29 Sep 2015

Nine photos for Seven days: Insta-update

There's a lot to appreciate in my neighbourhood: Hampstead Heath, wide tree lined streets, little old cobbled passageways, farmer's markets, the city farm, and not forgetting my veg patch garden- there's a lot going on if you stay local and love nature.

Little visuals catch my eye as I walk around and I quickly snap these for posterity.  Sometimes I just want to remind myself of a new yoga class starting or the location of some tempting foraging; often I snap a photo on my phone because it's there and I don't have my camera to hand.  Quite a few of these get posted up to my Instagram account and make a visual diary of the week that's been so I thought I'd share with a weekly Insta-update.

From left to right, top row to bottom, nine pictures for seven days:

1. Quince.  Not real quince but the fruit of Chaenomeles x superba, also known as Japanese quince. Beautiful red and gold flowers (on this cultivar) in springtime and edible fruit in autumn.  These fruits are smaller than real quince (Cydonia) and not so perfumed but still very edible when cooked, sweetened slightly and made into faux Membrillo (a Spanish quince paste), eaten with cooked apples, or sliced with honey and hot water for a refreshing tisane.

2. Pear. This was had fallen from the tree and I discovered it shortly after. Sweet and juicy, it was my first pear from this tree, seven years in the waiting. Most of the other pears have been removed by people walking past the garden.

3. I'm reliably informed this is the fruit of the Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo.  I've never noticed this before but its bumpy globes caught my eye on a walk around the neighbourhood and I'm thrilled to discover that the fruit is edible - with the bonus that the pip can be grown into a new tree, albeit v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

4. Tomatoes. I've had a really bumper crop this year, most of which have stayed resolutely green - 'Sungold' being the exception.  Finally, a few others are slowly starting to ripen. These are Maskotka and I've also picked a couple of Petomach tomatoes this week.

5. Nasturtiums. These go completely bonkers in autumn and sprawl over everything. The plus is that the flowers have wonderfully long stems, perfect for picking, and thereby removing a few of the seeds that will inevitably start the whole process again next year. The leaves in the vase are from a small Sambucus nigra shrub I bought last year.

6. Mmmmm, crab apples - don't these look gorgeous? There is a huge, fruit laden tree a couple of streets away with these beauties hanging temptingly overhead. A forager's dream. (And I'm thinking crab apple and rosehip jelly, by the way.)

7.  Brussels Sprouts tops.  Yum.  Plus purple and green  is such a fab colour comb.  Seeing beauty everywhere.

8.  Garden gathered. I only popped down to cut some of the carrot seed heads for a recent charity shop vase purchase (seen centre top of photo). I came back with a surprise bunch of crunchy and sweet purple carrots, achocha, the aforementioned pear and tomatoes, raspberries and fennel seedheads.  Ker-ching!

9.  Sprouts!  Yep, I'm pleased to see these are bulking up nicely. I haven't grown sprouts in recent years as they've not been a success before but the recent rain has fed them well and these are on track for (dare I mention it?) Christmas.

Posting this a day late ~ sorry ~ as I had a very late journey home after a dash to the Hampshire coast at the weekend. This will be a Monday meme, join in if you wish and let me know!

Hope you all had a good weekend and had plenty of sunshine wherever you were!
Now off to catch up with news on other blogs … 

25 Sep 2015

Awesome Garden Gathered Warm Salad - perfect for Autumn Harvests!

If you live in the UK and shop at Waitrose you might already have seen this recipe in the free Autumn Harvest booklet and wondered about making it.  I'm a big fan of warm salads so this one caught my attention straight away, especially when I realised that I have most of the ingredients growing in the garden. (Pine nuts and pumpkin seeds being the exception.)

I made this Warm Carrot, Apple + Crispy Kale salad for my supper last night, tossing just a few freshly picked lettuce leaves from my balcony around the edge for added garden goodness.  It took next to no time and - oh my goodness! - was spoon licking good.  I even scraped the roasting pan, it was that yummy - but I guess you would need to love the taste of aniseed (fennel) and chinese crispy 'seaweed' (roasted kale) to properly love this dish.

I switched the ingredients slightly by adding pumpkin seeds and pine nuts instead of the suggested mixed seeds (they were all I had) and I used fresh plump fennel seeds from the garden instead of dried.  I also used my whirly apple corer gadget to make rings which I sliced instead of laboriously peeling and making matchsticks out of an apple. (I love a bit of time saving, especially when hungry.) Another suggestion is to spice it up with finely chopped chillies and to serve with a poached egg on top.  I think this is one of those dishes that can be chopped and changed, quantities and ingredients, to suit.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Warm carrot, apple + crispy kale salad(Prep 15 mins, cook 15-20 mins) (Roughly, serves 2 or 1 greedy person)
3 med-large carrots, peeled and cut into 6cm batons
3 teaspoons of fresh fennel seeds (or 1tsp dried fennel seeds)
2 Tbsp rapeseed oil
50g mixed seeds (I used 25g pumpkin seeds + 25g pine nuts)
4 good sized stalks of curly kale (or ½ a bag of bought prepared curly kale)
A good drizzle of olive oil
Tamari soy sauce (optional or use ordinary soy sauce)
3 medium garden apples (or 2 large shop bought)
Seasoning (salt + pepper) 
1.  Preheat oven to 180C, gas 4. Place carrots in a bowl and toss with the rapeseed oil and fennel seeds to coat.  Spread them out on a large roasting tin and roast for 5 minutes, then add the mixed seeds (or whatever you're using) and roast for a further 2-3 minutes until toasted and golden.
2. Add the chopped kale leaves (stalks discarded), toss with the carrots and seeds.  I drizzled more olive oil over the kale at this stage plus a drizzle of Tamari soy sauce and a grinding of black pepper.  Roast for a further 6 minutes until beginning to crisp.
3. Add the sliced apple rings, toss with other ingredients and pop back in the oven for two minutes.
4. Remove from oven, dish up and eat - on it's own, with a salad or as a side for a bigger meal. 

Interestingly, the original recipe says to add cubes of smoked cheddar cheese and a tablespoon of cider vinegar to the dish before serving.  I have to admit I forgot this stage; probably too eager to get munching!

Do you like the sound of this recipe?  (Download the pdf here.)
Have you got any go-to favourites for your autumn garden produce? Share, please! 

And have a great weekend, folks! xx

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