27.08

Cider-with-Rosie-blackberry-jam-5

G O O D B Y E   S U M M E R

Blackberry season always feels like the beginning of the end of summer, doesn’t it?

I’ve been picking berries a few times a week for a good few weeks now, and built up a stash in my freezer with the idea of making jam. I’ve been on something of a jam kick lately, after eating so many delicious kinds made by our friends Lizzie and Tania’s sweet Maman in France at the beginning of the month.

And so, it was to Cathy’s recipe that I turned for my first foray into jam making…

Cider-with-Rosie-blackberry-jam-9 Cider-with-Rosie-blackberry-jam-6

A kilo of berries (mine were frozen), left to defrost and macerate in 800grams of sugar overnight, and then mixed with the juice of a lemon. Bring to the boil in a large pan, and then cook for 20 minutes. Do the ‘wrinkle’ test by pouring a little of the juice onto a clean plate and then let it go cold- if it forms a skin that wrinkles when pushed with your fingertip, it’s ready to jar.

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Pour the jam out into clean, sterilised jars, and screw the lids on tightly. And that’s it! I tasted a jar the next morning, spreading the jam onto freshly buttered toast and eating straight from the chopping board. Quite possibly the most satisfying piece of toast I’ve ever had!

And you know the best thing? When I nipped out to take the photos of the brambles that I wanted for this blog post, the hedges were so heavy with berries that I ended up collected another great bag-full.

So I think I’ll be making more jam again quite soon…

Cider-with-Rosie-blackberry-jam-8 Cider-with-Rosie-blackberry-jam-7

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14.08

Cider-with-Rosie-Kitchen-garden

D I G   F O R   V I C T O R Y

For pretty much my entire adult life, I’ve wanted to be good at gardening. I always loved the idea of growing my own vegetables and fruit, dreamed of being able to base my evening meal around whatever was ripe and ready to pick in the garden that day, and was so taken with the idea of being so connected to the natural environment around me.

I have the most vivid memories of growing tomatoes in a little grobag on the patio with my Grandma as a little girl, and of the smell of warm vines and earth and fish food in the greenhouse at my Nanny and Grandpa’s.

I’m not sure what exactly’s been the catalyst for this year being the year that I really got going with my garden, but something’s just clicked and now I can’t imagine life without gardening in it! It’s incredibly gratifying, therapeutic, and an amazing way to find some peace at the end of each day.

To be honest, I have an inkling that becoming a mother has something to do with my love for gardening and growing our food. I’m keen to be kinder to the environment, love knowing that the veg I feed Ottilie is organic and as fresh as it gets, and am proud to be sustaining our family in a small way. Basically, I’m a pair of linen overalls and a toe ring away from my transformation into a hippy earth mother being complete…;)

Cider-with-Rosie-kitchen-garden-5

Since sharing snippets of the progress of my little garden over the past few months I’ve had so, so many requests to put together a post about how I got started, and so, here we are! All that I’ve learnt during my first summer as a grow-your-own obsessive!

R E A D   +   R E S E A R C H

There is a plethora of information out there on getting started with growing veg, both in book form and online. One of my favourite resources has actually been Instagram- there is a whole community of gardeners who share updates from their allotments and kitchen gardens, and the tips and info I’ve picked up from their knowledge has been great! Searching through hashtags like allotment, kitchengarden, growyourown, allotmentlife, homegrown, ediblegarden, urbangardenersrepublic will bring up some really inspiring accounts!

Hollie Newton’s book ‘How to Grow’ has also become my Bible over the past few months, with both tips for growing and delicious recipes for the fruits and veg you produce. It’s so simple to follow, fun to read and full of such helpful info, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Or the delicious recipe for runner bean kimchi that I now add to at least 60% of my meals!

I also love Charles Dowding’s YouTube channel- it’s a bit less accessible, but has amazing advice and demonstrations about a method of gardening called ‘no dig’, which basically involves using layers of compost to build the soil structure rather than doing masses of digging every year. It’s fascinating and something I’m wondering if I can replicate in the large containers I use for most of my veg growing. Alys Fowler’s series ‘The Edible Garden’ is also beautiful and so so inspiring. I watched the whole series on a website called archive dot org, which I’m not certain is entirely legit but doesn’t feel especially dodgy either, so…

Cider-with-Rosie-growing-your-own

S P A C E

I always had the impression that you needed masses of space to grow veg, but in actual fact, you can grow almost anything in pots, boxes and containers! The big black tubs you can pick up in places like B&Q are cheap and great, but I’ve also used regular terracotta pots (£4.99 from Homebase!), a big vintage metal tub I found in an antique shop (£30, and it’s massive), and wine crates from my local Majestic (a fiver a pop, money that’s donated to Majestic’s chosen charity each year)!

So far this year in containers I’ve done- potatoes, Chantenay carrots, courgettes (the bigger the better when it comes to containers for courgette, they’re monster plants and like to sprawl!), cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces and rocket, strawberries, sugar snap peas, and Swiss chard.

If you do happen to have space for a bed, there are tutorials for building raised beds online that look so simple I feel like even I could manage it myself! We only have a small amount of actual garden bed space that gets decent sun (our garden is tiny!!) and so I’ve used most of it for runner beans and then put one large courgette plant down the far end, with a jungle of nasturtiums growing in and around them all.

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T I M I N G   +   P L A N N I N G

Gardening and growing veg takes a fair bit of planning- who knew?! The newfound appreciation I have for my food is staggering- having seen the months of growth and nurturing that goes into every bean, carrot, potato and lettuce leaf, I could cry with guilt if I ever have to throw something in the bin that’s gone soggy in the fridge!!

Early Spring, March/April time, is the start of the ‘growing season’ (i.e. when the bulk of vegetables can be sown from seed), but even now there’s plenty to be planted up! Lettuces and leafy greens like spinach prefer cooler temperatures and will keep going through the Autumn, and look so lush and lovely in pots on a deck or patio.

To get an idea of what to plant when, back in Spring I spent time noseying through all the packets of seeds at the garden centre, reading on the back of each packet when the recommended months were for sowing, planting out and then harvesting. I’ve also got this book arriving today which supposedly is an amazing month by month guide for a year of homegrown veg!

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^^ Baby cavolo nero kale seedlings popping up! This pot had a courgette plant in it until the end of July, and once the plant finished fruiting I pulled it out, chucked in a layer of fresh compost, and sowed some kale seeds. Kicking myself for not starting the kale off in a seed tray a few weeks ago though to get going with growth before planting out!! ^^

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Y O U   W I N   S O M E ,   Y O U   L O S E   S O M E

Between the slugs and the caterpillars, the blights and the mildews (who even knew those were a thing?!) it can seem like you’re destined to fail before you’ve even started! I’ve definitely had my fair share of disasters this year, but by and large, the good has more than balanced out the bad.

Some losses though, for example…

Sugar snap peas. A late frost at the start of May killed off my first sowing when they were only an inch or so high, then the caterpillars moved in when my second sowing had just begun to bear fruit and ate their way through most of the leaves, and then a random mildewy-type thing spread over all the plants! BUT, the peas themselves, though few, were insanely delicious!!

Rocket. I’ve tried twice to grow rocket this summer, and both times it started flowering and was finished before it even started. I’ve since learnt that it was just too hot for rocket this summer, and so I’m trying again with another sowing…

Swiss chard. There’s a nasty bug called a Spinach Leaf Miner fly that’s been eating my Swiss chard from the inside out, and no matter how many times I take off the affected leaves I keep finding more and more damage. I need to work out a way to net it all, even though it’s in a container…

It’s funny though, because even the things that don’t work out don’t feel like failures. It’s a learning experience, and is all part of the fun!

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Whilst I don’t feel like I’m experienced enough to share any real tips of my own, there are a few things I’ve learnt this year that’ve been so valuable…

- Nasturtiums are the ultimate sacrificial plant! I read that they’re ideal to plant alongside runner beans as they’ll entice away any caterpillars and slugs, and it’s worked a treat. They’ve been munched to within an inch of their lives in parts, still look great in their own way, and my runner beans are healthy and happy! Hooray!

- Don’t waste super sunny spots in the garden on greens. Lettuces, rocket, spinach, and Swiss chard are all perfectly happy in semi shady spots, and the sunny patches can be kept sun lovers like tomatoes and beans!

- If in doubt, buy bigger pots or containers and give your plants more space than you think they’ll need. I put two tomatoes into one not especially large terracotta pot and they’re not very happy for it! Ah well, I’ll learn for next time!

-  When you’re told to give runner beans plenty of water and to put a mulch (a.k.a. a top layer of compost/manure, etc.) around each plant, don’t ignore the advice and think you know better. I managed to bring mine back from the brink during the early summer heatwave, but nearly had a very sad bean-less season after they got so dehydrated the flowers started dropping off without ever turning to beans!

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I think this might be the most mammoth post I’ve ever written, so perhaps we’ll leave things there for today! I’d love to share more from the garden over the coming months, and would love to know if there’s anything specific you’d like to read more of.

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Posted in COUNTRYSIDE LIFE, EATING SEASONALLY, GARDENING, KITCHEN GARDEN

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13.05

Poached-salmon-with-quinoa-asparagus-and-jersey-royal-salad

May’s seasonal ingredients- asparagus, Jersey Royal potatoes, and, later on in the month, fragrant elderflower- are some of my all-time favourite foods to eat. They taste of bright mornings and cool evenings, damp, rain-soaked soil and fresh verdant growth. Of the promise of being able to step outside the front door without having to dash straight back in to grab an extra layer, and evenings spent with family in a garden swirling with BBQ smoke and laughter.

British asparagus season (brief, and wonderful) runs throughout May, and was the first produce ‘season’ I ever really became aware of about six or seven years ago. Before then, I’ll be honest and say that it hadn’t really occurred to me that fruits and vegetables might be better at certain times of year, and couldn’t always just be grown and eaten all year round! I try not to eat imported asparagus at all throughout the rest of the year, so as to savour the glorious few weeks when the supermarkets are stocked with bunches of the good stuff- grown in English soil and air-mile free and beautifully tender. In my mind, there aren’t many things as wonderful as dipping an asparagus spear into the well-salted, perfectly runny yolk of an egg, or blanching a huge bunch-ful before slicing each spear small, and stirring them into a risotto.

Asparagus-tips   British-asparagus

I’ve been making variations of this warm salad for the past few weeks now, and it’s become a firm favourite in our house. Even Jason, who usually is fairly salad-phobic, has said how much he enjoys it! The Jersey Royals are what make it. I’ve used all sorts of varieties of new potatoes (Charlottes, etc.) to make this dish over the past few weeks, and the difference between regular ones and Jersey Royals is vast. Jerseys are just so tender and buttery, and have a lighter texture than other varieties. I never thought I could get so enthused about new potatoes, but you know, they warrant it!

The grains serve to bulk out the salad nicely (I used a bag of mixed red & white quinoa and bulgar wheat in this one), and the asparagus does its asparagus-y thing just perfectly. We often add in slices hard-boiled eggs, or some shredded roast chicken, or a little crumbled feta, or like this time, fillets of softly-poached salmon. That’s the great thing about this salad. It’ll work as a base for pretty much anything! And I haven’t even mentioned the vinaigrette that goes with it! It’s honey-mustard, and tastes delicious. Right, now let’s get to it!
  Quinoa+tabbouleh Poached-salmon-&-asaparagus-new-potato-salad

{Serves 2 as a main meal, or 4 as a side-dish}
Ingredients:
1 bunch (250g-ish) British asparagus
300g Jersey Royal potatoes
60g (approx 1/3 cup) quinoa (or mixed quinoa and bulgar wheat)
1 1/2 tsp Dijon/wholegrain mustard
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of flaky sea salt
2 fillets salmon (optional)

- Put a pan of salted water on to boil, and slice any larger potatoes in half so they all are roughly bite-size. Add in to the pan, and boil until tender.

- Take each stem of asparagus in turn, and snap off the bottom inch or so of each one. The stems will break naturally at the point where they begin to get tougher and less tender. Put the asparagus into the pan of boiling water on top of the Jersey Royals, boil for 3 minutes (or 4 minutes for thicker stems), then remove and put immediately into a bowl of iced water so they stay vibrant green and don’t overcook.

- Place the grains into a sieve, and rinse under cold water. Put into a small saucepan, cover with about an inch of cold water (and add in a little vegetable/chicken stock concentrate for flavour if you’d like) and then cook according to packet instructions.

- Add all the vinaigrette ingredients (mustard, honey, oil, and vinegar) to a jam jar or jug, and shake/whisk to combine. Add salt to taste. Drain the cooked grains and potatoes.

- Slice the asparagus into inch-long pieces, and combine in a large bowl with the potatoes and grains. Pour over the vinaigrette, taste, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with a salmon fillet (poached in boiling water with a dash of lemon juice for 4 minutes), and enjoy!
  Poached-salmon

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07.04

Watercress-and-walnut-pesto-recipe-with-garlic-rubbed-flatbread

We’re kicking off this week by talking about pesto. Jazzy pesto mind you, not just your regular basil variety! I know we usually begin each month with a little collection of photographs of the coming week’s most covetable produce, but this April, we’re just going to kick straight off with a recipe. I think because this month’s ingredients are so beautiful and enticing, it felt right to just start actually *cooking* with them right away rather than tinkering about with them for photos, you know?

April is a lush, verdant month. It’s a month of delicate, leafy vegetables- some peppery and bold like watercress and rocket and Spring onion, others, like spinach, more mild and delicate. Meaty morels and crab are just coming into season (I’m afraid I’ve no adjective for crab, since I’m allergic to shellfish and haven’t the faintest idea how crab tastes), with venison on its way out. But there’s nothing as iconically ‘April’ in my mind as much as fresh British lamb. If April had a flag, lamb would be on it. This month I’m going to experiment with new ways of cooking with lamb mince, beyond my normal repertoire of the classic Shepherd’s pie and maybe moussaka. Expect lamb burgers with fresh mint & home-pickled red onions to be appearing here sometime in the not too distant future…

Watercress Watercress-and-walnut-pesto-recipe

This entire recipe (two recipes I guess) came about pretty much by accident. The flatbreads were leftover from a homemade pizza night a few weeks back, the dough shaped into little rounds and stashed in the ‘miscellaneous/unidentifiable frozen stuff I’ll probably throw out in two years time’ drawer of my freezer. I happened to have defrosted one with the intention of having it for lunch after I’d finished making and photographing the pesto, but it just seemed too perfect a tool for pesto-dipping to not become part of the recipe. The walnuts in the pesto came about due to Waitrose having some kind of nationwide pinenut supply issue- a first world problem in a (pine)nutshell if I ever did see one.

And yet, muddled together though this recipe was, it made for the most delicious lunch. Supplanting basil with watercress in the pesto lightens its flavour such a lot, and the waxy fattiness of the walnuts provides a rich base from which the other ingredients really sing. I’ve been adding it to almost everything since I made it- spreading it on top of crisp breads, mixed with mayonnaise in the corn tortilla wraps Jason has for his weekday lunches, and, most deliciously, shaken into a vinaigrette and drizzled over a chicken feta and rocket salad. It’ll accompany just about anything you ask it to, and taste delicious every time.

{For the pesto} Recipe adapted from ‘From Elizabeth David’s Table’, one of my all-time favourite cookery books. Yields 3/4-1 cup of pesto.
Ingredients ::
60g {two generous handfuls} watercress
30g parmesan
30g walnuts
1/2-1 whole clove garlic {as per your preference}
Small handful basil leaves
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A generous pinch of flaky sea salt {plus extra to taste}
1 tsp lemon juice

- Scrunch the watercress in your hands a little to help release its flavour, and then place into a food processor along with the parmesan (either grated or left in chunks for the processor to whizz up), walnuts, basil leaves, and peeled garlic. Process until the mixture is finely chopped and mealy. {I prefer a milder garlic taste so only used half a clove, but add more if you like a punchier flavour}

- Add in about 6 tbsp of olive oil, and blend. We’re looking for the texture to be that of soft, spreadable butter. If it’s still a little thick and dry (mine was) add in the remaining olive oil. Lastly, add in the lemon juice, and a big pinch of flaky sea salt. Process once more, and then taste. If the flavours are dull and need a little lift, add in an extra splash of lemon juice and/or some extra salt.

- Store refrigerated in an airtight jar, with a thin layer of olive oil poured on top to preserve it.

{For the flatbreads} Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver.
Ingredients:
500g strong white bread flour
1tsp dried fast action yeast
1tbsp caster sugar
1tsp sea salt
2tbsp olive oil
325ml warm water

A large pinch of flaky sea salt
Dried oregano & thyme
1 clove garlic
Drizzle of olive oil

- Put the flour into a large bowl, and make a little well in the centre. Add the dried yeast, sugar, salt, and olive oil into the well. Slowly start pouring in the water (which should be at blood temperature) and mix with a spoon to combine with the dry ingredients. When all the water has been added to the flour mixture, use your hands to bring the dough into a rough ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

-Knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and springs back right away when gently poked. Place into a floured or oiled bowl, cover the top of the bowl with cling film, and set aside in a warm place for an hour to prove. The dough needs to have doubled in size before it can be knocked back.

- When the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and firmly press the air out of it with your hands. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, and cover over with a damp tea towel whilst you roll out each portion. (At this point, you can put some flatbreads into the freezer if you’d like to. Just roll each ball of dough into a rough round, until it’s about a centimetre thick. Then wrap in cling film, and put into the freezer. Defrost before cooking.)

- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and place two baking trays in to heat for at least 10 minutes from when the oven reaches temperature. Shape the dough balls into rough rounds, using your hands and a rolling pin to flatten them out until they’re just shy of a centimetre thick.

- Take the baking sheets out of the oven, and working quickly now, drizzle each with a little olive and then put two flatbreads onto each tray. Make a few indentations in each flatbread with your finger, then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over some dried oregano and thyme and flaky sea salt, and return to the oven. Cook for 8 minutes, until lightly golden on both sides.

- Cut a garlic clove in half, and rub each flatbread with the cut side whilst they’re fresh from the oven. You might also like to sprinkle over a little extra sea salt here, too.

Garlic-rubbed-olive-oil-oregano-flatbread Watercress-and-walnut-pesto-recipe3 Watercress-and-walnut-pesto-recipe2 Watercress-and-walnut-pesto-recipe4

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