Pleasure delayed – batch cooking.

Madame with aubergines.

Suddenly we have surpluses to deal with – possibly due to the fact that we invested in grafted aubergine and tomato plants this year and they are strikingly vigorous and are both producing fruit at speed. I know that many gardeners avoid spending money on F1 hybrids and grow all their crops from seed, but seeds often decline in their ability to germinate quite quickly and some saved seed may be infected with diseases. Is it worth spending the extra on grafted plants and F1 hybrids? In my opinion, the blight resistant varieties of tomato and potato are worth their weight in gold – they really work. Every year on the allotment site there are gardeners who lose their entire crop when blight strikes. There’s no more depressing sight in the world. Our grafted plants are far more productive than the ones we grow from seed ourselves so we’ll continue to buy them. However they can arrive in a very sorry state when we’ve ordered online and sat for days in a warehouse, and so we prefer to buy them at a garden centre where we can see what we’re getting.

So this weekend it’s been raining and therefore a perfect time for batch cooking. I’ve made bramble jelly with the wild fruit we picked, and a couple of kilos of ripe tomatoes into the first batch of roasted tomato passata. This batch was so powerfully flavoured I bottled it in 250g jars – plenty for a pasta dish for two. The last job was to stuff eight aubergines with a middle-eastern flavoured lamb mixture. We’ll freeze them and get them out for a quick meal on a busy day.

I’ve written before about the pleasures of a full store cupboard; pleasures which are just as flavourful when delayed as they are the day they are made. Some things, of course, don’t store or freeze well and they’re the heart of the seasonal contribution to our meals. Tomatoes are so important that we produce three different sauces – unflavoured straight passata; Hazan number one – a beautifully flavoured passata/sauce with mild onion and indecent amounts of butter; and finally the roasted sauce which is a standby for any dish that needs a tablespoon of rocket fuel – umami on steroids. Most seasons we make enough to feed us throughout the year.

It’s been an uphill struggle to second guess the weather this year. The seasons have been badly affected by climate change and the unwillingness of politicians to address the coming crisis is a shameful betrayal. I was particularly struck by a droll remark by an ex Labour party supporter who adapted one of Blair’s catchphrases to: “Tough on hope; tough on the causes of hope”. Someone needs to show them that sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting la la la la la doesn’t amount to a strategy. Lowest common denominator politics is low and common and I can’t understand why anyone with more than ten brain cells would want to indulge in it in the face of the suffering that economic, climate and ecological destruction is causing already. Shame on them!

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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