My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.
I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.
Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.
I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.
I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.
I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.
Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:
- Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
- Seriously, don’t!
- Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
- Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday
I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to grow tomatoes given that they’re meant to be tricky, and I have a poor gardening track record. However, this is my harvest from two plants.
I decided to take all of them off the vine even though most are still green. It’s starting to get too cold and the vines are dying, which is affecting the fruit. With the experience I now have, I think I would get a lot more ripe tomatoes if I grew them again.
I decided to make some green tomato chutney with the slightly dodgier tomatoes. I followed Nigel Slater’s recipe, doubled. I didn’t have many jars left after my courgette jam exploits so had to make do with an odd selection. I ended up with seven jars of varying sizes- most of them quite large.
I also made a simple salad inspired by my recent holiday to Greece. The tomato is combined with nectarine and ricotta with a basil dressing. It’s a bit like a twist on a tricolore. I also grew the basil. The plant was a bit of a casualty of the holiday, so I had to use it all up quickly.
Recipe from The Silver Island Cookbook.
I’m getting quite into my autumnal baking, so I decided to try this bread flavoured with the increasingly popular spiced pumpkin. As I learnt, plain pumpkin doesn’t have much of a flavour but it does give this bread a lovely colour, and add moisture. As it’s an American recipe (upcoming stereotype warning), it’s incredibly sweet. I’ve dialled down the sweetness in the recipe below, but you can find the original here. The result is very similar to a cinnamon roll, with an added kick from the glaze if you use it. If I make this again, and I definitely will if I see pumpkin on sale, I would add some pecans because nuts make everything better. Everything.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2tsp (1 sachet) instant yeast
- 3/4 cup (half a tin) pumpkin puree*
- 1/4 cup sugar (granulated is fine)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups strong white flour
For the spiced sugar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp butter
For the glaze
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/8 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp milk
- 3/4 cup icing sugar
- 1 tbsp rum (replace with more milk if you want to make this non-alcoholic)
*Yes, I used tinned pumpkin. There was no way I was going to mess around with a pumpkin myself, and I had some left over to make another autumnal recipe. It does look funny, though.
1. Brown 2tbsp butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Browned butter seems to be very fashionable in America at the moment. You allow the butter to melt and turn frothy…
2. Remove pan from heat and gently add milk. Return to the hob and heat through.
3. Allow to cool until just warm. Add the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar, and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
4. Add the pumpkin, salt and 1 cup flour. Stir until combined.
5. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a slightly sticky dough.
6. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will still be a little sticky, try not to add too much flour.
7. Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl. I put mine back in the saucepan to save on washing up.
9. While the dough is rising, make the cinnamon sugar that will flavour the bread and create the tearability of the loaf.
Brown another 2tbsp butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well, making sure the sugar absorbs the butter evenly.
16. Cover and leave to rest for 30-45mins.
17. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
18. Bake your risen loaf for 30-40mins. The top will be a deep golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before removing to a wire rack.
19. Prepare the glaze. Heat the butter, milk and brown sugar in a small saucepan. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove from the hob and stir in the rum and icing sugar. Pour over the loaf while it’s still warm.
My natural cynicism makes me unreasonably grumpy about most holidays, but I do quite like Halloween. In particular, I like to dress up and have a reason to eat and drink to excess.
I also relish any excuse to try out a new craft, so I was very excited to try out a friend’s rather snazzy pumpkin carving tools. I started out by looking for inspiration on Google images and settled on Boo from Mario as my design. I started out by sketching it onto the pumpkin using dry wipe marker.
This gave me an outline to trace using a Stanley knife. Next was the fun part, using a tool I called ‘the gouger’ to dig out the sections where I wanted light to come through. You have to be careful if you have a complex design because it’s very easy to accidentally remove bits you’re not intending. Technical language: you have to be aware of the positive and negative space (this is also important in papercraft).