Friday, 30 December 2016

Ground Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff

The last time I made Beef Stroganov (or Stroganoff, if you prefer) it was a budget effort. Still, that was a definite party or special occasion dish. This on the other hand is frankly workaday. Versions of it made with canned mushroom soup abound, but there is no need to abrade your tongue with that much salty muck. I don't think this is any slower to do than the versions with canned soup, since it can still be made in about the time it takes to bring a pot of water to a boil and cook some noodles. You are probably just chopping a few more mushrooms and spending a little more for the ingredients - a good investment in good food.

Dill or Russian tarragon pickles often show up in Stroganoff, and a very good addition they are too. 

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Ground Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff

375 grams (12 ounces) egg noodles
2 medium onions
2 medium shallots
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
300 grams (10 ounces) button mushrooms
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
500 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rubbed thyme or savory
3 tablespoons soft unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 medium dill pickle, diced
3/4 cup sour cream

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the noodles. Cook them according to the package instructions.

As soon as the water is on the stove, peel and slice the onions. Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic, and set it aside. Clean, trim, and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is melted add the onions and shallots, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes until you see some signs of browning. At this point, add the crumbled ground beef, the garlic, the salt and pepper, the mustard, and the thyme or savory. Mix in well, and cook until the ground beef is done. Stir regularly.

Sprinkle the mixture with the flour, mix in, and cook for another few minutes. Add the beef or chicken broth and simmer until thickened; about 5 minutes. Dice the dill pickle and add half of it. Mix in the sour cream.

Serve the Stroganoff tossed with the cooked, drained noodles, or on top of them. Garnish with the remainder of the dill pickle sprinkled over top.

Mixing the Stroganoff with the noodles keeps the noodles from sticking to each other but creates a homelier dish. Speaking of homely, I would be as inclined to serve this over toast just as much as noodles, and that might be a good way to serve any leftovers.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Apple & Rutabaga Soup

This was a very nice soup, with subtle but slightly surprising flavours. I used Empire apples but really, you can use whatever kind you like for this.

I just mashed mine and left it fairly rustic, but if you want something more suave, you can run it through the food processor with a teaspoon of starch, and reheat it until thickened. Just remember to remove the allspice and star anise first. 

4 servings
50 minutes prep time

Apple & Rutabaga Soup

2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
2 or 3 allspice berries
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small onion (1/2 cup chopped)
1 medium carrot (1/2 cup chopped)
1/2 cup peeled, chopped celeriac OR 1 stalk celery
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium apples (2 cups diced)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sherry (optional)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Peel and dice the rutabaga. Put it in a soup pot with the chicken stock, allspice, star anise, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil an simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, covered. If the chicken stock reduces too much, top it up with a bit of water.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion. Peel and chop the carrot. Peel and chop the celeriac, or trim and chop the celery.

Heat the butter in a mid-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, carrot, and celeriac until softened and reduced. While they cook, wash the apples and chop them into dice, discarding the cores. You may peel them or not as you like - I left mine on and did not find them distracting. Add them to the pan of vegetables when ready and cook until they too are softened and reduced in volume.

When the rutabaga has simmered for 25 to 30 minutes, add the vegetables from the pan. Season with the vinegar, sherry, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Remove the allspice and star anise, and mash well or purée before serving.

Last year at this time I made Celeriac Dip.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Beet, Apple & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad

I'm always such a sucker for a fancy presentation. There's no question, it can be very nice! I will also admit that such presentations usually take extra time and fiddling on the part of the cook, and tend to make things harder to eat. This one certainly fits that pattern.

The stacks consist of layers of firm (beets), crunchy (apples), and smooshy (cheese). This is a slightly tricky combination to cut, and I suggest you supply each diner with a steak knife to best approach these.

There is also a lot of "waste" from these, because you will have the trimmings from the stacks themselves, as well as bits of the apple and beets which were not suitable for cutting into 2" or larger rings. Don't throw that away! Chop it all up a bit and toss it together with any leftover cheese and marinade; put it back in the fridge and serve it in little scoops on mixed greens tomorrow as a more informal salad. Of course, if you can't be bothered with cutting your salad into fancy stacks at all, you could do that with the whole lot in the first place.

And now it's time to take a break for Christmas... we are up to 11 here this year so it will be a very full house and lots to do. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. I hope all my readers have good holidays, and best wishes to you all for a happy new year.  

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time
 - not including cooking or marinating the beets

Beet, Apple & Goat Cheese Stacked Salad

Cook & Marinate the Beets:
2 to 3 large beets (about 500 grams; 1 pound)
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
the juice of 1 large orange, minus 3 tablespoons set aside

Cook the beets in plenty of water to cover until tender; given that you want to use quite large beets expect it to take somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour. Drain and cool enough to handle. Peel them and slice them a scant 1/4" thick.

Mix the ground rosemary, orange zest and orange juice in a coverable container. Add the beet slices, gently moving them to be as covered in orange juice as possible. Cover them and set them aside for an hour. They can also be put in the refrigerator and kept until the next day.

Make the Salad:
150 grams (5 ounces) soft goat cheese (chèvre)
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rich milk or light cream
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 or 2 large apples (same diameter as the beets)
about 2 cups mixed salad greens
parsley or walnut halves to garnish

Put the goat cheese in a small mixing bowl, and mix in the orange juice and cream to make a light, spreadable but not runny mixture. Mix in the rosemary, orange juice, salt, and pepper.

Wash the apple(s) and cut into scant 1/4" slices. Cut out the cores.

Stack the slices of beet and apple, spreading about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture into a 2" circle in the middle of each slice as you go. I found 3 slices of beet with 2 slices of apple worked well. You should start and finish with a slice of beet - the apple is inclined to break when cut, so it's better inside. Don't spread cheese on the top slice.

Cut the finished stacks with a good sturdy, sharp, 2" biscuit cutter. Be sure to centre it well and press down gently and evenly. When the biscuit cutter has made it down to the cutting board all around, use a knife to trim away the cut off bits. Lift the stack, with the cutter still around the base, and press gently up to remove it from the cutter. Place it on a bed of salad greens, either on a serving platter or on individual serving dishes. Garnish with a sprig of parsley or a walnut half held in place with a dab of cheese. Repeat with the remaining slices of beet and apple, and the cheese.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies

Oh, here is that stray cookie recipe that almost got away! These are a traditional Italian cookie, and they are like glamorous and much more interesting Fig Newtons. The instructions are a bit detailed but really, they are probably easier than rolled and cut cookies. Make the filling, make the dough, wrap, slice, bake, eat. Perfect! They seem to be keeping pretty well too.

These are not the sweetest cookies ever. Some people brush a little glaze over them. I didn't but if you wanted to, just thin 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and about a tablespoon of milk. Brush it on with a pastry brush, adding a little more milk if it stiffens up before you can get it onto them - that's a hint; you should work quickly.

72 cookies
1 hour 30 minutes prep time - plus1 hour chill time

Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies

Make the Filling:
1 cup chopped figs
1 cup raisins
1 cup mixed candied peel
the finely grated zest of 1 large navel orange
the juice of 1 large navel orange (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup rum or brandy
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Trim the stems from the figs, and chop the figs. Put them in a pot with the remaining filling ingredients, and bring them to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed - check carefully during the last few minutes. Let cool.

Put the filling into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped and cohesive. Turn out into a bowl and set aside until needed.

Make the Dough:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups soft  (pastry) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract.

Mix the soda into the flour, then stir it into the butter and egg mixture. The dough will be quite stiff; at some point I find it easiest to abandon my spoon and mix the dough with my hands. Do not over-knead it, however. 

Wrap the dough in parchment or plastic and chill it for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough evenly into 3 parts. Roll out each section on parchment paper, to form a rectangle about the size of a piece of paper (8.5" x 11"). Trim and patch the dough to make it as neat a rectangle as possible. The dough is very putty-like, and will patch together nicely. When you have your rectangle, cut it in half across the longest way, to form 2 sections of about 4" x 11".

Divide the filling equally into 6 parts. Using wet hands, form one part into a long rope, the length of one of the pieces of dough, that is, 11". I do this on the parchment paper next to the rectangle of dough. I then use a thin metal icing spatula to loosen it and lift it onto the centre of the strip of dough. Use the spatula to loosen the dough from the parchment as well. Fold up the sides of the dough to form a tube around the filling, and transfer it to one of the prepared pans, seam-side down. Cut the filled tube of dough into 12 equal sections and spread them out, at least an inch apart in every direction.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, forming 6 filled tubes of dough in total. If the dough gets warm and sticky as you roll it out, you can sprinkle it and the rolling pin with a little icing sugar to help keep it dry. However, if it is too soft and warm for that to work you may need to return the dough to the fridge for a few minutes.

When you have half the cookies prepared and laid out on one of the baking sheets, bake them for 12 to 15 minutes until very lightly browned and firm. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Let cool and store in a tightly covered tin, in a cool spot.

Last year at this time I made Chai Honey Butter

Friday, 16 December 2016

Vegetarian Sausage

We always have a vegetarian at the table for Christmas dinner, so I always have to come up with at least one dish that is reasonably festive and suitable for them. And of course, everyone else will want to try it too.

Wheat gluten, sold as vital wheat gluten or gluten flour, is the protein part of wheat with the starch removed. In the old days you had to rinse it out yourself and it was a bit of a chore. Now, you can buy it ready to go. Like bread, the sausage mixture should be kneaded until the gluten forms strands and becomes smooth and a bit rubbery; it's these strands that give the result a meat-like texture. It can be hard to cook these gluten based mixtures so they aren't dry; a lot of recipes add beans, tofu, or vegetables to keep them moist. Good tasting yeast is often added because it has a distinctly chicken-like flavour, especially when combined with the right herbs.

It's both a nuisance and a benefit that these are best cooked in advance, then fried to reheat them and put a nice crisp finish on them. It makes them a bit of a project, but the final cooking is fast and easy and not too much work at the last moment.

It took me a couple of tries to get these satisfactory, and we have been enjoying them cut up into slices, fried and then put in tomato sauce, and served over pasta. I tried forming some into cutlets, which gives you lots of crispy surface but the soft, sausagey interior seems odd that way. We prefer them sausage shaped. Patties might be more convincing, and would be good on a bun.

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 20 minutes - 40 minutes prep time - plus 15 minutes to fry
 - but not including 1 hour to soak the lentils

Vegetarian Sausage

1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
boiling water
1 cup grated carrot
2 cups grated (raw) beets
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup good tasting yeast
1/3 cup chick pea flour
4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup gluten flour

Put the red lentils, dried tomatoes, and salt into a glass or ceramic mixing bowl (which will hold the heat better than metal or plastic) and pour boiling water over them to cover generously. Cover the bowl and let sit for 1 hour.

Wash, peel, and trim the carrots and beets. Grate and measure them into the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients except the gluten flour, and process until well blended. Add the drained lentils and tomatoes, and process again. The mixture should be fairly smooth but with some texture to it; quite a bit like actual sausage meat.

Turn the mixture out into a mixing bowl, and stir the gluten flour in by hand. Turn the mixture out onto a clean, dry counter top or sheet of parchment and knead for a few minutes. It will be fairly sticky, but should form a soft but cohesive ball.

Cut the mixture into 8 to 12 equal portions. Form them into "sausages" and roll them up in pieces of parchment paper, folding over the ends to make a neat packet. Steam them for 40 to 45 minutes, until firm to the touch.

To serve, fry the sausages in oil until brown on all sides and serve hot.

These can be frozen, or will keep in the fridge for up to a week before being fried.

Last year at this time I made Fresh Raw Cranberry Orange Relish.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Leek & Spinach Dip

Leeks again! We had a fabulous harvest of them this year, and there are a couple of dozen in the fridge still waiting to be used. Of course, at this time of year the spinach will have to be frozen. I try not to call for too many frozen vegetables in my recipes because it seems like cheating, somehow; but the reality is that we use a lot of frozen vegetables over the winter. That's much of the purpose of having a very large garden.

This is a pretty classic dip, but none the worse for that. Onions are more usual, and you could replace the leek with a couple of medium ones, but the leek is to my mind both more subtle and more interesting. 

8 to 16 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Leek & Spinach Dip

4 - 6 cloves of garlic
1 large leek
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried dillweed
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
a good grind of black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
150 grams (5 ounces) cooked (frozen) spinach, thawed

Peel and mince the garlic. Trim the leek, chop it finely, rinse it and drain it very well. Heat the butter in a small skillet and cook the leek in it gently for 5 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Don't let it brown; it should just soften and cook down as it sizzles slightly. Add the garlic and dry spices for the last few minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, mix all the other ingredients except the spinach. Chop the spinach very finely - mince it , really - and add it as well.

Add the leeks and garlic, and mix the dip thoroughly. Spoon it into a serving bowl and keep chilled until ready to serve; allow at least an hour for the flavours to develop and meld. Serve with chips or crackers. It also makes a fine topping for baked potatoes.

Last year at this time I made Squash & Chevre Strata

Monday, 12 December 2016

Ham & Leek Quiche

Here is a very classic combination and one I really love. Ham, leeks, cheese, pastry... ohhhh yesssss. So good. And easy, and something that can be made in advance, and suitable for a work-day lunch or a Christmas buffet.

Much as I love the combination of ham and cheese, I am obliged to admit that this could be made suitable for vegetarians by leaving it out and replacing it with a cup of diced, fried mushrooms (2 cups when raw). 

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
plus some time to cool

Ham & Leek Quiche

pastry for single 9" pie crust

3 cups sliced leeks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soft unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
a grating of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1 cup 10% cream
100 grams (4 ounces) old Cheddar cheese
100 grams (4 ounces) diced smoked ham
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Make your pastry, or use a frozen pie shell. Half of this one; or half of this one would work well. At any rate it should be baked at 450°F for 10 minutes once it has been rolled and fitted to the pie plate, and pricked with a fork to prevent bubbling. Let it cool slightly.

Wash and trim the leeks. Cut them once down the middle lengthwise, then into slices of about 1/4". Rinse them again and drain them very well.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and add the leeks once it is melted and beginning to bubble. Cook, stirring regularly, until quite soft but not browned; about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the flour for the last couple of minutes, mixing it in well until there are no signs of it left, other than a slight stickiness.

Preheat (or reduce) the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the eggs, cream, and seasonings together. Dice the Cheddar and the ham, and grate the Parmesan.

Layer the cooked leeks, the Cheddar and the ham in the prepared pie crust, adding two tablespoonfuls of the Parmesan to the middle. Slowly pour the egg and cream mixture over the leeks, ham, and cheese, allowing it to percolate through the the bottom as you go. Once it is all in, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top.

Bake for 40 minutes until puffed and slightly browned. Let cool to just warm or to room temperature before serving.

Last year at this time I made Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes & Shallots

Friday, 9 December 2016

Super Seedy Rye Crackers

Another (upcoming) Christmas, another round of crackers. Yes I know I promised cookies, but you are getting crackers. You can't complain; they're SUPER SEEDY! And also delicious. My experience is that most crackers benefit from being made at least a week or 2 in advance of the time wanted, so that's something to keep in mind.

36 crackers
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

1 cup whole rye flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon caraway seed
3/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1/3 cup sunflower seed oil
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 to 2 teaspoon sea salt to top

Measure the rye flour, flax meal, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds into a mixing bowl. Measure the sunflower seeds and pepitas and chop them coarsely, either with a large knife on a cutting board or in a food processor. Add them to the mixing bowl, along with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Coarsely grind the caraway and cumin seeds and add them as well. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Drizzle the oil and water over the dry ingredients and mix well. It should form a stiff but cohesive dough; if necessary you can add another teaspoon or two of water.

Pat and roll the dough out into as thin and neat a rectangle as you can, on the parchment paper. Cut it with a pizza cutter into 36 crackers (or whatever number you like, really - 36 gives a fairly standard cracker size). Bake the crackers for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and dry-crisp. They will continue to harden as they cool. Break them apart and store them in an airtight tin until wanted.

Last year at this time I made Pad Thai.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Spumoni Cookies

I saw these cookies at An Expat Cooks, and being a fan of all things spumoni, I decided they had to go on the list for Christmas. Of course I fiddled, mostly by cutting the sugar in half (why do people use so much sugar? Nobody who has tried these thinks that the half-sugar version is anything but cookie-sweet.) I also upped the cherries and made them a fair bit smaller, although they didn't take much less time to bake.

To me, spumoni ought to have a mixed peel/tutti-frutti component to it, although modern versions frequently don't. (Yes I am officially old; I spend a lot of time whining about how everything has gotten woooooorse.)

And now I have to admit that actually I didn't put in any mixed peel, but only because I had intended to make the Rolled Spice Cookies which are full of it and I didn't want all my cookies tasting the same. Otherwise, for sure.

36 to 42 cookies
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Spumoni Cookies

2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup dried cherries
OR 1/2 cup dried cherries
and 1/2 cup mixed peel

Measure the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt; set aside

Cream the butter and sugar until very light, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the almond and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour, along with the chocolate chips, pistachios, dried cherries, and the mixed peel if using.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the prepared parchment paper, keeping the cookies 2 to 3 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until set on top and just starting to brown at the edges. Remove to a rack to cool.

Last year at this time I made Rum-Ball Bars. The cake has been baked for this years; they'll be made in the next day or so! Yes, I'm behind. What else is new. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Rolled Spice Cookies Again

This is the first time I have re-published a recipe on this blog, essentially unchanged. But my back-stage list of posts tells me that these cookies have been looked at just 78 times, and people, that ain't right. You should be making a pilgrimage to these cookies.

I have to admit that the first time I made them, I carefully put in all the things that I thought would make the ultimate cookie. I mixed them and rolled them and baked them, and thought they were very good. Not quite as ultimate as I was expecting, but very good, so I posted them.

And then they sat around for a few weeks while we ate them. During that time they just got better and better and BETTER. Now that I know these really need to be made in advance and aged, they are MY FAVOURITE COOKIE OF ALL TIME. Yes, I know I said these ones were. But that was then. These are... yes, okay. These are BETTER. On account of being THE BEST COOKIE OF ALL TIME.

As you see, they are quite plain little things but don't be fooled. Just make a bunch of fancier looking things so that when you put these out, people go for the fancier looking things and leave these for you.

I think I've kept these for as long as 2 months, just getting better every day. How long will they keep? I don't know, because I've always eaten them all before then.

Anyway, brace yourselves - it's going to be cookies all week. 

36 to 48 cookies
1 1/2 hours prep time

Rolled Spice Cookies

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
3 cups soft whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon anise seed
6 to 8 pods of green cardamom
1/4 cup candied mixed peel, finely minced
2 tablespoons preserved ginger, finely minced
the finely grated zest of 1/2 large navel orange

Mix the flour, sugar, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a mixing bowl. Toast the anise seed lightly in a dry skillet, and grind them finely, with the cardamom. Sift them into the bowl, discarding the papery husks of the cardamom. Mince the peel and the ginger, and add them to the bowl with the orange zest.

Finish the Cookies:
1/3 cup mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark maple syrup
1/4 cup orange juice

Measure the oil and maple syrup into a glass measuring cup, and heat for a minute or so, until the maple syrup is very liquid. Mix with the orange juice, and stir into the dry ingredients.

Mix the dough well, and turn it out to knead for a minute or two. Roll the dough out to about 1/4" thick, or slightly less, on a floured surface or - better - on a sheet of parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters, and place them on the trays. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, until firm and just lightly browned. Re-roll the dough and cut out cookies until the dough is all used.

Speaking of homely but favourite things, last  year at this time I made Onions au Gratin

Friday, 2 December 2016

Finally, A Final Garden Report

I think this is the latest we have ever finished up in the garden. Partly because we were so behind, what with Mr. Ferdzy being out of commission for 6 weeks after mid-August followed by a 2 week trip to Nova Scotia, and partly because the weather has permitted or even required it.

However, 2 days ago we dug a bunch of leeks, carrots, shallots, and rutabaga for storage and cut the last of the cabbages (possibly a mistake - now what do we do with them?)

All the beds are reasonably clean for the winter except for the quadrant where Mr. Ferdzy is standing.

We grew 4 kinds of leeks this year. The top right quadrant shows Portage, a new variety from New Zealand which I received in a trade with the breeder. He would like some of my leek genetics, and he is curious about how this variety will overwinter in Ontario, since New Zealand winters are much milder than ours. I am hopeful that it will do well - it is the second bluest leaved of the varieties, and that's usually a sign of cold tolerance.

The bluest variety is Bandit, a traditional Dutch variety, and the top left quadrant is Verdonnet, a traditional Swiss variety. The bottom right is Inegol, from Turkey. An international leek selection!

Portage and Verdonnet were about the same size; Inegol was the largest by a bit and the Bandit were noticeably smaller than any of the others. There are lots of all the varieties left in the bed to overwinter.

With the long, mild fall we were able to get one of our 2 disastrous beds cleaned up. That just leaves one of them, and the path to one side plus the leg down to the lawn to be gravelled. I have not been able to keep the paths trimmed and they are a big source of weeds in nearby beds. We really hope to get them cleaned up next spring.

Mr Ferdzy demonstrates how he goes through so many pairs of reading glasses, and also digs leeks. From front to back it's Inegol, Bandit, Verdonnet, and Portage.

Slightly off in the distance you can see a bed of spinach covered for the winter. We planted a second bed but did not bother to cover it as germination was so bad. Actually, I don't think germination was bad so much as it was infested with slugs and snails who ate it as fast as it germinated. Why one bed and not the other? No idea. We'll just plant it again in early spring at this point though.

I am hoping to have some lettuce from the garden for Christmas. It would not be the first time, but it is a somewhat unusual occurrence. Right now all the lettuce is self-sown from plants that went to seed earlier. Some of it is in the gravel paths; lettuce seems to like them just fine for growing. I don't mind it; I just keep an eye on them and pick them first, before they can really send down long tap roots and wreck the underlying cloth.

Usually we get a break between end of gardening and the start of Christmas planning; this year no luck. That's the downside of Christmas lettuce.

Next year we plan to downsize the garden somewhat. Now that we can see how much a well maintained and fertilized garden can produce, we don't need so much space and it's too much work to keep it all going, especially as our remaining parents plainly have no intention of doing anything but get older. We're both creaking a little more ourselves these days too. Plus maybe we would like to do some other things besides garden... but that will be another post. Possibly another blog.