The Canny Gardener

how to grow, cook and use plants, plus some philosophy!


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Nourishing Nasturtiums

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Nasturtiums are one of the easiest plants grown from seed at home and at present, in October they are still flowering.  So I decided to use them in a potato salad to make a mouth watering and hormone balancing dish today.

Ingredients:

500gms waxy potatoes such as charlotte or pink fir

6 tsps mayonaise (shop bought is fine!)

3tsps greek style yoghurt

1 tsp Dijon or English mustard

4 Spring onions, chopped

handful of Nasturtium leaves, stems and flowers, including seeds- chopped.

Sand and ground pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes as directed- 15-20 minutes but make sure they still hold the shape.  No need to peel. Make the dressing using the next three ingredients. Once the potatoes are cooled, then add the dressing and lastly, add the chopped Nasturtiums leaves, flowers and seeds.  The seeds are a good and cheap substitute for capers.

Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of Vitamin C and are also a natural antibiotic. Eating a couple of the peppery leaves at the onset of a cold can stop it dead in its tracks. The gentle antibiotic reaction makes it ideal for treating minor colds and flu, especially at the start of autumn.

Here in the photo I grilled a mackerel and added it to a bed of marinated onions.  Mackerels are rich in beneficial vitamins, minerals and oils.  Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids occur in high quantities in this fish. It contains vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. Various minerals also occur richly in the fish. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and selenium. Trace minerals include zinc and copper. The fish also contains protein and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10. Onions are good for thyroids.


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Late harvests

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Perhaps it is climate change, perhaps it is a surprise gift, and perhaps it is a sign of my increasing gardening skills- I have these lovely tomatoes still growing in their glorious reds and sunny yellows brightening up my garden.  Some salad leaves are still growing along with the nasturtiums.  So here is my lovely late summer, near autumn salad, simply served with a splash of olive oil and served with love- delicious!


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Summer abundance chutney

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I returned from a three week holiday to find that there had been storms in the UK and my little garden was a little wrecked.  My prized crop of italian plum tomatoes which had not ripened were on the deck and there were raspberries which needed to be eaten, otherwise they’d go off. Well, we ate as many raspberries we could and then I thought about making a chutney with the rest.  Chutneys which originate from India are an accompaniment to a main meal, eaten at the end.  In the West, chutneys are eaten with crisp breads, cheese, salad and meats- just about anything.

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This is an easy recipe which can be adjusted to any amount of fruit lying around (which is what you see in the second photo of unripe tomatoes and raspberries).  I used a tablespoon of sunflower oil and put it on medium heat.  When the oil was ready, I threw in a pinch each of cumin and fenugreek seeds; and two birds’eyes chillies until the cumin seeds ‘swelled up’. Then I put the cut tomatoes and whole raspberries in.  When they softened, I added molasses- one and half tablespoon.  Molasses are a good alternative to white sugar as they contain fibres, minerals and iron and more, see link below-

http://greenlitebites.com/2010/11/11/sweetener-comparisons-honey-agave-molasses-sugar-maple-syrup/

Molasses are used in traditional Indian cooking, sugar being an unknown ingredient.  I also added a pinch of turmeric.  After less than 15 minutes, the chutney was ready. With a bit of zing- this is a delicious chutney!

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Throw away delights

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Carrot leaves are often left attached to new season carrots to keep them fresh and taste better.  Thanks to a badly researched article, ‘The Toxic Salad’ in the New York Times published in July 2009, people assumed that carrot leaves are poisonous and ought to be thrown away.  However, people in India have been eating carrot leaves for centuries and being the world’s second largest population, a lot of Indians would have been dead and we have had certainly heard about it.

The reality is that they are very edible and loaded with vitamins and minerals. The New York Times article alluded to the presence of alkaloids in carrot tops that could make them ‘slightly dangerous for consumption’.  But alkaloids are a substance found throughout nearly every green leafy vegetable.  Indians use all types of spinach and leaves for cooking.

Having watched my mother cook carrot leaves, this is my easy recipe for carrot leaf dish. Just remember to use the leaves as soon as you can because they turn yellow and inedible soon.

As you see in the photo, I received 6 carrots in my organic vegetable delivery.  I used all the leaves shown here plus two of the carrots.  The alkaloids give a slightly bitter taste to the leaves (just many other greens) so I used the carrot itself to give the dish sweetness.

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Ingredients: A pinch of each of these- cumin seeds, fenugreek and onion seeds. One level table spoon of turmeric. A pinch of sugar. Salt to taste. Water. A tablespoons of oil for cooking.  I also added some chopped potatoes but you don’t have to.

Wash and chop the leaves. Peel the carrots and cut them into sticks (or any other shape you fancy!).

Heat the oil and add the spices.  When they ‘fatten’, add the leaves, the carrots and potatoes, turmeric, salt and sugar.  Add a little bit of the water and cover.  Do watch and add more water if the dish dries up during cooking otherwise the leaves will stick.  When the carrots and potatoes are done, then the greens are done too.

Eat with rice or wraps.  Healthy food at throwaway price!


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Yeast, Gluten and guilt free

I come from a rice eating background. I have noticed that although I am not allergic to eating wheat, I am sensitive to it. I would suffer from indigestion and some minor skin rashes after eating wheat.  So I have focussed on finding alternate ways of eating things I enjoy.

It is very simple, really.  I have done is substituted maize or potato flour or an equal mixture of both for many recipes.  For example, see this simple pizza I made with half maize flour and half potato flour.  The potato flour acts as a binder to the more rough maize flour grains.  I added some organic yoghurt instead of yeast (a trick I learnt from my brother-in-law who is a chemical engineer and likes to experiment with food).  Salt and a pinch of sugar and a few table-spoons of olive oil and water to make a dough (be careful with the water because maize flour is very tricky to form and you must add water little by little).  I left it to ‘develop’ for a about one hour.   Another version is with three equal parts of arrow root flour, potato flour and ordinary flour- although not entirely gluten free, it has one third of gluten, in case you do not mind.  After one hour, I shaped the dough into a flat circle about 6-10 inches diameter (you can make it bigger if you have a bigger base) and placed it on a steel base which had olive oil brushed on it. Put it in the oven at 190C.  I took the pizza base out after 6 minutes when it looked done and then added the toppings.

For toppings I added home made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese or mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes- the later version being more ‘lazy’.  Then I stuck the pizza back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the cheese was ‘bubbling’ and some parts were ‘browned’.  Fried mushroom slices and my home grown basil leaves were added after taking the pizza out of the oven.

My ten year old pronounced it delicious!  It is also quite filling for such a small size pizza.  Money and time saving too- do try it and let me know how you get on-you may never order another Dominoes again!

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Maize and potato flour pizza with home grown basil and tomatoes.

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Left: I made the leftover dough into ‘arepas’ (Latin American patties) with with grated cheese, organic mushrooms and a ‘sunny side’ egg- perfect for lunch or breakfast.

Right: Pizza (with a mixture of arrowroot flour, potato flour and ordinary white flour), topping of home grown tomatoes, mushroom and basil.


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Wet Garlic

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Wet Garlic may appear in many vegetable boxes now. I was enticed by the name but I did not know how I could use it.  Wet garlic is called so because it has not been hung up to dry. It has to be picked by hand; a very lengthy process. During its short season it is very much sought after by gourmets.  My wet garlic actually came from France where it is well used.  The juicy cloves (you can see how the cloves will form if you cut through it) are less strong than dry garlic.  So wet garlic can give food like soups a particularly creamy, even sweet flavour. The creamy cooked garlic is delicious spread on toast or mixed with butter and used on vegetables or in baked potatoes.  Here are two other quick ways I used it.

1. Wet Garlic with chicken liver and potatoes

I used up some fat left behind from grilling pork left on the baking dish.  Being a lazy person, I put the whole thing on the hob, fried the potatoes first because they take the longest, then added the chicken livers and then the chopped up wet garlic.  It took 20 minutes to do, make sure the liver is cooked through.  I added some salt and pepper to flavour and voila!  a healthy simple meal.  The pork fat was used up in the cooking so not much cleaning up to do afterwards.

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2. Pasta with wet garlic

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Again another simple dish.  I sweated out the chopped up pieces of wet garlic, added some anchovy and pepper with some left over pasta- ready in less than 10 minutes!  Bon appetite!


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Gluten free elderflower fritters

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Inspired by my friend, Ivan’s efforts and sad to see the crop the elderflowers being ‘wasted’, I made this elderflower fritter.  There are recipes by Nigel Slater and from other websites that you can google so I won’t bore you with those.  My batter was egg-less and fizzy water- less- I used potato flour to give it some ‘body’ and used soda bicarbonate to add some ‘fizz’. I also added couple of drops of lemon juice to a batter made with potato flour and arrow root flour (I like gluten free stuff!). I also added the sugar in the batter and lightly sprinkled some icing sugar when serving.  Served with my home-made ice-cream of Venezuelan chocolate, it made a great complementary combination.  I experimented with various batter consistencies and at the tasting thought that the mid-consistency batter worked out the best.  My son preferred the more ‘lumpy’ version.  Watch out for the tiny black bugs before you use the flowers for cooking!!

For my earlier post on elderflowers, please see-

https://thecannygardener.wordpress.com/2013/06/

 


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Resilient Mint

Today’s dinner made by me with my able sous chef, my ten year old, was very special. It was made with leftovers and mint from my little container garden.

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It consisted of leftover pasta, peas and baked eggs with leftover gravy/meat juice. All very simple and tasty. The peas that you see are a combination of Ramsey and Slater recipes. Very quick to make-

Two cups of frozen peas, four mint leaves chopped up, a tiny bit of garlic chopped up, half of a small onion sliced into thin slices, salt to taste and two teaspoons of olive oil. Heat the oil and put everything in it, cover it and stir from time to time. Ready in about 10 minutes!

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And the mint you see is very special too. It came as a free gift with my organic vegetable box. I put all the mint in glass of water to keep it fresh and one of the stems grew roots. I put it in a pot and it grew. Now that was last year. During winter, it all died down. Now that it is spring, I have my resurrected mint again! Amazing how resilient these herbs are. I hope to get some of its resilience into my life too!


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Nettle and plantain dish

Nettles grow wild in the UK and most throw them away as weeds.  However, nettles are quite nourishing with health restoring properties.  It is a slow-acting nutritive herb that gently cleanses the body of metabolic wastes. It has a stimulating effect on the lymphatic system, enhancing the excretion of wastes through the kidneys. Nettle contains iron and vitamins C and K. It is reportedly specially beneficial to pregnant women.  It is also anti-lithic and nephridic, breaking down stones in the kidneys and gravel in the bladder.

I had a recipe for a spinach and banana dish in which I decided to swap for nettles and plantain.  I used plantain instead of banana to overcome any possible strong reaction with the bowel because plantain slows it down.  Pick the nettle leaves carefully and put them in some hot water which makes them stingless and then they can be chopped up roughly.  To couple of spoons of hot oil, I added a pinch of cumin seeds and birds eye chillies and fried for 1-2 minutes until the cumin seeds were puffed up. Then I added four chopped garlic cloves, half chopped onion and one tomato, quartered, along with the sliced plantain and chopped nettle leaves. Stir until all done- takes about 4-5 minutes with a lid on during last few minutes.  Serve with rice and salt to taste.

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