Mar 292013
 

Puntarelle plants one month from sowing

How to grow Puntarelle

In my last blog post, I showed you how to use this versatile vegetable. As promised, I’ll tell you how to grow them in this post.

We found these very easy to grow last year even with all the rain and lack of sun.

If you’d like me to show you how to grow them,  please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:16
Mar 212013
 

Puntarelle Shoots as cut

Puntarelle are glorious to eat. This type of chicory is a versatile vegetable which you can eat raw or cooked. It’s also a doddle to grow. We grew it for the first time last year and it will be a firm favourite for the future.

You may see recipes for Puntarella, with an ‘a‘ at the end. However, to be precise, Puntarella  is the Roman Italian word for little shoot. So puntarella is one shoot,  and puntarelle – with an ‘e‘ at the end is the plural and means many shoots. We’re nearly always eating many, so the recipes use puntarelle. You may see the plant or seeds described as Cicoria (di) Cataglogna, Cicoria di Gaeta or Cicoria Asparago (asparagus chicory). As far as I can find out, the Cicoria di Veneto is a leaf only chicory like an endive and without the shoots. And some of the Cicoria Cataglogna seeds on sale are leaf only chicories. So be careful. In my next post, I’ll give you one UK source for the seeds for the right stuff.

According to Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, seeds of asparagus chicory used to be sold (in 1976) for UK growers by Thompson & Morgan. I’m told by Charlie Hicks (the über-costermonger) that puntarelle were grown in England 100s of years ago and used to be exported to Italy. Now he has to import them for the top chefs to use. It’s appears that we’ve lost the taste for them in this neck of the woods. Perhaps I can start a revival here. If you’d like to find out more about how to grow and cook them, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 08:52

Seedy Penpals January 2013

 Permaculture, Seasons, Seedy Penpals, Spring, Winter  Comments Off on Seedy Penpals January 2013
Jan 102013
 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big

As many people found in August 2012, Seedy Penpals is a great way to share seeds with like-minded people. We all like to send and receive surprise treats: with Seedy Penpals you get to grow them too (and eat some). Follow the links at the bottom of that post to see the fun other people had.

Now it’s nearly time for the February 2013 exchange. If you already know about the scheme and just want to sign up, visit the ‘How it Works’ page and use the form that’s there.

If you took part in last year’s Scheme, I’ll email you to ask you to confirm that you want to take part in this exchange. Please look out for my email, or let me know you want to carry on by Tweeting  me. If your email address has changed since last time, please get in touch with me on Twitter or using the contact form on this website. Thanks 🙂

For those of you that are new to this, here’s a brief explanation…

Seedy Penpals is also a great way to

  • Meet and make new friends who share your interest in gardening
  • Find new blogs you may like
  • Share your experience of different plants and how to grow & care for them
  • Increase your knowledge about how to grow & care for plants
  • Save & share your favourite varieties
  • Protect plant biodiversity
  • Conserve and promote heritage varieties of plants
  • Make sure your surplus seeds are not wasted

Who can join?

Anyone who would like to join is welcome. You can be:

  • a complete beginner, or
  • someone who knows they have green fingers
  • young, or
  • more ‘mature’

We’d like to see:

  • bloggers or non-bloggers
  • Tweeters or non-Tweeters
  • UK & other EU residents only (due to seed export restrictions)

All you need to do is to read this about How it Works, fill in the form that’s there and sign up. Please read How it Works carefully, so you can be sure that you can participate in this way.

So what happens?

  • You read the Agreement and sign up
  • You encourage your friends to join too
  • In late January and late July of each year we match you up with a Seedy Penpal & email you
  • Penpal A will send to Penpal B, Penpal B will send to Penpal C (so it’s not a swap)
  • You get in touch with your Seedy Penpal to find out their postal address and any preferences they may have
  • In February and August you select and send to your Seedy Penpal some thoughtfully chosen seeds and any tips and instructions for sowing and care
  • You open your Seedy Packet and rejoice at your good fortune, sow what you like. Tweet your joy if you do that thing!
  • If you can, blog about your Seedy Packet and how your seeds are doing in the coming weeks and months. You put your link on the Seedy Blog so we can all see it. Add the Seedy Penpals Badges to your site.
  • Let us have some feedback about what went well and less well and give us suggestions for improvement
  • Look forward to the next Seedy Packet and encourage your friends to join.

So now, sign up

 Posted by at 13:28
Dec 042012
 

Maked ginger & pecan muffins

This is one of Debs’ inventions that I made yesterday. When I first tasted them I was in food heaven. Lovely spicy ginger flavour with the roasted pecan taste and a hint of spice. It’s such a gorgeous combination – they are my favourite muffin now.

What’s even better about this recipe is that you can make up the ingredients in the time it takes the oven to warm up and be eating muffins 25 minutes later.

I used Naked Ginger to make these ones: you can use preserved stem ginger in syrup or crystalised ginger to make them too. The Naked ginger is less sugary than crystalised. It’s an Aussie product that you can buy in the UK from Lakeland and other places.

If you want to have a try, please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:56
Dec 012012
 

Salumi - cover picture

Salumi delivers on its promises. If you want a comprehensive, understandable, useable and enjoyable guide to how to dry cure & preserve meats Italian style, this is it. It’s suitable for the chef, semi-pro or novice home practitioner. I wish that this book had been published a few years earlier to save me some hard won experience.

Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing is written by the authors of the acclaimed Charcuterie – Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Rhulman has written & co-written many bestselling books about cooking. Polcyn is Professor of Butchery & Charcuterie at Schoolcraft College in Michigan and a chef/patron of his own restaurants. They both demonstrate a clear knowledge of the science of meat preservation coupled with a love & evangelism for good food, slowly & lovingly prepared and eaten.

Salumi is a tidy hardback book that’ll fit on your worktop while you work through the instructions. It’s divided into five chapters which take you systematically through the process from carcass to consumption. It’s illustrated throughout with really clear & helpful drawings by Alan Witschonke. It has two beautiful sections of colour plates which really do the salumi proud and show you what to aim for. Each chapter has its own mini-contents at the beginning and these are helpful to see the scope of what’s there, not just to help to navigate the book. There are regular boxed out asides which give added detail and explanations or contain wonderful anecdotes. The anecdotes really bring the book alive and give it atmosphere.

Salumi - drawing & picture example

They clarify terminology up front and explain that salumi is the word for salted & cured meats and salami are a subset of these which are dry cured sausages.

In the first chapter the authors first put salumi in their cultural and philosophical context. Now this may sound a little pretentious: but the way they express it is down to earth. While their book Charcuterie was about the French tradition of meat curing and confit; Salumi is about the narrower, more focused and more difficult craft (in their view) of Italian dry curing of meat. They say:

Nature is the greatest artist, we are not the first to say, and this is what salumi is really about: taking what nature gives us and doing as little as possible to it to make it the best it can be.

They emphasise the need for high quality meat and also that in using it you must be properly prepared. Their emotion about the responsibility of the meat preparer is eloquently expressed:

…if you are not prepared, if you have a feeling bone in your body, you will experience the deep humiliation of having wasted a creature’s life because you were lazy.

Quite so and well said. But the book is not all so earnest. The section the above quote comes from is entitled: “The Experience of Breaking Down a Whole Hog (Is This Your First Time, Sweetheart?)”. And their humour peeks cheekily through in many more passages and anecdotes.

The first chapter gives really detailed instructions of how to butcher a whole pig. Having done the job myself, the instructions are clearly from people that have done it for real. The drawings come into their own here and are very helpful. They say it’s hard work and needs from three to nine people to do. No wonder when I’ve done it on my todd, I been out on my feet at the end. There’s lots of good practical advice and tips.

Salumi - clear drawings

The second chapter sets out the basics of the science behind why and how curing works. They deal with the safety and environmental/public health issues in a way that reassures. Like scuba diving, they say, if you follow the rules – you’ll be safe. They provide advice about what equipment is needed and how to improvise smokers and curing cabinets. The chapter ends with a basic recipe and some rules of thumb. In addition to the science and careful weighing of ingredients, they stress that common sense is a useful asset to have and use throughout the process.

In Chapter Three they describe and give recipes for the ‘Big Eight’ Italian dry cured meats. These are: guanciale, coppa, spalla, lardo, lonza, pancetta, prosciutto and (basic) salami. Each section describes the cuts and its uses, flavour, cure variations and gives relevant tips and things to look out for. The recipes are clear and precise, the measurements given in ounces and grammes with aniticpated timings and yields.

Salumi - clear recipes

With Chapter Four, Ruhlman & Polcyn go “Deeper into the Craft of Dry Curing and Preserving Meat”. This covers how to make more complex salami, whole muscle salami and cooked salumi. The recipes follow a similar format to those in Chapter Three and I found really inspired me to want to get to grips with the art of the Salumière. The authors’ expertise of the technical aspects of the cure and how to match and blend flavours shines through.

Finally, in Chapter Five the art of how to cook with and serve salumi is revealed. There are six mouth watering sections which cover tagliere di salumi (the salumi board), crostini, pizza, pasta & polenta, soups & salads and classic combinations. There’s enough inspiration in here for many months and years of happy cooking.

Salumi - beautiful pictures

I’ve kept, slaughtered and butchered my own pigs and made my own bacon, chorizo and sausages. So I’m an enthusiast for the process and the products. I’m also, as this blog shows, a big fan of Italian style cuisine. This book will soon look tired and battered as it’s bound to be well used, thumbed and drooled over. It’s an essential read for anyone interested in how to make preserved meats, or who wants to find out more about Italian cuisine.

Disclosure: The publishers provided me with a free copy of this book for me to review. They didn’t impose any express or implied conditions on this and I have written as I’ve found.

 Posted by at 18:33
Nov 202012
 

Harissa in jars

These are a blast for any chilliholic and will add a new dimension to the seasonings on any table. In the northern hemisphere, now is when we need to preserve green & red chillies. If you have a blender or food processor these couldn’t be easier.

Chillies and tomatoes are arguably two of the most influential culinary exports from South America where they originated. Traders took them to Europe, the middle & far east from the 16th century onwards. Their use is characteristic of many cuisines. Harissa & schug are similar to some of the original salsas & pebre of South America.

Tamsin’s tomatoes on toast with schug

They can be used virtually anywhere in your culinary repertoire. In soups or stews; as a rub on meat, fish & vegetables; spread on bread; as a dip, with hummus or felafel etc; or like a ketchup. On the left, the delicious snack my friend Tamsin made with the Schug I took as a present when we stayed with her & her family. Tamsin’s blog is a cracking read too.

Harissa is a Tunisian/Morrocan red chilli paste seasoned with spices. Some variations include tomatoes too, which round out the flavour.

Schug (zhug  or skhug)
is a Yemeni green chilli paste make with lashings of fresh coriander and seasoned with spices. There is also a red variant.

If you’d like to make these wonderful ingredients, please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:01
Nov 162012
 

Peat Free Diet Audiobook Cover

Emma Cooper – The Peat Free Diet – Audio Book

Running time in excess of 2 hours

The Peat Free Diet (PFD) on Emma’s blog is a really useful resource for anyone interested in growing things. If you’re also interested in saving peat bogs by going peat free, then all the better: the book or audio-book is for you. Emma has packed a huge amount of comprehensive, detailed and well researched information into a neat little package. If you’re new to gardening or if you’d welcome a refresher, this will be a mine of handy & very accessible information for you.

Does it work as an audio-book though?

Yes, if you’re in the market for some enjoyable in-ear education. I can see (hear?) that this audio-book will be useful to commuters, exercisers and those who, for choice or physical need, prefer an audio presentation of material.

Emma’s diction and enunciation are very clear and crisp. I think that her speech will be clear on even the most dodgy set of earphones. The reading is fast enough paced so that you’ll not fall asleep without being so fast as to seem garbled.

Emma’s wry sense of humour also shines through her presentation with some dry quips delivered in characteristically understated style.

Emma produced the audio book herself and I think this shows in a couple of minor respects. The transitions between each track are slightly clipped at the end of one and the beginning of the next. Not so much so that you lose the meaning, but just noticeable. And on very few tracks the sound levels are not fully consistent between tracks. Again, not annoyingly so – just noticeable.

I think that this audio-book is a great piece of work by Emma. If you’re in the sort of groups of people I’ve suggested, it would be a great addition to your audio library.

Disclosure:
I count Emma as a friend. We’re regularly in contact and exchanging banter on Twitter and Emma has been to visit me here in North Wales. That said, I’ve called this review as I heard it and feel about it. I hope that helps.

 

 

 Posted by at 12:53
Nov 042012
 

 

Blues and bays made into vinegar using kombucha

Once you know how to make your own vinegar you can experiment with different flavours. Last year I showed you how to make your own apple cider vinegar. This year, I experimented to see if I could use the same principles to make some blackberry and apple vinegar.

I’ve also got into using Kombucha. We make kombucha tea as a tasty and healthful drink. It’s also possible to use it to turn a sugary solution into acetic acid – vinegar. All you need is a kombucha ‘SCOBY’ (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts).

If you’d like to find out how to do these, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:00
Sep 302012
 

 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big

As I type this there’s yet another brutal weather front going over. The wind is howling and the rain lashing both pressing & clawing at the windows like hungry sea monsters. The transition into Autumn has crashed down like a saturated ceiling.

The seeds I received from Lucy are safely tucked up indoors awaiting a new year and some warmth. However, all has not been quiet here at Legge Towers on the Seedy Penpals front.

Mel & I have worked on a Questionnaire for those of you who took part in the last exchange. We will email this very shortly. Mel has done great outreach work in the Netherlands and far beyond: go have a read.

Here, I have saved seeds from some of our plants, especially the heritage varieties. We’ve saved seeds from our (former Heritage Seed Library) Dragon’s Tongue dwarf bean, achocha and sunflowers for example. We’ve also had a great year in propagating oca (oxalis tuberosa) seedlings. These may just be the crosses that will be the next generation of oca that doesn’t need to wait until after the autumn equinox to make tubers. We’ll find out next year.

Some of these things may find their way into my next Seedy Penpals parcel…

Anyway, if you have your own blogged update of progress with your Seedy Penpals seeds, you can add a link below…



 

 Posted by at 11:59

Seedy Penpals – a letter from Gillian

 Autumn, Permaculture, Seasons, Seedy Penpals, Winter  Comments Off on Seedy Penpals – a letter from Gillian
Sep 122012
 

Gillian sent me a letter about her Seedy Penpals experience which she asked me to blog for her. I do this with pleasure. You can find Gillian as the Impatient Gardener on Twitter.

A letter from Gillian

Dear Carl

Just a letter to update you on my #SeedyPenpals experience.

My seedy pen pal was the lovely Kate Mortimer; she sent me a wonderful parcel of seeds including: Green Manure, Radish “Hilds blauer Herbst und Winter”, Viola bambini mixed, Godetia and corn marigolds.

Gillian Pulford - Seedy Penpals Packet

As I have an allotment here in Llanfairfechan, I was quite keen to start with the green manure which has been something I’ve been meaning to try. So I have been busy sowing this as gaps arise. Apart from a few tussles with local riff raff (rabbits) this is going great guns.

Gillian Pulford - sowing green manure

I’ve also sown my radish, which is almost ready.

Gillian Pulford - radish seedling

And the viola, Kate was given the viola seeds from The Tatton Hall RHS show at the Abolition of Torture Garden. I look forward to these, and feel that I must make the effort to visit the Tatton Hall show myself next year.

Gillian Pulford - Viola

On my allotment I mainly grow veg, but I will shortly sow some of the Godetia sent by Kate to hopefully bring some early colour and help bring the bees in to do their stuff!

I’m really pleased with my seeds and feel that Kate sent me an excellent mix. I will be really interested to see the result of the green manure and its affect on my soil which is heavy clay and real effort to dig. Anything that helps break it up has to be a bonus.

After reassuring nearest and dearest that I wasn’t corresponding with unscrupulous characters but in fact sowing seeds, #SeedyPenpals has been a brilliant experience which has encouraged me to sow seeds I would have not tried before. It has also put me in contact with some lovely people who share some wonderful tips and advice for growing.

Finally, thanks for the wonderful idea – loving it

All the best

Gill

 Posted by at 13:58
%d bloggers like this: