17 November 2012

Chestnuts roasting*

There aren't that many stores that sell chestnuts here, so when I see them I can't resist the temptation. I have fond family memories of Dad roasting chestnuts in an old biscuit tin over an open fire and everyone burning their fingers as they cracked off the outer layers of the nuts to get at the sweet brain-shaped meat within.

 I hadn't tried cooking them on the wood-burning stove before, but it worked fine: it took longer than the directly-over-the-flame method (about 20 minutes, turning the chestnuts occasionally) but there's less chance of burning them, this way.

And in considerably less than 20 minutes, all that was left was the furry, woody debris.

*Apologies if you have Nat King Cole crooning in your head for the rest of the day.

11 November 2012

Early-morning light show

I really didn't feel like taking the dog for a walk this morning, even though the weather was mild and it looked as though the sun was going to put in an appearance (always a bonus in November). But my diligence was rewarded by two lovely views in opposite directions from the same standpoint.

Looking west, there was a rainbow fragment and (barely visible here) a skein of geese high in the sky:

While to the south and east the sun was rising; drawing a light mist from last night's rain.

10 November 2012

Fried wontons

I'm not sure what it is about early November and fiddly Chinese food, but I decided to make wontons again this weekend, just as I did on the same weekend in 2010. Last time I steamed them, but as it wasn't a fasting day today (and as our new way of eating has been going so well), I decided to fry them this time.

The filling was a finely-chopped mixture of some of our winter vegetables: red and white cabbage, a carrot, red onion and two cloves of garlic, with a few mushrooms and some fresh ginger, salt and pepper. I put them all through the food processor which was very quick to do and created a fairly uniform dark purple paste.

A teaspoon of that mixture was put into the centre of each wonton wrapper, then the wrapper is moistened with water and folded in half over the filling:

and the two 'wings' of the hypotenuse are curved inwards to make a sort of dinner-napkin shape:

Child#2 and I got quite a good little production-line going (there were over 50 wrappers to fill) - this kind of fiddly food works really well when there is more than one person and it's easy for kids to do.

We covered the base of a frying pan with sunflower oil to the depth of a millimetre or two, then heated it over a medium heat for five minutes until it was suitably hot. We fried the wontons in batches of eight for a minute or two on each side, until they were golden brown.

The dipping sauce was a mixture of vinegar and soy with a crushed garlic clove in it. If I make these again I'd add a bit more heat to the vegetable mixture itself: these were a bit bland for my taste. They needed a chilli or two in the mix!

05 November 2012

Sandy damage

The hurricane which affected New York and New Jersey so badly last week had an impact here, too. We didn 't lose any trees, as far as we know, but one of the greenhouse panels was blown out by the force of the wind.

It was supposed to drop cold last night, possibly cold enough to kill off the more tender greenhouse plants. In anticipation of that I harvested a lot of the remaining peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.

Then we got to work to fill the gap in the side wall. We don't have any of the plastic panelling left, so we painted a sheet of plywood with preservative and put that up instead.

Having done all that, the temperature only dropped to 0°C last night and the plants would have been fine anyway. But tonight we are promised -6°C/21°F and I"m glad we are prepared.

04 November 2012

A bit of a rant and some greens

All the family went out for a meal last night to celebrate Mike's birthday. I was looking forward to trying one of the 'Countylicious' menus at local restaurants. This is a month-long celebration of the County's 'culinary community', according to the initiative's website - it's basically designed to tempt people out to local restaurants in the slack season between the end of summer and the Christmas party rush. It's been running for a few years but this is the first time we'd got organised enough to try it.

And I have to say that I was disappointed with the meal I had. The meat was local, but the vegetables were anything but fresh, local, and seasonal: asparagus in November and some carrots and broccoli that looked suspiciously like they'd come from a packet of frozen veg. With farm stands still selling fresh vegetables in the County: root crops, leeks, cabbages, squashes, there's simply no excuse for a restaurant claiming to be celebrating local food to be serving up frozen vegetables at this time of year.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Brussels sprout plants have been refusing to produce any actual sprouts, despite looking green and healthy. I think the weather conditions this year just haven't been right for the formation of sprouts. I don't like to think that I've grown a vegetable which is producing nothing worth eating, so instead of vainly hoping for some sprouts to appear at this late period of the year, I'm focusing instead on those healthy green leaves and am harvesting those.

I've not picked or cooked Brussel tops before, so this was a bit of an experiment. I cut out the stems, shredded the greens and then lightly braised them with a clove or two of garlic in a little butter and water, finished with some freshly ground pepper and a little salt.

They made a tasty and brightly green side dish to our Sunday lunch of local lamb cooked with  herbs, onions, carrots, potatoes and parsnips, all from our garden. Even those who would refuse to eat sprouts were willing to consume them. If we can eat these seasonal, local crops at our own table, I'm sure that restaurants claiming to support County growers can do the same thing.

01 November 2012

Foraging for fungi

I've been picking Shaggy Ink Caps from the front garden in the last week or two. It's very satisfying to be able to pick some of your breakfast from the lawn!

In the last week I spotted another type of fungus growing in the orchard grass. Well, it wasn't hard to spot, really, being about 10 inches in diameter. But I have no idea what this one is. Have you?