How to grow French Beans

Prone to late frosts, cold winds and slugs, now is the time to grow French beans. I planted out my climbing bean Cornetti Meraviglia di Venezia last week, but only sowed Dwarf French bean Boby Bianco in situ in the last few days. The dwarf varieties work well, allowing a bumper crop without the need for supports. They also are the best to grow if you want to extend the season and grow under cover. Beans are best sown into moist soil that is rich in organic matter, a few centimetres deep and initially under cloches. To get a succession of crops, sow every month or so until late summer. As the plants develop and get flowers, make sure that you water regularly, as this will encourage more flowers and thus more beans. A mulch of organic matter around the base of the plants helps to retain the moisture and also gives a nutritional boost to the plants. You can also use a tomato feed (or something similar like comfrey or nettle ‘tea’) to help encourage the development of more pods.

Pick the beans regularly to keep them producing. They are at their best when their slim pods hide the beans seeds perfectly, and the flesh snaps crisply. If you’re unable to devour all the beans available when they’re at their best, just blanch in boiling water for a minute or so and open-freeze, before transferring to freezer bags. They cook brilliantly from frozen when needed.

Beans also do a great job of improving the soil even after their harvest. They enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen in nodules of bacteria on their roots. To capture this nutritional boost, cut off the stems of the plants at ground level when they have finished cropping, leaving the roots to enrich the soil.





Our Daily Bread

Bread is the lifeline of millions of people across the world, with 99% of UK households buying bread it is undoubtedly a integral part of our diet. On a basic level it’s a simple prepared food, and as such the basic ingredients haven’t changed in thousands of years. I love baking and I love the whole process of making a loaf; its a very mindful thing, offering time to think and allowing you to do something physical which has a satisfying end product.
I’ve made bread on and off over the last few years, but recently I’ve been getting more in to it. Although not working at the very early times of commercial bakers, making and kneading the dough before the school run has become a good way for me to start the day. With the positive benefits of bread on my mental wellbeing in mind, I discovered Bread Club. It’s been set up by a community social enterprise run by Community Chef in nearby Lewes. The basic premise is that communities used to have their own bakeries and everyone had a relationship with the baker, the oven, the community bread; and this is something which we should reinvigorate. In addition, the mindful nature of bread making is something we can all benefit from. Bread Club in Lewes is a group of people who produce real bread for subscribers to the club, providing those who subscribe with weekly fresh, lovingly crafted bread.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve started a course of bread making training with Bread Club and the Community Chef, with a view to developing a similar project in Hove. Though a stressful experience in many ways (I still find meeting new people a challenge); working with a small group of bread lovers, making bread and enjoying lunch, has been a highlight of my week. So far we’ve focused on the basics of bread and how the different variables can be controlled to get a great loaf, as well as developing an understanding of enriched doughs. We always leave holding bags bulging with warm bread, and I fill the train home with amazing bread aromas. I can’t wait until next week.

I’m dead chuffed to be shortlisted in the FOOD category for the BIBS (Brilliance in Blogging Award). If you think I deserve to be in the final then please vote for me by clicking on the picture below. Thank you for all your support!

BiB Food 2014

Dead Chuffed: Shortlisted for a Brilliance in Blogging Award


Spade Fork Spoon has been nominated in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards in the food category. This is amazing and I’m dead chuffed, especially as there are so many amazing food blogs out there. I started the blog as a way of documenting the change from being a full-time teacher, to becoming a stay-at-home Dad; spending time in the kitchen and at the allotment, as well as spending quality time with my family. Cooking and growing fruit and veg has really helped me to become a happier person and I really feel it can help me as I continue my journey and I blog about my recipes for a changed life. It’s so nice to think that what I write about is liked and appreciated by others; and even liked to the point of actually nominating me. Thank you whoever you are!

You can see  the other amazing blogs who made the shortlist on the BiBs2014 website; and if you can see your way to voting for Spade Fork Spoon, then you can do so by clicking on the badge below.


MAD Blogging Awards

MAD Blog Awards

I’m very proud to have been nominated by someone for the Best Food Blog at The MADS (Mum and Dad blogging awards). Thank you whoever you are; I’m chuffed that anyone reads the blog, but to have someone nominate me for an award is special! If you too want to vote for me, or any one of the amazing blogs out there, you can do so by following the link or clicking on the image above.

Something From Nothing – Newspaper Pots

This time month is the time of year when gardeners and allotmenteers are starting to sow seeds ready for the season ahead. I’ve got loads of pots waiting at the allotment, but my seed trays have seen better days. I always try and spend the smallest amount of money I can at the allotment, so replacing a load of seed modules without having to buy new ones is desirable. A while ago we got a wooden seed pot maker; so armed with that and the newspapers from the weekend I set about creating some seed modules for my early sowings. Obviously using newspaper is great as it is always best to reuse rather than simply recycle. However, its other advantage is that seedlings can just be planted out in their paper modules; the newspaper will breakdown in the soil and allow roots to spread and establish. Its a little time consuming making loads of these, but the satisfaction in making something from a resource which would only be thrown away (well recycled) makes up for the extra effort.

You will need
Pot making mould (or something cylindrical in shape about the size of pot you require)

Start by cutting newspaper into 8cm strips (larger if cylinder mould being used is bigger, you need enough paper to fold underneath the tube to make the base).Wrap the newspaper strip around the mould and then press down on a hard surface to form a firm base. Once your pot is made, you can fill with compost and sow seeds, or plant out seedlings.

Every Little Helps

Since going on my sabbatical I have been thinking about something I can do that is worthy. Not that teaching isn’t, but I hanker after being helpful and being able to be proud of myself. Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, I’m hoping it will make me a happier person too.

So today, I’ve been volunteering with FareShare outside my local branch of Tesco as part of their #everycanhelps scheme. The premise of this is that shoppers donate tins and packets of food as they come out of the supermarket. This food gets distributed to the local food bank and other community food organisations by FareShare. The #everycanhelps scheme lasts for the whole weekend (29th November-1stDecember) and is being held across the country; with donations of food going to local causes. I noticed the other day that our local Coop Food also had a trolley for FareShare donations – so there is opportunity beyond the weekend to do something for others and make yourself a little happier.

During a break from giving out a list of foods that could be donated I grabbed a coffee from the local Caffè Bar Italia and noticed that I could help further by not only buying myself an espresso, but also purchasing a caffè sospeso (a suspended coffee). This is an idea based on Italian traditional goodwill, allowing someone who can’t afford it to pop into the café and enjoy a prepaid warm drink. like Tesco’s involvement with FareShare, perhaps the big coffee houses should embrace the suspended coffee and give our communities an opportunity to help the less fortunate.

You see, every little thing can help others, and hopefully yourself.

The Liebster Award

The fabulous The Dessert Course has nominated my blog for the Liebster Award. It’s always nice to be recognised as doing something which others enjoy and benefit from, so thank you. The Liebster Award is awarded by fellow bloggers, and is intended to promote new bloggers. The word ‘Liebster’, as my GCSE German tells me, has a variety of meanings, but essentially it’s kindest or sweetest. I love the sentiment of this; bloggers sticking together and being supportive to each other, despite geographical separation. As part of the Liebster Award process, I need to answer some questions set by The Dessert Course. So without further ado, here are my responses.

Which cook book could you not be without?
Like many food bloggers, I’ve got many cookbooks and probably don’t use all of them that regularly. I have some favourites and tend to use them more than others. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Everyday and Nigel Slater’s Appetite are favourites and I’d always want them in my kitchen.
Who taught you everything you know about cooking/baking?
My mum was the cook in our house, so it was mum who gave me my grounding in cooking. I have fond memories of great food as a kid, and always enjoy heading home for home cooked deliciousness.
What is your favourite holiday destination?
I’ve had a number of great holidays, but perhaps my favourite was to Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian coast. It was about ten years ago and we arrived at 2am in a thunderstorm; even so it was 30+ degrees. We stayed in an apartment in the old town and spent our days swimming off the rocks, drinking coffee, having the best (and cheapest) ice creams, and enjoying fantastic Italian food. Given the chance I’d go back any time.
When you were a child, what job did you see yourself doing?
From an early age I always saw myself as a teacher. My grandfather and aunt were both teachers and I suppose I felt I should follow in their footsteps; although basically I always felt I could be a good teacher and help children, in the way I was helped by some great teachers.
What food can you not stand the sight of?
I’m pretty sure that all food looks appealing to me, I would certainly try anything which is eaten by others.
Who is your favourite musician/band?
I’m not sure I have a favourite band. I listen to a lot of radio, but it’s usually Radio 4. When I want to relax I tend to listen to jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
What issue are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about my family and making them happy. Happiness is a very underrated thing and not something which just happens – you need to work at it.
What is your biggest fear?
Crikey, that’s a deep one….
Are you a dog or cat person?
Cat. Don’t get me started…
How long have you been running your blog?
Spadeforkspoon has been running since September when I went on sabbatical from my teaching job.

The idea of the Liebster award is to promote new bloggers. I can’t seem to find out who of the bloggers I follow are new and who are more experienced and more followed, so I’ve listed a few blogs I really enjoy reading.

So, here are some questions for my nominees.
Describe yourself in three words.
Why did you start the blog?
What is your favourite food?
What is your most memorable food location?
What is your favourite book?
What is your most prized possession?
Countryside or city?
Book or Ebook?
Marmite or no marmite?
What is your favourite blog post (provide a link)?

Fish on a Friday

Last night we had breaded plaice and tomato salsa for dinner. I love the combination (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday) of the sweet and sharp tomatoes with the subtle flavours of the plaice. We usually get our fish from the fabulous Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales on Shoreham Harbour. It’s a great place, offering a plethora of different fish with expertise and a friendly smile. During the summer I went along to one of their advance fish preparation courses. There were five others who wanted to spend a Tuesday evening wielding a knife and trying to perfect the perfect fillet under the expert tuition of one of the fishmongers. Over the ninety minutes, we learnt how to fillet both round fish (some lovely Sea Bass) and the more tricky flat fish (Plaice). In addition to the tuition, all the fish we filleted were ours to take away. So armed with a big bag containing ten bass fillets and ten of plaice, I walked home thinking of ways to use my fabulous filleted fish.

The next dates for their fish and shellfish preparation courses are Tuesday 15th October and Wednesday 27th November. These will cover dressing a crab, filleting mackerel, cleaning squid and gutting bream. Priced at £30 with lots to take home.The next advanced course which is perfect if you know a bit already will be on Tuesday 29th October. This is priced at £35 at we will cover filleting flat and round fish with lots to take home. You can get more information from their website.


An Apple a Day

This year by all accounts; despite, or indeed because of, the cold start to the year, has been a great year for apples on the plot. Indeed around the country, wherever I’ve been, there has been apple trees laden with fruit. The fruit trees planted on road verges often tempt me to pull over and pick their bounty.


However, the two trees on my plot are providing us with enough apples to keep the family in an apple a day each. We also drink a bit of fruit juice though. So it got me thinking. Could we use our own apples to make our own apple juice? The answer seems to be yes. We live near to the National Collection of Cider andrry and they offer a juicing service during the later summer and autumn. For 63p a litre you can get your crop juiced while you wait (booking needed). Once crushed using a shredder type machine, they put the pulp into a press and squeeze out the juice. In our case, we have ‘Beauty of Bath’ apples, the juice that came out was pinkish in colour and as my son said “tasted just like the apples”.I suppose that’s the point. Unlike bought juice, we know exactly what goes into this juice – just apples!


Well actually, I discovered that in order to prolong the life of my delicious juice, I needed to add citric acid to ensure that the juice didn’t go brown. Teamed with a home pasteurisation process, borrowed from The Cider Workshop, I now have bottles of apple juice which should keep for longer than a few days and not ferment and produce cider. An alternative is to freeze it, but we didn’t have much space in our small freezer. We needed an alternative. Hopefully, my amateur pasteurisation will be a success and not an explosive failure.

Welcome to Spade Fork Spoon

After 15 years of teaching its time for a change. Spade Fork Spoon is a place where I will document the journey from the classroom into the kitchen and out onto the allotment. Along the way I hope to share the stories, surprises and successes that I have in this change of lifestyle.