Caught by the River

Mrs Bun's Allotment Watch

Nina Walsh | 30th July 2012

by Nina Walsh

Apparently, Formic acid excreted from the red ant offers many potential health benefits. Included amongst these are relief from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, increased white blood cell production, improved stamina and it has even been used, in it’s living, crawling and biting form, to induce positive electrical stimulation in cases of paralysis. In China ant tonic is big business, being worth more than $100 million every year and homeopaths also make good use of this ancient knowledge with the application of a remedy, Formica Rufa, basically ground up ants.

All of this information aside, it does little to alleviate the embarrassment of my somewhat Popeye- esque swollen arms and the immense heat radiating from them, after an eviction order was carried out on my herb garden. Having a healthy respect for nature’s duality and not being one to immediately opt for suppressive pharmaceuticals, I declined the offer of anti-histamine pills and instead decided to trawl the global library for some positive ant wisdom. I was amazed at what I found and am now thankful to those little, red six-legged soldiers for the possible pain reduction in my chef’s pan-hands! Maybe an ant placebo but who cares? My arms might look a bit like badly stuffed sausages but my wrists no longer need bracing and I am a little wiser to the ways of the ant.

On my path to ant enlightenment, and much to my disappointment, I discovered that a Yorkshire drinks company failed miserably in an attempt to unleash it’s alternative energy drink, Ant, onto the Great British public a few years ago. With it’s main stimulant ingredient being, yes you guessed it, ants, it did not prove very popular and is no longer available in the UK so may be a home brew worth considering for sale up at The Allotment Kitchen sometime soon?

I can highly recommend this excerpt from ‘Ants, and other Great Medicines’ by Gary.J.Lockhart to anyone who wishes to learn more on the subject.

This year has probably not been the easiest year to start an outdoor allotment café. Having witnessed the wettest early to midsummer I have ever lived through and dodged the relentless downpours of torrential rain, it’s been a struggle to convince my sodden plants to even produce flowers let alone vegetables. The slugs are out in force and the birds and squirrels are quick to strip anything that has managed to produce fruit. The frogs are good though. We work together as a team and it’s us against them!

Despite the floods and, of course the hosepipe ban, Mrs Bun’s Allotment Kitchen has been gathering pace with the introduction of wholesome lunches and a pricing policy of ‘pay what you like’. The bartering system is also showing signs of success with our weekly chalk board requesting various produce in exchange for cake. There have been a couple of afternoons of extreme al fresco dining which have now been remedied with the loan of a slightly worn out pop-up shelter – courtesy of fellow film location caterers The Cooking Crew – and further donations of chairs have contributed to what is fast becoming a rather civilised way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The menus so far have included Sweet Potato, Walnut & Goat’s Cheese Gratin, Chicken & Mushroom Casserole, French Onion Tart, Fish Pie, Leek & Smoked Ham Gratin and Homity Pie; all served with home-baked bread, salad and brown rice & barley. Not bad from what was once a baked potato truck.

One of our most heart warming words of encouragement has come from a breakfast regular at The Kitchen. Rather unconvincingly disguised as a parking ticket, he left a note on the windscreen of Fifi the truck to say how disappointed he was that his visits to the Kitchen were at an end after only 2 weeks as he was leaving the area and that he thought that we had a fantastic café. The London Wildlife Trust, who have a conservation project running in the neighbouring woodland, has shown interest and offered us space on their notice board to promote ourselves and we have even had the offer of an interview from the editor of Foodepedia, so my feelings are that we are doing something right.

Apart from keeping busy with The Allotment Kitchen, this month has seen the annual allotment inspection which, thanks to the help of friends and family (and a few tasty lunches for the chairman of the committee and his wife), it seems I have muddled through unscathed and retained my full plot. I did manage a rather impressive crop of garlic this year, mum built me an even more impressive wall in the potager and Erick’s garden has never seen so many flowers before so the plot was looking far from neglected and I wasn’t too worried. My humble appreciation to those who have helped me keep on top of things and let’s hope the sun tries a little bit harder to help produce a bountiful harvest of something other than more slugs.

Gluten Free Earl Grey Chocolate Cake – a cup of tea in a slice of cake!

6 Earl Grey teabags 

200ml boiling water

115g unsalted butter

4 large free-range eggs

300g Raw cane sugar

275g Gluten free flour

125g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp gluten free baking powder

125g Plain yoghurt

Heat the oven to 175c.
Butter a 9 inch spring form cake tin
Brew the tea in the water 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags set aside.
Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the melted chocolate. Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, yoghurt, and brewed tea.
Pour into pan.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.
Turn out of pan and cool.
Dust with icing sugar.

Mrs Bun X

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