autumn

 

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The colour of the light in the early morning and last of the windfalls feeding the pheasants who have taken up residence in our orchard remind me that autumn is coming to an end and it will soon be time to prepare for winter.

The changing seasons bring up all sorts of different emotions in me.  During the long hot summer this year I wanted it to go on forever.  I wanted to be able to get up and fling on a sundress and flipflops every day and dreaded the mornings when I would have to think about what to wear because I would need woolly tights, cardigans, I would have to think about coats and scarves.  There would be the usual marital grumbling about whose turn it was to bring in the wood and empty the grate so we could light the fire.

Autumn arrived gently, warm days lasting longer than expected and gradually interspersed with shorter colder ones.  Fortunately there have been few grey days; I think it is the lack of colour that gets me down in the winter.  The harvest was truly bountiful, my preserving pans, dehydrator and pickle and fermentation jars went into overdrive.  I have put down my light cotton crochet and picked up my soft winter knitting.  Our meals are heartier and warmer, the Christmas cookbooks have come out and I reread Making Winter and The Christmas Chronicles.  It is time to dig out The Box of Delights.

I am ready now.

Love Gillie x

 

manky tomatoes

The tomato harvest has finally come to an end.  We mostly grow cherry toms and on clearing out the greenhouse we were left with a bowl of rather mixed and manky looking tomatoes.  On the basis that we, the humans, get first dibs before the chooks the sad looking collection was transformed into bottled roasted tomatoes.

 

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Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Place in a very low oven (50 C or less or the bottom of the Aga) for at least 8 hours or overnight.  This really is where the Aga comes into its own.  Check on them every now and then after about 8 hours and when they are dark, soft and almost caramel like pop into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil.

Perfect as the basis for a tomato pasta sauce.

Love Gillie x

herb oil

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Yup it’s that time of year again.  Now we all know that a cute little baby elf will die every time somebody puts up a decoration or sings a carol before the beginning of December?  What you didn’t know that?  Shame about all those poor little elves.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan, in fact you need to plan, unless of course you a bloke with a woman who does all the planning for you.  Massive generalisation I know,  but if the cap fits …

Rather smugly I can say that present wise I am pretty much sorted.  Well, I still have to finish a pair of socks and start a cardigan but the rest is pretty much sorted.  Today was hamper day.  Some exceptionally lucky people are getting a little hamper of home made goodies.  What do you mean “poor sods I hope she doesn’t give them botulism”?!

Today was herb oil.  The lovely bottles originally contained a rather lovely Rosé from Provence.  For reasons of which I am unsure we only drank four bottles.  I may have to purchase some more.  Anyway, I originally bought the wine because I loved the bottle and I loved the glass stopper.  The wine was a pleasant bonus!

Wash and dry bottles and add herbs of your choice.  I tend to use stronger woody ones that can survive in the oil without curling up and looking manky! A whizz round the garden produced:

  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon thyme

To which I added:

  • Sliced garlic
  • Red peppercorns
  • Long peppercorns (also known as Indonesian peppercorns)
  • Penja black peppercorns
  • Juniper berry

Topped up with olive oil and sealed.  I’ll tie a pourer around the neck and they are all ready for the little hampers.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

bits and bobs pumpkin coconut curry

I’ve never been a great one for Halloween (if anything I have always been more of a Samhain girl) so it surprised even me when now that the girls are all away at university I came home with a pumpkin today.  I had the urge to do a little carving.  I even found myself googling pumpkin carving ideas.  Wow, there are some serious artists out there.  I am not in that league.

This is a cat (just in case you weren’t sure and were embarrassed  to ask).

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So now I am faced with a lot of pumpkin flesh.  I am not a fan of pumpkin soup, there are far more exciting and tasty soups out there and if I had to choose a pudding pumpkin pie wouldn’t be top of the list.  And anyway even though I chose the smallest pumpkin I have enough flesh to make more pumpkin soups and pies than either of us will ever want.

We are eating down the freezer at the moment so in the spirit of make do with what I have I bring you Bits and Bobs Pumpkin coconut curry.  There is little in the way of measurements because this is a chuck it in and taste recipe.

  • Pumpkin flesh
  • Elderly mushrooms
  • Half a manky red pepper
  • What I could salvage from an almost dead aubergine
  • An onion
  • Some garlic cloves
  • A chunk of ginger
  • A red chilli
  • Tumeric
  • Tamarind paste
  • A tin of coconut milk
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • Some veg stock or water
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion (I left mine reasonably chunky) ditto the rest of the veg. Chop/crush/grate the garlic and ginger and dice the chilli.

Soften the onion gently in oil (of your choice I used vegetable) in a large pan.  After a couple of minutes add the chili, garlic, ginger and a generous teaspoon of tumeric.  Continue to cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the rest of your vegetables (including that pumpkin flesh) and stir to cover them with the tumericy paste (at this point take lots of deep breaths, the smell is divine).  Add the tin of tomatoes, tin of coconut milk and enough water/veg stock to cover all that yummy veggie stuff.  Stir in a couple of teaspoons of tamarind paste and the juice of a lime.  Leave to simmer until you can’t wait and have to eat it.  I might add a dollop of sour cream.

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Happy Halloween and Samhain Blessings

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

autumnal herbs

When I wake in the morning I can no longer hear the dawn chorus, when I sit outside in the evening even I need a jumper and we lit the stove for the first time last night.  I can no longer pretend that summer isn’t coming towards its end.  I had never really thought of myself as a summer girl, but as I have got older I have become aware that summer is the time that I truly come alive.  I am more productive and my creativity ups several notches.  Getting dressed in the morning takes seconds and I live in my Birkenstocks all day and every day.  The garden is full to bursting and we have fresh flowers in every room of the house.

However the is a reason for every season and as autumn begins to take the upper hand I can start to gather in.  Our vegetable garden, along with much of the house, was being rebuilt this year so we didn’t have as big a harvest this year.  However, the winter veg are in, the greenhouse has brought forth a bumper offering and the herbs have been as abundant as ever.

I do have a dehydrator, but I prefer to use that for roots and fruits.  For leaves I leave them to hang in the boiler house.

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Parsley, lavender and marjaram.

The mint, lemon balm and sage have been hanging for a few weeks and are now ready to put away in jars.

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We have also made our own bacon, salt beef and lox.  Today I shall be picking the rosehips for syrup, shrub (sweet vinegar), jelly, ketchup and elderberry and reship tonic.

What are you drying and preserving this autumn?

love Gillie x

 

mango mango mango

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There is nothing like a mango, nothing that I can know.  With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II.  One of the many, many bonuses of being in SE Asia is the proliferance of mangoes.  Back home we usually only have two choices of mango (Kent and Keitt) both of which are relatively bland compared to the huge choice available across Asia.  Mango is sold on almost every street corner in Thailand, chopped up in little bags with convenient little wooded sticks to avoid getting your fingers sticky.  As the girls will confirm, any attempt to prevent my fingers getting sticky and dribbling food down my front is bound to fail.  I am the messiest eater I know.  As a result when travelling and needing a snack to keep me going I avoided the fresh variety and instead stocked up on dried mango.  The only problem was that I could eat an entire family sized bag in one sitting, and frequently did!

The good news is that it is now possible to get other varieties of Mango in the UK.  One option is to seek out your local specialist Indian supermarket or if you live in Durham the wonderful Robinsons Greengrocers on North Road, but if you are in a specialist shop desert you can find some delicious Pakistani and Indian mangoes in some of the larger supermarkets and I am reliably informed that Thai mangoes will be available this year too.  Get hunting mango lovers.

However, dried mango is readily available and to maintain my mango fix without dribbling down my front I made these yummy mango balls from Madeleine Shaw’s Ready Steady Glow

  • 200g dried mango
  • grated zest of one lime
  • 180g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • sesame seeds for rolling

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Soak the mango in water for half an hour or so and drain.  I kept the water and put it in my water bottle for the next day.

Add the mango to the rest of the ingredients and blitz in a food processor.

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Mould into bite-size balls and roll in the sesame seeds.  Keep in the fridge for as long as you can!

Next time I may pass on the sesame seeds or perhaps toast them first as I didn’t think they added all that much and they kept sticking between my teeth.  But the wonderful thing about this kind of recipe is the total adaptability.  Swap mango for dried apricots, swap coconut for chopped nuts (I’ve tried apricot and pistachio – you can see the little green squares on the left of the top photo – they were delicious and as you can see there are only a few left!)

Enjoy.

Love Gillie x

the kimchi kick

There is nothing like the kick that you get from a good mouthful of kimchi first thing in the morning.  It is the mother of all wake up calls.  But unless you happen to  have a Korean chef living in the kitchen, or live above a Korean restaurant you are going to have to make it yourself.

I have had several goes at  making kimchi with varying success.  I trawled the internet for recipes but I struggled to get the balance right.  Some were too spicy, some not spicey enough.  Some seemed like a vegetable explosion with a shopping list as long as my arm.  Some looked rather sparse.

Then I went on a little cookery books shopping spree and one of my purchases was this

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And there on page 98 was Kimchi nirvana.  Just the right mix of vegetables and just the right balance of spice.

Here it is, with thanks to Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo Classic Cabbage Kimchi (baechu kimchi)

  • 1 large airtight sterilised jar with lid

vegetables

  • I large Chinese cabbage (about 1kg)
  • 50g table salt
  • 70g sea salt
  • 450g daikon radish cut into fine julienne strips
  • 30g chives cut into 4cm lengths
  • 4 spring onions halved lengthways and cut into 4cm lengths

paste

  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice flour
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 20g grated ginger
  • 100g finely chopped onion
  • 1tbsp salted shrimp paste
  • 70g gochugaru red pepper powder (I substituted medium strength smoked paprika)
  • 100ml nam pla
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp coconut sugar (you can use unrefined sugar if you can’t get coconut sugar)
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

First prepare the cabbage.  I misread the instructions and separated the leaves, this recipe actually asks you to cut the base off the cabbage and separate the leaves whilst keeping the cabbage intact.  Rinse well and sprinkle the sea salt on each leaf, focussing on the thick base and working up to the thinner peak then place in a bowl of saline made with 1 litre of water and the table salt.  Leave for four hours until the leaves are soft and limp.

Meanwhile make the paste.  This was new to me, I had never used rice flour before and this was a much thicker paste than I had made before.  Mix the flour with 2 tbsp of water with a fork until there are  no lumps and add a further 230ml of water and place in a pan.  Heat to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes stirring all the time until the paste is thick and glutenous.

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Remove from the heat and leave to cool, the paste will become thicker still as it does

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Combine all the rest of the paste ingredients in a food processor with the cooled paste.

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Transfer to a large bowl with the daikon, spring onions, and chives.  Mix well ensuring that all the vegetables are well combined with the paste.

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Now this is where I had to divert from the original instructions as I had separated my cabbage leaves.  I covered each leaf with the mixture and rolled it up.  If you have followed the instructions properly you spoon the mixture onto each cabbage half making sure to cover every leaf with the mixture and wrapping the outer leaf of each half around the cabbage to keep the mixture in.

Place in the jar leaving 3cm between the cabbage and the lid.  Seal tightly and keep at room temperature for two days.  By then it will have started to ferment and will smell a little sour and there will be plenty of juice.  Press the cabbage down into the juice, reseal and place in the fridge.  Start to taste it after a couple of weeks.  The longer you leave it the more sour it will become.  It should keep for about five to six months in an air tight container in the fridge.

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Enjoy

Love Gillie x