October oddities

Deep_pink_Nerine
Nerine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The weather has been perfect for spending time in the garden this past week. Fresh and breezy, with the sun shining most days. There are leaves everywhere, and plenty of tidying up to do before the weather changes.

This time last year, I had 3 beautiful Nerine bulbs in bloom. Sadly the snails ate the shoots from the other 2 a few weeks ago, but this beauty survived. It looks like a plant that should be out in late spring or early summer, but at this time of year, it is very welcome and a stunning splash of colour.

Another favourite with the slugs and snails is the Perennial primrose, which also looks out-of-place in Autumn. I was lucky to capture such a perfect bloom for my photograph before the beasties started their lunch.

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Autumnal Perennial Primrose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On the whole, there is not much going on in the garden in Autumn, just leaves tumbling everywhere. However, there are a few plants having one last hoorah before the winter weather begins. All round the walls of the garden, creeping Campanula grows from spring and throughout the summer. This little patch of greenery on a sunny part of wall has just burst into flower again this past week.

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Creeping Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in July, the cotton lavender was ablaze with tufty yellow flowers. After cutting it back to remove the dead heads at the end of summer, there is still plenty of  fragrant, silvery foliage to enjoy when the sun shines on it. Here we are a few weeks later, and the plant has bloomed again, but this time, with just one solitary flower.

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Cotton Lavender bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I think I mentioned in my last garden round-up that I was hoping for more rose blooms this Autumn. The heat and the dry weather didn’t seem to suit them earlier in the year and the petals faded very quickly. I was delighted to see fresh buds on my very fragrant favourite rose, and now the blooms are fully open, the garden around them is smelling sweet and aromatic again.

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Rosa Felicia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are several Hebes around the garden. It was a good year for blooms, and like the cotton lavender, these 3 bushes have started flowering again this past week, each with only a few small clusters of flowers.

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Blooming again, Hebes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These eye-catching seeds or berries are all that’s left of the native Iris (Iris foetidissima) apart from the green, spear-like foliage. I don’t recall that many flowers this year, but the seed pods develop and open out to form the exact same pattern of the Iris flower-heads. You can see that there are quite a few pods, so I must have missed a lot of flowers.

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Iris foetidissima seed pods. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my post this week, something suitably spooky for the end of October. With Hallowe’en just round the corner,  this image fits the season perfectly. This small espalier Comice pear tree only produced 4 pears this year. The small ones fell off a couple of weeks ago, but the largest one has been clinging on ever since. Now all the leaves have blown away from the tree, the bare branches made an eerie shadow against the wall this sunny afternoon. Have a good week.

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One Comice pear on a pear tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Green chutney (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly made Green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s that time of year. Out come the jars, preserving pan and accessories again, yes, it’s chutney-making season! Green tomatoes are not something I usually have many of, but this year, I grew a spcific green variety of tomato thinking that they would make an interesting addition to the salad bowl. As attractive as the tomatoes are, they are not to my taste, but as it turns out, when combined with cooking apples, they have made a delicious chutney.

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Green Zebra tomatoes on the vine and a branch of Lord Derby apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Lord Derby apples and Green Zebra tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have eaten green chutneys in the past, and mostly they have been flavoured with cinnamon and mixed spice. As tasty as they were, the colour of the spicy flavourings turned the chutney shades of khaki brown. With this in mind, I set to thinking about flavours that would be interesting and also help preserve the colour.

 

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My green chutney flavourings: onions, garlic, bay and ground fenugreek. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I plumped for ground fenugreek which adds that quintessential “curry powder” flavour but is pale in colour. It has a strong, slightly bitter flavour so use with caution. I suggest just 1 tsp to give a hint of curry. If you prefer a stronger flavour, increase to 1 ½ tsp to 2 tsp.

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Chopped green tomatoes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very straightforward recipe. Minimum amount of preparation – just peel and roughly chop as necessary, and let a food processor do the rest of the chopping for you. The chutney can be eaten immediately (it’s not too vinegary from the outset) but if you allow it at least a month in storage, the fenugreek flavour will develop further.

Makes: approx. 1.3kg

Ingredients

  • 650g green tomatoes
  • 325g cooking apples, roughly chopped (prepared weight)
  • 325g onions, roughly chopped (prepared weiht)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 425ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 425g granulated sugar
  • 125g sultanas

1. Wash the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Mix with the apples, onion and garlic. Place half in a food processor with half the vinegar and blitz for a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan or preserving pan, then process the other half of the vegetables with the remaining vinegar in the same way and add to the pan.

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Preparing the vegetables for green chutney. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Add the bay leaves, stir well, and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes until softened.

3. Stir in the fenugreek, salt and sugar. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thick. Turn off the heat, stir in the sultanas, cover and stand for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

4. Ladle into warm, sterilised jars and seal with non-corrosive lids. Allow to cool then store for 6-8 months in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 weeks. Delicious with roasted vegetables and cheeses.

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Sealed and labelled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spoonful of green chutney. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Mushroom barley risotto (dairy-free; vegan)

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Mushroom barley risotto Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It feels like the right time of year for a mushroom dish. This is one of my favourites. I usually make it with just fresh mushrooms, but I had a pack of dried porcini mushrooms in the cupboard and this seemed like the perfect dish to add them to. They were a present from my Mum who went to northern Italy this summer, for a holiday. Porcini mushrooms do add an extra rich flavour to the dish but if you don’t have them, just use a few more fresh mushrooms and more vegetable stock.

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Dried porcini mushrooms. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The fresh mushrooms I used were small Portobello mushrooms which have a firm texture and good, nutty flavour. I find them ideal for longer cooking techniques as they hold their shape and texture well. Brown chestnut mushrooms work well too.

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Portobello mushrooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To flavour the dish, I added garlic, a splash of wine, and some sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme – strong, woody aromatics that go well with earthy mushroom flavours.

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Home-grown fresh rosemary and thyme. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In terms of making the dish, if you’ve ever made a risotto with Arborio rice, then it’s the same technique of adding the liquid to the grain, little by little, to ensure an even cooking. It’s take a bit of time, but the effort is worthwhile, and I find it strangely therapeutic, especially if accompanied with a glass of wine!

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A hearty autumnal supper. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves:4

Ingredients

  • 35g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Large sprig of rosemary
  • A few sprigs thyme
  • 300g Portobello mushrooms, wiped and sliced
  • 300g pearl barley, rinsed
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • Approx. 750ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a heatproof dish and pour over 350ml boiling water. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes until tender, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid, and slice.

    Dried_porcini_mushrooms_soaking_in_hot_water
    Soaking porcini mushrooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan and gently fry the onion for 10 minutes with the lid on, until tender. Stir in the garlic, herbs and Portobello mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sliced porcinis and pearl barley, mix everything well, then pour over the wine. Bring to simmering point, and cook gently until the wine has reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
    Enamel_dish_of_pearl_barley
    Pearl barley. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

  4. Pour the mushroom soaking liquid into a jug and make up to 1l with vegetable stock, then pour into a saucepan and heat until hot. Keep on a low heat.
  5. Add one ladleful of hot stock to the barley and mushrooms, and simmer gently, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed before you add in another. Continue the ladling and simmering until all the stock is used up – this will take about 40 minutes – by which time the barley should be perfectly tender. Turn off the heat, season, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes for the last of the stock to be absorbed.
  6. To serve, discard the rosemary and thyme and sprinkle with parsley. Delicious topped with handfuls of rocket or watercress.
    Spoonful_of_barley_and_mushroom_risotto
    Ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

 

 

 

Early autumn garden

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Still blooming, white Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When I posted my last garden round-up back on August 9th, only one or two of these beautiful white Japanese anemones were in bloom. Here we are some eight weeks later, and they are looking magnificent in the flower-beds. Having survived the storm of last week, and the breezy weather we have had recently, they continue to flower when most plants around them are dying back.

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Meadow cranesbill enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have a lot of meadow cranesbill (hardy geranium) in the garden. I love the fragrant bright green foliage which trails over just about every wall. I cut back the first flowers when they started dying back a few weeks ago, and now there are new fresh pink blooms about the flower-beds to keep summery thoughts alive.

However, it is autumn, and these lilac crocus are popping up all over the place to remind me of the change of season. I love these strange, top-heavy flowers that poke out of the bare soil with no leaves and long mauve stalks. The rich, golden stamens smell of saffron, and on a warm day, the aroma is truly delicious.

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Fragrant Autumn crocus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fruiting Lord Derby apple tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a fantastic year for fruit. The old cooking apple tree is laden. I’ve been busy cooking up the wind-falls while the main crop still remains on the tree. I have two miniature eating apple trees in another part of the garden. These rarely produce more than half a dozen apples, but this year, I have enough to fill a large fruit-bowl,

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Mini eating apple harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am particularly pleased with the crop of Concorde pears on a small tree at the top of the garden. I have had the tree for about a decade, and it hasn’t fruited very well until this year. The pears keep very well, so I will be able to enjoy them over the next few weeks. I’m sure there will be a pear recipe posted from me in the next few weeks.

In the same part of the garden, the Autumn-fruiting raspberries are ripening. I never have very many at a time, but a few berries ripen every two to three days, and are just enough to occasionally scatter over my morning granola.

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Concorde pear tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Early Autumn-fruiting raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not been a good year for the roses in the garden. Too dry I think. However, there are a few second buds forming now, so if the sunny weather continues a while longer, I may get a few more blooms like this beauty. Until next week, my best wishes to you.

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Second time around, Gertrude Jekyl rose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins