Monday, 28 November 2016

Harvest Monday..and where did November go?

Well, we're at the end of November....that month has just whizzed past. I've been away at a couple of different places the last two weeks so missed out on the most recent Harvest Monday. BUT I do have a few things to mention this time round

 
At the weekend I snipped-off most of the peppers remaining in the lean-to....a couple had started to get soft spots so I didn't want to risk losing them all. Some were quite a decent size and it was nice to get a bit of red too.
I also wanted to use up a Crown Prince squash (actually my only Crown Prince squash) as the skin colour had started to fade so I was a bit concerned it might begin to rot. Inside it was fine though, so I removed the skin and cubed the flesh for roasting. It was so sweet...really tasty. The place I normally get my seeds from doesn't seem to have Crown Prince for sale this year so I've ordered Blue Kuri instead.
At the same time as the squash, I roasted some foraged chestnuts too, slicing down the middle so they don't burst. This is a pic before roasting. Ooh, we roasted some of the peppers as well, they were very nice too.
Today I managed to get a few hours in on the allotment, mainly weeding so I could plant out some garlic cloves. I also weeded around the base of two dwarf apple trees so the birds can get at any unwanted beasties in the soil. On the whole I'll try and keep my sandy soil covered over winter though, so the rains don't leach out the nutrients. I'll keep it covered with weeds! I did also harvest a decent amount of Nero kale and self-sown chard. It almost felt like spring out there today because the sun was so warm and the sparrows were chirping away. A little robin came to say hello too. But tonight it's meant to get down to minus 3 or 4, so that's a reminder of things to come this winter.
I used up some of the kale plus a couple of peppers in a scrambled egg dish tonight. Adding the kale right at the end of cooking just lightly wilts it and keeps the lovely dark green colour.
So, it was my birthday recently....the big Four-Oh (something's not right there...I'm sure I'm still late 20s). As you know, I enjoy a nice walk and a bit of nature so we spent the day over at Great Yarmouth, a seaside resort normally heaving with people in summer. At this time of year it's perfect for long walks on the beach, with hardly anyone around...apart from a flock of ringed plovers that were just up on the beach here...
Lovely sandy beach
Nelson's Monument...I hadn't seen it up close before.
Looking towards the harbour
And we fancied a bit more coastal action so spent a few days on the opposite side of Norfolk, at Hunstanton, another seaside resort, which actually faces west, into The Wash. It looks like open sea but Lincolnshire is on the other side, which you can even see on a clear day, and the lights at night. This is the view from our apartment...the beach here is full of tasty morsels for wading birds and we could see oystercatchers, curlews and turnstones without even stepping outside. I miss it! I have lots of photos from lovely walks but they're on my camera so I'll hopefully share some another time. I can definitely recommend an out-of-season trip to the coast though...lovely and quiet, and you don't risk leaving your veggies unattended.

Thanks for reading this week. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Harvest Monday - appley

I haven't done too much harvesting this week, but there's been a bit of an apple theme....
First appley thing was bottling up a batch of homemade apple cider vinegar. It's really easy to make....put a load of apple scraps like peels and cores into a jar or whatever (don't include any 'off' bits though). Fill the container with water and add a few spoonfuls of honey (this helps to speed up the ferment) and give it a stir. Cover it over with muslin or similar (so air can flow but flies are kept out) and leave for a couple of weeks to ferment (keep an eye on it for mould on top). Then strain off the liquid, compost the appley bits, and pour the liquid back in your container for another couple of weeks or longer depending on the flavour you like. Here's my latest batch, ready for bottling....
Then simply pour it into a bottle or two for storage...
Cider vinegar can be made without adding the honey, but it takes a lot longer.
 
Veggie-wise we've made a few meals with home grown produce, like this stir fry with the last courgettes, some chard and one of the peppers from last week.
I've made another sweet chestnut terrine, using our own kale and chard instead of broccoli, and chestnuts that I'd prepared last week.
Err I forgot to take a 'baked' photo though...here's one before they went in.
I also roasted some chestnuts at the bottom of the oven...they came out of their skins quite easily this way...tasty too.
Jan made a roasted butternut squash and rice dish, with some beans and courgettes from the freezer and drizzled with some of that cider vinegar, mmm. I now have three butternuts left - this dish can make a came back for sure.
And lastly, more apples, this time from a glean at an organic orchard...here's just some of them...look at them alllll! We had a fantastic turn out of volunteers this time, who really got stuck in, despite the rain. Well done everyone for a great day, harvesting apples that have gone to good use at various charities.

That's me this week, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Harvest Monday - chestnut terrine

Brrr, we've finally got some really chilly weather...I even got hailed on the other day. It's about time too, we need to get rid of the nasties over winter (last winter was really mild and so this summer we had a major slug problem).
 
On the harvest front, I've mainly been using up what I'd already picked, though I've harvested a few more peppers from the lean-to. I haven't cooked them up yet and am deciding what to make. Any suggestions? There's still more to pick as well...I need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't start rotting on the plants.
I've also picked a load of kale and chard from the allotment. Nice dark colours.
I saved some seeds from a little pumpkin recently. Normally I don't bother because when I've baked them they've not turned out that well and just been rather fibrous. But these seeds looked so plump I decided to give it another try. So a quick internet search suggested that you just basically add salt plus whatever flavours you fancy. I decided on freshly ground cumin seeds and garam masala. Here they are (before baking) spread on a baking sheet, mixed with oil and the salt / spices.
And afterwards...10 minutes on gas mark 4. They're very yummy...I'm converted!
The oven was already on because I'd made a chestnut terrine....a first for me. This took a couple of evenings to work up to because it takes ages to prepare the chestnuts. I rinsed them off first.
Sliced each one down the middle, 'cause otherwise they burst when cooked.
Boiled them for about 20 minutes until soft, then peeled. Actually I mainly scooped out the flesh with a little spoon. If you keep the chestnuts warm after cooking, the skins peel off easily (this has worked for me in the past) but this time round they went cool so the skins had stuck fast.
Hmm, I don't seem to have a picture of the scooped-out innards but there was a big old bowl of them. So looking for chestnut recipes, I found the terrine one in a book. It seemed pretty easy, but not being one to follow recipes to the letter I adapted it for the veggies and quantities I had available.
 
My version was (roughly):
- a cup of fresh breadcrumbs
- 500g of mixed broccoli and leafy greens (cooked and chopped). I had these already cooked, leftover from another meal.
- 300g cooked chestnuts
- 4 tbsp natural yogurt
- 2 tbsp grated mature cheddar
- 3 eggs
- shake of nutmeg
- crunch of pepper
 
Once you've got all the component parts it's really easy - just mix them all well in a bowl. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and spoon in the mixture, flattening it into the corners. I'd used larger quantities than the recipe in the book so split my mixture across two tins. You then put the tins in a roasting tray or similar and fill up the tray with boiled water, to about halfway up the side of the tins. Cook for about 25 minutes on gas mark 4. We had a lot going on in the kitchen at the time so I didn't get any photos of the process, whoops.
 
But here's the finished result, straight out the oven, needing to cool a bit.
We had two of these...they look pretty good.
And sliced well and taste nice too

It seems like the kind of recipe that can be adapted in loads of different ways so I'll be making something similar soon. Very soon in fact, I have another 500g cooked chestnuts still to use (they're in the fridge) plus a second big tub that needs cooking too. Maybe I'll add a few peppers into the mix next time, and some of that kale.

 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres

 

Monday, 31 October 2016

Harvest Monday, foraging and a glean

After being away for a few days, I've had a very foodie week. I got back to find a couple of ripe tomatoes and a little cucumber in the lean-to. The tomatoes are in a tray, ripening slowly.
There were a couple of ripe peppers ready too.
On the allotment there were a couple of teeny courgettes and a handful of beans. I spotted some in the back garden aswell today but forgot to pick them.
I helped in my friend's mum's garden again this week and came away with some very tasty eating apples. The skin is a bit rough in places but the flavour is lovely.
On Friday I helped chop veggies with Norwich Foodcycle, in readiness for the Norwich Pumpkin Rescue event on Saturday in the city centre....the aim being to encourage people to cook-up their pumpkins, not just carve them up and chuck away the innards. A couple of local supermarkets had donated some spare pumpkins, potatoes, onions, garlic, celery etc, which we chopped-up into a humongous soup (four massive pans on the go) which was being given away free the next day. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of that but it was fun to be involved in mass catering for the morning. I didn't get chance to taste the soup either but it smelled lovely.
 
Then on Saturday I helped at another glean with Feedback (rescuing crops that the farmer doesn't want, which then get distributed to various homeless shelters etc). It was carrots this time....take a look at the huge pile of carrots that didn't meet the grade (but that we could dib into). Some were a bit manky (had a virus or something) but lots of them were just slightly bent or even just too big.
There were also carrots throughout the field which the machinery had missed or dropped. It's like hunting for treasure.
We got two pallet loads...not bad for just four people. Next up is an apple glean that I'm looking forward to. The farm is nearer to Norwich so hopefully more people will be able to make it.
Here's our co-ordinator Jannine with one of the graded-out carrots.... how cute is it?
Yesterday, Jan and I got the bus out to a village just outside Norwich to go chestnutting (Not sure if that's actually a word but anyway...). Seems like it's a really good year for chestnuts, wow there were some big ones. I think we were a bit late last year, and there weren't many left, so I'll have to make a mental note that the end of October is prime chestnut season.
We walked back into the city along Marriott's Way disused railway, like last year too. It was a gorgeous day.
And finally, today I picked another couple of peppers from the lean-to, plus a chilli from inside.
The chilli went into some cauliflower fritters and we had one of the peppers raw on the side, along with a homemade slaw. The pepper turned out to have a hot / sweet combo like one a few weeks ago..odd! It's a Quadrato variety which is meant to just be sweet. We ended up having a blob of plain yogurt on the side too, to help counteract the hotness.
Oh I forgot....finally finally, tonight I went to a talk organised by the Norfolk Organic Growers, given by one of the founders of Hodmedod's British grown pulses and grains. The business developed after it was identified that in Britain we hardly grow any of our own pulses anymore, even though we used to and the climate is good for it (apparently it went out of fashion as they were associated as peasant food). So these guys are bringing it back in fashion, and have been doing it in an ethical and sustainable manner, developing relationships with farmers and encouraging them to diversify into organic pulses ....brilliant.

I actually used to buy their products a few years back and didn't realise I was supporting their early adventures into the world of pulses. They've come a really long way by the sounds of it, so I'll look out for their new lines. There were a few free recipe cards too...the dishes look really good, mmm.

 

Okay, that's me for now, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Harvest Monday - still hanging in there

Out in the glass lean-to attached to the back of our house, some of the summer fruits are still ripening away. I finally got round to harvesting the few aubergines, plus a few peppers (some red, and some green). A couple of the green peppers had dodgy spots starting to develop, so it was best to just pick them and use them up. Hopefully some of the others still on the plants will continue to turn red (I much prefer the flavour of red to green peppers). We'll have to see though, because at this time of year, even though the lean-to faces South, a large evergreen tree in the alley behind our house blocks out the lowering sun.
Down on the allotment I picked some more Nero kale and self-sown chard. I still haven't covered them over to protect from pigeons though. Hopefully I won't regret my tardiness!
I also found possibly the last summer squashes, though there is a chance of some really weany ones if we don't get a frost soon. The white custard marrow is protected on three sides by a low barrier of (safe) broken greenhouse glass that I put around it when planting out, so that might keep it going a bit longer too.
I harvested the remaining apples on one of my dwarf trees...I can't remember the variety but have it written somewhere (at one point there was a tag on the tree but that went missing ages ago). They're crunchy and have quite a sweet flavour. Some of the apples are rather small which probably means I should have thinned them out earlier in the year.
They fill up a bowl nicely though. There's a bit of damage from snails and other beasties.
This week I sorted out my previously dug-up potatoes, which had been sitting in a sack in the kitchen. I sorted them into three piles - the best (for storage), ones with holes (possibly slug damage) and ones starting to sprout, which both need using up asap. We went to use up the ones with holes in and unfortunately, even though in most cases there was only one or two small holes, the whole tuber was riddled inside with damage. Darn. It's not surprising....there have been loads of slugs this year and I bet they loved it under the mulch covering the potatoes.
Meals this week have included an omelette with courgettes, beans, chard and peppers. (I still have beans from last week).
A raw kale salad, with pepper and pumpkin seeds, drizzled with homemade cider vinegar.

It went nicely with some of the last few tomatoes, home-sprouted beans and homemade red cabbage coleslaw (not home grown unfortunately).

I've made the spiced apple cake again (third time recently, it's a nice cake!) and also made two big pots of spicy stew with loads of veg chucked in. We had friends round and that kind of meal is always an easy-ish tasty option...it just mainly involves chopping veggies, which I like. Today we had leftovers, which I added noodles to, as a change from potatoes. I like the noodles because you can just add them raw in to the leftovers, add some more water to the pot, stick on the lid and let them cook away for a few minutes. Easy peasy and no extra washing up.

 

So I still need to work out my crop rotation, check out what seeds to order this year and get chopping away on the allotment. I did a bit of grass cutting this week, which feels good. But some paths I only recently cut already need another trim...the darned stuff just keeps growing. At least it's more to add to the compost heap.

 

Thanks for reading this week. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.