedious.

However, I think it's worthwhile if you've got a bit of patience and a bit of free time. And sometimes they send you free stuff to test too, which is much more fun.

I am with two survey companies, Ipsos Mori and One Poll.

Ipsos Mori do much longer surveys; they usually start at around 15 minutes and can be as long as 30 minutes, but are pretty well rewarded. You earn points for every survey you complete plus a smaller number of compensation-points for surveys you try and complete, but for which you don't meet the criteria.

For every 1,380 point you earn, you can claim an Amazon or John Lewis voucher worth £10.00 or you can choose to make a £10.00 donation to various charities.

The sort of things I have answered questions on recently include:
  • Going to the cinema
  • Condoms
  • Stain removal products
I always choose the Amazon voucher, then either treat myself or save them up and use them to buy presents.
With One Poll you earn cash, but it does take a long time to earn £40.00, which is their minimum payout. One the plus side, the surveys are very quick (usually less an a minute) but you probably only earn 10p-15p for each of them.
As examples, I have answered surveys with One Poll on the following topics recent:
  • Giving to charity
  • Preferred colour of credit cards (that was a weird one!)
  • Children's homework
They are so quick, they can be done whilst you are at work, on hold, waiting to be put through to someone you don't actually want to talk to.
Allegedly. Obviously, when I am at work my attention is 100% on the job <whistles to herself whilst looking a bit shifty>
And the free stuff? Well, that doesn't happen all the time, but once in a while you answer a survey and at the end, they ask if you'll test the stuff you've just answered the questions on. I always say yes, and at present am testing a big pot of Vanish Stain Remover, which is great, as I would probably have bought some, or an equivalent brand, anyway.
So how can you sign up to do this too? Most survey companies don't advertise for participants, they want existing member to refer people (and the referrers earn points for referring people too - Win-Win!).
If you've like to join Ipsos and/or One Poll (you can leave at any time and they don't send you spam) pop your name and email address in the "Contact Me" box on the top right of this page and I'll set up a referral for you. Don't worry, your name and email address won't appear on this blog anywhere, and I won't pass it on to anyone else.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Rum (or whatever) Baked Bananas

One of on constant and on-going aims in life is "To Have Less Stuff". I'm not a minimalist, I'm not even close, but I love finishing something up, especially if it's not something I am going to have to replace.
Which is why I love this recipe.
Right, let's talk about drinks cabinets. Are you like me and have a drinks cabinet full of fairly random spirits that almost never get drunk (I drink gin, but that's pretty much it on the spirit front), but which have been acquired:
The Carrot-Towers Drinks Cabinet - I have drunk all the gin :-(
  • As gifts (please, can people stop buying Carrot-Man bottles of whisky)
  • Because they tasted nice on holiday (why does a lurid orange liqueur in a weird bottle taste fabulous on holiday but like cough mixture when you get it home?)
  • For totally unknown reasons (yes, stone-effect bottle whose label has fallen off, I am looking at you here)
So, a recipe which uses up some of that whilst impressing your guests AND being cheap And being easy! Well, what's not to like?
The recipe is based on one in Clare Connery's Store Cupboard Cookery book and is easy adapt, depending what you've got in the house. It serves four.
  1. 4 bananas
  2. 25g sugar, brown is best. Honey would probably be good too
  3. Grated rind and juice of an orange (or just a glug of orange juice and some candied peel, if that's what you have to hand
  4. 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  5. 4 tbsp spirit or liqueur of your choice. I used some Dark Rum (& finished the bottle! Hurrah! and some Bacardi Coconut Rum - it was a present, honest)
  6. Some dessicated coconut
My tiles are awful, I know, I'm sorry

  • Peel bananas and cut in half longways
  • Place in a shallow dish (the only banana sized dish I have is a loaf tin, which worked brilliantly)
  • Put everything else, except the coconut, in a small saucepan and heat up gentle until the sugar melts
  • Pour over bananas

  • Cover in foil

  • Bake in oven at 190c (ish) for 15 minutes (ish)

  • Plate up and sprinkle with dessicated coconut
  • Serve alone or with ice cream (I also served with shots of the coconut rum)
Yum! I wish I'd make double the amount!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Ta-Dah! Crocheted Baby Converse

I have been a rubbish blogger this week. A combination of being back at work and having a week full of stuff to do in the evenings means all the posts I planned have slipped away from my.

However, I have got a Ta-Dah! moment, as I have finished a couple of pairs of Baby Converse Trainers:

What do you think? I am rather chuffed!

Lo-Rise style in blue

And Hi-Rise style in red
The pattern for the blue pair came from the truly marvellous Loopy Sue on Ravelry and the pattern for the red pair came from Mollie Makes magazine, issue 31.
Weirdly, the Mollie Makes magazine arrived in the post the day after I'd finished the blue pair. Spooooooky!
They are fairly easy to make, I'd say fine for an ambitious beginner or an intermediate crochet-er. They are great for using up left over bits of wool. The Loopy Sue pattern gives details of exactly how much wool you'll need. I think her pattern is a bit harder to follow, but there's not much in it.
Top tip for the easily bored: Make one sole, then the other sole. Then do the next stage on each shoe, then the next. 'Cos, if you're like me, by the time you've finished one shoe completely you'll have found another pattern that you absolutely MUST start Right Now, and the other shoe will never get made.
Oh, and it makes for more even tension too.
So, what to do with them? Well, Carrot-Girl's feet are way too big, so I am going to try and sell them. I've listed them on my local Facebook Baby & Toddler Selling Page for £10.00 per pair.
What do you think? Too much? Too little? Aggghhh! I'll let you know if they sell

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Carrot Cruncher Soup

So, there was nothing exciting for lunch, no money in the kitty to get something exciting for lunch & some stuff in the bottom of the fridge which was about to go wrinkly within the next couple of days.

Obviously, time for some soup-ing!

Here's what I used:

  • Some carrots
  • An onion
  • A little oil (which I forgot to put in the picture - sorry!)
  • Handful of red lentils
  • A couple of chicken stock cubes (in a litre of water, more if you like thinner soup)
  • BIG dollop of crème fraiche
  • Bunch of coriander
  • Some grated cheese (if you fancy it)

And here's how I made it:
  1. Put a couple of chicken stock cubes in a litre of water, stir and leave to dissolve
  2. Put a little oil in the bottom of your saucepan (use a big pan)
  3. Chop the onion and fry gently in the oil for a couple of minutes
  4. Chop the carrots and add to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes and stir it around to make sure it doesn't catch and burn
  5. Add the stock-water and a handful of red lentils
  6. Simmer for about half an hour
  7. Stir in the crème fraiche
  8. Chop up the coriander and stir in; cook for about five more minutes
  9. Whizz in the blender or blitz with a stick blender
  10. Serve up and sprinkle some cheese on top
YUM! And cheap! And quick! And Carrot-Girl ate it all up!

And there's some left for tomorrow too!

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Cheap School Run

Ahhh, the school run. Thankfully, Carrot-Girl's school doesn't seem to be populated by parents using the school run as a fashion parade. Even if I had bags of money, I don't think I could compete, as the idea of having anything more sophisticated than jeans and a sweatshirt on first thing in the morning on a non-office day is just something I can't contemplate!

Carrot-Girl's school is just over a mile from us, but a test-walk undertaken by her and her grandparents was not a huge success, since they had to ring me after walking for 40 minutes to say they couldn't find the school. Turns out they just hadn't walked far enough, and on the basis of that experience, I decided that walking for 40+ minutes with a dawdling girl who wants to look at everything on the way was not going to result in a calm start to the school day.

So, then I tried it on my bike and RESULT! 11 minutes!

The only downside is that it's all up hill on the way to school and since Carrot-Girl is not only getting heavier, but expects a conversation whilst sitting in comfort, that's quite hard work.

My bike came from Lidl, and cost around £90.00, the bike seat came from a charity shop for £2.00 and Carrot-Girl's helmet was a present.

I estimate that petrol would be at least £1.00 - £2.00 per day, plus the wear on the car caused by starting the engine cold twice a day for really short journeys.

Even using my lowest guess, that's £200.00 per year saved on petrol, plus (hopefully!) some health benefits thrown in.

Do you cycle? Share your cycling-savings with me!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Two Random Thoughts....................

Random Thought Number One:
I'm gearing up for The Great British Bake Off, as all sensible people who can watch the BBC should be. As usual, I am preparing by thinking "hmmmm, I should make a cake", so I go and get my Mary Berry Ultimate Cake Book

and start flicking through, looking to see if I have all the ingredients for any of them.

And I notice, nearly all the recipes call for "Unsalted Butter" (which I don't have in stock and rarely buy, I use either salted or cooking margarine), but then go on to add "a teaspoon of salt".

Ehh? I had sometimes pondered if my cakes would be better if I used unsalted butter, but now can't see they point, giving I'm adding salt back in.

Random Thought Number Two:

I am an avid recycler. Nothing goes in my "normal" bin, if I can recycle or reuse it. Also, we now have food recycling here, once a week, which is great.

We didn't use to have much in the way of food waste when we had a dog, as he recycled it all for us.

We do still have a cat (more stories about her to follow) and today she presented me with one of these:

Nice. She was roundly scolded by Carrot Girl "Naughty Catty! You did spit a bird out of your mouth!"

Carrot-Man backed off rapidly, Carrot-Girl pretended to be revolted but kept coming back for a look, so it was left to me to deal with it (the cat having long since got bored and wandered off).

So, (random thought), dead birds are food waste, right?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Mashed Potato - Buy It or Make It?

I am not a lover of vegetables, to be honest. I know they are good for me, I know that will make me thinner, fitter and taller (well, maybe ,if I'd eaten them as a child, instead of pushing them around my plate and hoarding them, hamster-style, in my cheeks until I could sneak off and spit them down the loo).

But, I am not thin, fit or tall, and I still don't like veg. I consider Pringles to be one of my 5-a-Day. They count as two if you choose the Cheese & Chive flavour and three if you eat them with a glass of wine (grapes, you see).

I am also quite easily tempted to be lazy, which is why, wandering around Sainsbury's, I nearly picked up a pot of ready-made mash. It was £1.00 for 400g, so not expensive in the grand scheme of things, but at Carrot Towers, a pound saved is a pound earned. I would have bought one pot to serve two of us.

I had all the ingredients in the cupboards and fridge already; this is what you need to make enough for four:

  • 900g potatoes
  • 25g butter or cooking margarine
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 1tbsp crème fraiche (I used half-fat)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional - Pesto
My recipe comes from the Delia's Winter Collection. My rather knackered and splattered copy is below. It's a good book if you are a fan of casseroles and nice, filling, slightly stodgy winter food.


 This is how you make it:
  1. Peel & chop potatoes and steam or boil for about 20-25 minutes. I prefer to steam them, as they don't get bashed about and absorb lots of excess water.
  2. Drain when tender and return to the pan. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 5 minutes
  3. Add the butter, milk & crème fraiche and whisk together with an electric whisk. Add seasoning
  4. Add pesto, if you like it (which I do! I eat it straight from the jar with a teaspoon!)
So, how does the price stack up?
  • Potatoes - 90p
  • Margarine - 4p
  • Milk - 5p
  • Crème fraiche - 10p
  • Salt & pepper - 1p
  • Pesto - 15p
  • TOTAL:  £1.25
Some of my prices are a bit estimated (I have used the Sainsbury's website to try and price stuff) and my maths is usually a bit wrong, but, on this occasion I was right not to be lazy: £1.00 to buy a pot to feed two or £1.25 to feed four. Result!

Now, what shall I splash my saving of 75p on?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

(Almost) Free Food!

Soooo, I am luring you into my new blog with the promise of (almost) free food. How good is that?
I don't very often make desserts; I don't have a sweet tooth, I am currently built more for comfort than for speed, so don't need any extra food, plus, generally speaking, I just can't be arsed to cook anything else on top of the main meal.
But, when you have a guest, you have to push the boat out a little, right? OK, so, not much time to shop/cook/prepare and, in any case, money is in short supply in Carrot Towers at present, so it's time to fall back on my favourite dessert - Fruit Crumble.

I decided I could kill two birds with one stone and get the filling for free and get it for less effort by taking Carrot-Girl for a nice walk to pick blackberries and collect some apples from the house along the road who puts a nice big box outside with a "Help Yourself" label on.

When blackberrying alone, I always pick from above the height that I think a dog might wee on. However, Carrot-Girl is four, so the line between where she can reach and where a dog might wee is quite thin.

Best just to rinse well and not think about it too hard. Obviously, I decided not to share that information with Carrot-Man and the guest. And anyway, urine is sterile, isn't it?
Speaking of blackberries, years ago I once went out with a guy who had lived all his life in inner London (Elephant and Castle, for those who know London) but had, just before I met him, moved to the leafy (to his urban mind) Crystal Palace area.

He had a huge and fruitful blackberry bush in his back garden, so I suggested picking them and making some jam or desserts or something.

He looked at me as if I was utterly insane, saying "Are you mad? They are WILD! They will poison you!" To misquote Charlotte Bronte, Reader, I did not marry him. I didn't even stick around until the following blackberry season.

Anyway, enough about badly chosen boyfriends of long ago and back to the recipe. I am using a 2-pint casserole dish, which, if you have a set of three, is probably the middle one.

Rinse the blackberries well (even if you have picked from above dog-wee height), drain and put in the dish. Peel, core and chop your apples and fill the dish (I don't know the weights, I just fill the dish to the top, and left over fruit goes in the freezer until next time).
Next, make the crumble. You will need:
  • 170g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g butter or cooking margarine
  • 55g sugar (basic granulated works best - yay, the cheapest is best!)
And this is what you do:
  1. Sift flour and salt into a bowl
  2. Rub in the butter until it looks like lumpy crumbs (below)
  3. Add the sugar (don't forget this, I did once, not good)

Put the topping onto the fruit and cook at 200c for about 45 minutes.

Don't worry about the enormous towering pile, as the crumble cooks the fruit will soften and sink and you'll end up with a flat-ish dessert..............................

.................... a bit like this one:

Yum! It tasted great! We ate three quarters and I polished off the remainder for my breakfast, before anyone else could get up and snaffle it.

You can make this with any fruit all year round. If you use a very tart fruit, like gooseberry or rhubarb, sprinkle some sugar on the fruit and but a sugar bowl out when you serve, so people can sweeten to taste.

So, what free fruit is available in your areas? I swear by the book Food for Free, by Richard Mabey. I've had my copy for years and it's great. Tells you what's edible, what's not and how to use the edible stuff. Maybe I should anomalously post a copy to my ex-boyfriend.

Thanks all for now,
Carrot Cruncher