Saturday, 31 October 2009

Rainbow Chard Tart

I have found chard really easy to grow. You can start seedlings indoors and transplant, or start them from seed outdoors. Either way, chard is likely to take off. I have also found that insects and other beasties tend to leave it alone. Another great thing about this plant is it will replenish for harvesting again and again. Chard is a prolific chard "cut and come again" vegetable. I am so looking forward to enjoying it over the winter season.
Look at the diversity of the chard growing on my plot. The colours are so amazing: from ruby red, magenta, pink to golden, yellow, oranges and verdant greens. But it is not enough to look at them, I also have to find interesting ways of eating them which isn't really that hard as it is quite a versatile vegetable.
Last week I made chard bundles and today I decided to make a simple chard tart, brightened up with the colours of the rainbow. I am submitting this dish to Katie from Eat This for Weekend Herb Blogging #207, the weekly event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and now coordinated by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once.
Rainbow Chard Tart
Serves 4 – 6
For the shortcrust pastry
225g wholemeal flour
Pinch of salt
125g butter or margarine
3 tablespoons of cold water
Sift flour and salt into bowl, then add the residue of the bran from the sieve back into the bowl. Add the butter or margarine then rub it into the flour with your fingertips, continue until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then add the water a little at a trim and use your fingers to press the mixture together to form a dough, then knead lightly for a couple of minutes until smooth. Then roll out onto floured surface and line an 8 inch tin and trim the edges. Bake at gas mark 6 for 15- 20 minutes until the pastry is set.
For the filling
4 chard stalks, steamed and the leaves minced
1 small onions, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
150ml single cream or milk
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper to taste
While tart pastry is cooking, fry the onions and garlic in the oil for 10 minutes until translucent. Stir in minced chard leaves and remove from the heat. In another bowl, mix cream or milk, egg and seasoning, then stir in the onions.
To assemble
Lay the chard stalks into the tart tin, then pour the egg mixture into the tart tin. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the egg mixture is cooked and firm to the touch.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Autumnal Scones

Since it's the season to showcase pumpkins and all things autumnal, I thought I would show off some of my beautiful golden apple squashes.
A couple of years ago when I used to get the train into work, I remember walking past a popular coffee outlet and seeing some pumpkin scones being advertised on the blackboard in the High Street. I never got round to trying them, but remember thinking that they sounded quite appealing. So what did I decide to do with the remainder of the pureed squash left over from the pancakes early in the week, well make some squash scones of course.

These scones are pretty much based on the recipe from the coffee shop, but with a few subtle changes. Making these squash scones also gave me the chance to use my pumpkin biscuit (cookie) cutter. I am so pleased with them. They are gently spiced and look quite impressive.
I am submitting this recipe to Grow your own (GYO) #37. GYO is usually a twice a month blogging event which was started by Andrea Meyer of Andrea's Recipes. I think this is a lovely food blogger event as it also supports the principle behind my blog that celebrates the fruit, vegetables and herbs we grow and the dishes we make using our homegrown produce. This is the last GYO of the year as it will go on winter hiatus, so understandably it is being hosted by Andrea.

Autumnal Squash Scones
Makes 8 – 10 scones
250g plain flour
75g dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground clove
Generous grating of nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
75g unsalted butter
75ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g cooked and pureed squash or pumpkin
Mix together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and cut into flour. Mixture should look like coarse breadcrumbs. In another bowl mix together the pumpkin, milk and vanilla. Add most of the wet mixture (you may not need all of it as it depends on the consistency of your squash) to flour and mix until the dough comes together.Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead gently. Then shape dough into a circle and roll out to about 1 ½ inches thick. Cut out shapes, re-roll the dough and cut out more shapes, until all of the dough has been used. Lay scones on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled lightly with plain flour. Bake in oven gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.

These scones are best eaten warm. I think these scones are delicious as is, but you can serve them with some whipped cream if you wish.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Stoved Jerusalem Artichokes with PSB

Here is some Calabrese Arcadia and my amazing super early Purple Sprouting broccoli (PSB). I picked these from the plot the same time I dug up the Jerusalem artichokes, so this was one of our meals a little while ago.
I made stoved Jerusalem Artichokes and served it alongside steamed broccoli. The Jerusalem artichokes cooked this way are really pleasant, crispy and chewy on the outside and soft on the inside delicately infused with the flavours of the herbs. What was really great about this dish, was that it did not take that much time to cook and eat. So it is certainly one, I will be making again in the future.
Stoved Jerusalem Artichokes with Herbs
serves 2
400g Jerusalem Artichokes
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
Sprig of rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil
Peel artichokes (as they were home grown I did not peel mine) and cut any large ones in half.
Arrange all the ingredients in a large pan so the artichokes are in a single layer. Put pan over high heat until oil is sizzling, then cover, turn heat low and cook for 10 minutes, turning halfway through. Uncover pan, turn up heat and cook for another 10 minutes until the artichokes and garlic are golden on the outside and tender inside. Adapted from Annie Bell's Vegetable Book.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Early Jerusalem Artichokes

The last time I went over to the allotment plot, I brought home a load of early fuseau Jerusalem artichokes. Most of them looked like little rats with long tails.

In the past I have transformed these artichokes into wonderful dishes such as Jerusalem artichoke and walnut parcels and Jerusalem artichoke crisps. This time round because I had so many, I decided to roast them, mash them with minced parsley, as well as make the weekly soup for lunch.
I am never enamoured at the thought of eating Jerusalem artichokes, but when I actually taste it I am always pleasantly surprised. This Jerusalem artichoke soup has an earthy and nutty flavour. The addition of the spice-mix topping, especially the ginger adds an unexpected freshness.
Artichoke Soup with Ginger and Walnuts
Serves 4–6
Ingredients1 large onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium sticks of celery, sliced
½ grated fresh ginger
400g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped into pieces
2 pints of vegetable stock or water
small bunch of parsley, minced
For the spice-mix
1 tsp coriander seed
30g shelled walnuts
30g lump fresh ginger
4 tsp groundnut oil
In a wide pan. cook the onion slices over a low to moderate heat for 15 to 20 minutes until soft. Then add the slices celery, ginger and chopped artichokes to the pan. Stir and then put the lid on so the vegetables sweat and soften without colour, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down so that the soup bubbles gently and partially cover with a lid. It will take about 25 minutes for the artichokes to become truly tender.
For the spice mix: Grind the coriander to a fine powder with a pestle and mortar then add the walnuts, mashing them briefly to a pulp. Peel the ginger and slice it thinly then cut into thin matchsticks. *Warm the oil in then fry the ginger for about 30 seconds till it is golden and crisp. Toss in the crushed walnuts and coriander, let them sizzle briefly, then tip on to kitchen paper.
Blend the soup with a food processor, stir in the chopped parsley and check the seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with the ginger spice mix. Adapted from Nigel Slater in The Observer.

*I must admit I messed up a bit around the grinding process, I heated the oil a tad too much and it had a tinge of burnt taste to it, plus my ginger wasn’t sliced into delicate matchsticks as required, but that didn’t matter too much. D said it was refreshing to have that ginger kick at the end.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Rasta Chilli Bean

If there was such a dish, I think you will agree this would be it. This creation (made with respect) only came about because I had three peppers in red, yellow and green, so I was positively influenced by the colours of the Rastafari to make this dish.
Say 'Rasta' to anyone and the first few words that will come out of their mouths will be: Jamaica, dreadlocks, the ritual inhalation of marijuana, Rasta music and Bob Marley. And this is so, it is true that Rastafarian became globally known because of the success of Bob Marley and his music in the 1970s, but it is much more than these things. It is the religion of over 5000 Rastafaris in the U.K.

The Rastafari colours are red, green and gold, sometimes black is added.
Red for the blood
Green for the Earth and the eradication of suppression
Gold for the Sun and the wealth of Ethiopia
Black signifies the colour of the Africans who initiated Rastafari

The lion is the symbol of Rastafari. This lion represents Haile Selassie I, who is referred to as the 'Conquering Lion of Judah'. Rastafarians' dreadlocks represent the lion's mane.
The Rastafarian diet is essentially a vegetarian one, but like most movements there are factions, some who extend to white meat but try and refrain from the consumption of red meat, especially pork. Rastafarians also abstain from alcohol.
I recently learned that the Rastafari always cooks without salt, a practice commonly known as ‘ital’ as emphasis is on the natural flavour, not additives or flavour enhancers. I kept that in mind when I put together this dish.
Rasta Chilli Bean
Serves 4
Ingredients1 onion, finely sliced
3 pepper (red, yellow and green), seeded and diced into even size cubes
2 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
Tin of gungo peas or black-eyed or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Tin of tomatoes, gently crushed
1 habernero pepper (pierced) or 1 red chilli finely sliced
1 teaspoon garam masala
Fry the onion, garlic and garam masala in the oil for 15 minutes until tender. Add the tinned tomatoes and chilli and cook for about 10 minutes. Then add all of the diced pepper cubes. Cook for a few minutes until peppers are starting to soften, but not too much. Add the beans and gently heat through before serving with plain boiled rice. Optional: garnish with coriander and lemon wedge. PS please don't forget to remove the chilli pepper - you don't want someone chomping on it - now way.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Golden Apple Squash Pancakes

I must confess I did not visit the allotment plot at all this weekend, the weather had been miserable: non stop rain and blustery strong winds. Even the thought of putting on my raincoat and wellies did not fill me with optimism to brave the rain and trod in the mud. No thanks I rather stay indoors than get my nose wet.
Instead I did some cooking with some of my allotment produce. I made these American style pancakes for br-unch (breakfast/lunch) yesterday. I had enough left over for breakfast this morning. Not as nice cold, but still flavourful and substantial.
I harvested a basketful of golden apple squash a little while ago, when they were still green (see above), they have all turned the promised beautiful golden colour. Stunning. I have not had much luck growing larger varieties, namely butternut squash, blue ballet and Uchiki Kuri – all of which produced only one squash to consume. Perhaps it’s the Scottish climate, perhaps I don’t have that touch or the experience that comes with growing larger varieties, but with the smaller varieties, I hit the jack pot. Last year I grew baby sweet lightning pumpkin, they were sweet to look at and sweet to eat, and this year I tried golden apple squash.
I got the recipe for this from Martha Stewarts website. However, I have substituted the pumpkin puree for squash puree. All I did was cut the squash in half and baked it in the oven until it was soft, then I allowed it to cool before scooping it out with a spoon. This squash puree did not require any additional sweeteners or cooking off, it was the right consistency to use in this recipe
Spiced Squash pancakes
Makes 8 – 10
160g/1 1/4 cup of plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder;
½ teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground ginger and salt
Grating of fresh nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
200ml/1 cup milk
6 tablespoons squash or pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
Whisk the flour with sugar, baking powder and all the spices. In another bowl, mix together the milk, puree, oil and 1 egg; gently fold mixture into dry ingredients until well combined. Add a little oil to a frying pan and gently heat; drop in about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes on each side. Serve warm with nuts, honey or maple syrup.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Spiced aubergine, tomato and chickpea pancake

If you didn’t know it before, you know now that Chickpeas are my favourite pulse, and the pakora (usually made with besan - chickpea flour) is my favourite kind of deep fried snack, so much so I decided to create a Welsh pakora recipe to celebrate my ‘cultural roots’ of sorts.

Anyway, during one of my walks through the cemetery my work colleague was raving on about her sister having made a delicious chickpea loaf, that she cut into slabs and ate for lunch during the working week. As a lover of chickpeas in all its forms, my little ears perked up and I demanded, yes demanded she get the recipe from her sister, and the following day via e mail there it was. I noted the recipe had come from Nadine Abensurs Cranks Bible, a book that I owned, so when I got home I checked it out. In the book the recipe was called aubergine farinata.
Farinata is actually a crispy thin pancake. I decided this was going to be something D. and me were going to be eating at some point.
Here it is, made with the last of my ailsa craig tomatoes (the picture above taken over a month ago). It turned out to be a thick chickpea square pancake, rather than a thin and crispy one, nevertheless it was rich and absolutely moreish.
It serves about 6 people, or you could eat it cold over a few days. I think this would also be good as a starter to a meal, in which case I would serve it with a green salad, as it is rich and quite flavourful. This is something I will definitely be making again and again. I poured the chickpea batter in a tray measuring 14 x 10 inches with tall sides. The spiced aubergine and tomato topping recipe I made is below. For the Aubergine: 1 large aubergine, cut in chunks, and then roasted on a tray with 1 tbsp of olive oil in an hot oven with a bit of salt for 20 minutes or until tender. Leave aside to cool.
For the tomato: Deseed 2 - 3 tomatoes, then cut into chunks and fry in 1 tbsp of olive oil with 2 cloves of finely sliced garlic, and gently cook until they just begin to disintegrate. Add the aubergine to this and season with salt and pepper, a handful of sliced black olives and a sprinkling of chilli pepper flakes and some roughly chopped coriander. Add to the chickpea batter. Adapted from Nadine Abensur’s The Cranks Bible: A Timeless Collection of Vegetarian Recipes

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Lavender Heart Scones

Well what did you expect, I had to follow my wedding anniversary day with something to do with Love, so it had to be hearts...

Its been a wet, wet day, just like my wedding day last year. So instead of going to the allotment, I decided to do some home-baking. I used the lavender that I had dried and put into a jar early on in the month.

When I opened the oven the gentle waft of the lavender was beautiful. These lavender scones do not rise like those you see in the bakeries. The flavour of the lavender is really subtle and comes through. I have already eaten a couple of these and am feeling the soporific effects, but a cup of black coffee should counteract that, as it's much too early to be going to sleep.

Lavender scones
Makes about 8 scones
160ml milk
1 tablespoon lavender flowers
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoon caster sugar
50g cold butter, chopped
Gently warm the milk and lavender in a pan, bring to a simmer then turn off for flavours to infuse. Sift together flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and using your fingertips, rub together until crumbly. Strain the milk. Keep back a teaspoon of the infused lavender. Add milk to the flour and combine well. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll out about 2cm thick. Then evenly spread out the infused lavender and using your rolling pin gently push it into the dough.
Cut out with your chosen biscuit cutter (I used heart shaped ones). Gently press together the remaining dough and cut out further scones. Put the scones onto a baking tray that has been lightly scattered with plain flour. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until golden. Adapted from Adam Caplin and Celia Brooks Brown New Kitchen Garden.UPDATED February 2012: Made by French fellow blogger The Ephemeral Everyday.

Friday, 23 October 2009

First Wedding Anniversary

A year ago I married my best friend D. and I officially became a Mrs. Today is our first Wedding Anniversary.
We decided not to hire a professional photographer, so I don’t have many wedding photographs. But please let me share these few with you. These were snapped by my nephew. The weather on my wedding day was truly dismal. If you look closer at this picture you can just about make out a raindrop splashing on the pavement. Regardless of the weather the day was lovely, made even more lovely by the attendance of family and some close friends.
Once upon a time, I would never ever have considered novelty figurines for any cake of mine, let alone my wedding cake. But with age, I have become much more comfortable in my skin, more laid back and able to laugh at myself.
My wedding dress, jewellery and bouquet were all gifts from my mother who was so glad that her daughter finally got wed. Mothers 'ay. If it wasn't for her, I probably would have just turned up in a skirt and blouse. I am also forever grateful to my nephews who made the day even more special for me, trying to make me laugh throughout, when the pressure of organising a wedding got too much. I will hold such memories dear.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Say 'Aye to apples and abundance

Once upon a time, the U.K boasted 6000 different apple varieties, now there are about 2000.
In the last twenty years many British orchards have either been given over for development or degenerated into disarray with apples being left to rot on trees. I have been told that in Scotland these days there are more than 50 varieties of apples (I am sure it must be higher), including the Bloody Ploughman, Golden Monday, King of the Pippins, Lass O Gowrie, Love Beauty, and Scotch Dumpling. Some of the better-known Scottish varieties are Charles Ross, James Grieve (which I planted on my allotment plot early this year), Laxtons’ Fortune and Ribston Pippin.

On my travels to work, I drive past two apple trees burgeoning with apples. This fills me up with both anger and disappointment. Anger at the waste of such beautiful and edible fruit just going to rot; and disappointment, that I cannot stop and harvest them. Unfortunately both these trees are located where you cannot exactly park, unless of course you have broken down in your car. Then it occurred to me have any Abundance groups been set up in Scotland, such as the one started off by Stephen and a friend in Sheffield, England in 2007. I became aware of Abundance groups when I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls River Cottage last year. Hugh is more than a talented cook. I have been following him since his appearance on TV Dinners. He was also one of the first TV chefs who emphasized seasonality of both fruit and vegetables, whereas other celebrity chefs where just showcasing their skills, techniques and new recipes from their latest book. On this particular episode of River Cottage we were introduced to Stephen and some volunteers, and the principle behind the Abundance project in Sheffield: to harvest the unwanted fruit and redistribute it for free to community groups who find it hard to access fresh local organic food. The benefits of such a project were huge. It benefited those who have too much fruit and those who have none and would love some free fruit. The project also teaches people with new skills such as pruning, these pruning skills ensured the trees provided a better yield of fruit for the future and were free from disease. It builds friendships with people who probably would never had met, working in the open fresh air also has health benefits. Abundance builds on the idea of community. Such a project had my full support. It would have been something I would have happily got involved in, had I not had an allotment and a full-time job. Around this time I decided to check if there was anything similar in Scotland, there was nothing. I also checked a few months ago when I set up my blog and there still was nothing then. Then yesterday I decided to do another search on the Internet for Scottish Abundance groups and guess what hurrah I found one based in Edinburgh. Abundance Edinburgh have done some fabulous work in their short time. Here you will also find a comprehensive guide to identifying apples some grown in Scotland, plus the above image which I have borrowed from the site too (hope they don't mind).

Whilst reading this site I also learned about The Commonwealth Orchard project initiated by a man called John Hancox. We have so many individuals on the ground doing great work with grassroots community groups, encouraging people to get planting heritage varieties and eating local produce, that we should praise them, for both inspiring and reminding us that real food comes Au natural with blemishes; not packaged and GM perfect. Anyway, here is another flapjack recipe with a Scottish twist of shortbread. These flapjacks are a little special, as they are not just good as a snack or for lunch boxes, but also great served warm as a dessert with some vanilla ice-cream. The apple filling is almost like toffee butter.
Cinnamon Apple shortbread flapjacks
Makes 8
4 small Cox’s apples
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Shortbread base
175 unsalted butter
175g plain flour
74g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
Oat topping
100g unsalted butter
100g porridge oats
65g light muscovado sugar
65g plain flour
Preheat oven gas mark 4.
Prepare the shortbread base: combine the flour and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs then add in sugar, ground almond and stir to combine. Tip into your baking tin (my measured) and work quickly with your fingertips, pres the mixture evenly into the base of the tin. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
In the meantime: Grate the apples discarding the core (I like to keep on the skin, but you can peel it if you wish). Put into a bowl with the lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar and stir. Leave aside.
Prepare the topping: Place the butter and flour together and combine together, then add the oats and sugar and combine until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Spread the grated apple over on the shortbread base, then evenly top with the oat mixture. Press down if necessary. Then bake in the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown. Cool before removing from the tray then cut into slices. Adapted from Ainsley Harriott’s Feel Good Cookbook

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

‘Tis the Apple Season

I was reading an article in one of the local free newspapers this morning about a woman probably in her mid 50s talking of her childhood memories around apples. She wrote, whilst she was growing up, the autumn crop of British apples was an event she and her family looked forward to. Her granny had several apple trees in her garden and would carefully wrap them in newspaper and put them away in a dark storage so that there were be some fresh apples on the table for Christmas. How times have changed, as a nation we no longer celebrate the seasonality of food.

Did you know that only 35% of apples eaten in the U.K are grown here. One reason for this is cost, the other, apparently is our insistence on buying perfect, out of season varieties, such as the banal Red Delicious in preference to misshapen but flavoursome local Cox’s Pippin.

In 2005, Friends of the Earth (FoE) found that many of Britain's supermarket were failing British apple growers by importing the vast majority of its apples especially at the height of the UK apple season. The survey also revealed a poor show for UK apple sourcing overall, with nearly two thirds of apple lines on supermarket shelves sourced from overseas. Some apples had traveled more than halfway around the world to reach UK supermarkets. In my lunch hour, I walked over to the local supermarket to see if there was any substance to FoE claims. I noted most of the apples were from overseas, imported from countries like New Zealand, France, and Belgium. I do understand our need to import some fruit and vegetables from abroad as the climate in the U.K is not conducive to some fruit and vegetables, but apples – at the height of the apple season, oh please. Fortunately, the one place you will see local apples appearing are at farmers markets.

Here's a list of some varieties apples grown in the U.K: Blenheim Orange, Bloody Ploughman Charles Ross, Crispin, Discovery, Egremont Russett, Gala, Ida Red, Kidd’s Orange Red, Love Beauty, Scotch Dumpling and Spartan.
Apples are perhaps the most versatile of fruits. Apples are sweet or sour essentials in salads, slaws and soups and provide a saucy counterpoint to any entrée. Apples are a key to classics in compotes, chutneys and stuffings, along with homemade delights such as this flapjack. For these flapjacks I have used Cox’s apples which grow between September to January. The Cox apple is perhaps the most well known dessert apple, with a rich, slightly sweet and almost nutty flavour. The skin is occasionally russet, with autumnal reds and yellows over green. It is picked in late September but needs to be allowed to mature off the tree before eating.

As for the health qualities of apples, did you know it contains quercetin. No, to be honest nor did I. In fact I didn’t even know what quercetin was until today. These destroy damaging free radicals that circulate in the blood stream, particularly during exercise; causing muscle and cell damage that make you feel tired. A recently study showed that increasing your quercetin intake increases energy levels, well that’s good to know, I guess it supports the saying ‘an apple a day keep the doctor away’.
Two Timing Apple Flapjacks
Makes 8 - 10
170g butter
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and grated. I used crisp British Cox apples
30g sultanas
140g soft light brown sugar
60g self-raising flour
180g rolled oats
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Grease a tin, my measured 11 x 7 inches. Melt the butter. Stir in the flour, oats, sugar and combine then add sultanas and apple. Spread the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool before cutting into slices. If you want to know some really interesting facts about apples, follow this link where Johanna of the Green Giraffe has done some fine research and put together some fantastic information that will make your mind boggle.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Commonwealth Orchard

In the U.K the Apple Season has begun.

This month also marks Black History Month. So I thought I would make a small contribution and share the above, a 'Diversity of Apples' poster which I got from here last year.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bright Rainbow Swiss chard bundles

Colourful thick stems and bright green peacock leaves make chard one of the most glamorous ornamental garden greens you will ever see.
Chard has a tendency to wilt, perhaps this is the reason you won’t find chard in the supermarket, but you might just get lucky and see some at your local greengrocers, before its gets limp of course. If you really want to try this nutritious stem vegetable, my advice would be to grow our own, in the border or even in pots, it is such as beautiful plant that adds a splash of rainbow in the garden. It is one of the few greens that can tolerate both cool weather and the heat, and for this reason you will find it lingering in the garden around spring, when all other vegetables have gone, as well as supplying nourishment. I recently read, areas that never experience harsh colds, chard sometimes behaves like a perennial, living for several years. Anyway, like all vegetables, chard does best with an even supply of water. Water plants regularly, especially in summer, as drought-stressed plants may bolt, or flower. Mulch with compost, finely ground leaves, straw or ground bark to keep the soil cool and moist as well as keep weeds down. Other than being attacked by slugs, I have personally found chard plants generally problem free.
Chard is a very versatile vegetable, you can begin harvesting outer leaves as soon as they are large enough to eat; or even when they are still small as young tender leaves are the most flavorful and make a colorful addition to salads. Cut out the midrib of larger leaves before cooking or chopping into salads. Chop large leaves to cook down like spinach or in casseroles, soups, and pasta. Unlike ordinary spinach, chard holds it shape well.

I am fortunate this year, as I have an abundance and a wide variety of chard growing both in my small garden plot and at the allotment. There is perpetual spinach, swiss chard, silverline chard, rhurbarb chard, oriole chard, rainbow and bright lights chard. Between the two colourful chards I think in the future I will just stick with Bright Lights as the leaves were more robust and much bigger than the Rainbow chard.
I have come across versions of these chard parcels or bundles in a number of cookbooks. This method is not unusual, communities have been stuffing vine leave for centuries; and old fashion vegetarian home cooks and vegetarian chefs alike have been stuffing cabbage leaves with lentils, rice and even soya mince. This particular stuffing reminds me of those savoury morsels you find amongst South Asian communities called aloo tikka, a deep fried spiced potato mash. I would definitely serve this dish as a starter rather than a main. I served this with my home-made tomato chilli jam come tomato chilli sauce.
I am sending this post to Yasmeen from Healthnut for Weekend Herb Blogging #206, the weekly event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and now coordinated by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once.

Bright Rainbow chard bundles with spiced puy and potatoes
Serves 6
500g potatoes, cooked and mashed
80g puy cooked
1 green chilli, finely sliced
2 shallots or 1 small onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 sprig of thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp garam masala
12 – 15 medium chard leaves, cut off the stalks*
100ml vegetable stock
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the shallots, garlic, chilli, thyme and garam masala for a few minutes. Then add the drained lentils and cook for a minute or so until well coated. Turn off heat and add the mashed potatoes until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add chard to boiling water and cook for a minute, then pull out to drain. On a works surface, lay out a chard leaf and put a generous tablespoon of the potato mix.

Roll the leaf up, tuck in the sides and roll the leaf to the end, keeping the bundle tight. Repeat with the rest of the leaves, then place in an oven dish. Pour in the vegetable stock. Cover with foil and cook gas mark 5 for about 20 minute. Adapted from Paradiso Seasons

*I saved the stalks to make a Rainbow tile tart, so keep them in the fridge (raw) to cook with them further; or failing that compost them.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

It is said that Eve tempted Adam with an apple

and boyo, these apples growing in my neighbours plot sure looked inviting, but I honestly didn’t pick any,
like the pears last month, three of these apples had landed on my side of the plot which I gratefully accepted as a gift from mother nature and this is what I did with two of them. The other I ate one - fresh and crisp.
With the evenings getting darker, I am finding like other fellow bloggers that taking pictures of food is not easy, ahh I guess it is something us amateur photographers have to get used to, or try and find ways around this. This cake was really sweet, so I would advise serve it with some vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream to cut the richness.
Upside-down Toffee Apple cake
Serves 6 - 8
50g butter
200g brown sugar
2 - 3 eating apples, peeled and cored and sliced into ¼ inch thick
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
200ml buttermilk
75ml sunflower or vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Melt the butter in a medium sized oven proof frying pan about 10 inches in diameter. Stir in all but 50g of the sugar and cook over gentle heat for a couple of minutes. Add the apples and remove from the heat and set aside.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt, soda and cinnamon into a bowl. Whisk the eggs in a bowls and add the remaining sugar, buttermilk and oil. Mix together, then pour into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine into a liquid batter. Pour this over the apple in the pan. Place the pan in a preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake feels firm in the centre.Cool for a few minutes before turning out by placing an inverted plate over the top f the pan and turning pan and plate over together in one quick movement. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream. Adapted from Rachel Allens Rachels Favourite food at home

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Winding down

Spent a few good hours at the allotment.
The sun was out, so we thought we would make the most of it at the allotment, after all no promises are being made for sun-shining days in the coming weeks.
As well as plenty of winter vegetables growing, there is also a lot of colour on my plot, which makes me happy. The dwarf sunflowers have decided to come out and play.
The roses are red, red, red.
There were even some raspberries. I had dug some raspberry canes last year from plot 11 and planted them in the border of plot 45, here are some raspberries growing, not many - but enough for some muffins I think.
Here are some purple beans I decided to keep and dry for next year. I haven't had much luck drying climbing beans, as twice they have rotted. I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I have not left enough room around them to aerate, so this time I will ensure I do that.
The potato and legume bed we had started clearing last weekend, got its final thorough weeding and digging over before we covered it over with some black sheeting. I found it quite tough removing the bean vines around the make-shift bean frame, all tightly twisted.
This is the first time we have burned weeds on our plot, we have never had to do it before as we had plot 11 and had allocated a 'corner' just for weeds. It was interesting to watch D lighting the fire, it took awhile shall we say... He ain't no fire-starter.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Cabbages and Kings

Most of us have heard the lines 'the time has come,' the walrus said, 'to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings' (Lewis Carroll), but how many of us heard of the ancient Greek saying ‘cabbages twice cooked is death’ (me neither, until quite recently)?

Anyway, here are two of my cabbages sliced open: Marner Red Fruerot and Minicole. Splendid! Cabbages likes broccoli, sprouts and kohlrabi all belong to the Brassica family. It is also known as the Cruciferae family, so called because their flowers have four petals arranged as a cross. A cross with arms of equal length is a symbol of the sun. Cabbages are extremely hardy and thrive in cold damp winters and are capable of withstanding temperatures which would destroy many other crops. In my first year of growing cabbages I had problems with clubroot, I was told to twist a narrow strip of tinfoil around the roots of the cabbage plants to prevent cabbage fly, but I never did, as I had been fortunate in the coming year. I also read that it is worth planting a stick of rhubarb amongst cabbage plants as it apparently prevents club root. However, the one thing I still seem to be doing wrong is not planting them deep enough, as every cabbage grows up in the air like a football on a pole, rather than thick to the ground. I must find a way to remedy that next year.
There are a variety of Cabbages: Green white, red and even purple cabbages and the ruffled leaves of Savoys are familiar to most of us. But over the past few years, we have seen the appearance of newer varieties, in particular Asian cabbages with their milder flavours, subtle differences and their culinary uses are still unusual to many of us. Under the category of Chinese cabbages, we find varieties such as Napa, the tall Michihli (also called celery cabbage), the flat cabbage, the flowering white cabbage, Tai-sai, Lei-choi, and Pakchoi, also known as bok choy; and under the European category we find: minicole, hispi, greyhound also known as sweetheart, the name changed perhaps to make us look at it with more appeal.

Cabbages are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. The cabbage has a place in almost every cuisine from Korean kim chee, German sauerkraut, and Irish colcannon. However, even with the infinite number of cabbages appearing at our grocery stores and supermarkets, we as Brits are still not as creative with it and end up making the usual dishes at home, such as as coleslaw, bubble and squeak or stir-fries – all of which I have been guilty of. But it is not just our lack of creativity that limits our use of the cabbage. The cabbages somewhat unglamorous reputation has also halted many of us from cooking or even eating it in our homes. For centuries, the over cooking (boiling to death) of cabbages has put us off the taste; and if it is not the taste, it is the smell. Anyone who has sat near a kitchen or entered a building where a cabbage was being boiled would not have been able to escape its anti-social emission (pooh-wee). Modern science has explained the smells of the cabbage as simply a release of hydrogen sulphide, but this fact still has not done the cabbage any favour. It will take a Great chef to transform the cabbage into a culinary delight, so that is graces many a table with joy and delight. Until then, please enjoy my humble offering of cabbage spring rolls.
I had originally thought about getting D to make some of his coleslaw, but then changed my mind for something different. I decided to make these spring rolls with subtle oriental flavours. I am sending this post to Cinzia of Cindystar for Weekend Herb Blogging #205, the weekly event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and now coordinated by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once.
I liked the cabbage spring rolls the subtle flavour of the sesame oil came through, but I did not enjoy the dipping sauce. This dipping sauce contained grapefruit marmalade which I found too bitter for me. I also thought the flavour of the marmalade overwhelmed the subtle flavours in the spring rolls.
Red and Green Cabbage Spring rolls
Makes about 12
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 large white onion, finely sliced
1 small red cabbage, cut in half then finely sliced
1 small white or green cabbage, cut in half then finely sliced
3 stalks of celery, finely sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
Black pepper to taste
About 12-16 large spring roll wrappers
Oil sealing and for baking
Heat the oil in a wide pan. Add the onion and saute over moderate heat until translucent. Add celery and cook for a few minutes until well coated. Now divide the onion mixture in two and transfer to another pan. To one pan add the red cabbage, to the other add the green cabbage and sauté until the cabbage are cooked through and translucent. Season to taste with soy sauce and pepper.
When the mixture is cool, divide it amongst 12 – 16 spring roll wrappers. I lightly sealed the wrappers with some oil. Then baked them in the oven on a lightly greased tray at gas mark 5 for 10 minutes, then flipped them over for a further 5 minutes on the other side.

Marmalade dipping sauce
½ cup of orange or grapefruit marmalade
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ grated ginger
1 tsp soy sauce
Dash of cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a small serving dish and set aside. Adapted from Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

so called 'Rainbow' Carrot cake

My favourite carrot cake recipe comes from Delia Smith and is made with wholemeal flour. But I decided to follow a different recipe for this carrot cake, one that used white flour as I wanted to showcase the colours of my carrots: rainbow, Yellowstone, purple haze carrots and orange ones - all of which are growing on my allotment plot in the carrot box.
On slicing, you could see the orange and just about the Yellowstone, whereas the purple haze carrots had changed colours, not the purple I was expecting, but almost black with some hints of green too. D said I had made 'better carrot cakes' and I knew he was referring to the Delia’s recipe. This one he said was okay, but of course gimmicky with the so called colourful carrots. I like experimenting with both growing vegetables and cooking with them, as well as the indulging in their novelty factor now and again, whether it's their wonderful shapes, sizes or colours: from purple carrots or potatoes to round yellow courgettes - these things do nothing for him, as long as they taste okay, that’s all that matters to him. I am not going to argue with that.
so called 'Rainbow' carrot cake
Makes 1x 9 inch round cake
Preheat oven to gas mark 3.
Lightly grease a 9 inch round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
125g self-raising flour
125g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
240ml oil, I used vegetable oil
185g soft brown sugar
4 eggs
400g grated carrot (I used a mix of orange, yellow and purple)
60g chopped walnuts
Sift the flours, spices and soda into a large bowl and make a well I the centre. Whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs in a jug until combined. Add this mixture to the well in the flour and gradually sir into the dry ingredients until smooth. Stir in the grated carrot and nuts, mix thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 1½ hours, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. Leave in the cake tin to cool for at least 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely. Recipe adapted from the Growers Market by Leanne Kitchen