Monthly Archives: September 2010

Greenhouse Glory

It’s been a miserable start to Autumn, not much sun around, but the greenhouse keeps producing a bounty of wonderful colours.

The tomatoes are still ripening, there’s around 30 more left on the plants. The peppers are now coming good, these orange ones are Etiuda, along with Cayenne and Scotch Bonnet chillies.

The Californian Wonder are starting to turn red at last.

And my solitary Scotch Bonnet, bought as a tiny plant from B&Q for 21p in the spring, is still going strong. I’ve been learning about the heat of these chillies which is measured on the Scoville Scale. Up until now I’ve grown Cayenne which register between 30,000 and 50,000 on the scale whereas Scotch Bonnet are between 100,000 and 325,000, not ones to try raw then! Good for homemade curries though!

Don’t forget my Foraging Free Giveaway Competition, just leave a comment to be included in the draw.

Curry of the Week #2

Last week was an easy to make medium-spiced Chick Pea and Mushroom curry. This week is probably my favourite home-made recipe by the Queen of Curry Madhur Jaffrey from her 2001 book “Foolproof Indian Cookery” (BBC). Beef Madras – we’ve stepped up a level in complexity, heat, and breadth of ingredients with this one but trust me it’s worth it.

2lb of good quality beef stewing steak (you can use pork or lamb shoulder meat just cook for 1hr instead of 1 1/2 hours)
400ml can of coconut milk
1tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
10 fenugreek seeds
4 cloves
4 hot dried red chillies
6 tbsp olive or groundnut oil
2 onions, very finely chopped
1 tsp very finely grated fresh root ginger
2 tsp crushed garlic
3-4 hot green chillies
2 large tomatoes, very finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt

1. Put the peppercorns, coriander, fennel & fenugreek seeds, cloves and dried chillies into a cast iron frying pan over a medium heat until they go a shade darker and start to give off a lovely spicy aroma. Leave to cool then grind to a powder.
2. Pour the oil into a wide non-stick pan over a medium heat (I use a wok), cook the onions until they soften and turn brown at the edges. Add the ginger, garlic and green chillies and stir for 20 seconds. Add the meat and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ground roasted spices, salt and cocunut milk and bring to the boil. (as the beef cooks for longer add a little water as well).
3. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. Then take the lid off and boil away the liquid until you get it to the stage of a sauce which is just clinging to the tender meat.

This one will mature nicely in the fridge overnight or freeze for a quick curry next time you get the craving!

Garnish with coriander, serve with rice and/or breads. Perfect!

First Brew

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to start brewing my own beer. I want to have a proper go at it when the garden jobs have wound down for the winter but I’m not quite there yet getting the stuff together and having the time to give it the right level of attention. So against my better judgement I thought I’d give one of the cheap kits a try. Now I’ve been warned off them but with a weekend away with some friends from uni looming I thought it was a good opportunity to get some cheap homebrew on the go. Then I can see for myself whether or not these kits are any good.

Rather than waste my money on one of the more expensive kits between £20 and £25 I went for one at £12, an English Bitter kit, made by an Australian company, Coopers, one of their International Series. Uhhm not sure that was a good idea but what’s the worst that can happen? A few hours wasted and £12 down the drain.

First I sterilised the bucket, spatula and hydrometer in baby sterilising fluid. About an hour later I gave it a good rinse out and started the brew. I dissolved the contents of the can and a kilo of sugar in 2 litres of boiling water and then topped up with cold water to the 20 litre mark. Not sure about whether I should have added the sugar as the instructions just say dissolve contents of the can and any additional fermenting sugars. Oh well, I’ll soon find out if that’s right. Then I gave it a mix and checked the temperature which should ideally be between 21 and 27 degrees centigrade. It was 17 so I then topped up to 23 litres with hot water (got to 25 degrees), took the specific gravity reading (which is the original gravity, OG) and bunged the yeast in. The OG was 1030, is that good? I have no idea…….

According to the instructions temperature control through the fermentation process is important so I’m keeping mine between 21 and 27 degrees with an electric heating wrap (when my friend finds his, for the meantime an ordinary blanket will have to do). The bucket is covered with a clean cloth and the lid sat on top, not sealed, to allow the gas to escape but hopefully nothing nasty to get inside. The bucket went into the outhouse with a blanket wrapped round it to try and keep it warm enough for the yeast to do its thing.

Then I’ll leave for 5 days and check the specific gravity readings for a couple of days to see if I have a steady reading which will be the final gravity (FG). Well that’s what the instructions say anyway!

The formula for working out the final alcoholic content of the brew is (OG-FG)/7.46 + 0.5 = % alcohol by volume (ABV). I’d hope to get somewhere around the 4 % mark. Adding 0.5 into the formula is to reflect the addition of priming sugar for secondary fermentation (the bit at the bottling stage). So if I have an FG of say 1006 that means I should have an ABV of 3.7%.

So there it is, one brew on the go in about an hour. It should make around 40 pints, fingers crossed it won’t be 40 pints of cat pee!

This morning I knew virtually nothing about brewing beer, now I know a tiny bit more. The next step will be to get this lot bottled up and see what it’s like in a month or so. Then I want to move away from kits and onto better things when I have a bit more time on my hands. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Foraging Guide Book Giveaway Competition

With Autumn now well and truly underway we’ve taken our first tentative steps into the world of foraging. To celebrate this new pastime I’ve got one of the classic guide books to give away. “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey, an illustrated guide to over 100 edible plants, berries, mushrooms, seaweed and shellfish, was first published in 1972 and is probably the best known guide book in its field. And the great thing is it’s pocket-sized, easy to take with you when you’re out and about.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, my daughter Chloe will draw a winner in a couple of weeks time, and I’ll post it out. Totally free, as simple as that. I look forward to hearing from you!

Curry of the Week

As part of my blog diversification over the winter months here’s a new feature…..curry of the week. Combining two of my favourite things, cooking and curries. So a nice easy one to start with, about half an hour from start to finish, 10 minutes prep and 20 minutes cooking time. From one of my curry recipe books “100 Best Balti Curries, Authentic Dishes from the Baltihouses” by Diane Lowe and Mike Davidson (Pavillion Books 1994) which evokes memories of my student days at Wolverhampton Poly and the odd trip to the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham, the Balti Belt!

Chick Pea and Mushroom Bhuna Balti – serves 4 (or 2 large helpings) and is medium spiced. And you don’t have to have a Nigella-sized larder cupboard to have these ingredients about your kitchen!

1 large can of chick peas (drain but keep the liquid)
6 oz button mushrooms, sliced
6 tbsp vegetable oil ( I normally put in half this and use olive oil)
2 onions, chopped
1 fresh chilli, chopped
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
Spices – 1 tsp curry powder, 1tsp turmeric powder, 1/2tsp ground coriander, 1/2tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander and a little extra garam masala for garnish

Heat the oil in a wok on a moderate heat and fry the onions until they are starting to brown. Add the tomatoes and chilli for about 3 minutes until they are starting to soften and then add the chick peas, reserved liquid and spices. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt to taste and cook for a further two minutes or so. Then serve in a bowl with Naan bread (or with rice, whatever you prefer). Garnish with coriander and garam masala.


Harvest Festival

Some of my veg took centre stage at a local Harvest Festival this weekend in a lovely display arranged by a friend at All Saints church in Whiteparish, near Salisbury. The chillies, courgettes, celery, aubergine, squash and runner beans are all from the plot and after the festival the local WI souped the ingredients from the displays in aid of various charities. Good to see the spare veg going to a good cause!

The House of Orange

It’s all things orange this week on the veg plot. The peppers are finally ripening, a variety called Etiuda, which turn a lovely orange colour.

And for the first time I’m growing Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers.

Last but not least another first for me, pumpkins, these are Rouge Vif d’Etamps grown from seeds Maureen kindly sent me.