Monday, 13 October 2008

Baking, Harvesting and Clearing - Busy Times

It seems to have been very busy recently but then i think a lot of that has been my choice to make it so busy. It's no secret to Mum and D that i've been struggling a lot recently and as a result i've thrown myself into what ever i can head first, whilst still managing to avoid seeing a lot of people! A month ago i started working at a farm 6 hours a week, just 2 hours on 3 days, well that was the plan but i have to adapt due to the weather at times as its all outdoor work. And the i've been doing little things for D to help him out, mainly so i'm not in the house alone, as i seem to have developed this major fear that i'm going to lose control, go on a major binge and eat every single item of food in the house, so there for if i'm not in the house i can't do it!

Anyway, i made a couple of batches of muffins for D's work collegues to keep the going during the Flu jab clinic on saturday. Seeing and jabbing about 1000 people in 3 hours can be exhausting not just phycially but mentally too, having to concentrate hard for so long without a break. I'm not sure the muffins were a success to be honest despite using the freshest produce possible - fresh sweetcorn and fresh raspberries picked with my own fair hands. Not in the same muffin i hasten to add!!
The original recipe for this one was Rasperry and cinnamon, however i decided that cinnamon may not be to everyone's taste so changed to to Raspberry and white chocolate, which is a combination i have seen elsewhere previously. As an after thought though i wondered whether i should have reduced the amount of sugar due to the fact that i had added more sweetness in the form of the white chocolate chips.

Plus then i decided to use the rest of the raspberries to make a puree and then mixed with icing sugar to make a very sticky icing. I know i made more of these than the savoury batch but there were more of these left at the end of the morning. Maybe it was just too early on a saturday morning for something sweet?

The second recipe was Cheesy Corn Muffalettas from BBC Good Food but Mum's reaction to these said it all. She sat eating it in a fit of giggles. I must admit the texture was a little strange, as the sponge was kind of chewy and rubbery from the cheddar but then there were hard little lumps in the form of corn kernels. D said it was strange finding hard bits as normally muffins contain things like raisins which are plump and soft after baking. The taste of the cheese wasn't strong either although it clearly wasn't a sweet muffin as there is no sugar in the recipe and that was clear to taste.

Having said all that all of these went, with the last 2 being taken home by one of the receptionists for her and her husband!

And so onto garden news....

More proud harvests in the form of....
Red Cabbage!!! They've finally hearted up and i'm so chuffed.

And even more chuffed when i cut it in half to find the tightly packed leaves and stunning colour. A quarter of it was used for coleslaw and i'm sure more of it will be too but i think its time to cook the warming winter dish of red cabbage almost sweet and sour style i guess, cooked in balsamic vinegar with a touch of something sweet at the end. Might even get a baby beetroot in from the garden and add that in.
With the red cabbage coleslaw again to get the colours different i used white onion rather than red to go with the yellow carrot.

Autumn is also the time to start getting the Squash in. This was the smaller butternut which i cut in half and stuffed with smoked tomatoes, olives, red onion and goats cheese then roasted in the oven.The slightly larger butternut is now stored in the cool and the dark of the garage along with.....

This stunning little thing. Who knows what variety it is, but then so long as it tastes good, who cares!!

Runner beans, carrots, beetroot, kale, chard, cabbages, onions and parsnips continue to be harvest as and when we want them. Although all the tomatoes are now inside, with the green ones on trays in the spare room, which are then transfered down stairs when the start to turn red! Stock rotation i call it.

I got some onions from work as well to string and last us over winter. The large ones make superb onion soup!

I have also been increasing the number of fruit bushes too.
Lidls had various fruit bushes at £1.30 each so i picked up 3 gooseberry bushes, which of course will need somewhere to be planted permanantly (i know thats spelt wrong but i'm running short of time!) So this weekend Mum suggested clearing the front garden to make room and turn in into a fruit patch as the raspberries and blueberries are already there. Remember how it looked before??

I can't find an old shot of the front which shows the whole patch but the photos above and below should give some idea.

And this is how it looks now:

It won't be usable for a bit as the are bush/shrub routes which now have RootOut on them, plus we are hoping to move the rose bushes from the right hand end down to where the chard is. But that where the holly and ornamental quince routes are. I just hope the don't mind the move and survive!

Anyway off to the farm whilst the sun is shining!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Hastings Seafood Festival and Happy 1st Birthday Blog!

Well, amazingly it's a year since i started this blogger blog which means that my little laptop is a year old too. So here's a nice cheerful post to celebrate with.

It was the Hastings Seafood Festival on the 20/21st September and after attending last year i quite fancied going again. Last year the sun was shining, there was no breeze and the place was buzzing. There were restaurant doing sample dishes, mini portions so to speak. I think my favourite last year was a cuttlefish risotto cooked using the ink.

There was nothing else i fancied on offer in the way of hot food so i wandered along to the fish huts where one of the fishmongers was selling cold fish/shellfish. Last year i finished lunch by having some smoked eel and crevettes (oh and a glass of Pimms!)

I sat on a bench round the back of the fish huts soaking up the sea air, being watched by some greedy gulls.

This year mum mentioned she would come with me, and then D decided he'd come as well. So we all set off on the Sunday, travel was fine until we hit the part of the A21 where it narrows down to single carriageway, but the Sun was shining and we still made it there by about 12.30pm. The number of stalls and the size of the festival seemed to have almost doubled since last year, with the crafts stalls and produce stalls in a separate area to where the restaurants and catering stall were. The number of people seemed to have grown in proportion with the size of the festival. As by the time we'd walked from the multi-storey carpark, it was lunch time we decided to find some food for lunch first, so wandered around the catering area. The restaurant that did the risotto last year, had sadly sold out of their only squid dish already, so D and i had a beautiful King Scallop each, complete with the coral i'm pleased to say, while mum had a little boat of battered/breadcrumbed whitebait.

After walking round the rest of the stalls to have a quick look, i couldn't see anything i faniced. Not for lack of choice - there was a fish dish of every type; Indian, Japanese, African, French, BBQ, In a bun, on a Kebab skewer, soups..... But for me the plain cold seafood like i had last year was more appealing, so we walked on to the fish hunts where once again they were selling cold and unadulterated seafood. Mum and D decided they didn't really fancy anything there, so walked back to the main market and got a devilled mackeral each. They then came back to meet me on the bench where i sat last year, however it was in the shaddow of the fishhut so i suggested moving into the sun as there was a bit of a breeze which made the shade a bit too cool to be sitting still in, so we wandered down onto the beach which was busier than i thought it would be.
So we settled on the beach and tucked in. I had chosen a small dressed crab and some crevettes. They were selling the crabs on plates with a slice of lemon and piece of bread for £6 which i though was a little too much, so i decided to look inside the fishmongers at their produce counter. Inside they were selling similar dressed crabs wraped in clear film, the smallest for £4.20 which wasn't too much smaller than the ones they were selling on their catering stall, so it made sense to get one from there as i already had a piece of bread and lemon and a plate from buying the crevettes.
However i was feeling under a little pressure to hurry up and finish my lunch towards the end....not from mum or D......but i had someone else watching over my shoulder, just in case i should decide i couldn't finish my food.....

I don't know why but it didn't seem as exciting as last year, maybe last year it was because it was a spur of the moment thing and a lone adventure that i took on my own. It was still a lovely day though, nothing beats seafood in my books for a meal during lovely day out.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


A few great harvests over the past week! some giant veg and a couple that were perfect size for a single portion stuffed dinner. First came my first little squash.

I cut out a lid, scooped out the seeds, put the lid back on and roasted til tender and cooked in the oven. I started my risotto just before the squash was cooked, adding the chopped cooked flesh to the risotto with some sage. Served steaming (as you can see!) back in the shell.

Ok, so this photo doesn't show the whole story....a large proportion of the risotto had to be served on the side as it didn't quite fit!

Then came a stuffed tomato (not on the same night!!).

I scooped out the seeds and the core, placed some goats cheese in the bottom then some shredded leeks and then more goats cheese. It didn't need long in the oven an was a little tricky to serve as the tomato kind of collapsed. But it meant the skin came off easily - cooked tomato skin is one of my big pet hates.

On Sunday I suggested to mum that we see how the parsnips were doing and whether they were big enough for eating yet.....
As you can see from D's 1 inch size grid, we need not have worried! we shared the big one between the 3 of us that night and then i had the smaller one roasted like chips with some homemade tomato ketchup from all those tomatoes. The Ketchup was great, although as it reduced even more (it wasn't quite thick enough by dinner time, so i had some and left the rest on a low heat to reduce more) it seems to have become a lot sweeter. So maybe if i do it again i won't add any sweetner until later once the flavour is more concentrated. But from tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, sweetner and seasoning, blended and sieved, it was so simple and tasty! I just have to decide how i'm going to use the rest.