Raspberry Pi: Integration with Dropbox

Dropbox is a Cloud Storage area that’s free to use for private individuals for relatively large quantities of data. I like it for my Raspberry Pi network because it allows me to move files to devices that are not on my home network without having to open up either the home network or the distant network too much (one has to rely on Dropbox’s security but one would hope that they are relatively secure.

The Dropbox_Uploader is a BASH script, written by Andrea Fabrizi and allows you to upload/download/delete and otherwise manipulate files in the designated Dropbox area either directly or with Python programs. Details are available here and I have not intention of duplicating it because it would mean that I’d have to keep it up to date as there are changes either to the Uploader or to Dropbox.

Dropbox_Uploader is simple to call from a cronjob, so I use it to back-up the files shared to my “network master” Pi from the “slave” Pis on a daily basis so that I’ve got additional levels of security. There are a few things to remember when setting up the cronjob, and the one that I forget most easily is making sure that Dropbox_Uploader is available to the user executing the cronjob (i.e. if you load dropbox-uploader in the pi user, the cronjob must be created by the pi user otherwise it won’t be found and the cronjob will fail.

To upload a file, the cronjob command is:

/path/to/dropbox-uploader.sh sourcedir/file destdir/file

Scheduled to run as often as you like.

One example of repeat uses is that if you’ve set up a camera that triggers on movement (for example) you can run a cronjob every minute that checks for files and moves them up to Dropbox for security or examination from a remote device (such as your smartphone).

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Raspberry Pi: Moving Files in a Network

I’m gradually building a network of Raspberry Pis for different things and, I suppose, its the way that an Internet of Things (IoT) would get built.

At the moment, what I’ve got is a couple of Raspberry Pi Zeros with temperature sensors connected to them in different locations (one in the house and one in the polytunnel which measures the temperature inside the polytunnel and outside). My initial plan is to measure the temperatures and plot them out as graphs (just for interest) but, you could see how this could evolve into a central heating control system maintaining the temperature in various rooms by turning pumps on and off but also using knowledge about the outside temperature to influence the turn on/off times as the rate at which the house cools/heat is affectedby the outside temperature.

Anyway, at the moment, the simple thought is to use a single, more powerful, Raspberry Pi3 to plot the temperatures over time.

In order to do that, I have to move the files containing the temperature from the sensors on the PiZeros to the Pi3. It turned out to be easier than I initially thought. A simple command:

rsync -avz -e ssh /sourcefile pi@target.local:/targetdirectory/

will move “sourcefile” to the targetdirectory on the target machine (.local specifies its on the local network rather than having to know the IP address).

By putting that command into a cron job, the file is moved every time the cronjob is scheduled on the source machine. I’ve set it to run once a day so my temperature files (taken every 10 minutes) are uploaded to the target machine once a day.

The only additional issue is security. The rsync command is running on top of SSH and SSH is secured and requires the password of the target machine every time it runs. So it can’t be run as a cronjob.So what we have to do is to make the source machine an authorised user on the target machine. This again is relatively simple:

  1. Generate an Authorisation key on the host machine: ssh-keygen following the prompts without a passphrase
  2. Copy this Authorisation key to the target machine:
    ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub target.local
    Note this will ask for the password for the target machine. Its also recommended to look at authorized_hosts on the target machine to make sure that no other authorised hosts have been added accidentally.

From then on you should be able to use ssh and rsync over ssh without being asked for a password. If you want to make your target machine secure again, delete the file authorized_hosts within the directory and that will do it. This will remove all authorised hosts and the hosts will have to re-authorise themselves.

Security is a thing you should think about at an early stage so I would recommend

  1. That you change the username of your Raspberry Pi;
  2. Use a non-trivial password;
  3. Make sure that your other machines on the network are firewalled from the Raspberry Pis

Security is a problem with the IoT. Networked central heating systems are becoming common (as are fridges, etc.) but the issue is that they are being connected to home networks which contain important computers by people who don’t (and shouldn’t need to) understand the complexities of networking security.

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Tomatoes: Determinate, Indeterminate, Semi-Determinate, Cordon or Bush: Pruning & Harvesting

Over the years I’ve been growing tomatoes, I have learned more and more about them and have a better understanding about how they behave so I thought I would write what I know about the three different growth habits of tomatoes and how to grow them.

There are three different types of tomato plants:

  • Determinate;
  • Indeterminate; and
  • Semi-Determinate.

These words describe the way in which the plant wants to grow.

Other words and phrases are also used to describe the way in which we train the plants to grow:

  • Cordon;
  • Bush;
  • Compact Cordon.

These descriptions are related as you will see from the more detailed descriptions.

Determinate

Determinate plants have lots of shoots and they flower at the end of the shoots. The shoots grow to approximately the same length, the flowers all come at about the same time and the fruit on a plant all ripen together over about two weeks or so. Because of the way they grow, the plant looks like a bush. Once the fruit have set, the plant diminishes in vigour and little new fruit will set. They tend to be smaller plants (up to four or five feet), sprawl about and shouldn’t be pruned (if you prune them it will reduce your crop). Depending upon the weight of fruit on the plant, they may or may not need support. Plants with standard sized fruit (e.g. Heinz H9129) will need some support to keep the fruit off the ground, plants with cherry sized fruit (e.g. Sweet Pea Currant) are much less likely to need support as the total weight of fruit will be less.

Determinate tomatoes are ideal if you want a lot of tomatoes all at the same time (e.g. for making batches of sauces) and if you are growing tomatoes on the patio where they are ideally suited to growing in pots. Commercial growers in places where the weather is suitable for outdoor growing tend to grow Determinate varieties so that they can harvest them mechanically all at the same time. For this reason, there are lots of different Determinate varieties available from the USA.

Indeterminate

Indeterminate plants have fruit over a longer season. They grow as a vine and fruit trusses appear along the length of the vine over the season ceasing only when the plant is killed by the weather. Sideshoots (new vines) grow out from the leaf joints along the main vine. These sideshoots themselves can have trusses of fruit and will generate more sideshoots, etc., etc.. Under the right circumstances vines can grow huge, sprawling and spread all over the place. The early set fruit will ripen, but the later setting fruit will probably not ripen on the plant before the plant dies in the cold.

When grown in commercial greenhouses, multiple sideshoots from a single plant can be trained through the greenhouse and, providing they are kept at the right temperature and with sufficient light and food can go on producing almost indefinitely.

When grown outdoors (particularly in the Southern USA) they tend to be grown in cages and the fruit is individually picked over a long period of time.

However, when grown in less clement places (such as in the UK) recognising that lots of fruit will not ripen before the plant dies of cold, we tend to grow them as a small number of vives in a Cordon, removing sideshoots as they appear to focus the plants energy into producing less fruit and clearing the leaves to allow the sun to ripen the fruit that has set. For this reason, the plants are usually “stopped” when they reach the top of the greenhouse to encourage the set fruit to ripen.

Most of the different sizes and colours of heritage and hybrid tomatoes are available as Indeterminate varieties. Examples of Indeterminate plants are Pink BrandywineRed Berry and Ailsa Craig).
Indeterminate tomatoes are good in the greenhouse (where there is plenty of support) because they take up less floor space than determinate varieties. For this reason, commercial growers who grow under cover will generally grow Indeterminate varieties (many hydroponically) and heat and light their greenhouses to get a long season and large crop.

Semi-Determinate

These are actually better described as “Semi-Indeterminate” as they behave more like Indeterminate plants with fruit trusses being created along the length of the vine. However, like Determinate plants, the vine tends to stop growing when a small number of trusses have been set along a vine. As a result, the plants they typically grow to only three to five feet tall. They will need staking and some pruning to limit the number of stems. The best solution is to allow the sideshoots on the main stem to develop, but to remove any sideshoots on the subsequent vines. That way the total amount of fruit is increased but the set fruit has a good chance of ripening. Semi-Determinate are alright in the greenhouse (although you will need more space than for Indeterminate plants) but are less suitable for pots. An example of a semi-determinate plant is Gold Dust.

Choosing which varieties suit you best depends upon how much space you have and what varieties you are happiest with. We tend to grow Indeterminate and Semi-Determinate beefsteak, standard and cherry varieties in the greenhouse and Determinate cherry varieties in pots outside where we can move them around to catch the best of the weather to ripen them and provide snacks for the grandchildren.

Rules for Pruning and Harvesting

In summary:

  • Determinate: Don’t Prune and allow the plant to create a bush. All the fruit will be ripe over a couple of weeks and should be harvested when ripe;
  • Indeterminate: After deciding how many stems you want to grow (usually between one and three cordons) remove all subsequent sideshoots and stop the vines when five or six trusses have set on each cordon. Fruit will ripen over the season, should be picked when ripe and all fruit removed before the first frost kills the plant and unripe fruit stored and allowed to ripen or used green.
  • Semi-Determinate: Allow all the sideshoots on the main vine to grow (secondary vines) but remove all sideshoots on the secondary vines. Each vine will set a small number of trusses (two or three) and , like Indeterminate cultivars, the fruit will ripen gradually over the season and will have to be removed before the first frost kills the plant.

If you go to (here) you’ll find a full list of all the tomatoes we describe and each description includes the growth habits of the individual tomato.

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Should you grow Multiple Stems on Indeterminate Tomatoes?

There are essentially three different types of tomatoes, Indeterminate, Semi-Determinate and Determinate. They are defined by their growth habits. In this article we are going to consider growing Indeterminate tomatoes on a non-commercial scale.

Indeterminate tomatoes are usually grown in the UK as cordons.  A single stem is trained vertically upwards, either up a cane or strings, and all sideshoots taken off.  There is no fundamental reason why Indeterminate tomatoes have to be grown as cordons and This article considers whether there are other ways of growing and the advantages and disadvantages of them.

When growing as a Cordon, the major disadvantage is that the quantity of fruit is limited by the number of trusses that can grow on the single stem and the number of tomatoes that grow on an individual truss. The number of trusses is limited by the height of the plants (which is set by the height of the greenhouse or polytunnel) and the separation of the trusses on the stem (which varies from cultivar to cultivar but is usually around 12 inches (30cm) but often more. So in an average greenhouse one can expect to get somewhere between four and six trusses per plant.

An alternative is to grow multiple stems from a single plant. Indeterminate tomatoes naturally grow sideshoots, usually at the leaf nodes and, the additional stems can be grown up separately. The advantage of growing in this manner is that these additional stems will create extra trusses of fruit (usually slightly later than the main stem) and therefore you will get extra trusses of fruit within the same height as the single Cordon that would be formed if the sideshoots were not removed.

So far, so good. Logically it would seem sensible to grow as many sideshoots as possible from the single plant but obviously this isn’t the case, otherwise the tradition of growing cordons would never have developed.

There are three disadvantages associated with growing multiple stems.

First, whilst the plant is growing strongly, it can see no reason to set large quantities of fruit. Indeterminate tomatoes are tender perennials. Given the right growing conditions of light and warmth, they will grow on indefinately. We want them to produce lots of fruit and less growth so we stress the plant by limiting its growth which makes it set fruit for seed so that it will survive to the next generation. Limiting the number of sideshoots and stems increases this stress and makes the plant fruit more quickly. At the same time, we feed it with potassium rather than nitrogen fertiliser so that it also tries to produce more fruit and less growth.

The next disadvantage of having lots of stems is light. The UK is not an ideal place to grow tomatoes. Its too cold in the autumn, winter and spring for the plants to survive without additional heat (tomatoes grow best between 20C and 30C) so we grow tomatoes as annuals setting fresh seed each year. Also, the sunlight is not very intense. Tomatoes are natives of Central America where the sunlight is stronger than in the UK. We therefore have to minimise the amount of shading that the plants experience by growing them in places that are not shaded by other plants or buildings and keeping the glass of the greenhouse clean.

The additional stems grow additional leaves and these shade the plants and have to be removed. But the leaves that create the most sugars to ripen the tomatoes are the two leaves above and below the truss, so we don’t want to remove these otherwise the truss of fruit will not ripen well. However, the additional stems on the single plant will have leaves at different heights to the main stem and these will shade the trusses on the main stem.

Finally, tomatoes are susceptible to airbourne diseases, in particular moulds and fungal diseases. Therefore we want to maintain a good airflow through the greenhouse to make sure that the leaves and plants are kept dry, even in the humid conditions that occur in the UK.

So, essentially, there is nothing that stops you growing multiple stems on a single plant. If you intend to do so, increase the spacing between plants so that the additional stems can be separated both from the main stem and the adjacent plants. You will increase the amount of fruit on the single plant but possibly not by as much as if you had grown more plants in the same space and grown them as Cordons. You will, however, have grown fewer plants in the first place and therefore perhaps been able to give them more care at the early part of their growth meaning that you have stronger plants which in themselves will grow more fruit.

A final advantage of growing multiple stems is that the single root can be grown in excellent soil and some of the greenhouse may not need to be as well tended, in other words (for example) you could grow a single plant with a number of stems with the additional stems supported over an area where it would not be possible to grow plants.

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Creating a Headless Raspberry Pi System from an Apple Mac

I’ve a few Raspberry Pis which I run Headless (without their own screen and keyboard) from my Apple Mac using a combination of Finder, VNC and SSH to run the applications. I recently decided to upgrade one of them (a Pi3) to Stretch to see if it was any better (and to play with the latest version of Sonic Pi).

Having tried to upgrade from Jessie to Stretch using the instructions here (https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspbian-stretch/) and failed miserably as the system hung at various places in the upgrade, I decided I would create a new system on a brand new SD Card and start all over again.

Previously, I’ve created put NOOBS onto the SD card and created the system from scratch using a screen and keyboard. This time I thought I would do it all without the need to unpack the keyboard and mouse and to occupy the family TV for a while.

Easier said than done. However, eventually I worked it all out and, having looked around the web, realised that most people in the Raspberry Pi community don’t use Apple Macs and those that do seem to know a lot more about using them than I do.

Here’s how I did it, step by step.

Setup

Although you won’t need a screen or keyboard, you will need to connect the Raspberry Pi to your network using an Ethernet Cable (I have a feeling that you might be able to get it connected to the network using WiFi but I found that step easier to do as part of the Raspberry Pi Configuration after the software was up and running).

You’ll also need to have an SDFormatter Application installed on your Mac.

Most of the work uses terminal on the Mac, either directly on the Mac or through SSH to the Raspberry Pi so its best if you are relatively familiar with that as well.

Procedure

  1. Use SD Formatter to format your SD Card. Eject the SD Card and remove it from your Apple Mac.
  2. Open Safari and head to raspberrypi.org/downloads and click on the latest version. Click Download ZIP under Raspbian (the full version, not the Lite version). (For the sake of argument lets call this “2017-xxx.img”)
  3. Open Terminal.
  4. Enter “diskutil list“. You will see a list of all your drives. If you’re using a Mac with just one hard drive, then two appear: /dev/disk0 and /dev/disk1. If you have external hard drives, or more volumes, then there will be more drives.
  5. Connect the Micro SD Card to your Mac.
  6. Enter “disktuil list” again. Check carefully to locate the new disk. It will be one more on from the last list (ours is /dev/disk2) and have “(external, physical)” after it. Check that its SIZE matches the SD Card. It’s important that you get this right so you don’t end up overwriting content on the wrong drive.
  7. Enter sudo diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk[n] (replacing with the number of the disk, e.g.: /dev/disk2).
  8. Enter this carefully: sudo dd bs=1m if=~/Downloads/2017-xxx.img of=/dev/rdisk[n] – replacing [n] with the number of the disk
    • Tip: you can use tab to expand file paths in Terminal. Enter “if=~/Downloads/2 ” and press Tab to get the rest of the filename (you may need to add “img” to the end).

The image file will be copied to the SD Card. You won’t get any feedback while it copies, and it can take several minutes. Leave Terminal to do its thing (I find its best to make a cup of coffee because on my machine a 32Gb disk can take about 45 minutes).

  1. When the copy finishes enter sudo diskutil eject /dev/disk[n] to eject the disk.
  1. Remove the disk and its holder from the mac and then re-insert.
  2. Open Finder and there should be a disk called boot.
  3. Open Text Edit and create a new file called ssh in the boot disk. (Text editor will add an extension .rtf to the file, you’ll need to remove the extension. (I’ve created a suitable file on my Mac so I can just copy it across to the boot disk).
  4. Put the disk into the raspberry pi, connect it to the ethernet network using a cable and power it up.
  5. You should now see raspberrypi on the network. (I open finder and browse the network using cmd K)
  6. At this point you may be able to ssh to the Raspberry Pi by ssh pi@raspberrypi.local. However, if you’ve had other raspberrypi hosts on your network in the past there will be a security issue so you’ll need to:
    1. cd /Users/youruser/.ssh
    2. ls (to check for known_hosts)
    3. rm known_hosts (remove known_hosts file) now when you connect to any remote host it will ask you to re-verify.
  7. Now you can carry out the rest of the configuration through sudo raspi-config
    1. Change the hostname (choose a new name)
    2. Change the password for the pi user (for security)
    3. enable WiFi (you’ll need to know the Network SSiD and Password)
    4. Enable VNC
    5. Enable 1-wire
    6. Enable the Camera
    7. Set the screen resolution (to 1024×768) (DMT Mode 16)
    8. Enable Netatalk to allow the Mac Finder to access the Pi as follows:
      1. sudo apt-get update
      2. sudo apt-get install netatalk
      3. Stop the netatalk service (sudo /etc/init.d/netatalk stop)
      4. Now, in order to keep track of what you’re looking at from your hosting Mac, I find it best to change the name of the host volume. (sudo nano /etc/netatalk/AppleVolumes.default)
      5. Then scroll down to the bottom to find ~/ “Home Directory” and change the text in quotes to whatever you want. I find it best to change it to the same name as the Raspberry Pi Hostname.
      6. Finally restart netatalk and the Raspberry Pi will appear in the list of shared devices in Finder (sudo /etc/init.d/netatalk start)
    9. Finally reboot the Raspberry Pi (sudo reboot).

Now you should be able to see the Raspberry Pi under the new Hostname on your network and be able to connect to it using SSH in terminal, VNC, and Finder.

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Recipe: Hungarian Goulash

This recipe is an old one that we’ve been cooking for 30 years or more and the recipe book is falling apart. Like many recipes, we use it for guidance, rather than following it slavishly (like rules, recipes are meant for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men).

The recipe says stewing steak but we've used the same recipe with pork and with no meat (just put in a load of vegetables).

Ingredients for 4-6

  • 1kg Stewing beef
  • 2-3 peppers (red or green are best)
  • Oil for frying (the recipe says dripping or lard)
  • 500g Onions
  • 2 tablespoons of mild paprika
  • 500g tomatoes (fresh or frozen)
  • pepper
  • Soured Cream

Method

  1. Chop up the onions, pepper and tomatoes (but keep them separate as they will not all go in together);
  2. Trim some of the fat off the meat and dice into fork sized pieces;
  3. Heat up the pan add the oil and fry the onions until soft and coloured;
  4. Add the meat and cook until browned all over;
  5. Add the paprika, a good grinding of pepper, the tomatoes and peppers
  6. If you're cooking it in the oven put in in the fan oven at about 160C. We cook it in the slow cooker where we put it on high for about an hour and a half and then drop it to low for about four hours.

It shouldn't need any extra water as the idea is that it softens everything together however, keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn.

Serve with rice and a spoonful of soured cream. (We cook an additional green vegetable with the rice - peas, sweetcorn or broadbeans to increase the amount of vegetables we eat and to reduce the total amount of meat).

 

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Recipe: Pork Vindaloo

This recipe is an old one that we’ve been cooking for 30 years or more and the recipe book is falling apart. Like many recipes, we use it for guidance, rather than following it slavishly (like rules, recipes are meant for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men). The Turmeric and Tomato Puree make it richer.

Ingredients for four

  • 500g pork (we use belly pork);
  • Dessert spoon demerara sugar (any brown sugar will do);
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar;
  • Oil for frying (the original recipe says dripping or lard which shows how old it is)
  • 1 large Onion (peeled and chopped);
  • 2 dessert spoons curry powder (more if you like it hot);
  • bayleaf;
  • 3 tomatoes chopped (we usually add more) – red or black are best although Tinned or Frozen work equally well;
  • salt and pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Tomato Puree

Method

  1. Cut the pork into 1cm cubes and put in a bowl with the vinegar and sugar then leave for two hours;
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 170c (325F or gas mark 3);
  3. Fry the onion in the oil for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened;
  4. Add the pork, marinade juices and the remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to the boil;
  5. Transfer to a casserole dish and cover tightly with a lid and foil;
  6. Cook in the centre of the oven for 1.5-2 hours, checking every now and then that there is still enough water to stop in burning; (We also found it works well in a slow cooker, instead of the oven, cook it for 2.5-3 hours);
  7. Serve with boiled rice. (We add vegetables to the rice – peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, beans, … more vegetables hidden away from view).

As an alternative way of cooking, we use the slow cooker and cook it on high for a couple of hours, then turning it down to low until we're ready for it.

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Recipe: Gluten Free Pork Pie

Having decided to be wheat free, pastry is one of the things I find most difficult to be without. Worst of all, I love pork pies and a gluten / wheat free pork pie is one thing I haven’t found anywhere. So, we decided to make one using a combination of a number of recipes.

Ingredients in italics we've grown ourselves (maybe from the freezer).

Ingredients (a large pie)

  • 12 oz pork shoulder
  • 4 belly pork slices
  • 4 smoked/unsmoked back bacon slices
  • 4 anchovy filets
  • 2 tsps chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • Nutmeg
  • Pepper
  • Salt (optional depending on how salty you like it and how salty the bacon/anchovy fillets are)

Ingredients for Hot Water Pastry

  • 8 oz gluten free plain flour
  • 0.5 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 egg
  • 3 oz butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 fluid ounces hot water

Other Ingredients

  • One extra egg to wash the pastry
  • A seven or eight inch cake tin for the pie.
Wheat Free Pork Pie

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4/170C for a fan oven.

To make the filling, remove any rind from the bacon, belly pork and shoulder and cut into fairly small pieces. Put into a food processor and pulse it to chop the mixture fairly finely. The size of the lumps will determine how coarse the eventual filling is so pulse it carefully because it needs to be the right texture, neither too fine nor too coarse.

Chop the sage and anchovy fillets; grate the nutmeg. Now tip the meat into a bowl and add the chopped sage, anchovy fillets, allspice, nutmeg and pepper. It needs to be well seasoned, but we didn’t add any salt as the bacon & anchovies are usually quite salty and we don’t usually add salt to any cooking.

Mix it well, using your hands is best.

If you want, now is the time to test the mixture by frying a small patty of meat, taste it and correct the seasonning. (However, to be honest, we didn’t taste it and the result was excellent).

Line the cake tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment, leaving some as handles to lift the pie out of the cake tin when its cooked.

Making the pastry is “interesting”.

Mix the flour, egg, xanthan gum and salt in a bowl. Put the water and butter in a saucepan and bring it to the boil making sure that the butter is dissolved. Pour the water and butter into the bowl and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it seems mixed well. Whilst the mixture is still warm tip it out onto a lightly floured board and knead it until its smooth. (You’ll need to do this quite quickly as its important that the pastry is warm at this point).

The pastry will be sticky and it will be fun to handle (it sticks to your hands, flour them or make sure they are wet when handling).

Divide the pastry into 1/3 for the lid and 2/3 for the base of the pie.

Line the tin by dividing the pastry into balls and working the balls of pastry into the base and sides of the tin. (we tried rolling the pastry between two layers of greaseproof paper but it becomes impossible to handle).

Tip the meat into the lined cake tin and then roll the lid pastry between two layers of baking parchment until its the right size to make the lid. Brush the edges of the lid with beaten egg and then turn it onto the base egg side down. Crimp the edges of the lid and base of the pastry to seal it. Make a hole in the middle of the lid so that it can vent as it cooks. Paint an egg wash over the top.

Place the cake tin on a baking tray to catch any fat that cooks out of the pie and put the pie into the centre of the oven and cook it for approximately 40 minutes, checking after 35 minutes to see if its cooked.

If it seems well cooked, take it out of the oven, turn the oven down by 10C and leave it to cool for about 10 minutes. Take the pie out of the cake tin using the “handles” you left on the tin lining and place the pie on the baking sheet using the lining from the cake tin to prevent the pie from sticking.

Paint the outside of the pie with an egg wash and return the pie to the oven for a further 30 minutes. At this point it should be cooked, test by putting a skewer into the meat, any fat should run clear. Don’t test the pie too soon otherwise the fat will run out early.

When its cooked fully, put the pie onto a wire rack and leave it to cool.

The result was excellent, the pastry had taken up just the right amount of stickiness. The only problem we had was that we tested it with a skewer too soon and so the fat cooked out of the meat and marked the lid.

Freezing

We've found that the pie freezes well and is nice with hot baked beans.

This is a recipe I would recommend, it was similar enough to a normal pork pie that you wouldn’t have to do anything special for people who were not wheat free.

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Recipe: Aubergine Rogan Josh

A simple to make supper which tastes (a lot) better than it looks. Its good to eat when aubergines are cheap and fresh in the supermarkets (we can't grow large enough aubergines) and uses frozen chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.

Ingredients in italics we've grown ourselves (maybe from the freezer).

Ingredients (for two)

  • 2 Aubergines cut into small cubes
  • 1 Red Onion
  • Garlic (at least 2 cloves)
  • Red Lentils (4 tablespoons)
  • 600ml Vegetable Stock
  • Tomato Puree (2 tablespoons)
  • Chopped Tomatoes (400g)
  • Curry Powder (2 tablespoons or as much as you like)
  • Pepper

Options:

  • Fresh Corriander (to serve)
Aubergine Rogan Josh, Curry Roast Cauliflower & Rice

Method

Fry the chopped aubergine in a non-stick pan with the onion & garlic over a moderate heat until its browned. You may have to add a little water to prevent it sticking. At the same time in another pan, boil the lentils, curry powder and tomato puree until the lentils are cooked and soft.

Then pour the aubergine mix into the lentils and add the tomatoes (and corriander if used). Serve.

We eat this with curry roasted cauliflower and basmati rice. Mango chutney is a nice addition.

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What Tomatoes to Grow in 2018?

I’m a member of an internet tomato seed swap. The simple idea is that a number of you collect your own seed, bag them up and send them to somebody who (very kindly) gathers them al up and sends them back out to all the members. Thus, for a bit of effort, you get a range of new varieties to try the following year.

The seeds arrived the other day and I’ve been looking through them. As has always happened so far, I am amazed by the number of different varieties that people grow. I sent off three varieties that I’ve been growing for a while and received back 26 packs of seed, 22 of which are new varieties to me. As ever it leaves me with a problem. I have space for about 30 different indeterminate plants and six to ten determinate varieties. Unlike last year when I received about an equal mix of determinate and indeterminate varieties, most of the tomatoes in the collection this year are indeterminate. So I have to decide, out of the (now 140+) varieties in my seedbank, which am I going to grow so that I end up with a mix of colours and types.

Decisions…. Decisions

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