In July, we are eating…

From the garden, not all that much really, which has more to do with my useless start to the planting year than anything else.

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The garlic has been pulled and is drying on the kitchen table in full sun (I moved it indoors in anticipation of some thunder showers, it was drying laid out on the decking).  I have set up a watering system for the main part of the patch, and sadly it made the garlic too wet, too late, so I have small bulbs and some had started to rot before I noticed.  Hopefully it is just normal rot and not onion white rot, as that would mean never planting onions or garlic again, or at least not for 15 years.

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We’ve had some nice broad beans, mostly used up in salads whilst still small, with peas (frozen, sadly, as mine are not doing very well this year), feta, mint and some lemon and olive oil dressing.  I just picked the last but they are now quite big, so I’ve blanched and peeled them ready to fry up with some chorizo for tonight’s tea.

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The tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, aubergines and peppers are looking promising, party due to my genius watering system set up in the greenhouse.  As you can see (can you see?…it involves a small floor sprinkler being wired to the ceiling with the help of the canes from the cucumber pots, and a timer on the tap) this is a pure bodge job, but it works quite well and just about reaches the base of all my pots.  I am hoping, as we are away on and off over the summer, to keep the plants alive until the inevitable blight arrives.

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On a completely non-garden produce note, I can’t get enough of Nigella Lawson’s carrot salad, we are eating it rather too much at the moment and the addition of salted peanuts in the house is not improving my diet, but oh boy, does it taste good.  The recipe is here.  I have no idea why I didn’t plant carrots in the plot….I think I just didn’t have a carrot root fly safe container handy.  I will put some in soon for autumn eating.

Apart from the salad crops in the greenhouse, hopefully, also well on their way are:

  • Beetroot
  • Radish
  • Shallots (although they are looking rather poor at the moment)
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Turnips
  • Pak Choi (which keep bolting in the heat)
  • Courgettes

We also have (always) horseradish root, alpine strawberries and various herbs. Clearly missing are any kind of bean other than broad, pumpkins and squash and salad leaves.  I hope to start my winter planting as soon as the heat cools off and would like to be really organised so I have good crops over the autumn etc.

On the fruit bushes are some apples from my new ‘family’ apple tree – I am very excited about these, there are also crabapples, blackberries, pink gooseberries (ready now and shamefully not picked – I struggle to get the boys to eat gooseberries in any form) and the second redcurrant bush.  Not sure what’s going on with the pear and plum trees I recently planted, pretty much nothing so far.

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I’m off to prep dinner now, I plan to use up lots of food in the fridge, this includes mushrooms that I’m going to cook with some of the scapes I took off the garlic, and a touch of yesterday’s butter.  Yum!

Blackcurrants 2013…and Butter…

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Last weekend I picked the blackcurrants from the bush that forms part of the hedge around the vegetable patch.  It’s my first berry crop this year, as the birds ate all the early redcurrants and cherries before I had chance to net them, although I do have a second redcurrant bush ripening nicely.  I used last year’s method of combining a prune with the pick, taking all the old wood off quite close to the base, but I’ve decided not to do this again.  Firstly, it was quite hard to see what was what, and as I pruned quite low down (a  few inches from the ground) I accidentally pruned off some of the newer branches that would have produced next year’s fruit.  Also, there was a lot of ‘old’ wood and by removing it, I have taken off well over half the bush, which is too much (I have always understood a third is about right).

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Finally, it meant removing all the fruit in one go and as the berries tend to ripen from the top ones down, I have quite a few green and pink berries mixed in with the black ones, in fact I ended up leaving about half on the bush and ground for the birds and then separating the rest out.  The unripe ones did ripen up over the next couple of days laid out in the sun, so I did get to use more before they spoilt.  In the old days, when the bush was new and I didn’t prune it, I picked the berries as they were ready and it was also easier to deal with the fruit in stages instead of a big, mad, berry making weekend.

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So, in the tropical heat of last weekend, I had a lot of cooking to do.  I made jam, using the original recipe I blogged in 2011, to be found here.  I didn’t make any cassis as we have enough already, BUT, I did finally make blackcurrant, ripple ice cream using a recipe from The River Cottage Year and it was totally delicious.  I notice there is a similar recipe here, also by Hugh F-W.  I used an ice cream maker, a Tefal Gelato one to be exact and it worked fine.  We got a bit over excited and went on to make chocolate ice cream with a blackcurrant ripple and many other varieties.  My hips hate me right now.

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The excess of double cream hanging about in the fridge then prompted me to make butter, something I’ve been meaning to try for ages.  It’s sooooooo good.  I used this recipe and added some sea salt as I love the crunch of the crystals.  I’ve been eating it all morning with some nice home made walnut bread.  Again, my hips really do hate me.

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I kept one medium pat and put the rest in the freezer, but considering how quickly we’re getting through it I should have kept more out, I understand it needs to be eaten quite quickly.  It really was fun, I can certainly recommend it, the point where the butter fully separates from the buttermilk happens very quickly and is quite exciting, my top tip is to remember to use a splash guard on your mixer if you have one, or the buttermilk will suddenly spray everywhere.

DSC_0032I just wanted to point out that my nice new rabbit shaped butter dish is made by Bliss in the woods and came with my weekly Ocado shopping.  It’s so tempting to add little extras now that Ocado sell so many things other than groceries, I have to keep quite a tight check on myself, I did sneak in a set of cute measuring spoons though.

I’m off to work in the garden.  We are all at home as the kids are sick, but as we’re having our first cooler day for some time, so I want to get out there and start digging.