The Great Scape

June 16, 2016

OK, I’ll confess that I originally took this photo partly because it was cool but mainly because I wanted to google what was going wrong with my garlic that was making the flower stems come out all curly

garlic stems

This shows how little I know because I found out that not only are garlic flower stems (scapes, apparently, to those in the know or those who have recently typed ‘curly garlic stems’ into Google anyway) meant to be curly, they’re also considered a delicacy.

harvested scapes

A little nibble of a freshly cut stem had me a bit dubious – ‘pungent’ doesn’t even begin to describe it – but the Internet assured me that, once sautéd in a bit of olive oil and then roasted on a pizza, they would be delicious.

And bugger me, if the Internet wasn’t bang to rights. As tasty as asparagus but with a (much milder once cooked) wonderfully garlicky flavour.

parsnip flowers

Ahem. This is not because I never got round to harvesting the last parsnips. It’s to attract beneficial hoverflies. Or something

Must google to see if there’s anything you can do with parsnip flowers …

nettle and ground elder

Fortunately this part of the garden is not under my charge. It does have a certain magnificence to it though

… or nettle and ground elder


Waste Not…

January 10, 2013

There was much angst on the radio this morning about food waste with half of all the food we buy apparently ending up in the bin. We generally do our best to keep our waste to a minimum (even if it sometimes ends up costing more – making a whole batch of coconut macaroons, for instance, to use up a single egg white is probably *not* cost effective, especially when they turn out to be so delicious that you start deliberately looking for recipes using extra egg yolks in order to have more whites to ‘use up’…), plan our meals, not buy too much extra etc. etc. but I tell you, if you want to start throwing tons of food away, there’s nothing like growing your own.

last year's rather more successful batch

last year’s rather more successful batch

My onions have actually kept pretty well this year – I didn’t bother making a nice plait out of them or anything fancy like that, I just left them in the nets where I’d dried them in the shed. But all good things must come to an end and some of the red ones particularly were beginning to look a little ropey so I gathered them up to make onion marmalade again, about three months later than I ought to have done. Hmm. It’s lucky we had a lot, because some of them were pretty nasty by the time I’d got to them so a good few went to the great compost heap in the sky before I had salvaged enough to use. What with that and the potatoes and everything else that’s been carefully planted and nurtured and coddled and weeded and picked and turned out to be surplus to requirements, it’s not hard to see where that figure of 50% wasted might come from. Perhaps we need a pig?

Meanwhile, the remaining onions have contributed to some lovely marmalade, thanks no doubt to the half a bottle of wine that’s gone into it, making it quite an expensive way to use up a few onions. Still, waste not, want not, eh?


January 6, 2012

So, one of my Christmas presents this year was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ‘Veg Every Day‘ book which is part of Hugh’s crusade to make every home cook in the country dirty every dish in the kitchen every day – sorry, eat less meat AND dirty every dish in the kitchen. I’ve long been trying to have at least one meat free day a week, much to the other half’s disgust, so I seized on this as an opportunity to try out some new vegetarian – and even vegan – recipes. We came to a bit of an arrangement – for the next month we’d try out one or two of the recipes each week and he had to not complain about there not being any meat and I had to not complain about trying new vegetables. OK, well, ‘not complain’ is a bit strong, but we had to eat the results anyway. Now, regular readers may remember that I’m not the most adventurous eater in the world, although I’ve come a long way from my entirely non-vegetable-eating childhood, so I started to get a few twinges of doubt on this deal once the other half started leafing through the pages and chuckling to himself ‘oh you’re going to have to stretch yourself a bit’ (he’s particularly looking forward to the part where I have to eat mushrooms other than chanterelles) but I’ve stuck to my side of the bargain and he’s stuck to his – indeed, more than stuck to it because the first week is barely over and we’ve had meatless suppers for three out of six days (and, er, steak on one of the others – but that was our 20th wedding anniversary and I wanted to last out at least another few years).

So far it’s gone reasonably well, although there has been predictably large amounts of washing up to be done. We’ve had squash and red onion pasties, stir-fried cauliflower, spanakopita, spicy chickpeas and we’ve been getting through a backlog of lentils of various colours that have been hanging around in our cupboards for long enough that I had to do a quick ex post facto google on ‘will sprouted lentils kill you?’* The culmination (so far) came tonight when I cooked ribollito which is Italian for ‘all the things townmouse doesn’t really like, poured over garlicky toast in a bowl’. Had I been served this up as a child, I would have just sat there sobbing at the table for the entire meal and yet here I was not just cooking it but eating it. Not, in the strictest sense of the word, enjoying it – let’s not get carried away here – but eating it. Although even I have to admit that the garlicky toast part is actually rather yummy. Apparently it’s better the next day. Which is good, because there’s loads of it left.

So there you go. I don’t really have a snappy ending to this one, except to say that it turns out after 40-odd years of picky eating, a few vegetables really won’t kill me after all. And nor will not eating much – or much less – meat. And, nor, if it comes to that, will slightly sprouted lentils. Although I’m still not 100% convinced about mushrooms.

*just out of curiosity, you understand

Three Jars Full

October 13, 2011

Take two kilos of red onions …

clean and chop …

(A LOT of chopping)

Squeeze them into your pan with some sugar and garlic and chilli flakes (top tip: make sure your biggest pan is big enough for two kilos of chopped onions BEFORE you start. This is what 2/3 of two kilos of onions looks like. Ahem. Fortunately it cooks down and you can add the rest later)

Cook them down. Don’t listen to the recipe that says this take 40-50 minutes – this is a LIE. It’s more like four hours. One of those recipes that’s only justified if you’ve got a Rayburn that’s on all the time anyway

Add some red wine and vinegar and cook some more until it is almost but crucially not quite gone.

Stick it in some jars and yum. (easy and economical jar-labelling technique courtesy of our friend Anthony and the local postman)

Unfortunately, although it is scrummy, a little goes a long way and this is about two jars more red onion marmalade than we can usefully eat in a year.

And there’s STILL loads of red onions left… suggestions?


June 16, 2011

It’s that time of year again. In fact, looking back through the blog, it’s well past that time of year again: Rayburn-switching-off-time. Normally we’d have done the deed three or four weeks ago but it just hasn’t been that warm, and so we’ve been putting it off. In fact, it still isn’t all that warm or pleasant, indoors or out, but we’ve decided to do the deed anyway – better to burn the oil in the winter when it makes the difference between miserable and bearable, than in the summer when it’s merely the difference between bearable and quite pleasant.

Of course, we couldn’t just turn the Rayburn off like that – we have to plan for it. You see, having the Rayburn on means that some things (long slow-cooked meals, making stock, drying clothes if the gap between showers wasn’t quite long enough, hollandaise sauce, melting chocolate or butter without pratting around with a double boiler) make sense whereas other things (not spending all your money on oil, frying anything) don’t. So first we had to switch our week’s menu to our summer dishes, and then we had to finish off doing all the Rayburn-friendly things we wanted to do while we still could. And as today is its last day, I ended up spending it in full-on Domestic Goddess mode (well, Domestic Goddess-ish), finishing up making stock from the backlog of frozen chicken carcases and making white chocolate ‘blondies‘, courtesy of Hugh ‘use all the bowls in the kitchen’ Fearnley-Whittingstall (I mean, count them, that recipe requires FIVE separate bowls. It’s worth it though).

The kitchen is now lightly coated with flour, the stock is ready for our last batch of risotto (the condemned cooker made a hearty meal), and the Rayburn is awaiting the coup-de-grace. Just as soon as I can will myself to do it.

Maybe in an hour or so, eh?

This Week we will Mostly be Eating…

August 6, 2010

The beans are dead, long live the beans. Yesterday I cut the broad beans back down to the ground, except where they’re sprouting and flowering again and picked off the last of the pods. Sadly, in the last fortnight or so the beans had begun to get away from us and a lot of the remaining beans, while home grown and hence, by definition, delicious, were a bit mealy and past their best. The green beans, however, have just started to get into their stride and this time we’re determined to eat them now while they’re young and fresh and delicious rather than wait until they’ve gone all leathery.

So our meal planning for the next few days has consisted of asking ‘what can we eat with green beans?’ while not, of course, forgetting that there are also potatoes to use up. And red onions. (And salad, although the bulk of that has thankfully bolted so we’re back to manageable baby leaf lettuces rather than hordes of enormous hoodie-wearing teenage lettuces to chomp our way through). So far our menus for the next few days consist of

  • chicken and green bean stir fry,
  • fish, chips and green bean and feta salad,
  • green bean risotto,
  • spaghetti with green beans and breadcrumbs, and
  • Jansson’s temptation, with green beans (I think on the whole we’ll stick to a white onion for this though).

That may be enough to keep on top of it, but if not, we’d welcome any ideas….

If Meat is Murder…

June 30, 2010

… is this infanticide?

Pea shoot, baby leaf and bacon salad (all salad is improved by the addition of bacon....)

Worth it though

Thanks to Shauna for the idea – a great way to use up all those unplanted packets of peas. Even if you’ve planted nothing else this year, there’s still time to get some of these in the ground…