A cracking little winter harvest
Been a while. Sorry. But the reason is a just one: gin. Sloe gin. Aside from shoveling the odd tonne of mushroom compost, there’s not much activity up at the allotment. My estrangement from brussel sprouts (they’re always blown) and my acrimonious break up with leeks (the allium weevils got there first) mean I’m a little short on veg gluts. (And why is it, by the way, that growing veg always feels like a volatile romantic entanglement? Is it just me? It is? Oh, right.) No matter. The hedgerow will provide a glut: they are covered in sloes. But before I can justify making the annual batch of sloe gin, it’s become something of a tradition to make sure the current sloe gin stocks are suitably depleted. And being around countryside folk for whom a bottle of sloe gin is an ideal gift-to-take-to-dinner-party, we have a far few bottles. And hence the delay in this post. For there’s only so much sloe gin one can use in a week without incurring side effects. And I should also add that it’s virtually impossible to take half decent photos of the food you’ve made for your blog post whilst sampling said sloe gin ingredient. Hence the lack of photos this week. Still, I’m glad (if a little jaded) to report that the sloe gin glut is conquered and here’s how: […]
It doesn’t take much pumpkin to constitute a pumpkin glut. I have just one this year, but, at 6kg, one is plenty thank you. I confess I didn’t grow it myself. (Come on, of course I didn’t. Do you imagine I’d be nearly so nonchalant about its staggering weight if I’d nurtured it to 6kg myself!) It’s an heirloom variety called Rouge Vif d’Etempes and was grown by more skilled hands than mine. They’re a good doer this variety: tasty (not like the watery, sweet sickly things you buy to carve from the supermarket), big and the best bit is that they turn orange when they’re quite small so you can stagger the harvest. Other pumpkins remain an obstinate, and inedible, green until they are fully grown. Once peeled and de-seeded, my 6kg darling yields around 4kg of flesh. Perfect for big batch cooking. Rather like any of the recipes below: Pumpkin and Sage Risotto […]
Still in the grip of Canapé Fever here in the g&g household. At this rate I shall have to host a cocktail party just to use them up. This recipe is a particular favourite – seasonal and simple. (It makes a delicious salad too should you prefer not to prissy around with canapés): […]
“Do come for Drinks And Nibbles”. So easily uttered. So sorely regretted. Nibbles. Gone are the days when a bowl of Twiglets and a hedgehog of cheddar and pineapple sticks would suffice. And GBBO champion Style-Over-Substance-Done-Good-Frances, I might add, has a lot to answer for in upping the stakes further still with her astonishing allotment canapes. Anyway, I’m not, as you can imagine, one to fiddle around with such things. And I do not believe in poaching quails eggs. Or in vol-au-vents. I prefer the Venetian approach to nibbles: ciccheti – chunky mouthfuls of gutsy flavours, unpretentiously served with every glass of Aperol spritzer supped so authentically by every true Venetian. […]
The last of the beetroot glut series. And, very quickly, I promise… This is nice. […]
Bleakness comes by degrees I find. In sharp relief to the record summer we had, the current drizzle seems decidedly bleak. However, it’s not really until the depths of February that one really starts to feel one is living in a Russian novel. Still, bleakness enough there is to inspire an Eastern European palette-cleanser. And what better fodder of bleakness than a good warming bison grass Vodka and the earthy, hardy flavours of Detroit beetroot? […]
I’m very grateful to beetroot. I’ve not had the most fecund of growing seasons, but the beetroot, despite a shaky start, has been the most prolific and certainly the most pest-free crop this year. Unlike the courgette glut, which warranted a second Glut of the Week slot simply because it bullied it’s way to the front, threatening me with 3 kilo marrows, the beetroot gets a second slot because it is a jewel – a blessed, understated gem of loveliness – that just waits quietly and keeps cropping, sure that hard work alone will make it favourite. We’ll begin with a light lunch recipe: Beetroot and Apple Remoulade. […]
Green curly dwarf kale is a late season staple in my allotment. I should clarify: it’s the kale that is green curly and small and there is, sadly, no green curly dwarf so honoured as to have a kale named after him. Anyway, it’s a goodun – hardy, easy to grow, prolific, tasty, nutritious. Just one problem. Caterpillars. And not caterpillars like those the poor broccoli suffers. With those beasties, at least you know you’ve got them, eating, as they do, everything and leaving your broccoli a stumpy skeleton. Oh no. Kale caterpillars (I really feel it should be Kale Katerpillars, don’t you?) are stealthy little buggers. To begin with, they’re kale coloured. Plus, they hide themselves in the curly edges of the kale and surreptitiously venture out, under cover of darkness no doubt, to nibble at the young leaves before retreating to their hiding place until the next raid. Upshot is – they’re virtually impossible to spot, even when cleaning the freshly picked leaves. But it’s ok because they are quite obvious once the kale is cooked and on the plate… Mostly because they turn white when cooked. Anyway, they pick off easily when cooked, and the g&g household seems to have survived this method during the recent kale glut. Here’s what I did with the kale and caterpillar glut: […]
Blackberry picking leaves me a nostalgic and dewy-eyed sop. Perhaps it’s because I grew up on Brambly Hedge books, believing one could live in an oak tree and rural England really was full of enterprising field mice with umbrellas. Or perhaps it’s because my soft spot for Alan Bennett, who invented the verb ‘to blackberry’ (“I blackberry up the lane..” and so forth), transports me, when I blackberry, to some whimsical scene in which I’m a lonely-yet-contented woman picking blackberries and pondering the bittersweet moments of my life. The dog, in contrast, is incandescent that his walk is being constantly and unpredictably interrupted at every turn. Even a lick of blackberry and white chocolate ice-cream doesn’t appease him. […]
I have finally crawled out from under the avalanche of courgettes to write some recipes. There's no escape from them. They just keep on giving and the shelf in my fridge is bowing under [...]
Courgettes. They're like children, aren't they? (I'm guessing here, I don't have any...children that is) One day they're beautiful tiny darlings, all rosy cheeked with their bright little flowers shining up at you; the next day they're hulking great terrors taking over your veg patch, devoid of any redeeming features (taste) and demanding to be fed. Such is the temprament of my courgette patch at the moment. They grow so fast you can almost sit and watch it happen. It really has become a race to see if we can eat them before they turn in to marrows. And I will not be beaten. So hotly contested is this race, that I have for you this week a whopping four recipes that use a minimum of two courgettes each. That's eight courgettes gone. No pussy footing around with tempura courgette flowers here. I'm all about quantity this week...
“What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” Thus quoth Lady M, stained with the blood of King Duncan. And thus quoth I after dealing with this week’s glut – beetroot. Purple, orange, white, stripy, round, flat, long, short – beetroot comes in all shapes and sizes and isn’t all meant for the pickling jar. I’ve grown the classic Detroit variety this year, but I can also recommend the very beautiful Chioggia which has pink and white rings inside it and is jolly pretty atop a salad. Some golden beetroot has come my way too this week, which does make the glut look even more stunning, but only adds to the volume of beetroot to dispatch. Beetroot stores rather well in a cool dry potting shed. The Urban Veg Patch blog has more details on how best to do this. However, if, like me, you have something of a habit when it comes to beetroot, you may like to enjoy it at every meal as I have done today: Beetroot, Apple and Ginger Juice It’s not like me to have a juice for breakfast. To me, a liquid breakfast screams “Listen sunshine, I’m so important I’m too busy to chew so I have my people juice my breakfast for me. Time is money, kid”. And I don’t approve. However, for my Eat Beets Day I’ll make an exception: […]
here is more bamboo than branch in our cherry. More trussing than tree. No, it isn't very sightly. But it's the only way of keeping the birds off your cherry glut. It was the invention of my live-in handyman (AKA best beloved) and it, coupled with a studious watering and feeding regime has produced a truck load of cherries. This glut is simply too miraculous to use it as mere ingredient in a recipe. I can't bring myself to cook with them. Instead, we sit in the garden beneath the shade of the cherry tree and trough our way through most of the harvest. But even I can't eat a whole tree's worth of cherries in one sitting. I persuade myself to save some and to put them to good use: Cherry and Almond Tart.
Cucumbers have no patience. When they arrive in the greenhouse they arrive in almost biblical quantity. They enjoy but a fleeting window between too small and grotesquely (and inedibly) large. They don't stay fresh for more than 48 hours once picked. And once they start cropping, there's no stopping them. The only way to deal with this sort of attitude in a vegetable is to beat it at its own game: eat them. Eat them all. And eat them with relish. Do your worst, cucumbers, we can't get enough of you. I think this calls for a quick fire round of fast and simple cucumber recipes that will whip through your glut very pleasurably, don't you? Right then: Cucumber Water. 'Pickled' Cucumber and Salmon Tartare. Henricks and Cucumber. Cheers!
Poor herbs. Ever the bridesmaid, never the bride. Stuck on the side of a cheap plate of pub grub and insultingly referred to as 'garnish'. They don't even get a space in the allotment. Instead, I dot them around the flower beds in whatever gap I can find and leave them to fend off the onslaught of geraniums un-aided. Never the star of the show. Always the support act. Poor herbs. Well not today. Despite the neglect, the herbs absolutely love this weather and are thriving to the point of glutting. There are handfuls of them. Too many for a mere garnish. So today they take centre stage as the main ingredients in two new dishes: Herby Oatcakes and Lemon Balm and Lemon Thyme Sorbet
My neighbour's vegetable patch is sinfully fecund. Everything is cropping on time, with abundance and perfectly unscathed by bird or beast. We, on the other hand, have zippo in our allotment. In this climate, even the kindest gesture fans the flames of my covetousness. For example, my neighbour very generously, though not without a hint of smugness, offered me some of his strawberry glut the other day. Given that my strawberry patch is weeks away from harvesting, I swallowed my pride, thanked him graciously and hoofed it with a good two kilos of strawberries. Only one thing could come of this: Strawberry Afternoon Tea on the Lawn...
Some friends of mine came over to play in the kitchen yesterday afternoon. They are 10 and 8 years old and both demon cooks. Their favourite foods are French onion soup or sushi, they can bake a mean cake totally unaided and last time I went to their house they served a pre-dinner juice in passionfruit casings with umbrellas…. So now you can understand the proficiency of palette I’m dealing with. Frozen pizza and a Walls ice-cream would not cut it with these ladies. We spent the afternoon preparing a lavish supper for ourselves. The idea being that, having prepared a simple-yet-everso-slightly-chefy 3 course menu (below… we made a mess as you can see) with my occasional interventions and, I’d like to think, sage advice, they could go home and recreate it by themselves whenever they next hosted a dinner party (you’d be amazed what the under-10s get up to these days). […]
This week's glut of the week is a (smaller than hoped) bucket of mackerel, freshly caught on holiday in Lyme Regis. Making the most of twitchingly fresh fish means recipes like sushi maki rolls and barbequed mackerel. Plus, how to make perfect sushi rice and how not to get caught pretending you caught Sea Bream...
Mackerel caught at Lyme Regis. Recipes to follow soon
Ah radishes. The jewels of late Spring. Their shameless red skin against the dank, soggy soil: a beacon that heralds the imminent arrival of summer’s full show. The invigorating kick of heat that brings hope during the Hungry Gap. Quick. Easy. Tasty. There’s no downside to a radish. […]