Category Archives: Vegetables

Charles Dowding Open Day at Home Acres

Open Day

Open Day

First a confession : in the age of sat nav all sorts of odd things happen. Yesterday Charles Dowding had an Open Day at his home, we had last visited in 2012 at Lower Farm .

Flourishing beds

Flourishing beds

We went with a couple of friends from Blaise Community Garden who were interested in learning more about the no-dig method and it was only after about half an hour, that Brian remarked this isn’t the same garden we went to last time. I was slightly baffled and Brian continued   –  it’s a different house and the garden was on a slope and it was bigger – I looked around and thought, yes, when we arrived it looked a bit different and I remembered there had been a yard and apricot trees up against the house, so we asked Charles who said with a huge beam and trying to keep a straight face that he had moved and he was very glad we hadn’t gone to the old house!

Vegetables to be envious of

Vegetables to be envious of

So how do these things happen?  I am used to gardens changing, to old overgrown places being restored from woodland and decay to open healthy spaces, I have seen a few of those in my lifetime and I have a poor visual memory also; I would make a bad historian and I ignored the name change and the landscape and the house and focussed as always on the plants and the beds and ignored the bits that didn’t fit with my memory. In a way they weren’t important. But it was yet another lesson in how fallible memory can be.

Anyway, Charles has worked his magic and his skill in three years to make a new garden and productive growing space and it is as wonderful and enviable as the photos show here. Lots of information on his methods can be found on his website No dig Gardening – Charles Dowding and in his books.

These are some of Brian’s photos from our visit yesterday which I hope convey a sense and taste of the place.

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Apple Trees in a strip bed

We were particularly interested in his notes about growing fruit trees in strip beds and keeping them carefully pruned so they didn’t get too tall and the fruit remained pickable by hand.

apple trees

apple trees

Polytunnel tomatoes

Polytunnel tomatoes

The tomatoes grow beautifully up strings in the polytunnels, there was a very interesting experiment with a tumbling tomato growing in a mushroom box on a shelf that seemed to be going well.

tumbling tomatoes

tumbling tomatoes

I was very envious of the celeriac and the cabbages were remarkably hole free and quite glorious. Brian wanted his beetroots, I wanted everything!

polytunnel envy

polytunnel envy

There were flat yellow beans that we had for supper; a variety called Golden Gate.  There were borlotti drying on their stems, masses of basil and herbs, oca, salsola, tree spinach, a huge feathery asparagus bed, all sorts of wonderful vegetables in amongst the carrots, parsnips and more.

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags

lettuces being harvested on a regular basis by picking the outside leaves for salad bags (and the lower half of Sara Venn)

onions drying

onions drying

Could I do it? maybe not, but I can always dream !

Growing and Eating Salsola Agretti (aka Salsola Soda)

In which a post mysteriously appears on my old blog, slightly obsessive in detail but that’s me!

salsola agretti steamed

Salsola agretti, opposite leaved saltwort, Friars Beard is a joy of a vegetable to discover if you are like me, always looking over the fence – in this case the internet fence  – and seeing what people eat in other countries. I don’t think I could ever fit a rice paddy in my suburban garden and I don’t really have space for growing melons and other ground hungry plants much as I would love to try, but this plant, which kept appearing here and there on my Instagram feed, really took my fancy so I tracked down some seed and read as much as I could and looked for photos and based on what I found I had a go at growing it last year. I have to say I love it. Continue reading

Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden

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This is the noonday sun on the last day in August.  Today is the first of September, the beginning of the new year in my head.

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In my kitchen there is a box of meringue fingers studded with toasted hazelnuts from Normandy – a gift to Brian from my sister, Brian likes them crumbled up on top of fresh fruit with yoghurt as a dessert.

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And there were also some very useful indeed sachets of yoghurt starter enzymes (another thoughtful gift from my sister)  for when your old home made yoghurt has gone a bit beyond being used to seed a new batch. Still wondering why no one in the UK stocks these. Lakeland stock EasiYo, all the way from the Antipodes but not these made in Europe. Funny old world….

asier gurk pickle

Pickled Danish cucumber, the asie gurk, from seed sent me by the lovely Misky,  grown by me outdoors here at home in pots with local manure to help them along, peeled and brined and made according to this recipe  and then lovingly waterbath processed by Brian. I don’t think I would make them without his help as I don’t like handling hot jars, damp with boiling steam from the oven.

I use the pickle juice to thin down our current salad dressing, which is a tsp of dijon mustard mixed in a little home made yoghurt and does a very good impression of a mayonnaise with no oil worked into it. The cucumbers are a joy and a delight and much nicer (variety name : the Langelands Giant) than many of the other varieties I have sampled this year. So many cucumbers are full of seeds and surprisingly bitter, these ones have always been sweet and crisp.

I left a tray of my own home saved angelica seed at the Community Garden at Blaise, where I do a bit of volunteering,  hoping it would germinate and the magic of the place has made it happen already. It is supposed to need a period of cold before coming up and this has taught me that books are not always right.

IMG_6992 I was delighted! I suspect not many people have the patience to grow it, it can take up to three years to get stems large enough to candy, or even that much interest in candying and eating it I got there this year having waited patiently for several years and felt great personal satisfaction and one of these days will make some buns or some icecream and use the angelica I candied at home.

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Angelica archangelica coming into flower earlier this year.

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Candied stems drying, they will keep for ages now.

If you want to know how to do it, you could pop over to my acquaintance Dan at the Apothecary’s Garden as I learnt the basics from him.

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Here is my little old mushrooming basket, given to me by my dear friend Hazel, who passed away many years ago now, I remember her when I pick it up and carry it with me, as I carry her in my heart always. Here it is filled with tomatoes and herbs and some wild blackberries, calendula flowers and cucumbers, and a fairy lights chilli plant coming home from Blaise Community Garden.

 

Apples are falling off the tree before ripening for some reason and the pear tree has long spindly branches and too many pears so I took a whole lot off the other day and bottled them and hope the pear tree won’t break too many more of its branches. I need to get a lesson from someone in pruning.

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A squirrel has had most of the nuts off the red hazel but has left me a symbolic handful

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and here is the eternal game being played out by my hairy friends and companions, another good prompt to get out of the house and breathe fresh air.

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Cheese and Leek Toasties

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast3

Inspired by Heidi’s comment about grilled cheese sandwiches  on the cheese and pickle post, I rifled through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Vegetable book and found a lovely  simple recipe for cheese and leeks on toast which I have customized slightly to use up half a red pepper as well as my leeks. It is the sort of book that if you are an experienced cook and a vegetarian you probably know most of the methods and techniques in it already,  but I like it for its simple layout and clear straightforward recipes. I think, going by this article I just found, HFW is very fond of cheese on toast. Lots more of his ideas here of things to put on toast : – Posh cheese on toast recipes.

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast2

As I was making vegetable soup anyway and sweating leeks, I borrowed a couple of spoonfuls of the leeks from the early stages of the soup to make this treat. I am going to make it again today as we have lots of leeks in our vegetable box this week.

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast4

Pepper and Leek Cheese on Toast for Two

  • 1 medium leek
  • Half a red pepper (capiscum)
  • 50g of favourite cheese
  • 3 spoonfuls of half fat creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper
  • Thyme or favourite herbs
  • Two chunky slices of favourite bread – here I used my kefir date bread with sesame seed crust

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast1

  1. Sweat the sliced leeks and pepper in a little butter or stock on a low heat
  2. Grate cheese and put to one side
  3. Once leeks and peppers are soft and glistening lower the heat
  4. Slice some bread and toast lightly and put the grill on
  5. Add the creme fraiche and mix in
  6. Add about three quarters of the grated cheese and stir well
  7. Season to taste, add thyme
  8. Pile onto warmed bread and divide the remaining cheese between the two slices
  9. Pop under hot grill and cook till bubbly and browning
  10. Eat!

Carrot and Rice Soup

30 November 2013

Carrot and rice soup

When I read soup recipes they are often full of cream and I try to avoid cooking with cream, wonderful unctuous stuff that it is, on account of its asthma inducing qualities.

So I was very pleased to figure out that if one includes a small quantity of rice in a soup that this gives a smooth textural quality to the soup, which if not exactly creamy, certainly comes somewhere near.

I am not anti-dairy, just this specific bit of dairy, namely fresh cream and milk. Fermented milks and creams seem to get round the asthma thing just fine. Hence my love of creme fraiche, and kefir and yoghurt and of course butter!

Carrot and Rice Soup –  a winter’s dish for someone who is under the weather made by someone who had an excess of carrots building up in the vegetable department.

  • 10 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter melted
  • 600-900 ml vegetable stock (about a pint to a pint and a half) – I use Marigold reduced salt vegan stock powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3 tbsp rice (about 40 grams)
  • 2 tbsps of lemon juice or Japanese Yuzu dressing (optional)
  • Garnish with chopped parsley or other herbs

carrot and rice soup Method

  1. Peel and slice onion and carrots.
  2. Sweat in melted butter over a low to medium heat till beginning to get soft but don’t let them brown if you can – about ten minutes.
  3. Stir frequently and add a little water if you think the vegetables are catching on the bottom of the pan. It helps if you put the lid on as this keeps the steam in the pan.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and rice and stir well, put the lid back on and cook for about twenty minutes.
  5. I removed some of the vegetables at this point and then return them to the soup at the end as I like texture, but this is up to you. I take out about a halfpint jug’s worth of veggies.
  6. Blend with a wand on in a food processor.
  7. Add back the reserved vegetables if you did.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reheat gently.
  9. Garnish and serve with any good bread that you like.

I garnished our soup with chopped Mustard Red Frills, a lovely and easy to grow salad green which has little yellow flowers, and is a prolific self-seeder. It is still doing its thing in the garden, even at the end of November and I found some curly parsley that is hanging on in there.

I also added some Yuzu Japanese citrus dressing which brightens up the taste of the carrots, but you can of course use lemon juice – I only have this exotic sounding dressing because it waved at me one day in the supermarket…. Other options are to swirl a little thick yoghurt in at the end, or indeed a drool of  cream if that is the way you roll.

What soups do you make for comfort food? I like this one and I like pea and ham, leek and potato, and I am working up to making Chinese congee, but need to find some broken Thai rice I think….

Growing Asier

I am possibly the most beautiful curl in the world

I am possibly the most beautiful curl in the world

Once upon a time there was a little girl whose Great Aunt Gerda lived in a wood far away across the dark North Sea. It took a night and a day to get there on a big ferry boat.  When the child visited her great aunt and other relatives she ate all sorts of exciting things that she didn’t eat at home, lots of the foods were fishy and salty, or smoky or pickled with herbs and vinegar and sugar.

One of the foods she thought of often but never tasted again till almost half a century had passed by was a delicious white firm pickle that her Great Aunt had made.  The little girl thought it was a special snow-white cucumber or maybe a marrow and that only her Great Aunt grew them –  she didn’t know much about pickles or growing vegetables and as far as I remember she thought that vegetables only grew on farms like the pictures in her books.

She didn’t know what the vegetable was exactly because the relatives called it asier. It was crunchy, golden-white, sweet and fragrant and she remembered it with longing for many years.

At home there were imported Polish gherkins with exotic names like Krakus and Globus which were also very good, but not the same and all the time she carried in her taste memory the flavour and the texture of the white asier, the sort her Great Aunt Gerda had made and given her in the house in the woods all those years ago.

Many years later the internet arrived and online shopping arrived fast in its wake, amongst the sites that sprang up to take advantage of this brave new world were many food sites. The woman found that she could order pickled asier from one of these sites and ordered several jars, but even though the taste was close, it wasn’t quite right and she was a little bit sad and downcast.

Then one day she mentioned the asier to her friend Misky the Poet,  who knew about these things on account of being married to Peder the Dane and Misky knew all about the asier and wrote an Asier Pickle Post specially for her old chum about how to make the pickle and advised her on how to nurture the plant.

Kind Misky sent her special asier seed and asier pickling spices from the country of the Great Aunt, so that she could not only make the pickle but grow her own asier.  She sowed the seeds as instructed and waited patiently for the asier to grow.  It was a very cold and long winter and an even colder and longer spring and only one of the seeds germinated.

Hiding but growing

Hiding but growing

The asier grew and grew and got put into a bigger pot. She watered and waited and watered and waited and soon the asier grew flowers and tendrils and the bumble bees visited the bright yellow flowers and hummed and hawed and left again and then one day there was a Baby Asier!

By George I think it's growing!

By George I think it’s growing!

The weather got hotter and hotter and the asier got bigger and bigger…

"My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow" John Donne

“My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow” John Donne

…until it was nearly the size of one of Peder the Dane’s shoes and she took it off the mother plant.

Asier Glory

She ate the first asier just as it was because she was over-excited and wanted to see what it tasted like and it was So Much Better than the watery hydroponically grown idenitikt cucumbers from the shop. This asier had  firm white flesh, very few seeds and was crunchy and just delicious!

Now she is waiting for the four new babies that have appeared on the plant to grow and hopefully she will finally make the pickle just like her Great Aunt made all those years ago. If not this year, then next year – when she will grow more than one asier –  she is very patient.

Here's looking at you kid!

Here’s looking at you kid!

The moral of this story is (with apologies to James Thurber)

Don’t pick your asier before they are size 42 as one asier on its own will never make a jar of pickle!

Have you ever grown anything just for the sake of a memory ?

NB: To read all about the fascinating history of the cucumber, one of ‘the ancient foods of Ur’ you could do worse than start with Wikipeda whence originate all the factoids you could possibly want.

I came across this Danish article about growing cucumbers for making this variety of pickle and put it into Google Translate and they suggested a variety called Fatum, which I see is sold by Marshalls in the UK as another alternative which is apparently less prone to mildew than the Langelands Kaempe variety.  I do like growing these big cucumbers !

In My Kitchen July 2013

Blackboard in Zeb Bakes Kitchen

Dog Meds and Vetty things

In my kitchen there are two slim dogs.  Mme L has been ill with pancreatitis and is now on a complicated regime of micro meals and vet stuff to line her little tum with so she doesn’t vomit all the time. Zeb is in rude health once more after his leather eating trauma earlier this year fortunately.

In my kitchen is a blackboard which usually says things like, buy chicken, or take parcel to post office. My blackboard was made by Andy at Arcadian Furniture who restores furniture and makes new pieces too. He made this board for us with just the right size ledge that it could hold a board rubber and chalk and made it out of the same wood as the kitchen, American Oak.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will note it says ‘Eat Wed pm’ at the bottom. This is because Brian has had the lurgi for over a week and the doctor said starve yourself for 48 hours and drink Dioralyte.

Dioralyte

We are into 36 hours and I am joining in in solidarity till this evening, when we will partake of ‘clear soup’. Brian has decided we are going to have a Chicken Soup and has gone off to buy himself a chicken. The good news is that, so far today he feels better, so cross fingers the doctor gave him good advice finally.

So what else can I show you?

My neighbour's gift of sweet peas

A stunning handful of fragrant frilly sweet peas grown by my neighbour. We are busily trading lettuce and flowers, cheesy buns and vegetables. My neighbour drives out to visit her mother who is now in a Nursing Home, she who likes my bread, and it is very near a wonderful vegetable grower called Mark Cox who gardens at the Walled Garden at Wrington.

Broad Beans from the Walled Garden at Wrington

Broad Beans from the Walled Garden at Wrington

My neighbour is allowed to pick what she wants more or less and she brings me treasure once a week; last week I had the most beautiful broad beans, chard, cavolo nero, newly dug potatoes, and a perfect artichoke.

I have baked more bread in the kitchen, mostly of the sourdough variety. Here is a particular fetching loaf, which someone on Twitter described as a Tin Tin loaf without the tin. A bread with a quiff!

Tintin loaf of sourdough by Zeb Bakes

At the moment as it is hot here, the easiest way to make the bread is to mix it in the evening, retard it in the fridge, shape and prove early in the morning and bake it.   Works for me just fine!

Pheasant casseroleIn the freezer I discovered three halves of pheasant that I bought from a local butcher in pheasant season earlier this year, so I have made them into a casserole, once I had pulled all the bits of shot and feather out I could find. My casserole consisted of the pheasant, cut into smaller joints, sweet onion and carrots from the Walled Garden, two sticks of celery, herbs from the garden, silver thyme, Greek oregano, sweet Cecily, bay leaves, a few peppercorns, a couple of tablespoons of ancient Pontack sauce (made from foraged elderberries in times of yore) some Chinese rice wine, and vegetable stock. Pheasant is a dry meat to my mind but it is all cooked up now and boxed and back in the freezer for another day.

I also had a crack at making the claypot pork dish that Celia made from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse blog.

Ingredients for Claypot Belly Pork

Here is a pile of bottles that I had to get in order to have a go at it. I already had a kg piece of belly pork from Thoroughly Wild Meat who supplies us with salt marsh lamb hidden in the freezer.

I don’t have a claypot so I made it in my regular casserole. It smelled divine while it was cooking but that too has gone into the freezer as it coincided with Brian and his Lurgi.

Ottolenghi Turkey and Courgette Meatballs from Jerusalem

Ottolenghi Turkey and Courgette Meatballs from Jerusalem

I have also made the fantabulous Ottolenghi turkey and courgette meatballs with sumac sauce, a recipe which is in his Jerusalem but you can probably find written out by someone or other on the net if you look. These little nuggets solve the mystery of doing something tasty with the incredibly boring meat that is turkey mince. I thought they were a bit fiddly to make but if you are set on eating turkey mince and have spare courgettes, then give them a whirl, because the end result is worth it.

Home grown courgettes

In my kitchen were our first veggies apart from lettuce and rocket – three pale green courgettes – which I fried with garden mint in a little butter and oil  about five minutes after harvesting them and had them with some rice and chard while Brian looked the other way.

I have been eating North Sea brown shrimp, odd bits of roast chicken,  and lettuce and bread. Feeling guilty that I can eat and he can’t, though not that guilty that I couldn’t cruelly munch my way through half a bag of M and M’s last night while catching up on the White Queen on the telly box while The Hollow Man averted his gaze.

3IMK

I also had a box of very special chocolates from Haigh’s hand-delivered from Melbourne from a blog friend who is visiting the UK. Lucky lucky me and I loved meeting her and her husband in my kitchen and plying them with cake, more of which another day. (There are no chocolates left of course!)

After watching the White Queen (historical drama based around the time of the War of the Roses)  I always have to spend ages on Wiki looking up the Kings and Queens of England, the Kings all seem to be called Edward or Henry and all the queens Elizabeth. Many of them are a little stressed out.  I have no memory, nor interest in retaining their names and who was married off to whom in political unions but  I am enjoying the White Queen, chiefly because I like the way they roll their eyes in a thoroughly modern way when they marvel and gasp at each other’s Machiavellian ways.

Eat Wed PM

But back to the kitchen –  by the time I get to the end of this post it has indeed become Wed pm and we have made supper.

My grandmother's Willow Pattern soup bowl

The man vet said ‘clear soup’ we translated that tonight into Canja de Galinha  – ‘a soup for what ails you ‘  – as made in the one and only Bewitching Kitchen by Sally.  A Brazilian take on a Portuguese soup, which hit all the right notes for Brian being substantial but super low in fat and super soothing.

Brian's soup

Brian chopped the veggies and I poached the chicken and we cooked far too much rice, but we didn’t care. I invoked the spirit of my paternal grandmother Lily and got out her Willow pattern soup bowls which have nursed more versions of chicken soup than I can remember in their long life and hope that he is cured now. (I added a liberal splosh of chilli ginger sauce to mine as I hadn’t been on starvation watch, but I have never seen Brian attack a bowl of soup with quite such enthusiasm).

I realise it has been far too long since I wrote one of these IMK posts, but if you want to read a whole lot more or indeed join in,  you should visit lovely Celia @ figjamandlimecordial.com whose meme this is and peek at her sidebar as there are lots and lots of kitchens to visit from her links.