Friday, 6 August 2010

Gardening Club Party

After another successful year of running a gardening club at my daughters’ school, it was time to celebrate our successes by holding an end of year party. Once again I sent out an invitation to all 34 children who had done gardening club at some point during the year and of those about 22 were able to attend the party. The week before, my current gardeners came inside for the afternoon and we made strawberry ice-cream lollies and raspberry jellies with the fruit we had grown in the little school garden. They also sowed some cress onto cotton wool to make a quick catch crop for sandwiches, and printed garden designs onto paper party bags.

A few days before the party, I made vegetable samosas with our homegrown potatoes, shallots, broad beans and peas. And then some onion bhajis with our onions. This was something of a challenge as I don’t own a deep fat frier but I managed to do an oven baked version that turned out well, providing 12 bite sized bhajis, just perfect as a taster. Children are never big fans of onions so it was a challenge to find a way of making onions appeal to children. With the mild spices and no added chilli powder these morsels proved to be a tasty sweet and savoury snack that the child
ren enjoyed.

On the day of the party itself, I boiled some eggs and grated some cheese to go with the cress in sandwiches. I crushed some garlic, mixed it with butter and chopped parsley and spread it in between slices in two part baked baguettes to make garlic bread. We had grown some Yukon Gold, Rooster and Blue Danube potatoes in a stack of 3 old tyres. To preserve the beauty of the yellow, red and blue skins on the potatoes I simply washed them and sliced them into chunky wedges. They just needed a quick mix with some sunflower oil, salt and pepper before going into the oven for half an hour. The remaining potatoes (Rocket and Vales Emerret varieties) I boiled and served with melted butter. Finally, for anyone feeling unadventurous, I also brought along a pot of homemade raspberry jam.

So for half an hour, whilst I cooked and prepared the food with a couple of helpful parents, the children went outside with Sue and built up an appetite running around playing games in the garden. Then they came inside to tuck into their feast. I invited the headteacher down to join us and she too was impressed by the spread of food. “Isn’t it amazing what you were able to grow in the school garden,” she said as she tucked into a samosa.

“Isn’t it amazing what you can make with potatoes and onions,” I quipped back.

But let’s face it, if you are able to grow potatoes and onions you’ll never starve!

Vegetable Samosas (makes 32)

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 skin 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.

Onion Bhaji-Bites (makes 12)

5 oz onions
Sunflower oil
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch ground ginger

2½ oz Gram flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 generous teaspoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and grease a baking tray. Peel the onions and top and tail. Cut the onions in half then slice thinly. Fry the onions in a pan with a little oil until softened, stirring constantly. Add the turmeric, cumin, ginger and coriander to the onions and stir well before removing from the heat. Place the flour, salt, cumin and coriander in a bowl and mix well. Add the onions to the bowl and mix well until the onions are well coated. In a small cup, mix together the tomato puree and water. Add the tomato puree mixture to the flour and stir in to make a sticky mixture. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture and form into small balls then place on the baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Serve immediately or allow to cool. To reheat, place in an oven at 180°C,

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