Are you lucky enough to find yourself with an excess of lemons and oranges this Easter? Looking for something to make with them all? This was the bounty that I had the other weekend, and I was quite keen to use them all.
The other day I posted about the more unique take on Paska that I made this past weekend, and I promised more. I decided to try making a regular paska recipe that my aunt gave me, as well as using a challah bread recipe to make a paska flavoured challah. I had remembered paska dough as being quite wet, and wanted something I could braid into shapes. However, after making my Aunt’s paska recipe, I realized it wasn’t as wet as I thought. I could have easily braided it into wreaths etc.
But you want to know what this huge amount of paska means, besides being something Richard can take to work? Paska French toast!! Awesome Easter breakfast… if I do say so myself.
The bakery that I work at in London, is quite well known for its doughnuts. When I first tried one without any filling, just the doughnut, I could only think of one thing. PASKA! They use lemon zest in the dough, and the combination of yeast and citrus just brought back memories of paska. It’s not really strong enough to come through when there is a filling in it, but on its own it’s like warm memories of my childhood.
For those of you who don’t know what paska is, it’s a yeasted Ukrainian Easter bread, flavoured with lemon and orange. It’s usually served with sweetened cream cheese – or at least that’s what my grandma always made with it. And if you grew up in a Mennonite family, then you’re probably used to seeing paska with some simple icing on top, sprinkled with rainbow sprinkles… like this!
But I wanted to make something different this year! So with those doughnuts as my inspiration, I decided to make paska flavoured doughnuts! Using a recipe from Justin Gellatly’s cookbook Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding – I adapted it to include the paska flavour. All it took was increasing the amount of citrus zest exponentially, and changing the water to citrus juice. (I also used active dry yeast instead of fresh, as it’s kind of hard to find.)
Well, it’s mostly before. To be exact, by the point I started taking pictures we had already ripped out almost all of the weed strewn landscape fabric barrier, old overgrown lavender, blackberry brambles, and 2-3 rows of raspberry bushes. So it doesn’t do justice to what our little plot was like when we took it over, but it’s sort of the clean slate we created.
Last weekend, Richard and I both had Saturday off, so we spent the morning on the allotment. First up, we went to our local garden center, Ruxley Manor, for some seeds, hand tools, and rhubarb plants. We had hoped to get our shed delivered this weekend, but it won’t come until mid April. Instead, we decided to try and get the rest of the clearing and pruning done in preparation. As a lot of the plants are going around the shed, we decided to only buy the rhubarb that day. The little rhubarb patch is in the other half of the plot, so we don’t have to worry about moving anything.
apparently this is two plum trees planted together – one purple, and the other green!
Our allotment plot was in rough shape when we got it. None of the trees had ever been properly pruned, nothing was cut back or well trained, and most of the soil was covered with landscape fabric to prevent weeds (which just grew through it). It meant a few days of back breaking work for Richard (I kept having to work weekends) and lots of pruning and tidying up for me. However, it already has three apple trees, 2.5 plum trees (one tree is apparently two growing together, different kinds), and enough raspberry plants to salvage a row.
our solitary row of raspberry canes – also, how immaculate is our neighbor’s plot?
But this last weekend, I decided to start documenting our progress! I’m not sure if this is interesting to anyone but me, but I want to be able to see how far we’ve come when it’s done. Side note – Richard has to go away for work for 6 weeks in May, and I asked him if he wanted me to send him weekly allotment update photos. He thinks he wants to be surprised by how much it has all grown when he gets back… which I used to love seeing after summer holidays when I was a kid.
this is our current plan for the allotment – although it changes every time we are down there (in fact, it has already changed from what it shown here!)
So first up, we have the front half of the allotment. We keep calling it the ‘raspberry section’, as it used to contain mostly rows of overgrown raspberries, but we need to come up with better names. Perhaps one half is Canada, and the other Northern Ireland? That way I can say things like, “let’s put the beans in the Northwest of Canada!”.
Here we are stalling the most due to the shed, as it’ll go in the bottom corner of the plot. Richard spent a day ripping up all the landscape fabric (rolled into piles) and random bricks. Now we just need to properly turn the soil and we can begin planting! Hopefully we’ll plant beans, peas, carrots, cucamelons, chillis, tomatoes, herbs and some flowers here. We’re going to try and plant some pretty/fragrant things around the shed as we’re building a mini patio out of reclaimed brick. A nice little place to sit and have a cup of tea while we’re at the allotment.
We’ve already changed our plans from what my plan shows above, as we’re now thinking about moving the carrots and lettuce greens to this section, and putting them in raised beds. We may even include the cucamelons in with this plan, and create an archway between the two beds!
In between the two growing sections, we have two trees. One is our weird mixed plum tree-and-a-half, and the other is an apple tree. There were three rose bushes placed around these, but they were getting in the way in terms of picking and pruning, so they had to go. We are giving them to a friend of Richard’s, so at least they will be planted somewhere. Just not somewhere that involves me constantly getting pricked by thorns when trying to get at the fruit in the trees.
As I do like flowers, I am replacing the thorny roses with a bank of edible flowers. My goal is to cover the ground between the trees with flowers, that can then be added to salads. You can see my little tray of violas ready for planting, and there were already tons of primrose around. We’ll also plant marigolds, cornflower, and violets. I just need to get them sprouting first. Maybe in a year or two we’ll have lots of pretty, yet edible, flowers?
The second half of the allotment, is larger than the first. It’s where most of our rows of vegetables will go, along with a few randoms. As there was already a rhubarb plant here, we decided to keep it where it was, and create a patch. We’re introducing a couple varieties that we bought, so we’ll hopefully get rhubarb at different times of the year.
There was also a thornless blackberry variety, to the right of where Richard is majestically posing. Again, we’re keeping it as is, but will try to train it better. We’re creating a little brick border, and will mulch on top of the existing landscape fabric, as it was too difficult to remove in this area, and will help with weeds. You won’t even notice it once we’re through with it.
And seeing as how there it a bit of room in this little section, we’re going to add a tayberry plant! I have never tried one before, but it seemed like a good fit beside the blackberry, as they both need similar support and training. Oh, and there is another smaller plum tree in this section, but it doesn’t divide the space up like the other trees, as it’s on the edge of our plot.
apparently this is a purple plum… which makes me a bit sad as yellow plums are my absolute favorite!
the little rhubarb plant we inherited
At the far end of our little plot are three trees – one cherry, and two apples flanking it. I’ve already pruned them back, so now we just have to devise a plan for protecting our cherries from birds! We’ve heard from our neighbors not to expect any cherries, as the birds get them all. Not this year birds! Although, to be fair, I’m not sure what to do yet to prevent that.
As with the previous tree section, we’re going to plant a bunch of flowers under the trees. In this case, however, Richard wants to plant tons of spring bulbs! Not going to do much for us this year, but come next spring, there will be a huge boom in daffodils, crocus, and snow drops under these trees!
And that’s that! It’s kind of a boring post, not going to lie, but I wanted to let you all see the blank slate we started with. That way, when I start posting amazing photos once it’s all established, you will be even more impressed! Now if you need me, you will find me sitting on the grass, trying to mentally encourage my plants to grow…