What do you get when a sunflower turns into a chilli plant – a silliflower?

A silly silliflower story

It’s three years this month since one of my sunflower plants started to change into a chilli plant (yep, you read that right).

As I’ve only just discovered the taste sensation that is gin and tonic with finely-sliced chilli, this three year anniversary may be worth celebrating…

But first, here’s the back story:

Back in 2014, we got given sunflower seeds for joining in Learning at Work Week events at work.

Sunflower plant grown from a seed – as of Oct 2014

By August 2015, my last surviving sunflower was window height (not exactly thriving) alongside a dying chilli plant.

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Sunflower plant (in same pot) tall and straggly – August 2015

Err, and it had grown a chilli:
IMG_3088c_hybrid sunflower sprouting a chilli
Hybrid sunflower plant sprouts a chilli – August 2015

And continued growing chillis through 2015 and 2016:

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Sprouting chillis – Aug 2016

Still growing chillis – Nov 2016

On to 2017:

A bit chilli in here, my fingers are going green – August 2017

Still reaching for the sun – October 2017

How unusual is a hybrid plant like this – should I register it?

And who logs new plant types anyway, maybe Kew Gardens?

So many questions.

20171015 - silliflower hybrid
From the top: Once I was a sunflower; now I grow chillis; I go very well with gin + tonic

In the meantime, I’m happy to have found a new purpose for those lovely green and red chillis: at the recent Catford Gin Festival, I discovered that chilli goes really well in gin and tonic. For example:
Colonsay gin with sliced green chilli, or
Tom Cat Six with scotch bonnet).

Time for a LardButtyTestTaste…

Silliflower timeline:
– Photos on flickr: Silliflower photos

Black Sheep Brewery – Masham

Brewery tour in North Yorkshire

The Black Sheep Brewery in Masham is well worth a visit for several reasons, not least to enjoy the landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales and its quaint villages (decorated with the remains of Tour de France bunting, bicycles and all sorts of paraphernalia on our visit today).

There’s a Visitor Centre with a ‘baa..r and bistro‘ serving fresh fayre sourced from local produce (from light bites to main courses) and several Black Sheep beers on tap (and bottled too).

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Baa..r + Bistro at the Visitor Centre

But the highlight has to be the brewery tour (£6.95 for adults, £5.95 for senior citizens) which lasts about 75 minutes.

The tour starts with a seated talk about the Theakston family’s long brewing history (in parts complex, but our guide made it thoroughly entertaining) interspersed with video footage and samples of barley and hops to smell and taste, before the ‘shepherded’ part of the tour begins in the boiler room.

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Mash tun + boiler room

Apparently, this boiler room gets so hot and steamy that it’s unbearable to be in for more than a few minutes in the heat of summer. Perhaps thankfully, a new boiler was being delivered today so although we didn’t see all the equipment in full working order, that mightn’t have been such a bad thing.

What happens in this room?
~ crushed malt from the grist hopper gets mashed with hot water into the mash tun
~ starch from the malt is converted to sugars (wort)
~ the wort is drawn off into the copper where hops are added
~ when full, the copper is brought to the boil then boiled for exactly an hour
~ the brew gets dropped into the hop back where the hops settle at the bottom so that the brew can be pumped across to the fermentation room

Fermentation room:

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Yeast residue that gets transported to the East Midlands + used in Marmite

Then it’s on to the packing and distribution area…

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Preparing for disribution

…before learning a bit more about each particular beer.

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Variety of Black Sheep beers, as well as kegs and casks

And the only way to finish is to taste-test your new knowledge!

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Beer tasting l-r, front to back – Riggwelter, Golden Sheep, Black Sheep ale + Velo drafts (Imperial Russian Stout + All Creatures bottled)


I was particularly taken with Velo, a special, seasonal pale ale with subtle hints of orange and coriander, created for the Tour de France 2014 in North Yorkshire – perfectly hoppy and very easy drinking, and the Imperial Russian Stout – strong, dark and velvety.

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Imperial Russian stout

The verdict: A great day out if you’re in the area. Or well worth arranging a trip if you’re not.


Cool Velo beer mats for the 2014 Tour de France 


Restaurant info:

~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Brewery, bar
~ Address: The Black Sheep Brewery, Wellgarth, Masham, North Yorkshire, HG4 4EN
~ Website: Black Sheep Brewery website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Black Sheep Brewery
~ facebook page: Black Sheep Brewery on fb
~ Location: Black Sheep Brewery map


Harrogate Borough dining:
~ Drum + Monkey – seafood in Harrogate
~ Storm at The Dower House – Knaresborough
~ Sukhothai – Harrogate, top Thai in Yorkshire

Black Sheep Brewery on Urbanspoon

Food hygiene ‘Scores on The Doors’ (and thanks)

Thank you
Firstly just a quickie to say thank you! LardButty had its 20,000th view today (from a viewer somewhere between the States, Europe, Africa and New Zealand!) so, very many thanks for reading this lowly lardy blog. I hope you’re enjoying the mix of restaurant reviews and ‘LardButty homemade’ tried and tested recipes?

Your feedback is always welcome (let me know what you like or don’t like; you know where to find me – see the contact info on the LardButty index page) as are your comments on individual blog posts.

And swiping over to more interesting things…

Food hygiene ratings – before you fork out, check out
The infamous Chef H (former Reheme Cafe manager and recent graduate of Ashburton Cookery School – woo-hoo! congrats H!) tonight introduced me to Scores on The Doors.

What’s ‘scores on the doors’ you may well ask (I did).

In a nutshell, it’s the food hygiene ratings given to restaurants, pubs and food retail premises, as rated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and you can search the public database to access ratings of your fave (or otherwise) restaurants and pubs.

In more detail, “The food hygiene rating or inspection result given to a business reflects the standards of food hygiene found on the date of inspection or visit by the local authority. The food hygiene rating is not a guide to food quality. The information provided on businesses is held on behalf of local authorities participating in the national …scheme”.

You can also search areas/restaurants at http://ratings.food.gov.uk/default/en-GB or search on the go using one of the free ‘food hygiene’ apps from the FSA or Scores on The Doors.

Ratings explained:
5 – Very good
Very high standards of food safety management. Fully compliant with food safety legislation.

4 – Good
Good food safety management. High standard of compliance with food safety legislation.

3 – Generally satisfactory
Good level of legal compliance. Some more effort might be required.

2 – Improvement necessary
Broadly compliant with food safety legislation. More effort required to meet all legal requirements.

1 – Major improvement necessary
Poor level of compliance with food safety legislation – much more effort required.

0 – Urgent improvement necessary
General failure to comply with legal requirements. Little or no appreciation of food safety. Major effort required.

So, what are the hygiene ratings of restaurants/ pubs recently visited by LardButty?

Let’s take a look. Browse a few thumbnails here
Or here’s a few examples:

Top scoring 5, includes:
~ Bistro1, Frith Street, Soho
~ Bibimbab Cafe, Museum Street, Bloomsbury
~ Catford Chippy, Rushey Green, Catford
~ Madeira London, Vauxhall
~ Roast, Borough Market, London Bridge

Good score 4, includes:
~ Cafe Spice Namaste, East London

Generally satisfactory 3, includes:
~ Santa Maria Del Sur, Battersea
~ Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak
~ Suze in Mayfair

This is useful information that I’ll try to incorporate into future LardButty reviews (hygiene ratings being a limited component of a restaurant experience, and to re-iterate – not indicative of food quality).

To say that H and I got quite engrossed looking up the scores of some of our fave restaurants and then comparing the ratings, would be an understatement… We were out in Soho this eve with some of my family visiting from Harrogate. Suffice to say they got home (back to Harrogate) before we did (in London)…

Be warned: installing the Scores on The Doors app may lead to the loss of hours.


~ Food Standards Agency – hygiene ratings website
~ Scores on The Doors

A pequeno piece of Portugal in Lambeth

Sunshine in the Ol’ Smoke
This post first appeared 13 Aug 2013 in The London Diaries

London, in Summer 2013, is a special place to be. In tennis, Andy Murray finally won the men’s singles championship for GB at Wimbledon; there are London 2012 Olympic anniversary events; a royal birth and perhaps best of all – a heatwave. And I mean a proper heatwave, with temperatures reaching over 30°C!

Now the UK isn’t very well equipped to cope with such temperatures and travelling on the tube can be akin to melting in a bath of sweat with strangers. But on the plus side, there are plenty of cool places to go and hang out in the sunshine.

…If you know where they are.

Clapham Common – paddling pool

1. London parks
Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to parks and green spaces – it’s probably one of the greenest cities in the world. Parks in zones 1 and 2 include

  1. Hyde Park
  2. Kensington Gardens
  3. St James’s Park
  4. Green Park
  5. Regent’s Park
  6. Hampstead Heath
  7. Battersea Park
  8. Clapham Common

The moment the sun comes out, Clapham Common (where parakeets are sometimes spotted, reportedly descended from escapees while filming The African Queen in the 1950s, or so the story goes) is transformed into a mass of picnic parties with internationally accented folks organising rounders, throw-the-flipflop and even poking a toe in the paddling pool. With so many good traditional pubs nearby, the Common is a great place to chill out and watch the world go by, before heading along Old Town to seek a cheeky beverage or two.

2. Nardulli ice cream – Clapham Common
Don’t even think about joining in any antics on Clapham Common without a visit to Nardulli, a new gelateria with 24 flavours to choose from including cookies, fig roll, macadamia, nutella, cardamom and all the usual suspects too. At only £2.30 for a small cone, it’s well worth every penny.

Three Nardulli ice creams, right (top to bottom): peanut, nutella, macadamia

3. Little Portugal – Lambeth
So we’ve spent most of the year complaining about the cold weather in the UK. And now it’s hot, we want to enjoy the sunshine but stay cool at the same time.

Perhaps you’d like to sip a chilled vinho verde Portuguese wine, part-shaded by some big old trees, and munch on salt cod, grilled sardines or king prawns piri piri, in a fairly tranquil location that isn’t overcrowded?

Come closer and I’ll let you into one of London’s better kept secrets…

Casa Madeira on Albert Embankment

I visited Portugal (Lisbon) for the first time last year in May. The hospitality, cuisine, wine, glorious weather, sights and culture were so impressive we returned to experience a different part (Porto) in October. And so my love of all things Portuguese began.

On my return from Lisbon, I set myself the task of finding a Portuguese bakery in London selling pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). It wasn’t hard.

It turns out that Lambeth (you know, the borough that brings us the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks from the London Eye, and covers the area from the South Bank down to Clapham Common) contains Little Portugal, an area near Vauxhall where an estimated 27,000 Portuguese people live (probably the largest Portuguese community in the UK).

So it’s hardly surprising that there are several Portuguese bakeries and restaurants here. I chose Luis Deli out of convenience. It’s a two minute walk from Vauxhall Station, situated in the arches on Albert Embankment, selling Portuguese tarts/cakes, cheeses, meats, a good selection of wine (for example, Esporao Reserva at about £10 a bottle) and more.

Luis Deli is part of the ‘Madeira London’ group, comprising Cafe Bar Madeira, Casa Madeira (restaurant) and Pico Bar & Grill. They’re all in neighbouring arches, with plenty of outdoor seating on all-weather plastic grass stretching along the embankment in front of them.

Pizza + grilled salt cod from Casa Madeira, tarts from Luis Deli

At Casa Madeira, there’s a happy hour on wines and beers from 3 to 7pm on week days (about £2 for a pint of Portuguese lager or about £2.70 for a large glass of wine), very friendly service and an extensive menu (tapas and starters from £2.50, and main courses from various grilled fish or meat dishes to pizza and burgers).

Meatballs and chargrilled burgers

Madeira London really utilise their outdoor space. There’s nothing pretentious about this place so if you’re after a sophisticated, gourmet dining experience (and real grass), then this may not be for you. But if you’re after an uncrowded, leafy and relaxing space in which to drink and eat good value food with friends, that’s close to public transport, why not give it a try?

With Barclays cycle hire expansion into Lambeth and Wandsworth from Spring 2014, getting to – and exploring around – South West London should be even easier for Summer 2014.

IMG_5932_Casa Madeira
Seal of approval – from The London Diaries + LardButty

Casa Madeira restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Portuguese
~ Address: 46a-46c Albert Embankment, London
~ Postcode: SE1 7TL
~ Tel: 020 7820 1117
~ Nearest station: Vauxhall
~ Menu: Casa Madeira restaurant menu
~ Photos: Casa Madeira on flickr

Related links:

~ Madeira London website

~ Award-winning Portuguese wines

~ The London Diaries blog – great blog by Steph-in-London

Cafe Madeira on Urbanspoon



Food for thought – wonky veg

Feeding the 5000 at Trafalgar Square at lunchtime today

Facts about food waste
* UK households waste 25% of all food bought
* Around 20 to 40% of UK fruit + veg is rejected before reaching the shops – mostly for not matching the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards
* An estimated 20 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK from the plough to the plate
* 43 million people in the EU, 35 million in the US and 4 million in the UK suffer from food poverty
* The UK, US and Europe have nearly twice as much food as is required by the nutritional needs of their populations
– Up to half the entire food supply is wasted between the farm and the fork
– If crops wastefully fed to livestock are included, European countries have over three times more food than they need
* All the world’s circa one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than ¼ of food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe
* 2.3 million tonnes of fish discarded in the North Atlantic and the North Sea each year; 40 to 60% of all fish caught in Europe are discarded – either because they are the wrong size, species, or because of the ill-governed European quota system


Who says? And how did I get this info?

Well, I sprinted to Trafalgar Square at lunchtime today to see what the Feeding the 5000 campaign was all about.

It was quite literally that: 5000 portions of veggie curry being given out, free. All made from ingredients that would otherwise have been wasted: surplus food saved from going to food mountains; vegetables rejected due to being the ‘wrong’ shape.

Thankfully, there was a continuous line of people taking up the offer – it seemed very well received (judging by all of the scraped-empty dishes) and smelled gorgeous.

Curry made from food that would have been wasted

Lunch munchers – veggie curry proves popular at Trafalgar Square

A team was on stage in a makeshift kitchen demo-ing cooking with wonky butternut squash, talking through some of the facts above, while volunteer martials distributed flyers and enlightened satisfied munchers of the campaign’s aim which is “to highlight the ease of cutting the unimaginable levels of food waste in the UK and internationally”.

Cooking with wonky vegetables

Ok, so the facts might be shocking, even embarrassing. As a nation, we waste far, far too much food. But how can this wastage be reduced and what’s it got to do with me? It’s not my responsibility is it? …is it? Can I really help to change things?

Maybe we can, collectively. By reducing the amount of food we – as consumers – waste. By recycling more. By composting. And realising what the organisations listed below are doing, not only to raise awareness in general (educating us all is a good thing) but claiming back perfectly good, surplus food that would otherwise go to food mountains and instead feeding those in need.

Food for thought indeed.

More info / useful links:
~ This event’s facebook page

~ FareShare – UK charity fighting hunger, tackling food waste

~ FoodCycle – UK charity, encouraging local communities to set up groups of volunteers to collect surplus produce locally and prepare nutritious meals in unused professional kitchen spaces, with delicious meals then being served to those in need

~ Feeding 5k on Twitter

~ Love food hate waste – campaign by WRAP (government funded) encouraging us all to to be more efficient in our use of materials and recycle more often

~ More of Feeding 5k’s partners

~The Sun supports Fight the wonky veg mountains!

~ *Victory* for wobbly veg Waitrose brings back ugly veg

~ Oliver Rowe’s demo: cooking with butternut squash

All the fun of the foodie fayre – Battersea

Can anyone explain why snails (rubbery gastropod mollusks) and oysters (grey, slimey, mucus-textured bivalve mollusks) are considered a delicacy to eat?

Surely something that‘s so chewy, tasteless and inedible that it must be buried in garlic butter or another overpowering flavour before you can force it down your throat, is best avoided?

Deriving any pleasure from eating (gargling on) either of these mollusks is beyond me. I’ll never be converted to snails but I do wonder if I’m missing out on something where oysters are concerned. They’re expensive and popular – there must be something special about them surely?

I’m keeping an open mind and would genuinely like to be converted. So where better to try than in the beautiful – and surprisingly scorching hot – outdoors of Battersea Park? I’m at the Foodies Festival, a festival which celebrates the “finest in local, seasonal produce, speciality food and drink, culinary and restaurant talent”.

Bennett stall serving mini fish + chip portions, oysters and more

There are stalls of local restaurants offering taster portions of signature dishes (including Bennett Oyster Bar), a Harvey Nichols food market, a hugely popular Hendrick’s gin stand and other stalls serving Thai, Caribbean, Spanish and Indian food as well as all types of British. There’s also a Great Taste Market (for stallholders who’ve been awarded a Great Taste Award by the The Guild of Fine Food, for their produce in the last three years).

My friend H – who, it turns out, loves oysters and rises to the challenge of converting me – puts in an order for some. The stallholder asks which type we’d like: there’s one type from the Thames Estuary that she describes as “wild” and “exciting”, the other from the Jersey sea which is “classic” and “milky”. I know which I like the sound of most and it doesn’t involve anything out of the Thames.

H orders a portion of each while I refresh our prosecco glasses from Gastro Nicks.

The oysters are served in their shells (sliced and ready to slide), in a little salty water, covered in pickle and with a wedge of lemon (to take away the bad taste afterwards?).

I slip down a Thames oyster first. It’s not an enjoyable experience. It just tastes of swallowing a mouthful of salty sea-water with something latex caught up in it…

Thames oysters (front) + Jersey Rock oysters (back)

Swiftly moving on to the Jersey Rock oyster, this is abundantly more pleasurable. The taste is less harsh, less rough (or am I just getting used to the flavours – is it an acquired taste?), and, as the lady said, more milky.


Maybe I was the last to know but I’ve learnt that there are different types of oysters and that they vary in taste, texture and quality/ grade. I’m not claiming to be converted yet but I will keep an open mind.

I would have Jersey Rock again and anything a grade or two above (probably Scottish).

Venturing from liquids to solids, there are a couple of enticing pie and meat stands. And Orchard Pigs has the edge, with their tractor wheel pork pies.

I’m not a huge pork pie fan but I fell in love with the Druids pie (pork, Druids Ale, mustard seed, sage, pepper and nutmeg) the moment I saw it. Not only is the pastry less thick and dry (no lardy jelly either) than regular round pork pies but there’s a wonderful mix of ingredients complementing the premium pork.

Best pork pie in the kingdom
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Druids pork pie with lots of mustard seeds – unbeatable.

I swear I can smell this pie just by looking at the picture. It was absolutely delicious and quite probably the best pork pie in the kingdom. (I also bought black pudding and apple pork pies for another day – these tractor wheel pastry edges and different flavours may have revitalised the traditional old pork pie but nothing beats the Druid).


A good few hours very well spent. As are the contents of my purse.

Watch out for Foodies Festivals and other food shows and exhibitions from The Guild of Fine Food around the UK.

Foodie info:
~ What: Foodies Festival website
~ Where: Battersea Park, London
~ When: July 19th, 30th + 31st 2011
Types: British, Spanish, Caribbean, Thai, Indian, seafood – many varieties!
~ Nearest rail stations: Battersea Park, Queenstown Road

Great Taste Market – select stalls:
~ Bennett Oyster Bar + Brasserie – Thames oysters (nay!) + Jersey Rock (yay!)
~ d Vine Wine
~ Gastro Nicks – prosecco, wines, olive oil + balsamic vinegars
~ Orchard Pigs – pork pies with a difference
~ The Guild of Fine Food + Great Taste Awards


Bennett oyster bar
Bennett Oyster Bar and Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Biddenden vineyard + cider works

Biddenden wines + ciders

When I see English wines on the supermarket shelf I find it hard to consider buying them, when they’re alongside well known wines from countries with established reputations for wine production.

But English wines can be really very good and there’s nothing better than strolling around a vineyard on a fine sunny day and tasting the local produce. And, there’s around 400 vineyards in the UK according to the
Marketing Association for the English Wine Industry.

Last weekend was seriously scorching hot and we were camping near Robertsbridge, East Sussex. Our biggest problem – being outdoors – was finding shade to take periodic breaks from the intense burning sun. And so we ventured over the county border into Kent to Biddenden Vineyards, a vineyard and cider works and – after a quick stroll around the vines in direct sun – found shelter under a parasol by the shop. Here, we did some tasting.

While Biddenden produces a range of award-winning sparkling, white, red and rose wines, it’s their ciders that are not to be missed, particularly the Special Reserve (matured in oak whisky casks, with sherry tones, a lethal 13% vol) and the Monk’s Delight strong spiced cider (mulled wine flavours, 7.5% vol).

It’s a gradual thing and I’ll continue to work at it but my perception of English wines is changing.

Lardbutty best British vineyard 2010: Biddenden vineyard

Biddenden Vineyard info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Address: Gribble Bridge Lane, Biddenden, Kent
~ Postcode: TN27 8DF
~ Website: Biddenden Vineyard website
~ Location:

~ Biddenden Vineyard photos