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Oh Radish!

3 Jul

Are these the smallest radishes ever grown??
Maybe so!
My crop this year has been sad :( over crowding I think!
Although I just read that the leaves are edible so the whole lot is going in my juice in the morning!
Mmmmmmmmmm

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it’s chutney time – again

8 Nov

It’s chutney time again people!!!

I love this time of year, planning out all the Xmas gifts and goodies! One of my favourite parts is making Xmas Chutney.

I save chutney making to only once a year as if I made it any more than that I would be the size of my house due to over consumption of cheese and crackers!
It’s nice to know that for two weeks of the year, me and my love can sit on the living room floor with a tray full of cheese, meats, crackers, red wine and spicy fruit chutney!

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I made a slight alteration to my recipe from last year, I added more chilli!!
We are on a crazy chilli kick at the moment and it had to be done!

I used red tomatoes instead of red and green and unfortunately they were bought from the grocers as my crop this year failed miserably :( I’ve put that down to the move as I dont think my veggies liked it too much.

I also added ground cloves, nutmeg and cider vinegar and the dried fruit was mixed rather than just sultana.

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Anyway, my chutney is made, jarred and labeled and sitting waiting for the third week of December!

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Roll on Christmas!!!

‘No two gardens are the same…..

5 Jul

…… No two days are the same in one garden’ Hugh Johnson

It’s been a bit of a dramatic few months.

Me and my love decided we wanted a place that was all our own, we found a flat we loved, got a mortgage, bought it and moved in! All in the space of a few months!
We are slowly getting settled, however the big move for me was, of course, my garden.

My old little garden featured heavily on loumms,

from it’s beginnings as a weed filled mess

through becoming established

to the glory of a working kitchen garden,

I photographed and blogged my way through the process.

My pitfalls and triumphs were posted here along side all the wonderful food I got to make from what I succeeded in growing.

So as you can imagine it was hard to get my head around leaving it.
However I would never buy anywhere without an outside area and it turns out that my new little garden (all mine, not shared with 18 cats, loads of slugs and a tree!) is a dream!!!

I knew that I’d never be spoilt again in terms of the size of the last place and all I really wanted was a little area to relax in and grow my veggies.
I certainly found it!

As my dad said ‘you’ve got yourself a little sun trap here!’

I brought everything I had planted, 4 trips in the car with Emmms, in pots as I now have decking, and they are all thriving!

There is always a risk when up heaving established plants but so far they are all loving their new home.

My flowers, the Rush and the Vera are all sitting on top or some lovely early 19th century bricks I got from Freecycle and my Lily flowered for the first time ever (sorry no pic but it was a lovely delicate pink flower)

Along side them is my big pot containing what I originally thought to be two courgette plants which turns our to be one courgette

and one cucumber!!

Sooooo happy as I thought all of my cucumbers had died!

Beside the big pot, along the side wall are my two greenhouses.

One protecting my fruit trees (thanks Emmms!)

and the other has my 3 tomato plants, and my peppers and chilli plants.

For the moment, until we get our new garden furniture, I have some lilies, my onions, and a couple of my old rockery shrubs sitting on top of my old green wooden chairs and huge metal bucket.

Waiting for a home of its own is the thriving raspberry bush which is temporarily sitting between the BBQ and the wooden bench.

Dotted around on top of the walls are the Periwinkle

The silver fern

some thyme

and al load of general bits and pieces including the gift from my sister for my birthday, a cute little welly boot pot!

And perched on the window sill are my other herbs waiting for a new home on the balcony with the salad leaves.

and I’ve got a tap by the back door!!

So there it is, my new garden,

I love it!!!!!

saturday baking

10 Mar

I had my wisdom tooth taken out on Thursday and since then I’ve been feeling pretty bad!

I underestimated the pain and decided I would be fine to go into work on Friday! What a mistake!
I lasted about 3.5 hours but once my eye started drooping due to the pain I gave up and headed home.

Other than sleeping and eating mush…..

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(awesome mushy food made by my love!)

….I’ve been doing not much more so today I decided to cheer myself up by baking a carrot cake. I don’t need to do any talking during baking which is perfect as it huuuurts!!

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I saw this carrot cake last week on a local food blog I’ve been following and thought it looked perfect.

The main reason I was looking at baking a cake was to celebrate my love’s success over at daysarenumbers.net for scoring a film screening in Scala Forever’s ‘Russell Forever‘ season.
They will be showing Savage Messiah at the Montpelier at 3pm on Friday 16th March if anyone is a Ken Russell fan!

So here is the result!!
I think I’ll have to mush it all up to get it in my mouth but it will be worth it!

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red and green tomato chutney – with a hint of chilli

7 Nov

I got so many tomatoes from my crop this year as even though the snails had got to them I was still left with a huge heap of both red and green ones that I just knew chutney was the way to go!!

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I love chutney on pretty much anything! It is so nice smothered on a crusty bread roll with some strong cheddar cheese, or used as a dip for popadoms or crisps, or with left over Xmas dinner….. Mmmmmm

So the other day I set about putting together a recipe that would work with the quantity of tomatoes I was left with.

This is what I came up with!

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Ive not yet tasted it since I jarred it up but it was tasting pretty good in the pan! Roll on Xmas so I can get these opened!

I’ve added quite a bit of chilli to give my chutney a kick but you can remove this if you don’t like the spice.
Also any dried fruit can be used instead or as well as the sultanas.

Ingredients

900g toms red/green
3 onions
3 apples (I used Cox and Braeburn)
70g sultanas (any dried fruit will do)
250g light muscovado sugar
400ml white wine vinegar (any vinegar will do)
1″ ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
3 small red chilli de-seeded (optional)
1 small red chilli with seeds (optional)

Method

Roughly chop all of the green tomatoes, onions and apples and chillies

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Add all of the remaining ingredients plus the chopped fruit and veg (except the red tomatoes) to the pan and turn the heat on medium.

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Cook for about 20 mins, stirring well, whilst roughly chopping your red tomatoes.

Add the red tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer.

Continue to simmer for approx three and a half hours until completely reduced.

And that’s it!
Simple!

Now for the jarring process.

This always scares me a little as I never want to ruin what I have made!

The steps I follow are:

1: use metal topped, screw lid jars (jam jars are perfect)
2: wash them in hot soapy water
3: rinse in clean hot water
4: place in the oven at gas mark 1 for up to an hour to dry.
5: remove them from the oven immediately before pouring the boiling hot chutney in to them.
6: take care when pouring/spooning and fill to almost the top.
7: wipe away any leakage.
8: cover the top of the chutney with a wax paper circle just slightly bigger than the top of the jar.
9: place plastic over the top, immediately wrap an elastic band around the plastic and screw on the lid.
10: leave to cool.

Store in a cool dry place until opened then store in the fridge.

I hear that the longer you leave your chutney the better it will taste so this is where the patience comes in!

Add some labels and your chutney is ready to enjoy or to give away as Xmas gifts!

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fresh slow-roasted tomatoes on conchiglia, with warmed olives

26 Oct

Back in August, during my rejoicing at my sneaky garden going rogue and growing things with or without me, I mentioned one of the delicious dishes that resulted: the recipe I’m sharing here today: Slow-Roasted Tomotoes on Conchiglia, with Warmed Olives. It very quickly became one of my Very Favourite meals.

Its secret weapon is, well, there are several secret weapons. First, the tomatoes in were fresh, fresh, fresh. I managed to get four meals-worth of tomatoes out of my garden which was AWESOME; however, I’ve also made it a couple of times with store-bought toms and it was just as delicious. If anything, because you’re slow-roasting the tomatoes, it makes the flavour of the store-boughts soar.

Second, the tomatoes are slow-roasted with slivers of garlic: 2 to 3 cloves minimum, depending on the strength. I’ve noted before I am a garlic maven, so sometimes I’ll go for even more. And just before you start holding your nose just reading about it, because you’re roasting the garlic in slivers, it really takes the pong off.

Third, the whole dish is laid on a bed of fresh salad leaves, which makes it seem terribly wholesome and good for you. I foraged for my own wild rocket leaves all summer and they have bite like you wouldn’t believe. This dish works just as well with any salad leaf; the last time I made it I used dandelion leaves ‘harvested’ from my garden (intentionally cultivated, of course) and bagged spinach from the grocers and it was beautiful.

Fourth, the warmed olives give it a final kick that will leave you melting in your chair. It is that good.

I’ve added a few notes at the bottom, about the ‘real’ way to cook pasta, factoring in timings and the amount of tomatoes I suggest using (lest you look at the list and think I’m nuts).

ingredients:

4 tbsp. olive oil (extra virgin or otherwise)
1 1/2 lb. fresh tomatoes, halved and quartered, depending on size
2-3 large cloves garlic, sliced lengthways into slivers
1 tbsp., plus a pinch, dried oregano (or several sprigs fresh)
4 oz. fresh Kalamata olives, quartered lengthways and pitted
7 oz. conchiglia (shell pasta)
enough salad leaves to make a bed on each plate
sea salt
black pepper to taste

method:

Pre-heat to the oven to about 400 F/gas 7. In a large roasting tray, with sides at least 1-inch high, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil until warm enough to easily coat the bottom.

Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up, add the garlic slivers, several generous pinches of salt, some black pepper and the dried oregano (if using), drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp. and toss to ensure everything is nicely coated. (If you are using fresh herbs, scatter these over top now.) Place the tray in the upper half of the oven and leave to roast for about 45 minutes to an hour.

After about 45 minutes the tomatoes should have collapsed into themselves and there ought to be the beginnings of a nice seedy jus mingling with the olive oil. When the tomatoes have arrived at this point, bring a pot of water to the boil. Once the water is boiling on the stove top add the pasta to the water, add the olives to the tomatoes in the oven, keeping a few aside for the garnish if desired (see below).

When the pasta is just about finished, remove the tomatoes from the oven and pass a spatula underneath them, which will nudge any that have started to stick and get the whole lots nicely mixed up.

Prepare the plates by lining them each with a bed of salad leaves. Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it, then distribute over your plates. Spoon the tomato mixture over the pasta layer. Garnish in the centre with a bit of fresh chopped herbs if you have them or a spoon of finely chopped olives.

notes:

1: This recipe makes about 3 meals, well, say, 2 meals for dinner with enough for a decent lunch the next day.

2: The ingredients list is really flexible and completely depends on your own personal preference. Because the tomatoes reduces quite a lot, I would say you need just over half a pound per person (or a over kilo for a family of 4), and here, admittedly, I opt for more veg than pasta. However, you may not be as massive gluttons as we are when it comes to your veggies. 

3: If you need to wait to start cooking the pasta (which should be done only just before serving), leave the tomatoes in the oven with the heat almost turned off. They should be fine. I would pass a spatula under them to ensure they don’t stick. I wouldn’t, however, recommend leaving them like this for too long if you can help it.

4: According to those in the know, the best way to prepare water for pasta is the salt it and add the oil just as the water has settled into a simmer. You should add about a teaspoon (5 ml) salt per person and ‘line’ the surface with oil, the correct method for which, says my cousin Guiseppe (all right, Joe), is to make two wide circles in the water and draw a line through them with your oil.

5: The amount of time it takes to cook pasta seems to vary significantly. In my kitchen it takes about 12 minutes to cook pasta, whether it’s for 2 people or 6. In other kitchens it takes longer. The same applies for bringing the water to the boil. In my kitchen, it takes about 12 minutes, but in my parents’ house growing up it would take about half an hour. Don’t forget to accommodate these factors when timing this meal!

the garden gone rogue

16 Aug

It’s been all Adventures in Cooking the last few days and it all started with my rogue garden. I think I’ve mentioned here before (and if not here, then on Twitter) that I had originally decided to let the garden ‘fallow’ this year.

As I’m a container gardener, the soil I use becomes depleted of nutrients after a couple of years. However, getting rid of the soil is a bit of a mission. The council won’t accept soil in its garden waste programme. Short of lugging it up to Telegraph Hill, pot by pot, the soil I’ve got is the soil I’m stuck with. So I figured, I’d follow the wisdom of the ages and leave it. Letting it grow up with weeds for a season or two seems somewhat counter-intuitive, but it goes a long way to regenerating the soil’s health.

So I let the weeds take over. They billowed up in a raucous cacophony of colour and foliage and fairly tumbled over the edges of each container. It helps, I think, that we had such great weather throughout the spring and so many long intermittent spells of intense sun then heavy rainfall throughout the early summer.

In mid- July, I finally decided I would help it all along by prepping for autumn and the winter months with some rich manure. For a city girl born and bred, I LOVE manure. It reminds me of the moors around my grandparents’ home in Yorkshire, of running around Norfolk as a child and of weeks away holidaying in farmhouses in Ontario.

I didn’t bother to take pictures of ‘before’ when I started to clear away some of the weeds, which is such a shame really. To my complete surprise, my garden has been secretly doing just fine without me. Under the weeds, potatoes, strawberries, salad leaves, vast fields of oregano and several unexpected onions have been flourishing! Who knew?!

Lou had given me some hand-reared tomato plants for my birthday, which I had been growing on my kitchen windowsill. As soon as I saw how healthy my garden really was, I quickly transplanted them and they’re doing really well, too.

Coupled with a greenhouse-grown tomato plant, I’ve already harvested about two pounds of tomatoes, and that is what we had for dinner Friday night: slow-roasted garlicky tomato and olives with conchiglia, on a layer of freshly foraged salad leaves. Delicious!