Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nature's bounty and that

I started the weekend seriously depressed. The reasons for this are entirely rational - worrying about a pile of stuff which were sensible to worry about but which I couldn't resolve - but as usual I took this as an opportunity to beat myself up for not being a particularly practical person. Which I'm not, I have to hold my hands up. Mind you, I must have had my moments: every so often I'll look at something about the house and wonder how on earth I did it (the hall mirror being a case in point - six foot by four, plate glass on oak frame, mounted on the wall single-handedly by my own fair hand). Sigh...

Yesterday I cheered up modestly. A pair of problems I was concerned about are determined to turn a scary incident into a jokey anecdote (I wonder where I get that habit from?)

I picked a few apples and plums from my parents' garden for them. Coming home I had a nosey round and took a few pounds of nuts off the hazel bush. Technically they're cobnuts, I suppose. I like hazel nuts picked in the green when you can crack the shells with your teeth and fingers and the kernels are white and moist and rich in oil. The best thing you can do with them in this state is to just crack and eat, though they'll go well enough with a decent salad, especially if you include a few bitter herbs such as rocket or chicory. Later on, when the shells are brown and woody, they're great toasted lightly on a dry frying pan. This brings on the flavour, which is great for making pastes, dips and sauces.

Quick recipe that works well with hazelnuts or walnuts.
(Quantities are extremely approximate!)

Toast the nuts lightly in a pan. Let them cool down a bit. Dump them into a food processor. Add some garlic - depending on your taste, one or two cloves per handful of nuts. Add roughly a tablespoon or two of not-very-expensive olive oil. Whizz until smooth. Empty into a container you can cover and stick it in the fridge to let the flavours mellow. Eat it tomorrow with some nice bread and a decent strong cheese. It doesn't keep long.
If you want, you could add stoned green olives to the mix before processing - a one-to-one ratio of olives and nuts gives you an interesting paste.

I noticed last night that the figs were colouring up and, much to my delight, I find that despite the lousy weather I have half a dozen of them ripe. Splendid.

Feeling a bit chipper I had a nosy round the bottom of the garden and discovered that I was wrong to be disappointed with the damson this year. It had flowered well but I couldn't see more than just a couple of scabby articles of fruit. I discovered that one branch, well back in the lee of a big rose bush, was absolutely chocablock with fruit, so I've taken a couple of pounds off for now. I do like damsons: they're a bit rough-and-ready and extremely sour straight from the tree but they make superb jams and sauces. I like them simply washed and halved and fried in the pan with a Cumberland sausage. Besides which, I like the wildness of a damson tree, it appeals to the romantic in me.

The final treat was to find that a bramble I'd missed was fully in delicious fruit. The fruit was picked and the bramble plucked. It's not so bad when even the weeds are productive.

Now then... where were those elderberries?


Gaw said...

'Not a particularly practical person'! It sounds as if you could give that Ray Mears a run for his money. And that idiot sloaney chef who cooks wild things, having killed them with incessant braying, too (not the nice HF-W, the other one).

Lulu LaBonne said...

Any idiot can hang a door - but walnut and olive paste - a man who'd make that and hand it to me on a piece of toast I would consider him the sexiest thing in the world.

Damson Gin - that's what I do with mine.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I agree that getting out in the garden is the best way to dispel the blues. We're currently being showered with plums and pears from our neighbours' trees (those they're not gathering to make ţuică with, at any rate). And my heirloom tomotoes have grown enormous in this summer of alternating hot sun and rain inundations. Campsis still healthy and we hope for flowers next year. You can grow figs in your part of the world?? Winters too cold here, sadly. Kevin, are you an expert at all on rockreies?

Scarlet-Blue said...

So what was the scary incident?
I'm pleased the nuts and plums cheered you up. Works for me.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Gareth: thanks! You over-estimate my powers.

Lulu: with my love life cooking's about as much as I can muster. A rumpot with a strong brown rum is good too, I'm told.

Gadjo: sounds good and productive! Our local not-quite-maritime climate's good for growing fig trees but not so good for ripening figs. I've had about a dozen over the past eight years. I've got it in a large pot in a sheltered corner next to the house.

I shan't claim to be expert on rockeries but I do like them and have dabbled.

Scarlet: it involved elderly parents, three fire engines, an amblance and a police car. And a shower. And a jug of water.

savannah said...

oh my, sugar, but did y'all have a chance to take some pictures? ;~D xoxox

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ah yes, the fig trees but no figs scenario - the leaves are appealing but I have enough shade already.

I built a boffo little rockery with rocks we nicked from the river, good drainage, and proper planting mixture with peat and grit and stuff. It's been aflood with colour this year with the portulacas I cultivated, but I'd like to try some more truly "Alpiney" things; it can occasionally get down to -20C here - though lack of wind doesn't make it feel that cold - do you have experience with any rockery plants that I could grow (and bearing in mind there may not be much of a covering of snow to keep them snug)? Cheers.

Madame DeFarge said...

Kev - I think I would marry you for your garden. It sounds a delight.

inkspot said...

Come on Kevin, give us a bit of cuisine dangereuse with nearly fresh roadkill and random mushrooms.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Savannah: I want to imagine my dad doesn't carry his camera when he's helping my mum in the shower (this being the item that burst into flames while in use).

Gadjo: The drainage is the thing. Some of the sandworts (Arenaria) are nice and tough as old boots (I had a beauty growing in a window box with the bottom hanging out of it during the fierce winter of 81/2). Thrift (Armeria) is a do-er and I'm seen it carpeting the rocks in Aberdeenshire, which isn't known for its clement weather. And I'd definitely try some of the dwarf campanulas and the various alpine pinks. And you can plant crocuses underneath all these, to poke up and be supported by the tussocks of foliage. A lot of the best species come from the lands where the Ottoman met the Turk.

You might also want to have a play with the RHS Plant Selector.

Madame DF: ah... bless you lady. I paint a gloss on it, as always.

Inky: I used to work with a bloke who once tried roadkill cuisine. He hit a roe deer and decided that it would do as a Sunday lunch or two. He took it home and got the full frontiersman eperience as his wife made him bury the remains in the garden and he slept in the shed that night.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Thanks, Kev, I'm satisfied that I've built in good drainage and won't get waterlogged. I fancy the Armeria and the alpine pinks. But as it's a scale model of The Matterhorn I also have to try a gentian, G. Verna, which I'm hoping to raise from seed. And Lewisia in sideways cracks for a laugh and Pleione if I can find them. Your expert comments are always welcome as currently I have little access to others :-) Wow, useful RHS site, that.