Sunday, 29 May 2011

What's Growing?

I've just about filled the two vegetable beds with the plants for this year. Some I've grown from seed, some are perennials and some I've bought from the local allotment association (HAAGA) and from Ryton Organic Gardens. This year I'll be growing in the vegetable beds:
  • Rhubarb - found this in the garden when we moved in many years ago buried under all the rubbish left by the previous owners. Not so good this year as the weather has been very dry.
  • Jerusalem Artichokes - planted a few tubers a couple of years ago and now have a small forest of plants. Great for soups or roasted with beef or chicken.
  • Courgettes - Two different types this year; a yellow globe type and a more standard green one.
  • French, Broad and Runner beans - Heritage seeds from Ryton, it will be interesting to see how they taste.
  • Onions - grown from sets from HAAGA
  • Leeks - Heritage plants from Ryton, these will see me into winter
  • Salad Greens - a mixed set of leaves
Bean Poles in place - annoyed cat in foreground
In planters:
  • Aubergines - small lilac globes some being grow in the greenhouse and some in the sunnier area by the greenhouse.
  • Tomatoes - Several heritage types from Ryton including one called Giant Green Sausage growing on the patio in large, deep planters.
  • Herbs - several types of mint, sage, hyssop, rosemary, bay and lime balm.

  • Two apples - an old Cox type (was in the garden when we arrived) and a Egmount Russet - my favourite apple.
  • Victoria Plum - far too large for our garden because of the rootstock it is on but it produces buckets of juicy flavourful fruit every year. Plenty for me and plenty for the birds!

Jerusalem Artichokes at the front centre
Hopefully we will have the perfect mix of sunny warm days and warm wet nights this summer and a bumper crop of goodies!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Norfolk Nosh

Been a while since I wrote anything, lots of things going on; work, three sick cats and a holiday in the wilds of East Anglia have all got in the way. Our holiday on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk provided us with some very fine food offerings. The asparagus season was in full swing and signs proclaiming this fact could be seen almost every 100 meters. I love asparagus but only eat it in season as the taste, like sweetcorn, fades away quickly after being harvested.

Asparagus featured in our first, and probably best, meal of our week away. Our first two nights were spent at the fabulousOld Rectory Norwich. The evening meal (and the following morning's breakfast) were fabulous. I started with a salad of asparagus, black pudding, soft boiled egg and salad leaves while my wife had a crab tart of sublime lightness and intensity. For my main I had a fillet of local beef with roasted shallots, spinach and fondant potatoes while Liz had a large fillet of sea bass with asparagus, new potatoes and seasonal vegetables. The beef was both tender and full of flavour and the sauce from the meat juices fabulously tasty. For pudding I had a delicate vanilla panna cotta with macerated strawberries and lavender shortbread and Liz had a gooey chocolate fondant. Both were fantastic.
Sunset on the walk back from the Locks Inn
We then moved from the luxury of the Old Rectory to the more basic conditions of a self catering converted cowshed. Set in the owners' smallholding it was very peaceful and relaxing. Best of all it was only a 15 minute walk from a great pub. The Locks Inn has atmosphere to die for. The old, main part of the inn is tiny and lacks any form of artificial light, so we had to rush our postcard writing before the sun went down! The food (beef chilli and rice, vegetarian goulash) was flavourful and hearty and was complimented by some very good beer from the small, local Green Jack brewery.

Sole Bay Inn Southwold
Other good food and ale was to be had at the Sole Bay inn in Southwold, a very pretty town on the coast with beach huts, a funky pier and a interesting selection of shops. At its heart is the Adnams brewery and you can smell the aroma of brewing beer throughout the town.
In Norwich Totally Thai is a very good Thai restaurant with a good selection of classics. On the way back to London we stopped at a farm shop for breakfast. Breakfast was good and there was a fine range of produce to take home. A bonus was the small petting zoo of pigs and sheep in the car park!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Steak and Cabbage Stir Fry

As we are away on holiday (Norfolk) next week it makes sense to use up everything in the fridge. No veg box this week so we just had a small head of pointed cabbage in the fridge. Along with a piece of steak from the freezer (left over from the Beef Stroganof a few weeks ago) I had enough for a tasty supper.

Ingredients (for 2)
1 piece of frying steak (sliced into strips)
1 head of pointed cabbage (or a small Savoy, or a bag of spinach, kale or spring greens) coarsely chopped.
1 onion (sliced)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1 thumb sized chunk of ginger (cut into matchsticks)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 star anise
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of Thai sweet chilli sauce
3 tablespoons of black bean sauce (or oyster sauce)
a splash or two of water

Heat a wok still hot and add the oil. Add the garlic, star anise and ginger then the onions and stir fry briefly. Add the steak and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the cabbage and briefly stir fry again. Add the soy, chilli, black bean sauce and the water. Stir fry to coat the meat and cabbage.

Serve with rice or noodles dressed with sesame oil and a glass of cold beer.