Country Living Blog from Herne Cottage

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Summery Moroccan Chicken with Harissa Vegetables 10/08/2011

This dish is a perfect lighter roast for summery Sundays, preferably when it’s a good enough day to eat al fresco. You can get most of the ingredients in a good supermarket such as Waitrose or specialist markets and even health food stores. Maroque is also a very good website for Moroccan ingredients and kitchenware. Sumac is an unusual spice made from red berries often used in Middle Eastern cuisine. I will be posting a recipe later too for how to make your own preserved lemons so watch this space!!

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 medium – large whole chicken
1 preserved lemon, quartered
1 tsp Sumac
Generous pinch of Saffron
2 tbsp good Olive oil
1 tsp coarse Sea Salt
2 tbsp Harissa Paste
French green beans (as many as you like!)
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1 sliced courgette

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Prepare the bird by rubbing the skin with Sumac, Saffron and sea salt. Into the cavity of the chicken add the preserved lemon quarters. Put the bird into a large roasting dish and drizzle with the olive oil (rubbing into the skin again if you wish).

Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until no pink meat left and the juices run clear. Take out of the oven and keep warm until ready to serve by wrapping in foil and placing a clean tea towel over the top. Carve when ready.

In the meantime prepare the vegetables. Blanch the green beans in boiling water for a few minutes, then take out and drain. Heat some olive oil in a large griddle pan and when hot add the the courgettes and cook for a few minutes. Then add the drained green beans, tomatoes and Harissa paste and stir to cover the veg with the paste and olive oil. Cook until courgette and green beans are browned and the tomatoes are just beginning to release their juices.

Serve with roasted or sautéed potatoes and a good chilled Rosé wine. Enjoy!

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Strawberry & Gooseberry Jam 19/06/2011

Here is a recipe for a lovely seasonal recipe of Strawberry & Gooseberry Jam. Perfect for using up a glut of home grown fruit, or from your local PYO farm (we are very lucky to have Grove Farm near us in Ivinghoe), or even from the supermarket. It doesn’t matter where you get the ingredients from really, as long as they are seasonal and fresh. The addition of gooseberries to this jam make for a slightly less sweet flavour and help the set as they have more pectin in them than strawberries alone. I have used and adapted an old WI recipe, and you can too depending on what you have available. Just remember equal amounts of sugar to fruit. Have fun!

Strawberry & Gooseberry Jam

Makes about 2.5 kg (5 lb)

750 g (1.5 lb) gooseberries
150 ml (1/4  pint water)
750 g (1.5 lb) strawberries (hulled)
1.5 kg (3 lb) sugar

Place the gooseberries and hulled strawberries in a perserving pan with water and cook gently until the fruit is soft and mushy. Remove from the heat.

Add the sugar and stir well until all dissolved (if not all dissolved the jam will crystalise in the jar later). Return to the heat, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 15 mins until setting point is reached*. Pour into warmed, sterilised jam jars, cover and label.

*To test for setting point I use the saucer method – just put some saucers into the fridge when you start cooking the jam, then when ready to test take the jam off the heat and spoon a teaspoon of jam onto the cold saucer. Put it back in the fridge for 60 seconds, take out and if the jam wrinkles when pushed with your finger, the setting point has been reached.

Strawberries and Gooseberries in the Preserving Pan

Strawberries and Gooseberries in the Preserving Pan

Strawberries and Gooseberries softening in the preserving pan

The fruit softening in the pan

Putting the strawberry and gooseberry jam into warmed jars

Putting the jam into warmed jars

The finished article - Yummy!

The finished article - Yummy!

 

June in the Kitchen Garden

Wow – what a lot of rain we’ve had this month. Still, it has been very good for our kitchen garden and encouraged it to grow rapidly (as well as the weeds – lots of frantic clearing needed yesterday!). It’s our first real month of proper harvesting and we’ve enjoyed lettuce, peas, mangetout and plently of strawberries so far. We also harvested the last of the Cavolo Nero (black kale) before the cabbage white butterflies have a chance to lay their eggs! The last of our self raised seedlings went in the ground and bigger pots (wherever there was room basically!), so we now have our runner beans, french beans courgettes and tomatoes well into full growth – along with everything else! The potatoes, beetroot, spinach and chard are growing well – and our artichokes are MASSIVE!! Shame you only get one per plant, but we have to say, they do look spectactular!! Will have to search italian recipe books for how to use these.

So how have we used all this harvest? Well, the lettuce speaks for itself and we’ve been enjoying lovely salad for lunches and dinners for most of the month. The Cavolo Nero went into a mushroom and cheese omelette, and we’ve been adding the few peas (if and when they make it to the kitchen!), to risottos, summer stews etc. Strawberries have been the best so far, and as well as having bowls of them with luscious double cream for dessert, Rachel has made the main harvest into jam today (see strawberry and gooseberry jam recipe here). They are still cropping too so we’re expecting more yet. Oh and we’ve had our first few raspberries and the redcurrants are ripening nicely too!

Our wild food foraging this month has been centered around the abundant crop of elderflowers there seem to have been this year. They are definitely the taste of summer as far as we are concerned, so we’ve made them into some Elderflower Cordial. This will give us a refreshing drink ingredient, or lovely syrup for those strawberries and some ice cream!

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading – do share your kitchen garden stories too and we’ll see you next month 🙂

Tomatoes in their little greenhouse on the patio

Tomatoes in their little greenhouse on the patio

Beautiful Cavolo Nero

Beautiful Cavolo Nero

Salad bed with round lettuce and lollo rosso in good growth

Salad bed with round lettuce and lollo rosso in good growth

First Raspberry!

First Raspberry!

Architectural Artichokes!!

Architectural Artichokes!!

Purple French Beans in Containers

Purple French Beans in Containers

First full punnet of strawberries

First full punnet of strawberries

Salad Harvest - Round Lettuce and Lollo Rosso

Salad Harvest - Round Lettuce and Lollo Rosso

 

We’re Back!! 08/06/2011

Hello again everyone!

Ok so no new posts for a while, for various reasons but mainly due to a lifestyle change and review since last Autumn. We’ve done a lot of planning and replanning along with some soul searching over the last year or so, reviewing our progress and re-evaluating as we go, to enable our self sufficiency dream to fit in with a lifestyle that we were comfortable with, but didn’t restrict us having a ‘normal’ life as well !!

Our vegetable garden continued to grow well for the rest of 2010, giving us a bumper harvest throughout the summer and autumn months. We also continued with the Jam and Chutney sales up until Christmas, mainly selling from Tring Farmers Market and sending off jars to friends and family. We got the chickens in towards the end of last summer and enjoyed lovely fresh eggs from them for a few months, along with some great company from truly unique characters! However towards the Autumn it became apparant for various reasons that we wouldn’t be able to fulfill the complete self sufficiency dream as had hoped, so decided to downsize our plans.

We decided to finish up with the jam and chutney sales at Christmas, and after a few problems with the chickens (and discovering not having enough time to able to care for them as much as we would have liked), we found a new adopted caring home for them also. The winter months were spent resting and reviewing, and we finally decided to still keep on a few aspects of our self sufficiency life this year. This is mainly concentrating on our vegetable and fruit growing, with just producing enough for ourselves that time would allow and still making jam, chutneyand other delicious recipes with our harvests, with the occasional craft project too!

At the time of writing, the garden this year is doing well and we have been harvesting lovely ripe strawberries for the last few weeks. It looks like some peas are ready too! We’ve also got spinach, french beans, runner beans, artichokes, courgettes and tomatoes growing too 🙂

The subject of this blog will therefore change to a more general ‘Country Living Lifestyle’. Having previously both been Townies, we are still thoroughly enjoying our new life in the country, along with the new experiences and challenges it brings. We would love to continue sharing them with you too 🙂

Have you got any exepriences you would like to share about living in the country? We would love to hear them and look forward to talking with you soon!

 

Handmade jam now on sale! 16/07/2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — hernegardens @ 5:25 pm
First jam now on sale

First jam now on sale

We are pleased to announce that we are attending our very first farmers market tomorrow armed with stock of our first batches of seasonal, fruity jam for sale!

We will be at Tring Farmer’s Market on Saturday 17th July from 9 am – 12.00 pm, Market Square, Tring. We have in stock Strawberry, Strawberry & Gooseberry, Raspberry and Blackcurrant jam.

The next dates at Tring will be 31st July, 14th August, 11th September and 25th September (which is a special harvest market).

Over the next few weeks, as the rest of the harvest becomes available, we will be adding to our collection a whole host of chutneys, jellies and other preserves. Also towards Christmas we hope to have other nature inspired gifts such as handmade soap, lavender pillows, cards and prints on our stalls. We will also be finding other markets to attend and will publish a full list of dates when we have them.

Online sales will also follow within the next few months, for those of you are not local but would still like to enjoy a taste of our jam and preserves!

We hope to see you at a market soon!!

Rachel & Philip xx

 

May & June 01/07/2010

Filed under: Fruit Growing,Self Sufficiency,Vegetable Patch — hernegardens @ 10:16 am

May and June are when the season really picks up, hence not much posting for a while! There has been loads to do in the veggie garden over the past few months mainly consisting of planting out, weeding, successional sowings and general looking after/tidying everything as we go.

The first tasks were to start earthing up our potatoes. This protects them from frost, which you can still get in May, and encourages them to produce more tubers. It was a bit of a task in our garden, as our soil is loamy, so doesn’t ‘pack’ well unless wet. So we settled for a combination of the soil, grass clippings, manure and home-made compost. We stopped when the plants were about 20 cm tall and after the risk of frost had passed in late May. We did have some frost damage to our plants, with crumpled black leaves, but they seemed to pick up once the weather got warmer in late May/June.

Broad beans and tomatoes need looking after during these months too. The growing tops of the broad beans need to be pinched out to stop pests settling and to encourage them to produce pods. Also, with tomatoes, it is important to pinch out the side shoots to encourage the main shoots to concentrate on producing fruit. Both of these relatively tall veg garden plants need staking and tieing in too, to help support their growth and to avoid them toppling over when they are heavy with fruit later in the year.

After the risk of frost had passed in late May, around the 23rd, we planted out our tender plants such as courgettes, squashes, french beans, tomatoes and runner beans. Our brassica plants raised from seed (kale, purple sprouting broccoli, brussell sprouts) also went out into the beds too, with a cardboard collar placed around the base of them to help avoid cabbage root fly settling. A netted cage was also put up around the brassica beds to protect from cabbage white butterfly later on. These are the butterflies that love laying eggs on brassicas, whose little green caterpillars will devour a complete crop in one fail swoop!

The rest of May and June was spent regularly watering, weeding and tieing in new growth regularly all to help and support the young plants’ growth. We aslo applied some of our home made nettle fertiliser made in March. This is diluted to about 1/5th in a watering can and just sprinkled on. We had massive cabbages and courgettes last year due to this excellent stuff! The weather certainly warmed up considerably in late June, so watering every day, sometimes twice a day was absolutely essential.

As for  new sowings, in late May we sowed more fennel, mangetout, sweetcorn, gardeners delight tomatoes and successional lettuce. At this time we also took some of our first cuttings from the flower beds, to help fill them later in the season. These were delphiniums, sedum, heliotrope (lovely one purchased from an open garden, ‘Princess Marina’). We dipped them in rooting powder, placed them in a pot of compost, then a plastic bag over the top and left them in the cold frame to do their stuff. After about 6 weeks we were happy to see they had indeed taken root, and then could fill the gaps in our borders! On that note, the borders have been doing excellently this year, with lupins coming through in early June, aquilegias, delphiniums, anemones, etc, then giving way to roses, campanula, sweet peas, mallow, hollyhocks, foxgloves, irises later in the month. For the rest of the summer we hope to see our dahlias, gladioli, helenium, echinacea, and sunflowers do well, giving us a blast of summer colour, and endless cut flowers to enjoy in the house! We also started to establish another summer bedding area at the entrance to the veggie garden, with some rudbeckia, our heliotrope and sedum cuttings, as well as a lovely purple aster.

In the fruit cage, things have been a bit hit and miss. The bad news first: one of our blueberry bushes has completely died and we just cannot fathom why. We have another one left though that is happily producing fruit, so we will have to investigate that before next year to avoid the same happening to the one that is left. Also the first fruit that came through on the currant bushes seems to have been nibbled – by something with big teeth! So we think either slugs or mice. We are not too worried about it this year as they are still young bushes and perhaps next year when they are more established, they may be able to fend off an attack much better, producing more fruits to replace those lost. Now for the good news: most of our new raspberry canes have come through, so we should have a good crop next year, the strawberries are regularly producing fruit (after being netted, and straw layed under them) and we have apples starting to swell. The sloe bushes seem to all be doing well too, and we will have a good crop of damsons from the trees we have running along the railway siding (some gin or jam springs to mind there!).

In the herb garden, we began to harvest in May and June also, and now have a good crop drying ready for later use. These were oregano, lemon balm, mint, lovage, thyme etc and look rather fetching on our Provencal looking metal dryer (from The Secret Potager)! More seeds went in for a later crop including parsley, dill, oregano, basil and thyme.

Mid June we noticed some things nearly ready to harvest. The broad beans and early peas were starting to swell, with a small crop harvested later in the month. We planted out more winter brassicas – savoy cabbage, purple sprouting broccolli, swede, and borecale. Also celeriac and swiss chard plants went in the beds. We did some successional sowings of beetroot, kohl rabi, beans, peas and sweetcorn to keep the veggie garden producing over the seasons. Disappointingly our turnips bolted, so we sowed more in modules ready for planting when weather conditions more favourable. All the plants that need humid conditions are also now planted in position in the greenhouse, such as tomatoes, aubergine, peppers and cucumber. We started the regular feed of these plants too with standard liquid feed, to help the fruits swell. The rest of the nets were put up, including one over the peas (to protect them from birds, and also to help them climb up). So along with yet more weeding, watering and feeding that takes us up to July and we will leave you with some pics.

More photos on our Facebook page here

Harvested onions drying in the sun

Harvested onions drying in the sun

Patio pots doing well - can just see tomatoes & carrots

Patio pots doing well - can just see tomatoes & carrots

First flowers on our purple french beans

First flowers on our purple french beans

First peas

First peas

Flowers to help attract wildlife in full bloom

Flowers to help attract wildlife in full bloom

Carrots and peas

Carrots and peas

Artichokes growing more each day (swiss chard alongside)

Artichokes growing more each day (swiss chard alongside)

Greenhouse Veg - Peppers & Cucumbers

Greenhouse Veg - Peppers & Cucumbers

Lovely Strawberries

Lovely Strawberries

Runner beans starting to flower

Runner beans starting to flower

Lovely nasturtiums climbing around galvanised containers!

Lovely nasturtiums climbing around galvanised containers!

Tomatoes in mini greenhouse

Tomatoes in mini greenhouse

Apples swelling well

Apples swelling well

 

Elderflowers 10/06/2010

Filed under: Elder tree,Elderflowers,Foraging,Self Sufficiency,Wild Foods — hernegardens @ 1:39 pm
elderflowers

Elderflowers from our garden

We’re pleased to finally see the Elder tree in blossom at the end of May/early June. That means Elderflowers, and all the yummy things you can make with them! We’re having a Midsummer party for some friends in a few weeks, so the first thing to make was some elderflower ‘champagne’ for our guests to enjoy. We found an old recipe in one of our books, and is detailed below:

Elderflower Champagne

12 elderflower heads
juice and zest of an unwaxed organic lemon
1.5 lbs of sugar
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
4 litres/1 gallon cold water.

Put the washed elderflower heads in a bowl/bucket with the lemon, sugar, vinegar and water and leave for 24 hours. Then strain through muslin and pour the liquid into sterilsed screw top bottles. Leave them for about 10-14 days, then drink it, preferably before the end of the third week. The champagne is naturally effervescent so pressure will build up in the bottles. For this reason, we’ve left them in a room where we don’t mind if the tops blow off, and put the liquid into plastic bottles!

We’re not sure how it will turn out without some sort of yeast to make it alcoholic, but is definitely bubbling away in the bottles as we speak, and will let you know how we get on!

Also, not wanting to miss the best of the season, we thought we would try another traditional recipe for elderflowers, and that is elderflower fritters. As ever inspired by the excellent book by Richard Mabey, ‘Food for Free’, we had a go at his recipe this lunchtime, and very nice it was too!

Elderflower Fritters

4 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1 1/2 cupfuls water
elderflower heads (as many as you want fritters for!)
oil for frying (we used rapeseed from our local farm shop)
fresh mint
sugar for dusting

Make up the batter with the flour, egg and water. Then hold the flowerhead by the stalk and dip into the batter. Shake off any excess batter and then plunge into hot oil and deep-fry until golden brown. Trim off the excess salt and serve with some sugar, the mint and some lemon.

Our attempt below with some lovely salad from our garden. We omitted the sugar as this was a savoury dish, but the mint complemented it perfectly!

Elderflower Fritters

Elderflower Fritters