Thursday 23 September 2010

Green Tomato Chutney

Remember the huge bowl of green tomatoes we picked when our tomato plants began succumbing to blight a few weeks ago? We are now enjoying them in a lovely green tomato chutney - especially delicious with cheese - the recipe for which I found in Thane Prince's book 'Jams and Chutneys: Preserving the Harvest', and, of course, tweaked a bit.

Green Tomato Chutney
  • Chop 1kg green tomatoes, 375g onions and 250g cooking apples.
  • Place in a large pan with 300ml cider vinegar and simmer for about 30 minutes until soft.
  • Add 3 or 4 crushed garlic cloves, and ginger and chilli to taste. The recipe used fresh but I didn't have any, so I guessed at 2 tsps mild chilli powder and 2 tsps dried ginger.
  • Add 1 tsp salt and 250g sugar, simmer very gently until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and simmer for a further 30-40 minutes until reduced and thick. Mind the bottom doesn't burn!
  • Pour into hot sterilised jars (sterilise jars by washing well then placing them in a cold oven, heating it to 140C, then turning the heat off. Boil the lids/rubber rings in a pan of water for a few minutes), seal and label.
Who'd have thought making chutney would be so easy!?

Wednesday 15 September 2010

A Day Without Learning is a Day Wasted

This is how our allotment looks at the moment:

Gah! But don't be fooled; it's not all nettles and fat hen. There's asparagus, cauliflowers, broccoli, calabrese, herbs, leeks, swedes, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, runner beans, beetroots and all manner of courgettey squashy things in there too. And check out those sunflowers!

This past week we've dug up most of our potatoes. It's not a very impressive harvest - I guess those late frosts did more damage than we thought - but they'll keep us going for a while, and I suspect there are a few more more deep ones to be found when we have time to dig over the patch a second time.

We also brought home our apple harvest; three times what we had last year! Although one as you can see has been munched by a maggot.

And we brought home our garlic too; thirteen small but lovely bulbs. One of them had gone to flower, and what a funny creature! At the top of the flower stem was a bunch of tiny garlic cloves, exactly the same as the ones that form bunched together in the ground! Who knew? I'd never have guessed they grow cloves both at the bottom and at the top of the plant!

Well, you learn something new every day!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

King of the North

A rather grand name for a vegetable, but then my 'King of the North' peppers (seeds from Real Seeds) are indeed performing rather grandly, despite a weak start, and have given us another NomeGrown first.

Small but perfectly formed, and one of perhaps twenty or more on three plants. It smelled lovely - so sweet and fresh - but, like my cucumbers, tasted rather bitter. Not too bitter, but still a shame. I must make sure this doesn't happen next year. Somehow...

I chopped this one up with some mushrooms and tomatoes and turned it into a veggie and cheese omelette for supper. Yum!

Monday 6 September 2010

Nome makes Chutney

My Nanna used to make the most incredible beetroot chutney. Whenever we went to her house I always hoped it would be on the lunch table, and ever since those days I've tried every beetroot chutney I've seen, looking for one as good. I've always been disappointed. So when I started growing my own vegetables, I promised myself that one day I'd have a go at making my own beetroot chutney, and this year we've finally produced enough beetroots to give it a go!

I found a recipe by Rick Stein (in fact it's been pinned to my noticeboard for a couple of years now) and edited it a little (I don't like raisins!). Unlike my courgette pickle, I decided to bottle it up properly this time so it would keep for a good long time, so I headed out to a specialist kitchen shop to get some jars. There are so many different types, I didn't know where to start! I ended up buying a selection, so I could find out which ones I preferred for next time! In the end, I reused a couple of old jars I found at home as well.

Beetroot Chutney

  • Peel and coarsely shred 900g beetroot, 450g onions and 675g apples. (The original recipe said cooking apples but I used ordinary eating apples.) I used the julienne blade on my mandolin.
  • Place into a heavy-based pan with 2 tbsps ground ginger, 1 tbsp mustard powder, 1 or 2 tsps chilli powder, 900g granulated sugar, 40g salt, 1.2 litres malt vinegar and the juice of a lemon.
  • Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and simmer gently, UNCOVERED, for about two hours, until it's well reduced and quite thick. (I missed the 'uncovered' part at first, and then had to simmer for much longer to reduce it!)
  • Meanwhile, sterilise jars by washing well then placing them in a cold oven, heating it to 140C, then turning the heat off. Boil the lids/rubber rings in a pan of water for a few minutes.
  • Spoon the warm chutney into the warm jars, seal, and label.
Having heard how messy dealing with raw beetroot can be, I carefully made sure I had everything I needed to hand, wore black, rolled up my sleeves and prepared it in the sink. But I really don't know what all the fuss is about! My plastic mandolin came through the experience unstained, as did my worksurfaces, my hands and everything else.

The verdict? Well, I don't know if it's quite as good as Nanna's, but oh it's good. I've been eating loads of it in ham sandwiches. A teeny bit too sweet perhaps, but that probably serves me right for using the wrong kind of apples. I will certainly be making it again next year. In fact, there are still a few beetroots in the ground to use this year too...

Saturday 4 September 2010

Blasted Blight

Yup, it got us in the end. I've been convincing myself for weeks that the black marks on a few tomato leaves were nothing to worry about, since the rest of the plant looked so healthy.

But today I found this:

And this!

Only one plant has bitten the dust so far, although I'm considering destroying the one next to it, which was in contact with it. It has a few leaf marks but no other signs yet. And I harvested nearly a kilo of green tomatoes from the infected plant, which I'm hoping to use somehow. As you can see, we're getting plenty of ripe tomatoes now from our nine (now eight) plants.

Look at this - isn't it the weirdest looking tomato plant you've seen?

This is the Sub-Arctic Plenty, which has always looked sickly but has lovely large round ripe fruits. It's virtually blue! I've no idea what's wrong with it. I dunno - maybe it's supposed to look like this...?

Friday 3 September 2010

Bobby Seeds, and a Break in Brighton

Aaaah, we've just returned from a few days in Brighton - a wedding anniversary treat.

We only chose it because it's cheap and easy to get to by train from here, but with a wide choice of bars and cafes right on the beach, and a maze of arty crafty gifty shops to rival Camden market and Glastonbury festival put together, what a perfect place to spend a few days shopping and relaxing! The highlights for me as always (after the exceptional company, of course) were the eating places.

We treated ourselves to far too many full English breakfasts, a three course meal at Jamie's Italian, a huuuuge spread of Spanish tapas, and lobster on the seafront while the sun set. Bliss.

Anyway, now to something more gardening-related.

I've mentioned a few times before how I've searched long and hard for 'Moneta' cucumber seeds these last few years to no avail. Well, on my latest search, after our 'Wautoma' turned out terribly bitter (they got worse and worse as they went along, whatever I did - bleugh!) I found some - and found an interesting new seed supplier at the same time.

Bobby Seeds is based in Germany, and stocks hundreds of rare and unusual varieties, particularly of tomatoes and curcubits. I was so excited I went ahead and ordered my 'Moneta' seeds straight away ready for next year! Prices are in Euros, but checking out via Paypal makes payment very easy, and seeds and postage are pretty cheap. Watch out for some dodgy German-English translations though... I urge all who like to try something different to give it a look!
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