As you might have read from an earlier blog post I pick my tomatoes, remove the stalks and freeze so that when I am ready I can make one big batch of tomato sauce which I will can and use throughout the winter.
We have had our first rain of the autumn here in Seattle and the temperature outside is a cool 55 degrees F so it is time to make the sauce!
This years tomato crop was not as good as in previous years so I suspect I will not get more than a few liters of sauce, darn!
Here is my process for making tomato sauce:
Canned Tomato Sauce
First I start by dumping all the frozen tomatoes in the pot, just to defrost them and getting them cooking takes 3 - 4 hours so make sure you are ready for almost a full 8 - 10 hours of cooking.
You need to reduce the total volume by 60%, crazy I know but tomatoes have so much water and you need to cook this off so you are left with tomato goodness.
Once you have cooked down the tomatoes to a thick mixture it is time for you put them through a food mill. My food mill has three options from the biggest holes to the smallest, I use the middle option. Once I am through with this process I always find that I need to cook down the mixture a little bit more. You know it is ready to can when you don't see a separation of water at the top and tomato sauce. I have included a lot of pictures to help you with this process.
When it comes to canning you need to boil a pot of water, make sure your jar are sterilized. I use quart size jars and before adding the sauce you need 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Fill the jars with the sauce leaving about ½ at the top. Put on the seal and lid and then process in the boiling water for about 45 minutes, leave them for an additional 5 minutes with the heat turned off before you remove them.
You should have a winter's supply of tomato sauce!
It is tomato glut season and I am lucky to love tomatoes! The weather is getting colder here in Seattle and we have had rain for the last 3 days. This weather makes me think about the cold rainy winter to come and that in turn makes me think about soups and stews, YUM!
With that in mind here is my recipe for an autumn treat:
Roasted Tomato Soup
Put about 2.5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 roughly chopped onions and about 6 - 8 garlic cloves (peeled) in a large bowl
Add about 6 tablespoons of olive oil and make sure that everything has a good coating. Once coated dump out the contents onto a baking tray. Cook in the oven on 450 degrees F for about 20 - 30 minutes, they are finished when the look nice and caramelized!
Once they are done in the oven dump them into a pot add about 32 ounces of stock, 2 - 3 bay leads and about 3 - 4 tablespoons of butter
Cook for 20 - 40 minutes or until the contents has reduced by ⅓, you want a thick mixture.
Remove bay leaves and then use an emersion blender to create a consistent mixture. Add cream to taste (I added about ¼ cup), salt and pepper….Enjoy!
Apologies for the silence, I have been trying to keep up with work and all the vegetable picking in the garden. What has been most surprising this years is that my kale is still growing like crazy and it has not been attached by any of the many insects that often attach it every year. Lucky me!
I LOVE kale but I come across a lot of people who don’t love it so I am always looking to create recipes to convert people. Admittedly, I have failed more often than I have succeeded but I continue to try. I wanted to share the recipe which has created the most kale converts. Enjoy!
A good glug of olive oil
About 15-20 kale leaves
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 cup of beef stock (chicken will do but beef is better)
1 cup red wine if using beef stock, white wine if using chicken stock
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
3 tablespoons of butter
Grated nutmeg (optional)
Black pepper (optional)
Strip the kale leaves from the tough centre stalk and discard the stalk. Roll the kale leaves up into a tube and cut the tube into slices (or just chop the kale). Cut the onions into two halves, then slice each half so that the onions are in long slivers. Chop the garlic. Heat a non-stick pan and add the olive oil. Add the onions and turn pan onto a low heat. Fry the onions until they are transparent and soft. Add the garlic and keep frying until the garlic and onions are pretty soft.
Heat the pan up until its hot and add the stock. Keep the pan on high heat until the stock reduces to about 1/10th of its original volume. Add the cup of wine and reduce that until its about 1/10th its original volume. You're trying to get something which is a bit thickish, not just liquid.
Turn the heat back to low and add the kale. Keep cooking the kale until its still bright green (not pale green) - probably about 4 -5 minutes on a low heat. Stir the onion and kale around so its all mixed in together.
Add the parmesan and stir.
When it looks like the liquid is just covering the bottom of the pan - its ok if its still a bit liquidy, but you don't want it to be a half inch deep for instance - then add the 3 tablespoons of butter and stir until the butter is melted.
The butter and liquid should thicken slightly.
Turn off the heat and stir everything in the pan so that it is well mixed.
Grate more Parmesan over the top, grate some nutmeg and/ or black pepper, and serve.
I love squash and in the winter time I dream about an abundance of this stuff. In the summer my husband and I like to challenge ourselves to full 2-3 course meals that have courgettes in each course! I thought I would share some of these recipes with you. You will notice that my recipes are not terribly detailed in the sense that I don’t often give you explicit measurements.
Grilled Courgette Salad
This is a yummy option for a starter/appetizer or if you bring your lunch to work a great lunch option!
Zucchini/Summer Squash/Courgette - 2 -3
1 Garlic clove
Handful of milk
Salt and pepper
Fresh peas (handful)
Cheese (I like either goats cheese or parmesan)
First take a few zucchini and thinly slice them the long way and grill them on a griddle or on the BBQ (griddle pan is a lot easier!). Once you do this place them on a platter and don't overlap them as this will make them go soggy.
Mince the garlic and very thinly slice the chili and sprinkle over the courgettes/squash. Finely chop the mint and sprinkle over platter. Add some salt and pepper and then drop chunks of goat's cheese around the platter. If you are using parmesan you can likely skip the salt and thickly grate the cheese all over the platter. To finish drizzle a good amount of delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is a variation of a lasagne without the bechamel sauce, the cheesy breadcrumb topping makes this pretty tastey!
Zucchini/Summer Squash/Courgette - 4 - 5
Jar of tomato sauce (I can my own tomato sauce from my tomato crop but you can buy a jar as well)
No bake lasagne sheets
Bread Crumbs (ideally home made)
The first thing you need to do is thinly slice the squash, then lay it in a single layer on a baking tray and make sure it is covered (top and bottom) with olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees F. You want it to be fully cooked but still firm and not mushy.
While this is cook grate a large amount of cheddar and parmasan cheese, you need enough to put some in the bake as well as some on the top, mix both grated cheeses together.
Start creating the bake by placing a small amount of sauce on the bottom of the 9x13 inch dish. Then add a layer of lasagne sheets, on top of the sheets add a layer of the squash. Next lasagne sheets, some sauce, some cheese mixture and then more squash. Continue this process until you have about ½ inch at the top. You want to have the top layer be the squash. Mix at least 1 - 1.5 cups of the cheese mixture with about 1 cup to breadcrumbs and then add this to the top of the squash...this should be a thick layer so if you need more cheese/breadcrumb mixture go ahead and add it.
I bake this at 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes.
This year my blackcurrants recovered from being moved last year and were back to their normal abundant cropping. I have only 2 plants and they produce so much fruit I am always at a loss for what to do with them. This is mainly because I made so much jelly 2 years in a row that 3 years later I am still eating it! Canned goods last forever right?
I am very glad that the blackcurrants did well this year because my red and white currants got decimated by a caterpillar. Oddly the caterpillar stripped all 6 plants of their leaves but left about 50% - 60% of the fruit intact. After picking the currants I ended up with more caterpillars on my clothing that fruit in my basket.
Back to blackcurrants...I went back to my favorite books, the River Cottage Handbooks. This time I went for No. 2 Preserves and found a great recipe for potted blackcurrants. When reading the description as being great with custard or ice cream I thought this would be perfect.
Getting blackcurrants off the plant individually is pretty easy so I decided to pick them this way so as to make the cleaning and canning part of the job easier. You really want to pack them in the jars but want to avoid crushing them. Once they are all in the jars you want to pour the syrup over them. To make the syrup you want to heat 600 ml of water with 200 grams of sugar. Once the mixture comes to a boil keep boiling for about 1 minute. Let this syrup cool slightly (to 60 degrees C) and then pour over the fruit up to the brim. Fasten with the screw bands as per normal for canning. Place the jars in water which is at 38 degrees C and then over 25 minutes heat to 88 degrees C and then maintain at this temperature for about 2 minutes. Lift out the jars and once totally cool check for a seal.
I have never canned this way but all of my jars were sealed and the liquid in the cans is a lovely blue/purple color, what a great use for blackcurrants!
The sun was shining this weekend in Seattle and I wanted to try out a new path called the Cross Kirkland Corridor. This is not the typical walk I do as I usually try to find a forest or mountain but I was lured by the fact that the Chainline brewery was literally right on the trail, this place has delicious beer!
The path is lovely and wide and at parts has a slow moving stream on either side of it. When walking along trying to stop my son from falling into the stream I noticed the stream was full of watercress. This watercress was in perfect condition and had not yet flowered. Once the watercress flowers the peppery taste turns bitter and is not terribly nice to eat.
I decided to gather up a bunch to take home and made some soup. Here is my recipe for watercress soup:
Lots of watercress (3 - 4 cups should be good!)
Salt and pepper
Clean the watercress and get rid of stems so you just have leaves, set this aside. Finely dice the onion and brown in the olive oil until translucent. Use a mandolin or slice the potato as finely as possible, add watercress and then add stock so it the watercress just sticks out above the stock a little. Cook for about 5 - 7 minutes until potatoes are soft and watercress has wilted. Use a hand immersion blender and blend. Finish with cream, salt and pepper….delicious :)
How can one celebrate Easter (regardless of your religious beliefs or total lack of them as in my case) without hot cross buns? There is something about their fluffy but bready texture, when toasted, that has me addicted. I eat these year round but as I often have people at my house around Easter, I have to bake them.
Where does the greed come into play you ask? Well I thought it would be clever to make a double batch, double the hot cross buns in the same amount of time...who wouldn't? I must mention that I use a bread maker, specifically my Zojirushi bread maker to make all of my bread products (this is expensive but it is five years old, still going strong and worth every penny)!
Any of you out there with a bread maker will certainly question my sanity when I say I put 8 cups of flour, in addition to other ingredients, into this bread maker. As you can see these barely fit which does not bode well for the kneading cycle. At this point I was fully committed. Once the kneading was in full swing and essentially exploding out of the tin I realized that I had to also add the fruit. This was a step too far, disaster was really touching distance at this point. I decided I would knead in the fruit by hand which was totally impossible as this dough is hard. My only option was to set up a manual cycle (which only kneads), adding in the fruit with ½ the dough and then more fruit with the other half I had an over kneaded dough.
I baked them and was certain of the disastrous outcome when my husband came in the room and said ‘I love rock cakes’. I can confirm that they do taste like hot cross buns but that is where the resemblance ends.
I realize that this does not say much about the recipe but I have made this exact recipe about 20 times and if you don't get greedy like I did and stick to a single batch they come out just like the picture :)
I would like to highlight that I am lazy and not religious so I do not add the cross, it is simply too much effort and adds nothing to the flavor!
Here is the recipe (The Complete Book of Bread & Bread Machines by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter):
*It is only while typing out this recipe that I realize I also forgot the butter...how they were still edible is now beyond me.
**I prefer to use Saf Yeast, this is the best yeast I have ever used and it never fails me! I use the same quantity of this yeast to the one in the recipe.
Add all ingredients into the bread maker in this order (for the bread maker I have - others might have a different order). Set to dough setting and press start. Add the fruit when the machine tells you to!
When the dough cycle has finished knock back the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Shape into a ball and place on a prepared baking sheet and cover with an oiled film and leave for 30 - 45 minutes until it has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C and bake buns for 15 - 18 minutes until golden.
According to mynorthwest.com’s April 3rd post, two weeks after the first official day of spring, many Seattle residents have yet to enjoy a 60-degree day this year. It is now April 14th and I can say we are STILL waiting. Saying that we have some sun today and I say we are getting closer to that 60 degree mark! For me Spring means I can eat rhubarb, finally. This is always the first crop I eat in Spring and so I get pretty excited about it.
Rhubarb has been around for quite a long time and, according to the The Rhubarb Compendium website. The earliest records date back to 2700 BC in China where rhubarb was cultivated for medicinal purposes. Early records of rhubarb in America identify an unnamed Maine gardener as having obtained seed or root stock from Europe in the period between 1790-1800. He introduced it to growers in Massachusetts where its popularity spread and by 1822 it was sold in produce markets.
Rhubarb is not a picky plant and does thrive in most soil types. When I lived in the UK I had a HUGE rhubarb plant on my allotment but here in Seattle my rhubarb struggles a little as the soil is likely way too acid given we are surrounded by pine trees whose needles cover the ground. Still I am happy with the small but perfectly formed plants!
All this talk of rhubarb is making me hungry. Clearly one MUST make a rhubarb crumble with the young, tender delicious stalks as this really showcases the sweet and sour taste of this under-rated plant.
I like to rely on my dear friend (I wish) Nigella Lawson for a wonderful rhubarb crumble recipe from her How To Eat cookbook.
Here is an abridged version of the recipe:
What you need for the crumble:
What you need for the filling:
Why not add a couple of pinches of some spices like - ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg or ground cardamom to the filling or crumble?
Vanilla sugar is so delicious. All you need to do is add a split vanilla pod to a jar and add sugar to it. I would stick with a 1 liter jar as this will give the sugar a delicious vanilla taste without being too powerful. Make sure the jar has a lid so it is airtight!
Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F.
Toss all the filling ingredients together in a 1 liter pie dish. For the crumble, using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter and flour together until it resembles porridge oats (quick cooking oats). Stir in sugar and then sprinkle over the filling.
Bake for 25 - 35 minutes. ENJOY!
While the crumble is baking I love walking around the garden to see all the new buds, flowers and hidden springtime treats that you need to look close up to see! I love these little forget-me-not buds and hellebore flowers just keep me going at this time of year! I can see little leaf buds on my espalier apples trees too….Spring is really on its way!