Monday, 30 September 2013

Pork Chops with Star Anise Scented Plums

I'm on a bit of an inspired cooking binge at the moment after a fine meal at the Gilbert & Scott Restaurant in the St Pancreas hotel on Friday. Fantastic 'Modern British' cuisine in a great setting. On Saturday I picked up two thick, meaty pork chops from the butcher in Pitshanger Lane and decided to combine them with some of the plum glut I have at the moment. Very simple but very tasty.
Serves 2.

2 Pork Chops (nice and thick if possible)
3 Large plums (halved and stoned)
2 Star Anise

Heat a griddle pan till very hot. Oil and season the chops and press pieces of star anise into the plum. Fry the chop for 3-5 minutes on each side. Place the halved plums on the chops and put in a moderate oven (180C) for 15-20 minutes.
Serve with roasted potatoes and green beans.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Quick Lunch

Couldn't resist pairing some very ripe figs from the Pitshanger Lane greengrocer's with some ripe tomatoes and courgettes from the garden in a quick lunch before heading into London for a bit of 'culture'. Serves 2

3 Ripe Figs
Small chunk of blue cheese
Parmasan shavings
6 Cherry or small plum tomatoes
1 Small round courgette (or a normal one)
Fresh Thyme
1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Balsamic Vineger

Pre-heat the oven to about 150C.
Slice the courgettes length about the thickness of a pound coin (about 3mm for all of those who don't have Pound coins). Mix together the thyme, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. Griddle courgettes in a ridged pan for 5 or so minutes on each side, adding the tomatoes towards the end.

Meanwhile cut a cross in the top of each fig (to about half-way down), squeeze gently and put 1/3 of the blue cheese in each. Put in the oven for about 7 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Arrange nicely on plates with a few parmasan shavings, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and any marinade that is left.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Lamb Cakes

This weekend we made our annual visit to the Royal Berkshire Agricultural Show (or as we ill always know it the Newbury Show). As well as lots of animals on show in all their shampooed and primped glory, the craft tent full of glorious treasures there is the farm food tent. As usual we came back with the car loaded up with high quality meat, artisan chutneys and oils and far too many interesting ciders, vodkas and gins!
Last night we had a simple roast leg of lamb (the freezer was full and the lamb wouldn't fit) with some of the vegetables from the garden. Tonight I fancied something different rather than a straightforward salad.
Serves 2.

3-4 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and riced
Good handful of shredded or chopped coat roast lamb (beef would work as well)
Bunch of parsley finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
Salt & Pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and shape into four cakes about 1.5cm thick. Put in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

Heat some oil in a pan and shallow fry until crispy and golden on both sides.

Serve with a punchy green salad with watercress and rocket in it. Add some quartered or halved tomatoes and some sliced raw mushrooms. Dress with a vinaigrette (I used a mix of raspberry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil).  

Harvest 2013

Compared to last year I've had a bumper harvest. Not the best ever but good quality and quantity of most of the crops. All are grown outside, tomatoes and peppers against the back wall of the house for warmth and shelter, the rest in the vegetable beds at the other end of the garden.

Tomatoes: This year I grew a selection of varieties which I bought from one of our local garden centres. All varieties did well, my favourite was a medium sized striped plum type which had a wonderfully rich sweet and sour flavour. The red and yellow cherry varieties have both cropped well and with good flavour. There is also a self seeded round variety that hasn't ripened yet - with nights drawing in I can see a green tomato recipe in my future.

Bell Peppers: These have produced a handful of fruit each and are currently green. Have a feeling they may remain so as the days get shorter and cooler.

Chillies: Very little fruit if any. May have to try again next time in the greenhouse or indoors.

Apples: Both trees did well this year. The Egremont Russet did suffer some damage from birds and bugs but the flavour from those that survived was very good. The other tree, which we think is a Cox, produced a very heavy crop of crisp, juicy and flavoursome fruit.

Victoria Plum: The tree is far too large for the garden and produces an enormous amount of fruit. Too much for us to eat but this year I've stewed them with vanilla sugar and frozen them for the winter as well as scoffing them straight from the tree, wonderful flavour.

Courgettes: Yellow and green round ones this year - they cropped well (three plants have kept us in courgettes for the whole season) but had a tendency to get too large very quickly. Good flavour and texture though.

Runner Beans: Good crop this year, enough to freeze, with good flavour. No idea what the variety is as I have been saving and planting my own seed for so long I've forgotten where the seeds came from!

Leaks: Early days as I won't harvest these for some time but they are looking good.

Jerusalem Artichokes: Good grief these will take over the world (if they aren't strangled by bindweed first) if I'm not careful. Just about to flower and not yet ready for harvesting. Should keep me going (and f***ing) well into the new year. Must be disciplined enough to harvest them all or they will keep spreading!

Blackberries: These are just wild brambles and we have to hack them back to get into the shed. High humidity at the wrong time meant that the 'crop' spoiled quickly and so very little ended up in the freezer.

Rhubarb: Excellent crop again, plenty in the freezer for stewing in the winter.

I'll probably grow the same next year, I need new planters for the tomatoes and I must push back the approaching artichoke apocalypse or I may never see the far end of the garden again. The shed needs painting with a preservative and new felt on the roof. Shrubs in the front half of the garden need cutting back as  does the eucalyptus tree.