OK so most of us would agree that living on pasta, marmalade and Cornish pasties would be a tiny bit unbalanced, but the pasties – which Madame made for supper this evening – have additional benefits. They only have 1.5oz of meat in each one – the rest is pastry, potato and swede. You don’t have to be working class or wear trainer bottoms to eat one, just the ability to get over yourself – PLUS – they are better at cheering you up than any prescription drug after a rainy day. Obviously the pesto is lovely as well, and the two photos are only there to show how to make a sausage which you put into the freezer for 2 hours before removing it and cutting it up into servings. Last night we had it with tagliatelle, crushed potatoes and steamed broccoli – positively life affirming! and finally the marmalade which is enough to get us through until next January – that’s 365 breakfasts and 365 slices of our own everyday sourdough toast – possibly 400 if you include the greed.
It has been raining all day again. Last night’s TV documentary on the Church of England’s cover up of the predatory bishop Peter Ball – who I knew slightly when he came to theological college as an occasional lecturer – depressed me beyond measure, not least because it was so entirely predictable. A church hierarchy that protects its reputation before it protects vulnerable people is utterly unworthy.
Dave Goulson’s book “The Jungle Garden” which I’ve been reading made me gnash my teeth as well, but this time in a good way. You’ll never eat a shiny Cox apple or a Spanish non-organic grape again.
……. and thank you so much for reading this blog. Yesterday I had my largest number of views ever – completely inexplicable!
Well, not quite hiding but certainly not going outside. The weather has been filthy and looks determined to get filthier and so Madame made a large batch of pesto and then we worked together prepping what should be around 30lbs of Seville orange marmalade by the time it’s finished.
We’ve been intending to make a stock batch of pesto for ages – partly because we’ve almost run out, (it freezes very well), but also because we need the propagators empty in order to get chillies going fairly soon. For the sake of convenience we combined the two types – ‘Bolloso Napolitano’ and ‘Classico’ – both from Franchi – because we had them ready to harvest, although I think I prefer the first more, it’s got a hint of aniseed somewhere. These plants were grown in a home made compost mixture combining 40 topsoil, 40 composted manure, 10 vermiculite and 10 Perlite. The seeds were germinated and kept at around 20 C until the plants were ready to harvest and they were grown under 12 hours daily of overhead artificial daylight. They were only watered from below and once they’d got their feet down we fed them regularly with dilute seaweed feed. We’ve previously tried growing them in compost only, but these have been the best plants we’ve ever produced and the pesto today was absolutely delicious. It’ll be rolled and part frozen, cut into individual portions and wrapped. One important point is to sow thinly and then thin again to stop the plants competing and exhausting themselves.
The marmalade reminded me (again) that it’s always good to read even a familiar recipe twice, because we’d peeled, deseeded and knife cut six pounds of peel into fine shreds before I realised that we were going to have to add 12 pints of water for the initial cooking. That brought it almost to the top of our biggest preserving pan with no room to add the sugar so we’re going to have to share the big batch between two pans. I made the same mistake last year and there was a discernible difference between the two batches – both were very nice but just different in texture and set. I also need to climb up to the top cupboard to make sure we’ve got enough jam jars. When we first moved here I bought what I thought would be a lifetime supply of screw top lids from a wholesaler, but I think we’ll have used them all up with this batch of marmalade.
Meanwhile storm Brendan has spared us the worst of the wind and rain because we’re sheltered here in the Avon valley, but we cancelled a proposed overnight stay in the Forest of Dean because the campervan can rock and roll a bit in high winds. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the kitchen baking for our grandson’s cake stall. I’ve bought a muffin mould especially, but I’ve never made a muffin in my life so it could all go terribly wrong.
My friend Rose has texted to say that she’s modelled her whole life on Flora Poste (see previous posts) and Emma Woodhouse. It would be churlish to comment!
This photo is pretty out of date because, in the intervening period since it was taken, the chillies have been removed from the heated propagator and the basil put back in for a bit of a holiday in the sun which resulted in them growing rapidly. There are a number of different varieties of basil and this is the first year we’ve grown anything except the normal “Classico” type we’re used to buying in the shops. Franci seeds have a pretty wide selection for the UK market but I’m sure there are many other suppliers, and this year we added their ‘Basil bolloso napoletano’ to our list. It’s impossible to compare the performance of the two types because we treated them rather differently. The fact is, any basil seems to love heat and light.
So – confession time! we have experimented with sowing basil in pure composted manure, in peat free Sylva Grow and in a proprietary John Innes. This weekend we’ll be trying a 50/50 mix of composted manure and vermiculite. So far at least, the best performer for seed sowing has been theJohnInnes. We spray it weekly with fairly dilute seaweed fertilizer, and it’s obvious that the most vigorous growth comes in the heated propagator set at 20C with 12 hours of overhead artificial daylight. Now I’d add that I’m no expert in this and I’d hate to lead anyone down the wrong road but it seems to work for us.
Anyway, yesterday we took our first big harvest of basil and in order to get the required weight for a batch of pesto we mixed the two types together. It was quite the nicest pesto we’d ever tasted. The Neopolitan variety added a subtle fennel flavour and it was so nice I’d never want to go back to the pure Classico. In fact we resolved on the spot to sow some more varieties to see what other delights could be there. I’ll never tire of the simplest of pasta sauces, and pesto is so adaptable.
And today we drove down to Cornwall to one of our favourite places – the Lost Gardens of Heligan. More photos tomorrow.
Madame was always better at interpreting weather charts than me. I think she learned to do it at the research station, and she would bandy around phrases like “cold front” when reading the papers, which I always took as being fearfully clever, and I would have loved to discover that she was making it all up, except she wasn’t. So now she is the official meteorologist at the Potwell Inn which means that she gets first dibs at the weather app on my phone. Anyway the salient point is that we were occupied from early in the morning with a hospital appointment which left me sedated and unable to think straight until the evening. My insides have now been investigated from top to bottom and nothing very threatening has been found – which is an enormous relief after several months of worry. It’s not all silver spoons and turtle soup at the Potwell Inn.
So, to return to the weather, it wasn’t until about 7.00 pm that it dawned on my last two functioning brain cells, that a severe frost was mentioned by the ghostly voice of the Potwell Inn weather forecaster in the early morning. Jumping to attention like a teenager on holiday, I said I thought we ought to go and fleece the apple trees. And so we walked up to the allotments – I wasn’t allowed to drive for 24 hours – and wrapped every vulnerable plant and tree we could find with heavy duty fleece. The plot looked rather like a Christo scupture, but we’ve invested so much money, not to mention time and energy, that the thought of losing the blossom to a frost was intolerable. When the consultant had said – “I’ll just pop this in and let you float off into the clouds”, he hadn’t mentioned anything about landing, and so the process of wrapping all those plants warped into a kind of slow motion movie in which I could see myself at a distance but not – in a sense – actually join in. At Madame’s request I took some rather underexposed photos that needed editing today, but that was because they were taken well after sunset. What a joy! – seriously – to be able to work in the evening at last.
And so we wandered home feeling quite sure that the plants could survive the frost, and I slept the Sleep of the Just (note capitals) dreaming about the summer and making plans. When we woke, the park outside was white with frost and I was almost pleased to see it. Madame is infallible. And today I bought a new satnav because the maps in our present one are so out of date we spend most of our time apparently driving across fields, then we booked some time back at the Lost Gardens of Heligan and bought a ready meal because we could.
Later we tested a batch of frozen pesto. It was another of our experiments to spread the summer glut across the hungry gap. It was delicous, and we’d just finished our 50 Gram pot when our youngest dropped in. We asked him if he’d ever frozen pesto and he said -“Of course, but we make it 5 kilos at a time”. Humph!