Summer Breeze

This summer finds us at our home in Bexhill on Sea. Which according to our family in Spain, is a good thing. They are all decidedly fed up of the 40 degree plus temperatures that are the norm there right now, rather than the exception. We are getting used to four seasons in one day. Loving the sunshine when we have it and racing outside to enjoy it. Joining in the with locals when it rains saying “oh well, it’s good for the garden”!

I haven’t managed to grow basil outdoors in England yet, so am sticking with my pot on the kitchen window sill.

Garden Bexhill July 2015 001

Outside in our little garden though, we’re making the most of every tiny bit of space and growing a few vegetables for the pleasure of seeing them grow. Green beans are happy climbing up against the wall and the first teeny tiny beans are starting to appear. Big Man is very entertained by the fact that the flowers in England are red. In Spain they’re white and he never believed me until this year that they are different. Oh he of little faith.

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We planted tomatoes which are starting to produce strange shaped fruit – we can’t remember what we planted – so we’re just waiting to see if they’ll turn red or we’ll be eating a lot of tomato chutney or fried green tomatoes this year.

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Various chilli plants also went in, but the little sticks telling us which were which were “reorganised” by the dogs at the time of planting so we have no idea what we’re going to end up with. We do have a very beautiful black chilli which is ready to be picked, so fingers crossed it’s a hot one!

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The parsley and rosemary are doing well, and the chives are happy doing their own thing.

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We also bought some mint roots from Spain (it seems to have a more delicate leaf than the plant we bought in England and is lovely in salads and infusions). The plants (grown in a recycled strawberry planter) are just starting to really get going.

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Of course, there’s room for flowers too, most of which were already here, I love the strong colours we’ve got. The white geraniums were grown from cuttings from a plant we had in a small pot.

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The pears continue to grow, hopefully we’ll get a lovely crop in the early autumn.

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And the dogs, naturally, are always on hand to offer advice, help with the digging and showing us the sunniest spots when we need to take a little breather.

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Sorry about the picture overload but the light was so lovely today…it made me happy to think how much you can do with just a little outdoor space.

 

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Herb salad with Figs and Peaches

Summer time means sweet juicy fruit. And fruit isn´t just for jams or desserts you know. Oh no, mixed with peppery salad leaves and a citrusy sweet dressing it´s a perfect summer starter.

We have two seasons of figs here in Andalucía, early summer Brevas (usually the dark, black-skinned figs) and late summer Higos (the green variety). How lucky are we?!

Big Man came home yesterday with four juicy figs that had somehow fallen into his pocket off someone´s tree. At least, that´s what he told me and who am I not to believe him?!

Not enough for dessert, but just enough for a little salad.

Not so much a recipe as an inspiration to make a version yourself. I mixed some chopped lettuce with basil and rocket then over the top I put the four stolen precious figs, one peeled chopped peach and about 2 tablespoons of chopped semi cured goat´s cheese.

Psychedelic Salad

To make the dressing I mixed 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Salt and pepper were added then it was all shaken up then poured over.

Ah, “stolen” fruit always seems to taste that much sweeter!

In the Garden – February 2012

It´s been such a long time since I talked about the garden or the vegetable patch. Naturally, it´s still winter, the soil is resting.

But not quite. It´s been an exceptionally mild winter, and while things could still change, there are signs of life.

My cyclamen, bought before Christmas, continues to stun us with its beauty.  I am doubly shocked as I generally manage to kill pot plants within a few days.  What do I do next with it? It currently sits inside our sun room, with the door open all day and sun in the afternoon. It seems very happy.

Some of our geranium cuttings are already producing little flowers.

Daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted last year (bought back from the UK) are flowering.

My parsley survived the winter outside, this is the first year this has happened.

Broad beans and onions in their little winter shelter.  We open the door and let the sun in during the day and we´ll be eating beans again in a few weeks.

Plenty of garlic for the year ahead. I thought it was only a month away from being ready, but wise old Big Man tells me I need to be much more patient. In the background one of our lemons and our artichoke plants which are already producing baby artichokes.

Our other lemon took a battering in the recent high winds, but still has plenty of lemons and produces new flowers with each new moon.

We don´t tend to grow our produce from seeds as many of Big Man´s family do this on a large scale for a living. We are going to risk some early planting. Nothing to lose, we think. Basil, thyme, chard, spinach, frying peppers, bell peppers, some more lettuce and some salad tomatoes.

Winter has been kind to us this year. Fingers crossed it won´t take us by surprise in the next few weeks.

Pesto – with an Andalucían twist

All lined up for a Family Portrait

Basil grows like crazy here.  Well, it does if the slugs don´t get the first batch that you put into the ground in Spring.  After replanting, I finally got my usual lovely crop of basil which I was using for salads, soups, seasoning and many other things beginning with the letter “s”.

There comes a point when you have to cut it back, as it starts to want to flower and the stalks begin to get a little tough and woody.  This is one bit of greenery my chickens are not going to enjoy as a treat…it´s going to become my annual batch of pesto.  I always make plenty (and I´ll probably make at least one more batch) as something mysterious always seems to happen to my little jars of pesto.

It works like this….visitors come from the UK.  They discover my despensa (that´s a walk in larder) and start to disappear for longer and longer.  When they leave to go home, their suitcases are strangely heavy.  I go into the despensa and find greatly reduced stocks of marmalade, jams and pesto!  It´s a funny thing…. I still haven´t worked out what is happening in there.

Anyway, as to exact measurements, it´s hard to say as much will depend on the strength of your garlic, the pungency of your cheese, the fruitiness of your olive oil.  The little twist to my pesto is nothing that exotic or mysterious…but it´s hard (and expensive) to buy pine nuts here, and as we have a couple of almond trees in our little olive grove, I just substitute almonds for pine nuts.

My food processor seems to have worn down its blade slightly, so this year´s pesto was a little chunkier than usual as I couldn´t grind the almonds down to a fine powder.  That said, it tastes amazing, and a day after taking the photos the sauce is a beautiful vivid green colour.

You´ll need basil leaves, salt, a hard cheese such as parmesan (I also used some hard sheep´s milk cheese as the parmesan I had was nothing too special) which you need to grate, olive oil, and garlic.

For about 8 cups of basil I used 3 large cloves of garlic, about 3 cups of grated cheese, 2 cups of ground almonds, 3 teaspoons of sea salt and 1 litre of olive oil.  This gave me just over one and a half litres of pesto.

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You can make it in a food processor, although I had to switch to doing smaller batches with my hand blender because of my ineffective blade.  Taste and add….more salt, go for it….now more cheese….too thick, add more oil.  You get the picture.

Put into sterilised jars when you are done, it will keep for a year.  But only if you put a lock on the larder door.

Preserved Tomatoes – Conserva de Tomates

 
Ready for a winter debut

Well, summer is here and I finally have my first glut of tomatoes.

Forgot to weigh them...

We also picked runner beans last night, although they are coming to an end now.

Run, Fat Bean, Run!

And the first of our bobby or French beans.  I planted two varieties, one green and one yellow, but so far I´m only seeing green ones!

´Allo, I am Claude and zis eez mon ami Bobby...

Because we  don´t use insecticides or nasty sprays, some of our tomatoes look a little quirky, but we don´t mind that.  It makes us love them all the more…

Faces made for the radio

Time to start laying some by in jars for the winter months. Last year I made what seemed like enough for the whole village, but by the end of April we ran out.  I am on a mission this year to make enough to last us until next summer.  It is a little bit of effort, but we have so many tomato plants and have also just done a second planting, that it makes sense to do it and enjoy all our hard work in the colder months.

For a great idea on how to use your tomato sauce, and also the way I make mine, head over to Tales of Ambrosia for a delicious aubergine and tomato sauce dish.

I started by cutting small crosses in my washed tomatoes.

Criss Cross

Then I blanched them for a minute or two in boiling water.

Into the hot tub...

After peeling and coring them I put them into my food mouli (although sometimes when I´m pressed for time I just blitz them with the hand blender). 

Scantily clad tomatoes

The mouli, if that´s the correct word in English, is a hand held vegetable mill and gets rid of any tough bits and seeds.

...and grind...

Every so often you´ll need to empty out the bits you´re left with.  You can either use these in soups or sauces or if you have chickens, like us, they love them as a special treat.

Your chickies will thank you!

You´ll be left with a purée of tomatoes which you can now freeze, use or bottle (can).

Gorgeous tomato pulp

When I am going to bottle or can them, I add half a teaspoon of salt per litre of  tomato and heat gently until just bubbling.

This then goes into sterilized jars which are tightly sealed then left to simmer in a bain marie for about 10 minutes and then left to cool down.

Today, as I had been cutting back my basil which is getting a bit overgrown, I added a spring of basil into each jar too.

Now put the jars away in a cool dark place and on a dull grey day, a few months ahead, you´ll be so glad you invested a little time on a hot summer´s day doing this!

Mediterranean Vegetable Stack

 
My Humble Homage to the Beautiful Berenjena

I adore aubergines, so when my first two aubergines were ripe for picking, I decided to treat them with the love that they deserved.

My two little purple beauties

It was a very simple dish, especially if you already have some tomato sauce made.  If not, fry up a little garlic, add some chopped tomatoes, a slug of red wine and some basil then season and simmer.

I sliced my aubergines (eggplant) and grilled them on the barbecue until smoky and tender.  Then I put them on an oven tray and layered them with pesto, cheese, tomato sauce and basil leaves.

Then I popped it all into a hot oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese had softened (it was a very hard goat´s cheese, so it didn´t really melt!). 

Finally I drizzled some basil oil over, poured myself a glass of rosé and sat back to pay homage to my first little purple beauties of the summer.

The Vegetable Garden – One Month On

I realised tonight that a month had flown past since we planted our vegetable “plugs” this year.  We´re catching up as we´ve has plenty of rain followed by sunshine and a few misty evenings, which the plants seem to love!

Our herbs are doing well, apart from my parsley and cilantro (coriander) which are still looking a bit sad.

I´ve let the sage flower as I think it looks so pretty.  I sometimes deep fry the large leaves in very hot olive oil for a few seconds and sprinkle with coarse sea salt as a little nibble with almonds and olive…and wine, of course!

Sage flowers

The mint is going crazy…these were the stragglers which I had to pull up later.

Rampaging Mint

I´ve also let the chives go to seed as the flowers are also lovely in salads.

Delicious chives...great for potato salad

The basil is almost ready for the first batch of pesto.

Fragrant Basil

We´ve got plum tomatoes.

A Future Sun Dried Tomato

We´ve got a “wild” tomato which has sprung up from a leftover seed from a squashed tomato from last year.  It has such a desire to live, we´ve let it do its own thing!

Born to be wild....!

We have some (very) bitter salad leaves and the delicious chard.  The celery tucked in there is slow to get going, but we´ll let it take its time.

Green Leaves and Bitter Leaves

Tomatoes, beans and the little muscat vines.

View down to my kitchen window

We´ve got rocket seedlings (must plant some more though)

Aaah....less than a week old

The first of the runner beans should be ready to pick in a few days

Teeny, tiny beans

The onions are doing well too

Onions in neat rows!

We´ve got long thin green peppers and large bell peppers – but we can´t remember which are which.  We´ll soon find out!

Which one are you then?

Cucumber flowers

Grown from last year´s seeds

The aubergine flowers are so pretty – wish they´d hurry up as I love aubergines (eggplant!)

Hurry Up! Hurry Up!

Dwarf French beans (yellow and green) which we only planted a week ago

Not quite Jack & The Beanstalk, but working on it!

And finally, radish seedlings…not long now!

Peppery and Pretty!

As I said, we´re a little behind this year because of the very wet spring that we had, but we´re happy with progress so far and already dreaming of grilled vegetables, salads and bunches of grapes.  Happy growing to you all!