Archive for the ‘Garden Updates’ Category

Amazing blackcurrant sorbet

Working for oneself has its ups and downs.  Sunny days often lead to cancellations in my clinic – I understand, who wants to see a dietitian on a hot day when you’re eating lots of salad, drinking plenty of water and very excited about exercising?  It’s all good. Today was probably one of the hottest we’ve had this year.  Everyone cancelled! At the moment, I’m really limited to catching up on weeding, harvesting, preserving in the long evenings.  The silver lining to my many cancellations was I got to spend the whole day between the garden and the kitchen!

We’ve gone past strawberries – the freezer is stocked with frozen whole strawberries, strawberry puree and I have jars of strawberry jam in the press.  It was time, the head gardener told me yesterday, to pull out the strawberry plants in one of my beds.  This is their second year to fruit.  Last year we took ‘runners’ off them – a process of potting the rooting part of the long tendrils strawberry plants send out after fruiting.  The runner, after taking root in a small pot of compost left under it, is then separated from the mother plant.  It can be planted (around September) into a fresh bed for fruiting the following summer and left there for 2-3 years, providing runners if required every year.  Today I dug out the strawberries before they started sending out runners.  They will be discarded.  You’ll see me below in the Massey Ferguson 135, which I haven’t driven for quite a while – a real treasure to the head gardener.

MF 135 & ME

To be taken away

Blackcurrants, raspberries and red currants have followed the strawberries.  Our blackcurrants are really at their best now.  I picked 6lb of them and decided to make the most amazing blackcurrant sorbet with 4lb and jam with the rest.  This sorbet is one of the best things to do with any soft fruit as far as I’m concerned.  It comes from a recipe in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course Book and ascribed to Julia Wright. If you have blackcurrants make it!  It’s so beautiful and a great way to capture summer.

Blend 4lb blackcurrants in a food processor until you have a rough puree.

Pass the puree through a nylon sieve in batches, pushing it around the sieve with a rubber spatula.  This will take a while…..for 4lb maybe 20 minutes!

Now take 1.5 lb caster sugar and stir it into the smooth blackcurrant puree until it has dissolved.

Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn until set before freezing.  You can also just put it into a lunchbox and into the freezer – take it out to mix every 30 minutes for a couple of hours to prevent any ice crystals forming.

This is the time of year I relieve my presses of all the old jars & cleaned out cream-cheese containers and congratulate myself for being such a good hoarder.

This needs no accompiament – eat it all by itself.

You might be wondering what to do with the lovely pulp you have leftover.  I thought the same.  I still had 2lb blackcurrants, as well as 1.5lb fresh raspberries that I picked at the same time.  I love raspberry jam but made some a couple of evenings ago.

For this Blackcurrant & Raspberry Jam mix:

2lb fresh blackcurrants with 2lb blackcurrant pulp (that’s what it weighed) and 2 pints of water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the blackcurrants just burst. Add  1.5lb raspberries and cook for less than 5 minutes. Next in is the sugar – 5lb of it – with a good stir so it all dissolves.  And bring to a good boil for at least 20 minutes.  Then it’s time to start checking for set – spoon some jam onto a cold plate and place in the fridge for a few minutes to cool.  Run your finger up the cooled jam – does it wrinkle?  That indicates setting point.  It should show a good wrinkling skin.  By this point your clean jars should be in the oven sterilising.  I boil the lids for a couple of minutes too.  At setting point, ladle the hot jam into a jug and pour into the hot jars. Seal, label and store for winter!

Pesto Peas, Supper Club & Garden News

We would grow a lot of peas when I was young.  I’m thinking now that large families provide a lot of podders……there isn’t so many peas or young podders around these days.  In later years the ‘posher’ variety of pea ‘mange-tout’ was grown.  The taste of freshly pod peas or mangetout holds a lot of memories.  When first faced with a huge bucket of peas to pod, one would eat plenty – munching on the small sweet peas, making the odd mistake and getting a hard, dry one.  By the end one was truly sick of peas……until the next day.  The podded peas went into bags for the freezer.

I made these ‘pesto peas’ with frozen peas as we don’t have any in the garden as yet. Anyway, it’s probably best not to alter freshly podded peas too much.  They impress us just the way they are.

As a quick, last minute, “what will my 2nd vegetable be?” moment while you’re waiting for whatever it is to finish cooking these are brilliant.  Take your frozen peas and cook in just enough water for 5-10 minutes.  Drain the water and add a couple of tablespoons of basil pesto.  Bash them around with a masher or fork, adding some seasoning – salt, pepper (and a little cream cheese if you have it).  This could also be blended for a lovely pea puree.

pesto peas

On supper club news I’ve just made the ‘pernod’ ice-cream for one of the desserts… to keep it safe until Sunday!  The menu is still pretty much as previous post.  A couple of spots opened up today because of cancellation – we’d be happy to have a few more eaters. Get in touch to find out more (Sarah: 0879439446). Very excited!

Cockails will be served in the Gazebo

Eric Humburg, landscaper, has cleaned up around the gazebo with some nice beds and laid a deck floor within.  There is loads of work going on around the garden – check out this ranch-style fence love it!!

And here’s a 2011 view of the front:

One vegetable I’m looking forward to this year is the aubergine in the tunnel.  I’ve a good few plants in and they’re doing pretty well.  I spotted it’s flower today.

Picking about 2kg strawberries every day so best go and deal with them before they soften.  I’m not complaining – I will love these frozen strawberries in the depths of winter – but I will have enough of them when it’s done.  By the way – I’m washing them, laying them on a tea towel to dry, hulling them and freezing the perfect ones whole on a tray in the freezer.  Once frozen I bag them and return to the freezer immediately.

Pickling Wild Garlic seed heads

Heading to the woods to pick the seed heads from the wild garlic has been on my to do list for a while!  Nature waits for no woman, but luckily I found them still intact today.  I’m thinking this would be better done sometime earlier (like 3 weeks ago) since they do feel a lot tougher and definitely ready to pop.  The flavour, however, is still definitely of garlic and green.  And I’m not willing to wait until next year to try this process that I first heard through twitter from chef Enda McEvoy and later found this brilliant post with great pictures on The Hunter Gatherer Cook: (

So these are what I picked.

What’s left to do is use a fork to pull the heads from the light stalks and in a jar, cover with infused vinegar (Hunter Gatherer used pine needle vinegar which I don’t seem to have…).  He recommends infusing with mustard seeds and rosemary.  Well, all my rosemary died with the frost and I’m not sure if I have any mustard seeds but I’m going to make a pickle – maybe with cider vinegar and a touch of honey.  Will let you know how this delicacy goes.

I’ve been gardening a little too so my Circles are starting to take shape, if not a little later this year than last.  I have beets, chard, rocket and other leaves in one.  Summer sprouting broccoli takes another and I’ve just put 3 courgette plants into a third.  Last night I left out a little treat for the slugs who really love hiding in the stones that make the surrounds of my circular beds.

Slug Trap

A lot of slugs were harmed in the making of this blog post – today I counted about 20 slugs in the beer trap.  Sorry guys but we have to eat greens too!  I just used an empty tuna tin buried flush with the soil and poured in some out of date ale.  It really was quite satisfying to finally catch up with the slugs.  I’m planning a few more slug parties around the garden.

Back in January, Hugo from Cafe Azteca in Dublin sent me on some seeds for tomatillo and epazote, which I promised to sow for him in the tunnel.  Tomatillos are difficult to get here and go into making the green salsa for real Mexican cuisine.  Epazote is a herb Hugo used to flavour a black bean soup he made at his Mexican cookery class here.  It has grown just fine after being started on a heated bench in the glass house.  I transplanted some in the tunnel and outside to see how it gets on.  It was the dried version Hugo used so I should be able to harvest and store if it goes well.  A very distinctive aroma and flavour that’s difficult to describe (I wrote this before looking up widipedia!) but apparently very dear to Mexican cooks.  I would say it has an almost metallic/chemical smell that reminds me of chlorine.  Weird I know, but here’s what widipedia has to say on the herb:

Epazote is used as a leaf vegetable and herb for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anisefennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. It has been compared to citruspetroleumsavorymint and camphor.


The tomatillos are really taking off since transplanted into the tunnel a couple of weeks ago.

Tomatillo tunnel

Going to try some wild garlic seeds with boiled baby beets for dinner.  Garlic and beetroot – a great combination.  Try it!

Snow: beautiful but troublesome

Snow Garden

We’ve had the most beautiful views over the snowy season that lasted just until Stephen’s Day.  It was not without it’s problems however.  The temperatures dropped to -17 C a couple of days before Christmas – things froze badly and some did not recover.  The head gardener is an avid potato grower and has many varieties on the go – meticulously saving the best seed for the following year.  After last years unusual freeze he spent a few days constructing a special heat unit for the spuds this year.  The thermostat kicks into action once the temperature drops below 0 C.  To our horror the potatoes were well and truly frozen and most completely ruined!  We’ve never seen temperatures like this and a whole year of potatoes and onions may be destroyed.  It’ll be brown rice for 2011!

It has almost fully thawed and the landscape looks dirty and damp again so here’s a reminder of the beauty:


Kitchen View

If you’re feeling a little overstuffed we ate this winter slaw type salad on Christmas Eve with apricot glazed ham and they made a nice little match.

Carrot & Red Cabbage Slaw

For 4

2 carrots, peeled and grated

1/2 red cabbage, cored & finely sliced

1 apple, grated (just before serving)


150ml natural yogurt

1/2 lime – juice of

juice 1/4 orange

2 tsp honey


  1. Dissolve the honey in the lime & orange juice and add to the yogurt.  Mix well.
  2. Combine all the ingredients just


Autumn Garden

It’s so windy here today I doubt there’ll be any leaves left so I shot out to snap a few before they’re all blown away!

Autumn Leaves....bye

Opposite my kitchen and down the avenue to the farm are rows of beech trees.  They’re busy sweeping up barrows of them and heaping them for mulch.

Leaf Heap

The garden is pretty stark looking compared to the past season but some of my favourite vegetables for winter cooking are dotted around here – beetroot, leeks, celery, carrots, parsnips, squash (harvested & stored), cabbage – curly kale & savoy, brussel sprouts, onions (harvested & stored), garlic – I love them all!

Garden 11th November 2010

The other day I made a versatile winter veggie stew by sweating roughly chopped onion and fennel in a little butter until soft.  I then added carrot, garlic and cooked for another 5-10 minutes with the lid on the pot and finally added squash and parsnip along with salt, pepper, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme sprig and simmered until the veggies were tender.  (Cut them different sizes so they cook evenly – i.e. carrot smaller than parsnip and squash bigger than parsnip).  We ate  this for 2 days – once with beans and another with shredded chicken.

As the garden begins to hibernate for the winter, there’s new life in the field next door – we have 3 new calves who are just gorgeous and sometimes like to lick their mama.


Affection in the Fields

Back to Gardening

Just 3 weeks ago I planted dwarf bean (french green beans) and climbing bean (yellow & purple) seeds in individual pots in the tunnel, which are now ready to be planted outdoors and have been hardening off for the last week.

Climbing Beans Ready for Off

There are strawberries ripening outside – are we in California??

Outdoor Strawberries

The mangetout have finally got the sun they deserve!

Mangetout - doubled in size in two weeks

The radish got a bit too big – bit fluffly inside!

Radish - pull them when they're smaller!

Exciting changes and more and more food to eat.  I made some room in the tunnel over the weekend to start putting in the tomato, basil and courgette/squash plants my mother gave me.  Decided to pull almost all the beetroot and made a lovely short-life pickle – will post recipe later.  Lots to do today.

Hello Garden Lady

As you can imagine, I was terribly excited about getting back to see what’s been happening in the garden.  News of the heatwave at home while I wandered in the San Francisco rain made me a little envious!  Anyway, it’s all starting to look fantastic and getting a little behind for planting things out!

This lady first greeted me as I stole into the garden the evening I arrived home:

Garden Lady