Thursday, 29 September 2011

Pickles and chutneys

Most of the pickles and chutneys we make are using our own fruits and vegetables but there are a couple of exceptions, hot lime pickle and mango chutney. 

Hot lime pickle and mango chutney are both favourites,  lovely served with a plate of poppadoms together with yoghurt and mint dip before eating the curry main course.  I also make a spicy aubergine pickle to have with it, but those we grow and I make the pickle when we have too many to eat and don't need any more in the freezer.

We saw hot lime pickle for sale over here, think it was about €4.50 a jar,  the recipe I have uses 12 limes and makes 2 jars.  The first time I made it, they cost  €2.50, the next time was a few months later and in a different shop and they were nearer 3.50.  Maybe slightly out of season or something.  Anyway with a few teaspoons of spices and quite a lot of chilli it's no different from the real - and more expensive -  thing.

Mango chutney is another one we make but buy the fruit,  the last batch I made when John saw two mangos  for a euro - that made 2 jars as well.  

And the spicy aubergine pickle is another tasty one.  Quick, simple to do and tasty although like a lot of pickles you do have to leave it to mature for a few weeks.  Although you can eat it straight away, the flavour is so much better after a few weeks in the fridge.

So the recipes....

First up,

Hot lime pickle
Take 12 limes, juice 4 of them and cut the remaining 8 into small, teaspoon sized pieces.  Put in a bowl with 6 teaspoons of salt. Stir well, cover, put in fridge and  stir daily for 4 days. 

Day 5: dry roast 1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and grind.  Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and 5 of chilli powder.  Mix well,  add to lime mix and keep for 3 more days.  After this time the lime skin should be soft, if not keep a few more days.  Put into sterilized jars and keep for a few weeks - if you can!  Fills 2 ex-mayo jars.

Spicy aubergine pickle
Dice aubergines, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix with enough turmeric to coat them, then fry in enough oil till they go golden brown (about 5 minutes)   Add chopped garlic, 1inch piece finely chopped ginger root, 3 teaspoons garam masala and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Simmer till aubergine is soft.  No precise amounts of aubergine to garlic - it's all in the tasting!  Should be quite oily though, the recipe says 2 cups oil to 1 and 1/2 lbs aubergines.  I just make it as and when I have too many aubergines so it's a bit  hit and miss but still tasty.  Bottle, put in fridge and as before, keep it as long as you can as the flavours improve after a few weeks.

Mango chutney 
3 mangoes, peeled and cubed, in a bowl with  200g soft brown sugar,  (I think the darker the better for a really rich flavour) 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger.  Mix and leave for about 2 hours.  Then put into a heavy-based saucepan with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 large chopped onion, 400ml white wine vinegar and stir constantly till cooked and thickened. (recipe says up to 2 hours but it's never taken that long).  Leave to cool, put into sterilized jars and into fridge.  As before, keep if you can for a few weeks.
Makes 2 jars.

All you need now are some poppadoms, some cucumber raita, yoghurt and mint dip and a very large plate!


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

There is such a thing as a free lunch!

We were in Yator yesterday morning and when we'd finished it was almost lunchtime.  Didn't have anything planned to eat here so thought we'd stop in at the bar for a beer and tapas - Roger's tapas being almost meal sized.  (not sure how to spell his name, it's pronounced like the  Rocher in Ferro Rocher chocolates and maybe - in Cuba where he's from -  that's how it's spelt)

Although the sign on the door says Lunes descanso (Mondays resting -   a day off) there were a few people outside,  and another guy inside with a beer.  But when we asked for a drink Roger said not here, let's go over to the we went across the square wondering why.  Yes,  Monday is their day off to cook and clean but he would rather have a beer with people leaving his long-suffering other half to do  the work.  Eventually 5 of us were in the salon, another couple came and went and it turned out that there had been a 'do' Sunday evening and we were drinking the barrel left from fiesta plus eating the tapas too.  Dishes of olives, patatas pobre, slices of cheese and fresh bread.  (The salon is the village hall)  Some melons left  over too so we were given 2 of them to bring home.

Fernando came in looking dusty (and in need of a beer)  but he'd not been harvesting almonds as I thought but runner beans - would we like some?  Back he came with a carrier bag -  weighed them today, 4 kilos.

One of our fellow drinkers said he was only staying for one beer as he was off to Cadiar for lunch.....then he had another, and another, and so did we, then he said "I'll cook, lets go up to my house" so we did - four of us - and had rather a mixed meal...sardines, fried eggs, fried frankfurters, jamon and chillis fried together, a salad of tomatoes and onions,  bread (bit dry but couldn't have been the previous days'  as they don't deliver on Sundays) and a bottle of somebody's  home-brew.
A bit surreal really, the 'chef' who'd gone out dressed for a restaurant in his very smart white chinos and striped shirt,  plus hat,  took off his shirt so it didn't get splashed on and replaced it with a wonderful flowery apron.  Wouldn't let any of us help prepare the lunch or tidy up afterwards.  A cup of tea followed at another house then I was given 2 house plants in need of a little bit more tlc than they'd been getting. The 'chef'  was last seen heading back to the bar - plus shirt, minus apron - whereas we headed home with all our goodies.

And when we asked for the bill from the bar/salon - Roger thought about it then said  "nada. "

A wonderful afternoon, although a bit longer than we'd anticipated!

Friday, 23 September 2011

First day of Autumn

The first day of Autumn and late this afternoon came  the first rain we've had since June 6.  Actually, we don't remember rain then but the gardening diary that we keep says "thunder and showers 1pm and 6pm". 

It was a lovely clear sunrise - I went out early with Monty and Pip for a walk but as the sun rose so the clouds gathered and although the sun was there it really struggled to get through today.  Not cold, but not hot either.  Then later this afternoon a breeze picked up, I put all the sunbed and chair cushions away just in case,  as we know from past years that the weather can change really rapidly.  About 6pm, a few drops of rain started then we had a fairly steady drizzle for a few hours.  Enough to dampen the ground, it smells really earthy outside.  Took off the covers from the compost heaps to let the rain get in them too.

It seems to have stopped now, took the umbrella out with me when we went for a last walk this evening but only a few spots coming down.  Tomorrows forecast is back to sunshine, although it is cooling down now.  Some of the leaves are starting to drop, especially the almond trees, when we knock off the almonds the leaves come down too, but they all get raked up and composted.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Lots of chillis.

About 4 years ago one of the many Paco's gave us a long string of dried chillis,  2 different types,  1 long and dark red, the other small and round and very hot.  We called the round ones Scotch Bonnets although they weren't because Scotch Bonnets are squashed looking and these looked like small fat peppers. And the long ones just became known as Paco's long reds.

We saved seeds from both types and grew them for the next couple of years,  ate fresh and dried and again saved seeds.  Last year they seemed to take forever to germinate so we bought 10 chilli plants as well which produced  nearly 500 very hot, very small chillis.  (I know because  I counted them when I picked as I couldn't believe how many chillis such small plants could produce)

We also grow jalapeños - some years we have had almost a forest of them, this year less grew but still enough.
Jalapenos in the sunshine
The normal hanging down type

But the strange thing is the way the chillis from Paco grow.  All our other chillis grow hanging down from the plant but both of Pacos varieties grow upwards.  And we have no idea what type they - any one recognise them? 

The 'Scotch Bonnets' - or may be not.
The long reds that grow up!

I know, looks more like a pepper but it's a chilli.
If you like jalapeños and cream cheese, then for a quick tapas, cut the chilli in half lengthwise and fill with cheese and eat.  Removing the seeds is up to you, depends on how much spicyness you like. 

Jalapeño Poppers.
For a hot tapas - takes a bit longer but it's worth it - slit open a jalapeño and carefully fill with cream cheese.  Easier to do with an piping bag for icing than with a teaspoon.  Leave on the stalk, dip the jalapeño in tempura batter and holding the stalk carefully lower into hot oil.  When the batter has started to brown you can let go of it.  If you just drop it into the fat it'll probably sink and stick to the basket.  We first had these as a bar snack in Rochester, New York, we  found them in England but breaded not battered - a bit on the stodgy side.  Tried making and freezing them but the chilli seemed to lose it's crispness, much better made fresh.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Catching up.

I'm still here - I know it's nearly 2 weeks since I last wrote anything but I've  been busy with one thing or another.  Still watering the vegetables on a twice weekly basis but there are less to water now as the borlotto beans are beginning to dry out and are being picked for seeds and  the sugar beet is frozen,  but the cauliflowers, swedes, carrots, kohlrabi, chillis, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes, cabbages, kale and sprouts all need water still.  And we mustn't forget the strawberries.  Picked half a kilo this morning and we now have about another 30 runners potted up into old yoghurt pots.  The roots haven't yet come out the bottom of the pots so I'm leaving them for a few more weeks,  last year I planted them into a new bed at the end of September but lots of them died off.  I think it's still too hot - 30° at 4pm today -  they need the sunshine for the fruit but it's too much for a small plant to cope with.

Filled the drier with very ripe tomatoes this morning, they haven't been picked for a week and were very red and juicy.  Kept enough in the kitchen for us to eat until the next batch have fully ripened.  63° in the drier at 4pm, still getting very hot in there, even though the sun is lower in the sky.

I was away for a mid - autumn break last week from Tuesday till yesterday lunchtime.  John was chief vegetable waterer, dog walker and cook.  He's renamed Monty and Pip "the clingons" as they didn't leave his side during that time.  Normally they come for walks with me  and first thing in the morning they come to my side of the bed to make sure I'm awake.  But of course there was nobody there so they were a bit confused, especially Pip.  I have a suspicion that she slept up on the bed to be close to him at night as well. 

So that just about sums up the past fortnight,  we had friends over for dinner one night and they stayed here before going back to England the next morning,  but apart from that we've been doing the usual things.  The red chillis are strung up under the terrace drying, there are bunches of sage drying in the breeze too,  I've pruned down a geranium that had got way too big and collapsed on top of a sage bush, John has rebuilt one of the raised vegetable beds that was edged with  pallet wood but is now done with mini-bloques,  (half the thickness but full sized in height and width)  and we have plans to do the other 2 beds before next spring and fill them with fresh compost to give the plants a really good start in life.  We don't have many almond trees but the 2 closest to the house have been picked, husked and stored.  Now we need to get the other trees picked before the almonds drop off and roll down the slope into the  brambles.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sugar beets.

Seems like a long time ago, but way back in June we were given some vegetables from one of the many Paco's which we realised were sugar beet.  Planted as he said, watered when he did, then watched them grow.  OK, not all of them grew wonderfully well, but as an extra and for free anything is good.  We googled at the time to find out what we could do with them:  boil, roast,  make into chips, fry sliced like crisps, grate raw for salads, even bake whole like a jacket potato!

This week the biggest ones have started lifting out of the ground, so we re-googled and when they are about 10cms plus across, and have grown for approximately 45 days, they are ready for eating.  I think that if they are grown for animal food, as Paco's are, it doesn't matter if they are left in the ground and get tough and woody - maybe a pig isn't as choosy about these things as we are!

Out came the biggest yesterday, the first one - and the smallest - we peeled and cut into sticks for eating raw.  Crispy and sweet and very delicious.  The next smallest we peeled and cut into carrot sized  pieces and cooked along with the carrots for dinner last night.  Again, delicious.  The flavour?  Think parsnip but sweeter.  Think of a just pulled baby carrot.  They are crisp like a turnip but sweeter.  (That's if you cook your veg like we do - certainly no soggy veg in this house)    The biggest ones weighed in at between 600 - 700 grams and they have been prepared and frozen for the winter.  There are more in the ground, hopefully they will carry on growing and fattening up.  And apparently the tops can be eaten too, a bit like spinach.  It's surprising how many green leafy tops are edible that you throw away...kohlrabi, beetroot, sprout tops, even the small  leaves from the horseradish plants.

Not pretty things, but tasty.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Not my flowers....

These aren't my yucca plants - they grow just up the road and are our neighbours.  Came into bloom earlier this week and don't they look amazing!   There are two of them, took these photos early one morning just as the sun was catching them.

What you can't see - or hear, obviously, are  the bees buzzing around the flower spikes.