Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Keith Floyd RIP

This isn't so much a recipe as a small remembrance of Keith Floyd, who died last week.  Many years ago, I had a conversation with him about the correct way to make a bacon sandwich, and, lover of plain English cooking that he was, when I finally got round to demonstrating it at about 3 am, I think he quite enjoyed it.

Per person
Two slices cut from a crusty white loaf
Quite a lot of streaky bacon
2 or 3 sliced mushrooms
a  generous glass of red wine

Fry the bacon slowly in a heavy frying pan so that it renders its fat. Turn up the heat towards the end so that it crisps up. Remove the bacon and fry the mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat. Toast the bread lightly, butter lightly, and pile on the bacon and mushrooms. Top with the second slice and press down firmly. I believe there was some discussion about ketchup, which I don't normally allow, but I'm a little vague on the details for some reason.
Drink the wine.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

No Roast Chicken Yet!

Sid, my friendly expert butcher, has called in to see my Hubbard table birds and pronounced them well grown but too skinny to dispatch yet. He advises restricting their space as he thinks they are running off all the feed they consume as they have the run of our large garden and are consequently not putting on the weight ( I feel there's a lesson for us all here somewhere) and  I should feed them on plenty of rolled barley and boiled potato peelings.

So I have put them in a run, where they still have plenty of space and grass, and I have been amazed at how much they are actually eating, I feel guilty that I haven't been feeding them enough. They are having three high carb meals a day of rolled barley, some boiled slug damaged potatoes, and whatever else is around, bread, pasta, anything really that would give Dr Atkins the screaming heeby jeebies. Anyway they seem perfectly happy and can be seen lolling contentedly on the grass having consumed their large lunch of apple cores, rolled barley, potatoes and some wholewheat pasta that I bought one time when I was trying to be healthy and never used. Sid's checking back in three weeks. Hold the bread sauce.

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Thursday, 24 September 2009

End of One Season, Start of the Next

Veg Garden
It's easy to think of September as the end of the growing season for the allotment garden. But gardeners always have to think ahead, and there's still time, if you're quick, to put in a few things which will tide you over during the winter months, even if you don't have the luxury of greenhouses and polytunnels, though it's a big help if you do. If you want a supply of brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli  you're way too late, but now is a good time to sow some cabbage for a supply of spring greens early next year. Offenham Flower of Spring is the one I use, and it's also worth trying some of the modern quick growing pointed cabbages like Hispi, particularly if you're short of space.

White turnips can still also be sown, and picked young as baby turnips can be delicious seved with a rich winey stew. And a row of quick growing carrots could still be ok to sow now, especially if there's decent weather next month. Always worth a gamble.  Rhubarb Chard will probably be fine if you get it in now and will stand all the cold the winter can throw at it. And don't forget to keep sowing trays of baby salad leaves, outside if it's fine and warm, and you can bring them under cover if it turns suddenly cold. You'll save a fortune on bags of supermarket salad and it's ten times nicer. 

I feel obliged to say you can also sow oriental veg like Mizuna, mibuna, tatsio etc, but I'm afraid I end up feeding most of it to the chickens. But if you like it you can sow it now. But be quick.

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Friday, 18 September 2009

Hips and Haws

The hedgerows are full of rose hips and hawthorn berries, and it seems a shame to leave them all to the birds. So I have tried an old recipe using haws, the fruit of the hawthorn. You can call them hawthorn berries, but it seems a shame not to use the old name, especially when it appeals so much to people like me with a very juvenile sense of humour. Indeed, I suspect my own motives for making this lovely old preserve, now who do I know who might like a bottle of Haw Sauce, hmm, the vicar perhaps..?

Haw Sauce

1 lb of Haws
8 oz sugar
half a pint of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
half a teaspoon pepper
half a fresh chilli

There's no shortage of haws, so make sure you choose good ones, nice and plump, avoid the ones hanging around by the roadside, and nothing unnattractive and wrinkly.

Pick off all the stems and bits of leaf. Wash and place in a saucepan with half a pint of cider vinegar and half a pint of water, and half a chopped chilli.

Simmer until soft - mine took only 10 minutes.

Next you have to get the stones out, and the easiest way is to whizz the whole lot in the food processor for a few seconds and then pass it through a sieve.

Yes I know it sounds like a bit of a pain, especially for a small quantity like this, but as this was in the way of an experiment, I would certainly make a larger amount next time, which would be more worthwhile. And after all, it's mostly free!

Return the pulp to the saucepan, add the sugar, salt, and pepper and stir until dissolved. You should have a thick sauce, if it seems a bit runny boil it down for a few minutes

Pour into sterilized bottles

and spend ages making tricksy little labels...

And if you think  you don't have time to be messing about with all this, remember it's fun, it's delicious, it's almost free, and it's the perfect Christmas present for the single bloke who has everything!

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Garden Update

Now is a good time to look at what flowers and shrubs have done well in your garden this year, in order to increase your stock and hopefully have an even better display next year. Everyone's garden is different, and has it's own little idiosycracies of soil, climate, and so on, so it makes sense to note what you can grow well and make the most of it.
In my garden this year I have been pleased with, amongst other things -

The Blue Wall - an early display of Wisteria, Ceanothus, and Solanum on the south wall of the house.
This  pretty little pale yellow daisy like flower is Anthemis Tinctoria EC Buxton, and has flowered all summer long, wonderful value, and easy to grow. I will split the clump quite soon and have a large patch of it for next year.
And the surprise star of Spring was Allium Schubertii, which looks like a violet exploding firework when in flower, and afterwards the dried seedhead looks almost as good. I have just harvested the dried seedheads which I intend to spray with silver paint for Christmas decorations
Apples continue to ripen and I am storing the best unblemished fruit in perforated plastic bags in the garage along with my garlic and onion crops.  Plastic bags are not as picturesque as wooden boxes or slatted shelves but work pretty well, although you do need to keep an eye on them whatever storage method you use, the old saying about one bad apple is indeed correct and can spoil a whole batch it you don't spot it early and remove it. You can see the dried Allium Schubertii seedheads hanging on the left.The Hubbard table chickens are now 13 weeks old and  I will  have to start thinking about dispatching and processing them. They are quite variable in size however, so I intend to take advice from Sid about whether they are ready to go yet or not. The four cockerels are, unsurprisingly, a bit bigger than the rest, and some of the hens are a good size and others quite small.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Food Glorious Food, but so much of it..

It's that time of year when I seem to spend every waking moment picking, jamming, pickling, storing, bottling, etc etc. I love it really, but it does get a bit exhausting at times, and the worst part is, you can't moan to anyone about it like you can with say a normal job when things get busy. I regularly hear people say how busy they are, rushed off their feet, loads of orders to fill, paperwork to do, blahdy blah.
And I do sympathise, and say how hard it must be for them, working so hard and everything.
But if I say I'm a bit knackered from harvesting stuff from the garden, people just look at me and say,
"Well don't grow so much then". 
As though it's obvious. Clearly these people have not grasped the problem. It's a bit like saying to someone with a hangover,
"Well don't drink so much then".
Unhelpful in the extreme. Apart from anything else, the deed's already done. If the observation had been made as the beans were going in in May, or indeed as the vodkas were going in at midnight, it may have been a bit of use. But it's too late now. I do realize that in a good year you can feed a family of four, a dog and a hamster from one good courgette plant, (actually probably not the dog),  let alone the half dozen plants that I've got, so I've really no idea why I grow so many. Same with beans. Tomatoes however, are another story.

You can NEVER grow too many tomatoes. There are so many things you can do with tomatoes, and they are useful all year round that you will never have too many, though if you've got loads you may possibly not have enough energy to deal with them. I usually freeze a few bags of runner beans, though I often don't use them, and although I know I could freeze various courgette dishes etc, I don't bother, because to be honest, I never really fancy eating courgettes in the middle of the winter.  But if you have a stash of concentrated home made tomato sauce in the freezer, you always have the makings of a quick tasty supper.

I believe I have already waxed lyrical about Jamie's Mothership Tomato Salad, and I'm still enjoying it, but I'm finding now that I can use the best fruit for said salad, and the rest - especially split, bruised, and otherwise imperfect fruits, of which there are many, can be used for the
Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce
Take a large roasting tin and add as many tomatoes as you can fit in one level, cut in half, if you can manage lots of different heritage varieties, the flavour of the sauce will be enhanced, but even a box of the cheapest supermarket ones (I recommend Lidl) will do fine
Add a head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped  and sprinkled over
And a large handful of whatever herbs you have to hand, stalks and all, I had thyme and parsley.
Pour over a generous few glugs of extra virgin olive oil.
Season generously with salt, black pepper and a teaspoon or so of sugar.

Place in the top of a hot oven for about half an hour, or until softened, and possibly even slightly charred around the edges. Discard the woodiest bits of the herbs, and then tip the whole lot into the food processor and blend well. Store in small containers in the freezer.
Come January you'll be so glad you bothered.
Perfect as a quick pasta sauce, spread on a pizza base, and enriching sauces and casseroles of all kinds, for example -

Quick Chicken Curry
Brown two or three boned chicken thighs in a frying pan in oil.
Stir in a spoonful of the curry paste you always have lurking in the fridge.
Stir in  a container of your defrosted tomato sauce.
Add  coconut cream to taste, and a squeeze of lime juice if you have some.
Simmer a few minutes to cook through.
Serve with rice or flatbread.
It may not be authentic, but it's delicious, quick, easy, inexpensive, and has no e-numbers.

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