Garden gold

Soon I’ve picked every berry in the garden! So far we’ve made black currant cordial, red currant jelly with mint, red berry syrup and red gooseberry marmalade. The husband has made “No mango sauce”, a hot sweet fruity chili sauce with lots of canned fruit but no mango(hence the name), and the traditional thai garlic chili jam Nam Prik Phao. It’s like Santas workshop in the kitchen. I’ve also been baking loads of cakes. Every weekend during summer we keep the gallery open and soon it’s time for the yearly “Art wave”. The busiest weekend for us of the whole year. We’re planning on selling plenty of cakes, garden goodness and hopefully some of my photographs as well. I’ve invited another artist to sell her glass artwork in the gallery. She thought it would be fun to combine our products so we did a little photo shoot of her glass vases and some of the little chicks. What is it they say? Never work with kids or animals…well we had a lot of fun but it sure wasn’t easy! I made some quick prints in the darkroom before the weekend, now they say it’s gonna rain for a week so I’ll have lots of time to make more without feeling guilty about missing out on the sunshine. The youngest chicks got rained on for the first time today, they weren’t happy at all! They all let me catch them without trouble to go under the heating lamp in the basement. Growing fast I’m pretty sure they can stay out in the henhouse with the rest soon but I’ll pamper them just a little bit longer…

Quinces or quinci?

img_0358 img_0351 img_0348 img_0396So a couple of years ago I bought this quince tree and brought it home on the bus and moped. See Travelling tree. I was told at the garden center that it’s not really hardy for our climate but for some reason I’ve always wanted one so I bought it. Last year it grew some fruit but they never got bigger than cherries and all fell off. This year there’s loads of fruit! My husband wanted to make crumble while I had other plans for it, luckily there was enough for both of us. The crumble I must say was a failure(hope he doesn’t read my blog), quince and vanilla gone all mushy with crunchy salty crumble, nah not for me. Of course I had to top him but with the bar set pretty low I didn’t think it would be that hard. First thing I tried was making quince cheese, also known as Dulce de Membrillo, I chopped and boiled and mushed and boiled again to put in the oven. It didn’t set properly and I ended up throwing it out. Next thing I tried was quince and apple jam, that was a tastier but didn’t get any of the nice dark colour you see when you google quince jam but rather a light pinkish beige. So yesterday I picked most of what was left on the tree and tried making marmalade. I chopped half of it up and boiled, mushed and then grated in the rest of them together with sugar and lemon. After reading up on how to get the lovely dark quince colour I kept the pot boiling for five hours. Still not much of a colour change. Apparently it goes really well with Manchego cheese so I bought some and opened one of the jars (after checking on the pan for that many hours it felt like opening a pot of gold). Turns out the marmalade was really thick and jelly-like, so I tried making marmalade but made quince cheese! All in all my conclusion is I love the very special flavour of quince, bet it will be nice with green mouldy cheese like St Agur or Cambozola or with meat, but this years quince-cooking was a big failure. It’s a finicky fruit with a weird name as well- one quince two quinces? Can you really say quinces? We decided no, sounds weird, so from now on it’s one quince two quinci (pronounced as quince-I, like in rastafari). Next year we’ll have to do better!

No pain no gain

3 litres of hard earned berries

3 litres of hard earned berries

apple af blackberry jelly, a new favourite!

apple af blackberry jelly, a new favourite!

fruit leathers going in for 12 hours or so

fruit leathers going in for 12 hours or so

blackberry jelly and marmalade

blackberry jelly and marmalade

I picked three litres of blackberries yesterday morning. Started off in the nature reserve finding a few but as I ventured further into the woods I found loads! Strange that they seem to mature faster under the trees than when they grow on a field, you’d think direct sunlight would turn them black faster but seems to be the opposite. Most of them I found lifting the branches and in denser vegetation. It was all very painful. Even with wellies and a thick jumper my jeans were covered with blackberry needles and my hands cut to bits. Worth it though! Today I used some for an apple and blackberry jelly, a blackberry marmalade and yummy fruit leathers. I halved all the recipes because I wanted to make sure they were good enough before making plenty but now I wish I would have doubled them. The plan is to use the preserves for the opening of the gallery in two weeks. I’m going to order the best cheese in the world and serve with homemade crisp bread and husbands sourdough bread. After all the jamming I decided to do something about the surroundings of the gallery and dug and tugged up all the nettles under the x-mas trees by the road. It took quite some time and I managed to burn myself in all imaginable places plus a few more and covered my hands in blisters. Planted lots of narcissus bulbs so at least it will look nice in spring before the nettles grow back…

a mountain of pain

a mountain of pain

Nam Prik Pao

Swedish crisp bread with butter and Nam prik pao

Swedish crisp bread with butter and Nam prik pao

Asian food supply, shriracha, prawn paste and half a kilo of chillies

Asian food supply, shriracha, prawn paste and half a kilo of chillies

Chilies and fried garlic

Chilies and fried garlic

dried thai chilies roasting in a pan

dried thai chilies roasting in a pan

Ooh I had forgotten how much I love it! The husband paid a visit to the asian shop in town and bought everything he needed for Nam prik pao. It is a kind of Thai chili jam and you can have it with everything. He got a 0.5kilo bag of thai chillies so that will last us a while. First you roast the chilies in a hot pan, then fry garlic and onion in oil until brown, mix it in a food processor. Add shrimp paste, tamarind, palm sugar and fish sauce and boil down to a jam. I am telling the world -I am addicted to Nam prik pao! I don’t know what it is but all day we have both kept going out to the kitchen having a taste and coming up with new perfect combinations. I love it on Swedish crisp bread with lots of butter but dipping a fresh prawn aaaaah it’s like heaven. A few years ago when I opened my photography studio we offered all the guests Graham’s sourdough bread with Nam prik pao and Shropshire blue(which is like a stilton but nicer and yellow) cheese, some people still talk about it to this day. Imagine it glazed on smoked meat, on a cheese on toast sandwich or in a fry-up…can’t wait until end of summer and he can make one with the chilies that I have grown.

Foraging

IMAG2655Even if I’ve been very lax with weeding and watering this summer the garden is paying big time! We’re filling up the cupboard with red/black currant and rhubarb cordial, strawberry jam and for lunch yesterday we made fresh strawberry smoothies. The cherries are ready to be picked, to the chickens delight, they have started falling off the tree and there are still loads of currants.