Posts Tagged With: sorrel

A million miles from partial, self-sustainability (but trying!) – Beach House garden pics and update

Enjoying a cuppa at the Pant Du Winery (just down the road).  Yes, Richard is making wine in Wales!  Very nice tipple as well (the cider is especially amazing)

Enjoying a cuppa at the Pant Du Winery (just down the road). Richard and his family are making wine up here in North Wales! Very nice tipple as well, red, white or rose (the cider is especially amazing).

Here we are again, challenged by our beautiful hill side climate. The Beach House Garden is a wild place to be. We’re 400 metres up Tiger Hill, staring out towards Ireland and Angelsey and the weather so far in 2015 has been unrelenting and way too chilled.  The veg patch is not very photogenic at the moment, the plants look a little timid, not sure whether they’ll bother this year.  But, when the sun is out and you’re lying on the grass, watching the apple tree dance; the world seems bountiful and ever generous.  Thank you nature, I’m not complaining.

The back of the garden, where the wild ones live.....growing freely for all the little critters, bees and hedgehogs.

The back of the garden, where the wild ones live…..growing freely for all the little critters, bees and hedgehogs.

Now Buster (our semi-feral part-time cat) seems to have found a better deal, small birds are flocking to our garden. Its wonderful. Goldfinches and all sorts of busy tits.  We even have a robins nest directly opposite our kitchen window in the dry stone wall. We can see the little Mum robins head poking out of the nest when we’re washing up. I have to say, the Dad robin is working a hard shift getting the twigs sorted and gathering fat worms.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Jane bought me a very cool, Snowdonia Pear Tree for my birthday, so that will be going into the earth very soon. We have a lovely little sunny spot ear-marked for Percival (2.5/10 for originality there!)  I’ve always thought an orchard would be beyond me, but it seems we’re getting a nice little gathering of fruit trees together.  Even the cherry tree has decided to burst into life.

The herb garden is doing well, we have some funky varieties of mint growing, I’ve gamble on some tough ‘bush’ basil and of course, the rosemary, thyme and sage are doing well (they’re toughies).  Mint is such a trooper, we now have ginger mint growing in our grass.  A nice surprise!  I’m in charge of edibles and Jane loves to work with the frillier plants.  The colourful ones that look nice.  Jane’s favourite plant is a ‘Lady Shallot’ Rose, beautifully peach.  It gets favourable marks from me just for having an onion in its name.  Our Acer tree is loving it this year and has doubled in size.  Acers always remind me of Japan.  I love the little red guy for that.

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Our noble red acer

When the sun does get out and we are both at home, we chop wood.  The chainsaw gets cranked up and we fill our garage full of scavenged trunks and branches.  There is something very reassuring having a garage half filled with logs for the fire.  Jane’s brother in law, Paul, will be coming up soon to help us get one of our years biggest projects finished.  A new woodstore.  Knowing Paul, it will be a work of art!

Choppin'  logs

Chopin’ logs – Feeling warmer already

I think one of the highlights of our garden is the succulents. They are an interesting plant, like a cactus meets a rose, normally on a stony wall. I planted a little succulent and couple of years ago, wedged it between a few stones with some soil and it now looks like a perfect, crimson, lotus flower.

The Lotus Succulent

The Crimson Lotus Succulent

Our apple and plum trees went wild with blossom, which is now blown all over the garden. Hopefully the bees did there work and we’ll have some fruit again this autumn. This year is, so far, nothing like last, which was a bumper year for fruit and berries. Come on plums!

Plum blossom going strong.  Last year we had a festival of plums.  This year will be more like a quiet get-together.

Plum blossom going strong. Last year we had a festival of plums. This year will be more like a quiet get-together.

We are growing our own lettuce this year and have trays of seedlings all over the place, we’re also going for plenty of rocket. Our veg patch is sporting tiny shoots of cauliflower, cavolo nero, beetroot, fennel, potato, chard and savoy cabbage. We’re realising that the veggies we grow up here on Tiger Hill need to be the equivalent of a very enthusiastic SAS commando to even stand a chance. If Bear Grylls was a carrot, he wouldn’t last long in our veg patch!  Anything like a creeping bean will soon be blown over to the curious sheep (or horses) next door and turned into a tasty bite.

Orange, gold and black, at sunset, Tiger Hill lives up to its name.

Orange, gold and black, at sunset, Tiger Hill lives up to its name.  Overlooking Nantlle Valley.

One of the advantages of the plants being small, is that the slugs seem to have followed suit. They’re tiny little guys, still doing a slugs-worth of damage, but in smaller nibbles than usual. I have built up some of the edges of the veg patches, but have generally given up on slug traps/ assault courses. I think the best way is patience and surrendering a decent portion of each crop to the greedy little critters.

Eeking out a few veggies is more than a hobby though, it helps to keep me connected to the seasons and what’s going to be good on the BHK menu and the menu at Trigonos. When the weather is beautiful I feel great for the garden, when the storms set in, I just hope they survive another day!

Pond ferns

Pond ferns

The pond is doing brilliantly.  We rarely touch it, which seems to do the trick.  Everytime you walk past you can hear small amphibians throwing themselves into the safety of the overgrown water feature.  We have many newts living there, and frogs.  We have also noticed baby red dragonflies.  I think this all points towards a nice clean pond.  Again, since Buster left us (we miss you little man) the frogs especially are thriving.

At this time of year sorrel is really doing its thing.  We’ve tried growing it in beds, but our sorrel prefers to grow through the slates in the front garden.  It seems very happy there and is thriving.  Its one of my favourite leaves, full of bitter apple twang, I’m happy to see its found a home.

Sorrel is a star

Sorrel is a star

It looks like the garden this year will be more play than productivity, I can see the fire pit being cranked up later in the summer.  Apparently, September is going to be a stunner.  Only another three months to wait then!

So after four years of Beach House gardening adventures, we’re still roughly a million miles away from our wonderful goal of partial self-sustainability. But I know we are on the right track!  If all else fails, maybe we can dive into the world of poly-tunnels.  We’ll keep experimenting until we figure something’s out, we learn a little more each year and for that alone, the Beach House garden is ever valuable and fertile.

Some blue skies......

Some blue skies……

Categories: Healthy Living, photography, Summer, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Swede and Sorrel Autumn Soup

Bigger than a football, our giant swede (3kgs+)

Bigger than a football, our giant swede (3kgs+)

Swede is a root star!  You may call it a neep, a rutabaga or a yellow turnip.  Whatever the name, not many people agree with me!  Swede is a wonderfully flavoursome vegetable with a real kick of secret mustard-iness that I appreciate (think a concentrated cabbage stem for first time users).  Mashed swede was always my favourite part of my Mum’s traditional Sunday dinner and this soup is like a Sunday dinner in a bowl.  I’ve added a hint of mint here, because our Sunday dinners always came with mint sauce.

Swede is always very cheap, probably the cheapest veggie in town and can be used in so many different ways, check out our Swede, Pear and Tahini Salad to name just one!  Swede has long been known as the ‘poor mans turnip’ which is surely some form of an insult!!!  On my travels around this great globe, I have normally preferred the alleged ‘poor mans’ pickings to the lavish platters of the rich (rich by means normally results in rich OTT foods).

 

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Bigger than my head (that is quite huge!)

This is proper traditional fare, which is perfect as autumn has arrived with a stormy bang in North Wales.  The Beach House is clinging onto Tiger Mountain as the gales and storms (apparently hangovers from some distant hurricanes) are battering us.  We’re inside, eating soup mainly and venturing out in the mornings to see if our new apple tree has blown over and to check that our roof is still all there.  Soup like this, thick and substantial; using things that grow in the garden and veg patch, are what we love to eat when the nights draw in.  Packed with extra nutrition and the antioxidants we need to fight things like colds and other early winter bugs.  As ever, trying to keep things simple and local is a great challenge for me!  I love food from all over the world and cannot help but lob a little spice and a smidgen of chilli into most of the dishes I cook.  This swede soup is stripped to the stem and given a frilly sorrel lining.

The sorrel here grows like wildfire in our garden and we are ever attempting new ways to use it up.  In soups and stews it does lose its vibrant green hue, but maintains that lovely punchy, bitter apple like flavour.  We stir the leaves in at the end to maintain all their vitality and potency.  Use alternate leaves like spinach if sorrel is not growing in your garden or local area.  If you’re in the UK, Im sure you’ll find some hanging around hedgerows or woodlands.

Prepare yourselves, for a classic British Sunday dinner, it a bowl!

Fresh garden rosemary

Fresh garden rosemary

The Bits – Maks 6 decent bowls

1 tbs oil

750g swede (a mere small chunk out of our behemoth)

3 potatoes

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

2 carrots

(All cut into rough chunks)

2 large sprigs rosemary

1 teas dried mint

4 big handfuls of sorrel (keep a few smaller leaves to make it look nice at the end)

750ml warm vegetable stock (with hot water ready as needed)

Salt (if needed, stock is normally salty to start with)

 

Nutritional yeast flakes (optional – for added vegan savoury fun)

Simmering Swedes

Simmering Swedes

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, warm the oil on medium low heat and add all the veggies at once. Stir and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the stock and rosemary, covering the veggies by roughly 1 inch with liquid.  Pop lid on and simmer for 45 minutes until the carrots are soft (they take the longest to cook).  Add the dried mint, pick out the rosemary sprigs and blend smooth with a stick blender or pour in batches into a food processor.  Stir in the sorrel leaves and pour into bowls immediately.

Serve

Scatter a few little sorrel leaves on top to look nice and serve to empty bellies and full hearts.  I f you like easy to make bread recipes, try Jane’s Wonder Loaf, preferably toasted and drizzled with rapeseed oil.

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Swede and Sorrel Soup

Foodie Fact

Swede comes from guess where?…….its a tough one I know, but the answer is Sweden.  It was traditionally grown to feed cattle, lucky cows!

Swede is a member of the cabbage family.  It is a great source of nutrients, especially vitamin C and A, making it a perfect autumn boost.  It also contains plenty of fibre, potassium and even calcium.  It also happens to be low in calories, probably due to its cabbage connections.  For all these reasons and because it tastes great, we should all be eating swede like happy cattle.  Its just not very cool is all!

Our neighbourky horses didn't think much of the swede

Our neighbourky horses didn’t think much of the swede

Categories: Autumn, Recipes, Soups | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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