Radical Radishes & Curried Kittens

I’ve been trying to keep to a schedule for writing here  but with my big cousin’s stag party at the weekend… well, lets just say that I was still trying to recover on Monday.  It was a great night, though, and I’m looking forward to his wedding in a couple of weeks time.

Today I was ready to blow the cobwebs away and raring to get out in the garden.  I wasn’t going to allow a torrential downpour bit of drizzle stop me from getting out there.  That’s what wellies and big leather gloves are for, right?  Today’s task was finally getting rid of the radishes.  When I first grey radishes, hoping for little, lovely, salad bowl crunchies I failed miserably.  I could get them to the right size, shape and crunchiness, even but the taste was just horrid.  Not sure where I was going wrong, but the upshot was too many radishes I didn’t want to eat!

So, having heard that radish seed in many ways approximates mustard seed, I figured I’d leave the ones which were left in the ground and see what happened.  For a start, the bees loved them – radishes have a profuse amount of flowers and they actually smell quite nice. This is, unfortunately, the only photo I have of them close-ish up:

The  radishes, left to grow, became huge and some even seemed to have started growing secondary tubers further down the root.

As it turned out, apparently the seeds on mine didn’t taste any good either, so I dug the lot out of the ground today to make space for winter lettuces.  Smashing them up to go in the compost, though, I noticed the coolest thing:  some of them had become hollow and were supporting small colonies of critters and beasties – including worms! Click on the images for a closer view.

Not all of the radishes were hollow, but I’d had no idea they would even do this.  Pretty funky stuff.  Cool as they were, though, their upheaval was a must – giving me space for my winter lettuces:

Not a tonne of space but, then, that’s the story of this garden as a whole.  Still, as the season comes to a close, I feel that I’ve really managed to make a decent go of growing things in my long-thin strip of dirt.  It’s been great fun and I’m already planning what I will (and won’t) grow next year.  For the record, the garden looks like so at the beginning of September:

Coming to a slow close, but not done yet!

On a completely different note, below is what happens when you leave an inquisitive, greedy wee kitten in a room with an empty curry bowl:

Yes, he’s still with us, and getting chubbier by the day.  Just look at that round wee belly!

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Saturday Soup – Judy’s White Bean Soup with Chilli Oil

You’re beginning to see a pattern as to where I get my soup ideas, right?  Of course, this week’s one is another BBC GoodFood one – it’ll take a while to plumb the depths of their soup selection even with a few ‘repeat’ recipes.  Still, if anyone wants to throw a suggestion from another site my way I’d totally appreciate it!

This recipe uses butterbeans.  Dried butterbeans: which you soak overnight and then must peel before using in the soup.  To say this is a tedious task is not even the half of it.  However, I looked to the other commenters, who said that it was worth it and, dubious, watched tv whilst popping beans out of their flimsy shells.  All said, it took me nearly an hour – though I wasn’t going at any great speed, if I’m honest.  Still, it was an impressive pile of discards at the end:

At least I have a compost heap to throw them on, too.  Maybe next year I can grow some of my own from that self-same compost =)

The soup itself is thick, tasty, and not over-seasoned.  If you’re used to salt-and-peppering most soups vigorously I’d strongly suggest holding off on this one – it’s got a superb subtle flavour, especially with the chilli oil, which would, I think, be overwhelmed by too much seasoning – especially salt.  It was, as the commenters on the recipe had said, totally worth the effort to make.  A beautiful soup and none too skimpy a portion.  I’m not sure how often I’d make the effort, but it’s certainly a soup I’d make again.  It’s an impressive soup, in looks as well as taste, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to serve up to guests.

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Sunshine on a Rainy Day

I think these sunflowers stand true to their name:  ‘Tall Yellow’.  They’re definitely tall – I’m 5′ 8″ and in the below picture my arm is at its full extension above my head, putting these stalks at over 8ft skyward!  The flowers, too, are massive – bigger than my hand, though foreshortening makes them seem a tad smaller in the picture and a very nice, bright, sunshine yellow.  Definitely doing what it sez on the tin seed packet.

I only planted three, but they’ve all come up and are a nice late-summer splash of colour in the garden – though only one is flowering so far.  I’m hoping, next year, to plant a row along the fence to break up the orange-red monotony ;)

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Edinburgh Zoo

I love the Zoo, I really do.  I’ve always had an interest in animals – ever since I spent my 50p pocket money every week on a new small plastic model for my ‘farm’.  It was an exotic farm, with giraffes, lions, tigers, deer, ostriches and eventually even an okapi – an animal I’d never even heard of until I saw the unusual little model in the toy shop.  That toy shop (Blythe’s), and the little glass-fronted case of animals  is something I think helped usher me towards my love of all creatures great and small – I went to the library to look up what an okapi was!

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see an okapi at Edinburgh zoo, or the giraffe’s which were there last time – but there were plenty other cool animals – especially the pallas cats which sort-of look like what would happen if you mixed a persian with a wildcat.

Probably the biggest highlight of the day was feeding the rainbow lorikeets  – such cheeky wee things!  The trip to the top on the safari bus thing was a bit dull – there wasn’t really time to see anything – but at least it got us to the top of the hill ;)  Even with mostly downhill walking, though, the day was scorching and our feet were killing us by the end of the day, but it was so much fun.

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Super Saturday Soups

I love soup – I have it about 2-3 times a week for lunch or sometimes a light dinner.  Until about a year or so ago, most soups I’d tried to make turned into a thick, often grey, gloop – edible enough, so long as you don’t actually look at it… Since those experimental days of University, I’ve learned to make a passable lentil soup based on a recipe from my mum – it’s very much a vague recipe, with nothing measured out – but makes a super-tasty soup every time.  Lentil gets boring though – especially when you can only make it in 8-10 person quantities!

I’ve especially become fond of the carton-soups Tesco makes as they do a wide range, they’re fresh, and some are seasonal.  Given the price of them, and the waste of packaging, as well as the urge to improve my kitchen skills, it seemed like learning to make more of my own soups would be totally worthwhile.  So, I’ve decided to set myself a mini challenge of sorts: a weekly soup!

The one recipe which really set me on this particular trail was parsley soup, from a site by the same name.  I had been looking for something to do with the rather large, and growing, pile of parsley from the garden which was taking up space in the freezer and this recipe fit the bill.  It was rather unusual to me as I’d never have thought of making a soup based on parsley!  It was surprisingly tasty, savoury but still light – a very nice summer soup.

The picture at the top of the post is of the soup I made yesterday: Sweetcorn and chilli soup from my usual recipe source – BBC GoodFood.  It was really light and creamy and tasty. The combination of green chilli and coriander was one which worked well with the sweetcorn and I was surprised by how much one small green chilli came through in the flavour – especially because ‘tesco green chillies’ are not exactly super-flavoursome chillies compared to home-grown or named variety chillies.  The recipe also uses a huge amount of coriander – I was beginning to wonder, whilst crushing seeds, chopping stems and leaf, if this wasn’t some sort of ruse to make a sneaky coriander soup by another name.  However, despite using cheap frozen sweetcorn (because I forgot to get actual corn when I was at the shops, d’oh!) the flavour of the corn really did come through – I can only imagine how it would have tasted with fresh kernels in it.  It was an amazingly tasty soup!

I did have a few gripes with the recipe, though: mostly the portions.  It’s a recipe which is supposed to feed four but I found that once it was blended (zhszed, as I call it) and strained to create the smooth soup the recipe intended there really was barely enough for two people.  Add to that the fact that there was so much ‘waste’  from straining and I’m not sure I could really bring myself to make it again.  Perhaps fresher kernels, with softer skins, would have left less waste – but given I re-blenderised it after straining the first time, I’m not sure how much that would change the proportions of ‘leftovers’.

So, super-tasty but wasteful.  It’s a shame, as I love sweetcorn and, despite the fact Andy doesn’t, he liked this soup!  I think I need to figure out how to minimise the waste and up the quantities.

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Daring Cooks – Peirogi

Yet again, cutting it fine on actually posting, despite making this month’s challenge in plenty of time!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Pierogi are something I’d only tried once before I got my hands on these recipes.  Andy had insisted we should give them a go as he’d wanted to try them for awhile but  the supermarket ones we got were very bland to my taste and rubbery to boot.  Home made ones, though, are a totally different kettle of fish!

Since we were challenged to try local food variants for our pierogi, I went with haggis. I figured it would work well, with some added mash. Since fresh is a little expensive as a ‘filling’, I ended up using one of my comfort food easy-meal items:

Because I’d used haggis, I made a couple of my pierogi haggis-shaped, the rest ‘normal’ and folded up:

I noticed some people using wholemeal flour for theirs, and figured that would work for haggis filled ones (I went for 2/3 plain, to 1/3 wholemeal), and also added some ground black pepper to the dough. Served on a bed of lightly fried cabbage and onions, drizzled with garlic-chilli sauce and marigold petals from the garden.

The recipes and instructions for making your own are here.

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