Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Book Review - The Jam Maker's Garden

There are three bays of cookery books in our local bookshop, celebrity chefs beaming out from the front cover of most volumes, but I could find only one book devoted to preserves (a worthy River Cottage manual).  So I was more than happy to hear about this new book by Holly Farrell published today. In one volume there are fifty recipes covering the the full breadth of ingredients and techniques.  The presentation is modern: recipes are afforded a page each with a facing page picture.  The content is modern to match:  No old fashioned Piccalilli, but in it's place Giardiniera  (or Mostarda di Frutta if you really have a craving for mustard).  No pickled onions as such but pickled garlic instead.

The organisation and internal cross referencing, from the fulsome Contents page to the separate indices for plants and recipes, ensure easy navigation to your chosen topic one way or another. I particularly appreciate the "Use in" jam jar tag on the Growing pages. So if you have a glut of apples, for instance,  you can see that there are eight recipes which include this ingredient. Unlike the celebrity chefs this author is happy to keeps a low profile and allow the recipes to take top billing.

My Pickled Rhubarb

My first cheeky question to the publisher was: Are there any rhubarb recipes? and sure enough there are two - both of which I have now had a stab at. There is also the option to make rhubarb cordial/syrup. The instructions were easy to follow and the quantities sensible rather than industrial.   Other inclusions you wouldn't find in traditional preserves books: Pesto, Chilli jam and Chilli dipping sauce as well as "so retro as to be modern" Rosehip syrup.  I have not focused closely on the Growing pages mostly because I am up and running on the ingredients front. All the signs are that the recommendations have been well considered.  I feel a novice would have to be very patient to hold off on these recipes until their growing plans came to fruition but I guess that is the nature of growing. You can also buy when seasonal to enjoy the lowest prices. Having said that, now that I have a recipe, I just might get a quince and/or medlar.

All in all I have no hesitation in giving this book 5 stars and recommending it to anyone looking for a  comprehensive contemporary preserving guide.

Making Jam

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A Late Goal for Chelsea?

As I write this Chelsea and Arsenal are about to take to the pitch to contest the FA Cup Final. But my Chelsea goal is simply to get these allium Puple Sensation to flower before the Chelsea Flower Show finishes - and before all the tulips go over!

This bed at the front of the house has been my foray into flowers since I dug up the disappointing hydrangea that occupied it to date.

Back to edibles:

The cucurbit team forming a defensive wall:

Together with the sweetcorn the should be more than enough for this year's cucurbit patch!

Purple Sensation

7/6/17 Here's a later picture of the purple sensation:

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Situation Contained

I'm trying a couple of edibles in containers at home this year and they are taking off:  

Potatoes and Spinach
There are three Winston in the potato planter.  The supermarket caddy has holes drilled in the bottom and the spinach seems very happy with it.  Today I will be picking every second spinach plant for the pot and hoping the rest will resist the temptation to bolt.  A second supermarket caddy has been deployed as my coriander patch.  I am determined to figure out how to grow coriander for leaf, and this is my best attempt at controlling the growing conditions.  Moisture, fertility, and no extreme temperatures.  Because it is portable I hope to be able to get a handle on it (apologies).

Handle with Care

Saturday, 20 May 2017

In Mint Condition

A couple of weeks ago I was taking mint cuttings and ended up with some trimmings consisting of 2 leaves and an inch of stem. Not much to go on, but rather than discard these I balance them by their leaves across a jam jar of water on the kitchen windowsill so that the bottom of the stalk was submerged.  Here's what happened

and here's another that is a week older.

The reason I happened to have a jam jar of water on the windowsill was because I was trying out a system for taking basil cuttings and rooting them in water.  While slower than mint the basil went on to develop dramatic roots too:

I will now be potting these up.  The basil I have sown at the same time is minuscule so I think this method for generating successional cropping will be very useful for basil.

For mint it just proves how vigorous mint is!  If you plant roots it will grow leaves and if you soak leaves/stem it will develop roots!

If you would like  to read more about mint cuttings and how they fare why not visit Darren's  blog at Darren's Mint

Peppermint Twist

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Ready Set... Go Go Go

Edinburgh has had a terribly dry, dull, cold April and early May this year but things seem to progressing even before the promised rain of this weekend.  My early early row of potatoes has started emerging (and are being dutifully mounded). I've never been keen on watering spuds but I made an exception for the really early ones and they seem to have responded.

The Potato Patch

As you can see there are a lot more yet to emerge. Even the weeds have been discouraged by the conditions!

The soft fruit area is getting a move on too and soon I will have to sling a net over the newly painted wooden frame

Soft Fruit Cage

The redcurrants are shaping up nicely....

,,,and so are the gooseberries:

Three rows of raspberries seem to have sprung to life.

Not forgetting the strawberries

Strawberry Patch
Next door to the soft fruit the alliums are leaning to the light source from the south. The latest planting of sets is to the left and that's two rows of elephant garlic on the right with ordinary garlic between it and four rows of onion sets in varying degrees of development as some were presprouted at home and others set out directly.
Squeezed in at the end I've recently planted out the first leeks (Jolant). Not sure where I will put the next lot (Musselburgh) when they are ready.

Leek planting and Rhubarb
Maybe I have been over generous in the space allocated to carrots. All the more because they have to be netted. I really am trying to make a success of carrots this year, being one of the crops that we eat most of all the year round, and yet they did miserably last year. (The tunnel to the left is sown but the hooped tunnel is going to house our main crop - and, hopefully keep out the root fly.

Carrot Nets
These peas and broad been are squatting between the weed suppressant fabric for the brassicas and the WSF for the cucurbits. The runner beans and French beans have been allocated another similar sized area on the other side of the brassicas which is currently still covered with WSF - which won't be removed until the last moment before planting out.

Broad Beans and Peas
It's the bit with the bricks in the foreground here:
Room for Brassicas and Beans
With these preparations and the sowing and growing in the greenhouse at home, and the promise of rain this weekend,  it really is all about to go in a clatter!

Go Go Go

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Swanning Around

There are some new kids on the block - well cygnets really:

This picture was taken today and the following was taken on Monday at the nest site at the end of the pond:

Other ponds in Edinburgh and the canal seem to accomodate lots of swans but our pond seems to support a single breeding pair each year. Later in the year the adults drive off the youngsters.  There is a lot of interest locally and someone has taken it upon themselves to post updates on the pond railings for the benefit of all.

It is always exciting to see how many will be in the brood and this year's count is 4. Dad has been very attentive in the run up to the hatching and subsequently

Hopefully there won't be a repeat of the calamitous events 3 years ago when the RSSPCA  had to step in to rescue the brood and their mother when the dad disappeared. Mr Fox has been cited but the case is not proven.

White Swan

Friday, 5 May 2017

Votive Offering - Delayed

 I made Hot Cross Buns today.  OK I know I am three weeks late, but I have a good reason- the oven was bust and took three weeks to get repaired (under guarantee). Of course by that time Easter had come and gone.  To make amends I bought some expensive hot cross buns on Good Friday from an artisan bakery at over £1 each.  Either by accident or design they had no fruit in them aside from some candied peel.  It didn't pass muster with family. So today I gave in to the request for "the real thing" and baked this batch.

I am happy to report that they passed the taste test.

The top picture also shows off our new kitchen table covering. Doesn't that hen look peckish?

Friday On My Mind