The Romance of the Garden Bounty

It seemed like such a good idea at the time…

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I’m always super enthusiastic about growing our own fruit and vegetables and when the first crops start coming through it’s very satisfying to be eating them hours or even minutes after they’ve been picked.  But as summer progresses and crops start to come in thick and fast, we suddenly have more courgettes/peaches/apples/rhubarb than we know what to do with; even after giving some away it can become a bit of a burden. This year was no exception and it became time to find some new ways of using the excess.

I found a couple of new courgette recipes this year; one savory and one sweet.  The savory recipe is based on a very simplified version of the Breakfast Fritter recipe in Donna Hay’s book “Life in Balance”.  I wanted a light batter for the fritter and this recipe achieves that by using egg whites and a small amount of rice flour.  It’s actually a great base for adding whatever vegetables that you want to.  On this occasion I added grated courgette and served them with lemon juice, plenty of salt and some Chevre cheese that I had in the fridge.  They’re great eaten fresh from the frying pan while the next one is cooking!

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The sweet courgette recipe is a stand out cake from Julie Le Clerc’s book “Made by Hand”.  It’s a chocolate courgette cake with walnuts, raisins and buckwheat flour.  It bakes to a gorgeously dark colour, uses up HEAPS of courgette and when it’s fresh, it’s crispy on the outside and moist in the middle…the way a good cake should be.  I’ve made this more than once and it’s definitely become a favourite.  I’m a bit lazy when it comes to icing and the great thing is that this cake doesn’t need it.  It’s got a gorgeous, deep, satisfying flavour.  I would like to say that because of this, one slice is enough *cough*; but really…is one slice of cake ever enough?!

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Blackboy peaches were the next big glut that needed dealing to.  Usually I just stew them or put them in crumbles (so good!) but they’re such nice peaches that I felt like I should try and do something more interesting with them for a change.  The first thing I did was make them into a Blackboy Peach and Raspberry Tart using the Peach Tart recipe from “Jane Grigson’s Fruit” book.  This is a great recipe that gives plenty of tips and techniques for preventing soggy pastry (which I’m happy to report that I achieved). The way the fruit is laid out looks absolutely stunning and the flavour is intense and beautifully offset by the cream.  As the icing on the cake, I glazed it with a homemade rhubarb and rose jam – to die for.

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The next peach recipe is by Emma Galloway – Peach, Rosemary and Yoghurt Cake from her book “My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes from my Real Food Kitchen”.  I don’t often use the harder herbs like rosemary in sweets so I’m always excited when the opportunity arises.  The batter is a mix of ground almonds and rice flour which gives it a lovely texture and the yoghurt and peaches help retain moisture in the cake.  Really really delicious and the rosemary adds a subtle piney flavour.  I’ve made this cake twice; on the second time around I didn’t put it in the fridge for a day or two – this was a big mistake because it went mouldy.  I was traumatised when I had to put it in the compost! *sob

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I know that looks like ash but it’s actually a mixture of rosemary and icing sugar 🙂

The last thing that I did with the blackboy peaches was to make a dessert from “Martin Bosley Cooks”.  This was also divine and a really straight-forward recipe.  Just crumble up amaretti biscuits and mix the crumbs with egg and brown sugar; spoon over the top of halved peaches and bake in the oven until tender and caramelised…drool.

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They’re topped with creme fraiche and mint

We tend to get a lot of rhubarb and raspberries in the garden as well (hence including the raspberries in my peach tart earlier).  We collect these with the intention of doing something delicious with them and then promptly forget about them/can’t be bothered…lucky compost (but poor us)!  I often put them into a clafoutis or a crumble (when I remember to) and this year I used them to make a Ricotta, Rhubarb and Raspberry Loaf using Annabel Langbein’s Miracle Cake recipe; this is from her book “Endless Summer”.  It’s so rustic looking and gets a gorgeous crispy top.  When my daughter bit into it it made her gasp which I think is a pretty good sign!  This one probably won’t get made as often as the others though because I don’t often have ricotta in the house and I don’t like to make special purchases for baking (is that weird?!).

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I haven’t mentioned the apples yet even though they’re actually our biggest crop. Luckily they’re great eating apples but we do get a lot of wind-fall ones that aren’t so good to eat.  You’d think this would call for copious amounts of apple crumbles but despite the number of desserts I’ve just mentioned, we don’t actually eat them often. We generally find that by the time we finish dinner we don’t have any room left for a heavy pudding. This year I used some to make Earl Grey Tea Jelly from Diana Henry’s book “Salt, Sugar, Smoke”.  I love Earl Grey tea (and I’m a bit of a tea addict in general) so I couldn’t resist this recipe.  It’s quite easy to make and also gave me the opportunity to use my jelly bag and boiling-water canner (small pleasures!).  I haven’t actually used this jelly since I made it but it tasted pretty damn good when I was licking the spoon!  The recipe suggests using it with ice cream or pannacotta (yum!) or with duck or game.  I imagine it would be pretty good on toast as well to be honest!

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And the final recipe from my garden glut is a bit of a cheat because it isn’t actually things from my own garden but just a build up of stuff in the fridge. Somehow we ended up with a huge number of carrots and a cauliflower from the market that had been sadly neglected.  Luckily I had just bought Nicola Galloway’s book “Homegrown Kitchen” which has a recipe for Crunchy Winter Vegetable Pickle using lacto-fermentation as the preserving method.  I love a bit of fermentation so couldn’t resist using said vegetables to make up a batch.  These I have tried since I made them and they’re delicious.  So far all I’ve done is eat them straight out of the jar…I need to up my game; the recipe suggests eating them with eggs or stirring them through rice with some herbs; sounds like excellent advice to me!

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So finally the garden has calmed down for the winter – I just picked our last courgettes yesterday – and the need to frantically use produce has passed.  Of course, next year I will have completely forgotten about the amount of work it takes and will once again romanticise the idea of bottling, preserving, baking and puddings and it’ll start all over again!  But to be honest…I love it really 🙂

(See, I’ve forgotten about the hard work already!).

Multi-Tasking Has its Risks…

It was my birthday recently and my husband got me a cookbook called “500 Delicious Delights”…I can’t help but think this gift had some self-interest on my husband’s part!  The book had its first test in the weekend when I made Rhubarb Meringue Bars to take to my mums house.  I was a bit concerned about a few parts of the recipe…the raspberries are frozen and the rhubarb goes in raw…seems like a prime opportunity for a soggy base…and the meringue didn’t come out fully cooked initially so I had to put it in for a second bake…seems like a prime opportunity for something to burn!  It turns out that the last issue was a result of me not reading the recipe properly because I was making gnocci at the same time…I was supposed to crank the oven up to cook the meringue which I didn’t do.  However, it turned out that these concerns were all unnecessary because it was absolutely delicious!  The base was lovely and crunchy without being too hard, the filling was beautifully sweet from the raspberries and the meringue was satisfyingly marshmallowy.  Totally devine and a great way to use up rhubarb when it starts to get really productive.

They looked so lovely I couldn't resist taking a photo...and it appears to be colour coordinated with all my kitchen utensils!
The rhubarb and raspberries looked so lovely I couldn’t resist taking a photo…and they appear to be colour coordinated with my kitchen utensils!
Such lovely layers!
Seriously scrumptious!

In regards to my gnocci…I forgot to take a photo of the final dish but I did manage to take a snap of the gnocci in their raw state.  This recipe was from my Italia book by Jo Seager and I prepared a Garlic, Brown Mushroom and Parsley Sauce from the same book to serve with them. They were very tasty and had a lovely texture but I had a few difficulties with the rolling and cutting of the dough…not to mention the sticking of the dough to surfaces.  The recipe warns about not adding too much flour or over-working the dough or they will be rubbery, “they should melt in the mouth”.  As a result I ended up putting too little flour into my mixture creating a very wet and sticky dough which made it very difficult to work with.  However, I had the satisfaction that they definitely melted in the mouth 🙂

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Such lovely tempting looking pillows 🙂

Sometimes gluttony really is the best policy!

When we were at the food show the other week we watched a cooking demonstration by Kasey and Karena where they made a Black Doris Plum Brownie.  It looked so delicious that I bought a tin of plums on the way home from the show!  However due to a variety of factors it was a couple of weeks before I finally managed to make a batch.  Needless to say there was a lot of drooling going on amongst the family when it came out of the oven and it really did taste amazing.  It had a nice chewyness to the crust, a soft centre and a lovely fruitiness from the plums to counteract the richness of the chocolate.   It was at its best on the first day, after that it started to soften because of the fruit…so the moral to the story is that gluttony is the best policy when it comes to this brownie!

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Oh very plummy!

The same weekend I made the plum brownie I went to the Christchurch second-hand Ecostore and I found a Tupperware container for making jelly.  I couldn’t resist it, moulded jellies always remind me of storybooks where jellies are part of a great feast! At the end of last year I made a couple of home made jellies – a gingerbeer and strawberry jelly for Christmas day and gin and tonic jellies for new years eve.  After realising how easy it is to make jellies in any flavour I was keen to make more, so buying the Tupperware jelly mould was all the motivation I needed!  We had picked quite a few raspberries from the garden earlier that day so I made a jelly of sparkling grape juice, lemon juice and fresh raspberries.  It was a great combination and the lovely thing about using fizzy liquids is that somehow it retains its fizzy zinginess even when in jelly form…so good!

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I need a bit more practice in getting it out of the mould neatly but the colour and shape is sooo cool!

We have had some lovely weather through Autumn so a couple of weekends ago we decided to fire up the charcoal barbeque and cook up a batch of pork ribs that we had in the freezer.  My husband did the main cooking but I made up the marinade for the ribs called Best Barbequed Pork and Homemade Barbeque Sauce from my “Save with Jamie” book.  It was a really nice sauce because it wasn’t too sweet like some barbeque sauces can be.  Andrew put a couple of portabello mushrooms on the barbeque too…soooo good!  Anything cooked on charcoal tastes good though to be fair!

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All these ribs for only 3 people…Euan and Andrew were in their element!

We did have some vegetables as well…we served them in my lovely new serving dish that I also got from the Ecostore…

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The veges are in there…honest!

Another recipe related to the Food Show is the Red Capsicum and Lime Soup that I made recently out of “The Edible Journey Cookbook”.  This is a local cookbook containing recipes from communities in the Banks Peninsula and to promote the book at the Food Show they made a batch of this soup for people to taste.  It was very nice and given that I already had a copy of the cookbook and a large number of capsicums that needed using it seemed silly not to cook up a batch for myself.  It’s a really tasty soup, the lime adds a lovely acidity to it and the chilli gives it a good kick…delish!

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Such a lovely bright colour!

The day after I made this soup Andrew and I flew to Melbourne for 5 days of glorious eating and exploring…I will share a few of the dishes that we ate in my next post 🙂