Painting the Red Green house Grey, while admiring Blue, White and Purple flowers

My Greenhouse has a little “conservatory” annex which was a dumping ground.

Thankfully, MrT built me a shed so now I can finally clean it out and make space for my deck chairs and kettle!

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So i moved out all of the junk, dug the soil off the floor (which FYI was about a foot deep!!) and got the paint can out

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Then move all of the junk back in, in a more tidy fashion.

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It doesn’t look like much, but I’m very pleased with how light and airy it is now!

I love it!


Veggie Updates

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Quick update on the spuds – look!! ‘Scuse the weeds.

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And the few onions that I could salvage (and will possibly STILL die from the leaf miner) are swelling up nicely. I might actually be able to do something with them.

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Also, these DO NOT taste like blackcurrant juice from the shops. They have been lying to me this whole time. They’re gross!

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I have got some baby raspberries growing too. Can’t wait for these.

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Sue came to say hello as I was cleaning out my slug traps. I don’t think she realises how drunk she would get if she ate them, but she keeps trying to shout me into submission!

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Bonnie has been surveying her kingdom in the long lawn

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It really does need cutting but I will leave that to MrT as I don’t want to hurt these garden heroes

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What do you call a chicken with a piece of lettuce in it’s eye? A: Chicken Caeser Salad

Chickens eat everything.

Except, apparently, their own food when it has touched the floor.

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Mine drop food EVERYWHERE and with us having the abandoned plot next to us, rodents are eating more than they do when they’ve dropped it everywhere.

They were being fed using pet-shop feeders similar to the one below. They are great if you have a few hens and they are store inside the coop, but mine walked all over them and they ended up full of straw and chicken poo!

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So I decided I needed to find a way of being able to securely store enough food for my hens without the pests or rain getting to it. I also needed to be able to allow the chickens to eat but not drop food everywhere.

I did an internet search and found many versions of the same thing – PVC pipe feeders.

Many people used clear plastic tubs like those used to store things in the attic with pvc elbows glued in like this one here – http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2015/10/05/diy-no-waste-feeder/

I wanted something on a larger scale though for my 12 hens in the hope that I may be able to use a whole bag of feed at a time and reduce the tips to the storage shed.

So I got myself a big plastic water butt on a free site. It came with a lid, but also had taps on the bottom so I will remove these and plug up the holes… or maybe just leave them against the fence as a good “attachment point” to stop it falling over.
I also went to Screwfix and got some 55mm PVC elbows when I went to sort out my automatic drinker system. I had hoped for larger sized ones but apparently they are hard to come by at regular shops! I also saved some old thick card and shaped it in to a cone to direct the feed pellets.
Tool wise I needed a 60mm hole bore for MrT’s drill, and squishy tube of sealant. Job done.

It was a pretty simple task really. Lay out where you would like the openings and mark them, then drill the holes. I did mine all around the edge, but you can always use one or two on each side if it will sit in a corner. Make sure they are high enough up that you chickens don’t have to bend too much, but also low enough that they can peck at the food after the 90 degree bend.

Put your arm inside the barrel and poke the elbows through from the inside, leaving about 1.5cm outside the barrel. This will give the food protection from rain running down the barrel if I have to move it outside at any point.

Then use the sealant to secure the pipe from the inside and let this set. Then do the same on the outside! You can try and do them both at the same time but if you knock the pipe at any point you’ll end up with it everywhere. Not a good look.

Then use the thick cardboard to make a cone that fits in the middle of you barrel to direct the food towards the pipes. This isn’t desperately needed as the weight of the food above will push enough of it down, but it means that you don’t end up with food sat in the middle of the barrel between all of the pipes which goes stale having not been eaten.

Et, Voila!

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It takes a while for the girls to figure out that food is inside that little hole, but they get there eventually!

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No more messy floors and having to fill up tiny feeders in the shed every day…

Bliss.

Cluckingham Place gets new plumbing

I love my chickens, I really do, but they eat and drink you out of house and home.

Every day I am down there filling up the food and water troughs (twice in the summer!) and every day I end up covered in chicken poo and overspray from the enthusiastic hose attachment.

I needed to find a better way of doing things.

I searched everywhere online for different ways of watering my chickens using rainwater collected from their coop, and nowhere could I find a suitable solution.

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I looked in to using chicken nipples or drinkers, but these are either very expensive (over £5 each on Ebay!) or have very bad longevity reviews. Plus my chickens are stupid. They would NEVER figure out those little knobly bits held water.

I then looked in to a system which looked perfect. It was a tupperware tub bolted on to a tank with a bit of pipe. Hydrodynamics kept it from overflowing. However these only seemed to work with catering buckets and HAD to be airtight. Plus I don’t think it would work with such a large container as air is too stretch-able and squash-able for a good enough vacuum to be created. Overflowing and losing all the water is not good when watering 12 hens daily.

There are a few specialist products out there too; cups, drinkers, pipes, bowls… however all of these had one issue – EXPENSE.

Everything had to be cheap.

So I did some creative thinking and while I was in the bathroom one evening (TMI I know!) I had a brainwave.

I need my system to run like the toilet. A big tank full of water supplying a little bowl of water which turns off without input from opposable thumbs.

So I went to Screwfix – leading supplier of all things toilet.

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Here I picked up some PTFE tape (12 rolls for £4!), a toilet float valve, some rubber washers to fit the float and 6 55mm PVC 90degree elbows (for my next project – operation food waste). I also found a large blue barrel on Gumtree going for free. The final thing I needed was a tub that could fit the float in, but wasn’t too big for the chickens to drink from and would hopefully not fill with poo and shavings (a girl can dream).

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We have got an IBC that MrT helped me to collect, so if this goes well I will make another one. My hens will never have to worry about being a bit parched. As long as it doesn’t freeze but I will come to that in the autumn…

I could find nothing similar on the internet before so hopefully this will make sense, but if not feel free to message me you questions!

It is environmentally friendly, uses less water, wastes less time and also feeds my constant need to ‘upcycle’ and re-use

Blue Barrel

My first step was to clean out the old tank. From the smell of it (and experience of being a Chef Widow) this barrel used to contain some sort of veg oil. This is edible so it isn’t too big of a deal, but oil can quickly go gross so best to clean it now. The amount of times I have washed this from MrT’s work clothes has taught me that the best way of getting this out is the good old fashioned way.

  1. Fill the barrel with warmish water. I used a hose from the outside tap mixed with a couple of kettles just boiled!
  2. Add a really CHEAP dish soap. The expensive “moisturising” ones are rubbish for this. The good old 25 ones that make your hands feel like stones are perfect.
  3. Screw the tops on the barrel.
  4. Roll it on its side up and down the driveway for a few minutes. Good way of finding leaks too.
  5. Avoid stares from confused neighbours.
  6. Tip content of barrel away (safely!!).
  7. Stop dogs from playing in oily bubbles.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Rinse with clean cool water.

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I then drilled a hole large enough for the threads of my float valve, but not so large that it would flap about and let water leak. 20mm did it for me.

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I also did the same thing in the tub that the chickens will drink from. Plastic can be quite hard to cut through, so it is worth drilling a pilot hole and then allowing the cutter to spin and melt the plastic slightly as it cuts. Don’t force it, you’ll split the drum or stab yourself with flying plastic/drill bit. And definitely don’t touch it straight away.

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Remember physics; Friction=Hot

When (if!) I do this with the IBC, I will add some PVC connecting pipe between the tank and the float, just simply because the IBC has a tap already installed which I will use as an emergency cutoff for cleaning and if the valve fails.

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My barrel conveniently had a screw cap at the top which was the perfect size for a click-on hose adaptor, so I added this on there for when the rains don’t come (HA! We live in the UK, so not likely!). On the other side will be my downpipe for the guttering when i have fitted it, but that will be a weekend job so ill be hose-pipe filled for now.

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Next up, I screwed the float valve in to the drum. There is a nut to use on the inside, but there was no way i was getting my hand in that barrel so I just screwed it in and will use sealant to keep it watertight. Then unscrew it again when you realise you forgot the water container. I was very careful this whole time not to damage the threads but also not to strip the hole I had just drilled. This would hopefully add some extra water resistance.

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Then put it all together and pray.

The order is this; Nut (if you can get it in there), washer, barrel, washer, tub, washer, float valve. The float valve sits inside the tub where the chickens will drink. Use the float valve screw to wedge all of these parts together like a big BLT.

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Add some water and its time to test! Maybe put waterproof shoes on for this and don’t do it on your kitchen floor – you know, just in case.

The way it SHOULD work is that when the water flows out of the barrel and in to the tub the float rises to close the valve and shuts off the water at the correct level. When the chickens drink and lower the level the valve opens again.

You may need to have a play around to try and get the water level just right. Mine is on its lowest setting, and i will cut the plastic tub into a more “easy to drink from” shape when i know it is all working properly.

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Remember that small chicks can and WILL get in the water and drown, so this should not be used for young babies. This is for my ExBatt hens for laying (about 2 years old) so if they fall in it is because they are thick.

Hopefully this will save me getting soggy shoes and poo covered hands, as well as keeping my hens hydrated in the summer months!

They love it!

I will let you know in winter how it fares with freezing, but I have a feeling that I may need to resort to some sort of heating mechanism or just fill them up daily, especially if using pipes!

Someone has Bean and Pea’ed on my plot!

This week we desperately needed to get our beans and peas in or else we would have nothing to munch on when summer comes… Not ideal!

So I carried on digging up nettles, bindweed and brambles and hoped to high heaven that it was making this better.

Next year I am trying no-dig.
My back hurts.

Last year MrFlatcap showed me how to make a bean tipi, so this year I decided that 3 towers of green beans might just keep MrT happy for a week or two!

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Mid-build!

The hardest part of this whole day was stringing the poles together without letting go of one and smacking myself in the nose. That happened a lot.

I deliberately put them up by my new lawn area because there is a dipped area by the slabs which will be easy to get through to weed. It also means we can have a bit of shade for the dogs when the sun finally comes back again.

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Please excuse the mess!

Beans will curl around and grow up one single pole, whereas the peas are a little more fussy.

For these we decided to build a wall. It needs a little more support when I manage to dig out the last of the bamboo canes, but until they grow and get heavy this will be ok.

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Pea Wall 

The wall consists of three canes at either end in a pyramid, with two canes set a regular intervals down the row to hold the strings taught.

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Pea wall!

The you just get to go crazy with the ball of string. MrT cannot abide the feel of twine. It sends him all squiffy and his face makes an odd expression… he’s like a little kid sucking on a lemon!

That meant that the stringing up was left to me so that’s why it isn’t as beautiful as it could have been.

I cant wait for my little seeds to start growing and the beautiful flowers to appear. I often think that peas and beans are at their most beautiful when those pretty flowers are out. As much as I love eating the peas as I wander around the plot, I do wish that the flowers would last a little bit longer!

Now it is just a case of nicking one of MrT’s beers to stop those slugs from munching my shoots… little slimy buggars…

Ready for All Hallows Eve already…

Today was a pretty easy day at the allotment. I laid out some weed membrane on one of the more “weed-free” areas of the plot and have planted my pumpkins and courgettes through it.

My soil is still pretty good after the man a few years back manured it and then left. At the end of this year i will cover the whole bed, but for now I have used some of my compost under the roots and am hoping that these will do ok!

I didn’t add any fertiliser last year and we did well with the marrows so hopefully this year we will be ok too.

We have got 2 Turks Turban, 1 Winter Squash of unknown origin and 2 courgettes (1 green 1 golden). My friend also has a massive amount of white pumpkins she has said I can grow here, so hopefully they will be ready just in time for the wedding! They would be great to add to the decor!

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All planted up

The pumpkins and squash can spread over 6 feet so are planted pretty far apart at the moment but hopefully this space will be taken up soon.

Weed membrane can be a lovely home for slugs, but hopefully my traps and the abundance of frogs will help keep the numbers down. They are just part of the allotment life so I am not wanting rid completely!

Fingers crossed we get another of these –

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Wider than my leg!

Busy Week, With Not Enough Time!

I’ve been neglecting my allotment these last few days/week… poor thing!

My onions desperately need hoeing which will be tonight job, and I still need to get all of the weeds removed from my final bed to get some peas, beans and pumpkins in!

So this week will be a manic one I am sure – it’s all made better when I found this though;

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They are going red!!

So I only managed to get down there for a few hours on Saturday.

I pulled up a few weeds, but because the ground was so dry it was like stone!

So instead I decided to make my mini flower bed for Rachel’s Sunflowers. It is right in front of my greenhouse annex so will be a lovely view when they grow!

I used some of the old roof tiles we dug up from around the plot to edge it. The edge is pretty tall, but that means that i can strim the grass without murdering the sunflowers in high season.

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All in!

The grass still needs another layer of seeds adding as the birds have had a field day, but since I have now stopped them getting to the chicken food and its been a long winter, I thought I would be kind to them.

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Sunflowers in!

I used the tops of the milk bottles from MrT’s strawberry wall as name plates for the different sunflower types. Recycling at its best!

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Give them all a good water

These will all get some sticks put in over the weekend, but for now I am letting them recover a bit.

It does look like the slugs are out in force though so a beer trap will soon be installed… bloody things. I picked a pot full later in the evening and the chickens thought it was Christmas!

Now just to try and keep on top of everything…

 

Sunday Sunshine

Morning!

We have had a lovely but very busy weekend organising wedding stuff the past few days, including spending a few hours having a fabulous drive down to the wedding venue in Shrewsbury. I can’t wait, it all seems very real!

In return for my wedding organising day, I went with MrT to a new motorbike shop so he was pretty pleased too.

When we got in it was still lovely weather so we popped down to the lottie for a bit… glad we did because look what my neighbour left me!

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So many toms!

So while MrT chopped the tops off some milk bottles for me, I dug up my over-wintered strawberry plants from the greenhouse.

He potted these up in to the new milk-bottle-homes and I started planting my toms!

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More toms, less space!

I was told last year that my planting layout wasn’t very economical, so I am following the advice in this years planting. Apparently if you place your tomatoes in a staggered formation, you can fit more in a smaller space and still get enough air circulation to avoid blight! Lets give it a go!

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So Leafy!

Now you see all those fluffy bits on the greyish area on the bottom of the stem? They turn in to roots! So I take off the seed leaves and stem (those funny shaped ones at the bottom) and the next set of leaves up.

Also, you notice those shoots appearing from the tomatoes ‘elbows’? Remove those whenever they appear, no matter how old the plant. They sap all of the nutrients away from the main stem and fruit trusses and make your crop smaller (apparently!).

 

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This is how it should now look!

Now dig a hole big enough to cover the roots and that greyish area of stem.

When plating tomatoes, its good to add a bit of fertiliser beforehand. Lots of people use eggs and banana skins, but I just put in some fungi powder and crunched up egg shells.

Now is also the time to put in your tomato collars if you use them. I haven’t invested in any yet but I have heard good things! They make watering easier and help the fruits avoid splitting.

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All in!

By the time you have finished, your plants will look about half the height that they did, but don’t worry. They will have a huge root ball now and grow much better.

Water them in really well, but don’t get it on the leaves. Water on the leaves makes them burn and go spotty. It doesn’t harm the plant in small areas, but it can wilt them quite badly!

Don’t they look fab!?

So while I was doing that MrT had watered all of my onions, garlic and spuds, replaced all of my weedguard, fed my chickens and quail and made this stunning bit of wall art

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Strawberry wall!

Isn’t he a good egg?!

We had a lot of trouble with bunnies and slugs eating my fruit last year before they were ripe, so hopefully this will help avoid that. It also helps with recycling all of that dreaded plastic! Just make sure you poke some drainage holes!

Now just to repaint the wall and it’ll look ace.

I am so proud of him
It’s still not worth a new motorbike though…
Maybe when he has built my fence!

One Year On

So today marks one year since i got the call to say a plot was ready for us.

Still a few days to go before we actually got the keys, but I remember it like yesterday!

Unfortunately it has been far too hot to do any work down there this weekend, so I have stayed at home and potted on some tomatoes instead.

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Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration

Morning!

Look at what we managed to get done yesterday!

It was MrT’s last day off for a fortnight or so, and it was gorgeous weather so I abandoned work after an hour and a bit to get some allotment work done.

Molly’sDad and the PigeonMan had a shed that they wanted removing, but it was still in really good condition so they offered it to us. Que lots of heavy lifting and bad backs as we dismantled and moved it up the tiny gap between our greenhouse and the hedge.

After we had done all of the dismantling, we had to build a base. And typically, it was right where MrT had piled up all of the bricks from his last demolition job!

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He was not amused.

We finally managed to move them all, but them realised that the ‘ready-built’ base we thought we had from a previous shed was too big! That meant we had to build two new runs of bricks to make the base the right size for our 8×6 shed.

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Just a quick layout before knocking them in

All of the junk will be moved at a later date, as this appears to have been the dumping ground for the previous tennant.

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The floor fits! 

Then it was just a case of lugging the bits up the massive walk from one end of the allotment to the other. That was a workout and a half!

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Its taking shape!

Because I wanted it out of the way, it was very difficult to get the sides and top on. There were tree branches, broken glass and all sorts of old tat to try and not break an ankle on.

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Bloody blokes

If MrT complains he is hurting these photos prove why. It was his own doing.

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Thinks he is a squirrel

While he did the refelting, I moved all of the tools into the new shed. At some point i will get some tool hooks and put everything in neatly, but for now I was just ready to go home and sleep!

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Its up!

Oh, and i added a hanging basket with nasturtiums in. As you do. Lets see how long it takes until I paint it grey and cover it in bunting!

Another job well done!

Quail Scotch Eggs

This weekend saw me turning my Quail eggs into some lovely Scotch Eggs!
Pork and red onion meat, and ‘seedy bread’ crumbs – delish!

Pro Chef MrT was very impressed by my runny yolks too, and that is a result!

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Mmmmmm ❤

You’ll have to excuse the awful photo quality throughout, I was using Facebook Messenger and forgot to take some better photos with my real camera – Oops!

The recipe originally came for a well known Essex chef with an aversion to Turkey Twizzlers, but I adapted it for my own cupboard stock and I think it turned out pretty well!

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How Pro do these look?

It isn’t too tricky to do, and the hardest part is getting the shells off the eggs, but there’s a good trick for that later…

Ingredients

  • 10 quail eggs
  • 3 thick sausages – I used pork and red onion
  • 2 sprigs of thyme – Rescued from the drowning window box
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 large egg – Courtesy of Cluckingham Palace residents
  • 3 slices of seedy bread – crumbed in a processor but not too fine
  • vegetable oil , for frying

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, or 160 for fan ovens.
  2. fill a pan half full with water, and add a splash of white vinegar. This helps the shells peel right off but adds no ‘fishNchip’ flavour.
  3. Cook the eggs in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunge into cold water and carefully peel. Don’t put your nail through the yolks like I did on the first two..!
  4. Squeeze the sausage meat into a bowl, giving the skins to the patiently waiting dogs, then pick in the thyme.
  5. Beat the hen’s egg in a shallow bowl, put the flour on a plate, and place the breadcrumbs onto another plate. Its easier to roll them around then.
  6. Roll your eggs in the flour. Don’t make it thick, just a little dusting to help keep the eggs from bursting all over the place.
  7. Divide the sausage mixture into 10 pieces, then shape around the eggs and carefully roll into a round. The best way I found was to squish the ‘meat blob’ into a pancake with your fingers and wrap this around the egg long ways. Its super sticky. Then just fold up the ends and carefully roll between your hands. Don’t leave any gaps!
  8. Dunk them in the egg, all the way around. Use one hand for this and one hand for the next step or you will look like a Kentucky fried chicken piece before you’ve finished them all!
  9. Roll each round in the breadcrumbs until fully coated.
  10. Very carefully heat 5cm of oil in a deep pan to 180ºC and very carefully fry the scotch eggs in batches for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden. If you don’t have a thermometer (not a health one a food one!) then when you think it may be hot enough, plop a breadcrumb in and see if it sizzles and browns.
  11. Remove with caution and drain on kitchen paper. Do Not let them roll off the worktop into the waiting jaws of a dog like one of mine nearly did.
  12. Bake in oven for 5 minutes, then serve!

The yolk should be just the right runny-ness, and the outside crispy and golden.

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Perfect for your next picnic

Good right?

Perfect mouthful sized snacks for lunchboxes, or if you are like me, whenever you walk past the fridge