Tag Archives: Grow Your Own

Asian Flavoured Beans: Not Just For The French

 

Asian Flavoured Beans

Beans and Buns – Getting Out Of A Glut Rut

Defrosting the freezer is often a boring, and much put-off task (although you should do it fairly regularly, to keep it running efficiently). I was forced into doing mine today. It was getting difficult to open the top drawer, and it had been jamming accusingly every time I went in there. There was definitely a sulky kind of Huh! noise when I tried to shove it back in. So I finally gave in to the nagging.

You may be wondering why I am boring you with all of this domestic drudgery (you never see Nigel Slater having to give that fridge with the camera in the back a good clean do you?).  Well, I found some hom bao lurking in there, and knew I had found lunch. These little buns freeze so well, and they really keep. Well worth making a batch when next the baking bug hits you, and freezing those that you can’t manage on the day.

As I wanted lunch to contain at least one of my five a day, I also wanted a suitable vegetable side dish. A quick ferret around in the fridge revealed a lot of unsuitable veg, and many of my home-grown runner beans, which are still coming thick and fast at the moment. I didn’t really fancy a stir fry of carrots, tomatoes and lettuce, so beans it was.

It’s funny how you can get a bit stuck into one or two ways to cook a particular vegetable. For me, runner beans are always about my ever-popular green bean chutney, or gently steamed and served with butter and black pepper. If I have to combine them with something, I go down the Lebanese route, and stew them in a garlicky tomato sauce (also very highly recommended). Something that I have never previously done with them is combine them with Asian flavours.

There are many Asian dishes that have beans in them, although they more commonly use french or yard-long beans. There is no reason that runners cannot shine just as well, especially if they are garden fresh. I wanted to stick with a vaguely Chinese style for these, since they were to accompany the Hom Bao.

This dish would also be great with a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over the top at the end. As it was a cleaning-out-the-cupboards kind of meal, and I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I just left them out. You can choose which one you prefer.

I was very happy with these beans, which took on the salt and spice brilliantly. It just goes to show that a lot of new possibilities can open up for you if you go a very small way outside your usual recipes. I’m very happy to have another way to use a seasonal glut of runner beans (although it really is never a problem, I love them).

Do you have a favourite runner bean recipe? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Recipe: Chinese-Style Runner Beans

Ingredients

About 400 g runner beans

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste

½ cm fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp sesame oil

Method:

String the beans (or grow a stringless variety, and save yourself a bit of time). Slice them diagonally into 1 cm thick slices. Add to boiling water on the stove, and cook over a medium heat until the water comes back to the boil again. Do not salt the water,  it will make the beans grey and there will be plenty of salt from the soy in the finished dish.

Once the beans have come back up to the boil, drain them and set aside.

Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the garlic and the ginger and cook until the fragrance of the ginger hits you. Add the beans and the soy sauce, and cook until the soy has thickened slightly.

Remove from the heat, and stir through the sesame oil and the seeds, if you are using them. Serve immediately.

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Dressing Up Your Dinner With Rhubarb

Tilapia Fillet and Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Best Dressed Fish This Season

Following on from my inspiration to pair rhubarb with fennel, I have been doing a few more experiments with rhubarb. I have lifted today’s idea almost wholesale from the Mister Kitchen rhubarb tasting menu. They served a sea bass with spinach and a rhubarb vinaigrette. It was great. Of course, I had to come home and fiddle about with it.

Rhubarb is most frequently eaten as dessert, and I am certainly partial to desserts and cakes with it in. People forget that it is actually a vegetable. It is seldom seen in savoury dishes, although I do know that a few bloggers have been experimenting with salads and as savoury compotes lately, so maybe there is a resurgence of rhubarb as a side dish in the offing. Who knows?

I certainly have a few more ideas that I want to try before my plant goes over this year, or I rest it in preparation for winter. Of course, once I am happy with each of the dishes, I will be sharing them here with you.

The version that I ate at Mr Kitchen had a mild olive oil, finely diced rhubarb and kalamata olives, with the stones pushed out, and the flesh torn into chunks. It was rustic and very simple. And it was delicious with the fish and the greens.

I spent quite a while messing about with various things, including shallots, herbs, black pepper, chillies, and so on. I have come to the conclusion that simple really is best. Shallots and rhubarb are both very astringent, so makes for a very sharp dressing, although that might be because I also acidulated the shallots in lemon juice first to take the rawness out of them. This combination as really an ingredient too far for me, so I ditched the shallots in favour of paring everything down

Raw rhubarb is crunchy and subtle. If you decide to follow my lead and make up a vinaigrette yourself, make sure whatever you use does not over power it. I stuck with very simple flavours for this vinaigrette – in fact it is a classic French dressing, with the addition of rhubarb. It works quite well with a pinch of chilli flakes, and with tarragon or chervil, instead of the mustard. I personally think that it is better with the more grassy olive oils, not the really punchy ones, but you may disagree.

Simple and in Season Blog Badge

 

Since there is nothing simpler than a vinaigrette, and rhubarb is at the peak of the season, I thought that I’d be a bot cheeky and have two entries to this month’s Simple and in Season, hosted by Ren Behan.

I do recommend that you give a rhubarb dressing a go. This one was lovely with salad and great with fish (I served it with tilapia fillet). I bet it would also be perfect with pork or chicken too.

What classic dressings do you know that might benefit from a little rhubarb?

Recipe: Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Ingredients

About 1/2 stalk very finely diced raw rhubarb

2-3 tbsp Grassy extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Zest of half a lemon, pared

Lemon juice to taste

Method

Once the rhubarb is prepared, Whisk together the mustard, zest and olive oil.

I used lemon with this dressing, because I wanted it to go with fish. You could also team the dressing with orange. Grapefruit works as well, although you will need much less than half the grapefruit zest. Which one you choose is entirely up to you, and you can change it to match your dish.

Add the rhubarb, and season. You will need to taste it at this stage. I found that adding a little lemon juice really lifted this into a great dressing, but the amount that you will need will depend on which citrus you are using, and how sharp your rhubarb is; which will vary with age, size and how long ago it was harvested.

Serve immediately if you can, on fish, a salad, or anything you like really. It does keep for a couple of days in the fridge, but it is better fresh, because the rhubarb will lose its crunch. So simple, there’s no excuse not to give this a go!

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A Mousse Ate In a Windmill (In Old Amsterdam)

Asparagus Mousse and soft poached egg on sourdough toast

Twist on a Breakfast Classic

This year is the first year that I have been able to harvest my own asparagus. As you must, I planted four crowns two years ago, and it has been an agonising wait. I also thought that I’d been a little over zealous with the first harvest. I waited until I had a good few stalks, and before they got too long, then I plucked them all with the eagerness of a beaver who had just been presented with his own river that runs through a hardwood forest. I had the first batch simply steamed, and accompanied by a soft-boiled egg.

And then I waited. And waited. And the anxiety rose. And I started to worry that, having waited so long to crop them, I had been too impatient or greedy and that I would have to plant more crowns and wait another 2 years.

Asparagus Shoots Coming Anew in My Garden

Hope Springs Eternal

And then I went into the garden this morning, and was delighted to find this stalk poking its way through the soil and mulch. I will have more home-grown asparagus again this year, after all.

I had a few friends round to dinner at the weekend, which coincided with my panicky dearth of my own asparagus. But, I really wanted to  make asparagus the star of my main course, given that it is only with us for such a short time. So I dreamed up a main course that consisted of an asparagus salad, and a ballotine of chicken, stuffed with asparagus mousse. I have to admit, the food was lovely, seasonal and fresh, but my ballotine-making skills definitely require honing. They were not the most beautiful, and one or two lost some of the stuffing. But my guests enjoyed them, so I guess that is what matters.

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Asparagus Mousse

A Total Farce!

I also made far too much mouse for the number of chicken breasts (and, indeed, guests) I had. So, the next morning, I cooked up the rest in a water bath, and had it for breakfast on some sourdough toast and topped with a poached egg. It was a great breakfast. I can also imagine this mousse served as a starter, with crayfish, or maybe even lobster, if you want to push the boat out.

Simple and in Season Blog BadgeOne Ingredient, Asparagus How To Cook Good Food Blog Badge

I can’t get enough asparagus at this time of the year, and of course, there is never any waste, because I always use the woodier ends to make soup. I can eat them simply, or in recipes. But I’m always looking out for new recipes to make and to inspire. We have a few more weeks of the season left, so if you have some great asparagus recipes, link them up in the comment section. I’m also entering this into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season, since there is nothing more seasonal than asparagus right now; and into One Ingredient, hosted this month by Laura at How To Cook Good Food since it is really appropriate right now.

Recipe: Asparagus Mousse

Ingredients

700 g asparagus

2 small shallots, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

1 tbsp oil

100 ml cream

2 eggs

20 g chervil

Plenty of salt and pepper

Method

Remove any woody ends from the asparagus, by gently snapping them. As I have mentioned, no need to waste this bit, it may not be good to chew in a dish, but makes a great soup, or you can add it to vegetable stock, for an additional chlorophyl hit.

Cut the asparagus spears into 3-5 cm lengths, and blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, depending on the width of the stalks. Refresh immediately under a running tap, or in iced water. You don’t want them to continue cooking, as they do cook for longer later in the process.

Soften the shallots and the garlic in the oil, until they are translucent. Keep them moving, so they do not catch. I always find that shallots will burn much quicker than onions. Once they are done, blend up with the asparagus, and the roughly chopped chervil. If you want to be really cheffy, you’d blend them then pass them through a drum sieve or something similarly fine. I am less cheffy, and was perfectly happy to have a bit of texture in my mousse, so I blended it up as fine as I could get it in my food processor.

Asparagus mousse of the right consistency for stuffing

Stuffing Thick

Beat the eggs and cream together, and stir in the asparagus mixture. The mixture should be pretty thick for a stuffing, but you could thin it with a little more cream if you intend to make a mousse. Season it really well. It will need it.

Then you can either use it to stuff meat, which should be poached gently in water or stock; or you can put it into greased ramekins or dariole moulds, and cook it in a bain marie until it is just set. The time you need will depend on the size of your mould. It took me about 20 minutes, but I was using pretty large ramekins.

If you have greased your dish well enough, you should be able to turn it out. I did this, but decided that I wanted to serve it on toast, and you’ll find it also spreads nicely.

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Resolutions Revisited

A table laden with sparkling wine

Cheers!

A very Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you had the party that I had, but that you skipped the hangover that nearly felled me once and for all yesterday!

And what a year it has been, with weddings, parties, anniversaries, and significant birthdays. It all culminated for me with a new job, and throwing a retirement party and 65th birthday party for my Dad, whose birthday was on New Year’s Eve. I cooked a load of things for that, including more tarted up mince pies and many other things, including some gluten free bits; some of which will appear here soon.

I thought that I would start 2013 with a bit of reflection on what I got up to, with a look back on last year’s resolutions, and to make a few more for the coming year. I’d also love to hear yours, if you want to leave them in the comments.

Varzea Viva, Portugal

Viva Varvea! Permaculture in Practice

Last year, I resolved to go on a permaculture course, and get better at growing food. I had a lovely 10 days in Portugal, with a great bunch of people where I learned about permaculture design. I have since volunteered in a permaculture garden at home, and it has made me a more knowledgeable gardener. I put some of the theory into action in my own garden, mostly with a lot of companion planting, and I hope to blog a bit more about that for this year’s plants.

Purple Eye Potatoes

You Can Only Get ‘Em Two Tone if You Grow Your Own

I also joined the 52 week salad challenge run by Michelle at veg plotting, and started Seedy Penpals  with Carl. All of these things have made me better at successional sowing, and growing in general. I have been exposed to a lot of new plants and new varieties this year, and I’ve met some brilliant people. Although I still haven’t met many of them in person, I have come to look on some as friends, through here and on Twitter.

Mornng Glory

I Found the Story, and It’s Inedible

I had to visit Japan for work once, and the dashis and ramen that I ate there often contained a pretty and pungent leaf vegetable that the English translation often listed as Morning Glory. I decided to track it down to try and grow it for myself. I was given a packet, and was disappointed that they are, in fact, not edible. It turns out that the little leaf I had eaten so often was actually shiso. Luckily, I’d also got hold of both the red and green varieties, and have been enjoying it in salads all summer.

I resolved to investigate more Asian and Middle Eastern food. I have eaten a lot more than in previous years; including pho, Hom Bao, a Lebanese –Inspired Chickpea dish, and have some Persian flavours in some blog posts that will follow. However, I probably could have done better.

Sprouted chickpea bread

Salad as Staple

Something else that I have done as a result of a resolution made last year is bake bread, although not as regularly as I’d hoped. Much of it has been fairly standard, so I have not blogged about it. I did manage to make some nice sprouted chickpea bread, and some hot cross buns, as well as the Hom Bao, which count as a bread, because you make a dough that needs proving.

I had hoped to do some butchery. I didn’t quite manage a whole beast, as I’d hoped, but I have deboned and jointed birds, and a rabbit or two. I have some of the adventures in photos ready to type up, but have been putting it off, because I know quite a few vegans and vegetarians follow my blog and I don’t wish to alienate or upset any of you. I may go ahead with these posts, but make most of it only visible if you click through to the whole post, then you don’t have to see the photos if you don’t want to. I’d be grateful if you are not a meat eater if you could let me know if this would suit you.

I have brewed many things, from blackberry wine and liqueur, elderflower champagne, elderberry wine (which I have great hopes for, this batch is still not ready but preliminary tests have proved promising) up to flavoured spirits from foraged goods. For reasons that I am not really sure of, I have not blogged any of the brewing. Maybe I will just get on and do so; I would like to share them.

Finally, I had a long list of places that I would like to visit. 2012 was not really the year of fine dining, so I didn’t make it to any of those on my shortlist. Ah well, there will always be exciting new and good restaurants to eat at.

And so we come to the year ahead. I have had a lot of fun making the resolutions, and stuck to a surprising number of them, even if I didn’t achieve as much as I’d hoped. So for this year, I have another list that I think is pretty ambitious, but will be fun to try and achieve.

Again, in no particular order, for 2013 I would like to:

  1. Grow unusual vegetables and fruits – especially a lot more perennials.
  2. I’m going to blog more boozy posts. I am going to make nettle beer this year, to see how that goes. I’ve also found wild hops this year, so maybe a beer from scratch could be on the cards?
  3. I want to learn how to smoke food. I’ll have to get hold of a stove top smoker (or a wok with a better lid than the one that I have), and hopefully start experimenting with smoke. My neighbour has a larger smoker in his shed, so maybe I’ll be able to work my way up to smoking with him – although I expect that will take much more than a year.
  4. I want to experiment with cheese. I’ve made soft curd cheeses, but I am just curious about the process and what could be possible in small batches, and without anything in the way of specialised equipment.
  5. I have developed a bit of an obsession with Bath Chaps. It will probably be a challenge to source a well reared pig’s head, but I’m going to give it a good try, then I’m going to attempt a brine, and we’ll see where it goes.
  6. Given my new job I’m going to have a go at some Filipino food, although maybe not some of the most adventurous dishes.
  7. Finally, I’m going to say that I intend to eat out more this year than last, and revisit the resolve to eat at some fantastic restaurants across Europe. I’m not going to list them this year, but if I do get the chance to eat at some, I am going to blog about them.

So let’s see how far I get this time.

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Seedy Cuttings And A Bonus Box

Well, another month has flown by, and it is the time that we should be giving you the opportunity to link up any blog updates that you may have. If you have a post that you would like to add to the mix, then please do feel free to use the linky below.

I have been watching the hashtag #SeedyPenpals on Twitter, and have enjoyed reading some of the tweets that you have sent to and fro about your plants and seeds etc. I thought that I would do a little bit of a round up of some of the things that I have seen around (seeing as this is a not-at-all-hastily-put-together post. Honest). I will also do a bit of blog hop of my own to see what else I can pick up, and I’ll add any #SeedyPenpals tweets here while I look for a better way to capture them.

For me, the most joy from Seedy Penpals has not been the setting up of the scheme, or the swap, discovering new seeds, or even planting them. Although these things have all been a lot of fun, and have brought me a lot of joy. Still, the thing that I have enjoyed most is all of the little things that neither Carl nor I foresaw when we set up the scheme.

On Twitter I saw that a couple of people who just missed out on the first round had organised themselves into their own private swap. I love this, I am glad that neither of them had to miss out on the fun, and I hope that they will both join all of us in the early spring. I’m also pleased that people think it’s a good enough idea to do their own.

Lovely stash of seeds has arrived from @papaver in our own mini version of #seedypenpals – looking forward to poring over them tonight

@janeperrone @papaver Brilliant, I love that you have made a mini version. You’d be welcome in the other version too 🙂 http://wp.me/P1AKrO-kJ

I have seen Carl share loads of things with other Seedy Penpals, including keffir as well as other boxes of goodies, and the usual help and advice. Of course, I am sure that he would have done this anyway; he is a very generous man who is always willing to help out. But I probably wouldn’t have seen them share, or know that people have been busy sending him things too.

And this is the thing, I have seen some old friends sharing, and I have watched new friendships blossom. And this is where the most joy has come for me. Watching these interactions, and seeing the friendships grow, even if the seeds haven’t all been planted. You are a pretty generous lot in the main, and I love to see it.

This is not to say that the seeds have not been growing. Mine have sprung to life, I’m just hoping that the frost doesn’t get them before I get home. Michelle at Veg Plotting has also updated me to say that the fennel that she was sent have done well. Although she planted them a little late to produce big fat bulbs, she has been enjoying the herby fronds in her salads. She has them under cover for the winter now, so I hope there is still quite a bit of mileage in them yet. Have you seen any progress? Let us know in the comments.

From Twitter:

Carla has already enjoyed some of her leaves

@Saralimback hello.the very baby leaves of the ruby chard are utterly delish with mixed leaves .#SeedyPenPals#thoughtYouMayLikeToKnow

Lorraine even had time to plant beans, and is cropping them now, as well as fitting in a little baking.

Outdoor work done,#SeedyPenpals beans picked for tea, now time to make my first ever bread from scratch. Have been inspired by#GBBO .

@5olly Those beans were delicious. Still more growing, not a bad haul from 6 seeds.. #SeedyPenpals

I’ll add more if you have tweeted them.

I have to admit that I am not at home at the moment, and that I don’t have the promised photos of the amaranths that I planted from my first Seedy Packet. But, my penpal Charlotte and I have also kept in touch, and this month we sent each other a food packet too.

Food Parcel

A Box of Tricks

Mine was garden inspired, and I sent her foodstuff that I had grown, made or foraged, as well as a few Dutch goodies, and some hibiscus tea (which I didn’t grow).

Semolina and Jelly Desserts

Unusual afters

All I can say about my parcel is wow; if Charlotte managed to pack this much into such a small box, then I’d love to see her skills at Tetris!

Indian Goods

Interesting Indian Food

I got loads of her favourite things, like the semolina/ jelly style desserts, the butter chicken, the sardine paste and the Reese’s pieces. She also sent me some things from her travels – the curry leaf powder, popadoms, the savoury oatmeal (yes, savoury, I am fascinated), chilli popcorn (unpopped) and a small bottle of biryani. It is fragrant with cloves, and has really got me thinking what I can use it with. It scented the box beautifully.

Portuguese Packages

Portuguese Packages

As well as the sardine pate, I got some interesting seasoning. Charlotte says it makes any savoury dish amazing, so I am looking forward to experimenting.

Chinese Foods

A Taste of the Orient

There were some East Asian delights too. A really interesting pumpkin miso, tea and pickled vegetables. I love me a good pickle, so these will be the inspiration for a good meal later in the week.

Popadoms

This Should Have Been With The Other Indian Goods

Harissa Paste

Fire in a Tube

I got a tube of a nice fiery Harrissa. I love this stuff, and will be adding it to soups, stews and many random things in the near future.

Sweet Treats

Sweet Treats

There was also some more nougat and exquisite Turkish delight. Unfortunately I scoffed most of it forgot to take photos of that, but it has inspired me to have a go at my own. I often have egg whites knocking about, due to my custard habit, and I can feel experiments in foraged fruits coming on too.

Mint and Jasmine Toothpaste

Floral Fresh

To make sure all the treats didn’t send me to the dentist, she also included this gorgeous toothpaste. Mint and Jasmine. Brilliant, definitely a change.

Thank you Charlotte, I have been so inspired by your box, and I have never tried ay of the items in it, so I’m looking forward to trying them all out.

And thanks also to all you Seedy Penpals, for bringing me such joy – especially in ways that I wasn’t expecting.



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Green Bean Chutney: A Taste of My Childhood

Runner Beans, Unknown var

From One Generation to the Next

Every year I grow runner beans in my garden. I don’t know what variety they are, they were originally given to me by my father from seed that he saved from his garden. I have never bought runner beans, and subsequent generations of dad’s seeds have grown successfully across four different gardens/climates and in two different countries.

We always had runner beans, fresh from the garden, throughout the summer and early autumn months. I used to take them for granted, since they always came, no matter what the weather or growing conditions that year.

After I moved out of home, I only really got runner beans if I was visiting my parents. Back then, I tended to shop in supermarkets, and runner beans were not a popular supermarket choice, maybe because it is hard to get them to be completely uniform, like the Stepford style apples and tomatoes that they prefer to sell.

When I first started to get a veg box, I got some runners, to my delight. Just like Mum used to, I settled in to string and slice them. I was jolted by a powerful memory of Mum doing this, often in front of Last of the Summer Wine on a Sunday evening.

When large amounts of beans were being prepared, I always got a bit excited, because I knew that the next day she would make Green Bean Chutney.

Just as my Dad always grew our vegetables, Mum always made a lot of our food from scratch. Chutneys, pickles and jams were no exception. In fact, I didn’t have factory produced jam until I left home; and frankly, I found it wanting.

I have always loved Green Bean Chutney. I used to have it every day at school, and all of the other kids would say stuff like “eurgh, that’s gross” and “Why do you always have that yellow stuff in your sandwiches?”. I would smile at them, safe in the knowledge that they didn’t know what they were missing, and if they didn’t want to try any, then Mum would be less tempted to give some away.

Jars of Green Bean Chutney

Sandwich Filler

Now I am older, I make Green Bean Chutney for myself. The Big Guy is a total convert as well.

As you may have seen, I am a bit of a preserving addict, so I am always giving them as gifts to friends and relatives. Despite the fact that we grow extra runner beans, so that we can make this chutney, the Big Guy still severely rations the Green Bean, in order to keep more for himself.

If I am honest, I am a little loathe to give it away, too!

So, I thought that I would share the recipe for Green Bean Chutney with you, in the hope that you can make it for yourselves, and I get to keep all of the jars that I make!

So, here is my Mum’s Green Bean Chutney. She gave it to me, but I am not really sure where she got it from originally. Maybe she can let you know, by leaving her first ever blog comment – over to you Mum?

You can  also use French Beans in this recipe, or a mixture of both French and Runners. Next year, thanks to my Seedy Penpal, Charlotte, I am going to grow a few yard long beans too, so I shall be experimenting with those as well.

My bean harvest was a little late getting going this year, but hopefully you will still be able to find some beans to try it yourself.

Do  you have any food that evokes such strong childhood memories? I’d love to hear about them.

Green Bean Chutney, Cheese and Crackers

Super Match

Recipe: Green Bean Chutney

Ingredients

I have converted this recipe from imperial to metric

3-4 jam jars

700 g runner beans (or French or other green beans, or a mixture)

1 kg  onions

Cold water to cover

1 dstsp salt

350 g demerara sugar

600 ml malt vinegar (I can;t get malt vinegar over here, so I use 500 ml white wine vinegar and 100 ml balsamic)

1 dstsp turmeric

1 dstsp powdered English mustard

1 tbsp cornflour

Method

Sterilise the jam jars in a dishwasher, or wash them in hot water, dry them and leave them in a low oven while you make the chutney. Either way, they will need to be hot when you put the chutney in it.

String and slice the beans (or use a stringless variety), making sure that they are roughly the same size – this is especially important if you use a mix of bean varieties.

Peel and thinly slice the onions. Add them to a preserving pan (or a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan) with the beans, cover them in water, and add the salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.

Strain the water, and return the vegetables to the pan. Add half of the vinegar and the sugar. Cook for a further 10 minutes.

Mix together the cornflour, spices and the rest of the vinegar, and mix to make sure there are no lumps. Pour this into the pan, with the vegetables.

Bring the chutney back up to the boil, and hold it there for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens. You need some liquid though, because this will stop it drying out in the jars.

Fill the hot jars with the chutney. Then distribute the liquid between the jars, so that they are full to about 3 mm from the top.

Put a wax disc, wax side down, over the chutney, and seal it with cellophane. Don’t use a lid, the vinegar will corrode the metal, and may leave you exposed to some nasty microbial activity.

Don’t discard any excess liquid, it is great in salad dressings.

You need to leave the chutney for a week to allow it to meld and mellow.

This is a brilliant accompaniment to cheese, cold meats, salads, and is a particular marvel with jacket potatoes, and bubble and squeak.

UPDATE: In a very timely way, I found out that Susan at A Little Bit of Heaven on A Plate is running a Home Made and Well Preserved competition. So I thought that I would share my lovely childhood chutney there too, and maybe win some spices (fingers crossed).

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Red Lettuce Day

Thai Chicken, Mango and Noodle Salad

A spicy salad with a difference

Once a week, I volunteer at an Urbania Hoeve permaculture garden. It is great fun, and I am learning a lot. Another bonus is that I have been able to experience a number of different vegetables, as well as save the seeds from them to try them in my own garden.

As you can see from the salad photo, I have used nasturtium (leaves and flowers) in this salad. This is not new to me, I’ve been eating nasturtium for as long as I have been growing them.

Despite having called this post Red Lettuce Day, the two plants that I would like to talk about aren’t actually lettuces, but they are red, and plants that were new to me this year.

The first is Perilla, or Shiso (Perilla frutescens). Although I wasn’t aware of it, I have been looking for this plant since I went to Japan for work, and wanted to have a go at growing the fragrant leaf that you find in many of their broths and ramen. They translate it as morning glory, which I was very disappointed to find isn’t edible, after I had found and started to grow it.  Following a bit of a twitter storm earlier in the year, I found and grew the green version of this, and have been eating the red version from the permaculture garden.

I really love perilla in salads. It has a distinctive perfumed flavour, with a slight aniseed kick. It is a pretty strong herb, so you don’t need a lot of this to provide you with a lot of flavour. It is also good in broths and gravies, and is used a lot in pickles in Japanese cookery.

Orache (Atriplex hortensis) also comes in red and green varieties. You may be able to find the green version in the wild over here. In other temperate zones, it is possible to find it, but it is more likely to be a garden escapee. Like most wild greens, orache tastes very irony. It can be used anywhere that you would use spinach, raw or cooked. I have some seed saved, so I hope that I can grow some here too next year.

Both seem relatively easy to grow, but they need sun, so I can only grow them in a small part of my shady garden. I don’t mind, I’m looking to use them as part of a large mix in the suitable beds anyway, and I think they’ll be fine. I hope that more people will give them a go, I can recommend them.

This is an entry for the 52 Week Salad Challenge, where there has already been much discussion about red and green lettuces, and their attractiveness to slugs. I am not sure if these plants are particularly attractive to slugs in any case, but they are certainly both very tasty in my opinion!

I made up a Thai chicken and mango salad with my haul from the permaculture garden, and I used fresh coconut, which has just hit the markets around here.  I give the recipe below, but this is really easy to tweak if you don’t have your own permaculture garden to play in, or if you want a veggie version or whatever.

For example, you can substitute Thai (AKA holy basil) or even ordinary basil for the perilla; you can swap out the orache for spinach;  you can use cooked chicken without the marinade; or you can even leave it out if you would like. If you don’t have fresh coconut, use coconut flakes. It’s pretty versatile. The key components are really the dressing and the mango, with some contrasting salad flavours and crunch. Whatever salad leaves you choose will need to be robust enough to stand their own against the other strong flavours.

As always, this recipe serves 2 people, but is easily scalable.

Do you have any leaves you think would be good in this salad?

Recipe: Thai Chicken and Mango Salad

Ingredients

If using uncooked chicken:

4 chicken thighs, boned

3 tbsp oyster sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed to a fine paste

5 cm knob of fresh ginger

½ tbsp light soft brown sugar (lichtbastaard suiker)

pinch chilli powder

If using cooked chicken: 

200 g cooked chicken, cut into bite sized chunks

For the salad:

200 g rice vermicelli noodles

150 g fresh or flaked coconut, cut in thin strips

50 g raw cashews, roughly chopped

1 mango (it can be green or ripe), diced

1 red pepper, diced

½ cucumber. diced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

200 g beansprouts, or other sprouted seeds

10-15 red perilla leaves

Bunch of red orache leaves

Bunch of nasturtium leaves

For the dressing:

3 tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1 tbsp soy sauce

Juice and zest of 1 lime

½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely diced, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes

Small amount of brown sugar to taste

Nasturtium flower to garnish (optional)

Method

If you are using uncooked chicken, cut down the thighs so that they are one flat piece. Mix together the marinade ingredients and coat the chicken pieces on all sides.

Roast off in a moderate oven (about 180°C) until the chicken is just cooked. Baste it with the marinade at points throughout the cooking time. Remove from the oven, and set aside

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain, and plunge into cold water, to stop them overcooking. Drain again.

Mix up the dressing, and add to the noodles.

Dry fry the coconut, until brown and toasted. Remove from the pan, then toast the nuts in the same way.

Toss together all the salad ingredients, except the leaves, and add to the noodles. Mix well.

If you are using the marinated chicken, cut it up into bite sized dice.

Toss the chicken and the leaves through the salad. Top each one with a nasturtium flower, and serve immediately.

This makes a filling and unusually tasty salad. Perfect as an evening meal.

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Seedy Cuttings and Other Updates

Seedy Penpals Blog Badge

The last Friday in the month is here and now is the opportunity to update you all on progress in the Seedy Packet Patch, but I have also been doing a lot of other stuff with seeds this month that I thought that I would share.

This month has been busy for me. I’ve planted some of the amaranths and some radishes that I got as part of my first Seedy Packet. Unfortunately, I only managed to get these in this week, and there has been very little sign of sprouting so far. I will spare you a picture of bare earth, but there will be green and lovely photos next time, I promise.

We’d love to hear about any updates that you have too, so please share any posts in the linky below, in the comments, or contact me or Carl for a guest post, like Gillian did to share her Seedy Packet

News of Seedy Penpals has been spreading. I think I have probably mentioned this a lot, but I am really enjoying seeing the wider effects swapping seeds online can have. I have seen new friendships form, and other links being made. Loads of people have said very kind things about the scheme. Thanks for being wonderful penpals, for the duration of the first swap, and beyond. I hope that the community will continue to grow and support each other.

Thanks to Michelle at Veg plotting, I reached out to a gardener, who also runs a postal seed exchange; Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots. He was very generous with some tips on the practicalities of seed exchange in an international setting, and he wrote up a lovely post about Seedy Penpals. On top of that, he is practically a neighbour, so I hope to meet him very soon, and discuss all things seedy (not a euphemism, honestly)!

Last week, I found out about Cityplot. I got in touch with them (there seems to be a general theme of Seedy Penpal stuff making me braver. I’ve been reaching out in more directions than a party of octopuses on a fairground ride), and funnily enough, Ann got back to me straight away to say that she had heard of me and Seedy Penpals through Bifurcated Carrots, and she’d intended to get in touch. I love the serendipity of things like this.

I booked myself on the Cityplot Seed Saving course, run in conjunction with Urban Herbology, and from the conversation  I had with Ann, things seem to have snowballed (in the very best way).  Last Friday, I found myself meeting up with Jennie and a bunch of other enthusiastic people, and heading off to a little patch of wilderness on a burdock seed forage in preparation for the workshop on Sunday.

Burdock Plant in Autumn

Urban Warrior

Harvesting seed from a very irritating plant, covered in bandanas and swimming goggles is a very quick way to unify a group of strangers, let me tell you.

Burdock burrs, ready for picking

Prickly Customers

We all donned gloves to harvest the driest of the burrs from the plants in the patch, before having to wear more protection whilst we shook , stamped on and rubbed the burrs to encourage them to release their seedy treasures. Our unconventional attire seemed to get a lot of interest from passing dog walkers and cyclists. Some of them came and asked us why we were all covering our faces; they went off happy that we were doing no harm, and were just protecting ourselves from the prickles that cover the burrs. We did have to explain ourselves to some parks police, and the actual  police did a slow drive by a couple of times. Nothing that a friendly explanation couldn’t quickly clear up, but left us amused.

Collected Burdock Seed

The Seeds of Our Labour

It was all worth it, and we had collected and winnowed enough seeds for the workshop, plus we all got extra to take home with us. It is edible, but quite bitter. I am experimenting with bread, and I am also sprouting some, so I hope that will appear on a salad post sometime soon.

On Sunday I headed to the seed saving workshop, where there were a lot of new faces, most of whom were fairly recent gardeners, but with some more experienced people. We learned about seed harvesting for both domestic and wild seeds, discussed open pollinating, and the importance of  seed saving and sharing. It was a good mix of theory and practical work, as we headed out to the kitchen garden of the restaurant, which is maintained by Cityplot, to look at different seed type and how to save them. There were plenty of envelopes and seeds to take for all. It was really fun, and was accessible to all abilities.

I guess you are wondering what we did with all that burdock seed? Well, we made a tincture and have instructions of how to mix it, and filter it to make it usable  Everyone who attended the workshop went away clutching their tinctures, which are powerful skin and liver cleansers and a warming tonic for people who feel the cold. This was entirely new to me. I love to forage for food. I am greedy. The herbal and health side of things is not really my speciality at all. It was great to meet with new people and acquire new knowledge.

Cityplot hold a number of other workshops including vermiculture, and growing exotics. Urban Herbology run a number of similar workshops and foraging walks. If you are in Amsterdam, I really recommend them, you’ll have a lot of fun, and learn useful skills.

Also through meeting Ann, I learned that a local arts group, Mediamatic, are having a “Sharing Exhibition” and were looking for examples of sharing. I went along to tell them about Seedy Penpals. One thing led to another here, and Cityplot, and I are looking at ways we can do a seed swap as part of this art project. So, Seedy Penpals could be going from virtual to physical for a couple of months in Amsterdam.

Don’t forget that you can join Seedy Penpals anytime, and that the next swap will be taking place in February. See here for more information, and to sign up. I’d also love to read about any progress your seeds have made, so let me know more.

Disclosure: I was not paid to promote either City Plot or Urban Herbology, and neither was I asked to write about them. I paid for the course, and mention them here because it was something that I enjoyed, and is relevant to seed sharing. I think that others may enjoy their courses and get a lot from them too.

However, I have met like-minded people, and we are looking at ways to collaborate in the future on foraging and cooking, as well as the art project.  I hope that they will become friends too.



 

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Seeds with a Story

Seedy Packet August 2012

A Packet of Seeds

I am pleased to report that Sally got my seeds on Tuesday, and she sent me a lovely e-mail to say that she enjoyed my packet. I did my best to include seeds with a story, since I struggle to find heirloom varieties over here.  I often have to get them from the UK, and all the suppliers that I talk to laugh, since a lot of their seed is grown over here in the Netherlands. I find this pretty frustrating, as there are very few varieties on offer here and even less choice if you want organic seed. Not to mention the crazy seed miles that they have to travel. Anyway, I’m glad that Sally liked her parcel; I hope to be able to save some more seed, so I should have some more variety in the future.

Yesterday, it was my turn. As I mentioned in my last post, my penpal Charlotte has been to India. Lucky me, I got lots of lovely seeds from India, and some from elsewhere too. Charlotte was really good at getting plants that suit my shady garden, or my sunny windowsill, as well as being some of my favourite things to eat.

From India, I got:

  • Bangalore cucumber mix – with a random tomato seed. Charlotte picked up a pack of cucurbits, including some oblong ones, and there were a few random seeds in the pack, which she shared with me too.
  • Ash gourd, which is a popular Ayurvedic plant in India, particularly good for strengthening the digestive system, and protecting against indigestion and urinary tract problems. I am lucky not to currently suffer frequently from either, but now I can make sure they stay away!
  • Unknown squash, Charlotte couldn’t be sure of more than that, because the packet was in Mayalam. She postulates it is a winter squash, and recounts an unsuccessful attempt at explaining what a courgette is when she was trying to find out more.
  • A variety of yard long beans. Unknown, as again the packet was in Mayalam. I can’t wait to be able to grow these, I love beans and surprise varieties are always welcome.
  • Some Lab Lab beans. I am assured that these have beautiful flowers. I am already trying to think of some construction that will show them off near the house.
  • Palak Bhaji and Dhanta Saag, both of which are leafy greens, possibly amaranth types. They will be a different flavour to add to my salads and as cooked greens.

And it doesn’t stop there, Charlotte also sent me seeds that she enjoys, and that she chose because I prefer things that you can eat. All of the seeds she sent have a story, but I particularly enjoyed some of the stories with these seeds.

The stories and the seeds are:

  • Kimberton tomatoes; a yellow tomato variety developed by the members of Camphill Village, an intentional community in Kimberton, Pennsylvania for people with developmental disabilities. They grow their own fruit and veg, and develop varieties of plants. Charlotte is actually from a town very near to this community, so these are seeds from both her home and her homeland. She mentions that the packet says “Grown and selected for many years by the late Hupert Zipperlin from Camphill Village, Kimberton”, so thank you to Hupert for these seeds too.
  • Sokol Breadseed Poppy. Charlotte sent me these because the seeds are easy to collect, due to the unique way the seed heads form. She thought that they would be interesting for me, despite the fact that I don’t grow many flowers. I have previously not seen much point in flowers, but I am trying to garden using permaculture principles. I am seeing increasing uses for many flowers, and have learned a lot about edible flowers, and parts of flowering plants. I’m looking forward to benefiting from an abundance of beauty as well as the tasty seeds next year.
  • Nautica Beans, which are a particular favourite of Charlotte’s. She says that they are thin, tender and tasty, and remained so for the duration of her trip to India. She says she thinks they are amazing, and may not grow any other variety of bush beans. High praise indeed, I’m looking forward to these in a thousand different dishes already.
  • Minutina (Buckhorn Plantain) was chosen because I like to eat weeds. Or what others may consider weeds, in any case. I have found most of them to be delicious. Foraging is even better when you don’t have to look too hard.
  • Radish Munchen Bier, which are podding radishes. You don’t eat the root; you wait until they go to seed and eat the seed pods. I’ve never tried these before, so I’m looking forward to these too. Charlotte recommends stir frying them.

I also got Nardello peppers to grow indoors and some bunching onions and mixed lettuce, which will be great for the 52 week salad challenge.

You may have noticed the glorious yellow scarf underneath the seeds in the photo. Charlotte also sent me this, another present from India. Isn’t it beautiful? And as we head into winter, or even if we get another summer like this one, it is a vibrant reminder of sunshine, and happy hours in the garden.

Thank you, Charlotte. There is certainly a lot to challenge me, and a lot of brilliant plants to look forward to.

Anyone can join the Seedy Penpals, whether you have a window box or a wood. I can vouch for the fact that people have enjoyed the first one, and that you get some great surprises and new and interesting plants. If you are interested, see here for more details and how to join up for the next swap, which will be in the spring. New seeds, new varieties, new friends. What’s not to like?

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Seedy Survey August 2012

Seedy Penpal Blog badge

So, here we are. It is time for the first Seedy Survey. Please do join in, and add your link to the widget. If you don’t have a blog, but would like to write up what you got, Carl and I are more than happy to host your write up,  drop us a line.

If you don’t think that a blog post is for you, you can also add a comment here to talk about your parcel, we don’t want anyone to feel left out.

I have been really cheered to see all the chatter about #SeedyPenpals  on Twitter, it seems that you have enjoyed seeing what you have, and I know a few of you have already got seedy and planted up your haul. Brilliant progress, and I thank you all for taking part and for your enthusiasm.

I would also like to thank Ian at Foodies Heaven, who really ran with it, and set up this forum, if you’d like a place to chat about your Seedy Packet, or growing things in general.

We have also launched the Resources Page, with information on seed saving, autumn sowing, and growing in general. We’ll update this regularly, so let us know if there is anything that you think should be up there.

We have had a few teething problems, and we are learning as we go.  I’d like to say thank you for your patience, and encourage you to give us some feedback, so that we can improve. We got over 4 people joining  this time (and more for the next round already), so we would like this to become a regular thing.

My first match was with Sally of Constant Gardener. She is not wrong, she is a very experienced gardener and garden writer, so I fear that I have not really set her a challenge with my Seedy Packet, but I hope that she likes the seeds I sent. I remain hopeful that they will arrive with her today, as the post office promised. I got a bit of a flu, in the heat wave, and couldn’t post it on time (terrible, as one of the hosts I know, but I did let her know – it’s all in the communication people). I’ll let you know when they arrive.

I was matched with Charlotte, who tweets here. She was in India for work, and has unfortunately been a bit unwell since she got back, so I am still waiting for my Seedy Packet too. As my best friend would say, god never pays his debt with money! Again, we have kept in touch, so I know that it will arrive, and I’ll get things planted for the winter, so no worries. I’ll let you know what I get. And I hope that Charlotte feels better soon.

The great thing about Seedy Penpals is that it happens twice a year, so it doesn’t matter too much if you join in a little late (as llong as you have discussed this with your penpal), plus there is also Seedy Cuttings, where you can link to updates on your progress at the end of non-swap months, if you want to.

I have really enjoyed Seedy Penpals, and have been bowled over by the response. It has been great to meet many of you, and to learn a bit more about the growing habits of friends old and new.

If you aren’t sure what to write about your Seedy Packet, you could try using the questions in the Seedy Survey as a starting point. I know a number of you have already written up some great posts. The link widget should post to both Carl’s and my blogs, so you will only need to post it once.

If you would like to join in, you can sign up any time, and we will remind you closer to the time about the exchange. If you feel that you cannot participate for whatever reason, then just let us know at the time, so you don’t need to worry that you are obliged to do something, we all understand that life happens.  You only need to sign up once, so that’s a job less for you at each exchange.

I’m really looking forward to reading your experiences in the links and in the comments.



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