18 Oct 2014

No more pretending


That's it then. The garden and I have been firmly tipped into autumn this past week. Ten days ago, I enjoyed a lovely warm sunny afternoon and then, the very next day, got soaked tying up some garden waste bags. The sky went from drizzle to deluge in minutes and, despite a showerproof coat, I was literally soaked to the skin (and feet) in minutes. Hence the filthy cold that has dogged me for the past few days. Cough, sniffle, sneeze - evenings spent heading off early to a cozy bed with a stack of books and a hot drink.  I love those clouds with silver linings.

Ferocious wind and rain last weekend flattened so many plants in the garden.  There was more torrential rain on Monday morning but I took advantage of a break in the clouds to get outdoors. The air in the garden smelled of crushed lovage (a bit like spicy celery and a lovely herb to add to soups and stocks) and several of the brassicas will need staking up but, on the plus side, everything sparkled with a dusting of raindrops.

The biggest of my courgette plants has been toppled by the storms.  I'd picked the monster courgette/marrow the night before (luckily) with a handful of tomatoes and some spring onions. I've been putting together a new Pinterest board of seasonal recipes which I call 'Autumn in the Kitchen' (See? over there on the right!) and rather liked the look of a stuffed courgette creation that I came across. I cooked this last night, sharing half the giant courgette with my gardening neighbour, and tweaked the recipe to use up a few pre-weekend-shopping fridge ends - a bit of chopped red pepper, a few mushrooms, a shallot, the spring onions from the garden, chopped garlic, some bacon, half a small pot of yogurt. The giant courgette was gutted and it's innards chopped and added to the mix which was then piled back into the shell. Popped in the oven for 20 minutes with cheese on top, it was delicious and made more so by the smug feeling of having eaten really healthily. I love adaptable recipes and will make this one again, maybe next time using breadcrumbs or rice in the stuffing. It was a bit dark to take a photo of the finished result - sorry.

Trawling through the internet for culinary inspiration using seasonal fruit and veg is a really fun way to anticipate the pleasures of autumn. Once the evenings get darker, I'm happy to be found in the kitchen cooking up sturdier, warming food - stews, casseroles, pies and cakes.  I've found some tempting recipes (butternut squash pancakes with sage butter, pear and damson breakfast muffins, plum pudding cake),  mm-mmm, sounds good! For now I'm still eating at least one salad each day with homemade coleslaw, (love that crunch!) but am adding bookmarks to two wonderful books that I've borrowed from my local library.  Serious slimmers should avert their eyes now.


Excitingly (for me), I have "first fingers" (as my son would say) on these books; childishly, it gives me huge pleasure to be the very first person to open the pages of a new addition to the library and these two are a couple of corkers for the autumn recipe hunter. I've already got my eye on blueberry bread and butter pudding from Rachel Allen and will definitely be making sweet beetroot pie (in the tradition of an American pumpkin pie) from Paul "Great British Bake-Off" Hollywood.  And there was me thinking that, with my son at uni, now would be a good time to try and lose a few pounds.  

I've spent a lot of catching up time in the kitchen this past week, bottling tomatoes and making plum jam and fruit roll-ups (recipes will be forthcoming) but there is a tiny glimpse of blue between grey clouds today so I think a bit more garden tidying is in order … especially as for tea I have a Plum and Cinnamon crumble cake whose recipe I've rediscovered having used it to bookmark a recipe for a spicy carrot and tomato relish.  I definitely need to get out more, if only for the sake of my waistline!

Ma-hoo-sive marrow (courgette); the last of my homegrown tomatoes on toast (Yellow Pear and Cherriettes of Fire);
Plum and Cinnamon Crumble cake with Elixir of Sage, recently bottled; Plum cake being assembled.

32 comments:

  1. Like you, I expect to be blogging more about cooking than about gardening for a couple of months now. Unfortunately I wasn't able to freeze any Runner Beans this year, and only a small quantity of tomato sauce, but at least I have tons of jams and jellies from my foraged plums!

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    1. Most of what I grew this year got eaten, especially as I was happy to share everything with my neighbour who helps out in the gardens. I did manage to pickle up some runner beans that my neighbour upstairs gave me; first time I've done this, they can be used as a side or chopped into salads apparently. First tastes were good, now saving tall jars for next year!

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  2. Have you tried pumpkin pie made from squash. It really wasn't what I expected at all. Not even really a pie - more a tart.

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    1. I think I may have had a slice (or two!) at the Fortnum's Hallowe'en event last year - it was delicious. In previous years they've served themed snacks and drinks, well worth going along for! I've always been intrigued by the thought of veg-as-pie although most of my squash gets eaten as a savoury - it's one of my favourite veg.

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    2. Or courgette or carrot cake. Or beetroot in brownies. Most of ours is used savoury too although I guess squash is technically a fruit

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    3. Mmmm, carrot cake, there's a lovely thought. Never thought about squash being a fruit - good point.

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  3. Autumn has arrived without a doubt. Baking sounds like a perfectly reasonable response and the plum and cinnamon crumble cake sounds wonderful. The perfect solution for a cold. Take care x

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    1. Not only baking, Jessica! I seem to have been cooking up a storm with preserving plums (sadly, shop bought for the year) and tomato relish (I had a bit of a tomato glut at the end). Once all that's been dealt with, it will be onto baking. I do love a slice of cake …. :) xx

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  4. I love reading about your autumnal garden on the other side of the world. I'd love some of your rain -- we've had an unseasonally hot and dry September and October and I am worried my summer veg seedlings are going to fry in the ground.

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    1. Likewise! I enjoy reading about your sunshine! I can sympathise with your lack of rain though, Kate. My garden suffered a very dry August with no rain for several weeks and no hosepipe for watering either! As a result lots of veg and flowers went to seed early which was disappointing. Hopefully you can rig up some shade for your seedlings, at least until they start growing away. Good luck, I wish you well in your garden. Caro x

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  5. I hope that you're now feeling better. Despite your cold I see that you've still been busy cooking, and enjoying some armchair gardening with a couple of good books.
    I'd guess that expanding waistlines are a problem for many gardeners over the coming months as we spend more time indoors than out.
    Despite it being unsettled there's been no frosts so things are still growing and flowering. My nasturtiums are still doing really well. Flighty xx

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    1. Yes, thank you, Flighty, feeling like I'm over the worst now and enjoying life again. Being under the weather always makes me want to eat good healthy food like home-made soup and veg risottos. Those two books are only the tip of the iceberg - there's a big stack of gardening magazines to catch up on and lots of gardening books half-read on the bookshelf. I think I'll be doing lots of sofa flying this winter!
      Yes, my nasturtiums are flowering prolifically as well. Only yesterday I was struck, yet again, by how beautiful and cheerful they are. Caro xx

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  6. Yes I love guilt-free days in the warm trying new recipes rather than wellingtons on and a trip to the cold allotment. But today it was warm and sunny down there and we strimmed the paths and picked nasturtiums and cosmos which will bloom till the first frost.

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    1. We've got to the time now when a sunny or warm day is definitely to be savoured, not knowing if it will be the last before winter sets in. It was warm here this weekend too, grey skies but I was comfortable being outside without a coat. I wish I'd got round to sowing some cosmos, I always admire them in other gardens - definitely one on the list for next year!

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  7. Autumn is definitely here now, I've been out in the blustery wind today planting my spring bulbs and tidying away all the tomato plants. We love stuffed courgette, I add mince and tomatoes to mine. Those books look good, I shall make sure I look to see if they've arrived in my local library the next time I go in.

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    1. That's what I should have been doing today, Jo, but instead I've been indoors fixing up my son's bedroom as he's coming home for the weekend soon. I like the sound of mince and tomatoes in a courgette, very tasty! I was lucky to spot the books on a display at the library; I like Rachel Allen's recipes particularly and have a couple of her books on my bookshelf already. Hope you manage to find them!

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  8. Reading this had me wishing for a day of cooking, you just can't beat the smell of the oven going in autumn, I especially like to make soups. Your recipes are wonderful, always so varied. It is amazing how tasty vegetables are isn't it?
    I have come down with a shocking dose of flu too, so shall take your advioce and curl up with a good book! A lovely post, as always.xxx

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    1. It's also nice to be in the kitchen when the weather is slightly chilly but not chilly enough to put the heating on! I sometimes think that I would have been very happy with a career in testing recipes for Good Housekeeping! I do love my veg and I wonder at people that never eat anything green, bonkers in my view. Nothing like a plate of steamed broccoli with butter! Yum! Sorry to hear you're under the weather, Dina, and I wish you better soon. I definitely prescribe taking it easy and being waited on with cups of tea! Caro xx

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  9. Gardening may have to take a back seat but you've been very productive in the kitchen instead, yummy looking results (even the unbaked plum cake)!

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    1. Yes, I like to keep busy, guys! It's only lashing rain that will keep me inside - I like to carry on tidying the garden throughout the winter, keeping busy and warm! The cake was a good one, equally yummy warmed with custard so a keeper for my recipe files.

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  10. I, like you, seem to spend more time in the kitchen at this time of year - but have finished all my preserving now - except for an attempt at carrot chutney later this week. I tend not to bake much as I end up eating it all - cake is definitely my weakness. Sorry to hear you have been under the weather - hope you are feeling better now.

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    1. Thanks, Elaine, yes feeling much better apart from a lingering cough, the usual nuisance! I should have finished all the preserving but, although I didn't have my own plums this year, they're a good price at the farmers' markets so I thought I'd try bottling a few for the winter months when they're more expensive (and hard as bullets!). I like the sound of your carrot chutney, hope you blog about it!

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  11. i adore that first pic, so pretty and green.
    i love borrowing library books, and it's especially exciting when i' the very first one to crack open the books. 'first fingers' - i'll have to remember that one. the plum cake looks delicious and makes me hanker after stone fruits. they won't be here for a few months yet.

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    1. Thank you e/dig - As much as nasturtiums are the bane of the garden due to their habit of rambling everywhere, I do love the flowers and the way the rain collects on their leaves. First fingers is a good phrase isn't it? I adopted it from my son, I think he made it up. Clever boy. (If I say so myself!). I love stoned fruits which is why I'm going to try and bottle some before they all disappear for the winter - and I hope that next year I'll have some on my plum trees!

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  12. My 'no more pretending' is that spring isn't here yet and I have time to postpone sowing of spring crops. In reality, I don't.
    I too love first dibs on library books. But I also love them well thumbed, showing how many people have gotten some use and joy from them. Except when borrowed recipe books have food on them. That's not nice!

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    1. Oh you too huh, Bek? And, btw, welcome to my blog, thanks for popping over! I used to postpone seed sowing but last year surprised myself by being more organised. And I wrote everything down which came in surprisingly useful! I love reading how the gardens are coming to life in Australia when we're heading into winter. The thing that I really love about library books are that they're free to read - a real luxury in today's financial climate.

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  13. Just catching up and smiled to discover that we had both used nasturtiums as our opening picture!Your do look at bit wetter! I know exactly how you feel at opening brand new cookery books from the library. I always get a cookery book when I go to the library and plan to cook so many dishes before returning them. This never happens as I never have enough time! Your pinterest board looks so good too.We have also been eating cooked plums, bramley apples and squash. Sarah x

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    1. Hi Sarah, Nasturtiums are a great flower at this time of year, I love that they'll carry on to the first frosts, and sometimes longer if the frost isn't prolonged! I know what you mean about intentions and reality clashing due to lack of time. What I do is to copy out any promising recipes then decide whether to keep the recipe after I've cooked it. I saw that you'd followed my Pinterest board - thank you! Yum, autumn harvests are great! Caro x

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  14. After today's strong winds and rain there can be no denying Caro :) We are just relieved that our new boiler is finally up and running today after the old one conked out in September. It's feeling postively tropical here tonight and I'm in short sleeves. Your courgette concoction sounds positively yummy and I will nip over soon to your Pinterest board. Your son's 'first fingers' phrase is brilliant. I have those on a library book at the moment - fiction in this case. Hope that you are over the worst of your cold. Take care xxx

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    1. Oh my goodness, good timing on getting the boiler fixed, Anna! It's turned chilly of late, even in cosy London. (I always reckon cities are a few degrees warmer.) I'm resisting putting the heating on for now but have been aware of falling temperatures, especially at night. The courgette recipe was fabulous (if you like veg ;) ) I'm over the worst of the cold, being outdoors helps and I reckon this will kickstart my immune system for the winter. Enjoy your pristine library book! Caro x

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  15. Sorry about your cold, I am just emerging from one too, and the garden is looking sodden and beaten down by the rain. This is such a bad time of year to try and lose weight, all the foods that call to me are rich and creamy and comforting! Pure joy to have pristine library books to pour over, I do love a good cookery book, I really should make more use of our local library, but I never seem to get enough time to try the things I want in the books I already have...

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    1. Hi Janet, sorry to hear that you've been under the weather too - hope you're recovery continues! I have to admit I find dieting challenging at any time of year having been taught to cook by my mother who was an excellent and adventurous chef. I know what I should eat and then a little voice whispers 'cream' or 'sauce' or 'pastry' to me!! I have two shelves of cookery books but I'm always interested in new ones for inspiration!

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Caro x

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