Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Let the Runner Bean frenzy continue

Of course I am referring to those runner beans I harvested from the garden plot.

A day after making the spiced runner bean and chickpea salad I made this Spiced runner bean and chickpea stew. This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver's dish Sweet Runner Bean stew. His runner bean stew was not suitable for vegetarians or vegans as it contained anchovies, so I thought about replacing the anchovies with minced capers so that it would be reminisce of Puttanesca, but then decided not to. Instead I increased the quantity of chilli and introduced some chickpeas to the dish. Whilst the sauce thickened and bubbled away, I tasted it for seasoning and thought to myself it was rather flavourful. It was rich, spicy and saucy. In fact it actually reminded me a little of Arrabiata sauce.
Spiced Runner bean and chickpea stewServes 4
Ingredients500g runner beans, trimmed
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 red chilies, sliced
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes, crushed or blitzed in a food processor
1 long sprig of fresh rosemary
200g cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Feed the runner beans through a bean cutter. If you don’t have one of these nifty little gadgets, just run your speed peeler aka potato peeler down each side of the bean to get rid of the stringy bits and then cut them with a sharp knife into 1cm pieces at an angle.
Heat a large saucepan, big enough to hold all the ingredients, and the olive oil plus the garlic and fry them gently with the chillies until it goes soft. Pour in the tomatoes, the beans and the rosemary sprig. Season and bring to the boil. Place a lid on the pan and simmer gently for 15 to 25 minutes or until the beans are nicely cooked. When the beans are tender, add in the chickpeas and warm through for five minutes. If the sauce gets a little dry, add a splash of water and give the beans a stir. Remove the rosemary sprig before serving.
Serve with couscous, plain boiled rice, potatoes or even over some pasta.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Roasted Runner beans for lunch

I’ve eaten some of the runner beans steamed, this time I thought I’d oven roast them. I remembered a recipe I made last year adapted from Denis Cotters Paradiso Seasons. I thought I’d make a lazy version of it again, but this time with runner beans. Lazy for two reasons, one I was rather tired from the gardening yesterday and wanted to spend little time in the kitchen and more time on the sofa; and two, the spices in the dish have been toned down a little because I was not in the mood to follow the step by step cooking instructions. The end result was still very flavourful and rather filling.
Here are some photographs of progress in the garden yesterday.
I was unable to step into my plot without stepping on or brushing against another plant, now there is room for me to step into the plot, so much so that you can see my stepping tiles as I’ve pulled out most of the brassica plants. Sadly no home-grown cavolo nero for me this winter, and the sprouts, I have left two plants in the soil, but I don’t know if they’ll be there for the winter as they look pretty raggedy with the caterpillar damage.
We also harvested our new potatoes growing in pots. We should have really harvested them a month ago, but they are edible that's the main thing.
Surprised to see some strawberries still growing.
Picked some more bolted rainbow chard. I only touched the golden apple pumpkin and it fell of its vine, so that had to come upstairs with me too. I also snipped some lemon verbena, I am happy just sniffing it, but am going to dry some in the windowsill, so that I can enjoy it later as a herbal tea, maybe.
Even though the runner beans had lost its vibrant green colour, cooked this way they were rather succulent.
Roasted runner beans with couscous
Serves 4
8 shallots
Salt and pepper to taste
300g runner beans, topped and tailed, then sliced into diagonal pieces
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 large fresh red chillies, chopped into rings
1 tablespoon of cumin
50ml vegetable stock or water
200g cooked chickpeas
150g cooked couscous
Optional feta cheese and drizzling of flavoured oil
Preheat oven to gas mark 6. Toss the peeled shallots or onions with a little olive oil into a large baking dish and roast until they have softened a little and beginning to colour. While that is cooking, soak the couscous in 150ml water or vegetable stock. Stir the couscous once and leave it to absorb the water or stock. Add the chopped beans and garlic to the shallots. Toss well and return back to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the sliced chillies and cumin along with the 50ml water to keep the beans from sticking. Cook for a few more minutes until the beans are tender and the flavours are well absorbed. Stir in the chickpeas.
Sift the couscous with a fork, then gently stir into the cooked vegetables. Serve with a drizzle of the flavoured oil or cubes of feta cheese.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Geilston Gardens Fruit and Vegetables

We decided to go to Geilston Gardens for some local, seasonal and organic fruit and vegetables.
We discovered Geilston gardens this year during the Easter weekend, when we decided to finally become members of the National Trust for Scotland.
As well as being a rather beautiful garden, whats terrific about Geilston Gardens is that it grows and sells its produce directly to the public at fair and reasonable prices. Although finding my peace with farmers markets here, I am still rather disappointed as there only appear to be two vegetable stalls and I don't think either of them are from the West of Scotland. Secondly, I do find farmers markets a little too expensive. So its been a blessing to find Geilston Gardens. Even though its a bit of a drive away, its nice to get away from our industrial and grey location at weekends.
Although Geilston Gardens sells produce to the public, it's not about making a profit, but an attempt to distribute vegetables growing in the garden, that would otherwise go to waste if left to rot. Something else that adds charm to Geilston Garden is that it does not actually have a farm shop, the friendly volunteers including Anne Kelly (who welcomes visitors to Geilston Gardens) display whats been freshly harvested on the day, as well as plants and flowers on an open stall with the prices clearly listed. You take what you want and put the coins or notes into the 'Honesty box'.
Geilston Gardens is the second place in Scotland where I've seen an honesty box. The other was on a farm in Fife selling vegetables and eggs. I totally appreciate the trust that goes into this. I live just on the outskirts of city and know it would not work here, not only would the produce disappear, so would the honesty box. So its rather humbling to see there are still places where people honour this transaction.
So for just over £5.00 I picked up: Purple kale, huge red and white onions, green courgettes, a leek, parsley and some Discovery eating apples.
Although we had a peek of the orchard and vegetable gardens in late June, I still wanted to see the progress.
Mmmm lots of eating apples.
The last time I saw the sweet corn they must have been about 6 inches off the ground, now look at them - nearly ready for the picking.
I spy some pumpkins too
After wandering through the vegetable garden, we walked through the ornamental garden.
I love to admire the changing colours, so does D. Look he was happy camera snapping. Enjoy.

All photographs taken by D.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Make time for the Runner Bean

Ah be warned - the next few days will feature recipes that include runner beans.
One of my fellow bloggers commented a little while ago and mentioned that he was not familiar with runner beans. So for those of you may be unfamiliar with it, may I give a very brief introduction.

Runner beans originate from South America, so its quite surprising to note that they are one of the most common garden vegetables in the UK. In fact they have been described as a quintessentially British vegetable. I have found runner beans extremely easy to grow. Before you know it, you'll have long, green runner beans varying from 3 inches to 8 inches to harvest. I don't think runner beans taste of very much, but I still like to grow them, especially for its red-orange flowers that the bees seem to love too. To prepare runner beans, you must top and tail them. I don't tend to remove the stringy bits running up the sides, but some people do using a small knife or vegetable peeler before cooking.

Runner beans can be boiled, roasted, steamed, stewed or stir-fried. They are best cooked until al dente. Over the next few days, I will be experimenting with them.
So this is my first dish. Its an recipe inspired by Denis Cotters Chickpeas with chillies and Nigella Lawson's chickpea with chilli and garlic. Oh I also used the the bolted Rainbow Swiss chard I picked earlier.
Here it is transformed, sauteed in olive oil with some garlic.
Spiced Runner bean and chickpea salad
Serves 4
200g - 250g runner bean, topped and tailed, sliced diagonally
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
Steam the runner beans, until tender, then set aside
Mix together the garlic, chilli, olive oil, lemon juice and salt to taste. Add in the runner beans and the chickpeas. Stir well to combine. Leave aside for an hour or so for the flavours to infuse. Serve at room temperature.

For those of you with beady eyes, I did add some roasted cubed potatoes to the salad to make more of a meal of it.

Garden state

Two weeks away from home and my garden is in such a sorry state. Its not just the grass that needs cutting, I need to deadhead some flowers and remove some plants that would give you an eyesore,
This once cheery sunflower no more, but I will leave it to dry for the birds.
My tiny plot looks rather dishevelled and disorganised.
The scarlet runner beans have gone rampant and need some serious snipping.
One the plus side, I walked away with an armful of scarlet runner beans, though some of them I must admit will be destined for the compost bin as the outer skin looks and feels rather taut and will be tough to eat.
Although I have harvested these climbing Blauhilde French beans, I don't know whether they will be edible as they too are pretty thick.
These Brussels sprouts look like they may have blown. I need to take a closer look at the others. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that there will be no sprouts from my garden to eat.
The last of the broccoli and the variety of cabbages I had growing have all been ravaged by the white cabbage butterfly and its caterpillars.
Some of the lettuces in the 3 foot by 3 foot bed has bolted, so much so its producing flowers.
The finale fennel growing in pots seems to be doing okay.
Not so for my chilli plant that is desperately wanting water.
I had planted three kohlrabi's, one I had harvested and made kohlrabi fritters, the other two were left beneath the runner bean pole to continue to swell, but guess what, yesterday I noted that there was only one. We think it's been 'taken' by the neighbours below and their little boys trespassing on our garden, but we have no proof. I am pretty mift, but hope they enjoyed it and not used it as a football.
I seem to have only one Golden Apple Pumpkin growing. Shame last year I had two baskets worth, so much so I still have half a dozen or so left filling a vase as decorative pieces. I think the reason the plant is doing poorly this year is simply because they are growing in pots this year.
The Gold Rush courgettes are doing wonderfully though.
I may even get to harvest some golf ball size beetroot.
Some of the rainbow chard is doing well, some not so, these have bolted. I'll still enjoy the leaves though.
I also harvested this rather large and hard corgette di nizza. I think it will be okay grated. Some blue lake climbing french beans, a good handful of dwarf hestia runner beans, and three unscathed cooking apples.
The sky last night, or was it the night before. Truly marvellous and magical.