Garlic Crop 2014…

I pulled the garlic in late June, as rather stupidly, I had forgotten that using the sprinkler to water the patch (it’s very hot here at the moment and hand watering wasn’t cutting the mustard, the ground needs a good daily soak to keep the plants happy) meant I was also watering my garlic, which I had left to start drying out in the ground.

DSC_0139As a result, rust was just beginning show, it’s very mild and I know from last year that it wont effect the crop and it’s long-term keeping but it made sense to get the crop out of the ground and to remove any leaves badly affected before leaving the bulbs to dry in a sunny spot.DSC_0146I’ve just checked back in the blog but it appears I never wrote down the garlic variety I bought from The Garlic Farm last Autumn, I’m pretty sure it’ll be Solent Wight or the usual Albigensian….I have  feeling Albigensian.  I was worried that the mild winter might have stopped the growing bulbs from forming cloves, but it appears not to have.

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I planted much less than I normally do, I bought a bag of four large bulbs (I’ve struggled in the past to find places to put all the cloves and I’ve ended up growing them in all available spaces, including in the flower borders) and they were also planted closer together, but I was much more diligent about watering and feeding the crop.  In return I have nice, uniformly large bulbs, not enough of them to see me through the entire year (once these are used up, it’ll be the first time in years that I have bought garlic) but I think I’ll stick with these smaller quantities, going forward.

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They have been drying for some weeks and yesterday I plaited them up.  I good few were left loose in a big bowl as they need using first (the bulbs have split as they dried, offering the cloves less protection in the long run)
DSC_0150and a few were used green, as they are on the edge of beginning to rot, from sitting in the wet soil.

I have to do some general catch-up posts for this blog, it’s been hideously hot out in the garden so I’m really just tending to the basics, but we’re finally eating quite a bit of produce so I’ll try to write a few posts in coming weeks, and get back into the swing of regular blogging.

Blackcurrants Galore…!

I’ve just spent the majority of the day dealing with this year’s blackcurrant harvest.  If I could only grow one berry bush, this would be it, I love the smell when you brush past the leaves and I can’t think of a nice flavour.

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Last year, I took picking time as an opportunity to also prune the bush, removing older stems to make way for newer ones.  In doing so, I think I rather over-pruned and was a bit worried about how much fruit I’d get this season.  I needn’t have worried, there was plenty, even with my rather rubbish attempt to net the plant that had still allowed the birds to remove half the berries.  Altogether, there was at least 3 kg of very ripe fruit.

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So, what to make?  I’ve got more Cassis and jam than I know what to do with, so we’re back to blackcurrant ripple ice cream again, which is YUMMY so I’ve put aside 1.2kg to make two more batches.  I then searched for new ideas of what to make.  Ice cream always leaves me with left over egg whites, so the obvious choice was a Pavlova.  I found a great recipe here, but used my normal method for the Pavlova itself, which is largely taken from Nigella and is as below.

Blackcurrant Pavlova

4 egg whites

225 g caster sugar

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Blackcurrant Puree (see later in the post)

300 ml double cream

200 ml half-fat creme fraiche

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until it is all incorporated. Sprinkle over the vinegar and vanilla extract and whisk again. Mound onto the prepared parchment forming a fat circle approximately 20cm in diameter, with a slightly raised ridge around the edges.
  • Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/gas mark 2/300ºF and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours.  You are aiming for a crisp outside but a soft, mallowy inside.
  • Turn off the oven and open the door slightly,  let the meringue cool completely before removing.

It’s at this stage that I departed from the recipe I linked to above.  It advises gently stewing the berries with sugar and serving the mixture both marbled with whipped cream and some on top.  I did stew the fruit, as advised and tasted it, it was too tart for the boys (M is away at the moment, so it’s just me and the boys for a few days) so I added more sugar then left the topping in the fridge until needed.  On second tasting, I decided that they wouldn’t like the seeds either, so I actually used some of the puree I’d pre-made for ice cream instead.

  • For the topping, mix 300 ml double cream, whipped and 200 ml half-fat creme fraiche (folded gently into the whipped cream) and marble through some blackcurrant puree.

Blackcurrant Puree

600g blackcurrants

60g caster sugar

dribble of water

Method

Mix the above in a pan and gently heat until the berries are very soft.  Cool a little, then push the mixture through a sieve to remove all the pips, resulting in a thick puree.  Taste and add more sugar if required.

(you would only need a fraction of this for a Pavlova leaving more than enough to be mixed into a 4 egg, custard ice cream base mixture, for a ripple ice cream)

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It didn’t look nearly as pretty as berries dripping over white peaks of whipped cream, but oh it was yummy, a total success and probably a new regular favourite, if I can bear the amount of sugar added to the egg whites to make meringue without my teeth aching in protest!

The rest of the berries were made into puree that has been packed in the freezer for ice cream at later dates.

DSC_0160What else?  I made walnut and seed bread using the No Knead method.  It was nice, quite a heavy loaf as I had to use wholemeal flour in place of granary and the ratio was more wholemeal than white, as opposed the normal half and half I would go for.  As I was also planning pizza for tea, I found myself sifting some Wessex Mill Honey & Seed bread flour I found in the cupboard, so that I could use the plain, white flour left behind for pizza base.  It was quite interesting (I thought) to see what has been added to the mix….the little squares are of honey.  I felt guilty ‘wasting’ such lovely artisan flour, but there you go.

DSC_0161The boys were happy though as they LOVE getting to choose their own pizza toppings.  C’s always looks the prettiest with its mix of vegetables, F and I both tend to pile ours high with pepperoni, and in my case, anchovies.  Yum.  Incidentally, I tried making the cauliflower base for M a couple of weekends ago (as he generally doesn’t do carbs, especially flour) it’s been doing the blog rounds so I’m sorry, I’m not sure who did it first but this is the version I used.  It was good, really quite passable as an alternative to a regular flour base and one I’ll be doing for myself in future.

All we need now is some rain for the poor garden.  Although I water the veg patch and greenhouse each day, I leave the rest to survive on its own and to be honest, it’s starting to look very parched.  Roll on those thundery showers we keep being promised!

 

 

June In The Garden…

I’m clearly not getting back into the swing of blogging about the garden, I think I’m just quite distracted by the house (I’m trying to get it better organised) and sewing, but the garden hasn’t been completely neglected, in fact the veg patch is in a pretty good state, despite the setback of having the delivery lady leave the gate open when we were away (she was putting a parcel in the greenhouse) and as a result the rabbits taking out EVERYTHING that was growing.

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The borders are the main neglected area, I’ve pretty much let them fend for themselves this year and as a result the plants are heavily interspersed with weeds.  I’ve decided to just let it be this year and focus on growing vegetables and cut flowers.

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I do have to address the geranium psilostemon though.  It’s self seeded like crazy and some of the clumps need to be removed, which is proving difficult as the roots are firmly fixed into the ground, I may have to resort to spraying them, although I do hope not.DSC_0239 12-21-43 It reminded me that I don’t think I’ve ever posted this photo.  I took it some years ago to show what happens if you cut the geranium back after it’s first flowering, as you can see by the patch on the right (the left was not cut, to show the comparison) you will get a second flush of stems and flowers, not quite as vigorous as the first, but certainly better than a pile of dead looking soggy leaves.

DSC_0067The bees are busy and they LOVE the mathiasella ‘Green Dream’ that I planted a couple of years ago.  It’s been a real winner of a plant, with lovely tall stems and it’s great for cutting for the house.  It’s also survived the rabbits, which are causing real problems in the main garden, they took out all the lupins and the Japanese anemone (which is attempting a come back, I think) amongst others.  I’m quite worried that all the spring plants I spent ages putting in on the side border wont return as they also got nibbled, after flowering.  As I type there are…….12 rabbits in the garden and 3 fat wood pigeons.  We really need to get the entire fence rabbit proofed as it’s the only way to control the problem and since loosing my cat over Easter (to old ages and illness) the problem has increased.

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The roses are doing well this year, I found these two in the side border, both of which I’d forgotten I’d planted.  I’m not even sure what they are but the spray rose is lovely, I think I remember buying it for exactly that reason, small, multiple heads that slowly open to end up as frilly pale pink flowers (which appears to be the case).  I’ll try to find out what it is, at some point.

DSC_0087The patch is making a come back, after the rabbit attack, quite a few plants must have had enough roots to return, or were munched in such a way that they have survived.  It’s all a bit scruffy and could do with a good tidy up, but we have:

  • salad leaves
  • radish
  • carrots (under netting to deter the root flies and rabbits!)
  • x5 purple mange tout (all the rest got eaten)
  • barlotti beans (making a come back after being pretty much wiped out)
  • broad beans
  • garlic (nearly ready to pull…rabbits don’t like garlic, it would appear)
  • red spring onions (left in from last year, now going to seed, the new ones got eaten)
  • courgettes
  • perennial spinach
  • cucumbers
  • potatoes
  • alpine strawberries (again, munched to the ground by rabbits, but making a slow return)
  • tomatoes
  • red peppers
  • aubergines
  • chillies

There are also some herbs (Thai basil, sweet basil, lemon grass, thyme, rosemary, sage, mint, lemon balm, garlic chives, regular chives, coriander, parsley & marjoram), a bed of mixed cutting flowers plus all the self seedlings from last year, such as cosmos, that I’m leaving in place for transplanting later.  Oh and the triffid looking thing near the greenhouse is a swiss chard that’s gone to seed.  I may as well let it be and collect the seeds once developed.

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This is the view a couple of weeks ago from the house.  It’s difficult to photograph as it’s been rather sunny here and the shadows are very deep, this was on a rare cloudy day.  The hedge has been clipped and at the end of the year I’m going to cut back the gooseberry bushes and shape the currants so it all looks a lot neater.  One day, we might even get proper gates!  I was hoping to show you a nice photo, this one is a bit messy as I managed to break the lawnmower being over zealous with the long meadow like grass so there will be no more lawn trimming until it’s fixed.  You can also see the new fence and decking area we put in last year.DSC_0002This is a ‘before’ photo and as you can see, we gained huge amounts of garden by decking out the back area behind the shed.  We also gained a good couple of meters along the fence side, where we trimmed the bottom of the trees off, to make space for the fence (it used to just be a low stone wall, which is still there, with overgrown scrub behind it, it was not very private or safe, so sadly needed fencing in).

We have school sports day today, I had hoped to get out and pull a few weeds but the temperature is already rising and I’m no good at gardening in the sun.  I must be one of the only Brits that actually likes clouds and rain.  Still, there are lots of things to do indoors so I’d best get on and hopefully we’ll be eating some homegrown produce in coming weeks….that’s always the best bit :)

Planting Up Day…

It’s a day I dread, mainly because I HATE lugging bags of soil around, but there was no way I could put off planting up the greenhouse into their (mostly) final pots.

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On the plus side, my lovely local gardening shop had some cucumber plants, £1.99 for a pot with two seedlings I couldn’t resist and due to my excessive juicing these days, I get through 2 cucumbers a day so it’ll be worth every penny.  I threw in some pretty pink English Daisies (Bellis Perennis Rose), they aren’t my normal thing but having seen some in a big pot outside my Aunt’s pub on a  recent trip to Yorkshire, I just fancied them.

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My main reason for going though, was to buy soil, bag after heavy bag, so I could get the tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes, peppers, chillies and melons planted up.  I grow all of these on containers as they do better in the greenhouse (expect the potatoes, they have been put into a massive 60 litre container outside), I’m undecided about what I might move outside at a later date, so for now the tomatoes are planted without supports.  After planting them deep, to compensate for the usual leggy stems when they went from jiffy pellets into small pots, they don’t need to planted deep again.  I did have to nip quite a lot of the side shoots off though, and some of the plants are about to flower, at which point I’ll start feeding them.  As always, the tomatoes are in the usual green buckets.  I’ve been recycling these for years now, they don’t look very attractive but they are sturdy and cheap,

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Excitingly my Tomtato has arrived!  It’s a tomato top grafted onto a potato bottom, more info here.  This is an expensive experiment so for now I’ve just re-potted it up in a slightly larger pot and we’ll see how it goes.

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After the recent rabbitgeddom, I have constructed some very temporally fencing along the line where our new decking area meets the veg patch.  I’m sad not to be able to wander between the two, as planned, but at least I know my seedlings are safe.  The main garden is getting a thorough munching though and I’m worried about many of my spring flowers returning next year after they have had their heads removed…I hope the few leaves left will allow them to keep going.

In the garden, I’ve planted out more peas and I’ve decided to throw all my remaining old flower seed into half a raised bed.  I don’t hold out much hope that they will germinate, but I may as well try.  From the ones planted in the greenhouse, only my zinnia sprite has taken, that might be more to do with intermittent watering whilst I’ve been away (I left the garden in the hands of my husband for the week).

It’s sounds like it’s going to be scorchio tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll be putting the BBQ into use!

Curly Whirly Cake…

Birthday Tea

For C’s B-Day my Sister was kind enough to lay on a lovely afternoon tea.  We were so spoilt.  Check out the comedy cheese and pineapple sticks…on BBQ skewers as she had no cocktail sticks.

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She also bought a Curly Whirly Cake from Konditor & Cook as she works right next to Borough Market.  It was DELICIOUS.  I’ve not heard of it before, but learnt it’s quite a famous cake and weirdly, when we were watching Eurovosion later (it’s a tradition and cannot be missed) the hosts gave the UK entry a Curly Whirly cake they’d had shipped over, knowing it was her favourite.  I googled it to find there is a recipe here, it doesn’t sound all that special, but I can recommend it highly, I’ll be having a go next time cake is needed in this house :)

Oh better still, if you live in the UK, you can order yourself one here!!

That’s all…just felt the need to share.

 

Black Cardamom Ice Cream…



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The garden is showing all my favourite colours at the moment, I do love a bit of pink, especially at this time of year when the greens are all so zingy.  I’m loving all the bruised colour tulips that were put in last year, I had plenty already but you can never have enough!

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The salsify that I planted for the flowers is also looking rather pretty, it’s in a giant pot at the moment and needs moving into the border at some point, as I am just growing it for the flower and not the root.  There are lilacs and aquilegias, the alliums are about to open and the iris are well on their way, so the pinks and purples will continue for a while yet.

Back the post title.  I made some cardamom ice cream a while ago and thought I’d record the recipe here or I’ll forget how I made it.  Incidentally, at the time of first tasting it I though it was too sweet, but I’ve changed my mind, oh and I think it could have a little more black cardamom in there as well, as I like the very smoky taste, but I’m not sure the boys would be so pleased if I had added more.

Black Cardamom Ice Cream

First I made the custard base:

250 ml double cream

250 ml whole milk

125 g caster sugar

4 egg yolks

5 black cardamom pods, left whole but squished a little

5 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed

1/2 vanilla pod (split with the seeds scraped out, both seeds and pod used)

Follow the instructions for your ice cream maker and make sure it’s been put in the freezer in advance, if needed.

Place the cream (you’ll need another 250ml later), milk, cardamom seeds and vanilla pod into a pan.  Warm until quit hot, but NOT boiling them remove and set aside for at least 30mins to infuse the flavours.  Sieve to remove the cardamon pods, vanilla bean and any larger seeds.

Put the infused cream and milk mixture back into a pan and scald, by heating until just below boiling point, then cool a little.  Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, then add the slightly cooled milk mixture, beating all the time.  Return to the hob and stir gently over a low heat until the custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove and keep stirring as it cools.  Once cold, put into the fridge overnight.

250ml double cream

Caramel (in my case a 380g jar of Bonne Maman Caramel that I got on offer with my shopping, hence the idea to make ice cream with it in the first place, I guess you could make your own) 

The next day, whip 250ml double cream until it forms soft peaks, then fold it into the cold custard mixture.  Pour into the ice cream machine and when nearly set, place into a large freezer container.  Pour over the caramel and lightly turn the mixture with a spoon, so the caramel is swirled into the ice cream (I messed this up a bit, my ice cream wasn’t thick enough so the caramel ended up mostly sunk to the bottom in a puddle).

Freeze.  Eat.

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It’s looking good in the garden.  I need to take photos but it’s too wet out there at the moment.  I’ve planted up one raised bed with a row of barlotti beans (started in the greenhouse, as above), a row of broad beans (too close together, but I’m interested to see if I can get away with it), sweetcorn (x10, all that germinated, and planted in two rows now I know from last year that I can pretend to be the wind and hand pollinate them so I’m less worried about the planting layout) and finally some squash.  No idea what variety, I forgot to label the plants – doh!

I have one bed going with salad crops, beetroot, carrots and alpine strawberries.  Sadly the evil little rabbits got in and ate the lot, but I’m hoping some will survive.  On which note, the postman just called and  his opening line was, “It’s like Watership Down out there!”  he has a point, I really need to put some time into replacing the areas of rabbit fencing that have been dug under.

I’m away most of next week, so will be leaving the watering in the hands of my husband……I am hoping something is still growing when I return ;)

Flower Planting Lists 2014

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I took the boys geocaching in our local woods today, it’s a new ‘hobby’ for us and I am hoping it’ll get them outdoors with more enthusiasm.  That and I’m clearly a geek and like this kind of thing.

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They do make me laugh, they know photos on the phone get ‘auto’ enhanced, often being but into a motion sequence and C has taken to doing funny poses just for this purpose, I’m not sure if it’ll work in a blog post, but I do hope so.ryarsh wood flowers

The flowers are out in full force, it looks really nice and it reminded me that I have never posted my list for flower planting this year, so here it is :)

February

Cleome Violet Queen H-H Annual

March-April

Amaranthus Caudatus/Love-lies-bleeding Viridis H-H Annual

Salvia Patens/Sage H-H Annual

Schizanthus/Butterfly Plant Dr Badger H-H Annual

Antirrhinum/Snapdragon Liberty Classic Crimson H-H Annual

Aster Matsumoto Crimson & Matsumoto Blue H-H Annual

Didiscus Blue Lace H-H Annual

Tithonia Rotundiflora/Mexican Sunflower H-H Annual

Zinnia Sprite H-H Annual

Cosmos Versailles Tetra, Antiquity, Purity & Dazzler H-H Annual

Molucella Laevis/Bells Of Ireland H-H Annual

Nicotiana Alata/Tabacco Plant Lime Green H-H Annual

Physalis Alkelengi/Chinese Lanterns Perennial

Tragopogan Crocifolius/Salsify Perennial

Agapanthus/African Lily Dark Blue Perennial

Cerinthe Major/Honeywort HA

Nigella Damascena/Love-In-The-Mist HA

Ammi Majus/Bishop’s Flower HA

Euphorbia Oblogata/Spurge HA

Briza Maxima/Greater Quaking Grass HA

Burpleurum/Thorowax HA

Salvia Horminum Blue Clary HA

Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower HA

Calendula Officinalis/Marigold Art Shades & Indian Prince HA

Nigella Damascena/Love-In-The-Mist Deep Blus HA

September – October

Sweet Pea Painted Lady, Matucana, Midnight & Blue Velevet

Cowslip

I’m not sure how many of the seeds will germinate, many of them are very old so I hope to finish them off and start fresh next year, but I figured if I make a list it’s more likely that I will at least try to remember to sow them!