September reflections

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Acer leaves in the Autumn sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a busy month for me which has meant that I haven’t had much spare time to put a post together. Now as the season feels like it is shifting, I thought I would take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors this past month.

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A cascade of Autumn crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is showing signs of Autumn now with leaves changing colour and a crop of pale lilac crocus appearing in a shady border. Earlier in the month I went to visit my family in Sussex. The weather was very warm and we spent most of our time together out of doors. On one walk, I was delighted to find some blackberries untouched in a hedgerow and was able to carry my precious cargo of black jewels all the way back home to Scotland to make into a compote with apples from my tree. Delicious.

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Wild hedgerow blackberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My apple tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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First pickings. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it’s another good year for apples. I’ve only picked a few so far, but I think with the weather turning cooler this weekend and a predicted frost,, I will be picking the remainder in the next few days. I’ve also harvested a lot of potatoes, and put many more in storage. I’m feeling pleased with myself, after years of giving up on carrot growing, I’ve had a fair crop this year. The variety was called “Rainbow” and I had high hopes of a multi-coloured batch, but in the end, they were mostly yellow. No matter, they tasted fresh and spicy, just as homegrown carrots should do.

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Freshly dug carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Box of tatties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m over-run with tomatoes too. Dehydration for the small ones, and tomato sauce for the larger ones. I haven’t started my annual chutney making ritual, but once the apples are picked, the preserving with begin.

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First major haul of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in the garden, my lovely scented rose bush is back in flower, and the orange lupin is flowering for the third time – I didn’t know this was possible! Another splash of orange in the garden comes from the carnations I planted a few years ago. Back in the spring, I moved them to a different spot, in a raised bed by a sunny wall, and they are thriving.

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Second-time-around rose, and lupin in third flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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September carnations. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned the Japanese anemones in my last garden post back in August. They have gone from strength to strength, and I think this year is the first time they have grown en masse to create such an impactful display under the apple tree.

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Japanese Anemones under apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another month. I wish you well over the coming days, and look forward to sharing a recipe with you next time around. Until then, my best wishes to you.

Runner bean and pesto fritters (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Runner bean fritters. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you have had a good few days. I can hardly believe that it is September already! We have had a fine few days of weather this last week, and the garden dried out enough to get gardening again. It felt good to be outside once again.

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Runner beans 2020. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

At the end of my last post I mentioned that I was about to tackle a glut of runner beans. It has been perfect conditions for a bumper harvest this summer: plenty of rain intermixed with sunshine and warmth. The bean vines are still looking very lush and healthy, and there has been a second flush of flowers which means, if the weather holds, I should be picking beans for a while longer.

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Fresh basil pesto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from enjoying runner beans as an accompaniment to meals, so far I have a couple of bags in the freezer for eating later on in the year. I seldom do anything else, although leftover cold beans make a great salad ingredient – click here for a delicious runner bean salad I posted last year. This week’s recipe gives runner beans a leading role. I hope you enjoy the fritters, they are crisp and delicious, and for a little extra effort, I would suggest making your own pesto. I am very proud of my basil plant. It is thriving in the greenhouse; the leaves have a strong, peppery bite. The quantity below will make enough for this recipe. If you double or triple it you can freeze the remainder in small batches. It will also keep for a couple of weeks sealed tight in a jar in the fridge.

Vegan pesto: put a peeled garlic clove in a small food processor with 15g basil leaves, 60g unsalted nuts such as pistachio, pine nuts or almonds (I used a combination of all 3), a pinch of salt, 50ml extra virgin olive oil and 30g grated hard vegan cheese. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth, and that’s it. Pesto perfecto! This combination makes a thick pesto which is perfect for this recipe, but add extra oil to taste for a looser pasta sauce.

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Preparing and cooking runner beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have found that strips of bean work well in this recipe. The batter has a larger surface area to cling on to and cooks really crisply. Peel the sides of the beans using a vegetable peeler and remove the stalk end. If you have a bean slicer, push them through that, otherwise, slice them as thinly as you can. Steam them over simmering water for 5 minutes, then cool in cold water and drain well. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Now, let’s get on with the recipe.

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Fritters and pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 8

Ingredients

  • 50g polenta
  • 75g gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, finely ground (I use a coffee grinder)
  • 3 tbsp pesto sauce – see recipe above
  • 120ml dairy-free milk
  • 75ml aqua fava (bean or chickpea canning water)
  • 225g cooked runner beans
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Vegan mayonnaise
  1. Put the polenta, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Mix together and make a well in the centre. 
  2. Mix the flax seeds with 3 tbsp cold water and leave to stand for about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into the well.
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    Preparing fritter batter and flax egg. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the pesto sauce and milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the aqua fava to a stiff foam and then gently fold into the batter. Finally, carefully stir in the beans, making sure they are well covered. Adding_homemade_pesto_and_whisked_aqua_fava_to_fritter_batter
    Folding_in_whisked_aqua_fava_and_runner_beans_into_fritter_batter
    Adding pesto, whisked aqua fava and the beans. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    5. Pour sufficient oil into a large deep frying pan or wok to a depth of about 3cm and heat to 180ºC. Fry bundles of beans in batter in batches of 3 or 4, turning in the oil, for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. You should be able to make 8 fritters with this quantity. Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm until ready to serve.

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    Cooking the fritters. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    6. To serve, mix 1 part pesto to 2 parts vegan mayonnaise and serve with the fritters accompanied with fresh tomatoes. Scatter with fresh basil and runner bean flowers, if liked.

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    Fritters with homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and homemade pesto mayo. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Use this batter with ribbons of courgette or carrot instead – lightly steam them first. Leave out the pesto if you prefer, or simply add grated vegan cheese to the batter and some chopped chives, shredded leek or spring onion.

    Until next time, take care and best wishes 🙂