Broad Beans, and what comes after?

BroadBeanDwarf

I don’t really like broad beans.
OK, I don’t really like the beans themselves, but I always grow the plants – they are so pretty with their purple flowers and quick growing habit.
They fix nitrogen into the soil, so I always chop them off an inch above the soil when I do harvest them, rather than disturb the roots by pulling them up. Sometimes, I’m luckier to get a smaller secondary crop later in the season.

I’m already thinking into the future for these beds. Brassicas are the next in the rotation plan – they are nitrogen hungry so use a lot of the nitrogen brought to the top soil by the beans. I love the purple sprouting broccoli, so my seeds were sown into seedtrays inside a few weeks ago, and should be ready to plant out by the time I chop the beans.

So what will I do with the beans this year? I set a facebook challenge to my gardening and cooking friends to find the best broad bean recipes – I need to be convinced!
This is the one I shall be trying out in a few weeks, I’ll report back to let you know if it passes muster.

Broad Bean Hummus

Ingredients
450g/1lb fresh broad beans
100g/3½ oz tinned chickpeas (save 6 tbsp of the liquid from the can)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 heaped tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground white pepper
pinch caster sugar (optional)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cook the podded broad beans in a pan of boiling, salted water for a minute or two, or until tender. Drain and cool in iced water. This makes the next step much easier.

Make a cup of tea, put the radio on and remove the skin from the bright green beans.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and smoosh until completely combined.

Serve with crackers, carrot sticks or felafels.

Golden Risotto

I got a shock when the dogs came in from their morning ablutions this morning. Big face dog, Bryn, was peppered in snow. I looked up from my bleary eyed coffee machinations, and it was indeed snowing. Great!

it snowed

It snowed

Snow can be a real headache here in Wales. In 2010, my village was snowed in for the best part of two weeks, and we relied on a farmer from a well-known yogurt factory to deliver milk and bread.

Most people that live out in the hills have a well-stocked larder, as winter storms aren’t uncommon. If London had our weather, the media would maybe take climate change more seriously…

So today calls for some real comfort food. A flavoursome risotto, spiced with the saffron threads I diligently collected in the autumn.

Saffron crocuses aren’t hard to grow if you get the soil conditions right. It loves a freescreen-shot-2017-01-22-at-09-18-38 draining site, and can happily get by with low fertility. It must have full sun, especially when they flower in October. I have a small raised bed devoted to them, just a metre square, and for a short period of time they make me dizzy with pleasure. The picking is a delicate, meditative affair, plucking the three stigmas (female sex organs) from each flower.

Did you know…

  • saffron is the most expensive spice in the world?
  • has been cultivated for over 5,000 years?
  • was introduced by the Romans?
  • costs £4,000 per kilo?
  • is almost exclusively harvested by hand?
  • it takes 150 crocuses to produce a gram of saffron (about 500 threads)?

They need to be carefully dried; I have a dehydrator to do this, but a low oven (about 40C) or on a silicone sheet next to a radiator or in an airing cupboard will work too.

So, to the joy of saffron risotto. I love that the Arborio rice used for risotto is grown in Europe- it soothes my locavore sensibilities. Carnaroli, another medium grain rice is grown here too, and makes a much creamier dish.

Saffron Risotto (serves two)

Ingredients:

Small white onion, finely chopped
25g butter or 1 tablespoon oil (nothing too heavily flavoured, a light olive oil will do)
1.25 litres golden stock
200g carnaroli rice
A glass of white wine
50g unsalted butter, diced
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano (for a vegetarian option) cheese, grated

Directions:

Bring the stock to the boil. I make mine with left over veg saved for this: carrot tops, celery leaves, rosemary, shiitake mushrooms, thyme, fennel, onion and the green ends of leek, parsley stalks and a pinch of peppercorns, then add salt at the end to taste.

Strain the stock and add a teaspoon of saffron. Marvel at its golden colour change!

Melt the butter or oil, and soften the onion in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Add the carnaroli rice. Turn up the heat, and stir to coat the grains with butter.

When the rice is hot, add a small glass of white wine, and keep stirring until it has evaporated.

Start adding the stock, gradually. Stir in a ladleful at a time, until it has nearly all been absorbed.

The rice begins to soften after about ten minutes. Keep testing it as you add the stock. When the stock is all added and it is cooked to your taste, add the unsalted butter, cheese, and beat it firmly with a wooden spoon, until the risotto is rich and creamy.

Check the seasoning, then serve immediately.

 

After Blue Monday – Grey Tuesday?

It’s already 17th January. The dog is pacing for her second walk of the day, and I know it will be dark in less than two hours. While she forages in the bin for cat food pouches, I lean on my bedroom windowsill looking at the garden in stasis.

Of course, it’s actually teeming with life down there. Microbes, fungi, nematodes, micro-organisms are all cracking on, gently turning the mulch to soil; the discarded stems and leaves delicious food for the invisible.

When we had the very brief cold snap, I lay the Christmas tree over my corn salad Rainy woodlandseedlings to protect them from frost. It’s probably time to rescue them from the pine needles.

Mmm, pine needles. They smell so evocative. A hint of winter, Nordicity and hygge.

Remembering Susun Weed’s words on pine sap, I think I might create her pine needle vinegar.

 

Pine Needle Vinegar

Ingredients

500ml apple cider vinegar*

12” of pine branch, cut into 2” pieces

 

Directions

Place the fresh pine needles into a wide-mouthed jar and add the apple cider vinegar.

Soak for 6 weeks, strain and taste.

 

I’ll report back to you, as this is a new one on me.

*  I started making my own vinegar last year, when I forgot about a batch of kombucha. If it is overfermented, it makes a great and healthy vinegar, and I also use it as a cleaning spray 🙂

A perfect pot luck lunch offering

In a week that has seen gale force winds, snow, hail and a return to work – what can I have possibly eaten from my garden? You’d be surprised.

On day two back at work we had a pot luck lunch. You know that thing where people bring in food and share? That.

Fresh ripe red cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

 

Our theme this month was Mediterranean. I scoured the fridge and pantry for inspiration. I found lots of dried rosemary and oregano, a jar of passata from the last of the summer tomatoes and my final crown prince squash. What’s more Mediterranean than ratatouille?

Outside, the bay tree saplings are hanging on, so I took just a couple of leaves from them to add to the flavour, and I found my stash of dried shiitake mushrooms.

Shiitakes are really quite easy to grow here in wet mild Mid Wales. I lived on a farm that produced these commercially when my kids were small, and have grown them ever since. They are really easy to dry, and seem to last forever. When dry, they add a lovely smoky depth to sauces, ragouts and vegetarian stock – although I’m not so keen on them as a mushroom, as they have quite a chewy, meaty texture.

Winter Ratatouille

The trick to a good ratatouille is to roast the veg individually, then combine in a good thick herby tomato sauce.

Ingredients (made enough for 15)

1 small crown prince squash (or 1 large butternut), peeled and cut into inch square pieces

6 peppers, cut into large chunks

4 medium onions, cut into quarters

4 courgettes, cut into half moon shapes about the thickness of a £1 coin

2 aubergines, thinly sliced

100ml olive oil

1 bulb of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

2 shiitake mushrooms

Passata, at least 1 litre

1 tbs balsamic vinegar (optional)

Sea salt

Rosemary

Oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200C

Lay out each of the veg into separate baking trays, putting the full head of garlic onto the same tray as the peppers.

Drizzle approx. 1tbs (25ml) olive oil over each veg (squash, garlic & peppers, onions, courgettes & aubergines) and a pinch of sea salt.

Roast each veg tray until cooked – about 20 mins for most, a bit longer for the squash.

Combine all veg in a large pan (I used one of my jam pans for this).

Cover with passata and add the shiitake and balsamic, if using.

Simmer gently for 30 mins.

Taste, season (try adding a tsp or two of sugar here, it intensifies the taste of the tomatoes) and serve with crusty bread and salad.

A coastal stomp, ending with hot chocolate

The cold has given way to relentless driving rain. I spent the first couple of hours walking the dogs from Ynyslas to Borth and back – if you don’t know this stretch of Welsh coastline I suggest you book a holiday here pronto, it’s heaven. Saw a small flock of shags, heard curlews on the salt marsh and laughed as the collie chased some oystercatchers. Bracing.

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Bay tree

There is no way I am spending much time in the garden today, so on the way back from my walk I grabbed a handful of bay leaves from the three year old saplings in the front garden. I dragged them out of the bargain basement bin at B&Q a couple of years ago, and they are serving me proud.

Bay leaves are my go to when I make polenta. However, whisking the cornmeal into a simmering  bay infused milk and water combo is an activity akin to dodging paintball. When those bubbles burst onto your skin, they hurt!

So, no polenta today. The only thing to do after a long beach walk is make hot chocolate. Here goes:

Bay Infused Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
1 mug of milk (soya, dairy or nut, they all work well)
50g cacao or dark chocolate, grated
1tbs cream (optional)
2 fresh bay leaves
Pinch salt

 

Method

Put the grated cacao or chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.

Put the milk and bay leaves in a saucepan, with the bowl on top.

Bring the pan to a simmer, turn off the heat steep for about five minutes.

Remove the bay leaves form the milk, then stir the milk into the bowl containing the now melted chocolate/ cream combo.

Whisk lightly to combine,  add a tiny pinch of salt and serve.

Brass Monkeys

5th January – absolutely brass monkeys out there this morning!

As ever, no-one will wear a coat to school, despite it being -5C. Mad fools. In contrast, I am bundled up to the eyeballs in scarves, hats, gloves, coat, jumpers, wooly socks… I look like someone knitted the Michelin man…

Time for a quick foray into the back garden for blog inspiration today. There’s not much

http://www.freeimageslive.com/galleries/nature/flora/pics/dandelion.jpg

Dandelion

going on, and I can’t find any use for the grass, so I lifted some dandelions. The back garden hasn’t been cultivated for years, it was just a huge swathe of lawn when I moved in two years ago. I started landscaping it last autumn, sketching many designs before deciding on a forest forage style garden. I have lain some of the ground under black landscaping fabric, and under here is a diggable area with dandelions still trying to hang on to survival. Not for long…

I managed to get eight large dandelion roots up, before the collie began to drive me insane with her ‘help’. She reckons she can garden better than me, and likes to show me so – very, very insistently. Her digging and prancing drives me mad, so for everyone’s sake, I stopped after twenty minutes.

Dandelion roots go deep, and are great bio-accumulators in an organic setting. They have digestive and bitter properties, good for indigestion, spleen disorders, relieving heartburn and constipation, and stimulating the appetite. They contain inulin, a fermentable fibre, which is a prebiotic and good for gut health. It’s probably good for making kim chi – I’ll share this with you soon.

Roasted Dandelion Roots

This is not a coffee substitute recipe. I love coffee. Nothing else will cut it for me. Let’s leave the dandelion coffee to those poor souls that can’t tolerate coffee.

Ingredients

Dandelion roots, washed and gently scraped with the edge of a teaspoon

Method

chop into small pieces, about 1cm thick

Boil for 5 mins, or until soft

Put in a heavy pan (I love my cast iron ware, it retains heat to make caramelising so much easier), and add a small knob of butter and a sprinkle of sugar and heat gently to caramelise.

Serve with scrambled eggs and toasted sour dough with lots of salt and pepper.

Save

Wet and Cold

It’s wet and cold out there today. The sort of day that makes you want to crawl back into bed. Not the sort of day that has you wandering around your little front garden, actively looking for something to eat because you said that you would blog about it.

But I have. And I am.

copyright The 3 Foragers (http://the3foragers.blogspot.co.uk)

Hairy Bittercress

Despite the foul weather, there is more hairy bittercress than I can shake a stick at. This tiny little weed chucks its seed far and wide, and I shall leave some for the bees. It flowers early, and the bees need early flowers to get them going. Fortunately I grow enough other varieties that will help them through their own hungry gap, so I’m getting to grips with the bittercress.

It is from the mustard family, so I wondered whether it would work in a potato salad. I’m glad to say it does.

Bittercress Potato Salad (serves 4 hungry people)

Ingredients

800g small new potatoes

3 shallots or one red onion

1 tbs capers or pickled nasturtium seed (more about these in another post)

3 tbsp mayonnaise, or to taste

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar/ kombucha vinegar (more about this in another post)

Method

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 mins until just cooked, drain, then cool

Cut the potatoes into chunks, then throw into a bowl with the shallots/ onion and capers  if using

Add enough mayonnaise to bind

Mix together the olive oil and vinegar and add just enough to give a little sharpness to the salad

Stir in the finely chopped parsley and bittercress to serve.

3rd January – normality?!

So, I got up at 6.30am. So did the kids.

Astonishing, as our sleep patterns have been very out of kilter for the last two weeks. What will I do with these blissful few days before I go back to work too? It’s too frozen to garden, so I’m going to sort out my seeds.

The lovely Kate and Ben at Real Seeds sell the best seeds for growing here in Wales. Seeds that have a short growing season, are open pollinated, and that have been tried and tested by themselves in Pembrokeshire. I got my order in early, as they are so popular and often run out of choice varieties.

I save some of my own seed, as Kate and Ben recommend. A few years ago, a chance

center of a yellow sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus ‘Mammoth’)

sunflower came out of a pack that were given to me. All the other seeds that germinated grew into large, single flower ‘Mammoth’ style plants. One particular plant grew to about nine feet, but with multiple heads. All the flowers, when they went over, had the added bonus of having seeds with thin shells compared to the meaty seed.

I have saved and sown this seed for the last three years, and I have just found six dried heads! As each head has over a hundred seeds, and I only want to grow a few, I think it’s time to make my own sunflower seed snacks.

Sunflower Seed Snacks

Ingredients

One head of sunflower seeds (harvest when the flower is beginning to lose its petals)

Method

Take the head and dry in a paper bag. Forget about it for about 4 months!

Soak the seeds in salted water for 6 hours. This activates the germination process and makes them more nutritious.

Roast in a warm oven, about 150C/ gas mark 2 for about half an hour, until they begin to brown and crisp up.

The seeds are a good source of calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
But, there is no simple way that I know of to get rid of the shell. Just teeth, and time.

 

 

 

Nearly back to school

lemon-balm-cake-MediumIt’s the 2nd January. The kids go back to school tomorrow. I can’t help but feel smug, knowing I have another week off before I go back to the fray.

Wouldn’t it be nice to bake a cake for their lunchboxes? I’m having a look around my larder, there is still so much Christmas fare.

And then I spy a massive bunch of lemon balm. Yay! Let’s combine a bit of Scandi with some remnants of summer days.

Lemon Balm Cake

Ingredients

  • 250g butter (room temperature)
  • 250g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • juice of 12 lemon
  • 130g plain flour
  • 120 g potato starch/ cornflour/ arrowroot
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g crumbled dry lemon balm (or 100g fresh chopped leaves)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 165C or gas mark 3
  2. Grease and line a 9″ cake tin (or anything that will hold about two and a half litres of liquid)
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add lemon juice, stir to combine.
  6. In another bowl, combine potato starch (or alternative) and baking powder; sift the flour mixture onto the butter mixture, stir to combine.
  7. Add lemon balm, stir to combine.
  8. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake cool in the pan for a while; after inverting the cake, rinse the cake pan, dry it and place back on the cake. Allow the covered cake to cool completely.

On the first day of January…

… my garden gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree.

images

That is such a lie! First, I don’t have a pear tree in my garden (yet). Secondly, we don’t get partridges in this neck of Wales (although I have been lucky enough to watch black grouse with their silly white bottoms).

But, after getting back from a lovely New Year’s Eve gathering and a breezy beach walk, I really needed something refreshing and warm to get me through the rest of the day.

It’s cold and sparse in the garden at the moment, but I can always rely on the mint in the containers near the house for a quick fresh pick me up.

Mint Hot Toddy – for two

Ingredients

  • 1/2 mug loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tsp honey
  • juice from a lemon
  • 2 tbs rum (optional)

Method

  1. Put mint into a small saucepan and pour two mugs of boiling water over it
  2. Let the brew steep for five minutes
  3. In a teapot, put the rum (if using), honey and lemon juice
  4. Strain the mint tea from the saucepan into the teapot
  5. Stir, and drink.

Now, a little lie down is in order 🙂