Monday 18 April 2011

Sunday in the garden (and kitchen)

This Sunday I indulged in my two main hobbies: gardening and cooking.

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.

Dinner menu:

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
Basmati rice

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!


  1. I never did get around to planting potatoes in tubs or buckets this year. I guess that is a project for another year.
    I really like the cucumber idea though and have a tub I might use to try that. I usually plant my cucumbers in the garden and put tomato cages over them for the cucumbers to climb on.

  2. I am envious of your brick wall! How big are those potato tubs?

  3. David, the potato tubs are about the size of a large domestic bucket - maybe 18" tall and 10 or 12" in diameter. I reckon this is about right for one potato tuber, possibly two if they are small ones. BTW, the brick wall in the potato photo is actually the wall of my house, not the same wall as the one behind the cucumber tub.

  4. Looks like you had a busy weekend. Things are looking great. I really like the cucumber pot & its rustic accompaniment. Have you grown potatoes in tubs before?

  5. Kelli, Yes, I usually grow potatoes in tubs, because I can't justify devoting one of my raised beds to them. I normally grow mostly First Earlies.

  6. You certainly were busy and things are really looking good. I think growing potatoes in tubs is a spendid idea! With 21 tubs, how many potatoes do you anticipate harvesting, appoximately?

  7. wow! You are a dynamo! Your seedlings are looking wonderful too.

  8. You certainly have had a productive weekend.

    I noted that your potatoes are already peeping out of the soil. What a lovely sight. Since losing my allotment plot, I started growing potatoes in 2 large pots my father in law gave me, but this year, I've decided just to grow them in the gardens tiny plot as we are seriously thinking of leaving Scotland this year. Hence the low growing ventures this year.

    I was also rather surprised to read that one of your gardening tasks was to hose water the garden due to lack of rain, be happy to send some rain over to you from here soemthing I can do without as the leaky roof is still awaiting it repair.

    PS Who wants to eat out when your have a menu like that.

  9. I still find it really interesting that with our opposite seasons and not at all alike climates we are growing a lot of the same things at the same time. My potatoes look just like yours!

    Hee hee... your cucumber frame... it looks MESSY!

    Ooo that's cheeky, but I've never seen anything but straight lines from you :D

  10. Ali, you're SO CHEEKY - but I know what you mean. I blame Hazel actually: If it had not been for her guiding principles, I might have been tempted to use nice straight, regular [imported] bamboo canes, but I was shamed into "putting the planet first", and using re-used materials. Actually I think I have done the right thing. Let's hope the cucumbers grow straight and long, and don't "take their cue" from the wiggly support frame.

  11. Egretta; in terms of potato harvest, I expect to get a two-person helping from each tub. Not sure what wieght that would be. Maybe a pound? We're never going to have a glut, that's for sure!

  12. Love the dogwood and cotinus combination, dinner sounds lovely, and your broad beans are looking pretty good to me!

  13. marki really enjoy your garden and i can see that you love gardeing my name is ewa i live in australia in melbourne have garden and i,m crazy aboau tomatos and cucumbers i shoud post photo of my late spring garden or ishoud say very early summer next time see ya ewa

  14. really awesome sunday will be really great if the vegetables are from kitchen garden lovely session of wine and cooking with your hubby or wife :)


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