Jul 282014
 

Sunflowers (2 of 6)Sunflowers induce a smile on my face. Outwardly simple, they shout “Summer!” even if the rain is pouring. And this year, they’re having a ball in our gloriously hot summer.

Carla's sunflowersWe plant lots and save seed too. On the right is part of my friend Carla’s garden near Roma, Italy. The tall sunflowers are from seed I sent her. They love the heat of Italy and have grown enormous under Carla’s care.

We leave lots of the heads for the birds during winter. There are floods of finches and tits who perform acrobatics to get their fat and protein boost.

So I was very interested when my twitter friend Pete Taylor (aka 5olly) announced he was launching a Sunflower Trial for 2014. I even sent Pete some recipes for sunflower seed butter & cheese for his blog. It’s a sort of (non) competition and we received three packets of Thompson & Morgan sunflower seeds: Solar Flash, Magic Roundabout and Mongolian Giant.

Along we these we’ve sown and planted our own saved seeds (the variety’s name has been lost in the mists of time), Short Stuff, Hidatsa Sunflower (a staple crop of the Hidatsa people along the Missouri River) and Vanilla Ice from Ben at Higgledy Garden.

Here’s a visual update of progress to this weekend. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 18:16
Jun 272014
 

Garlic Scape Pickles

Here at Legge Towers the weather has been just gorgeous since May. Which has made up somewhat for the slow and cold start to the year. We had to resow courgettes when the first lot sown in early March on heat succumbed to the less than stunning early May temperatures. So we’ve worked really hard outside for the last few weeks.

Garlic harvest - Carcassonne Our garlic has done very well and we harvested the lot this weekend. The best performing variety was a hardneck type (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) called Carcassonne. They’re great sized bulbs with a very good taste and developed great scapes. The scapes have a mild garlic heat & taste and they’re one of our summer treats.

Use the scapes in the kitchen wherever you would use garlic. You use them in bean and vegetable dips, soups, stir fries, risottos, tarts and salads. They’re gorgeous moistened with some olive oil and barbecued, griddled or grilled for a minute or two. Just season to serve with a little sea salt and perhaps a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Yesterday, I used them to make a modified Sicilian style fritedda. Fresh picked broad beans, peas and artichokes are sautéed and then mixed with herbs, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.

I’ve vacuum packed and frozen some of the enormous scape harvest we had. You can also make oil & pesto with them. One of my favourite scape preserves though are quick & easy pickles. Great as antipasta or as a side with vegetables, seafood meat grills or in a salad. Read on to find out how to make them. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:50
Jun 032014
 

A Change of Appetite -cover A Change of Appetite: where healthy meets delicious by Diana Henry – Review

This was a book I needed. And I don’t mean ‘need’ in that “I’ve been a good boy and deserve a treat” sort of way.

However I didn’t know it met my need until I read it. I bought it because I had been good and did deserve a treat. And what a treat it is.

Why did I need it? I’ve been paying attention to the discussion about what constitutes ‘healthy eating’. It was hard for me to navigate my way through the facts and fashion to an evidence based conclusion about what would constitute healthy and desirable food to grow, cook and eat.

Fortunately Diana Henry has done the work for me in A Change of Appetite: where healthy meets delicious. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:35
May 302014
 

Fermented mustard greensI wish I’d got to know mustard greens (and reds and goldens) much earlier in my growing adventure. They are such a tasty, versatile and good-hearted vegetable. And some of the varieties are great green manures, ground cover and biofumigants.

Here at Legge Towers we sow them in mid to late summer so that we can put them in the polytunnel to over winter. They get cut down by frost outside in winter, but in the polytunnel, sometimes with a little extra fleece protection they do fine.

They make a good quick green manure which may survive a kind winter, but you can also re-sow early in spring. Certain varieties (like Caliente) are good before potatoes as the gases given off by the leaves when cut down can help prevent wire worm and other pests – this is the biofumigant. You need to cut down and work in the leaves quickly though. More info on this here.

Just to say, we don’t tend to use them in the spring and summer. This is because there’s plenty else around and because we find they bolt quickly if it gets hot or dry for long (it does occasionally happen).

The mustards give us with little leaves for salads to start with. Then we get bigger leaves to use in stir fries or as a steamed/wilted veg. You can also make a lovely mustardy pesto with them. In the spring they produce wonderful flower shoots to use like sprouting broccoli.

Very tall mustard greens at end of seasonThen, as you can see they climb!

By this time, I’m thinking of the next crop that will occupy the space for the summer months. This year, I didn’t want to just compost the remains (after shredding the woodier parts). I thought I could use the more tender parts to ferment to make a tasty snack and accompaniment.

And did that work well? Oh yes. Read on to find out more. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:21
May 272014
 

Three poultry feeder hangin baskets in the polytunnelSometimes the most obvious solutions are at my feet. Which is ironic, as I was after a high-level solution.

We’ve grown tomatoes in the Big Polytunnel for a few years now. They take up quite a lot of bed space and we felt we could use the bed space more productively. But we like tomatoes and have had limited success growing them outside with the awful summers we’ve had and the associated blight. So we thought about growing some tumbler tomatoes from hanging baskets.

Now hanging baskets outdoors in a place like North Wales is asking for trouble. High winds mean they are more likely to be a missile than a useful gardening asset. So we don’t have any conventional baskets. And I needed a solution for my tomatoes that needed a proper home.

Abandoned Poultry Feeder I fell across the solution when walking in one of our fields that we’d kept chickens in years ago. The large feeder broke when the high winds (did I tell you about those?) brought a big branch down from a sycamore. But it wasn’t that broken and would still hang… And a thorny ramble through other former chicken realms yielded up two other feeders that were not in the prime of life.

I gave them a bit of a spruce and drilled some drainage holes in the bases. Some 550 Paracord (olive drab, of course) was ideal to attach the baskets to the polytunnel hanging bars. A top piece of recycling I’m sure you’ll agree :)

#ShowsOfHands Tying up the poultry feeder hanging basletAnd this is my contribution to Michelle Chapman’s wonderful Chelsea Fringe project for 2014: Shows of Hands. Michelle’s project aims to highlight the most precious tool of every gardener – their hands. You can read more about the project here at Michelle’s blog.

I filled the baskets with Vital Earth peat free compost with some vermiculite. I slotted in the tomato plants as I filled, leaving a good 5cm space at the top for water. The feeders/baskets come with a useful ledge and so I put some spare nasturtiums in the big one and some self-seeded thyme plants in the other.

I’m very pleased with the result and can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen. If you look carefully at the plant in the big basket, we already have a baby tomato…

Poultry feeder hanging baskets

 Posted by at 09:46
Apr 282014
 

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs cover pictureI had a lot of fun yesterday when I interviewed Emma Cooper about her new e-book, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs as part of Emma’s virtual book tour.

Emma’s book is about unusual edibles: their history; the people who find and grow them and how to do it yourself.

We covered among other things: oca, chayote and salep; the joys & trials of growing unusual edibles; chewing gravel; dog’s balls; mouth fizzing and coconut clothing.

The interview has a lot of useful information and anecdotes from Emma and a fair amount of laughter. It runs for just over 30 minutes. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did :)

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs Interview

Press the play arrow below to play from this page.

Or right-click and below to download the file to your computer.

Emma Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs Interview mp3

The music on the interview is by Nobara Hayakawa and licensed under creative commons.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:40
Apr 172014
 

Hop Shoot All you need is a few hop plants (humulus lupulus), some malt and sugar, water and the help of Andy Hamilton.

At the end of the summer, we had loads of the female flowers which are the hops on our plants. So we stripped them and dried them on a rack on top of the woodburner. I vacuum packed them to keep them fresh until I was ready to brew.

In the new year I got out my copy of Andy Hamilton’s Booze for Free and Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. They are both excellent books that I highly recommend if you would like to use foraged produce to make alcoholic drinks. And who wouldn’t want to? ;)

Hop beer recipe

I diverged slightly from Andy’s recipe. This was partly intention and partly stupidity. I substituted some of the white granulated sugar for molasses sugar. This was to make a darker beer with a deeper taste. I also used 1.5kg of malt extract instead of 1kg. Next time I’ll read the can properly…  Andy was very helpful on Twitter because he helped me by recommending which type of malt extract to use. Cheers Andy.

Ingredients

13 litres water
1.5kg Cooper’s Amber Malt Extract
55g dried hops
500g granulated sugar
250g molasses sugar
5g ale yeast

This made 12 litres of beer.

Method

You’ll need a big saucepan, I used the maslin pan I make jam in.

Take 6 litres of the water and add the malt extract and sugars. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the hops in a large muslin bag and simmer for another 30 minutes. Take out the hop bag and compost the hops. Your compost heap will love them. Tip the brew into a fermenting vessel and add the rest of the water and leave to cool to room temperature. I measured the specific gravity at 1060. This is higher than Andy’s recipe because of the extra 500g of malt extract.

Leave the liquid covered to cool until the next day and then add the yeast. Sprinkle in the ale yeast in and stir well. Cover and leave to ferment. I put my vessel on a seed propagator to maintain a 20°C+ temperature.

Leave to ferment until the specific gravity approaches 1000 and is steady. With mine, the SG settled at 1010. This gave me a beer of about 7% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Siphon the beer off the sediment into a barrel or beer bottles. Add 1tsp of sugar per litre of liquid to provide a secondary fermentation to give some fizz to the brew. Leave for 10 days to ferment and settle.
Hop Beer in GlassThis made a good dark beer with a grand malty taste with a touch of hop bitterness. It tasted a lot like Theakston’s Old Peculiar. That was easy :)

Watch out for more country beer recipes…

What’s your favourite beer?

 Posted by at 11:16
Apr 112014
 

Wild garlic slawSpring is a joy not least because of the re-emergence of the wild garlic.

There’s lots of publicity in the UK at the moment about eating more vegetables. I’ve been having fun concocting meals where I replace the normal carbohydrate element (potatoes, pasta, rice etc) with tasty veg. In this recipe, I added a big hit of toasted seeds and nuts for added crunch, taste and nutrients.

Wild garlic slaw recipe

I served this slaw with a chicken & tomato sauté. It could easily be a great breakfast, healthy lunch or snack as well as an accompanying vegetable. I suggested to my son it could be a great Uni meal made in big quantity and used to dip into to save time for studying ;)

Ingredients

Vary these to suit what you have available and to suit your taste. I fancy this with some fresh ginger, chilli and coriander leaf next. You could use raw or confit garlic instead of the wild garlic. Other leaves such as chard, spinach or mustard would be nice too.

10 wild garlic leaves (use flowers too if they are there)
10 stems of Egyptian walking onion (or use the tops of spring onions or finely sliced red onion)
1 large carrot, cut into fine strips
2 or 3 big handfuls of shredded white cabbage
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
45 ml sweet redcurrant vinegar (or use cider or rice vinegar and add a tsp of caster sugar)
135 ml of olive oil
125ml (1/2 cup) sunflower seeds, toasted
125ml (1/2 cup) blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

Slice the wild garlic across into very fine strips. Chop the onion stems into small rounds of about 3mm.

Mix the carrot, white cabbage, wild garlic and onion together into a salad bowl.

Dressing bottleMix the vinegar and olive oil together and add some salt & pepper to taste. I use a recycled maple syrup container to do this. I’ve put markings on for my 1:3 vinegar to oil ratio on it. I can then shake it up to emulsify the dressing and squirt a controlled amount on  salads. I keep any left over in the fridge.

Pour enough dressing on the veg so they are well coated without being drowned. Give the ingredients a good toss. Have a taste and correct seasoning if you need to.

Sprinkle the seeds on the slaw and mix. Serve.

It’s as easy as that.

What’s your favourite seeds and nuts for slaws?

 

You might also like:Wild garlic mash, warm chickweed salad & seafood
Wild garlic and smoked salmon carbonara
Wild garlic and homemade ricotta pasta

 Posted by at 11:05
Apr 092014
 

Ottoman Lamb with Sultan's DelightOne of the easiest ways you can make your meal planning easier, cook more frugally and seasonally is to make a major ingredient go further. Here I show you how I used a £20 joint of local Welsh lamb leg to make three different meals for the three of us.

I’ve cooked a lot of Diana Henry lately. Well, not literally. But I’ve used her new book A Change of Appetite and her 2002 book Crazy Water Pickled Lemons as inspirations. I’m going to review A Change of Appetite in detail soon. Suffice to say, it’s bold, imaginative and may change your views about what to cook and eat.

Roast Ottoman Lamb with Sultan’s Pleasure

Diana has a fab recipe for Ottoman Lamb with Sultan’s Pleasure. This appears here in The Telegraph.

I cooked the dish as per the recipe except I used dry sherry for the red wine (it’s what I had to hand). Also, I didn’t drain off the marinade which was delightfully thick as I made it with full fat Greek yoghurt. I couldn’t bear to throw it with all those lovely flavours in.

I served the dish with wholemeal roti (like chapatis or tortilla wraps – I  made a dozen from my recipe in The Permaculture Kitchen) and fresh Nine Star perennial cauliflower with kale shoots from the garden dressed in a thick anchovy vinaigrette. It was scrummy and felt very decadent. As you can see from the pic above, I served the lamb  slightly pink.

Pulled lamb wraps with sauteed veg

The next day, I had the lamb, six roti, some of the Sultan’s Delight and half the cauliflower (uncooked) left over. I popped the lamb in the oven for another three hours on a low heat, covered with some water in the pan. It cooked so it was falling apart. I sautéed the cauliflower florets with some purple sprouting broccoli and red onion strips.

Nine Star perennial cauliflowerI shredded the lamb and mixed it with some of the roasting juices, and gently reheated the Sultan’s Delight. I blitzed the roti in the microwave for a couple of minutes. We then made up wraps with the shredded lamb on a bed of ‘Delight‘ with the veg on the side. So, so good. We all wanted more, but had no more room. I’d not wasted any ingredients and the meal was ready in a trice.

So now I just had some of the shredded lamb in its juices left.

Lamb with pak choy, flowers and brown rice

I picked some pak choy that was going to flower from the garden along with some turnip tops in the same condition. So I had flowers and some big leaves. I cut the ribs from the pak choy leaves and cut these into chunks. I shredded a couple of carrots and put these with the ribs. I roughly shredded the leaves and put these to one side with the flower tops.

I cooked some wholemeal basmati rice.

I stir fried the carrot shreds with the pak choy ribs, then added the lamb & juices and brought this to a simmer. Then I added the leaves and flowers and covered the pan. I covered this to simmer & steam the leaves and flowers.

I then served the lamb and veg mix on top of the wholemeal rice. Another very quick and frugal meal which was healthy and seasonal.

While you may not have precisely the ingredients I have to hand, I hope this shows how you can use a major ingredient with a little imagination to make the best use of it. Also how you can prepare these follow-on meals quickly to save time in a busy week. And finally, how seasonal veg make a key contribution to your diet.

Would you like to see more of my multi-day meals? Do you have favourites of your own? Please let me know in the comments.

 Posted by at 10:55
Mar 252014
 

My book being packedMy book had been printed!

I went with Debs yesterday to Cambrian Printers to see The Permaculture Kitchen being bound. The team there were brilliant. They were all very friendly and happy to explain to me what they were doing and how the machines worked. I was impressed by their calm professionalism despite a day that had started early at 6am.

The insides had all been printed and collated and the covers were printed too. I saw the insides being stitched together in a very complex machine that must have taken ages to set up correctly. The publishers decided to stitch the book so that it could be laid flat. If it was just glued into the covers, it would soon fall apart which is not what you want from a kitchen book.

Then the covers and insides were collated and glued in a massive machine – coming out of the end to be checked and packed.

The pallets of books are now on their way from the printer to the publisher. They will send me some and distribute the others to Green Shopping, Amazon and other sellers.

So. If you would like to buy a signed copy, head over to The Permaculture Kitchen section of this web site. I have PayPal set up to take orders, as soon as the books are with me I will start to send them out to you. You will also see the full copies of the testimonials I’ve received from some highly respected names in food.

I’ve also made a sub-section of resources for the book. In the book I say that there will be videos to help with bread making and they are there as promised. I’ve also included my video on how to make mayonnaise with a stick blender. If you’d like anything else from the book explained or illustrated, just let me know in the comments to the Resources page and I’ll do my best to help.

I will be at the Edible Garden Show on Saturday to sign copies and give a talk. It’d be great to see you there if you can make it.

Finally, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have supported me through getting this book published. I really appreciate it. This is quite an adventure :)

 Posted by at 14:15
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