Saturday, December 30, 2006

Old low light

The days are starting to lengthen but it will be some time before there is more useable brightness for working the plot. The quality of the light in these short days is hazy and low but rather beautiful when filtering though the bare arterial branches of the trees in the local park.

We have been on some great walks this Christmas which has made me take in the beauty of the season. These photos were taken on the side of Blencathra in the Lake District. It's the simple things that make me happy; the rusty ferns, bright berries and mosses covering the dry stone walls.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ho, Ho, Hoe... and a bottle of jerusalem artichoke soup!?!

This is the first year that we have provided vegetables for the Christmas table. Admittedly the purple sprouts were not far off the size of peas but hey - it's a start. They are going to be stir fried with pine nuts and veggie bacon as a side dish. We did get a good harvest of jerusalem artichokes though which have been paired up with carrots and are on their way to becoming soup for tomorrow. Yum.

Here's the recipie for the soup which is from Delia's Veggie book -

Serves 6-8

1lb (450 g) Carrots
1lb 8 oz (700 g) Jerusalem artichokes
3 celery stalks
3 oz (75 g) butter
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2½ pints (1.5 litres) hot stock
salt and pepper

To garnish:
2-3 tablespoons crème fraîche
fresh flat-leaf parsley

You will also need a large saucepan with the capacity of about 6 pints

Start by peeling and de-knobbling the artichokes and, as you peel them, cut them into rough chunks and place them in a bowl of cold, salted water to prevent them from discolouring. Then scrape the carrots and slice them into largish chunks. Next, use the potato peeler to pare off any stringy bits from the celery and then roughly chop it.

Now melt the butter in the saucepan and soften the onion and celery in it for 5 minutes, keeping the heat fairly low. Then drain the artichokes and add them to the pan, along with the carrots. Add some salt and keep the heat very low, put a lid on and let the vegetables sweat for 10 minutes to release their juices. After that, pour in the stock, stir well, put the lid back on and simmer very gently for a further 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Now allow the soup to cool a little, then blend it in batches (a large bowl to put each batch in is helpful here). Taste to check the seasoning and re-heat the soup very gently until it just comes to simmering point.

Serve it in hot bowls, garnishing each one with a swirl of crème fraîche and a few parsley leaves.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2007!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A bit blowy

At this time of year the Christmas catalogues are full of gift ideas for the greenfingered. Their suggestions give the impression that gardening is the twee and cosy pastime of gentle folk – watering cans in the shapes of ducks and snails, floral clogs, gently scented Lily of the Valley hand creams and tartan topped wellies. However, as anyone who was out and about this weekend can testify, gardening at this time of year is not for the faint-hearted. It was blowing a gale on the allotment; the shed door was flapping and the broccoli and sprouts were bent at right-angles. Only a couple of hardy souls were working their plots and when the rain started to pelt it down we all called it a day. There are, of course, rewards for the effort as I reflected when sat by the fire tucking into a vegetable bake with home-grown leeks, beetroot and chard.