Enjoying The Fruits of Our Labours

A while back I wrote a post about Liz’s garden and all the things that were growing there. Now we’re in September it might be a good time to look again and see how things are.

The tomatoes have done well. There are not too many to show you because we both love tomatoes and between us we’ve scoffed a great deal. We’ve had some fried with bacon, sausage and eggs and some in my favourite salad; tomato and onion with plenty of olive oil.

We didn’t get many peas or broad beans but I’m guessing if we did Liz and daughter Zoë would have soon eaten those too. They like to eat them raw, nibbling on them as they pass by.

The cauliflower are not looking great as they have been the victim of some serious nibbling by the garden’s indigenous insect population. The insects can’t have been that keen on the celeriac as even though they were planted right next door to the cauliflower they are looking well.

We had a good crop of strawberries this year but they too have been harvested and eaten. We like them served with raspberries and some Greek yoghurt.

The padron peppers are looking good. I’ve seen padron peppers on the tapas menu in Lanzarote in the past but I’ve never tried them. This year we’ve had plenty of peppers on the barbecue and I have to say, I’ve got to really like them.

I grew some chilli pepper plants from seeds. Most have not done too well except for one which has resided on the kitchen window sill throughout the summer. That plant has a few chillies just waiting to be added to either a good chilli con carne or any one of a number of spicy dishes served in our household like Liz’s hot goats’ cheese with spinach and chilli. Another chilli plant, one that came direct from the garden centre sale is doing really well, that’s it in the picture above.

There is some garlic too, over on the far side of the garden which comes in pretty handy for curries and all sorts of spicy dishes. We sometimes add some to our tomato and onion salads too.

I’ve got two olive trees and both seem to have fruit on them, whether they will become fully rounded olives is another story. Some nice black olives would come in pretty handy as they are really nice when added to the tomato and onion salad I mentioned earlier.

It’s been nice to see that the apple pips I planted earlier this year have sprouted into two small plants about six inches high. Might be a few years before I see any apples though. that’s one of the apple plants in the collage below, bottom right.

Some years ago, I grew some lemon plants from pips. I really do love growing things from pips. It’s like having a close up of nature renewing itself. My lemon trees are probably about three years old now and according to the internet, they have to be three to five years old to produce fruit. That’s if they will produce fruit. The thing is if they did produce fruit, if they did actually produce a lemon for me that would be so wonderful, I’d be over the moon.

I’d probably cut a big slice of my lemon -my future lemon- and drop it into a gin and tonic with a whole lot of ice or maybe even a Bacardi and Pepsi Max. Then I’d savour it and quietly thank my tree for giving me a lemon. Once, Liz and I rented a villa in Spain and in the gardens were a whole bunch of lemon trees so we could pick one whenever we wanted.

I do have another lemon tree, a shop bought lemon tree. It’s only small but is obviously grafted and came with a few lemons already growing on it. After a few days my two small lemons dropped off and that was that. I’ve had it for about a year but I’ve watered it regularly, letting it dry out just like they say in those how to do it YouTube videos and blogs that I’ve been researching. I’ve fed it too with the correct fertilizers and nutrients. The other day I noticed something on one of the branches, something that at first glance seemed like a small bit of fluff or something that had been blown in on the breeze but it wasn’t. It was a flower and the beginning of a small lemon!

September has never been one of my favourite months. The days are getting shorter and cooler but last week here in the north west UK we had something of a mini heatwave so rather than go out to a restaurant or eat inside, it was time to crank up our very handy mini gas barbeque. As usual we started off with a tomato and onion salad. Slice your home grown tomatoes and place them in a dish, sprinkle with finely chopped red onions, pour over a glug of good olive oil and season well and if you fancy, throw in a few black olives and even some garlic; lovely.

Another addition is a tomato, chive and rice salad and some homemade slaw. We usually add a bag of salad leaves and we’ll nibble on all that while Liz slaps on our first course, small kebabs made from beef lorne sausages seasoned with cumin and some salt and pepper.

Next up on the little barbeque are some padron peppers, home grown of course, just simply seasoned and rubbed with olive oil.

A couple of homemade burgers go on the grill and I like them served up in a toasted bun with some of my tomatoes and onions and a nice portion of either mustard or tomato sauce. Final course, a small steak served medium for me and medium rare for Liz. Glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do!


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Cheese, Wine, and a few other French Reflections.

It’s probably only natural that when, after a lovely holiday in France, thoughts often linger on those now gone idyllic days sipping wine and relaxing with a crusty french loaf and some fromage.

Tea.
I do love my tea. It is one of the great British contributions to world culture. What sort of a world would it be without a tea break? Dear me, I shudder to think. Naturally, Liz had us well stocked with PG Tips for our french trip. The French are a nation of coffee drinkers but they do also drink tea. In fact, you can find bottles of tea in the chilled area of every french supermarket. Chilled tea? Yes, chilled bottles of tea! Still, what can you expect from the nation that gave us frogs legs . .?

As I settle back into work, those long lazy days out in the french countryside seem as if they happened years ago.  Five o’clock was a nice part of the day. A final swim in the pool then Liz would start preparing the salad while I cranked up the barbecue and topped up the decanter with some nice french red.

dining

Wine, salad, bread, just waiting for the barbeque!

Wine.
I do love the cheap french red from supermarkets like Intermarché. A nice quaffable smooth red like a merlot is perfect for an evening.  In the supermarkets here, as you can probably imagine, there is an excellent selection and it comes in all shapes and sizes. There are wine boxes, bottles, cartons and even plastic bottles of the cheap rough table wine. I like an after dinner glass of port and there is a good choice of ports in the shops too. In France this year I picked up quite a few bottles for transportation back to the UK and I also discovered a nice white port. One interesting thing I have noticed whilst scouring the shelves of French supermarkets, there is a huge whisky collection in every french supermarket I have visited. All imported from the UK of course but brandy, a product of France, seems to be very scarce indeed and, when finally found, rather expensive.
After the kebabs and burgers, or whatever meat we have grilled over the coals, a short intermission is in order before the arrival of the cheese.

Cheese.
I do like my french cheese and the usual fromage course after a meal here is always a delight. Cheese is a different experience in France. In the warm evening the cheese softens and is spread easily on a slice of crusty french bread. The french themselves prefer to tear their bread but we English of course are more civilised and slice it before buttering.
Here are three of my favourite French cheeses;

    Rondelé
Not something I’ve ever seen in the UK, Rondelé is a sort of light cheese which comes in various varieties but the one I favour is Rondelé Bleu. A light almost whipped cheese with a not too powerful blue cheese flavour. Lovely on some crusty french bread or on a cracker.

    Cœur De Lion Coulommiers.
Not sure if I’ve seen this in the UK. This is a lovely, creamy soft cheese, perfect when it has melted slightly in the warmth of a summer evening. Not as strong as camembert but not as mild as a brie. Lovely.

    Chaume.
A very tasty cheese, rather like Saint Paulin which I have seen in supermarkets in the UK. It has a firm, pliable texture but is much creamier than the aforementioned Saint Paulin.

MicrolightI’m not a great fruit eater but in France I do like a small pear or something after a meal. Then it’s time to just sit back and enjoy the evening as the sun begins to go down. At about six thirty to seven o’clock the local microlight drones past overhead. I can sort of imagine him looking down and thinking ‘there’s that English couple again, still supping wine!’

Bonsoir monsieur, until next year! À l’année prochaine!


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