Sunday, August 29, 2010

Win Some, Lose Some...

To show what IS worth growing - even indoors, this first photo is a great example. Beginning in the spring, have sowed box after box of these (at three week intervals) and they have kept us is salads. Just used an empty Value Pack plastic mushroom box filled with compost and just a pinch of the mixed seeds grew the amount shown below - these shown were only three weeks old and barely ready to to pick. They grew even larger, and some changed to a deeper green or bronze the following week.

Cannot now remember, but
believe there were at least
six different types of salad
leaves in the free packet of
seeds that came with the
Lakeland catalogue.
Looking closely, you can see
the different leaf shapes,
each a different 'flavour'.

So the salad leaves at least were a success, and because only a pinch of seeds needed for each sowing, still have plenty left (having several packets of Mixed Salad Leaves from various sources, most of them free). It is said these will grow throughout the winter on a window sill, but take about longer to grow to maturity than in the warmer months of the year.

One thing I have noticed is, that a small amount of home-grown produce (when eaten) is much more enjoyed than a large amount of the supermarket same. Perhaps it is because our own-grown is limited that we appreciate what we have so much more - and because the flavour really is there (and so good) we tend to let it linger in our mouths longer.

So obviously the way to bring the flavours of the past back into our lives is to hunt out produce of quality (maybe fish and meat from a good supplier - have written about this in length before), and grow our own or go to local farmer's markets rather than buy from the supermarkets. And cook all our meals ourselves.

As we are coming up to the season where we start our pickling and preserving, here a few recipes that I hope you find useful. Although most store well, I begin with one that has a short shelf-life, useful when we have and oddments of vegetables in our fridge. Worth making this 'instant piccalilli' when we serve cold meats and salads on the warmer 'Indian Summer' days (that we still hope to get). As with any recipe such as this, weights can be approximate, more of one thing, less of another - according to what we have - as long as the total weight remains the same. All the vegetables need to be cut into bite-sized even pieces.
InstantVegetable Pickle: makes about 1lb (450g)
half small cauliflower, cut into florets
2 carrots, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
chunk white cabbage, shredded
4 oz (100g) runner or string beans, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 or more (to taste) fresh chillies, whole or sliced (opt)
2" (5cm) piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced/grated
1 red bell pepper, diced
juice of 2 lemons
half teaspoon turmeric
7 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp sugar
5 tblsp olive oil
Put the prepared vegetables into a colander and sprinkle over a teaspoon of salt. Toss well, and leave to stand over a bowl for at least 4 hours.
Shake the vegetables well to remove as much liquid as you can then transfer the salted vegetables to a bowl.
Although not required, the veggies could be rinsed to remove the salt, but make sure they are then shaken to remove excess water.
To the vegetables, add the turmeric, sugar, vinegar, oil and lemon juice and toss again to combine the flavours.
Cover the bowl with cling-film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Or leave longer if you wish. This does not store well for any length of time, so best to make only the amount you need.

This next chutney will keep well for at least 6 months, and a good way to use up windfall (or foraged) apples. The recipe states it eat extremely well with cheese and soda bread. Use only a little cayenne pepper if you prefer a mild chutney, use more if you wish it to be spicier.
The weight of the apples is before preparation.
Apple and Sultana Chutney: makes 2 lb (900g)
12 oz (350g) cooking apples, to be peeled, cored and chopped.
4 oz (100g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) onion
1 oz (25g) blanched almonds
1 tsp peppercorns
half tsp coriander seeds
6 oz (175g) sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
15 fl oz (450ml) cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
quarter teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper
red chillies (optional) to add at end.
Prepares the apples, and chop the sultanas, onions and almonds and set aside.
Put the peppercorns and coriander seeds into a square of muslin, tie up with string (leave a long bit of string to hang over the edge or tie to the pan handle for easy removal), and put the sugar, salt, ground ginger and vinegar into the van with cayenne to taste. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then add the prepared fruit, onion and nuts. Bring to the boil and simmer for up to 2 hours or until the liquid has evaporated.
Spoon into hot, sterilized jars, placing a whole chilli on top of each jar (opt). Leave to get completely cold before covering, sealing and labelling. Store in a cool, dry place. Best left for a month to mature before eating, and correctly stored will keep for at least six months.

Final recipe today is for a pear chutney, and a useful way to use the 'fallings' as the pears need to be hard. Good to eat not just with cheese and oatmeal biscuits, but also makes a good accompaniment to grains such as 'tabbouleh' and 'pilaff', and 'couscous' .
As with the above recipe, leave for a month to mature before eating, and it will store for up to one year. One well worth making to add to that Christmas Hamper you are planning to give as a gift.
Pear and Walnut Chutney: makes 4 lb (1.8kg)
2.5lb (1.2kg) firm pears
8 oz (225g) tart apples (Granny Smith etc)
8 oz (225g) onions
6 oz (175g) sultanas
zest and juice of 1 orange
4 oz (100g) walnuts, roughly chopped
15fl oz (450ml) cider vinegar
14 oz (400g) sugar
half tsp ground cinnamon
Peel and core the pears, then cut into 1" (2.5cm) chunks. Peel and chop the onions into the same size, then place both into a preserving pan with the vinegar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes until tender, stirring from time to time. Meanwhile put the orange juice and sultanas into a bowl and leave to soak.
When the pears/onions are tender, add the OJ, sultanas and the sugar to the pan, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for a further half hour (maybe longer) or until the chutney is thick and no excess liquid has remained - always remembering to stir often.
Toast the chopped walnuts in a dry frying pan for 5 minutes, then stir into the chutney with the cinnamon, then spoon into hot, sterilized jars, cover and seal. Store in a cool, dry place for a month before using, and use within a year.