Thursday, 23 July 2009

End of term gardening club party

I’ve had a busy time of it recently, what with the allotment producing food faster than we can eat it. Added to that, I had to organise the end of term party for my gardening club. Over the course of the year a total of 28 different children between the ages of 4 and 7 had joined me for my weekly after school gardening club and they were all invited to the party. Twenty-five of them came in the end. The idea of the party was to celebrate our successes in our little fruit and vegetable garden and to give them an opportunity to eat some of the things we had grown during the year.

I have commented before on how strange it is to grow any kind of fruit and veg during school term time. We have an hour once a week to tend the garden and every six weeks we have one or two weeks of holiday and then a huge 6 to 7 week holiday right in prime growing time in the summer. So we don’t have much success with tomatoes, cucumber and sweetcorn but with a bit of thought we manage to grow quite a few things that are ready to eat in mid-July. I start gardening club straight away in September and get a few autumn/winter crops sown then, continuing with things such as overwintering broad beans, peas, garlic and onions into October. In the half term between Halloween and Christmas we come inside and do a bit of house plant gardening and gardening related Christmas presents. Then between New Year and Shrove Tuesday gardening club takes a break, returning at the end of February to start sowing the summer crops. From then on we do a lot of proper gardening until mid-July when the whole thing gets left to its own devices for 6 weeks.

The week before the party, my gardeners came inside for the session and we made strawberry ice cream and raspberry jelly and decorated some paper bags to be party bags. That was dessert organised just had to make some savoury nibbles from the vegetables. We had a good crop of potatoes, a few broad beans, some peas, the first French beans, some herbs, shallots, garlic, lettuce and a carrot or two. So on the menu was hot new potatoes with butter, potato wedges with three different herb dips, garlic bread, bread and homemade raspberry jam, lettuce, raw peas, cooked French beans and home made vegetable samosas with potato, carrot, shallot, broad bean and pea filling.

Then to finish off, each child was given a party bag to take home. Bear in mind that I charge 50p per child, per session to run gardening club and host the party for free, using up the spare cash left over, it doesn’t leave a huge budget for party bag contents. Nonetheless, I managed to fill 25 party bags for almost no cost at all. Where you may have expected a lollypop in a normal party bag, my partygoers found a shallot (to eat or grow, their choice). They had 3 gardening related stickers (from the sheets that I sell in my ebay shop), an oversized postcard of mini beasts (also a product from my shop), and then one runner bean seed to grow in a jar, and some grass seeds with instructions of how to make a grasshead at home.

Whilst I made the finishing touches to the food, helped by a willing parent, my colleague took the children outside to play gardening related games, such as trowel and potato races, watering can relay etc. Then for the last half-hour they came inside and tucked enthusiastically into the party food. They were all keen to try things, made with fruit and vegetables they had grown and there was nothing left by the end of the party. And to top it all, some of the parents commented when they saw me the next day that their child had enjoyed the party and they loved the party bag. So that was the end of another successful year of gardening club… time to start thinking about next year…

Vegetable Samosas (makes 36)
1 large potato
1 medium carrot
1 handful peas
6-8 broad bean pods
2 shallots
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon garam masala
250g pack filo pastry
Sunflower oil

Peel the potato and cut into small chunks. Peel the carrot and cut into small pieces. Boil the potatoes and carrots until soft. Remove broad beans from their pods then boil for about 10 minutes. Drain and cool then remove the outer shell from each bean. Peel and finely chop the shallot and fry until softened. Remove the shallots from the frying pan then add the mustard seeds and fry until they start to pop. In a bowl, combine the vegetables with the spices and salt to taste (add more spices if you prefer a stronger flavour). Preheat oven to 200°C, gas 6 and grease a large baking tray. Open the pack of filo pastry and keep it covered with Clingfilm and a tea towel to stop it drying out whilst you work.

To make a samosa, cut a sheet of filo pastry in half and brush it all over with some sunflower oil. Fold it into thirds along its longest length to make a long, thin rectangle. Place a spoonful of the filling at one end of the pastry strip then fold the end of the pastry diagonally over the filling to make a triangle shape. Then fold this over and over in a triangle shape until it reaches the other end of the pastry. Brush both sides of the parcel with sunflower oil and place on the baking tray. Cover with Clingfilm to stop it drying out whilst you make the other samosas. Cook the samosas for 15-20 minutes until lightly brown. Either serve immediately or store in an airtight container until needed then reheat for 10 minutes at 200°C, gas 6 to crisp up the pastry before serving.

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