I’m a reluctant cook. Having churned out meal after meal for my family for the past fourteen or so years, I can honestly tell you I get more pleasure from weeding a muddy vegetable plot in the rain than trying to think up and prepare yet another dinner. Mr G would be the adventurous cook in the kitchen here and I’m usually quite happy to leave him to it. (Particularly as he’s prone to making comments like “that tastes nice, where did you buy it…!?”)
That said I do enjoy preparing meals for friends and getting stuck into a bit of baking now and again (see yesterday’s post for some links and recipes to non vegetable/fruit containing bun recipes). It’s really just the day-to-day cooking that does nothing for me.
What does come with regular cooking however, is confidence. For several years I was an out and out recipe book girl, never veering away from the ingredients but as the years have past and the discovery of what works and doesn’t begins to sink in, I’ve become more adventurous.
Today was a case in point when I was looking for recipes for the basket of green tomatoes that’s been sitting here on the countertop for days. I came across two possibilities – one for bread and one for cake – both from US web sites. Every version I found was measured in cup sizes and to my mind much heavier on the butter and sugar than we would be used to here (two cups of sugar seems an awful lot, even for my sweet too). I therefore adapted a courgette cake recipe and added ingredients from the green tomato cake recipe found earlier. Voilà, it worked. We now have 24 buns containing an ingredient I wouldn’t have thought to add to cake in a month of Sundays.
The result tastes a bit like carrot cake – moist with a hint of spice. You’d only really know there were green tomatoes in the buns if you came across a piece that hadn’t been chopped up small enough and (I think) had been told they was in there. Certainly both our girls enjoyed eating the buns and hadn’t a clue!
If you have a large quantity of green tomatoes left at the end of the growing season and have made as much chutney as you can manage, I’d recommend whizzing what’s left in a food processor, bagging the mixture into portion sizes ready to make lots more cakes throughout the winter months. Why waste and compost a perfectly good food ingredient. You could argue they’re healthy cakes too as green tomatoes contain almost as much vitamin C as red ones!
Ingredients for Green Tomato & Lemon Curd Buns
Makes 24 buns
250g diced and strained green tomatoes
2 large eggs
125ml rapeseed oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Whiz the whole green tomatoes in a food processor until diced without being liquidised. Place in a sieve and rest over a bowl to drain the moisture, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the excess. Meanwhile add the oil, eggs and sugar to a bowl and mix until creamy. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with the creamy mixture and stir with a wooden spoon then add the drained green tomatoes, spices and sultanas until evenly mixed.
Spoon into bun cases and bake for 20- 25 mins until cooked. Leave to cool on a wire rack while you make the topping.
Lemon curd topping
75g butter, preferably unsalted
3 large free range eggs
75g caster sugar
125ml lemon juice (or approx 2 lemons juiced)
zest of 1 lemon
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add all the other ingredients and whisk to a custard over a gentle heat. Let cool before topping the buns with it. Keep any extra in the fridge as it’s lovely on toast too.
I’d love to hear how you get on with this recipe or if you adapt it to your own taste. The verdict here was a big all round hit. Two teenage lads were the initial guinea pigs and loved the buns, followed by our girls who didn’t know there were tomatoes in them and were mightily surprised when they were told afterwards!
Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny
Kilkenny is buzzing this week with the sixth year of the annual food extravaganza that is Savour Kilkenny currently taking place. There’s so much happening in the Marble City – from cooking demonstrations competitions, foraging and markets, tasting, talks and tasty tweet ups – every year the programme looks better and better.
Unfortunately I’ve yet to spend time at more than the atmospheric weekend market or for the third year running, Food Camp, but maybe next year we’ll make it to one of the evening meals instead of watching them unfold on twitter from the comfort of the sofa.
Blight Resistant Potatoes on the Parade
I’m a big fan of the Food Camp which I’ve written about before and would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet been to one to make a date for next year.
Food Camp is a place where anyone with an interest in food is encouraged to talk about it. This sharing of passion sends you home motivated, worried, excited and above all more informed about aspects of the food world than you were four hours previously (or seven if you’re there for the day). This year was no exception. It can be difficult to choose which topic you want to sit in on as three run at the same time, but I wasn’t disappointed listening to Sarah Baker share her passion for teaching children of all ages about where food comes from and how to cook it, William Despard of The Bretzel Bakery confused that parents would sooner buy fancy buns than decent bread or Natasha Czopar share her knowledge and enthusiasm for raw food.
Savour Kilkenny 2012
The last topic of the morning that sent me home uncomfortable about our future however, was from journalist Suzanne Campbell when she talked about sky rocketing global food prices that haven’t quite filtered down to us but soon will do.
Make no mistake, next year we’ll see food prices rise higher and higher, and they won’t be coming down in the foreseeable future either so we’re going to have to get used to paying a lot more for our weekly shopping. The global weather conditions – including droughts in the US to the long wet summers in Ireland and the UK will impact heavily. With our weekly or monthly housekeeping already stretched (and that’s before the November budget) surely it makes more sense than ever for people to grow their own food? Anything we can do to help keep our food bills at manageable levels has to be good and I for one will be planning to sow and grow more for my family next year.
In the meantime, this year we’ve had lots of squash growing in the polytunnel so when thinking about what to cook for the Food Camp lunch, given the event that it was, choosing to take a seasonal recipe along to the pot luck lunch seemed obvious. Slight confession here in that I didn’t use one of the several large winter squash growing here as my children had pestered my to buy some bright orange pumpkins for carving and we didn’t grow any this year. I did however, add some courgettes to the saucepan giving this a slight twist on the usual pumpkin soup. This recipe could easily be spiced up with the addition of some chilli or even a touch of five spice for a Far Eastern twist.
Winter squash harvest
Diced flesh from a medium pumpkin
Medium Courgette, diced
4 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 ltrs vegetable stock
25g (1oz) butter
finely grated nutmeg
freshly ground salt & pepper
Carefully cut the top from the pumpkin and scoop out the contents. Place the empty pumpkin to one side. Discard the seeds (or clean and roast) and spread out the pumpkin flesh on a roasting tray. Bake in the oven at 175ºC for about an hour.
Once roasted, melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring. Add the potato, roasted pumpkin, courgette, carrots and vegetable stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender. Cool a little, then purée in a liquidiser. Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk, grated nutmeg and season to taste.
To serve, empty the hot soup into the empty pumpkin and grate a little more nutmeg onto the top.
Ron & Mona Wise aka “The Chef & I”
My Savour Kilkenny experience ended by spending a few hours on the parade with two of our three children. Here we munched on the tastiest free range chicken baps, supped on Badger & Dodo lattes and hot chocolate then enjoyed meeting up with twitter friends and listening to Ron and Mona Wise talk and demonstrate how to cook a thanksgiving dinner…. mmmmm is all I can say to that, Ron’s stuffed turkey was something else and what a finish to a lovely couple of days.
The festival runs until Monday, 29th so you still have time to catch some of the events there. See the website for more details.
When I first started blogging back in June 2009 I was busy posting away to what I thought were just two followers. I didn’t mind, I was new to it, tentatively learning about this new blogging world and enjoying being able to write about my own gardening experiences.
Initially the idea was to share with my customers my own gardening experiences to help to give my fledgling business some credibility. As time went by I started to include tips and advice, recipes and anything else that popped into my head.
It was a few months before I found my stats page and delightedly discovered that more than two people were actually reading my posts. Whoopee – what a lovely surprise!
In 2010 I joined the KLCK Bloggers Network Group and my approach to social media took a new turn. The speakers at the group shared their vast experience and knowledge with us all, made us think differently about our content, encouraged us to plan our posts and have goals. Goals? Strategy? Yikes! All I wanted to do was write. Something must have been sinking in though as my page views steadily grew. As I realised that people were actually looking at my blog, my confidence in writing it began to grow too.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve watched the page views get closer to that magic milestone number of 50,000, helped along considerably by the unashamed pimping for the latest competition (thanks to everyone who’s helped there too). I found myself asking why I blog and where is it heading, what would you like to see, do stats matter, are they important? I was happy to write when I thought there was nobody looking, is it any different now that I’ve had 50,000 + page views? The answer is yes and no. No in that I still write because I enjoy it but the fact that you are reading the blog makes me think a lot more about what I’d like to include in it. The stats help me to see what interests you, where my writing came be of more help.
So for any newbie bloggers who are reading this now, or for anyone else who’s interested, as I pass my magic milestone I’m sharing the top five reasons why I blog…
1. Top of the list is because I enjoy writing. I find it therapeutic and like to lose myself here (for too long my husband might say…)
2. It’s a source of information for ‘my’ gardeners as well as for anyone else who likes to grow or eat vegetables or cares about the environment. It enhances my aftercare service as customers aren’t just left alone once the workshops or advice has finished.
3. I can share recipe ideas that we’ve tried and tested at home. Lots of people new to growing their own haven’t eaten or cooked many of the vegetables they’re growing.
4. Blogging helps to keep me focussed and continue with my own education. Some of the articles I’ve written I’ve had to seriously research, for instance the GM post. If I wasn’t blogging I’m not sure I’d be keeping quite so up-to-date about current and topical issues.
5. Because my blog’s a mixture of personal and business, it shows there’s a real person behind the business name who has as many successes, failures, angst and elation as the rest of you.
And to share the top five most popular blog posts since I began writing it….
So a massive thanks to everyone who’s dropped by – I hope you’ll be visiting again. There’s still lots of posts bubbling around in my head that I hope to spill out over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if there’s any topic you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment here or on any of the other social media sites I frequent (and for anyone who knows me, that’s most of them by now) and I’ll try and include them.
Perpetual spinach, rosemary, tarragon, chives and carrots
I’ve been asked a few times this week “what’re you harvesting/growing now in your veggie garden”, so on this misty, rainy late October morning out in the polytunnel having a quick tidy up, I took a few pics…
It mightn’t look like it but we are eating the spinach! The caterpillars had a good old munch this year but once the worst of the leaves were removed, the not so holey ones have been added to stir fries, curries and accompanying stews and roasts.
Still producing courgettes!
If you’ve been following Greenside Up on Twitter or Facebook you’ll know that our two indoor and one outdoor courgette plants have been prolific this year! Of the two plants in the polytunnel, one now has a bad dose of powdery mildew but this one is hanging on in there. There are a few recipes using courgettes on the tab above that we’ve enjoyed, the most recent being the courgette, pistachio and chocolate cake.
Strawberries and grapevine
These few strawberry plants that were moved into the tunnel during the early spring produced the sweetest berries. Sadly the magpies ate ALL the grapes!
Looking a bit holey now, we’ve had our best crop of chilli’s this year from the couple of plants grown. On advice from a community gardener once harvested they were placed on a tray and individually frozen before bagging up ~ worked a treat!
Great carrot crop!
The carrots were thinned after the picture was taken but this early crop planted a couple of months ago love to grow in the polytunnel where the soil tends to be drier. Beyond them are the winter lettuce and pak choi that were planted today. The big leaf at the front is a globe artichoke that if it survives the winter, I may regret planting inside!
Grown from a saved seed – variety ‘anyonesguessia’
Yet to grow a successful crop of squashes in the Greenside Up garden, but not one to give up this is the best to date. Next year I’m planning to grow smaller varieties.
Gardening’s not for the faint hearted – have learnt to avoid but love and admire these little critters.
Confession here in that outside has been a little neglected of late. Not that I’m a fair weather gardener, more that heading outside in the cold, rain when I’ve a couple of free hours hasn’t especially inspired me. Dry day or not, am going to have to make a date with my garden soon as a couple of beds still need clearing, manuring and covering before the winter months.
Misty and slightly neglected veg patch
I did say squashes don’t grow well here – despite lots of manuring they never reach a good size outside!
This is supposed to be a pumpkin!
The courgette plant’s the same although it did produce lots of very regular sized, healthy fruit…
Courgette and borage
I’m never disappointed by a failure in the veg garden as more can be learnt from observing it than any book can teach you. Aware that I’d planted the runner beans out too late this year (last week in June), they never really took off and most succumbed to the usual mildews before they got to a reasonable size.
Runner beans with sweet peas grown at the end of the poles to
encourage pollinating insects
Bumper crop of swedes these year the size of small footballs. Love these mashed with carrots … yum.
Still with me?? There’s more….. Note to self – sow more leeks next year! Never have enough of this lovely crop.
Leeks with dill gone to seed
We lost last year’s celery to the winter snow, another note to self ~ pick it!! Our favourite & quickest way to eat the colourful rainbow chard is to steam it and serve it as an accompanying veg.
Parsley, celery and rainbow chard
A veg patch wouldn’t be complete without the odd cabbage or two….
Okay, even I’m tiring of this now so the last picture will be of our trusty old kale. Have another bed with kale, cauliflower and cabbage and yet another full of the green manure grazing rye (sorry Mr G, can see already it’s going to be a back breaking job digging that over!).
Green and Scarlet Curly Kale
So, how’ve you got on this year in your veg patch ~ successes, failure, must do next year? Would love to hear how you’re doing.
Communityn. Common enjoyment; participation; a body of people having common interests.
Community Food Projects bring people together in local communities of all
ages, abilities and social backgrounds, where they share knowledge and interact.
What do participants gain from being involved in a Community Garden or Community Food Project?
1. They learn new skills and how growing, harvesting and eating your own food is good for both mental and physical health.
2. They learn about the seasonality of food and pick up recipe ideas and new cooking techniques.
3. They try out different foods and flavours that were once popular but may not be available in supermarkets.
4. They’re encouraged to grow their own food at home in tandem with the community food project.
5. They learn how successes and failures of growing food are ‘normal’.
6. They have a better appreciation of how difficult it can be to grow food without using chemicals and why organic food is generally more expensive at markets and in shops.
7. They’re more likely to shop locally, searching out better quality foods and flavours.
8. Participants have a better appreciation of their community.
9. Community gardens are available to people on a tight budget.
10. Participants will have learnt a basic life skill – they will know that whatever happens, they will be able to provide food for themselves and their families.
This list could go on. There’s room for a community garden everywhere. As the Goresbridge project shows, you only need a small scrap of land to create one and an enthusiastic couple of people to get one up and running. So why not give it a go.
If you know of any community gardens running in your area I’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment or link with details so I can follow it up, or send me a tweet Thanks.
Great excitement in the Sewelly polytunnel & garden as veggies are almost ready for harvesting!
The peas and broad beans that were planted before Christmas are starting to appear so I’ll be digging out the recipe books soon as picking fresh produce always makes me want to try out a new dish. This early harvest will help to fill the ‘hungry gap’ when the only other fresh veg we have to eat at the moment is purple sprouting broccoli. I almost pulled it up after the snow as it was looking so downcast, but decided to give it a feed of fish, blood & bone and this is the result – five plants full of delicious florets (that were especially tasty in this evening’s stir fry). There are loads more tiny florets starting to appear beneath the large leaves in the next few days too.
The plan this year is to keep the polytunnel as productive as possible so that it earns it’s keep!
With that in mind we have shallots planted behind the peas & beans and the plan is to plant cucumbers once they’ve all been harvested.
I haven’t quite cracked full productivity yet though as the bed waiting for the tomatoes is still empty, and there’s a big space where the courgette is slowly growing.
My experiment of planting sweet corn early too hasn’t quite worked out – only three germinated (!) so I planted another packet last week in the hope that they’ll catch up soon now the temperatures are rising (there’s obviously a good reason why seed packets recommend a month for growing and late March wasn’t it). The french beans have all germinated and are starting to grow rapidly too. We never had much success growing these outdoors as it just never seemed warm enough so hopefully will have better luck inside this year.
Meanwhile outside the strawberries are showing signs of flowering and the Red Duke of York first early potatoes are coming along nicely too.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.