Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Joy of...............Cauliflower.

After the controversial, and may I say ground breaking decision to plant my Cauliflowers in a circle, (the circle signifying the head of the flower). I was not surprised that they were failing.

Apart from the planting I felt that I had done everything correctly.  I planted the plugs in moist soil and watered them well in, I had netted them straight away, to stop the greedy pigeons, and as we get very little rain in East Anglia I made sure they were never dry.
Despite all this devotion all I seemed to have grown was a mass of green leaves, I was actually wondering if you can cook them.

So I decided to remove the netting.  As I did this I pulled away some of the leaves, I was surprised to see the most perfect whitest Cauliflower head I have ever seen, I moved to the next plant and I actually squealed, another one just the same. It's hard to convey the absolute delight that I had in this discovery, most people on the allotment had told me they could be tricky so I think I had anticipated failure.

Buoyed by my success and dreaming of cheese sauce, I went to harvest the cauliflower.  It was at this point that I realised that I didn't know how to harvest a cauliflower. Do I pull up the whole plant, or do I just remove the flower? I walked around the allotments there was not a soul about, so I decided to ask on Twitter and sat all forlorn waiting for a response. @AllotmentMate, who Is a sort of allotment Superhero (not sure if he has a cape) came to my rescue, he very promptly tweeted Cut just below the Cauli taking a few leaves with it.

I did feel a bit of a fool, but it's always better to ask when you don't know, so thank you very much Ian.
I had also left the shed keys at home so was unable to get to the right tools for the job,  fortunately I had I pair of scissors and a nail file in my handbag so the beheaded was an old fashioned execution rather than the guillotine.

Everything we ate that night was  produced within a mile of our house, local Lamb, potatoes and Cauliflower cheese, very satisfying.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Crab Apple

Fiona and I have started a tradition, and although it is only in it's infancy (2 years) I feel it will run and run. The annual picking of the crab-apple.

There are 5 crab-apples trees that Steve and I often admire whilst walking the dogs. Beautiful throughout the seasons, from their lovely blousy blossoms to the ruby red fruits that they display so amply now.

These trees are fully laden with the most glorious crab apples and it is such a shame to waste such 'gorgeousness' so Fiona and I took the short walk, me with the trugs and Fi with the more professional, and high fashion, harvesting bag which fits jauntily over the shoulder.

We harvested the fruit picking side by side talking about plants, flowers, food and books, and as always time slips sideways, and you suddenly realise that you have greedily picked more than enough, and carrying them home will be decidedly awkward. Its very odd but once we picked them they look as much yellow as red.

Getting the juice from the fruit is no longer the arduous task it once was, the Steam Juicer has dispensed with any need for muslin and waiting. That last sentence reads like an advert, I don't mean it to but it is such a fantastic utensil and saves so much time and mess that it is a wonder that more people don't have them.
The juicer uses gentle steam to open up the fruit cells, so that the juice drips into the juice pan which can then be used to make jellies or cordial.

Fill the bottom pan with water and place on the hob to boil, the juice collecting pan fits snugly a-top, this is where the juice collects, add on the steamer basket with the washed fruit and then the lid, don't worry about pitting the fruit or removing stems there is no need. Once the pan is boiling it will take 40 to 70 mins, for the steam to puff up the fruit and release the juice which falls into the juice pot.

Once we had enough juice we could set about making the jelly (no pun intended).

We used Fiona's recipe of course and although she likes it hotter than me, I went along with the chilli to juice ratio which resulted in the most delicious Jelly, the sweet and hot is a perfect companion to cheese, cold cuts, and I even use it on my curry.

You can find the recipe here