Potatoes at home 2014

Scotland has been in the forefront in the science of developing new varieties of potatoes that withstand common scab, black spot, various nematodes, blights and other problems traditionally associated with growing potatoes. The photograph below is from John Stoa’s blog.

John Stoa and his potatoes

John Stoa and his potatoes

I grew potatoes for market in the 1970s and I cannot for the life of me recall what variety I seeded. I went down to the local rural co-operative and worked out how much weight of seed potatoes I would need to plant an acre and that was it. Back breaking work followed even though my neighbour ploughed and furrowed the paddock for me. A profitable exercise, I recall and gave my family plenty of spuds to eat.

So here in Scotland, I wanted to grow potatoes – well, enough for us to consume and to try different varieties. When I went to the Bridgend Garden Centre in Freuchie, I was astounded at the different bags of seed potatoes – there must have been more than a hundred bags of first Earlies, second Earlies, Maincrop, early and late varieties. It was mind boggling. And I bought a potato book, of course!

In the meantime, I had come across a variety called Apache in supermarkets. It was developed just up the road from Cupar very recently and having gained market approval was in short supply. A smallish potato with a distinct pink parti-coloured blotches on the skin, waxy and good for roasting. So I bought a couple of bags and left one to chit.
I bought smallish quantities each of:
Harmony(6) – Caithness, Early Maincrop smooth tuber, white skin and flesh.
Picasso(6) – Agrico, Maincrop, medium tuber, red parti-coloured skin, light yellow flesh.
Mayan Gold(10) – James Hutton, Maincrop, smooth long tuber, blue parti-coloured skin, yellow flesh
Sarpo Axona(8) – Sarvari Research, Maincrop, smooth oval tuber, red skin, cream flesh
together with my 12 chitted Apache – Zella J. Doig, Early Maincrop, short oval tuber, red parti-coloured skin, yellow flesh.

I use The British Potato Variety Database for information and disease resistance ratings. An excellent reference tool.

The plantings would take up half a row each in one of the raised beds. I trenched the rows I would use and laid Growmore pelleted fertiliser drawing some soil over before putting the already chitted seed potatoes in the trenches. On 19th April the rows were planted and watered in well. There was an overflow so I planted the Axona in my overflow bed together with another 10 Apache about a week later. We had some good rain and I watered spasmodically when it was dry. Hilled up the sides to keep the developed tubers from turning green.

Apache (lt), Picasso (top), Harmony (rt)

Apache (lt), Picasso (top), Harmony (rt)

By the 10th September, the tops had dried up and I dug the Harmony and Apache potatoes. Satisfying yield from the Harmony but not so much from the Apache. The skins were crazed as well – I would guess my watering regime wasn’t consistent enough for them They are small potatoes. A bit of common scab on a few Harmony so I will plant a green manure crop of Caliente mustard to help sterilise the soil for next year.

Mayan Gold yield was also great - 1 metre row

Mayan Gold yield was also great – 1 metre row

This was a terrific yield from 1 metre of row

Picasso – This terrific yield from 1 metre of row

 

Yesterday the 12th I dug the Picasso and Mayan Gold. Terrific Picasso yield and highly satisfactory Mayan Gold yield. I threw away, at the most, 6 potatoes that wire worm had infiltrated. Not bad.
There will be more potatoes from the overflow bed but they aren’t ready yet. You can see from the photographs that there are more potatoes than two people can eat so I have started giving some to our neighbours – also a satisfying exercise.

 

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Spicy Cherry Tomato Jam

There have been so many cherry tomatoes that if I didn’t do something with them, they would be lost. We couldn’t eat them fast enough.

So I googled Tomato Jam and lo! Recipes galore from which to choose. I eventually decided to use the base of a recipe from Delicious Magazine.

Delicious Magazine

Delicious Magazine

Ingredients
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
750g ripe cherry tomatoes halved
2 onions, finely chopped – I used echalion shallots otherwise known as cibouli onions
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 large mild red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
5 cm piece fresh ginger grated
250 ml white wine vinegar
300g soft light brown sugar
2 tsp fish sauce (nam pla)

I whizzed the onion and some of the vinegar together with a couple of teaspoons of bottled chopped chillies that were in the fridge.

Echalion or cibouli onions

Echalion or cibouli onions

I used ground spices instead of whole seeds because I haven’t a mortar or grinder and I did have bottles of spices. I had a tube of garlic paste and a bottle of ginger paste in the fridge and used them rather than having to go out and buy fresh.

I had some distilled malt vinegar and the remains of some white wine vinegar and so I mixed them together. I also tasted this as it was cooking and realised that it needed some salt and lemon juice. So I added that and kept tasting until it tasted less sweet but spicier. I added several drops of Nando’s hot peri-peri sauce to lift the flavour a bit. The fish sauce added at the end is a lovely soupcon of finishing flavour that makes the jam.

Dry toast the cumin and coriander for a minute over low heat until aromatic.
In a largish wide pan put the tomatoes and onions – whizzed if that’s what you do – the garlic and ginger and chillies. Add the spices, vinegar and sugar. Bring it all to the boil and then simmer until reduced to a jam-like consistency. I was stirring this mixture quite a bit and first added some salt, re-taste, lemon juice, re-taste, Nando’s sauce, re-taste. When it is just about right, tasting good and reduced way down, add the nam pla and cook for another couple of minutes.

This quantity made 4 smallish jars of varying sizes. I sterilised the jars in the oven at 130ºC for 30 minutes and boiled the lids for about 10 minutes on the stove. Spoon the jam into hot jars and seal. Let cool, label and store. This is a lovely jam – my neighbours all liked it and since I had scrounged for an empty bottle, I gave back the bottle full of jam. Win win.

Passes the taste test

Passes the taste test

Outdoor Cherry Tomatoes in Fife!

The colours, the colours. I love plant geneticists

The colours, the colours. I love plant geneticists

I guess it is the beautiful summer we have had. Warm with rain and a fair bit of sun. My desire to grow cherry tomatoes surfaced with a passion. I had planted butterhead lettuce seedlings on 2nd May and everything was looking good. I did succession planting so there is always lettuce to eat, though it’s nearly finished now.
I grew all manner of lettuce in the 1990s on a farm in Mullum and there are two varieties I love. The butterhead – of which there are many varieties and the Mini Cos because of its crisp, small leaf on a strong central vein. It has a terrific shelf life. Lettuce in the sub tropics produce about 9 crops per year.

The easiest and best way to grow non-hearting lettuce.

The easiest and best way to grow non-hearting lettuce.

In Mullumbimby, cherry tomato plants are simply gorgeous and prolific – they grow all the year around. Birds get some fruit, some fall to the ground and self seed. The seeds sprout and I end up with a riot of tangled vines all over the fences and ground. However I was never short of tomatoes. Neither was anyone in the ‘hood.

I had been trying for the 6 years I have been here to grow tomatoes of some sort or another. In the ground, in a green house, in the summer house and this year all things conspired at the right time to produce tomatoes! I had bought two Tumbling Tom cherry tomato plants that I potted into hanging baskets. I was a little worried that they would dry out and they have on occasion. They were ready to flower when I potted them so it didn’t take long. Lots of watering though and liquid feed. I have been using Doff Tomato Feed with an NPK of 5:5:10 My brother-in-law uses that and it is certainly good for fruiting. They are starting to fruit now – they took longer than the Sungold.

Tumbling Tom cherry tomato hanging in a basket

Tumbling Tom cherry tomato hanging in a basket

On the last day in May I also bought an advanced Sungold cherry tomato seedling and transplanted it into a larger pot with some home grown compost from the first bin and some Growmore pelleted fertiliser. The corner of the house that has the back of the conservatory is ideal. The back of the house faces south which is ideal as a sun trap. The brick wall where the tomato plant was housed is perfect for relatively quick growth. The wind mostly isn’t a problem though middle August brought unseasonal winds and the plant had to be really secured against the down pipe and trellises.

 I repotted into a large pot so that watering wasn’t a necessity twice a day. Liquid Tomato feed, water and sun and voila, sweet orange coloured cherry tomatoes.

These are very sweet, golden cherry tomatoes

These are very sweet, golden cherry tomatoes

Meanwhile the butterhead lettuce have grown beautifully and been mostly consumed by us and our neighbours. Salads are the go for the moment. Now this is what I call a salad. I constructed this for my brunch today. Yummy.

A great salad seasoned from the WW's hand made cruet set

A great salad seasoned from the WW’s hand made cruet set

The butterhead lettuce and the tomatoes are from our garden. The cucumber isn’t and neither is the spring onion – but there’s next year isn’t there? Some sun-dried tomatoes sliced, shredded ham from a ham shank, a slice of prosciutto torn up plus a torn up slice of Maasdam cheese. Dress with pepper and lo salt. My other half made this cruet set and has several others. He is a good wood worker.  I used basil flavoured olive oil. I could have used lemon and dill flavoured. Add two heavily buttered oatcakes (because I like them and I love butter). Al fresco dining on the lower deck. Who could ask for more?

Green Peas for Dinner

 

Very different types of peas

Very different types of peas

I grew three varieties of peas this year. The first row was made up of an Italian variety Rondo. The second row, planted the same day, was labelled Sugar Snap Delikett. Both varieties were bought from Bridgend Nursery at Freuchie as seedlings and planted on 2nd May. The third row was planted about 2 weeks later – there was no label with the seedlings so I don’t know the variety but wow! I have never seen pea pods like it! It must have been a Mange tout variety that just kept growing and filling with peas. The resultant peas were very large and juicy.

Looks okay at this stage but wasn't sufficient

Looks okay at this stage but wasn’t sufficient

The pea supports I made were pretty hopeless this year and I am making a space against the eastern fence for peas next year. Because I grew them in a raised bed this year, the plant height was too much for the supports I had and the poor plants eventually fell over themselves. The luscious pea-filled pods dangled every which way and were difficult to harvest.

Cleaning up and preparing east bed

Cleaning up and preparing east bed

I searched through descriptions and images for semi-permanent and permanent pea support structures (good for all climbers really) and found the one I want in a gardening blog from the US. There are so many different designs – some look as though they would fall over in a minute and some look really sturdy.

Jimmy's semi permanent support for climbers

Jimmy’s semi permanent support for climbers

This one of Jimmy’s looks easy to get to either side and won’t take up as much room as a sandwich board type design.

However the peas that I did harvest were gorgeous.
Podding peas is a dangerous exercise as the podding person pops peas all through the process.

Ended up with approx. 1 kilo

Ended up with approx. 1 kilo

I actually have never met anyone who doesn’t like peas – either freshly podded or cooked in a yummy paella; or a curry; or pea and prawn risotto; or egg and prawn fried rice. Ah – food. Lovely food.

Here’s a lemon linguine with peas and prawns from BBC Good Food.

350g linguine cooked al dente
200g fresh peas
300g cooked prawns
Zest & juice of one lemon
100ml double cream

Gently cook the peas, prawns, lemon for 3-4 mins. Season well, stir in cream, a little pasta water and bubble for a minute. Add the linguine and toss well. Easy peasy and tasty. I add a sprinkle of dill as well, because I love dill.

Pea and Prawn Linguine

Pea and Prawn Linguine

Fragrant Lamb Tagine with spiced couscous

This recipe traditionally uses a lean leg of lamb. Well, I make it for me basically, although these quantities will feed two people.

The Tagine
250g lamb steaks cut into 1.5cm cubes. Leave any fat on the meat.
½cup finely chopped onion – I use cibouli as most of my readers know
1 large clove finely chopped garlic
½ cinnamon stick
¾cup chicken stock – I make this for convenience from Knorr chicken powder
½cup finely chopped coriander
½cup flat-leaf parsley
½cup cooked chickpeas
¾cups diced apricots
1tbsp honey
Juice one lemon – I often use lemon juice packaged by supermarkets
S&P to taste

Cover with foil and into the oven

Cover with foil and into the oven

The Couscous
¾cup dried couscous
½cup vegetable stock – again made from Knorr Vegetable stock cubes. I used a third of a cube for the quantity of stock I needed.
Respectable knob of butter
4-5 dried apricots chopped finely
½tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp chopped parsley
Handful toasted almond slivers – toast carefully in a dry pan turning all the time until fragrant. Don’t burn them!

Method:
Seal the lamb in hot oil to get even colour. Take out of the pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft.
Add the cinnamon stick and stock and bring to the boil. Add half the herbs and the reserved lamb pieces plus any juices.
Continue to cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half, and then add chickpeas, apricots and honey. Use a little cornflower mixed with cold water to thicken the gravy.
Transfer the Tagine to a deep sided baking dish, cover with foil and place into the oven at 150°C/300F oven for 40 minutes, checking after 20 minutes, then every 10 minutes until the lamb is tender.
Remove from the oven; add the rest of the herbs and lemon juice. Season well with ground black pepper and salt. Add more cornflour thickening if necessary and return to oven for 10 minutes.

For the couscous, mix all of the dry ingredients apart from the almonds together in a large mixing bowl and season well
Bring vegetable stock and butter to the boil and pour over the dry couscous mix and stir well
Cover the dish and allow to soak for five minutes
To serve, fluff up the couscous with a fork and add the toasted almonds and chopped parsley
Serve a generous pile of the couscous with the Tagine sprinkle with more toasted almonds and chopped coriander

A truly delicious meal

A truly delicious meal

This is very tasty. Couscous sets off a tagine anytime.

Brinjal pickle or curry

This is such a terrific pickle. I found this recipe by Charmaine Solomon in the 1970s when my boys and I lived on our wee farm and grew all our vegetables. I must have planted a lot of eggplant seeds because when it became apparent that we would have dozens of the big, purple fruits, I had to work out what to do with them. Hence the brinjal pickle.
These days, in order to experience the gorgeous flavours and texture of this pickle, I have to buy the aubergines. Sob. It doesn’t matter what brand of Brinjal pickle I buy in jars in Asian supermarkets, it doesn’t taste anywhere near as delicious as the homemade variety. I guess, because to be commercially viable, some things are left out, some stuff added and blah. Anyway, it doesn’t have the same flavour I like. My boys used this as a spread on their cheese sandwiches. You can also use it on rice for a quick curry. It is truly lovely stuff. As a curry it is called Brinjal pahi and I am sure there are as many versions as there are cooks – 1,490 entries in Wikipedia alone! This one is now mine.

Here we go.

3 medium purple aubergines or 2 large ones – sliced about ¾cm thick.
Lay out as many slices as fit on a paper kitchen towel. Sprinkle salt over the slices and then sprinkle turmeric powder. Rub the slices, turn them over and repeat for the other side.
Use a big, non-reactive bowl and place the prepared slices in layers. Cover with a plastic sheet and leave to sweat the moisture for a minimum of two hours. I often left the aubergine overnight and poured the liquid off in the morning. Blot the slices dry on paper before frying. This doesn’t take as long as you think it will. Have a cuppa.

Sliced aubergine exsanguinating

Sliced aubergine exsanguinating

Cover the base of a large frying pan with about 2cm oil and heat. Fry the slices slowly until brown on both sides. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Reserve the frying oil. I have to say that an Aga would be good. I had a slow combustion stove on the farm and the ability to control heat is an advantage. I have made it on a gas stove but never on an electric stove. Today I had to use the induction hob. Not good, not good at all. I mean the cooking worked but fires are a much better way to go.

Sweated, dried off & ready to fry

Sweated, dried off & ready to fry – this is the tedious part of the process

 

Wet Spice Mix
1tbsp black mustard seed
½cup brown vinegar. I used a malt vinegar once – t’weren’t the same
1 brown onion finely chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic sliced finely
1tbsp fresh, finely chopped ginger
Blend mustard seed and vinegar until mustard is ground down. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

Dry Spice Mix – or an equivalent amount of curry powder and curry leaves.
1tbsp ground coriander
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground fennel
Using a small dry pan, heat the ingredients gently – shake the pan constantly, don’t let the mixture burn. It should be a medium brown colour and fragrant.

½cup tamarind pulp steeped in ¾cup hot water. Strain, discard seeds, reserve liquid.
3 fresh chillies, seeded and sliced
Small cinnamon stick
1tsp chilli powder if desired

Heat ½cup reserved oil, fry blended wet mixture for 5mins. Add dry mixture and other ingredients. Add the aubergine slices (I use a sharp knife at this stage to roughly cut through the aubergine thus breaking the skin up) and oil from the bowl they were in, stir well, cover and simmer for 15mins. You may need to add some more salt.

Keep your wee spoon out of this - we are bottling it.

Keep your wee spoon out of this – we are bottling it.

Let cool thoroughly before bottling in clean, dry bottles. I kept a bottle for 4 years and it was absolutely gorgeous. It just doesn’t ever go ‘off’.

Stir-fried Spiced Chicken Slivers with Oriental Veges

Quick, tasty & nutritious

Quick, tasty & nutritious

I used an oriental bean stir-fry mix from Asda comprising bean sprouts, edamame beans, red peppers, shaved carrots and Chinese cabbage. I added a finely sliced mushroom and some leeks with some cut asparagus spears.

I sliced a chicken breast very finely – it’s pretty easy to do when the chicken is still half frozen. The quantities don’t really matter that much – it depends on how many you are feeding. I was only feeding me and the photos show quantities for one plus some left-overs for the evening.

The spicy marinade I used was a suggestion from an fb  correspondent on a comment thread extolling the virtues of turmeric. It is part of the ginger family  – Zingiberaceae. It’s tropical and grows wild and in gardens throughout Mullumbimby where I used to live. I grew it with several other gingers for culinary purposes. All ginger plants are very easy on the eye as well.

Anyway here is the spice mix. I just shook an even amount of all three spices into a small bowl and added enough lemon juice and olive oil to make a squishy paste.

Turmeric Powder
Ground Coriander
Red Chilli Powder
Olive Oil
Lemon juice

I smothered the chicken in the marinade and left it for about an hour.

Marinating happily in spice

Marinating happily in spice

I knew the chicken would take about four minutes to cook so the vegetables have to be cut finely enough to also cook for about 4 minutes.

Heat up some sunflower oil in a wok and add the chicken at quite a high heat so that the meat browns evenly. This requires constant stirring until the chicken is cooked but not burnt. Remove and set aside.

Any vegetables you like - cut finely

Any vegetables you like – cut finely

The vegetables can be whatever you prefer. I used some of the oriental bean stir-fry mix plus mushroom, leek and asparagus. I cut the asparagus spears into three sections and covered with boiling water for about six or so minutes to soften them.

Add more oil and heat. Pour in all the vegetables and stir to coat them. Cover the pan for four minutes but stir frequently so the vegetables don’t burn. Towards the end of cooking add ½ clove minced garlic plus several drops of sesame oil and season with pepper and salt. Add back the chicken and heat through. There is not much sauce with this so if you like, add a sauce of maybe soy, chicken or vegetable stock. You can add more heat as well.

I served this with a fine egg pasta and added a real favourite of mine – Nando’s Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Peri peri marinade. Well – I use it as a sauce.