Friday, 29 July 2011

Cherry Caramel Blondies

There was some interest in the recipe for these, but they were somewhat experimental and I'm not sure this is really a finished recipe. They worked out quite edibly - in fact they were good! - but I do feel I will need to fiddle with the recipe some more. Hmm, that won't be painful, except to my waistline.

Try to keep the cherries fairly dry. Excess juice will cause parts not to cook through.

48 squares
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Cherry Caramel Blondies
Make the Caramel:
2 cups dark brown sugar
OR 1 cup Sucanat and 1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter

Place these ingredients in a fairly large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring them to a boil and boil steadily for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool somewhat.

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
2 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix and set aside.
Finish the Blondies:
2 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup.
2 cups pitted cherries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9" x 13" with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs and brown rice syrup into the slightly cooled caramel. Mix in the flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out.

Sprinkle the dryish cherries evenly over the batter.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm and golden brown around the edges. Let cool before cutting into squares to serve.

Last year at this time I made Puréed Peas.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Bean & Salsa Dip

Another simple but very popular dip, and it's always nice to have a dip that isn't based on cheese or sour cream as a contrast to all the ones that are!

If you have any leftover, it can be made into burritos or tacos.

5 cups dip
15 minutes prep time

Bean and Salsa Dip
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 540 ml (19 oz) tins kidney beans
1 1/2 cups prepared salsa
OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup roasted red peppers or dried tomatoes
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
hot sauce to taste

Toast the cumin seed lightly in a dry skillet, then put it in the bowl of a food processor. Rinse and drain the beans well, then add them too.

I used my homemade salsa. Use a prepared salsa that is similarly fairly thin, not one that is thick and full of tomato paste. Add it to the beans along with the red peppers or tomatoes, if using, and purée until fairly smooth but some texture still remains. Taste and add the mustard and hot sauce, adjusting until you have achieved a flavour that makes you happy. That's it! Serve with corn chips.

Last year at this time I made Zucchini Stuffed to the Gunwales and Zucchini Vinaigrette.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Some Notes on Some Peas

Just a brief pause from the party food - it'll be back tomorrow. For now, it's peas.

The dreadful heat of last week and our seasonal drought (as seems to be usual, 9mm of rain in the last 3 weeks) have had their inevitable effect on our peas, and they are slowing down considerably. It's time to pause and assess this years peas so far.

We tried a number of new-to-us peas this year, as well as planting them in rather different territory than last year. Peas were planted in the lower side yard this year, which means they were planted in very moist, heavy clay soil enriched with elk manure, instead of very quick-draining, very sandy soil enriched with elk manure, which has been the usual garden fare around here previously.

In spite of a late planting they really flourished. They loved all the moisture. I was afraid it would be too wet, but no. In fact, we've had to start watering them in the last week or so, which we were really hoping to avoid. Of course, we were also really hoping that it would rain properly at least a couple of times in July. Dream on.

Sapporo Express Peas
Sapporo Express

These seeds came from Annapolis Seeds, who describes them as "A vigourously growing shelling pea that climbs over three feet and produces our earliest pea crop. A cool feature of this variety is that the pods press tight against the peas, allowing ripeness to be easily determined."

Sapporo Express is not a commonly available pea. As the name suggests, they are Japanese in origin, but little more information can be found. I wonder if they have some snow-pea ancestry in them; the pods are thin and conform to the shape of the peas, as well as turning quite a light green. The pods are not very fibrous which also reminds me of snow-peas.

These were amongst the first three peas to produce (pretty much all at the same time) and the only one of those first three peas to still be producing, although the plants are plainly about to pack it in as a result of the extreme heat and drought we've been having. Ours have grown well over 6'. Most of our peas are considerably taller than described, which I mostly ascribe to the rich soil and plentiful moisture of their new bed.

You'll note the catalogue doesn't say anything about the flavour. I managed to forget that little tid-bit of catalogue-translation wisdom this spring, and indeed these are not the best-tasting peas. They're in no way bad and we've been perfectly happy to eat them; they just don't compare to any of the others, early or late, that we've been growing and for that reason we won't grow them again. They are very early, but there are other better peas just as early.

Tall Telephone Peas
Tall Telephone

Most sources say they are also known as Alderman or Tall Alderman, but I'm not convinced they are identical. This is a variety that dates to the last quarter of the 19th century. It's a little harder to pin down after that. One source dates it to 1878, another to 1881 (when it was mentioned by Vilmorin), a third to 1885. Part of the problem is that there was a Telephone pea, a Carter's Telephone pea and perhaps others, and it can be hard to tell exactly which one is being talked about, assuming they are even different peas, which they may very well be. And where do they come from? They could be English, French, Italian or even Swiss in origin. Assertions are made, but no work is shown. Wherever they came from, they spread far and wide, and there seems to be some variability in them even now.

At any rate, this is one of the few heirloom peas still widely available, having never lost popularity. It's often the only pole pea offered in a sea of shorter bush peas. I've said before that I prefer to grow pole peas and beans, and I don't know why more home gardeners aren't growing them too.

In general, pole peas and beans take longer to start producing, but produce for a longer period of time (indeterminate) and have much better flavour, as they get more to work with from the greater proportion of leaf and root available to them. They have to be trellised it's true, but they are much easier to pick. Tall Telephone definitely meets this description. It was a later pea - it should take approximately 75 days to start producing, or about 2 weeks longer than most of the early peas - and the flavour is superb. Sweet, but full and rich. The peas get fairly large, for peas. Of course you can leave them too long and they get starchy, but they aren't as dainty as most other peas even at their prime.

They do have one odd characteristic: some of the pods are very large and inflated and you have to feel them gently to see if the peas have developed sufficiently to pick, but others are more standard, with the pods conforming tightly to the peas. It does make them a little tricky to pick. Either way, there should be about 8 peas per pod.

Tall Telephone are described as reaching 6 feet in height, but as ever ours have topped our 7 foot trellis and are keeping on. Unlike snow peas and beans, peas seem to have fairly rigid stems and don't flop down once they have outgrown the support, at least not yet. I figure ours are heading for 9 feet and they are getting pretty hard to pick.

They are said not to be enation resistant, enation being a viral disease of peas. The peas are wrinkled when dry. Wrinkled peas are not as cold-hardy as smooth peas and so they should be planted with a bit more caution in the spring. On the other hand, the wrinkling is an indication that the peas are high in sugar, which is why they are soooo sweet and tasty.

Good strong trellises and lots of moisture will make your Tall Telephone peas happy. Heat won't, but ours are continuing to produce at a slower rate showing that they are more heat resistant than some of the earlier peas.

Harrison's Glory Peas
Harrison's Glory

Harrison's Perfection - Carter & Co. Sown, March 24th; in flower June 6th; fit for use, June 30th. Stems, 3 feet, robust. Pods, 14-15 on a stem, small, straight, containing 5 peas of good size and quality. The only defect is, that the pods do not fill well. When growing this cannot be distinguished from Harrison's Glory; but in the mature state the seeds of the former are smooth and white; those of the latter indented, and of an olive colour.

Harrison's Glory - Nutting & Son. Carter & Co. Sown, March 24th; in flower June 5th; fit for use June 27th. Height, 3 feet, of a bushy, robust habit of growth. Pods, about 16 on a stem, rather short, nearly straight and flattish, containing 5-6 medium-sized peas of good quality, light olive mixed with white when dry, and also slightly indented. A good variety, but like Harrison's Perfection above noticed, it has the defect of the pods being frequently not well filled.

Proceedings of the Horticultural Society of London, Volume 1 1861.
The above descriptions, dating from shortly after the introduction of Harrison's Glory, were very interesting to me. I found them - or at least the one for Harrison's Glory, since that's what I grew - still mostly very accurate. The indentation they refer to is what we would now call wrinkling, a sign of high sugar content. I would disagree only on the height. Ours have reached 5 feet, easily. They are an unusual intermediate height; too tall to be a bush pea, too short to really be a pole pea. They will need good sturdy support, but it needn't be the full-on trellising required for taller peas. Of course, that's how we grew them since we have the trellising anyway.

The pods are very plentiful, but rather short. Six peas is as many as you can expect in a pod and there were indeed quite a few pods where only a few of the peas matured. In spite of this mild defect, we will grow Harrison's Glory again, because the flavour is excellent. They have also held up to the heat and drought better than any of the other peas we grew. Their leaves are still dark green, full and healthy. In spite of their shortish height, they behaved more like a pole pea than a bush pea. They were definitely in the second round of peas to mature, and they seem quite strongly indeterminate.

Harrison's Glory will be hard to find. Heritage Harvest is the only company selling them in Canada this year.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Blueberry Coconut Squares

These are quite sweet and rich but not, I didn't think, sickeningly so. I've put them in as an "all year" item, because the blueberries could be replaced with other berries or dried fruit such as cranberries or raisins, or even omitted altogether. They do go very well with the coconut and lime though. These were very well received...

Makes 48 squares
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Blueberry Coconut Squares
Make the Base:
2 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 tablespoons ice cold water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9" x 13" metal baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly butter the sides.

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour, until it is evenly distributed and the flour looks moist. Stir in the water until the mixture comes together in a loose dough.

Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Prick it all over with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, until just set. Let cool slightly, but keep the oven on.

Make the Topping:
2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup coconut milk
the finely grated zest of 2 limes
2 extra-large eggs
the juice of 1 lime
4 cups unsweetened dessicated coconut

Wash and pick over the blueberries, and drain them well.

Put the butter, sugar, coconut milk and lime zest in a large pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil steadily for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool slightly.

Spread the blueberries evenly over the baked, somewhat cooled crust.

Beat the eggs and lime juice into the boiled mixture, then stir in the coconut. Spoon this over the top of the blueberries, and spread it out evenly.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F, until firm and golden around the edges. Let cool before slicing.

Last year at this time I made Cauliflower Torta & Apricot Jam.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Dip

On Saturday my mother had a gallery opening and I agreed to prepare some munchies for it. So that's what you'll be getting here all week - party food. I made a couple of dips with a bunch of cut up vegetables - we're really getting into the full vegetable swing now - and a couple of little squares.

This is a fairly classic dip, improved by high-quality, carefully prepared ingredients. Delicious and popular. Caramelizing the onions is a slow process but it's what makes the dip.

about 4 cups dip
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Dip Caramelize the Onions:
1 1/2 to 2 cups diced sweet onion (2 medium-small or 1 large)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Peel and dice the onions fairly finely. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir them to coat them in the butter, and spread them over the pan. Cook until they turn golden brown all over (caramelized) which will take about an hour. Yes, sorry. Stir regularly, every 5 minutes or so. Watch them especially towards the end, when they will need stirring more often. Don't let them scorch. If they are browning too quickly, turn the heat down. Let cool.

Finish the Dip:
700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) chevre (soft goat cheese)
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) yogurt, preferably goats milk yogurt
a sprig each of fresh basil, mint, dill and parsley
salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Put the above into a food processor, and whizz until well blended. Briefly whizz in the caramelized onions. Scoop into an attractive container and serve with crudités and/or crackers or chips.

Last year at this time I made Baked Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms and Bread & Butter Pickles.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Transplanting Leeks

We're rather behind schedule, as with so many things this year, but last week we transplanted our leeks. This was a technique Mr. Ferdzy was shown a few years back for growing very long, BIG, straight, white leeks, and I thought I would pass it on.

We grow our leeks from seed, starting them in flats indoors in mid-February to early March. Once the weather warms up we plant them out, around early May. They go into rows about 4 inches apart, spaced only 2 or 3 inches apart in the rows. This is very tight, but around the beginning of July (*ahem*) when they are about 12 to 16 inches tall (*ahem*) they get transplanted again.

We planned to transplant them to the new wet beds that we started this spring. However, they were so new that by the beginning of July when we should have transplanted the leeks, that last bed was not actually dug yet. However, Mr. Ferdzy set to, and by the middle of the month he had it ready.

Next step was to dig up all those tightly-spaced leeks, trying to keep as much of the roots in good condition as possible.

Down at the new bed, Mr. Ferdzy poked holes in the soil with the end of a broom handle, about 10 inches deep and 8 or nine inches apart in any direction. He did mark the broom handle with a pen, but shortly the only way to tell the line was by the mud.

Once the holes were made, it was my job to follow along behind and put a leek into each one. Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of each leek should drop down the hole, leaving the tips of the leaves poking out. Sometimes the holes had to be enlarged. I had a spade handle I used for that.

The holes don`t get filled in with dirt once the leeks are in place. We watered the leeks in well, and don`t worry about any dirt that falls into the holes, but the idea is that over the rest of the summer those holes will fill in by themselves - with LEEK. Yep, the biggest, fattest, best leeks ever hopefully.

Last year we transplanted them too early, and a few did not make it as we buried them too deep, but most did okay and we got some great leeks. This year they have been transplanted late, and they are maybe a bit big for easy moving and resettling. I think they will mostly do okay though, especially if we make sure to keep them well watered. We are having some brutally hot and dry weather now! Good thing we decided to start these wet beds.

And there they are; what took up 2 feet of space in the spring planting has now expanded to about 10 feet of maturing leeks. It`s a bit of extra work, but a good leek is a work of art, and if we store them carefully we will be eating leeks for most of the winter.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Turnip Slaw

We're pulling some nice little turnips out of the garden at the moment. These are the Goldana, which I really, really like, although summer-grown ones aren't as good as fall-grown ones in my opinion. Still, they're not half bad and they make a nice slaw for the hot, hot weather we've been having lately. Quick and easy, no cooking required. Any mild white summer turnip will do the job.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Turnip Slaw
3 medium turnips
1 medium carrot
2 to 4 tablespoons finely minced cilantro, parsley or mint
the juice of 1 large lime
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
salt to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Peel and grate the turnips and carrot. Salt them lightly, and set them aside.

Wash, dry and mince the cilantro, parsley or mint. Rinse the turnips and carrots, and drain well. Mix with the herb, lime juice, oil and a bit of salt.

Last year at this time I made Zucchini & Fresh Pea Soup and Pea "Hummous".

Friday, 15 July 2011

Just A Reminder

To all those who expressed interest in testing recipes for a possible cookbook.

I'm still looking for recipe reviews! The hope is that there will be a more-or-less completed manuscript by September, which is getting to be not that far away. Time to get those reviews in, if you are still interested.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Snap Peas with Beef & Onions

Stupidly fast and simple, but very nice with those delish snap peas! Put some rice on to cook just before you start this to give it a bed to rest on once it is ready. (Or start it 20 minutes before you start this if it is brown rice.)

2 servings
30 minute
s prep time

Snap Peas with Beef and Onions
4 cups snap peas
2 onions, greens and bulbs
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
250 grams (1/2 pound) ground beef
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water

Wash and trim the snap peas. Cut the greens off the onions, and chop the greens. Set them aside. Peel and chop the onions, and set them aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and ground beef and cook until browned, stirring constantly and breaking up the ground beef into fairly small pieces. Add the hoisin sauce and water. Add the peas and continue cooking and stirring, until the water is absorbed and the peas are bright green and crisp. Add the onion greens and stir them in until they are well wilted. That's it; there you go.

Last year at this time I made Vegetable Fried Rice. Hey! Make extra rice and have that tomorrow. That's what I did!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Amish Snap Peas & Spring Blush Snap Peas

Our vegetable discovery of this summer, so far at least, seems to be snap peas.

Snap peas are a fairly modern vegetable. While peas have been around for a long, long time - some peas found in a cave in Myanmar were carbon-dated to almost 10,000 years old - it wasn't until the 1600's that varieties began to be developed that were tender and non-fibrous enough to eat the pods as well as the peas.

Even eating peas fresh in season instead of dried like beans and cooked to porridge year round was a new idea at the time. In France at the end of the 17th century there was a wild mania for eating fresh peas. Madame de Maintenon wrote about peas in a letter in 1696:

"Impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them, and the anticipation of eating them again are the three subjects I have heard very thoroughly dealt with... Some women, having supped and supped well at the King's table, have peas waiting for them in their rooms before going to bed."

Snow peas date from about the same time. We think of them as being particularly a Chinese vegetable, but in fact they were developed in Holland, home of so many vegetables. The Chinese name reflects this history, Ho Lan Dow, literally Holland Pea.

Snap peas are more recent still. Most people think (if they think anything) that they were developed in the 1970's! This is not strictly correct.

Sugar Snap peas (the specific variety) were found in 1970 by Calvin Lamborn, a vegetable breeder with Rogers/Syngenta. He discovered a plant growing in one of his trial fields which became the original Sugar Snap pea. It was a cross between a snow pea and an experimental shelling pea, having the best qualities of both types: a fiberless shell and tasty, non-starchy peas. Not only could you eat the whole thing, they are also remarkably sweet. I remember when they first came out; they really were a sensation in the vegetable world. As far as most people knew they were a brand-new thing, and the fact that they were taken up by well-known food writers (themselves a fairly new phenomenon) helped spread their popularity.

Amish Snap Peas
However, for some time prior to Lamborn's discovery, the Amish were quietly growing what is now known as Amish Snap peas. Nobody is quite clear for how long, but the seeds are now making the rounds amongst heirloom seed sellers. In fact, these are likely a surviving strain of snap peas known as sickle peas, or butter peas, or butter sugar peas, all of which date back to that 17th century burst of European pea exuberance, and which were more or less popular through the 19th century, until they finally disappeared from general commerce sometime in the 1950’s.

We decided to try growing them this year, meaning the Amish Snap*.

They are a sickle or scimitar shaped pea, of light medium green growing on tall 5' to 8' vines. They should start producing in a little over 60 days then continue for about 6 weeks, unless cut short by heat and drought. They are quite tolerant to sitting on the vine, by which I mean that you probably have about 3 days to pick them, unlike snow peas which must be picked daily OR ELSE. Even fairly large ones have been completely tender.

They are delicious raw, eaten in the garden, but are also excellent lightly stir-fried or steamed. They are remarkably crunchy, juicy and sweet. I really like these as a cook because they are so much less work and waste than shelling peas, and have so much more substance than snow peas.

Popular opinion is divided as to whether Sugar Snap or Amish Snap are the best snap pea, but there seems to be a wide consensus that other varieties such as Super Sugar Snap, Sugar Ann, Sugar Daddy, Cascadia, etc, etc may be shorter more manageable plants, or have more disease resistance, but they trail these two by a large margin when it comes to flavour. Of course the varieties that are easier for growers to manage are what you will be able to buy in stores. To get the best snap peas you must grow them yourself.

Spring Blush Snap Peas
We also grew a second variety of snap peas this year. This one is called Spring Blush, and it’s a very recent piece of vegetable breeding. It comes from Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds.

As you can see in the picture, these snap peas are overlaid with a pink blush, hence the name. They are rather sparse-leaved plants but they have extravagant quantities of tendrils. They grow even taller than the Amish Snap it seems, although it’s a little hard to tell because the Amish Snap are growing in our dry, sandy bed and the Spring Blush are growing in the wet clay bed. I got these from Annapolis Seeds, who said they would grow to 4 feet. Ours are at 7 feet and not stopping yet.

We aren’t as impressed by these as we are by the Amish Snap. They were very tasty and if we had not eaten the Amish Snaps first, we would have been more enthusiastic about them. But there’s no question the Amish Snap peas are the better of the two. Also, that pretty pink blush fades immediately when cooked, which is sad.

However, I’d grow these again if I wanted something that was both ornamental and edible. These have very pretty purplish flowers, where the Amish Snap flowers are white.

That’s them in the photo above. Yes, I can hold the camera straight. It’s the supports that are crooked.

I have to say the peas in general have absolutely loved the “wet” bed we planted them in this year. I was afraid it might be TOO wet but obviously not. Those short peas in front of them, by the way, are Tom Thumb which are supposed to grow to only 1 foot tall, but are working on hitting 3 feet. It may just be that the rich clay soil and ample moisture are making all the peas much taller than they would be normally.

*We tried growing Sugar Snap last year, but our seed was bad and the results looked more like Mixed Floor Sweepings, so no comment on them other than what I’ve heard from other people.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Three Pea Salad

Our garden is currently full of peas of every description. The slight contrasts in texture and flavour go together very well in a simple salad.

The rice needs to be cooked in advance, or you could use leftover rice. I cooked twice as much as I needed because rice just doesn't seem to cook properly if you try to cook too little at a time. Leftover rice is always handy though, and you can freeze it if you don't think you will get to it right away.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Three Pea Salad
Cook the Rice:
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook the above in your rice cooker, or put in a large pot on the stove and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and cook, covered, until tender and all the water has evaporated. Let cool. Use half of this cooked rice in the salad, and reserve half for another purpose.

Prepare the Vegetables:
2 cups snow peas
2 cups snap peas
2 cups shelled peas (4 cups when still in the pod)
1 medium zucchini
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet white onion OR chives

Put a pot of water on to boil.

Wash the snow and snap peas, and pinch off the stem end of each, pulling away any strings that have formed along the seams. Cut them into about thirds. Shell the peas.

Put all the peas into the boiling water and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until barely tender, then drain and rinse in cold water. Drain well.

Wash, trim and cut the zucchini into pea-sized dice. Trim and chop the onion or chives finely.

Make the Dressing & Finish:
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon very finely grated fresh ginger

Mix the salad ingredients in a small bowl or jar, and whisk or shake together.

Mix one-half of the cooked rice with the well-drained peas, zucchini and onion or chives. Toss with the dressing. Nom nom nom.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Clotted Cream

Clotted cream with scones and jam is the foundation of the classic "Cream Tea" from the southwest of England; Cornwall and Devon to be precise. Now we can make it here.

It requires cream that has not been pasteurized at a high temperature. (It will be pasteurized; just at lower temperatures.) It requires REAL cream, which nowadays means it almost always MUST be organic. As far as I can see there is no major dairy left in Ontario that sells unadulterated whipping cream anymore. It all contains modified milk ingredients, gums and stabilizers - avoid that shit. The one exception even among smaller dairies is Hewitt's, who still produce real whipping cream and make a point of pasteurizing at lower temperatures. Alas, not available around here.

However, if you buy high quality whipping cream (35% butterfat or higher) and it is inclined to separate, you are good to go. I actually used goat whipping cream which came from River's Edge Goat Dairy. It clotted beautifully, and the goaty flavour gained a nuttiness as it cooked that was just amazing. However, you can use regular cow's milk whipping cream if you prefer. You can also use whatever quantity you like, as long as it's about an inch deep in your baking dish. Three cups just happened to be what I had.

Once you have acquired your cream - the hard part of this recipe - there is nothing much left to do but wait.

UPDATE 10/11/2017: Yeehaw! I finally got my hands on some Hewitt's whipping cream and am happy to report it worked beautifully. I thought it had failed when I took it out of the oven after 7 hours for the litre (in an 8" x 10" pan) but as it cooled it clotted up nicely. Miller's whipping cream on the other hand did not work.

a generous cup
7 to 8 hours - plus chill time

Clotted Cream
3 cups non-homogenized organic whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 175°F. Let the cream sit out as it heats to warm up a little.

Pour the cream into a flat-bottomed, shallow glass or glazed ceramic baking dish. It should be about 1" deep. Put the cream in the oven and bake, if that's the right word, for 7 to 8 hours, until the cream has separated and there is a thick, yellow-flecked layer on top.

Let cool, then skim off the thickened cream on top. Keep both the thick, clotted cream and thinner leftover cream chilled until wanted. A wide-necked canning jar is a good container.

The thin cream is excellent for baking, and the thick cream is excellent for piling onto scones with jam. You could also serve it with fresh fruit or cake. Eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon is not recommended. It could lead to addiction.

Both creams should keep for about a week in the fridge. Keep well sealed.

Last year at this time I made Hodge-Podge.

Friday, 8 July 2011

English Cream Scones

Last week we bought a litre of goat whipping cream on impulse, which is one hell of an impulse let me tell you. We beat some and put it on strawberries, but there were still 3 cups of whipping cream sitting in the fridge and taunting us. Finally, in desperation I decided I would make clotted cream with it. And if you are going to have clotted cream, you need to have scones, and strawberry jam of course.

The thing with making clotted cream is that you will have quite a bit of thinner cream left over. It's a bit lumpy, so best for cooking. The obvious thing to do is to use some of it to make the scones, which is what I did. If you decide not to go the clotted cream route, regular light cream will work, or even just rich milk.

12 scones
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

English Cream Scones with Clotted Cream
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups soft whole wheat or unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Measure the cream, and beat in the sugar and egg. Set aside.

Measure the flour, and mix in the baking powder and salt. Put it into a mixing bowl and cut in the butter. Rub it between your fingers until it is in bits throughout the flour, a little smaller than a pea.

Stir in the cream mixture until everything forms a rough dough. It should be quite stiff and not sticky; work in a tablespoon or so more flour if it isn't.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper, and form it into a neat, even cylinder. Cut it into 12 equal slices and arrange the slices on a lightly buttered baking tray (or line it with the parchment paper). Brush the tops of the scones with a little more cream.

Bake the scones for 12 to 15 minutes until firm.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Please Call Your Member of Provincial Parliament AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

I have been remiss in posting about this, but I have been aware for some time that there is a proposal to create the second-largest gravel pit in North America in Melancthon township, around Shelbourne.

This would be a disaster on all kinds of fronts. It will destroy 2,316 acres of some of the best farmland in Ontario, which is to say some of the best farmland in Canada. (In fact 1/4 of the potatoes grown in Ontario are grown in the area.) It will destroy the local water table, which is near to the surface and part of the reason the farmland is so good. It will damage the headwaters of 5 major rivers, including the Grand River, and threaten the drinking water of up to a million people. And to add insult to injury, it will destroy the rural character and beauty of the area. The traffic will be phenomenal - thousands of trucks will pour out of the quarry each day.

The review period for this quarry is about to end, on July 11th. It's vital to have as many people as possible register their objections to this gross and wanton destruction of Ontario's agricultural treasures before then.

By this late date, you will need to phone, fax or email. You can find your MPP's contact information here: MPP List. You can also sign a petition but don't forget, contacting your MPP directly will be more effective.

Edited to add: and also please contact Linda Jeffrey, Minister of the Environment.

UPDATE: Most effective way to comment on this matter is to click here: Environmental Registry, then fill out the comment form. Deadline is Monday, July 11th!

You can read more about the Melancthon pit here:

Stop the Melancthon Quarry

Council of Candians

Toronto Star

Toronto Star Again

Guelph Mercury


Bright Lights, Rainbow, or 5-Colour Swiss Chard

Bright Lights Chard
We've been growing Bright Lights chard for a couple of years now, and are more and more impressed with it. I can hardly think of growing any other chard now.

Bright Lights is a selection of a group of chards also known as Rainbow, or 5-Colour chard. These are in fact not one variety but a combination of different chard seeds carefully selected for a wide variety of colours. The leaves are mostly a mid green, although some are bronze-green, and their stems range through white, pink, magenta, apricot, yellow, orange and cherry red. They really look beautiful in the garden, and not half bad on the plate either, as the colours hold up quite well in cooking.

I found this quote from John Gerard in 75 Exciting Vegetables for Your Garden by Jack E. Staub and Ellen Buchert:
"It grew with me in 1596 . . . which plant nature doth seeme to play and sport herselfe: for the seeds taken from the plant, which was altogether of one colour and sowne, doth bring forth plants of many and variable colours . . ." —John Gerard, The Herball or General History of Plantes, 1636
I was surprised; I had no idea that multi-coloured chards were that old. In 1888 it was listed in Vilmorin's famous vegetable seed catalogue. More recently, Thompson & Morgan offered seed for Rainbow chard between 1970 and 1989. At that point, the strain had deteriorated enough that they discontinued it, and it disappeared from North America.

However, Seed Saver's Exchange discovered that it had been maintained in Australia by The Digger's Club, and reintroduced it a few years back. Since then, it's become wildly popular, and with good reason.

The seeds sold as Bright Lights were selected out of Rainbow chard, but as far as I can see they are substantially the same thing. As I said, this is actually a blend of seeds from different coloured chards. Each colour must be grown in isolation in order to produce pure seed, and then the seeds are mixed and sold so that the gardener gets the full range of colours. Since chard is biennial, that presents yet another challenge to the would-be seed saver. I am not sure how well chard would winter over around here, although it might with good snow cover.

Chard as a vegetable, on the other hand, is about as easy to grow as it gets. Plant the seeds indoors 5 or 6 weeks before last frost to get an early start, or outside after last frost. They like light, rich soil, but are reasonably tolerant of heavier soils, although if you are going to pick them heavily they should be fertilized with some well-composted manure. They prefer full sun, but will tolerate some shade. Within 60 days you should be able to start picking full-sized leaves, baby salad leaves even sooner. By careful selection of outside leaves you can still be picking chard at the end of the season. A light frost will improve them, but they are perfectly fine even in the heat of the summer. If you have planted more than can be eaten as it grows, it freezes very well. Chard is amazingly rich in vitamins, more tender and succulent than kale and much less finicky than spinach. What's not to like?!

Not too surprisingly, you are not the only one who wants to eat Swiss chard. If you grow it, you will need to protect it from rabbits, deer - and birds. Ours always develop big gaping holes at the tops of the tallest leaves. I was perplexed that the snails and slugs climbed up so high before starting to dine until I saw some goldfinches hanging onto the tops of the leaves, swaying madly as they pecked and tore at the leaves. In fact, I have had little trouble with slugs, snails or other invertebrate pests, and chard seems very free of diseases. But keep it fenced and possibly netted, or something will certainly eat it before you do.

The name chard, by the way, refers to another vegetable: cardoon. Now practically no-one growns genuine chard or cardoon, which is a close relative of artichokes. The appellation Swiss is to distinguish it from true cardoon, yet it is not particularly Swiss either. Like other beets it comes originally from the Mediteranean. Yes, chard is really a form of beet grown for the leaves, as the British term silverbeet suggests. Whatever you want to call it, it's a garden and kitchen staple and a visual and gustatory delight.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pasta with Chicken, Mushrooms & Snow Peas

I used one great big huge onion, greens and bulb, for this but you can use whatever oniony stuff suits you and is available. Garlic scapes would be great, and I've also been using a lot of shallot greens this year. They are really delicious, like garlic scapes but more tender and with that mild, rich flavour of shallots. Also, if I had had any fresh basil I would have used that for sure - 3 or 4 tablespoons finely minced. I was not on the ball when it came to getting basil into the garden this year. There's some there now, but it's going to take a while. I would also have preferred a short, stubby pasta shape to match the chicken and vegetables but spaghetti was what was in the house so spaghetti it had to be.

2 to 3 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Chicken Mushrooms and Snow Peas
Prepare the Vegetables:
250 grams (1/2 pound) snow peas
250 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
6 to 8 garlic scapes OR green onions

Wash the snow peas and pinch off the stem end, pulling away any strings along the edges. Clean, trim and quarter the mushrooms. Trim and chop the green onions or garlic scapes. If using green onions, separate the white parts and the green parts.

Cook the Pasta:
225 grams (1/2 pound) dry pasta

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta and boil rapidly until just tender. Two or three minutes before it is done, add the prepared snow peas.

Finish the Sauce:
250 grams (1/2 pound) skinless, boneless chicken pieces
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1 1/2 cups whole milk or light cream

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and when hot add the chicken pieces, mushrooms and either the garlic scape pieces or the whites from the chopped green onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken and mushroom pieces are lightly and fairly evenly browned.

Sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes more, continuing to stir frequently. Add the onion greens, if using, and stir them in. Add the mustard, basil and milk or cream, and mix in well. Allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes, until thickened, but don't let it boil hard.

The peas should be added to the pasta around the time the cream goes into the sauce, if this is timed right. Drain the cooked pasta and peas well, and toss them with the sauce.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry-Currant Jam. This year, the currants are nowhere near ready yet - it's a very different year! Strawberries are still in full swing though!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Blauer Herbst Radish

Blauer Herbst Radishes

Blue?! Not really, but an unusual mauve, and look at the size! That's a standard red Cherry Belle radish with the Blauer Herbst radishes, and not a small one either.

Like Ostergruss Rosa, these are long, carrot-like radishes and a traditional German variety. The name means Blue Autumn, and they really are a radish for fall planting and winter storage. I planted some this spring, and they have done well in the cool, fairly rainy weather we have had up until recently. I also planted some last fall, and a few got left in the ground along with other varieties of radishes. The Blauer Herbst were the only ones to survive the winter in the ground, although I would not say they were particularly edible in the spring.

Perhaps because I have mostly been growing them out of season - but perhaps because they are meant for winter storage - these have been mighty intense in flavour. Downright hot. Nice, but best approached in thin slices as an accompaniment with something else. Bread and butter maybe, or very finely diced into your salad. Of course, if you cook them they lose their bite and become quite sweet and mild. Mind you, I think that even raw these are positively delicate and refined when compared to Black Spanish radishes, which are the standard winter storage radish around here.

In Germany, these would ordinarily be served with beer. I have to say that sounds like a terrible idea to me; a recipe for gassy indigestion if I ever heard one. But maybe that's just me. The flesh is white and crisp but unusually dense. I find in hot weather they get hard and woody quickly.

Radishes in general prefer cool, moist weather. Plant them in the early spring or late summer for a fall crop. These are slower than most smaller salad radishes, taking 60 to 70 days to reach maturity, so August 15th is about the right time to plant for a fall crop. They like a light, loose soil, but with a little richness to it. They are surprisingly attractive to bugs when you consider how hot they are. Flea beetles love the leaves but do mostly cosmetic damage. We have had no trouble with flea beetles (knock wood) but some trouble with little worms or grubs getting into the roots. I'm hoping our nematode army will improve that situation. On the other hand, radishes are pretty disease-free. These big radishes have leaves in proportion to their large roots, so give them plenty of space.