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In Other News, Team MDAS are off to a wedding today……..so excited!
So finally it’s here, Spring. Garden preparation has begun and seeds have been planted. Cauliflower, courgette, celeriac, cayenne pepper, nasturtium, french beans, dwarf sunflowers, mustard leaves, aubergines, to name but a few, went in at the end of March/beginning of April and have this week been put outside to harden off before finally going into pots or joining the herbs in the vegetable patch.
Seed swaps are happening between friends too, we are hoping to trade some of our cauliflowers (which were sown a little too enthusiastically!) For delights such as electric daisies, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
Now I can’t say that my growing skills have improved any since this time last year, but it turns out C is rather talented when it comes to growing, and has a little more patience too. Last autumn’s offerings, despite the rubbish weather, were encouraging. So with a bit of luck and sunshine hopefully this year will be even better.
The next addition to my Christmas gift hampers will be chilli, smoked garlic and herb infused olive oil.
Olive oil carries flavours fantastically and this is a brilliant way to capture fresh flavours in a bottle. It’s also a tasty way to to recycle old wine bottles and use up any herbs that are waiting to be harvested before the frost comes. It’s fairly swift to make too, you just need to be a little patient whilst waiting for the oil to infuse.
I’ve used pomace olive oil here, which is a little less expensive than virgin olive oil but still very tasty. Virgin olive oil is cold pressed whereas pomace oil is hot pressed, its just a slightly lower grade of olive oil. I picked up this 5 litre drum from my local supermarket.
For this batch of infused olive oil i’ve used the following:
The possibilities are endless, you could use all or just one of the above ingredients. Other delicious variations are Cinnamon, lemongrass, curry leaves, cumin, fennel, caraway, citrus, etc, etc, etc!
Step one- steralise your bottles this can be done with some hot soapy water, rince well to make sure no soap bubbles remain, then leave the bottles upturned to dry.
step two- Evenly distribute the herbs, chillis, garlic and peppercorns amongst the wine bottles. I’ve used assorted sizes of bottles, so i’ve used two cloves of garlic and two chillis in the larger bottles and one chilli and garlic clove in the smaller bottles.
step three- gently warm your olive oil on the stove to about 75 degrees- do not boil it as it will be too hot to handle. Place a funnel in the top of a wine bottle and carefully pour in the warm olive oil.
The oil should be ready to use in 3-4 weeks time. It’s great to use for salad dressing, can be used in stir frys to enhance flavour or paired with a good balsamic vinegar this is perfect for dipping foccacia into!
The oil lasts for up to three months, or until the herbs begin to loose their colour. The oil does not preserve the herbs, garlic and chilli, only their flavour. To make the oil last longer the herbs, garlic and chilli can be strained out, and the oil re-bottled.
This for me really is the best time of year for fresh and seasonal produce, the end of summer before the first frost.
To celebrate this i’d like to showcase some of my favourite recipes to make and bake in the Autumn. Whether you grow your own, pick your own or buy your own its worth keeping your eye out for the more unusual fruits and vegetables available.
Like Greengages for instance
The Greengage is a type of plum, slightly smaller than a victoria plum they are the palest green, almost yellow in colour and quintessentially british. Greengages are sweet and delicious, their skins don’t have the tartness of the darker plum varieties so they are beautiful to eat raw on their own
And of course they are perfect for baking….
To make my upside down almond and plum cake you will need:
Cut the greengages in half following their natural line. Twist them to separate the two halves and cut out the stone of the fruit, then arrange the prepared halves face down onto the base of your lined cake tin. Set this aside whilst preparing the batter.
Using a handheld mixer cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract until soft, fluffy and well blended. Into a separate bowl sift together the self raising flour and baking powder, fold in the ground almonds and set aside. Next crack the eggs into a jug and add them to your butter and sugar mix very slowly, beating well after each addition. If the mixture begins to split add a tablespoon of the flour mix to stabilise. Once all the egg is added and well combined with sugar and flour gently stir in the flour and almond mix.
Spoon the batter mixture over the greengages in the prepared tin. No need to be too accurate, this mixture will find it’s own level once it is placed in the oven. Smooth down the batter with a palette knife or the back of a spoon. Place in your pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
To test the cake is ready make sure it is an even golden colour then press the surface of the cake, if it springs back to the touch it is baked but if your finger leaves an impression in the surface of the cake it will need a few more minutes in the oven. Another way to test your cake is to inset a skewer into the centre of your cake, if this is clean when removed your cake is ready.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10-15 minutes then invert onto a plate/cake stand. Serve the cake upside down, it’s best eaten warm with a cup of tea and a spoonful of creme fraiche
It was a sad day today, our homegrown sunflowers had to be chopped down. I grew these from seed earlier in the year, along with some nasturtiums (which haven’t fared so well!) and was amazed at the size and speed at which they grew – they have really brightened up the garden so we were very sorry to see them go.
I was left with hundreds of sunflower seeds which I harvested. I have a few plans for these little tinkers………
I’ve made some little seed envelopes to give to people as gifts, these will be part of my christmas hampers I started working on last week with my rhubarb and raspberry jam. Each envelope will contain 10 little seeds to be planted in the recipient’s garden.
A simple gift provided by my garden.
To make these I used:
I’ll still have a few seeds left over to use in my next batch of granola!