Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Homegrown & homemade garlic preserve




Fermentation is one of the healthiest ways of preserving vegetables; it turns them into a real probiotic powerhouse - especially precious if you've been taking antibiotics and your natural gut flora is depleted. Sauerkraut is a staple in my house, as are cucumbers in brine. I had never tried garlic preserved that way, but seeing as I had a bumper crop of garlic this year I absolutely had to try it!

Garlic preserved in salty brine tastes delicious and doesn't leave behind a stinky breath the way fresh raw garlic does. But most importantly, fermentation intensifies its healing properties, and eating just a couple of cloves a day will really boost your immune system.

Here is the recipe; all quantities are approximate and will depend on the amount of garlic you use.

Garlic cloves - peeled. I used 6 garlic heads to fill 2 small jars.
Dried herbs, about a teaspoon - I used basil and lovage, but any favourite herbs will work.
Whole mustard or coriander seeds, about a teaspoon.
Fresh rosemary, 1 sprig.

Brine:
Water - enough to fill the jars you are using.
Salt - use 1 tbsp per 1 litre of water (adjust the amount of salt accordingly, e.g. if using 500ml of water, only use half a tablespoon of salt).

Jars and lids must be scrubbed clean and dipped in hot (boiling) water to kill any microbes.
Place the herbs and spices in the bottom of the jar(s). Add in the garlic - a tight squeeze is fine.
Boil the water with the salt. Pour boiling water into the jars, making sure the garlic is covered. 
Screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down, and leave them until they cool down completely, then turn them the right way up and store away in room temperature for at least a week. The warmer the environment, the quicker it will ferment, so if your house is cooler, 2 weeks is probably the minimum.

The garlic can be sliced and added to salads, used in cooking, or eaten on its own almost like a ''pill'' when you feel you need an immunity boost.


Friday, 6 October 2017

Roast cauliflower and garlic soup



This warming soup is perfect for lunches on chilly October days. Chillies or cayenne pepper can be added to enhance the warming effect!

Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower
1 medium carrot
1 large head of garlic
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 vegetable stock cube
Olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 stick of cinnamon
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Divide the cauliflower into florets and slice the carrot. Place both on a roasting tray, add a glug of olive oil and mix with your hands to cover the veg.
Cut off the top of the garlic head, add a bit of olive oil and wrap the garlic head in tinfoil. 
Place the cauli/carrot mix and the garlic in a 200°C oven and roast for 30 minutes.

In a soup pot, heat up a little oil and add the onion, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick and coriander. Fry on a medium heat until the onion has softened. Add the roasted cauliflower and carrot, cover with boiling water (around 5 cups), crumble in the stock cube and cook for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, squeeze the soft garlic flesh from their skins into the soup.

Remove the cinnamon stick and blend the soup with a hand blender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a tablespoon of sour cream or a swirl of double cream.

Monday, 4 September 2017

I'm drowning in mushrooms!




They're everywhere. My freezer is packed full of sliced wild mushrooms. I have dried around 6kg (13 lbs) of mushrooms and they're now sitting in jars, ready for the pantry. I have a tub full of fried chanterelles in the fridge, waiting to become tonight's dinner. I also have a tub of creamy birch-bolete sauce in there, a massive amount left over from an even more massive amount we had for yesterday's lunch. AND I CAN'T STOP! I just can't walk away from an edible mushroom when I see it. It's an instinct, it gives me such an adrenaline kick! I know where to look, I know how quickly they grow back and I just can't stop myself from picking them. I absolutely love mushrooms, and this must have been the most prolific season yet, and it's only just started! 
I have stared giving them away since I'm running out of storage, but my hunter-gatherer instincts are making me pick more and more basketfuls of these little wonders. I wonder if there's a way I could sell them!





Monday, 21 August 2017

Mushroom season has begun!



Mushrooms - my absolute favourite thing to forage for - have finally appeared. At least the types I pick; I know there always are some mushrooms out there, but I don't pick anything I don't recognise. 

I already have two tubs full of sliced mushrooms in the freezer, and a third one about half full. And it's just the beginning!

My latest find is the beautiful large porcini mushroom pictured below - found it yesterday 5min from my house. S pointed out to me today that a certain gourmet online store sells them for £17 a piece!! Now that's a saving, I got it completely free :-)

I also stumbled upon a big patch of lovely chanterelles in the same spot a couple of days ago. I adore them - they make such wonderful sauce! They weighed in at 250g, I wonder how much that would have cost to buy!

I can't wait to go for a proper ''hunt'' to a large forest - maybe this weekend!



Porcini


Chantarelles


Chantarelles


Birch boletes


Bay bolete

Monday, 14 August 2017

Autumn state of mind


It's the middle of August, everything in the garden is lush, green and abundant - and as a gardener, this is what I had been waiting for all those months. But today's cold, rainy and windy weather brought on a sudden longing for Autumn coziness. 

When I sat in my chair today, in my warm jumper and with a hot cup of tea warming my hands, I remembered how much I love long October evenings, the cliché-yet-delightful pairing of hot drinks and good books, gentle sound of rain and flickering candles. 

Also, I have found a few mushrooms this month. The picture above is of the lovely birch boletes I found on my way home from work last week. To me, this means Autumn is just around the corner and I will soon be picking basketfulls of mushrooms every weekend! That's another thing I really look forward to: long walks in the forest, foraging for all those wonderful fungi.

As much as I want to be in the moment and enjoy the summer while it lasts, on a day like this I just can't help but think about the coming months... It really does feel like mid-October today. Stay warm everyone!





Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Garden in full swing



The garden is doing beautifully - certainly a lot better than I expected in my first year of gardening. The picture above is today's harvest for a lovely vegetable soup, the first meal made entirely out of garden produce. I'm so chuffed!





We've also had a few BBQ meals already, even tough the weather hasn't really been BBQ-friendly. But since S built it all by himself, we had to test it - and it did the job perfectly. The simple meal of beef burgers, garden potatoes and garden broad beans we had the other day was to die for!





We have also had our first ripe tomato - they are coming along slowly as we haven't had much sunshine, but they'll get there!



First harvest of broad beans:




Onions laid out to dry - this is only about a third of all my onions!



Monday, 17 July 2017

Our new house: 1 year later

We bought our house last July. After many years of renting, getting the keys to our new home was a very emotional moment for both of us. Even though the house needed a fair amount of work done to suit our needs and aesthetics, it was love at first sight and the beginning of a great adventure.

There's still many things needing done, replaced or refreshed here. We have a tight budget and have only been able to do so much. But the house is definitely liveable; we have done a great deal of painting (the previous owners had painted the master bedroom blood-red; we changed it to soothing blue. The living room was 3 different shades of metallic paint; it's now all white with just 1 grey accent wall), we've replaced dark wooden blinds with light curtains, but the biggest change has happened in the garden. A big chunk of it has been transformed into a very productive fruit & vegetable garden; the pond has been removed (for safety reasons - we loved it otherwise!), the back fence has been replaced; part of the monoblock has been removed (and partially used to build a BBQ). We won't stop there - we still have a few projects in mind :-)

This was our living room a year ago (note the silver, gold and purple metallic paint):



And here it is now:




The garden last July:




And today:




We still need to replace the carpets throughout the house; hire somebody to paint the staircase (the only bit of painting we can't do ourselves); in a few years time - replace the kitchen; maybe one day install a wood burner in the living room.. I could go on. It will take us years to do it all, but it's an awesome journey and we've been loving every part of it!