Thursday, 27 August 2009

It's later than I think! Time for old cook books and Thai Cauliflower!

The English bank holiday weekend is like a gigantic signpost pointing toward autumn for me. It's a great time of the year - as is each of the transitional cusps between seasons. WTA is looking fine, although there are odd gaps of bare earth beginning to show where crops have been harvested and autumn seeds sown. The last of the cauliflowers were picked today and it won't be long before the second broad bean sowing will have had its day, stripped of any remaining pods and pulled out. It's gratifying to grow your own but it comes as a bit of shock when you realise how quickly some things get used and the gaps they leave. It's always later than I think on WTA! Still, WTA's pumpkins are pulsating and continue to grow and set fruit unabated. The rough ball onion seeds planted a few weeks ago are beginning to raise their heads above ground.

Francaise Jo, made a guest appearance on WTA last Saturday morning and helped pick French climbing beans, courgettes, gladioli and gather the last of the potatoes still in the ground. It's always a great to have Jo around and I get feeling allotments and 'growing your own' is beginning to get under her skin.
WTA Cooking...
WTA's Cauliflowers have been a revelation this year I adapted this recipe from one found in an old Ken Hom 1996 book - Ken Hom's Hot Wok - a is gem. The book was brought charity shop about 4 years ago for £3.50 on a whim and has become a bit of a foundation for some of my Thai/Vietnamese cooking. I've tended to 'pimp' and some of Ken's recipes to give them an even bigger South East Asian taste - the recipes themselves area brilliant base for some experimental fusion cooking.

Thai Cauliflower a la Hom
1 medium cauliflower head divided into small florets
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
6 crushed garlic cloves
1or 2 medium red chillies seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of finely shredded spring onions (or one finely cut small red onion)
1 tablespoon of lemon grass paste
2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil or coriander
1 tablespoon of soya sauce
1 teaspoon of palm or caster sugar
1 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
450ml water
2 teaspoons sesame sesame oil.

Heat up your wok or large frying pan until extremely hot. Gently pour in the vegetable oil. When the oil starts to smoke, toss in the chili, garlic, spring onions and lemon grass paste, moving them quickly around the pan for about 30 seconds. Toss in the cauliflower and stir fry for 1 minute. Add your basil or coriander, soy sauce, sugar turmeric water and fish sauce. Reduce the heat of your cooker, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the sesame oil and sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

What's been ordered...
Maybe I'm a sucker for punishment but in a triumph of hope over experience I've decided to sow some garlic on WTA. Autumn orders have been placed, with respective seed and set suppliers and I girding my loins for some planting and sowing over the next few weeks.
  • Garlic Vallelado (Chase Organics)

  • Winter Cress (Chase Organics)

  • White Lisbon winter hardy (Chase organics)

  • Radar Onion sets (Chase organics)

  • Early purple wight garlic (Thompson and Morgan)

Whats going in...
Kale seedlings - Calvanero

Winter Broad Beans (the Sutton)

What's gone in...
Onions - white Lisbon.
What's my scene?
Browsing through a magazine, which claims to be the "UK's No1 for allotment holders" I came across a column by one Edwin Oxlade, in which Ed bemoans the fact that the "Popular Media" have "lost sight of what kitchen gardeners and prospective kitchen gardeners are really into" and in doing so "have put superficial short-lived appeal before reality". Ed goes onto claim much of the media coverage of growing-your-own is no more than "self indulgent lifestyle froth". I'm no fan of the popular media, but Ed's assertion knows what all kitchen gardeners are "really into" seems rather grandiose. And even if the media's preoccupation about writing on growing your own is self indulgent "lifestyle froth" (another subjective generalisation made by Ed), by my reckoning if it attracts more people to experience or at least try to experience veg gardening then it's fine by me! Short-lived or long-lived the experience of growing-your-own is just that, an experience!
Anyone who spends a month working on allotment/kitchen garden realises it's not always than some halcyon garden of paradise... but isn't that the whole point? Carl Jung in the Transcendent Function said: "Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health". For me the processes involved in having an allotment is more about having my hands in the earth - remaining psychologically grounded. Difficulties in the allotment, as they are in life are numerous, but so are the joys and no one has a mortgage the subjective nature of human experience or how they experience growing-their-own. Grow Well!

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