So far, my garden seems to be doing pretty well. That’s in spite of some weird weather that included powerful wind and rain that killed some of my young plants. They currently seem to be enjoying the blazing sunshine.
I’ve planted out almost all of my seedlings. After being stressed that I didn’t pick the best tomatoes to plant out, they seem to be growing pretty well. I have several good seedlings left and I feel bad throwing them away, but I also don’t really have a use for them. Meant to email colleagues offering them but forgot.
My two physalis plants are looking pretty strong so far too.
I’ve had some strawberry drama. After discovering an aphid infestation soon after planting out, I sprayed the plants with some stuff I found in the cupboard, which actually killed one or two of them. I’ve also had some other seedlings die off. Maybe I waited too long to plant them out and the sun is too harsh on them? On the positive side, I was so happy to notice the first fruit growing!
My veg patch is coming on wonderfully too. I made a GIF showing the how it’s changed over the past two months.
I have some courgettes starting to grow. I really find it crazy to think that all of this came from a single seed. Nature, right?
My carrots and beetroot are looking good too. Think I will plant some new beetroot seeds in the gaps left in the row to give me a longer yield.
The main task left is to stay on top of the weeding. My neighbour has a big flowering bush on the fence right next to my veg patch, which has dropped loads of seeds onto it. On the plus side, I discovered some jasmine right next to it in my own garden. Jasmine is one of my favourite smells, so it makes being out in my little sunny garden even more pleasurable.
I’m glad that after quite a heavy initial investment of time to prepare the garden, it’s down to routine maintenance that doesn’t take too long. I feel like I have a lot on my plate at the moment, so I’m glad the garden can be relegated to the back burner. It’s clearly still there though- a doodle in a team meeting turned into this.
This week I cooked the food of my native land for the first time in several years. I made rice and peas and chicken, a staple of Jamaican cuisine, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
I can’t provide a recipe because, unlike almost every other kind of food, I never use one when I’m cooking Jamaican. For me, Caribbean food is all about eyeballing the spices, estimating measurements, and tasting as you go. I learnt how to cook Jamaican from my mother, to whom recipes are anathema. Cooking is a constant process of experimentation, fortunately mostly successful.
When it comes to foods that are not in my blood, I am very reliant on recipes. As a perfectionist, I can’t stand the idea that I could spend hours cooking and end up with something sub-par (though this has, of course, happened to me lots of times). With a recipe, if the food is bad, it means that the recipe was bad; I am not a bad cook. With Jamaican food, I can let myself take a risk a little more. I can focus on the process and not just the outcome. Each pot of rice I cook is unique.
The rice and peas wasn’t perfect, but then I did use tinned kidney beans (the peas) rather than dried. Using dried beans is what gives rice and peas its characteristic colour, but I couldn’t be bothered soaking peas for a midweek meal. I also couldn’t cook it in my Dutch pot, because that is currently being driven around Kent in the back of my aunt’s Vauxhall. Long story.
I had a little cooking time last week, so I decided to try a recipe from the healthylicious food blog. At the moment I’m trying to watch what I eat for health and vanity reasons. According to the food tracking app I use, I don’t eat enough protein so I’ve also been trying to up my protein intake. I am a meat eater, but I seldom cook meat because it’s too much hassle. Although this is a vegetarian recipe (if you don’t wrap the eggs in prosciutto like I did), it’s pretty high in protein because of the eggs and chickpeas.
The recipe is available in full here. I didn’t make any changes apart from increasing it by 50% and swapping out some of the spices and herbs for what I had at home. I used mint instead of parsley, and paprika instead of cayenne pepper. I also used dried chickpeas rather than tinned. Oh, and I wrapped the eggs in slice of prosciutto before adding the falafel mixture. And added some sesame seeds to the breadcrumb coating. Hm, guess I made more changes than I thought!
While I did like this recipe, I would probably only make it again for a picnic or something. I need a more basic summer lunch recipe that’s closer to 30mins prep than a couple of hours. I think these would be nice with quails’ eggs too.
I would say these eggs are equally nice hot or cold. If I made them again, I would try reducing the boiling time of the eggs even more (I put the eggs into cold water, brought to the boil, turned off the heat and left in a covered pan for five minutes) to try and get a softer egg yolk. However, this would be even more of a terrifying roulette where you could end up with albumen all over your countertops. Cooking really is a pursuit only for the most extreme adrenaline junkie.
I served my eggs with a spinach, rocket, tomato and avocado salad. I also had a few tablespoons of my apple chutney to make it less dry. It would also be nice with some flavoured hummus, or beetroot dip to avoid chickpea overload.
One of my flatmates moved out last week meaning one thing: random free food!
In some ways I have inherited my grandmother’s wartime spirit of unrelenting pennypinching. Not with regard to holidays, luxury yarns or seasonal lattes, but definitely when it comes to food waste. So an ex-housemate’s cupboard is a magical mystery tour of forgotten foodstuffs.
His abandoned jar Pataks spice paste, dried chickpeas and bag-ends of basmati became a delicious chicken and pumpkin curry that I’ll be enjoying for a while to come.
What I especially like is the inspiration to work with ingredients I wouldn’t ordinarily choose. The only Indian style curry I’ve made for the past few years has been a Jamie Oliver chicken korma. This week I have expanded my curry repertoire to something warmer than a korma, that I will likely make again.
Anyway, I digress. The subject of this particular blog post is the twelve random apples found in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Yes, I know, who keeps apples in the fridge?? I transformed them into this.
I am especially pleased because the only ingredient I paid for was the raisins. I’m really hoping I managed to do the jarring correctly as I plan to give some of the chutney away. I also hope it tastes good! There wasn’t much left to try, and anyway I understand that chutney should be left to mature before consumption.
My basic recipe is here, but I tweaked the amounts according to what I had on hand.
- 1kg apples, chopped. This was the weight after coring etc. I didn’t peel them
- 250g onions, chopped
- 200g raisins
- 15g paprika
- 15g ground coriander
- 15g random spices because I don’t know what ‘mixed spice’ is
- 15g salt
- 350g sugar. I used a combination of dark brown and granulated
- 450ml vinegar, at least 5% acidity
Yield: 3 jars plus two small jarsh
I played fast and loose with the recipe, which may turn out to be an error when I have never made chutney before. I will update with a review of how it tastes.
- Put all ingredients into a very large pan.
- Bring to the boil slowly until the sugar dissolves
3. Simmer for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
4. After about an hour, begin sterilising your jars
5. Once the chutney is very thick, so that a wooden spoon drawn through it leaves a channel that doesn’t immediately fill with liquid, begin jarring
I may also have been distracted as I was watching Breaking Bad while I was cooking. My feels!
I’ll be cracking my first jar open in a few weeks, so until then the jury is out.