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!

 

 

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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 🙂