Monthly Archives: October 2011

Is This a Glut?

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IMG_2047I hate to admit this, even to myself, but after waiting months for our tomatoes to ripen, after nurturing them from seeds up to four impressive plants, after driving 20miles with them tucked up in the back of the car and carefully moving them into their new home, after all the love and affection we have poured on them… we are both pretty much tired of eating them already!

I feel guilty but it is the truth. Probably we are not really used to having to eat seasonally so we are a bit spoiled. Also the delicious sweet taste of cherry tomatoes can become just a little bit too sweet once you start to get more than a kilo a week for a few weeks!

So, guilty admission aside, I am obviously not going to let them go to waste. As usual, I did a little research on the internet. Amazingly, after regularly browsing websites about making tomato sauce or relish involving complicated sterilisation rituals, I found this lovely website and a description of freezing small tomatoes. This sounds too good to be true! The homely side of my personality would love to cook up a big batch of relish or a tasty tomato sauce but the practical side of me realises that I have neither the time or equipment right now and the tomatoes are continuing to ripen every day!

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We were off on Saturday morning for a brief weekend in Lancashire so I grabbed a punnet (600g) of ripe tomatoes off the plants, washed and dried them, placed them in the freezer on some baking paper as our fridge freezer does not fit a baking sheet. When we got back on Sunday evening they were all frozen so I transferred them to a freezer bag. This might just change how I look at those tomato bushes outside and the prospect of our home grown tomatoes all through winter until next summer is finally realistic!

Emma

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Romanesco Experimentations

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Just look at this amazing cauliflower we bought today! We were in Lancashire this weekend and we dropped into Booths supermarket. I must say, it is a fantastic supermarket with a great looking vegetable section. This beauty, a Romanesco cauliflower, caught my eye and it was love at first sight! Funny enough, when I did an internet search for recipes the first hit I got was Miss Thrifty, who also found it in Booths!

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IMG_2056I cooked it up similar to how she describes it. I was a bit distracted and forgot about garlic, which is amazing as I would describe Adam and myself as ‘heavy users’ of garlic! I did add extra pine nuts though. It was served as a side dish to this feta, spinach (from our windowsill plantings) and onion quiche I also put together this evening after we got back from the North.

It was definitely a success. It is more nutty and tasty than normal cauliflower and the pine nuts really brought out the nutty flavour. If only we could get this delicious vegetable from Ocado where we are now getting all our groceries from…

Emma

Potatoes Potatoes

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I must admit that I am very pleased with the success of the potatoes so far. After only four weeks the first crop have shot away and they are massive. They were practically falling out of their bags this morning so I rolled up more of plastic added another few inches of compost to each sack, after taking this photo.

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The second crop are also coming along very well. Everything has sprouted, including the supermarket bought spuds on the left. You can see that the ones from the supermarket are not as strong as the other but I will defend them by saying that they were not chitted for as long and I think next year it might be possible to get some good crops from any potatoes we have, so long as we organise ourselves far enough in advance. The only problem I can forsee for them now is that the tub I planted them into is too shallow for me to earth them up once they grow big, oopsy.

Emma

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Homemade Muesli

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IMG_2010Recently we have started making our own muesli and it has been really easy and really tasty. The main reason to make it, for me, is the cost. Muesli can be expensive to buy from the supermarket. I think the main reason for Adam is probably for health. Muesli in the supermarket often (but not always) comes with a lot of added sugar and/ or salt. Another good reason is that you get to choose exactly which ingredients to include, which is always fun.

The first time we made muesli it seemed like we were spending a fortune on banana chips, desicated coconut, oats, bran flakes, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, walnuts, sultanas and raisins, and we were! But we haven’t had to replenish any of them yet after making a few batches so I think it has definitely worked out cheaper over time.

So here it is, our lovely muesli, before being mixed up of course! From the bottom up you can see Bran Flakes (bashed up with the end of a rolling pin), porridge oats, walnuts, coconut, currants, sultanas, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, mixed nuts and banana chips.

I can hardly wait until breakfast tomorrow!

Emma

Big Basil Party!

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IMG_1995Well OK, not a party so much as an hour or so spent making all sorts of basil concoctions!

Look how full of basil our kitchen window has been for months! It has been great, we have had fresh basil all through the summer and we already dried a batch which is almost used up by now and also made a batch of pesto.

But the end has been in sight for our basil plants for weeks now; the leaves have been turning yellow and falling away and they have continued to flower and produce seeds, which I have been cutting off and collecting.

Finally we got around to doing something about the situation today.

Today became ‘Process the Basil’ Sunday. First things first we stripped the plants. By stripped I mean we took all the usable leaves which is a lot less than the total number of leaves. It is a shame to throw so many away but they were really past their best. Top on the agenda was pesto. We blitzed up about 50g basil leaves with 30g parmesan, 30g pine nuts and a few splashes of olive oil. While I was making the pesto Adam cooked some pasta and we took a break from basil processing to eat some pasta with fresh basil and a few tomatoes from the garden. Yum.

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Next on the agenda I decided to make some basil and garlic butter. I have been nervous about storing garlic on account of a danger of botulism or something like that. But it seems you can freeze it safely. So I mixed up an amount (less than half a tub) of butter, with two cloves of garlic and an amount (about 5 pinches) of basil leaves. Once this was combined it was also instantly consumed with some fresh bread straight out of the oven!

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The remains of the pesto and basil butter were drained into an ice cube tray to be frozen for later use. I am excited about the idea of being able to pop a cube of pesto or butter out in winter time to flavour steamed potatoes or some pasta. How easy is that?

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I also made a few other things today with basil. I crushed a few leaves a bit and added them to the end of a bottle of nice Italian olive oil. I will leave that to brew for a couple of weeks and we should have some tasty basil infused oil. Finally I blitzed the remaining leaves in the blender with some water into a sort of watery paste. The intention was to freeze this for adding to soups but the ice cube tray is now full so it is still sitting in the fridge!

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After all the work in the kitchen was done we removed the old plants from their pots, chopped them up and composted them. Look how much root and how little soil was left in this pot! Despite being watered every day for the last few weeks they have been constantly dry and really struggling, now I can see why!

Last but not least, I added fresh compost to one of the pots and planted a few of the seeds we have collected. I expect they should germinate as the weather has been so warm recently.

Bring on the next crop of basil all through the winter!

Emma

Surprise Vegetables!

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On Thursday evening when I went outside to water all the vegetables I found this little mushroom popped up in the carrot container. I have no idea where it came from or how they spread but it seems to be happily tucked in next to the water pipe.

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IMG_1993The next morning I went out to see how it was and it had another little friend in the middle of the container.

I tried to figure out what type of mushroom they are and, importantly, whether or not they are edible. I checked the ‘Food for Free’ book but I couldn’t recognise them as one of the edible species in there. I also did a quick search on the internet but no luck there either. So I decided to just leave them alone and not make any plans for a small mushroom dish!

Since Thursday they have both shrivelled quite a bit and don’t seem to be spreading any further. What an unusual and interesting visitor!

Emma