What are your favourite ways to prepare your home-grown vegetables? We’re not quite at the glut stage yet, so we’re not onto pickling, freezing and jam-making , but we are beginning to reap what we’ve sown in the vegetable garden. Unfortunately we missed a trick with our peas. We were so busy getting ready for DJ’s gardening competition last weekend that we didn’t notice the peas were ready to harvest. Sadly, when we came to pick them on Sunday for a meal, most of them were ready for the compost heap. It just goes to show that you need to keep your eyes peeled in the garden this time of year and we must do better in future.
The broad beans are ready, though. It’s currently broad beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By the third day – as delicious as they are – I began to protest. But to be fair, DJ had come up with some very inventive recipes he’d found on the BBC Food website, including broad bean, asparagus, bacon, watercress salad with a poached egg (courtesy of Marmalade our hen) on top and a Greek-style meal of, yes you’ve guessed it…broad beans, couscous, parsley and feta cheese. The watercress, bacon and asparagus were not, sadly, home grown but the parsley and potatoes were. Do let me know if you can recommend any other good broad bean recipes. I’m tempted by a risotto recipe or maybe a soup.
We also have cucumbers, carrots, huge lettuces, green peppers and the tomatoes are beginning to ripen. So far we’ve just had a few cherry tomatoes, but I am looking forward to when the beefsteaks are ready. As an antidote to the broad bean recipes, I made a ramen last night. If you haven’t had one before, it’s a chunky oriental soup featuring noodles, chilli and any kind of vegetable you feel like throwing in it – ideal for the veg grower. It’s a great hangover meal as you feel virtuous after eating it but it’s also very tasty.
Cook the noodles for three minutes in boiling water and then run cold water over them to stop them cooking any further and put them aside. Next heat enough water for your soup in a pan, throw in some good quality chicken or vegetable stock, a leek, some chopped ginger and carrot (julienne sticks work well). If you’re having chicken breasts with the soup, marinate one chicken breast per person for half an hour beforehand (a Teriyaki marinade works well for this, but if you don’t have any, soy sauce, garlic & onion works just as well – put cuts in the chicken to help the marinade take), then fry the chicken breasts whole while you cook the rest of the soup. Throw in any other softer veg into the soup, such as mushrooms, pak choi and chilli, towards the end of the cooking time. When the chicken is done, put it on a chopping board to rest and cut into slices. Then reheat the noodles by running them under a hot tap, divide them between the bowls and pour the ramen on top, adding the chicken slices. We have this meal a lot now. It’s cheap, cheerful and quick to make. In the end I threw in some broad beans as I was feeling guilty about the ones left sitting in the fridge!
On the fruit front, DJ’s blueberries are also beginning to ripen. A naughty blackbird tipped me off when I noticed him pinching the fruit, no doubt to feed his family. DJ responded by investing in some netting over the weekend as all the existing netting we have is in use elsewhere. A contact on Twitter @innercitypickles later gave me a good tip which I wished we’d thought of first. She uses old net curtains on her blackcurrants to keep the birds off. However, DJ wondered whether they might stop the light getting in and ripening the fruit. She claims not.
We have had some amazing El Santa strawberries, too. We discovered a great fruit combination on Sunday – strawberries, blueberries and cherries (preferably with ice cream). My neighbour Sandra brought round a bag of home-grown cherries to say thank you for all the eggs we’ve given her in the past. It was really kind of her and they are incredibly good.
Now I’m just waiting for the courgette glut to start. DJ deliberately only grew one plant this year but they can be prolific. So get in touch if you’ve got any good courgette recipes!
If you’re a veg grower, how is your garden doing and what are your favourite recipes for using up your summer fruit and veg produce? Leave a message and let me know.
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