In vegetable growing circles, Morton, Illinois, is the undisputed pumpkin growing capital of the world.
Yet this weekend, in the heart of the British countryside, monster specimens of this fascinating fruit, will be on display at the Malvern Autumn Show (28th & 29th September).
Amateur growers across the country have been busily growing prize pumpkins for the last few months and ten of the best will be among the bumper crop of 270 giant vegetables, ranging from parsnips, onions and marrows, to leeks, carrots and runner beans – all of them entered into the prestigious UK National Giant Vegetables Championship.
The competition makes its debut at the Three Counties Showground in Worcestershire this year, following its move from Somerset’s Royal Bath & West Showground, where it has been staged since 1997.
Pumpkins were completely unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus, although they have been grown in America for over 5,000 years! Like gourds and other varieties of squash, they belong to the Cucurbitacae family, which also includes cucumbers and gherkins, and in the peak growing season, a giant pumpkin can gain 50lbs in weight per day.
It’s easy to grow pumpkins in a home vegetable plot, though they do have a tendency to spread out a bit, so they need a bit of space to grow into. We’ve been growing them down on the plot for years now. There’s nothing more rewarding that sowing a few seeds in spring that lead to a crop of tasty winter squashes in late Autumn – this year we’re giving Waltham Butternut and Sweet Dumpling squashes a try and they’ve been coming on very nicely.
The show sounds like a great way to get a bit of inspiration for next year’s vegetable plot – there will be a Good Life Pavilion with edible gardens and Britain’s favourite baker, Mary Berry is a headline guest on Saturday.
While there’s always a certain thrill involved in finding a wonderful new restaurant, there are also other fantastic ways to enjoy great food during the summer season. During the summer, with the weather warming up and the sun staying up longer, many people like to attend outdoor events which allow us to enjoy a picnic or barbecue.
Of course, sometimes these events are already established, and you are able to just go and enjoy the food, drink and company. However, sometimes, it’s nice to put your own al fresco fare together too. It’s easy enough to pop into Marks and Spencer for a few nice bottles of summer wine and a few fresh ingredients to organize your own picnic or barbecue – so we’ve collected a few recipe ideas for you to consider.
Here are 5 particularly fitting ideas for outdoor cooking, summer weather, and good company.
1. Portobello Burgers
If you’re going to be hosting an outdoor dinner event and cooking with a barbecue grill, you’ll have plenty of options. But for a nice summery twist a portobello burger is a great option. Hearty meals are always appreciated, but lighter options can go down a treat in warmer weather and a portobello mushroom with a little chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil makes a great tasty burger and is easy to manage for a large group.
2. Grilled Tacos
Tacos are some of the easiest food options for large groups, and are absolutely perfect for outdoor summer dining. Simply barbecue your choice of meat or fish and provide enough interesting toppings to allow your guests to make up their own tacos. In particular a few light citrus sauces and toppings such as shredded lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes are likely to be popular.
Another incredibly simple but delicious option for summer dining is a grilled kebab. One of the great things about serving up kebabs is that they work beautifully for both vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Serve up skewers with peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and tomatoes, and/or chunks of meat on them, and you’ll have plenty of easy, delicious food to please your guests. Have a few few sauce options and some warm pitta on hand and the meal is sorted!
4. Lettuce Wraps
If you want to serve up food and leave assembly entirely to your guests, lettuce wraps can be perfect. An array of cooked meats, tofu, chopped vegetables, spices and sauces – and in some cases, even nuts – will provide just about any toppings your guests could want. Lettuce wraps are a bit of work, which many people appreciate during communal, outdoor dining experiences, as it can be great fun and heightens the social atmosphere.
5. Salads With Fruit
Finally, for the simplest option of all, offer up a well-conceived salad with fresh summer fruit and vegetables. There’s scope to make it as exciting as you like by adding a good range of ingredients from meat or fish, to cooked grains such as tabbouleh or quinoa or even a few fresh berries or some chopped citrus to give the salad a unique and summery feel.
If you are still looking for somewhere to party and dine to see in the New Year, here’s a round up of restaurants across the UK, which have special deals for New Year’s Eve dining.
From intimate and romantic to buzzing party atmospheres, there’s something for everyone to help celebrate the start of 2011.
Bath – Strada
A three course meal for £40 per person, with an antipasto sharing platter to start, plus a choice of main courses and puddings from the fixed menu. Strada restaurants across the country are open on New Year’s Eve.
Blackpool – Bella Italia
The a la carte menu is available for New Year’s revellers. Bella Italia restaurants across the country are open on New Year’s Eve.
Chagford – 22 Mill Street
Tucked away in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon, 22 Mill Street has two AA Rosettes and is an intimate restaurant offering a fine dining experience. Perfect for a romantic New Year’s Eve for two! The New Year’s Eve offer is six courses for £65 per person.
Chester – MC Cafe Bar & Grill
Serving the delicious food that Michael Caines and Abode Hotels are renowned for, MC Cafe Bar and Grill is on the ground floor of Abode Chester Hotel. The New Year’s Eve deal will start with a glass of Fizz followed by a fabulous 3 course dinner for £35 per person.
Croydon – Fish & Grill
The emphasis at Fish and Grill restaurant in South Croydon is on delicious fresh seafood and fish that is sourced daily from Cornwall and the south coast. The New Year’s Eve dinner includes a glass of Champagne and a four course meal for £45.
Edinburgh – Metro
Book the ‘The Taste of Scotland’ on New Year’s Eve at the relaxed Edinburgh brasserie, Metro and get a complimentary glass of Prosecco.
Edinburgh – Mezbaan South Indian Restaurant
Spice up New Year’s Eve with some South Indian flavours at Mezbaan in Edinburgh, with four courses for £22 per person.
Glasgow – Alla Turca Restaurant Grill & Mezze Bar
Two courses from the Hogmanay Gala Menu for £19.90 or three Courses for £24.90 per person including a Champagne Cocktail & Live Music.
Henley on Thames – Brasserie Gerard
Celebrate the New Year with a five course meal and a glass of Champagne, coffee & entertainment for £44.95 per person.
Hoghton – Romance Restaurant Boat
A unique restaurant aboard a canal boat in Houghton, Lancashire for the ultimate in romantic dining. Cruise the night away whilst enjoying their New Year’s Eve five course dinner for £50 per person.
Leicester – Cedar’s Lebanese Restaurant
Bring in the New Year with a middle eastern swing at Cedar’s Lebanese Restaurant – the New Year’s Eve Menu is £39.99 per person and there entertainment from a live belly dancer.
London – The Cinnamon Club
For a sauve and sophisticated New Year, try the The Cinammon Club in the Grade II listed former Westminster Library building. the New Year’s Eve Menu is five courses and glass of Champagne with music from the in house DJ for £150 per person.
All London Restaurant with a New Year’s Eve offer
Need to know what’s on in London restaurants on New Year’s Eve? Here’s a full list of London restaurants with New Year’s Eve offers.
Manchester – Tiger Tiger
For a complete night out under one roof in Manchester, Tiger Tiger is the place to head. With six bars, a buzzy basement club and a stylish late-night restaurant, it has everything to make New Year’s Eve a night to remember. Save £5 on entrance with a prebooked ticket for £20 or get a five course meal too for £40 per person.
Manchester – City Cafe
City Cafe Manchester is a critically acclaimed restaurant located within the award winning City Inn. The Special New Year’s Eve menu is four courses and coffee for £70 per person.
Nottingham – Ill Bertorelli
A true Italian dining experience in Nottingham City Centre, the New Year’s Eve deal is three courses with Prosecco including coffee for £29.95 per person.
Oxford – 66a Restaurant @ Cotswold Lodge Hotel
Just a 10 minute walk from the city centre, enjoy the 66a New Year’s Eve Champagne reception Gala Dinner and music until 1am for £55 per person.
Southport – 51 The Promenade
New Year’s Eve dinner on the prom for £35 per person for four courses.
Don’t forget, you can also use UK Dining to search for New Year’s restaurant offers by location.
The UK Dining team wish everyone a Very Happy New Year!