Saturday, October 29, 2011

First of the season's Broad Beans

We have had so much rain recently that walking to the vegetable garden is a seriously squelchy exercise. However, it was worth it when I got there to find the first of the season's broad beans. This year the broadies have had a rough time. The planting in the strawberry patch was all but wiped out by the escaping pig. To be fair, he didn't do it directly, but whilst he was being chased and caught again, a great deal of damage was done (to the beans). Earlier I had transplanted some broad bean plants that were self sown in the raised garden. There is still not a great deal ready in the garden so one has to take what there is and create something rather than have a plan in mind and look for the makings. Tonight I picked baby broad beans, still in their pods and some mint, and with some Kingsmeade Feta cheese still in the fridge, made another delicious Spring salad.

225 g fresh baby broad beans, still in their pods, roughly chopped

60 g Feta cheese, cubed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon Martinborough Manner Boysenberry vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put the beans in boiling water for 3–4 minutes until tender, or cook in a tiny amount of water in the microwave. Drain well and put into a bowl. Mix together the oil, vinegar and mint and stir into the hot beans. Cool the beans to room temperature and mix in the cubed Feta. Salad, ready to serve.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spring is bustin' out all over!

Everywhere you look there are signs of real Spring. One of our hens is sitting on four eggs, the two Pilgrim geese are sitting on at least a dozen eggs, the apple trees and pear trees are covered in beautiful blossom and the asparagus is up and doing.  As my mind wandered whilst working this morning (as it does from time to time) I wondered if we could have something a little different for dinner tonight that would use some of our seasonal goodies.  Suddenly there is food in the garden again.  I will leave the asparagus in the garden until nearer dinner time, so that it is as fresh as possible, but the eggs are already collected - thanks girls.

Caramelized Onion and Asparagus Frittata

                     1 jar Onion Marmalade

12 fresh asparagus spears,  
4 large eggs
3 large egg whites
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
1.             Preheat the grill in your oven.
2.             In a bowl, whisk the whole eggs, egg whites and 1 tablespoon of water until frothy, then season with salt and pepper.
3.             In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the asparagus until tender, 3 to 4 minutes; drain and set aside.
4.             Add the onion marmalade to a skillet or oven proof frying pan and heat over a moderate heat until the onions are hot
5.             Pour the eggs over the hot onions in the skillet and let set for 1 minute. Cover and cook until the eggs are set  around the edges but still soft in the centre, 2 to 3 minutes.
6.             Arrange the asparagus on top of the frittata, then slip the pan under the grill and cook for 30 to 60 seconds, or until the omelette puffs up and lightly browns. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Cut the frittata into 6 wedges and serve.  Serves 6.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Twice planted potatoes

Caught in the act!
We have now officially planted our potatoes twice!  Yes, the same potatoes, before you suggest that of course we need to plant more than one lot.  For four years our hens have stayed happily in the orchard.  They have a house to go to at night and approximately half an acre to play in during the day.  There are bugs and worms to eat, dirt to scratch in and dust to bathe in - what more could a hen require.  Freedom seems to be the answer to that question.  Every morning for about the last month, seven of them and one of the roosters would race to the end of the orchard as soon as they were let out in the morning.  Some weeks ago I had clipped a wing of each hen in order to interfere with their lift-off ability. But, undaunted by this, one by one, led by Clayton (the rooster you have when you're not having a rooster) they would jump onto the fence, jump off it and then run to wherever they wanted.  They would run into the barn and help themselves to the grain in the sacks.  They started to lay eggs in the barn (barn laid eggs for those who want the technical term). They would run into the strawberry patch and dig for worms.   Yesterday they ran into the area of newly planted spuds and dug up almost every single one.  They did not eat them, they simply did it for the sheer pleasure of doing so. There were a few words spoken, not conducive to long life of said hens.  When the hens ran into the neighbour's property rather than back into the orchard when we chased them, there were several more words spoken, some of which were signalling instant demise of said hens.  To allow the hens to remain in the egg-laying force, and to encourage them to stay in the orchard I built a palisade of bamboo canes, linked with binder twine.  The binder twine simply allowed for take-off balance.  I then attached a ripped up sheet to the twine so that it would flap in the wind and frighten the hens.  Our hens are brave, so this was no threat.  After that, we took some bird netting and stretched it tight, attaching it above the fence and gate, so that any hen making a bolt for it, would be ricocheted back into the orchard or caught as evidence in the netting.  Three hours after their daily release from their house the hens appear to be still in the orchard.  Two of the slower-learning, perhaps more bird-brained ones are still pacing up and down below the fence and netting wall, perhaps waiting for it to magically open and allow them an escape route.

If we have managed to contain them, we can continue planting the garden for the coming months.  Unless one plans very carefully, and we didn't, there is not much left in the garden at this time of the year, and much of the new season's vegetables are not yet ready.  However, over the weekend, we did harvest enough corn salad, asparagus, baby silver beet and fennel to be able to serve garden greens for dinner.

Early Spring salad

Use what ever baby greens you can find.  If using asparagus, lightly cook it in salted water and cool it, everything else can be simply rinsed, dried and served.  Don't put fennel in this salad, but slice it finely,  lightly fry it and serve along side the salad.

To dress your salad, mix half a cup of Martinborough Manner Boysenberry Vinegar and half a cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil, crush a clove of garlic, and add this with a teaspoon of honey.  Either mix it up in the blender, or put all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake long and hard.  Drizzle this over the salad at the table, or allow diners to do their own.