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 finally got something other than courgettes out of my garden since I pulled my carrots and beetroot. It’s weird growing root vegetables as you basically have no idea what’s lurking under the ground.
For some reason only one of my beetroot grew to a decent size. I’m not too upset because I’m not that crazy about beetroot anyway. Turns out that I grew a lot of vegetables that I’m not too fond of. The fact is, I used to eat vegetables because they were good for me and not for pleasure. I have to say, though, growing my own has given me a new appreciation for veg.
Anyway, the small yield scuppered my plan of making chutney so I just roasted the beetroot in the oven. This was my first experience with raw beetroot. I followed Jamie Oliver’s recommendation of eating it warm on toast with horseradish. It was okay, but not sure I would make it again.
I was very pleased with my purple carrots because my dad’s girlfriend, who is a gardener, said that carrots are notoriously difficult to grow. I wanted to enjoy them in their raw form so I made some red pepper hummus with which to eat them. I followed this recipe, which produced by far the best hummus I’ve ever made, rivalling store bought. Hummus is one of the few things that I’ve found very difficult to improve by making from scratch.
I increased all of the amounts by 50% due to the ingredients I had on hand, so I now have an enormous quantity of hummus to consume. Fortunately it’s really good with the carrots.
In the past couple of weeks, my garden has started to produce a lot of courgettes. I got the seeds as part of a ‘funky veg’ kit and kind of just planted for the hell of it- I’m not the biggest fan of courgettes. However, I sense that my glut of yellow beauties may make me learn to love this humble vegetable. We’ll see how I do at the challenging task of not embarrassing myself with phallic references in this post. I am a follower of Freud, after all.
I turned my first fistful of small courgettes into a tasty salad. Adapted from this recipe.
I knew that my staff summer picnic would be a good excuse to use up some more courgettes. As you can see, these ones were much larger.
I made another salad for the party- this was actually my first time cooking and eating fennel. I selected a vegan recipe, but when the vegan in the team wasn’t at the picnic, I did add some cheeky feta. Cheese makes everything better.
The cake was lovely- light, moist and tasty. Would probably omit raisins next time. My favourite bit was the frosting, but then I am dangerously addicted to cream cheese frosting. I have a LOT more courgettes coming, so I need to stay ahead of the game with ways to use them.
I spotted this recipe on the Instagram feed of a yoga studio I frequented when I lived in west London. I was in the throes of the ‘new year, new you’ thing, so I decided to make it. Here’s how it turned out.
To be honest I don’t think I’d make this again unless I was baking for someone with specific dietary requirements. While it’s perfectly nice, it’s still quite high in calories, and I prefer my sweets to be a bit naughtier than this. If I did bake this recipe again, I would probably throw in some chopped pecans or walnuts to add to the texture.
As always, I came back from holiday wanting to cook and eat fresh, healthy food. I briefly considered doing Veganuary, but then I remembered that I will be going out to eat quite a bit in January, and I don’t like to be limited on food choices in restaurants. I will probably try going vegan for a week at some point instead.
I had been watching Jamie Oliver’s Superfood on Channel 4 and, despite my many annoyances with the show, pinned a few of the recipes that looked nicest and easiest. This is Jamie’s butternut squash daal with fried eggs.
I made a few changes. Morrison’s didn’t sell curry leaves or black mustard seeds, and they were out of coriander.
For the temper, I used garlic and chilli as specified, 1tsp English mustard, 2tsp cumin seeds and 2tsp coriander seeds. I omitted the coriander altogether. I used sweet chilli sauce in the yoghurt instead of coriander leaves, but in future I won’t bother with the yoghurt bit at all as I don’t think it adds to the dish. I also didn’t bother with the poppadoms. Instead, I served with a bigger salad and roasted cherry tomatoes.
I got seven servings from the recipe. When I take this to work, I heat up the daal in the microwave. I fry the eggs four at a time and keep two each in separate plastic containers. I only cook the eggs for about 2-3 minutes, then heat for a minute in the microwave at work. This is also the method I use when I take nasi goreng to work, and I haven’t got salmonella yet (touch wood). I also take the salad separately.
The second instalment in my quest to stop lunch being the most irritating meal of the day is this filling roasted sweet potato, quinoa and goats cheese salad. I realise that eating things like this (stopping to Instagram it first) makes me a hopeless millennial stereotype, but apparently that’s my destiny.
I’ll be adding this to my rotation of lunches. I think the goats cheese balances the sweet potato beautifully, the quinoa adds grainy bulk and the pumpkin seeds give a pleasant bite. I leave the skins on my potatoes (cutting out any dodgy bits) for the triple threat of added nutrition, saved time and reduced waste. Rule of three FTW!
I’ve also started adding dressing to more of my salads. It does add calories, but I think the secret of store bought salads is the dressing punching up the flavour. For me, the added pleasure negates the calories.
- 1kg sweet potatoes
- 1tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 green or red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2tbsp olive oil
- A handful of finely chopped coriander stems, optional
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup dry quinoa (if you’re not on the quinoa bandwagon, sub another grain, bulgur or couscous)
- 200g baby leaf spinach
- 50g pumpkin seeds
- 200g goats cheese, cut into small chunks
- A handful coriander leaves
For the dressing
- 1tbsp French mustard
- 1tbsp honey
- 2tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
- 1tsp balsamic vinegar
- 6tbsp flavourless oil
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Chop your sweet potatoes into bite-size chunks. Peel if desired.
- Add sweet potato chunks to a roasting tin with the olive oil, garlic, ginger, chili and coriander stems, if using. Rub to ensure a good coating of oil and even distribution of the spices. Season, then bake for around 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and golden.
- Cook quinoa according to directions on packet. I rise mine in a mesh sieve for a couple of minutes, until the water runs clear. I then toast the damp quinoa in a tablespoon of butter for a couple of minutes to open up the grains. Finally, I add double the volume of water to the pan (in this case 2 cups), bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the water is all absorbed (15-20 mins), then turn off the heat and leave to steam for a few more minutes.
- For the dressing, Combine the dressing ingredients, aside from the oil, in a food processor or hand blender and blitz until smooth. Add the oil slowly, through a funnel if you have one, until smooth.
- In a dry pan over a medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds until golden and fragrant.
Combine the baby leaf spinach, quinoa, roasted sweet potato, goats cheese and coriander. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, season and dress to taste. This salad can be eaten warm or cold. Enjoy!