My kitchen’s beginning to look like there’s been a marathon junk modelling session going on. There are bits of newspaper littering the floor, and tubes from the inside of toilet rolls stood up in trays and plant pots. Spring is on the way, and I’m making paper pots for seedlings.
I’ve been using toilet roll tubes to grow sweet peas, broad beans and French beans for a few years now. They’re pretty much just the right length for the seedlings to put down good long roots before planting them out in the garden. And because the cardboard decomposes in the soil, the whole thing gets planted with minimum disturbance to the roots (although I do usually tear down the side of the tube, just to make sure the roots can grow outwards without any barrier).
I used to make ‘fancy’ paper pots from brown paper from an idea in a Martha Stewart magazine I was given. These pots were used for potting up herbs to be sold through a local shop. These looked good, and were completely biodegradable when the herbs were used up or planted in a pot or the garden. This fitted nicely with the shop’s eco-friendly philosophy, and the customers seemed to like the pots. But for home use I use newspaper pots – cheap to make and sturdy enough to keep the compost and seedlings contained until they are ready to be given their space in the garden. I spent a lot of time making a mess, and paper pots that fell apart at the slightest touch, before I discovered these easy to follow instructions (with photos!) on the Higgledy Garden blog, perfect for anyone like me with limited creative abilities. And now (most) of the pots I make stay in one piece.
Now I have a stack of really good, biodegradable pots that can be planted straight out into the garden.
I did try to turn paper pot making into a half term activity, but the children have reached the stage where parents are an embarrassment rather than a source of fun activities, and refused join in. I had more success with getting them to help me cook though. When I showed my son the new blog challenge that Vanesther is hosting at Bangers & Mash, he was keen to help me come up with a recipe. This challenge – Recipes for Life, is for a really good cause too. Vanesther is collecting recipes to make tasty, easy to cook dishes based on three main ingredients. The best of the recipes will be put together in a cookbook which will be sold to raise funds for Swallow, a charity which assists adults with learning difficulties in leading more independent lives.
This month the three ingredients are sausages, onions and tomatoes. Our first recipe was a pasta bake using the three ingredients, but another blogger got in there first with a similar recipe… so instead, we’ve adapted a dish that my son cooked in a food technology lesson in school. His version used tomatoes, olives and mozzarella, on a pastry base and was delicious. We’ve used the same idea, but added the sausages and onions for the Recipes for Life challenge in place of the olives, and some fresh parsley from the garden for extra flavour. Oh, and we used vegetarian sausages but I’m pretty sure any good sausages would work just as well.
Sausage & onion tarts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 vegetarian sausages, cut into chunks
a small tin of plum tomatoes, or ½ of a 400g tin
a pinch of red chilli flakes (optional)
1 x 500g packet of ready made puff pastry
a small amount of butter for greasing
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 x 250g ball mozzarella
Heat the oil in a frying pan. When the oil is warm, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a few minutes on a heat low enough to cook it without browning. Add the garlic to the pan, stir and cook for two minutes. Then add the chunks of sausage, the tinned tomatoes and the chilli flakes (if using). Stir everything together and cook until you have a thick sauce.
While the tomato mixture is cooking, roll the pastry out on a floured work surface to make a rectangle about ½ cm deep. Cut this rectangle into 6 pieces (roughly equal). Take each piece of pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to score a line around the edge, about ½ cm in from the outside of the pastry. Put each square onto a baking sheet greased with the butter.
Turn the oven on and let it heat up to 190oC, 375F, gas 5.
When the oven is hot, take the tomato mixture off the heat. Stir in the parsley, and divide the mixture between the six pastry squares. Spread the mixture out so that it covers the centre of the pastry up to the line you scored with the knife. Slice the mozzarella and put a couple of slices on top of each pastry square.
Bake the tarts in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. They’re ready when they are nicely golden brown and the mozzarella has melted.