Saturday, 28 December 2013

After the Party's Over.... There's Always Soup

One of the highlights of our Christmas was this dessert inspired by a surprise course we were served when we visited the Musee Des Beaux Arts in Lyon last October: 

But now it's back to more common or garden fare: Leeks and Neeps make a fantastic soup (along with turkey stock)

I ground up this root today and now have a jam jar of macerated horseradish in vinegar at the ready in the fridge. 

Here's the last of the homegrown carrots (also heading for the soup pot)

Not pictured are some red cabbages which go very well with ham.

So despite the lack of posts, and the bad weather, allotment life continues... just more slowly.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Forking Parsnips

 Parsnips are one of those trusty crops you can rely on to bring a bit of winter cheer.  Provided you get them to germinate and don't lose the seedlings among weeds they look after themselves.  Come the first frosts you can start to dig them up and see what you have got...    Well not this year:

Carrots and Forked Parsnips

On the left carrots, on the right parsnips. It is noticeable that the white carrot has surpassed its brother parsnips, and that the parsnips are all forked.

To go back to spring, I tried a bit of an experiment this year growing the parsnips in root trainers (or more precisely toilet rolls).  As soon as the roots showed any sign of outgrowing their container I transplanted them out into a prepared bed.  My method of preparation was to make a tailor made conical hole for each plant with a stick (I didn't have a crowbar handy) and fill it with a mixture of soil, sand and compost. I avoided animal manure as this is known to cause forking.  I had it on good authority that this is how show parsnips are grown.  My results are rubbish, and worse, no good for the table.  Next year its back to the tried and trusted method:  Sow outdoor in March. Thin out and weed, but absolutely no transplanting.  You live and learn.  Now what are we going to do about our homegrown parsnips for Christmas Dinner tradition?

Just to show you the difference, here's a:

Link to Parsnip from 2011

and a

Link to Parsnip in 2010

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Croissant Another One Off

Today I achieved a baking ambition.  For the first time ever I made croissants:

 The first batch was a bit rushed (we wanted them for breakfast).  The second batch rose a bit more:


There's quite a pit of technique involved in layering the dough/butter and rolling them up.  They were just a little too "bready" so maybe next time I will use different flour mix (this was 100% strong white) and not work the dough quite so much. But make no mistake I am delighted with the results.

Went to the plot to work breakfast off: Not so pretty, but the bean pit in the foreground is coming on nicely!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Full of Beans

Today I shelled out the Canadian Wonder beans
Canadian Wonder
 It's been a good crop (last year they flopped - literally and the crop was lost)
Bean there...
 They have been drying for a week or two in their pods:

Dried Bean Pods

I maybe should have waited a bit longer before de-podding them, but I got fed up with them hanging around:

Drying in the bag
So although the runner beans have come to an end we will be enjoying our home grown beans for a while yet.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

I Guess That's That!

It has been a wonderfully extended season....

A Week Ago

...but all good things come to an end!


Friday, 8 November 2013

Baking Daze

Post holiday doldrums?
Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Swirls

I've been trying to increase the variety of my breads and revisited a few I haven't tried for a while.

Soft Pretzels
I was reminded to try these again after they featured on the GBB.

Rye Loaf
and this is the Rye recipe that works best (with a butter glaze).

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Has Beans?

It's been a good year for beans.  I picked runner beans today, a whole month later than I would have expected.  The September cold snap normally switches them off, but this year they stuttered and picked up again. That's a real bonus.

All the same I decided today to harvest the Canadian Wonder. The weather must be turning soon, and already they have stopped in their tracks. Time to bring them under cover.  These are usually classified as Dwarf French beans in the catalogues. I grow them for drying. They don't stay green for long and for seed they produce what we all know as "Red Kidney Beans"

I've got all stages left on the plants:  

It is important to dry them off properly, and to do so in the pod.  There must be some magic natural chemical in the pods which inhibits mould.  It's hard to enough find space. Most are in the plastic covered shelving (the basil has been moved indoors). But for the final push this is a surefire place to dry them off completely.

It's looking like a bumper crop this year!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Lyonnais Pea Tree?

Been for a visit to Lyon. Came across an interesting tree in Parc Tete D'Or

Peas in a Pod?

Mimosa Albizia Julibrissin - Persian Silk Tree
A fantastic public park with Botanic Gardens

Banana seed pod

Mexican Garden

Flower Garden - lots of Dahlias

and a Zoo

Bat Eared Foxes

New arrival out for a gambol
And here are some other snaps of the sights of Lyon:

Goodbye Lyon

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Breadmaker Bread

Here's today's breadmaker bread

and here's the previous batch:

Breadmakers have been getting a bad press courtesy of a certain Mr Cameron. I am a breadmaker fan.  (I've worn two out) but I never BAKE bread in my breadmaker.  In 90 minutes it will have reliably mixed kneaded and proved whatever dough I choose to put in it.  Sometimes I leave it to sit for an extra 30 mins or an hour, sometimes I get the machine to knock down the risen dough in a brief second knead, before swithing off the machine mid cycle. Always I remove the proved dough, shape it, on a baking sheet, baguette tray or in a tin and, after a further rise, bake it in the kitchen oven.  Not as convenient as Mr C's "load at night ready when you wake up" loaf but a whole lot better tailored to our tastes. (Also no trouble removing that paddle from the bottom of the loaf.

What was hilarious was to hear Dan Lepard, venerated author of "The Handmade Loaf" being lectured by some woman on the radio who was blinded by the therapeutic benefits of getting your hands in the dough and hanging around for hours on end.  What if you work all day at something else, commute and consequently have restricted time? What if you have arthritis (as Dan asked), or exzema or some other skin condition?  And what if , as I frequently find, your hands are grimy after a weeding session???  Bread machines are a boon, make no mistake!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Early Nantes Catches The Worm?

Not if you cover it with a fine mesh net!

I've started cropping the carrots from the carrot temple:

Thank goodness I netted them.  There's no carrot root fly on any of the varieties. And thank goodness I bothered to label the rows:

Not So Early Nantes would be a true description.  The trouble is that once you have a net in place there is a natural reluctance to remove it so weeding and thinning can be overlooked for rather too long.  Here's the net with parsnips beside and Runner Beans and Sweetcorn beyond.

Encouraged by the results I've even got a second net of (very) late sown carrots; Quick growing Paris Market.

I've weeded and thinned since taking this picture, but they have got some way to go before producing an edible crop. I've got plenty to keep us going even if they don't come good in time. 

The nets aren't so pretty, but when the light catches them at a certain angle...

"Medication Time!"

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sweet Success

Today I decided to grasp the nettle and pick my four biggest sweetcorn to see if they were ripe enough to eat.

I'm happy to report they were.

and boy they were sweet!

These were the same sweetcorn that I sowed too early, but they hung on until it was warm enough to plant them out.  They each developed two side shoots which were a waste of time when it came to producing cobs (but the advice was not to cut these off). One cob per plant was not an overwhelming yield, but today I feel they have fully justified the space devoted to them!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

18 Carrot Gold (White and Purple)

Started digging up the maincrop carrots:

Well pleased with the "Blanche a Collet Vert Hors Terre" -  Green-Collared White Carrot.  Trades Descriptions could have no argument with that.

Runner beans been knocked by the high winds and plummeting temperatures, but still cropping

as are the courgettes:

Time for a bit of piccalilli

 and plum jam

Talk about a season of mellow fruitfulness!