Gardening 101. Do not, do not turn your back on the summer garden plot. Himself and I took a five-day break and the veggies threw a party.
Cos lettuces bolted to seed. Cucumber had a marrow growing competition with the zucchini. Pineapple sage bush transformed into a monster. Runner beans did a vertical sprint. Vine ripened tomatoes got saucy. Yellow quinces just wanted to carpet the grass. And the chooks fell in love with the red juicy tomatoes and grubbing among the green herbs.
Vine ripened tomatoes
Chickens have taken to eating tomatoes
Cos lettuce go to seed
Lebanese cucumber oversized
This cook has the last say. Olive oil, oregano, black pepper and roast slowly in the oven for about one hour. Slip the skins off when cooled. Use as required. I freeze the pulp in meal lots to use with pasta dishes at a later time.
“Is chutney a savoury jam, or is jam a sweet chutney?”
The answer according to New Zealand foodwriter, the late Digby Law on page 11 of his Pickle and Chutney Cookbook (reprinted in 1992), my go-to recipe book for many years, is that chutney is a savoury jam. Chutneys, cooked or uncooked, savoury or sweet, add great flavour bursts to many dishes.
Earlier this morning, while it was still cool enough to work in the kitchen, I processed ripe tomatoes picked last night to make Tomato Chutney using a tried and true recipe. Himself thinks it “smells good”. When preparing tomatoes, I always scald the fruit with boiling water and remove the skins. I used white sugar, which gives the chutney a lighter colour, simply because I had no brown sugar in my pantry.
Overnight it seemed, the cucumbers became my new garden triffids, too big to make dill pickles. Flip to page 30 of Law’s cookbook and I note I can use 3kg of peeled cucumbers to make a light, refreshing chutney. Vegetables are now salted and standing in a glass bowl until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, back in the garden, the Mangere Pole beans were soaking up the morning sunshine after drinking up lots of rain yesterday. About midday, I picked one bucket load. Back in the kitchen, the beans were topped ‘n tailed, sliced, blanched in boiling water, drained, plunged into cold water, drained, dried, sealed in large, labelled ziplock plastic bags then put into the freezer 30 minutes after being picked.
How fresh is this?
Mangere Pole Beans
Tonight’s meal will be extra special. 9-year old grandson harvested his very first cucumber off the plant grown from seed he sowed. He loves snacking on the small short green cucumbers. The first vegetable he picked did not make it to the kitchen, it was too full of sunshine and rain, juicy and crunchy, crisp and refreshing on a summer day. A second cucumber had to be picked. Tonight, he will slice some to add to his Kiwi lamb hamburger. He wants to grate the remainder to mix with yoghurt to make a dip, he has seen me do this. My cooking is strongly influenced by Arabic dishes and flavours I enjoyed when I lived in the Middle East.
After lunch today, we ceremoniously picked the first of the firm, shiny, yellow chillies he also grew from seed. He was adamant he wanted to eat a fresh chilli. I insisted I taste test first to check its level of heat. Back in the kitchen, I showed him how to scrape the seeds and how to handle the chilli to avoid mouth tingling or burning sensation. He and 7-year old brother declared they now love chillies. Grandson wants to add chopped yellow chilli to the cucumber yoghurt mixture. This has the makings of a tasty dip. My thinking is that I should make a flat bread with chickpea flour and cumin seeds as it will go well with the dip and with a vegetarian stew I am slow cooking.
Eggplant and chickpeas and are staple pantry items. Mindful of the dietary needs of an adult diabetic in the household, I am make a second main dish using a recipe Spiced Eggplant Stew with Roasted Pepper And Sundried Tomato Coulis posted by cookingforthetimechallenged in her blog. I added strips of char-grilled yellow and red peppers and a chopped courgette picked from the plant this morning. Leftover stew is great for lunch the next day.
Imagine their excitement as both grandsons made their greatest discovery. Sprawling over the garden bed, hidden under the foliage, are glossy green watermelons, round like footballs, heavy with juice.
Nothing, not even chocolate self-saucing pudding will beat this fruity dessert