Friday, 30 October 2009

Late Season & Autumn Planting

Thanks to the beautiful warm weather that we've been having, I'm enjoying late season crops. The unseasonably mild temperatures mean that I'm still getting food from my summer crops in addition to the things I normally harvest in the autumn! My raspberries and strawberries have had a new crop in October when they would normally be finished for the year in August! I'm also still picking courgettes--the yellow ones seem to be doing especially well, physalis, runner beans, and spinach. So make sure and check your plants to make sure they haven't surprised you with some delicious new fruit and vegetables for you!

Also, we've been enjoying the beautiful weather as we've been clearing out the garden some and planting new crops. Although most plants like being planted in the spring, there are some things that you can over-winter. We just planted two varieties of onion (a red variety and a white spring onion variety), cauliflower (not all varieties are suitable for planting in the autumn, but some are, so check the seed packet), and yellow radishes (I've never had yellow radishes before, so I'm excited to try this out). All of these were planted directly outside in the vegetable patch. Cross your fingers that we'll have lovely crops from them in the spring and summer.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Spicy Rice Balls & Stir-Fry

This recipe is based on one by Betty Crocker from her book easy everyday Vegetarian. However, she makes rice balls as a meatball substitute, which didn't seem to work to me (carbs on carbs instead of a protein...). However, I thought rice balls would be a great spin to an Asian-inspired meal.
The spicy rice balls:
2 cups cooked rice (that's about 1 cup precooked of just ordinary white rice)
1/2 cup oats (I used standard porridge oats--non instant)
1 onion, chopped finely (or you can use any combination of onion, shallot, and green onion)
1 slice of bread, broken into breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
seasoning to taste (I added liberal sprinklings of black pepper, chilli powder, dried chillies, and paprika. I also added a pinch of cumin and ginger. It takes a lot more spices than you would think to make them spicy. You can also add a dash of soy sauce.)
outside topping (Betty says to use 1/2 cup of wheat germ, but I felt like it could be better. Instead, try a mixture of wheat germ, fine bread crumbs, and crushed peanuts.)
1. Mix all ingredients except for the outside topping. Form into balls.
2. Put the outside topping in a shallow bowl or other dish with sides. Roll the balls in it until they are lightly but evently coated.
3. Shallow fry the balls until the coating is golden coloured and they are piping hot through.
I served them on a vegetable stir fry.
Vegetable Stir Fry:
Courgette/Zuchinni cut into ribbons (I use a vegetable peeler to slice it)
Carrot (I like julienne type thin strips, but you can cut it in standard circles if you prefer. It needs to be cut quite finely though, or else it will take a lot longer to cook than the other ingredients.)
Spring onions, finely chopped
Peanuts, about a handful
Any other suitable vegetable you have on hand that needs using (peppers, mushrooms, etc.); you could also add chopped firm tofu
Spices (I used a pre-mixed seasoning mix that included lemon grass and coriander)
1 dash of lime juice
1. Heat oil in wok until it is steaming hot, or items sizzle when added. For extra flavour, use some sesame oil.
2. Add all of the vegetables and peanuts. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables reach the desired level of tenderness.
3. Add the dash of lime juice and spices, stir in well.
I surrounded the whole thing with a peanut sauce that helped add some extra flavour and moistness and unify the dish.
My peanut sauce:
I can't give you exact amounts because I never measure it. Here's my guesstimates.
A generous glob of ketchup
A spoonful of honey
A dash of soy sauce
A dash of vinegar (I use malt, but you could also use rice vinegar or white wine vinegar)
A heaped spoonful of peanut butter (you can use smooth or chunky--it depends on what consistency you want your sauce to be)
A few drops of lemon juice
A glug of sweet chili sauce (chili and ginger relish also works well)
Taste it and make modifications according to taste. Mix well (I use a hand blender).
To serve:
Dish up the stir fry in the middle of the plate first, top with rice balls, and garnish with the sauce.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Collecting Seeds

This month lots of plants are going to seed. Many things will self-seed, and so you can leave them to scatter their own seeds and enjoy the new plants next year (many wild flowers are particularly good at this). However, gathering the seeds means that you can plant them more selectively (losing less to rotting and birds, and also choosing where to put them), or you can even give them away (a home-made packet of seeds, perhaps with other produce from the garden or gardening tools can make a lovely Christmas present).

My sunflowers have finished blooming, but the heads are heavy with the seeds. I snipped off the flower heads and hung them inside to dry. During the winter I'll hang them outside on trees to make home-made bird feeders. I did this last year, too, and our garden was full of little birds all winter long.

My broccoli plants also went to seed this year. I've never tried gathering broccoli seeds before, but I gathered all the seed pods and hung them to dry inside as well. When they're all dried, I'll collect the seeds in an envelope and store them for the spring. Make sure that the seeds are completely dry so that you don't have problems with mould. We'll find out next summer how the home-harvested seeds have done, but I'm excited to try it.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

October Means Pumpkins!

One of my favourite things about October is--you guessed it--pumpkins! I love them. They look so autumnal, you can carve them for Halloween, and, best of all, you can eat them! During October I tend to use a little pumpkin in almost everything I cook.

This particular pumpkin is from my garden. It's vine shrivelled up and died, so we had to pick it a bit early. It's a variety that is white when fully ripe, and never grows very big. Unfortunately, it never completely ripened, but it was still delicious.

Here's my first pumpkin recipe for this autumn.

Pumpkin Lasagna

Pumpkin is delicious in lasagna. Make lasagna as usual, but add an extra pumpkin layer, or use this to replace the cheesey layer of lasagna.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Peel and core pumpkin (remember to keep and bake the seeds!). Dice the pumpkin. Put on a large baking sheet.

I liberally sprinkled it with chillies. I LOVE The English Provender Co. Very Lazy Red Chillies. They have a rich, almost sweet flavour as well as adding some warmth and spice. I spooned it over the pumpkin, including some of the liquid from the jar. I also added ground black pepper. Then use an olive oil spray to coat the pumpkin evenly, and then drizzle lightly with some good olive oil.

Bake 20 to 45 minutes depending on how ripe the pumpkin is and how big the pieces are. When it is finished, it should be cooked through and slice easily.

Mush the pumpkin. I used a hand blender, but you could also use a potato masher or food processor.

For a super super easy, but delicious pumpkin cheese lasagna layer, mix the pumpkin puree with creme fraiche (I used low fat and it still turned out delicious). Season to taste with more red chillies, salt and pepper, etc. I added a spoonful of wholegrain English mustard as well. It wasn't enough to make it taste mustardy, just to add a little edge to it.

Then use it as a lasagna layer, and cook lasagna as usual. I like mixing it with other flavours. For example, alternate pumpkin layers and traditional tomato sauce & mince layers (particularly good with grated courgette--zucchini--in it).

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Scrapbooking Challenge Deadline Extension

In August, I launched the first Hidden Domestic Competition. The Scrapbooking Challenge (with a prize of scrapbooking supplies) was to create a page for free, using no store-bought scrapbooking embellishments. The deadline was the 1st of October. However, the deadline has come and gone, and I am sadly lacking in entries. So I'm being optimistic and trying again.

The Challenge: Create a scrapbooking page for free (things you already have around the house are fine to use). Either post it as a comment on the blog, add it to our Facebook page, or email it to me.

The Prize: The best entries will be posted on The Hidden Domestic website (with the creator's permission), and the winner will receive some great scrapbooking supplies.

The New Deadline: You've got a month. The new deadline is the 8th of November.

The pictures are of simple examples of free scrapbooking pages. Using ink pads that we had around the house from a former craft, I took hand and foot prints of my daughters. Then I used multicoloured pens to write down information about them at this age (for example, what size clothes they wear and what their favourite toys are). I figured that these kind of details are often forgotten over time, and it makes a nice, simple page with good memories.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Blackberries: The Last Lingering Mouthfuls of Summer

I've been meaning to blog about blackberries for awhile, and somehow I just haven't gotten to it until now. Depending on where you live, blackberries are in season mid-summer to early autumn. We're just at the end of the season now, but if you're willing to go look for them, most brambles will still have some good berries on them. I love blackberries. They're delicious, and they grow like a weed in many places around the world, meaning that you can go pick them for free.
My daughters loved going blackberry picking with me. I brought a bucket for the berries to come home, and their bucket was for the berries that they picked and ate while we were out. There are lots of ways to store blackberries so that you can enjoy a taste of summer all year long: make blackberry jam (particularly good is blackberry and apple jam), blackberry compote (good with some lavender), dry them (nice added to cereal), make pies (blackberry and apple pies can be made and then frozen), or freeze them (make sure they're clean and dry before freezing).
We did a lot of cooking with blackberries this summer. Here's a picture of the blackberry muffins we made. I just made a basic muffin, but used half white and half wheat flour, and added fresh blackberries.

I also made pancakes with wholemeal flour, fresh blackberries, and oats. They were denser than normal pancakes, but so yummy (and healthier)!

So enjoy a last mouthful of summer. Go out for a nice autumn walk, and watch out for brambles (blackberry canes) along the way. Stop and pick the last few berries, enjoy the juicy pulp melting on your tongue, and feel the autumn breeze on your face. Or bring them home with you to make a last summery treat.

Corn on the Cob

With the summer sun lingering into a beautiful autumn, we harvested this year's corn crop on a dry day. Miriam held my basket for me and counted the ears of corn as we picked them, and Anya tried eating them raw. A few bugs had wriggled their way into some of the ears, but the birds hadn't touched them yet, and so on the whole they were in pretty good shape.

The girls love eating simple corn on the cob. I also used the corn, especially the smaller ears, to make corn chowder. You can find my basic recipe here, and I have actually mentioned corn chowder here on the blog before, but it's a little bit different every time I make it. This time I used shallots instead of onions, a large yam instead of potatoes, and the fresh corn from the garden. Delicious!