Monday, January 30, 2012

Basil Pesto

At this time of year, the basil in the garden really starts to get going so it is a good time to stock up on pesto for the year. I make a pesto base of basil, olive oil and walnuts which I mush up in the food processor. I then store this in the freezer until I need it and then finish it off with grated parmesan and some minced garlic. I add these 2 ingredients later as I read somewhere that they spoil the flavour of the final product when frozen.
It probably took me less than 10 minutes to make 3 small pots of pesto base for the freezer. And pruning the basil to pick these leaves will just make it sprout more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Plums, plums and yes ...more plums.

The Japanese blood plums (Satsuma I think) have had an amazing crop this year. This photo was taken  after I had picked at least a couple of buckets. The blackbirds have developed a bit of a taste for them despite the CDs hanging in the branches to frighten them off. Last weekend I made a very attractive scarecrow to put near the tree and each day I have been putting a transistor radio tuned to a very annoying station under the tree as well to try to deter them.
A very scary scarecrow
 At least I have been able to give the plums an extra week to ripen. But when I heard some parrots in the garden on Saturday, I decided to pick the bulk of the crop. So it has been plums, plums and more plums this weekend.   I have bottled, made jam, made plum sauce, and for the first time, a Blood Plum cordial.

This is a photo of the resulting cordial mixed with some soda water.
 Very refreshing on a warm evening. It is made from plums stewed with a little orange juice and lemon juice and then strained through muslin. The liquid is then mixed with an equal amount of sugar and simmered for a few minutes. The pulp came in useful to make some plum leather.
Plum leather

The zucchinis are starting to go crazy as well so I have started making my favourite zucchini pickle recipe. As well as onion and zucchini salted overnight, you also salt some lemon rind and add them to the the pickle a lovely lemony edge.
No not more plums but my zucchini pickle

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Raspberry vinegar and the garlic harvest.

Time for an update on activity in the Flowerdale patch now.  The raspberries have been fruiting for several weeks and we are still getting a few now although the peak has past. Last weekend, I decided to make some raspberry vinegar to mix into a salad dressing. This is a fairly simple operation. Mix equal quantities of raspberries and vinegar in a bowl and let them sit for a week. Strain. Then add sugar and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes.  That’s it.  The amount of sugar depends on how sweet you like the vinegar. My recipe says to for a cup of vinegar add a cup of sugar but in the past I found this was way too sweet for my taste. I only use a third of that and it is just nice.

Raspberry Vinegar
My garlic planted last March April was also ready for harvest around Christmas time. I thought I would have a go at plaiting it, European style. It is not the best, but at least it looks better than the lot I did last year so my technique must be improving. It is now hanging in the storeroom ready  for use. I really love it roasted whole with a whole lot of other veges in winter.
My (poor) attempt at garlic plaiting!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Food Adventures in Nepal Part 3

terraced paddies
 The slow pace of trekking is a great way to observe the self sufficient lifestyle of the villagers in Nepal. We were there for late autumn harvests so got to see quite a bit of activity.
rice ready for harvest

Harvesting on the lower lands of the Annapurna panorama circuit

The main crops in evidence were rice in various stages of growth and harvest, mustard in flower or being winnowed, corn drying under the eaves of buildings, curry leaves drying on the roof of our guest house in Ghandruk.
Curry leaves drying on the roof in Ghandruk
Yellow flowers of mustard in fields near Nagarcot
Grain harvest at Hille

Winnowing mustard seed in Ghandruk
working with the harvest on a rooftop in Thimi
Corn cobs drying in Mulkarka
But now it is back to the Preserving Patch summer activities. Stay tuned, the harvest has begun in Flowerdale too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dal bhaat and momos. Food Adventures in Nepal Part 2

Dal bhaat is a staple of Nepali food. When we were living at the school we had it every day for lunch and dinner. Being used to an extremely varied diet at home, I thought I would get sick of it very quickly but surprisingly I really enjoyed it. I learnt to appreciate the subtle variations of vegetables used in the curry, whether or not it came with pappadums or pickle and whether it was followed by curds and fruit. One feature of ordering dal bhaat is that you are offered top ups of rice, dal or vegetables so it is a great way of making sure you refuel sufficiently when trekking. At this time of the year the curry is mostly made with cauliflower and potatoes.  The whole lot is served on a steel platter divided into compartments for each of the components.

Momos originate in Tibet but as there are a lot of Tibetans living in Nepal, they have become widespread on restaurant menus but you also see them steaming away in big pots in little roadside shops where locals buy them for a snack. They are basically a steamed dumpling similar to ravioli, filled with vegetables or meat.