Friday, 2 August 2013

Gardening is a dangerous business!

It is a fact that the best laid plans can so easily go wrong. I was planning to spend the summer tending my plants, cooking delicious meals and catching up on all those things that have been put off for so long. Then it happened. I was down on the allotment early one morning planting out the last few tomatoes when I fell down a hole next to the path. Agony followed by a trip to A&E - result a broken ankle. The good news is that it is not in plaster but the sexiest footwear so at least I can take a bath. So I am spending many happy hours lying on a daybed listening to Radio 3 or 4, knitting and willing my bones to knit back together.

Being housebound means that I cannot go to the supermarket and spend money which will contribute to my aim to live cheaply. And the allotment is starting to be very productive. I have managed to make blackcurrant syrup (delicious poured over vanilla ice cream), raspberry and redcurrant jelly and filled the freezer with strawberry granita. A few weeks ago we celebrated the arrival of the first courgette, now we are overwhelmed with all shapes and sizes. I have made lots of ratatouille and mixed vegetable soup, both cheap and filling. I try to use ingredients that are organic and have limited impact on our carbon footprint. The soup has been made almost entirely with home grown vegetables and so costs pennies. We shall eat it with home baked bread. This is food that I can make whilst sitting on a stool in the kitchen. Luckily sweet pea (my lovely daughter) will be back from baking herself in Ibiza next week and will take over the kitchen - and she can cook a banquet using just a few leftovers.

Things I have learnt recently. I can iron sitting down. Sheets are just as good to sleep in when they are not ironed. If you take your glasses off you can't see the dust. Himself tells me that it is not good to show Mr Dyson to the carpet too often or the carpet will wear out! If you are incapacitated, it is good to do it during the BBC Proms season - some great concerts this year. And I have some wonderful friends who help with lifts to knit and natter, shopping, visit me and bring cake, send me cards and flowers and listen to my endless whinging - thank you all.

I am convinced that Belinda cat thinks my time spent resting my ankle is purely to enable me to devote myself to her comfort. She sits next to me whilst I knit and listens intently to the radio and my thoughts uttered outloud on the writer of patterns when things go wrong. I have managed to finish a hot water bottle cover I started about 5 years ago, a pair of socks, my sister in laws birthday present (it was last February) and spent a happy hour or two sorting, stroking and admiring my stash of yarn. (Knitting readers will understand that this is a very pleasurable pastime).

It is my plan for the next week to rest my leg so that it recovers before my holiday in September and The Great London Yarn Crawl on 21 September ( I shall also be dying in the garden (yarn that is) - but more about that next time.

Vegetable soup (aka End of the Fridge Soup)
The ingredients below can be varied as to what you have lurking in the fridge or vegetable baskets. Leeks are a good addition and so are squash if you don't have a courgette left. Swede, turnips etc are also good although I wouldn't recommend beetroot. The number of onions, carrots, spuds etc is also dependent on your taste buds and what is available. A great way of using up the end of things. I often add a tin of butter or haricot beans to stretch it. Freezes well.

2 onions
2 carrots
2 spuds
a few tomatoes (or a tin of chopped ones)
a couple of sticks of celery
Stock (vegetable, chicken or just plain water)
Couple of cloves of garlic
Large pinch of mixed herbs, or some thyme
Salt and pepper
Large knob of butter - or a splash of olive oil

Chop up all the veg and sweat gently in a large saucepan or stock pot in the butter/olive oil.
Add stock or water to cover.
Add salt, pepper and herbs.
Bring to the boil and simmer gentle until veg are cooked - about half an hour to an hour.
If you cut the veg up very small you can eat it as it is with some grated cheese on top.
Turn it into a puree with a blender and maybe add a dollop of cream/crème fraiche 
Process through a mouli (this is my favourite).

Monday, 1 July 2013

The first BBQ of summer.....

It must be summer! This was announced by the sky turning blue, the sun coming out and the smell of bbq drifting across the garden.  Our lovely neighbour knocked on the door and invited us to join their bbq on Saturday. Himself had just returned from the allotment with a tray of new potatoes (first earlies called charlotte) and a few fresh lettuce so I offered to make some salads – and as I had just taken the bread out of the oven I offered a fresh loaf as well. It took very little time to put together a potato salad topped with fresh snipped chives from the herb bed I started in an old tin bath. Often a bbq dinner is meat, meat and then meat – so I quickly threaded a few vegetables onto skewers and marinated them in oil and herbs. Lovely evening, good food and drink – and no cooking or washing up!

I cleared out the fruit bowl yesterday and was amazed to see how many oranges were lurking at the bottom – squeezed them and made one and a half pints of orange juice (with bits!) The fridge provided a couple of eggs left from the week before last so these became a fruit loaf. The minced beef I didn’t use on Saturday made a lovely lasagne and the chicken I was going to roast will keep in the freezer for next Sunday .  

The first of the broad beans have been picked so it will be bean and bacon risotto tonight.  I've made vegetable stock – carrot, onion, leek, potato, celery, mushroom and a fresh bouquet garni, covered in water,  boiled for half an hour and strained. Delicious (and cheap)!

The sunshine has awoken the gardener in me so lots of weeding and tidying up over the weekend. This tidying has spread to other areas of life – I turned out all of my stash (yarn gatherers and knitters amongst you will understand that this is a major task) and have managed to reduce this from four boxes to three. Will I ever want that ball of white and gold fancy yarn bought on impulse about 5 years ago? Kitchen cupboards are next on the list – do I need three white soufflé dishes?

But now there is a mixing bowl full of fresh strawberries waiting for me in the kitchen – scrummy strawberry jam in progress!

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Beginning......

I decided to create this blog at the end of last year and since then have written many, many entries in my head - but now the time has come to put these down on paper. Sadly my mind is now a complete blank. I cannot remember any of those witty opening sentences, interesting subjects and brilliant writing. So it will be straight in at the deep end!

My plan is to write an account of the food that passes through my kitchen, how we grow and where I like to shop. I do not expect I will be able to do this without reference to other areas of life - reading, concerts, yarn, spinning, knitting and more yarn.

I actually like going to the supermarket, although I prefer small local shops. The trouble is that however strictly I try to stick to my list, I always end up with delicious extras in my basket that I cannot live without. On Saturday I visited Waitrose (food heaven of supermarkets) and ended up with a jar of stem ginger to add to vanilla ice cream for a posh pud. I love ginger but I suspect this would not be the first choice of deserts for himself. So, to overcome the urge to impulse buy, I am now shopping on line from Abel & Cole. They are wonderful. My delivery arrives at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning and almost all the packaging is recycled (I hate supermarket carrier bags). Nearly everything we get from this lovely company is fresh and tasty - although I did complain the other day about sarpo potatoes which go black and have little taste - ugh.

And talking of potatoes, himself decided that the Charlotte early potatoes must be ready to dig up - so he dug and brought me home half a dozen tiny potatoes so I think we will wait another week or two to dig up some more.

Dinner tonight will be macaroni cheese topped with sliced tomatoes and served with green beans. Pudding with have to be fresh fruit as we both need to be out by 7pm. Himself has been on the allotment all day so I am spoiling him with one of his favourite dinners.