Friday, August 31, 2012

Beetroot: part 1 of 3 - Minted Beetroot Hummus

'Bolivar' Beetroots

welcome to the begining of a three part beetroot bonanza! ive decided to dedicate the next three posts and recipes to this, king of root veg. the earthy sweetness of beetroot makes it perfect for an array of recipes even cakes and sweets! it comes in all sorts of colours, the 'chioggia' being the trendy one at the moment, with its pink and white bulls eye patterning. but my all time favourite has to be golden  beetroot, especially because im finding it hard to source seeds here in ireland. its been tempting me to smuggle some in the post next year. anyone flying over from the states, perhaps? the golden beetroot is great for salads and paired with its bloodier brother adds a bright suprise to a sunday roast. the best part is that golden beetroots don't dye your hands or other foods - they're just polite that way. they can also be used in the same recipes as regular red beetroots.

triple planted beetroot

disregard my love for golden beetroots, because the next three recipes are all going to feature the red guys. ive got a recipe for a minted beetroot hummus, candied beetroot truffles, and another -veggie cocktail! you're listening now, right?

i've only actually tried one of these recipes, so i hope i can pull the other two off with out too much blood (or juice) on my hands. and since its raining everyday (bar today and yesterday!) ive got an extra couple hours to spend in the kitchen. but there's some great news i've learned from a new book i'm reading: How to Grow Winter Vegetables, by Charles Dowding, he says that wet crappy summers are great for winter veggies! (without the 'crappy' part) and summer blogging (he didn't say that, either) so its not so bad, really!

Growing beetroot: i once read in a companion planting article its a good idea to plant beetroot with onions , and the past two years i've grow them side by side in the same drill and i had beetroot harvests within 3 months of growing, as well as big onions. this year i grew them seperate and they have taken longer to mature. i always sow my beetroot direct into the ground, ive found it hard to transplant beets without losing a few in the process.
while the roots are forming its ok to take a few leaves for salad every so often, just don't take too many leaves or the roots may take longer to develop.
for the best flavour its best to harvest beetroot once it reaches the size of a golf ball or as large as a snooker ball.
beetroot is a biennial plant, which means it flowers in its second year. they do keep pretty well in the ground in winter and store well in a cold larder, if dug up, for a good few weeks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Baby Kale, Rainbow Chard and Beetroot leaf Ceasar

Baby Red Russian Kale, Rainbow Chard and Beetroot Leaves

im in love with hardy greens, i love their long growing season and i love their multiple uses, young and old. in this recipe im using three types that i grow every year: kale, rainbow chard, and beetroot. its a bit hard to find all these greens in the shops together, so growing them may be the best answer.
i like to use the tender young leaves in salads, rainbow chard adds a great splash of colour too the salad bowl.  older leaves of all these plants tend to need cooking, which opens them up to a whole range of culinary uses. you can even treat big leaves as two seperate veg, i cook the stalks seperate to the leafy ends, which cook more quickly.

my first time growing rainbow chard was alongside beetroot. in my first adult veg patch. i had two raised beds about 4 by 6 feet in length, right off a busy road on capitol hill, seattle. chard was a wonderful thing to grow, it kept growing slowly through the winter months, and provided a much needed green energy boost when the pocket strings were stretched. rainbow chard is one of the ultimate economy crops, it gives and gives. when all things are green in the garden its the entire spectrum, whats not to love?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Courgette Bruschetta

the humble Courgette, member of the Cucurbita pepo species

 once the anonmous plastic bag of courgettes has been dropped off at your doorstep, you know summer is at its full tilt. for thoses of you who've grown courgettes, you'll already know its easy to end up with a few dozen to spare. no need to fret or feel like you should be baking zuchinni bread day and night. an simpler, tastier and handier option is courgette bruschetta. fry a couple cloves of garlic, maybe an onion, add all the sliced courgettes you want and saute in olive oil till soft, stir in some chilli flakes and pile high on toast. its really really tasty and whats even better is, you only need 4 ingredients. great for a crowd. some chopped mint pairs great with chilli too, feel free to experiement with herbs. im making this all the time right now.

Courgette Bruschetta on toasted rye bread
if you havent grown courgettes, they are one of the most plentiful plants to grow. almost a courgette a day during mid summer! i start mine in 6 inch pots indoors in may, and when the weather gets really warm here in west cork, around mid june i set them in their postion in the garden with a heap of manure or compost in the hole beaneath them. they love nutrients and will repay you for giving them the extra boost. i only grew 2 plants this year, from previous 'courgette overload experiences,' i've learned less is more with this green curcubit. just make sure they have plenty of water or rain. living where i do- i never have to worry about the later.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Romanesco - with recipe

wether romanesco, is a type of brocolli or cauliflower seems to be of some debate. i've  found it listed under both varieties of brassica. to me its more cauli-like in appearance but the taste is  mild and creamy, almost nutty, similar to brocolli. romanesco only needs light cooking, as it has a more delicate texture than its brassica relatives, and is perfect raw as crudites. romanesco really does look as good as it tastes, with tiny pyramidal spirals interlocking over each chartreuse head, its a wonder why you don't see more of this veggie on people plates or in their garden plots. my homegrown heads never seem to get perfect buds but you can see what i mean here.

from plot, to plate, to mouth - in minutes
im all for growing interesting varieties of veg that are hard to find on shop shelves. so this beautiful brassica made the grade.  i've been growing romanesco in my garden for the past 3 years with varying success. in fact i've been using the same seed packet the whole time! this 3rd year has given the best crop, so far. which i suspect is due mostly to my pimping new raised beds, filled with 'ancient' rotted sheep manure and a layer of rich compost. its not just the romanesco that are flying it, my potatoes are a verdant living hedge - blocking the garden from prevailing winds! the mangetout have had an amazing crop, and im still getting lettuce leaves 12 weeks later. romanesco is another veg, like celery, that i will always save room for, at least a couple plants, in my garden.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Homegrown Bloody Mary

the best excuse to drink before 5pm
its been a one-in-a-50 year summer here in west cork: record rain, record wind and record alcohol consumption levels (that last one might only apply to me) and against all odds my new potager has produced quite a harvest thus far. while im typing we are currently experiencing  gale force winds and rain, so fingers crossed the veg will be there in the morning! as it turns out one of my favourite veg, celery, is a bog plant and what better way to describe the soil right now but as: 'boggy.'  since my celery is having a 'hay-day,' i decided i should join in on the fun by introducing my new food and garden blog with a delicous and celebratory, Home Grown Bloody Mary! i would also like to point out that today is THE day of birth of THE Julia Child, and what an auspiscious day to be launching a food/cooking blog! i didnt plan it that way, i swear, she's watching us. the first drinks for Julia!
we all know you can't make a mary, bloody without some tomato juice. you knew that, right?
 believe it or not, this season i've managed to produce some amazing fruits on my 8 tomato plants (currently im growing: tigerella, pineapple, sungold, cherry, and moneymaker varieties). one of the great things about living in ireland is you HAVE to grow plants like tomatoes in a poly-tunnel, for shelter. otherwise your looking at blight, wind damage and at best, green tomato chutney! or green tomato bloody mary's? that recipe is still in the works....

celery having a 'hay-day'
getting ready for the juicer

a bloody mary for me isn't just a hang over cure, its a great excuse to get in some of those five a day veg, a quick 'liquid lunch!' and a way to sneak a drink before happy hour hits. i've often produced this delicious cocktail with organic tomato passata from my local shop, but this version takes the cake. i never thought i'd go through all the trouble of juicing ripe tomoatoes for a bloody mary, but its worth it, tust me. especially so if you're looking at a bumper crop of toms and cringing at the thought of cooking a truck load of tomatoes. i used a juicer for this recipe but you don't need one, a food processor or blender would work fine in its place. since the celery is blitzed together with the tomatoes you do need a blending device to make this juicy bevy.