Saturday, 4 October 2008

Broccoli Cheese - new recipe

I know that the French have a reputation for wonderful cuisine: healthy, delicious, a people who truly care about their food and take time to prepare and then eat it. They don't hesitate at this time of year to go out into the woods and pick as much fungi as possible which is then turned into the most delicious je ne sais quoi a la fungi. However, I bet even they haven't tried this one...and to be honest I hope I don't ever again.

A while back I planted some broccoli plants, together with some cauliflowers and some red cabbage. More new vegetables for our plot although most people have been planting them for years. A week ago I decided the first broccoli was ready for eating but as Max was away I didn't cut it until Thursday. I bought it in and broccoli cheese was instantly on the menu.

Things started to go wrong when I cut it up. I've been very careful about picking off caterpillars. The first time I realised the leaves of the broccoli were being eaten I picked off nearly 100 rather beautiful multi-coloured caterpillars and gave them to the chickens - who weren't interested.

After that I realised a bit of method was required and picked caterpillars every two days. The multi-coloured ones have gone and I am collecting little green ones - the result of the Cabbage White butterfly I presume. I include the caulis in my caterpillar-harvest and thought I was doing quite well. But on Thursday evening as I cut up the broccoli a couple of small green devils dropped out. I picked over the broccoli fairly thoroughly and more fell out. I cut it smaller, to make the flowerlets easier to pick over, and yet more fell out. I had about 12 by the end of all this picking over but I was also fairly confident that I had done a thorough job.

Cooking revealed three more. They float up to the top and are easy to pick out. Not something I really wanted to know to be honest.

As I prepared the cheese sauce I went through the broccoli again - just to be safe - and there were no more. Excellent and no need to mention any of this to Max.

The Broccoli Cheese was delicious. Just right for a mid-week supper. We were thrilled with our first broccoli. We were looking forward to the second one in fact which needs cutting this weekend probably. And then the crunch came. Literally.

Did you know that the caterpillar of Cabbage White Butterflies are crunchy when they've been boiled for five minutes? Did you also know that they are very bitter? And finally, that biting one rather puts you off the rest of your supper?

It's too late for this year of course but some insect netting will be on my list to Father Christmas!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Clearing beds

With the house to myself and beautiful weather I decided to start clearing the vegetable beds to make way for things that will be growing through the winter. With the passing of the autumn equinox we now have more dark hours than light and it's showing. The leaves on the tomatoes and courgettes are yellowing suddenly, mildew on the courgettes is suddenly worse - although this may be a coincidence. I have mentionned before that we haven't had enough onions in the garden this year and so I thought I would plant some now for harvesting in the spring. But I don't have much space!

So yesterday I cleared the main tomato bed to the delight of the chickens who followed me along the way picking up lots of delicious wriggly morsels! The tomatoes were planted through black plastic so that part was quite easily. However, on both sides of the plastic the weeds had taken charge and this took quite a while a clear. At one point a large stone that I was about to throw in the trailer suddenly hopped away towards the aubergines - it gave me a fright but frogs keep the slugs down so I have no complaint and shock passes quickly!

After the tomatoes I cleared the French beans and beetroot. Maybe I just grew more than normal but we do have the most amazing amount of beans in the freezer this year. Beetroot is harder to preserve but we'll probably eat it this week anyway.

The onion sets will go in later this week. I have three different varieties plus garlic: White Ebenezer (not surprisingly a white onion), Stuttgarter Reisen which has done well for us before, Griselle (shallot) and for the garlic Germidor which is a new one to us and has a violet coloured skin. 500gs of each so a fair bit of planting!