Monday, 31 August 2015

Kale for the Freezer

It was the turn of the Kale plants in the polytunnel to be stripped of almost all of their leaves yesterday.

Once again I set up my little production line of wash, drain, cook, drain, plunge into iced water, drain and then squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

The difference with kale is that I blanch it for a couple of minutes in a panful of boiling water, just small batches so that it stays boiling and keeps the production line moving.  I love kale's water-proofness when you first wash it to remove all the little critters that have set up home there.  It bobs to the surface and needs to be held under.  But in the boiling water it sinks a little more satisfactorily.

I used the scalded out washing up bowl for the iced water but this time rather than a small bowl, and it sped up the process a bit.  Kale is sturdier than spinach and it sat happily in the iced water for the ten or fifteen minutes it took me to get all of the harvested leaves processed.

Once drained, and spun in the salad spinner I laid all the leaves on a clean tea towel and rolled it up tightly.

Then I peeled all the leaves off and shared them out between half a dozen small tubs ...

... ready to go straight into the freezer.

I have portioned them up ready for one of my favourite meals, which is simple Pasta and Pesto with Kale.  I simply drop the frozen Kale block into the pasta water when the pasta is five minutes away from being cooked, to quickly defrost and cook it, once cooked the pasta and the kale are strained together through a colander, put into a serving dish and a spoonful or two of Pesto is stirred through.  I add a sprinkle of Pine nuts if I have them, or chopped Almonds if I haven't, and you have a speedy, tasty meal on the table in the time it takes to boil the pasta. 

I might have a go at some Kale Crisps with the next batch I harvest, first I have to wait for the plants to produce some more of their wonderfully rich, nutritious leaves.  Has anyone else tried to do them and was it successful ?

Sue xx

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Drinking in the View

Last night we went out for a meal.  

It seemed fitting to end this month long holiday from Lovely Hubby's day job with a treat and a little bit of time away from the old homestead.  After a wonderful meal at Osbornes, followed by a dessert for Lovely Hubby and a coffee for me we crossed over the road, and in the slight chill of the August evening air we sat and drank in the view.

We are lucky to live so close to such a lovely place.  We make the most of it and bring the dogs in at least a couple of times a week.  We walk along the promenade, and even occasionally share a bag of chips.  With dogs you are slightly safer from the seagulls, without any furry friends at your side you stand a very good chance of being dive-bombed and robbed of your tasty treat.

I've met and talked to blog readers on this prom, chatted with pensioners holidaying alone and had far too many doggy inspired conversations to mention.  It's a wonderful, sociable, occasionally busy but always calming place.  To come and drink in the sea air does more for me than any bottle of wine, slice of cake or spa day ever could.

As I said we are so lucky.

Sue xx

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Spinach Balls ......

It was the turn of the Spinach to be harvested yesterday.  

Just the leaves that were nice and big, the rest of the plants are still in their bed in the polytunnel and by next week there will be enough to do an action replay.  That's the beauty of Perpetual Spinach, if I'm nice to the plants they will continue to produce for a long time yet, and I am nice to them, I've been giving them lots of lovely plant food and fresh compost went down around them yesterday to help them recover from this brutal stripping of all their assets  :-)

The stems were cut off, and made a tasty snack for the chickens ....  I'm very good to those chickens,  as swapping spinach stems for fresh free range eggs seems like a very good deal to me.  The leaves were all washed, shook a bit and then popped straight into a pan in batches.  The water left on the leaves is enough to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan until they release some of their own juices.

After about three minutes they were pretty wilted so I scooped them from the pan and plunged straight into iced water to halt the cooking process.  With dark green leaves doing this means that they will keep their rich green colour while in the freezer and it also stops them from overcooking.

Once cooled, I squeezed out as much of the excess water as I could ...

... and then sat the spinach balls on some kitchen paper to drain even more.

After a few minutes they were put onto a lined tray and put into the freezer to open freeze.  This only took a couple of hours and then they were put into a bag.  Next week hopefully a second batch will join them.

And all the juices left in the pan after cooking and in the bowl after squeezing the balls was used a vegetable stock.  I simply added a couple of handfuls of 'soup mix' with some extra lentils, brought it all to the boil and  simmered it for half an hour, and we had a big bowlful of Vegetable Broth each for lunch.

Next the Kale ......  :-)

Sue xx

Friday, 28 August 2015

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Possibly the most boring photo I've started a blog post with, but we are so relieved to finally have the roof of the garage/workshop complete I had to show it.  The floor was poured yesterday and up to now the only 'person' to walk on it has been Suky .... it's a good job she lost that weight recently!!

The workman worked unbelievably slowly on the roof, if they worked for my company they would be warned about their work ethic.  Knocking off early on lovely sunny days when the forecast the next day was dire, long breaks, long lunches, long telephone conversations etc etc, they drove me mad. 

But, looking on the bright side, it's done now AND the windows  have been installed in the workshop, with only one after-fitting call needed to fix one of them that wouldn't close.  You'd think they would have checked that before they left wouldn't you.

I'll stop whinging now I'm reminding myself of Victor Meldrew!!

The walls up the driveway and the gateposts are all finished.  We picked up the stones that sit on the top the other day direct from the quarry in Trefor, they look brilliant and we can't wait to sit our little ornamental tops in place, there is just one more coat of black paint needed on them before they will have pride of place at the entrance to make us and our guests smile on arrival.

As you can see from the bottom right of this photo our new front bed behind the wall is almost ready for planting, hopefully we will be able to crack on with that tomorrow.  We are moving some of the shrubs over from the other bed at the front of the house as i is all getting a bit overcrowded in there.  We will also use all the potted plants that have been sitting on the patio in the new bed to make the patio area less cluttered for over Winter and save us having to buy any more plants.

So at last there is light at the end of the tunnel with all the building work, we still have to paint the inside of the building, clad the outside of it in wood, as agreed on the planning permission, and get the solar panels installed.  This is the one company that have really let us down.  Work was supposed to start on fitting the solar system last week, but it will be at least another four weeks before they have all the component parts of the system in stock let alone installed.

Oooh .... I was almost whinging again ;-)

On a happier note, and you have to be happy with the colours of these lovely cherry tomatoes don't you, the tomato plants are still providing us with lots of lovely fruit.  This little lot are going to be turned into a big batch of Tomato, Chilli and Courgette soup, destined for one meal at lunchtime tomorrow and then the remainder will be popped into the freezer.  

Everything I make at the moment has courgettes (or mini marrows) in ..... I will make full use of all of them, I will, I will  :-)

Also frozen yesterday were these lovely little chillies.

First open frozen, and then bagged and put back into the freezer.  I used a big bag because the plant has lots more that will be ripening over the next few days and I can add to the bag as and when I cut them off.

The net tunnel now has doors on it and the beds are almost full of a soil, 6 Ex and compost mix which means I can spring into action and get some overwintering crops planted in there,  and once pruned and re-potted the Blueberry bushes will move into there too.

Sue xx

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Gifts, Treats and the Smallest Harvest

We were away at the weekend, spending time with Lovely Hubby's sister, meeting for the first time her wonderful new boyfriend and taking time out to visit the Edinburgh Fringe.  We had a great time, and after a long drive back we arrived home to a parcel on the doorstep.

What a treat, this one didn't contain ANY live worms, it had some brilliant little thoughtful pressies for me from a lovely blog reader who had a 'saw this and thought of you' moment when she spotted the Pug socks and the green lidded pots while out and about. 

Thank you Veronique for the lovely presents, and for the fact that you thought of me when you spotted them in the shops.  Getting home to find them waiting for me made a wonderful weekend even better.

We don't go much for souvenirs when we are out and about, unless of course they are useful to us and what we're doing.  

But this time I bought a 'honey dipper', which Lovely Hubby will be replicating over and over once his workshop is up.  It will go well as a small item to sell alongside our home produced honey in the next couple of years, and I didn't have one for myself so I get to use it  :-)   

 Lovely Hubby treated himself to a 'man-sized' mug featuring the cuts of pork on a pig, obviously this will remind him what to do when he is butchering our own pork further down the line, and well I can't resist Pug cards, they are so useful to have in stock for when I'm writing to everyone that knows my love of Pugs.

The smallest harvest up to now this year has to be the Blueberries.  

After last years success with the three bushes which have kept us supplied until just recently, this years harvest is a huge disappointment.  Although we have had lots of berries on all three bushes this year, the two big plants were stripped while the berries were still green by the birds, I quickly moved the smaller one to near the house to let the berries ripen in the sun where I could keep an eye on them.

   I'm starting to wonder whether the birds and small animals know that we are in for a hard Winter,  as the squirrels too are stripping the Plum tree that is in Chicken World while the plums are still green and taking them away to store.

Do they know something we don't ?

To give you an indication of the small size of the Blueberry tub, here it is on the chopping board with my small knife.

Ah well, you win some you lose some .....  and the little creatures have to eat too.

Sue xx