Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Norfolk Tart

Right, here's the deal. You refrain from telling jokes about Thetford, Great Yarmouth and errant husbands and I won't tell you the horrific details of my "regional tarts" Google experience. No need to spread the trauma any further I think.

As it was my Mum's 60th Birthday recently we decided to throw an extravagant champagne cream tea to celebrate. We took Jenny Joseph's 'Warning' as our theme, gilt edged crockery was purchased, posh frocks were worn and the menu was fretted over.

In celebration of my 'new' culinary home, I decided to make a Norfolk Tart using this recipe I'm assured it's calorie free ; ) I've mentioned this dish to a number of people who've never heard of it so it would be lovely to hear from anyone who knows anything about it, or how traditional this recipe may be.

Pictured is the finished product (on the bottom tier of the cake stand) which was sweet, buttery and delicious. Much better than the Manchester Tart I remember from school dinners with it's 100's and 1,000's slowly bleeding their colour into the slimy, jellified custard underneath, though I suspect that's more to do with the school kitchen than the Tart itself.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Phew, that was hard work.

Many apologies for the lack of posts over the last week or so. Life has been hectic in the kitchen lately due to a combination of ill children, a small child deciding she's not dry at night time after all which resulted in a series of 3am wake up calls and a stag weekend closely followed by a hen weekend. The end result was the reduction of a formerly robust human being (ie me) to a mere husk, wont to seizing child free afternoons as an opportunity to nap rather than blog.

But now, the hangovers have been slept off, the germs have been banished, nappies have been bought (much to my frustration), smallest daughter is slathered in sun cream and is frolicking outdoors in the sun while brandishing a gushing hosepipe so here I am again.

I'm pleased to say that Norfolk Kitchen has been mentioned on the EDP's new 'Norfolk Food Blogs' list. I'm disproportionately excited about it, so "Hello!" to any new followers.

I've just about managed to keep the allotment watered and reasonably healthy but the weeds are on the verge of getting out of control. Horsetail is rife in one corner of the plot which isn't as bad as it could be to be honest. Our allotment site was left derelict and grew wild for almost a decade so the perennial weeds have a real strangle hold, some other plots are almost carpeted in horsetail so I'm quite fortunate in comparison. It's horribly depressing though, to be continually digging it up, only for it to reappear what feels like seconds later. I've tried weedkiller on some bits (away from crops obviously) but all that happens is the end looks a bit singed but the rest of the plant soldiers on like a wounded horror film villain.

There's not much else going on in the affected corner, as the raspberries failed I'm left with just 3 redcurrant bushes. I'm wondering whether to isolate the area and cover it with carpet or similar for a year or so, though I wonder whether horsetail would survive even that. Another option could be to weedkiller the whole area thoroughly, though I'm not sure how far away from the redcurrants I'd have to stay to avoid killing them too.

I'd love to hear any other horsetail stories, is it possible to beat it or am I stuck with it now?

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Vegetable Headlines today are ......

Rabe Broccoli: Was very nice but isn't really broccoli like at all. Everything is eaten, the leaves, stalks and florets. The bottom 6cm or so of the stalks are really very fiberous so they're best cut off, the leaves wilt right down like spinach (and also has a similar minerally taste) which is a relief on the emergency chomping front as I've not got the mountain of veg I first imagined. The recipe I tried was lovely, highly recommended.

Broad Beans: Having pinched the tops out I decided to keep the pinchings (not sure that's an actual technical term) to cook at home. I arrived back from the allotment with a carrier bag bulging with beans tops, Raab Broccoli and Radishes which I left in the hallway when I came in. About half an hour later I went back to it to find an army of winged creatures teeming out of the bag and making their way determinedly up my walls. I would have screamed and flung the bag outside if I hadn't remembered that not only am I gardener but am northern to boot and therefore made of sterner stuff, so I placed the bag outside in a calm and seemly fashion. Now I just have to come up with a way to use up a carrier bag full of bean tops.

Potatoes: I began to worry about my potatoes at home after seeing several plots at the allotment had flowering potatoes already whereas mine are showing no signs of doing so, yet were planted out much earlier. I rummaged around in the bags and was horrified to discover the soil at the bottom of the bags was bone dry, despite several days of heavy rain here. I didn't realise that the bags seem to be in the rain shadow on the fence. I've obviously given them a good watering so it's now a matter of keeping my fingers crossed and see what happens.

Courgettes: I've got my first courgette flowers! I initially bought 3 courgette plants, planted 1 at home and 2 on the allotment. The one at home has gone from strength to strength in the shelter of our high fences but the allotment courgettes struggled in their exposed position in the cold snap we had (despite cloches). In a panic I planted a few more courgette seeds as I couldn't face a second courgette-less year after the 2009 Mosaic virus incident so I now also have 3 baby courgette seedlings planted out on the plot. Some may call it disorganised - I call it succession planting!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Our First Allotment Harvest!

Another historic day in the kitchen - Roughly 10 weeks after taking on our allotment, I brought home our first harvest, a bunch of big, fat radishes and a straggly bouquet of Rabe Broccoli.

I guess it's no surprise that radishes feature as they're such a fast growing crop though the stonking great size was unexpected. We sampled them at home and they were eye wateringly, nose runningly hot. On the upside, my sinuses have never been so clear.

I've recently discovered that I'm actually growing Rabe Broccoli (a name I prefer to it's other, rather off putting, one of turnip broccoli) I have to admit I got the seeds free on the front of a gardening magazine and just slung them in the ground without paying too much attention. When they came up with a somewhat unconventional appearance I did some proper research and realised what I actually had.

I now find I have the first glut of the season on my hands, the plants have grown up remarkably quickly and some are even flowering which gives an urgency to our diet over the next few days. I chopped down just 4 of the biggest plants, they filled a bucket and I struggled to cram them into the fridge. To make matters worse the children have turned their nose up at the slightly peppery taste so chomping duty falls to me and Adam. I may experiment with freezing some though I'm not sure if the leaves can stand it.

I'd happily give some away if it weren't for their embarrassingly lacy appearance thanks to the flea beetle. My efforts to control them haven't been effective so far. I put up some sticky traps but the little blighters merely boinged contently around them, refusing to fling themselves at the traps in a suicidal fashion. I've tried the treacle on card method but again, they seemed quite savvy re jumping away from the death trap card rather than onto it. Fleece is next on the list to try.

On the chomping front I'm going to try this recipe with the Rabe Broccoli alongside some barbecued pork belly for that authentic down home vibe.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Today's Food Adventures.

I had a bit of a brainstorm over breakfast this morning. Made myself eggy crumpets, which is a breakfast staple in this house, I'm not sure what thought process it triggered but something made me think of the pickled damsons I made back in August last year.

I first discussed pickled fruit here, I made some pickled quince and blackberries back in 2008 but wasn't impressed with them until about a year later when they had matured into a smooth, complex, almost boozy, deliciousness. I'm pleased to say the damsons from 2009 seem to have gone the same way so it seems a lengthy maturation period is the key. They're not sweet enough to have a desert with ice cream or anything but they have a delicious, tangy, sweet and sour flavour, akin to a good chutney.

Teamed with the eggy crumpets they made an amazing breakfast and I'm sure they must be good with the ubiquitous chutney partners of cold meats and cheese too.

The other foodie experiment of the day was quickie ice cream using the zip lock method. I'm sure that parents of small children everywhere know this 'ideal for the holidays' trick but I'll re-hash it anyway. You take one small zip lock bag, fill it with a cup of milk, a tablespoon of sugar and some vanilla essence (or flavouring of your choice, or you could even use flavoured milkshake) zip it closed and place it in a larger zip lock bag along with 2 or 3 handfuls of ice cubes and 2 tablespoons of salt. Shake it all about for 5 minutes or so and Ta Daaaa - ice cream!

The children were sold on the idea but soon moaned about cold hands (hence Willow's expression in the photo) we used semi skimmed milk which was ok but full cream would've been nicer, still, at least we know for next time.