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2013/07
Friday 26th July, 2013
Category: 2013/07
Tags: veggies cooking VT weather

Several experiments have been taking place in the kitchen lately, no not the alchemist's dream of making gold but almost as good - in my eyes anyway. No, I've been trying out ways of freezing the veggies from the garden (other than literally chop, blanch and freeze).

The first recipe I tried was for courgette fritters (I should probably call them marrow fritters as the things I've been plucking from the garden are huge. It would be like calling the Titanic a kayak). For anyone interested, here's the recipe:

Take one ginormous courgette, peel and grate. Squeeze and squeeze and squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible. Grate up an onion (home grown of course!) and mix with the courgette. Beat 2 eggs into the mixture and then mix in about 8 tablespoons of flour to hopefully create a sticky moist mess. A lot of recipes also add cheese but as I was freezing these ones I left it out. that way you can add whatever you want when they're reheated later. Season with salt, pepper and any other bits and bobs. Now just fry in a hot pan until brown on both sides. As a final test I froze one of them and then defrosted it and warmed it up in the microwave and it still tasted pretty good! 

The next thing I tried was making tsatsiki using one of the cucumbers.

Peel and grate a cucumber (or ten) and again squeeze like crazy to get rid of the liquid. Add a few dollops of natural thick yoghurt, some garlic, salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar. I must admit my first attempt was a bit sloppy but that might partly have been to the cheap yoghurt I used. Next time I'll splash out on a better quality creamier one. The taste was okay but a bit sharp, though maybe fresh garlic would sweeten it instead of dried. Still, a nice little dip to nibble with slices of salami:

Back to the courgettes again and this time just slices fried in batter. I've had this as a started tons of times when on holiday in Greece and it was always a favourite of mine.

Take another humungous courgette and peel. This time slice it quite thinly and sprinkle with salt. Leave it in a colander while you make the batter using 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, 1 egg and a tablespoon of oil. Add salt and pepper etc.

Heat oil in a frying pan, dip the slices in the batter (I wiped some of it off on the side of the batter jug as it seemed quite a thick layer) and fry till both sides are golden.  These tasted really nice as the batter is quite light and the courgette flavour comes through well. Stuffed a good dozen or so with lunch but the rest are nicely bagged up in the freezer:

Phew, busy busy busy! Thank goodness the house stays nice and cool as the temperatures outside have hit the mid 30s this week and look to get even higher into next week. Apart from the cooking I've been tidying up the street outside the house using my new mattock. At least I think that's what it's called (trying to recall my conservation volunteering days of 30 years ago). Anyway, it's a curved metal blade fitted to a long wooden handle that skims the weeds off the surface of the road nicely and is also great for chipping down into deeper roots. It looks much tidier out there now with just a few tons of old stones from the wall to get rid of. Anyone building a rockery...?

On Wednesday I got a Metro card (a sort of cash and carry place) and treated myself to a nice new hosepipe and something to wind it onto after my old hose, which was sprawled across the garden, literally exploded in several places from the heat. It's sheer pleasure to set the spray to a light mist and just stand under it during the heat of the day. Many insects appreciate this free water too and today I was joined by this beautiful swallowtail butterfly:

Molly wants no truck with the water and just prefers to flake out all day long, waiting for darkness to descend so she can go out hunting again:

She nearly caught herself a grass snake the other day. I was sitting on the patio when I saw her suddenly stand up all alert and then go prowling down the garden. As I sat up she was near the wood store and squaring up to a HUGE grass snake. No lie, this thing was over a meter long and moved unbelievably quickly. It wasn't happy to be greeted by Molly and had a little jab at her before wriggling under the pile of wood. By the time I got there with the camera there was no sign so I presume it had gone through a hole in the wall somewhere into next door's. Exciting and unnerving. Needless to say I now make quite a lot of noise every time I approach the veggie patch or the compost heap!

Tuesday 23rd July, 2013
Category: 2013/07
Tags: veggies garden birds

Congratulations to William and Kate on the birth of their son yesterday! Yes, they read this blog all the time *bows and tugs forelock*. 

Exciting news - after many months the birds have finally discovered what the bird feeder is for in my garden! It's been hanging in the little plum tree since winter but so far no birds appeared to be using it, but that's all changed this week. The blue tits and great tits are back and forth all day long and yesterday morning I was thrilled to see a woodpecker run up the trunks of the two cherry trees scanning for bugs.

I now need to source a supply of food for them. The dried peanuts only seem to be sold as snacks for people and work out quite expensive, so yesterday I bought a big bag of peanuts in their shells, some of which I've strung up in the tree. I've also hung up a little plastic pot full of sunflower seeds which are cheaper, so hopefully the birds will soon be feeding on these too. I must confess it occurred to me this morning to wonder whether the plum tree was the best choice of location as I now have visions of all my lovely fruits being torn to pieces by hungry birds... bring on the shot gun!

The vegetables continue to flourish in the garden and a couple of days ago I decided to lift all the onions. I wasn't sure if this was the right thing to do but their leaves seemed to be dying and I thought they might start rotting if they just stay in the ground. There seem to be two distinct varieties: One lot have just grown as expected into medium sized onions, the others have split up into little clumps of four or five small onions.

I've tried to get fancy with the storage and tied them up in strings to hang in the shed to dry.

The smell in the shed is becoming quite pungent!

Each sweetcorn plant seems to be sprouting a cob and the cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

   

Sounds crazy but this really is my dream come true... popping down to the veggie patch each day to pick fresh food for dinner :)

Monday 15th July, 2013
Category: 2013/07
Tags: garden vegetables

There were two things I'd been desperate to see when I got home (well, dozens of things but two main things): Molly and the veggie patch. I'd been a bit worried that Molly might assume I was gone forever and would head off to find a new home, but happily within thirty minutes of my arrival she was there rubbing all round my legs as if nothing had happened. She is now back in her happy routine of curling up on my bed whenever possible and begging for titbits from my plate, including salad apparently:

The veggie patch is thrilling to see! After years of only being able to grow odd bits and pieces in tubs and growbags, to see veg on a massive scale was truly amazing!  Everything I've planted is flourishing nicely although I will need to rethink the layout a bit next year as the courgettes, cucumbers and butternut squash have all merged together and swamped most of the plot. The runner beans have produced a lot of beans already though too big to eat. I'll need to explain to Bobi next year about picking them before they go to seed to keep the plant flowering. There are still plenty more flowers on the beanstalks and I've already picked and scoffed one portion.

The sweetcorn has grown surprisingly well though so far I've only spotted two actual cobs. I've no idea how you tell when they're ready to pick so pulled one off. On peeling it I see the corns are quite small so perhaps you need to leave them on until the plant leaves start to die back.

There are lots of fruits and flowers on the courgettes and squash plants which is very exciting as I've never even seen these growing before. Some of the courgettes have gone mad and are massive marrows though these have been dispatched to the compost. I have horrible memories of being given slimey marrow to eat as a child!

I need to start googling ways of freezing courgettes as I'll have many more than  I can use, especially as the spare seeds I threw on the compost have also taken root giving me several more plants in that corner!

The cucumbers are interesting as they have quite spiky skins, but once peeled they are deliciously crisp and nice to eat on their own dipped in salad cream.

All the tomato plants have fruits on them though mostly still green.

The onions are all visible though again I'm not sure about when exactly to pick them. I've pulled up some of the bigger ones and hung them together on a nail as I'd like to eventually store them all for use through the year.

Yesterday was spent pulling a mountain of weeds out from between all the veggie plants - mainly nettles and brambles - and once it rains again I'll fork over the area near the sweetcorn so that I can start planting another batch of lettuces.

My first harvest was a bit disappointing though. I sliced a courgette and onion along with some other veg to fry with some chicken but when I came to check on it, disaster! The glass lid on the frying pan had exploded into tiny chunks of glass all over the food! That's some powerful veggies ;)

The garage is almost complete so on Saturday (when I knew no one would be there to witness) I swept the floor up a bit and had a go at parking in it. Yayyy... the car fits!

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