Aug 15 2011

Vegetable Soup

But first I need a warming Vegetable Soup for a quick lunch. There’s nothing as comforting as a big bowl of homemade soup when dogs and I have been blown home from the farmyard by a sharp south easterly.

I choose the ingredients for soup according to the sort of stock I have in the freezer.(see Making Stock below) This time it’s ham. Onions or shallots are a must and peas go so well with ham but the other ingredients just happen to be in the fridge; the last piece of a large pumpkin, a potato, a couple of large shallots, two big garlic cloves, some parsley stalks, a little salt (ham stock can be salty) and pepper.

The principle is the same for most soup; sweat the chopped shallots or onions, garlic too if you like. Add a peeled diced potato; this will act as the thickening agent. Add diced pumpkin, carrot or other root vegetable but keep the balance of flavour in mind. Remember for example that parsnips, though delicious, are much more dominating than a carrot, pumpkin is mild but will enhance texture and so on. Once your chosen veg are sweated, i.e. softened in their own steam and a little oil in a pan with a heavy lid, you can stir in the stock; simmer gently for about twenty minutes, taste and season. To liquidise or not to liquidise is a matter of taste. Do you like your soup smooth or with bits!

Serve with hot crusty bread and good slightly salted butter.

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Aug 03 2011

Summer Again

“Our little village among the trees, by the river”
As Devon fills up once more with holiday makers we somehow remain untouched in our silent valley, the world passing us by. A few more cars hoot on the bend by the gate, voices and laughter occasionally waft across the hillside but mostly our silence is punctuated by the call of the buzzards overhead, a baaing sheep on the top of the hill, the donkeys in the distance reminding me it’s tea time and, just sometimes on a very still day, the whistle of the steam train away down river in Kingswear.

It’s been a dry hot spring followed by a still and humid summer with just enough rain to give us grazing. That is except for June 12th, the second of our NGS (National Garden Scheme) open days. Saturday was warm and sunny and we had an excellent turnout and sold over a hundred cream teas, courtesy of the Anchorestone Café who once again donated their huge delicious scones. The garden seemed to glow under scrutiny as smiling visitors flocked through. Wild spikes of foxgloves jostled for a place amongst rosa mundi and rosa rugosa, astrantia and huge white daisies dominated the sunken boarder. Seagull, recovered from last year’s disastrous storm damage, hung on the pergola by the pond like a great snow storm. Even the embothrium clung on to its scarletness for just a few more days, fiery against the blue sky.
Then Sunday dawned and the world changed. Trees bent double in the gale, rain lashing through the valley. Just twelve stalwart people passed through the dancing entrance marquee, sheltering inside to bravely eat a scone and drink a warming cup of tea. We were not alone; some 300 National Garden Scheme openings were rained off nationally that day. A day which will go down in NGS history!

Now that slightly tired August look is descending on the valley. Trees seem to be preparing early for autumn, lack of water taking its toll. The stream is down to a trickle and I’m fighting blanket weed in the pond. But despite the lack of rain the harvest is beginning. Broad beans were wonderful, peas are prolific, runners look promising. Turnips picked small are delicious quickly cooked in butter, beetroots are swelling and this year’s small round courgettes are really delicious. Spinach and chard are nearly ready and I have fingers crossed for blight free potatoes and tomatoes in a week or so. Sweet corn love this weather but I do wonder if I’ll enjoy them before the badgers this time round.
The lambs, big and fat now, will be shorn next Monday, having been separated from their mothers. The ewes graze quietly on their own at last, their job done for this year. The last of the hoggs have gone to the butcher and Chris and Cliff will go to pastures new. A new ram will soon be joining the flock ready for the cycle to start all over again in the autumn.



“…and choosing!”
So for now we enjoy gentle sunny summer days Crab Day in Dartmouth, feasts of our own rare cooked lamb, garden vegetables, salads full of herbs and flowers, flans of local seafood with ginger and lemon, delicious cakes made from Herman, the German Friendship cake passed as a sourdough from friend to friend!
And soon it will be time to fly away to new exciting food, Tokyo, Shikoku, the Inland Sea, Korea, Seoul; watch this space!

A fish shop in Hakkaido

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