Sunday, 26 September 2010

Roasted peppers and chorizo

So on Friday night we attempted to use up our two sweet peppers that had turned red. There's a delicious chorizo, roasted pepper and rocket sandwich that I first tasted at Borough Market from the Brindisa stall about 10 years ago (they still sell them so if you find yourself in London on a Friday or Saturday head down to Borough and check them out for yourself!) which I thought would be perfect for using up our two little peppers.

So, I covered them in olive oil and placed them in the oven on 180 until they were blackened all over as usual. Unfortunately I hadn't banked on the fact that little peppers will have thinner skins and sadly by blackening them all over they were actually just burnt straight through and so there was no sweet, roasted flesh behind the blackened skin to peel away. Luckily though as they were so tiny I had supplemented them with a larger shop bought pepper that was perfectly cooked so stuck that in the plastic bag until the skin was ready to peel off.

Then I fried up my chorizo and placed them into a ciabatta loaf along with the roasted peppers and a good wedge of rocket. Served alongside a cold beer and some roasted anya potaotes it was the perfect way to unwind after a hectic week at work.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Urban places, growing spaces

Earlier on in the summer, following a tip-off from camillap at Seeds and the City, I popped along to the South Bank to visit the Union Street Urban Orchard. It was a tiny space on a back street in Southwark next to a parking lot and the railway line which had been taken over for the summer by some enthusiastic growers as part of the London Festival of Architecture. It was overflowing with fruit trees and vegetables that were busy ripening in this unusal setting. I found it completely inspiring and hopefully made some passers by think about the unusual spaces that they might have available to them to start growing some fruit or vegetables in.

In a similar vain it's the Capital Growth Open Gardens Day today so I've been having a look at what gardens there are nestled in amongst the city. Along the windowsill lines there's a garden on the roof of Budgen's in Crouch End, North London so I thought that it would be interesting to go and check it out. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Autumnal cooking

Well as the days get colder and the nights close in, it feels more and more right to get some warming autumnal meals on the table. And so the other night we cooked up a cracking shepherd's pie. To give it a windowsill twist we used up some of the chives and parsley that's been growing all summer to make the mash all herby and delicious.

I tend to vary my recipe for shepherd's pie each time I make it depending on what ingredients I've got in the flat at the time so here's what went in to this one. Finely chop and fry up an onion and some garlic, add diced carrots and celery and let it all cook over a low heat until all of the vegetables are soft and collapsing. Meanwhile fry the mince in a separate pan and, when browned, drain off all of the excess fat. When the vegetables have softened add thickly sliced large, flat mushrooms and cook them down as well. Stir through the mince, add a good glug of Worcestershire sauce, a tin of chopped tomatoes, some tomato puree and dried mixed herbs. Stir all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Place into a pyrex dish with a lid and then into an oven preheated to 180 degrees and leave it all bubbling away and the flavours mixing together whilst you get on with the mash.

Add chopped potatoes and parsnips to salted boiling water and leave them until they are soft enough to fall off a knife. Drain, reserving a small amount of the cooking liquid and mash with lots of butter, salt and pepper. Add in chopped chives and parsley and stir through.

Remove the meat from the oven and scoop the mashed potato and parsnip mix on top. Smooth it out so that it evenly covers the surface and make a nice pattern with a fork. Cover with grated Gruyere cheese and place back in the oven without the lid this time. Leave for 45 minutes and then it is ready to serve. Serve with peas. Yum!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Green tomatoes, brown patches

Over the past few days I've noticed that some of the green tomatoes have developed small brown patches. From googling the phenomena the only thing that I've been able to find is that they might have late blight, although all of the photos of tomatoes with late blight on the internet look a little different to the patches on my tomatoes. Has anyone got any advice about what has happened to my tomatoes and what I should be doing about it?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Cabbage white butterfly eggs

A few days ago I noticed that some more eggs had been laid on one of our chilli plants. Following an internet search I think that they must be the eggs of a cabbage white butterfly. All of the blogs that I have read on these say that you should destroy the eggs, rubbing them off with soapy water but I like the idea of encouraging biodiversity through our windowsills and don't really want to go around killing eggs. Is this a really bad idea and will the caterpillars end up munching right through our windowbox?

It also seems that it must have been quite a confused butterfly that laid it's eggs there. From the information on the British Butterfly Conservaton Society's website the eggs are normally laid either on brassicas or on nasturtiums or wild mignonette. So a serrano chilli plant seems a little far removed from any of them!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Homemade harissa

One of the chillies out on the windowsill is starting to change colour which reminds me that I never blogged about what we did with our first chilli harvest a few weeks back now.

We had four bright red, windowsill grown chillies just waiting to be cooked with something tasty and so we decided to make harissa paste with them. Unfortunately it is a tale much like the cherry tomatoes of the other night where to make the harissa you need 250g of chillies (great for those of you out there with heaving chilli plants!). This is slightly more than four so our trusty chillies were added in with some others.

The recipe that I used was out of the Moro cookbook and it says that it will last in the fridge for a couple of weeks. So to make the paste you have to cut the chillies in half and remove the seeds. Then you blend them in a food processor with ground caraway seeds and cumin seeds, 4 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt. Then add a roasted, skinned and seeded red bell pepper and blitz again until smooth. Once it's smooth stir in a dessertspoon of tomato puree, a dessertspoon of red wine vinegar, two level teaspoons of sweet smoked paprika and six tablespoons of olive oil. And there you have it!

We then took our homemade harissa paste and used it to make harissa roast chicken (see p217 of the Moro cookbook) accompanied with fried potatoes (p232). Absolutely gorgeous!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Indoor chillies: Outdoor chillies

We've been noticing a funny phenomenon in our windowsill chillies. The chillies that are outside on the windowsill appear to have grown in a completely different shape to the ones that we've had to keep inside on the table as there wasn't enough space out on the windowsill. The ones outside are long and skinny whilst the ones inside are short and fat.

It could be the temperature difference, or it could be the difference in pot sizes (the ones inside are still in those tiny pots that we initially transplanted them into).

Anyone else noticed this type of phenomenon and have any idea why it has happened?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Cherry tomatoes on the table

Well last night we used up all of our cherry tomatoes that were currently red. Unfortunately one of the problems with the windowsill is that whilst everything is very tasty and it is hugely satisfying to have grown this veg ourselves, quantity-wise we are always a little lacking in having enough of anything for a whole meal. So last night we had around ten of our homegrown tomatoes but they had to be supplemented from some shop bought ones (you can see the difference between our smaller, more misshapen but brighter red tomatoes versus the uniform shop bought ones).

We cooked them in a nice simple pasta dish that is easy to whack on and cook when you get home from work. While the pasta is cooking you put the cherry tomatoes in a pan and heat them up with a glass of white wine. When it starts to simmer nicely put in a good dollop of creme fraiche and leave it all simmering away. Then once the pasta is cooked drain it and then pour your sauce over it and at the last minute stir through a good handful of rocket (such a shame our windowsill grown rocket never took off as otherwise it could have been a windowsill grown produce bonanza). Serve with shaved parmesan and lots of black pepper on top.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

In desperate need of some tlc!

Our poor little windowsill plants have been rather neglected over the past month or so as general life has taken over and all got a bit hectic. This has led to some pretty dead looking plants as can be seen from the picture below. So today I have spent a few hours now giving them some much needed tlc and chopping away a lot of unneeded foliage in a bid to try and put a bit of life back into them.

The ones that went for a tumble unfortunately didn't get moved back out on the windowsill from the fireplace until just now and leaving them in the fireplace has made them go a bit crazy and grow all over the place. They had grown so many new leaves that they were all starting to die on the inside and some of the tomato plants needed major chopping back pretty much right to the stem. And when I started to chop heavily back I also found some pretty dead oregano plants that had been completely smothered out.

However there are some little sprigs of hope so fingers crossed it's not too late to save them. I've put the troughs back out onto the windowsill now so we'll have to wait and see whether or not it's now too late in the season for them to regrow and get any tomatoes.

It's not all bad though and we've got some very healthy looking sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes that are almost ready to harvest. Yum!

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