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
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
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
Feb 222014
 

Finished bottle of currant champagneIf you want a fizz that tastes spectacular, this recipe is for you. In under a month you get the full bright fruity taste of currants with a mildly mouth puckering tart-tannin background. The aroma is the wonderful woodland smell of crushed currant leaves. All this surrounded with lively & youthful fizz. I’m delighted with this discovery.

In truth, I had a freezer full of a mix of red, black and white currants. And I needed the space. In the spring, we enjoy the taste of quickly made elderflower ‘champagne’, so I thought I could experiment and do a similar thing with the currants.

It worked. And some.

To find out how easy this is to make (and other fruit ‘champagnes’), please read on.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 15:55
Feb 112014
 

Three-cornered leek deliveryThis box arrived courtesy of a very generous Lindsay on Twitter. Lindsay has a wonderful surfeit of these in Devon and needed an ID for it. She also wanted to be rid of some and so one thing led to another.

Allium triquetrum flowers

Allium triquetrum flowers by Kenpie WikiMedia Commons

It’s allium triquetrum or three-cornered leek (aka three-cornered garlic). It’s so called because of the cross-section of the leaf. Wild garlic (allium ursinum, ramsons) has a broader, flatter leaf and is only just poking out of the ground now. Like wild garlic, it has white flowers.

It’s a mediterranean plant which has naturalised in the south-west of England and prefers a moist but well-drained soil. It will spread by division and seeds extensively. It’s treated as a weed and invasive species in many places. It’s an offence to plant in the wild in England & Wales.

It tastes like a grassy leek or garlic with a lingering aftertaste. It’s not as pungent as garlic or as spicy as chives.

So I felt I had to come up with some culinary treatments for it. Read on for the details…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 18:13
Jan 012014
 

image_2

When I saw on twitter that my Twitter chum Julia Moore had:

Decided adding culture to some of our freshly pressed apples would be one experiment too far

I was intrigued and showed her my Bouza bread beer experiment post. Despite my references to ‘vomit’, Julia changed her mind and took up the challenge.

I’m so pleased Julia did this and her guest post below charts her progress. A second post will show how she used the remains from the cider fermentation to make a cider barm bread.

Julia says:

I hope this little experiment encourages someone else to have an idea and then just have a go 🙂

Precisely the attitude I promote on this blog! To find out more, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:19
Oct 202013
 

Apple custard cake Parisienne, slicedToday is the day to celebrate the wonderful variety and bounty that apples give us.

To help us celebrate, here’s a list of some of my favourite recipes.

Apple recipes

Apple cider vinegar
A doddle to make, very healthy for you and lots of fun. You can use damaged apples, or scraps. So this is a great way of using every apple you have.

Blackberry, apple & chilli chutney
Beware, this is addictive. You use two of the season’s great fruits. The more you make, the longer you can enjoy.

Apple, almond and date cake
One of my most favourite cakes courtesy of my mum-in-law. With some great examples of other people’s results from this recipe.

Apple custard cake parisienne
Crispy, spicy, custardy. It’s a joy to eat.

Apple wine
And what better way to celebrate than with this easy to make wine recipe?

I hope you like these, What’s your favourite?

 Posted by at 09:16
Oct 042013
 

Orange & coffee liqueur: bottle & glass
Delightfully simple to make: satisfyingly complex to taste.

That sums up this grand liqueur which you could make now and enjoy over the festive season. If you can bear to part with some, it’d make an ideal present for a very special person.

The aroma of the brew is what a perfect sunset should smell like. Dark, roasted coffee spice punctuated by rich highlights of orange. You’ll relax & delight in its changing complexities.

The recipe is my adaptation of the one that appears in Niki Segnit’s brilliant book The Flavour Thesaurus. I highly recommend the book which is both fun to read and very useful. Niki credits the idea to American culinary guru Patricia Wells.

I was very lucky to have a supply of slightly bitter oranges from my foodie friend Carla Tomasi’s garden in Italy. These will help – but are not essential. Use the best quality oranges you can find. I used vodka this time, but will definitely try the brandy & rum versions.

Read on for the recipe… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:28
Aug 182013
 

Home made vanilla essence
This is so simple to do, you’ll wonder why you ever spent the money on the shop stuff.

The picture shows my 500ml bottle of vanilla extract. Here’s how I make it…

Method

Take 6 to 8 vanilla pods and split them with a sharp knife, leaving them just attached at one end. Pop them in your cleaned bottle.

Top up the bottle with standard vodka.

Shake when you remember for 6-8 weeks.

When you’ve used about a third to a half, top up with more vodka, shake the bottle.

Uses

  • Use as directed in the recipe (like this courgette cake)
  • In cake, muffins, ice cream, custards and other sweet goods
  • It goes well with chocolate, coconut and coffee
  • It likes spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
  • It complements chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts
  • All kind of soft fruit are improved with it
  • A bottle makes a great present for the foodie/baker in your life

I’ve bought my vanilla pods from Vanilla Mart.

 Posted by at 13:55
May 152013
 

Guanciale cross section view
Guanciale is the perfect preserved pork. It’s wonderfully versatile & tasty, easy to make, economical to buy & use and looks brilliant. What’s not to like about that? You can see what I made in the picture above: I’m so pleased with the result.

Guanciale means “pillow” in Italian, the reason should be obvious. My first taste was courtesy of my friend and Italian food mentor Carla Tomasi who sent me some from Rome. It was a revelation with a deep porky taste. It’s good raw, as a seasoning or a major ingredient in many dishes. When I got the Italian dry curing book Salumi for review (see here), I first searched out the recipe for guanciale. It’s ridiculously simple. The authors say it is:

…one of the most magical of the Big Eight cured cuts [and] some of the finest and most versatile salumi…

At the end of February I was fortunate to meet Huw Roberts of Oinc Oink our very local award winning pedigree Welsh pork producers. At their stall Huw had brought along some pig cheeks on the off chance that they might sell. They did.

I rushed home and got out my copy of Salumi. If you want to find out how to make your own guanciale, please read on…

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:24
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