Us humans might not have enjoyed the recent heatwave, but the chillies certainly have.
This year has been a big year for me, when it comes to my chilli plants. For one, I actually have some! After such a long time away from meaningful growing. I did sow and grow some plants. There are less than a dozen, but these are tall, bushy and as you can see abundant!
It would appear that this is the most successful season for chillies; far exceeding the six that I managed to grow in the hot, heady days of 2009. That was the year I started experimenting with seeds and started my GYO journey. I’ve not had much success since then when it comes to good cropping chillies.
With the warm weather, I’ve been picking chillies twice a week. The most that I’ve picked has been about a dozen. If you think about it, that many would cost you about a quid in the supermarket. These are the most complex variety; this are rather straight forward cayennnes. It’s a big deal for me, to have an abundant crop and to be able to enjoy the fruits. My sister’s been given some, her mother-in-law too; Mama F’s using them as they come for bits and pieces in the kitchen.
Above all, this experience has been rather revitalising. I’ve really enjoyed fussing over my chilli plants and making sure that they are looked after. Especially as there are only tomatoes and soft fruit on the plot. I need to develop a better routine for the plot, to get more of the soft fruit harvested.
There is a joy in having vibrant, happy chilli plants. I do hope they keep going for a while. I’ve never over-wintered them, and the latest I get a crop is September. I will continue to nurture them; they’ve certainly nurtured me.
April 2016 saw the publication of Sow, Grow and Eat AKA the green book. This was a book that was actually quite quick on the heels of Plant Pot tales-the yellow book. As such, there was a similar format. The first third is about the allotment, the different lessons learned and a continuation of what was recorded in the yellow book. The rest of the book concentrated on recipes and what could be done with allotment produce.
The green book was borne out of my experimentation with a preserving pan. I had made jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles. These were shared with friends, family as well as colleagues. It was interesting to think about what could go into a preserve to make extra-ordinary, to make something that stood out from what you find in a supermarket.
There are a few recipes that are actually dedicated, are in honour of colleagues and friends. A couple, come from the physics department and an attempt to be as creative as possible.
As with the yellow book, I tried to make the recipes as simple as I could. I don’t believe in making things complicated, preventing people from accessing and then not enjoying anything. The recipes are all experiments though; all of them are open to interpretation, improvement and extension. From time to time, I do look through the book and remind myself of the different things that I have made. It does rather encourage me to try and extend the variety, to do more experiments once I have the plot up and running again.
I do believe that I will write another cook-book type of book. It is sat on my desk, waiting for me to flesh it out.
You’ll have seen lots of recipes being experimented with on the blog, and the subsequent book. So playing with allotment produce is nothing new!
The fabulous folks at Waltons are looking for the most creative, most edible recipes of allotment recipes. Having harvested lots of courgettes, beans, raspberries and currants, Petal and I are glad to be of help.
Nothing quite like a competition to get those alloment produce juices flowing. Closing at 5pm on the 28th, why not enter, make a contribution? The prize is a garden storage unit worth £149, just like the one here: https://www.waltons.co.uk/4×3-overlap-osb-roof-floor and there are some great runners up prizes, too.
Plus, Waltons plan to publish an ebook of recipes, with all authors being credited. Sounds fab to me, have a go!
Click on the link below to enter.
At the start of this year, I had a list. A list of books to write. This list got re-arranged and the Peace Novella Series bloomed and blossomed to take shape. That project is very near a final completion; my novella is now on pre-order and will come to fruition mid-January.
This means that I can now resume ruminating on my to-do list. I have spent the last two weeks looking at notebooks and folders, trying to conjure up things. It is painful, when you sit there for forty minutes looking at your handwriting and you can’t see a single solitary thing in your minds eye.
What is the use, if you just can’t? What if in that particular set of pages, that universe isn’t materialising?
There is no point in defying the laws of physics and trying to make something out of nothing. Especially, when I already have something that is started.
Eleven months ago, I stashed away the idea of writing another gardening/cookbook. It didn’t feel right, there was nothing in the tank. I couldn’t settle on what to do and how; I wasn’t sure as to what I could offer and whether it was of any use.
Then I drove to work this morning.
I had Maroon5’s Red Pill Blues on shuffle.
I remembered this folder, this idea.
Coming home, I had to go find it, and flick through. I felt zinging, I was trying to smile. There was half a plan all those months ago.
Time to let it roll.
There are many allotmenteers and GYO-ers across the country who have sown and grown Okra. I’ve yet to join that number, maybe when the poly tunnel is up and running. However, I did manage to grow some of the tomatoes that can used along side okra to cook up an Indian dish.
Okra are probably not the first thing to come to mind when you think of Indian food. They are however fairly straight forward to cook up. You can either chop or slice them, and Okra do have a tendency to be sticky and a bit like wall paper paste when handled too much.
The ones in this dish were sliced and then added to the base. As usual, the base is onions, garlic and ginger which is sauteed with cumin in olive oil and butter. I added about six home grown Roma and Marmande tomatoes before adding spices and salt; may have added too much salt today, but you can also throw in a new potato or too to help take it away.
Make sure you keep an eye on the okra, and add some water. This will prevent them from burning and allow steam to cook through. Stir too much, and you may end up with a mush; not enough, and you will have Okra welded to the bottom of the pan.
There are two parts to this blog post. The first involves the stash of home brewed wine that is developing rather nicely.
Ready and waiting
Today, I have bottled up a batch of Rhubarb and currant wine. This has been lingering for sometime and was brewed in August last year. One of many different varieties, the batch was racked off into small bottles, wrapped up and stowed away. When bottled, it was actually transparent-you could see right through it, and there was little or no sediment left behind. Like all the others, this batch has been wrapped up in brown paper so that it doesn’t fade. I have taken a quick inventory, and we do have something of a stash developing. To date, we have bottled up:
- Strawberry wine
- Blackberry, plum and currant
- Rhubarb and Currant
There is apple wine, blackberry and mixed berry and Rhubarb and goosebery left to do later in the year.
Most of the wine is transparent on racking, and you can see right through it. It is only through repeated racking that you get wine that is completely see through whilst keeping it’s natural colour. As the wines are so varied, they will need to be stored and allowed to mature sufficiently. I have to say though, that the blackberry ones are a rather nice claret colour that does look rather proper! There id definitely more than one way to preserve alloment produce, and Petal plonk isn’t too bad at all.
That’s the home brew developments today. Then come the mooli pods. Mama F has found some Mooli pods-these are seed pods from bolted radiishes-in the freezer.
Very simple to make, Mama F created a sauteed base of onions, garlic and ginger before adding the mooli pods, tomatoes and potatoes. We might not have got any radishes, but the seed pods are edible and you can see use the produce that you do get quite effectively.
When you have radishes that bolt, you get seed pods. Or Moongreh as they are known in our house. Moongreh, or Mooli pods as I call them, could also be dried and you might want to save the seeds for next year. You could also eat them.
Eating them is fun, and one of the most vivid memories from my childhood. In the back garden, my paternal grandmother would occasionally sow mooli-that’s the other name for Japanese radish-however, these would bolt given the rather erratic nature of British Summer. When they would bolt, you would get a flush of white flowers that would dry off and leave behind these short fat, sometimes pointy seedpods. Seeds pods, that a child could snap off as they played and munch on quite happily whilst giggling at their peppery flavour.
And boy are they peppery. Just like a radish, each bite is a burst that does rather blow away the cobwebs.
You can munch on them, straight from the plant; you can also curry them. Crushed mooli pods combined with potatoes are actually quite nice!
Okay, the preserving pan has been sat idle for a while; the last batch of preserve was made in August. This close to Christmas, I might have made a few more bits and pieces. Alas, the mojo has been a bit adrift.
The last batch that we made was ‘Oberon’s relish’ which involve apples, mint and green tomato. This has all now gone to loving homes, so I thought about doing some experimenting. There were some plot grown scotch bonnets that need to be used, and I also harvested a fair bit of mint from the allotment. Home grown garlic was also used to form the base of the chutney.
an assortment of spices
scotch bonnets and mint ready to go
You can see the youtube video here.
It does take time to prepare all of the ingredients; lots was chopped up before it could all get combined. Patience is required when cooking, to ensure that all of the flavours infuse and nothing burns. You really don’t want to be scrubbing the bottom of the preserving pan when burned stuff has welded itself there.
At the moment, the chutney is going to be very intense and quite fiery. Hopefully, it will mellow for a while before it can be tasted.
It will be soon that time of year again, where we cannot move for Pumpkins. There are two of our-well, Mama F’s-that are waiting in the wings to meet their merry end. In the mean time though, you may have a few allotment squashes hanging around that need to meet their end.
There were a few round courgettes that were floating around looking rather sorry for themselves. Mama F has decided to make a curry type dish with them, and I just happen to be in the vicinity to catch it on film.
You can also view the clip here.
The recipe is simple enough. Onions, garlic and ginger were sauteed in a pan with some cumin. Ma then added spices to these, and cooked them through to infuse the flavour. She also added Punjabi Wadi-these are made of urid dahl and are effectively dried spiced dumplings-a bit like a bollywood oxo cube, just a bit grittier. These are spiced, and give a little more depth to the dish.
Once that base of the mixture is cooked through, chopped squashes were added. They were already in water, so there was no need to add extra. Allow this to all cook through, under cover so as to allow steam to cook the squashes through. The dish is done when the squash is tender, but not too squishy or mushy.
Depending on how coarse and stringy the squash is, this will influence how long you cook it for. Don’t forget to stir, otherwise it will burn. Keep it all on a moderate heat, just to make sure; this also allows the water to be soaked up.
You can also view the second clip here.