I was up early (I always am these days...) Morning sunlight makes for great photography conditions. This is the border in which most of my Dogwoods grow, photographed at about 07:00. The red shrub is the Cotinus "Royal Purple".
|Dogwood in the spotlight...|
It was quite chilly first thing in the morning, so after breakfast I did some cooking while the temperature outside warmed up. I had volunteered to make dinner, to give Jane a break. This is what I had decided to cook.
Baby leaf salad with fried Black Pudding, served with warm oil-and-vinegar dressing
Mexican-style Braised beef with chipotle chilli and Black Beans
Sprouting broccoli stir-fried with garlic
Pannacotta with Rhubarb and orange compote
Now, I'm not intending in this post to describe in detail the whole of this menu, (I will be writing about the home-grown Rhubarb in the next couple of days) but perhaps I should just say a few words about my beef dish, which was "experimental", using my instinct to create something new. I had bought a really fabulous piece of Silverside from my local butcher. The meat was dark - obviously well-aged - and finely marbled with fat, which helps it to stay tender as it cooks. I marinated the beef for several hours with a rub made from black pepper, crushed cloves, star anise, Allspice (Jamaican pepper, or Pimiento), and chilli flakes.
At a point about four hours before serving-time, I browned the meat all round in some very hot oil, and set it aside for a few minutes while I softened some onions in the oil and meat juices. While this was going on I had a handful of dried Chipotle re-constituting in some boiling water. When the onions were done, I returned the meat to the pan, added the chipotle and their soaking water, a couple of cloves of garlic (chopped finely), and a whole fresh red chilli, and a bit more water. Then into the oven on a low (120C) heat for about three and a half hours... About an hour before serving I removed the bigger pieces of chipotle, adjusted the seasoning, and added the black beans. At serving-time the meat was succulent and strongly flavoured, with quite a kick from the chilli. It was tender and so soft that you could have pulled it apart with two forks. I didn't: I sliced it very carefully, and laid the slices over some rice, and spooned some of the black bean sauce over the top. Heavenly!
OK, back to the gardening then. Imagine I have just made some vanilla and yoghurt pannacotta, and left it in the fridge to set...
|Vanilla pannacotta with Rhubarb and orange compote|
My first gardening task was (rather surprisingly for the UK in April) to water the garden with the hosepipe. We have had some exceptionally dry weather recently; hardly any rain for several weeks now, and everything was looking very thirsty. The soil in my garden is sandy, and it goes dry and dusty very rapidly.
I next "re-arranged" my Broad Beans. Regular readers will know that I sowed two rows of BBs, one of which germinated well and one of which didn't. Even in the good row, there were a few rather weak plants. You can see a couple in this photo:
Fortunately, I had taken the precaution of sowing a few extra seeds at the end of each row, just for this sort of eventuality. Some of the spares can be seen in the next photo. The main row is the horizontal one (with its matching row of Radishes below it), and the spares are the ones above and below the end plant in the main row.
So what I did was dig up the weaklings and insert the spares.
You can see that the plants are really too close to one another still, but I am going to leave it a bit longer before removing some of them, once I see which are the strongest ones. So now I have one good row and one that is OK-ish (composed of plants of two different varieties now!)
On next to the Cucumber bin. Again, regular readers will know that I have been planning to grow my cucumbers in a big tub made from half of an old water-butt. Today I erected the frame over which the cucumber plants will hopefully climb. It is made with bits of wood that were trimmed from trees and bushes elsewhere in the garden. It doesn't look very picturesque, but I'm sure it will serve the purpose. It'll look better once it is covered in cucumber foliage.
In front I have planted a bit of camouflage - a row of ferns which will put up tall fronds to screen the tub.
The ferns are protected by more twigs - to try to dissuade the foxes from digging them up. The foxes like to dig close to / underneath the plants because the soil around them is moist where I have watered them. Presumably there are lots of succulent worms in this moist soil...
Another task I needed to do was earth-up the potatoes. I have 21 tubs of potatoes - one tuber planted in each. Several of the pots are re-purposed chicken manure tubs.
I'm sure most of your know this, but "earthing-up" means adding a bit more compost around the stems of the plants as they grow taller. The aim is to have as much as possible of the stem underground, which is where the tubers form of course. Earthing-up is done progressively, two or three times, until the rim of the container is reached.
I'm sure I did a few other tasks too, but to be honest I've forgotten what they were - let's just say I had a busy day!