Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Home grown food

 In my last post I promised to blog about my latest efforts to grow some of my own food.  As I don't have a garden, I am slightly limited in what I can grow, but I think you can do quite well with just a patio.  So, here are some of the things I am growing this year:

 Last year I grow a few tomato plants in a grow bag, which worked really well, but I thought that this year I would go for something that looked a little better!  I think the pots provide a bit more flexibility as well as you can move them around and arrange them more easily.  Anyway, I have two tomato plants, of different varieties, so hopefully they'll do well.

 These are radishes, which are really very easy to grow and make an excellent salad vegetable.  They grow quickly, particularly  in the hot weather we've been having recently, so I am keeping a couple of pots going planted some time apart.  I hope that this will allow me to have an extended supply of radishes, though continuous would be even better.

 These will be spinach fairly soon...

 This is regular garden mint, which I find is superb for making fresh mint tea!  It's a bit too small at the moment, but when there is enough of it, the thing to do is to simply cut a short branch, wash it, put it into a mug or a cup and pour boiling water of it.  This makes a suitably refreshing hot drink for the hot weather!

 I also planted some Alpine strawberries, which are those really small berries you sometimes see in the shops.  They may be small, but they have a lot of flavour, so hopefully these will turn out well!

 And these are red peppers!  To be honest, I'm not sure how well these will do but I bought them as seedlings from the garden centre and the label said that they were ideal for patios...  It will be exciting if they do produce fruit, but I tried growing sweet peppers indoors last year and it wasn't very successful. 

 I've got space for quite a few more pots, so if I have time I shall be making some additions.  The great thing about using pots is that, once planted, they are really low maintenance, except for needing watering and the occasional feed.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

British air dried ham and early season asparagus

 Dear Readers!

 I must apologise for the rather long break I've had from the blog!  But, do not dispair, I have not given up on the project.  April turned out to be a rather hectic month and I ended up getting stuck in Canada because of the Volcano and, well, lot's has been happening, so unfortunately the blog took a back seat there for a while.  Anyway, I'm back now and there is quite a lot of catching up to do!

 My regular readers will remember that I did quite well with growing tomatoes last year on my little patio.  Well, I'm trying to do even better this year and have gone all out and got some nice pots.  I'm trying to grow all sorts of things this time round, including radishes (which have to be the easiest to grow vegetable ever!), spinach, spring onions (though they're not looking so good), tomatoes, mint, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, sage, corriander and alpine strawberries.  I shall post some pictures of all of this at some point in the near future and will of course keep you up to date with my progress!

 Anyway, today I'd like to blog about the British air dried ham that I bought at Richard Woodall's butchers in the Lake District some time ago.  I finally got around to using it!  This ham is very much like Palma ham from Italy, if you've had that and as such goes very well with asparagus.  Now, of course, asparagus is in season right now (make the most of it, it's a short season!), so I thought that this would make the perfect combination.

And the ham:

Now, this is really easy to do!  I've found that many people will say that they don't like asparagus, but I often find that this is because they have never had it when it has been cooked properly.  All too often, it's served after having been boiled and it has turned to nothing more than a slightly strange flavoured green mush.  This is not good!  Asparagus must be cooked gently in my opinion, or very quickly on a high heat.  So, grilling works well, or the BBQ!  However, in this case, I've opted for boiling in lightly salted water. 

Trim the woody part off the bottom of the stalk, but otherwise they should need no preparation beyond washing.  Get the water boiling rapidly and then add the asparagus and start a timer.  I let it boil for as close as possible to three minutes and then whip it out as fast possible onto some kitchen paper to dry off.  For this dish, I then allowed it to cool, before carefully wrapping each stalk in a piece of the ham, like so:

 Personally, I think this is a fantastic combination and it seemed to work very well with the Richard Woodall ham.  However, aware that nobody should simply take my word for it, I took some to work and shared them around with my work collegues.  It seemed to go down very well!