Category Archives: gardening

Our own potatoes! And…?

Our first batch of King Edward potatoes seemed to be reaching the end of their growing season, so I thought I’d dig some, and ask Mr Veggie Box to bring us extra mushrooms this week in place of a portion of potatoes too far. Scrabbling blindly around in the dirt, my fingers pulled up something that was the right size and shape…but turned out to be green. Not sickly, aged-potato, solanine green, either, but proper lime-green. I think I can guess what it is and how it got there (I haven’t cut it open yet). Your thoughts?

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Dad’s plum torte

There were far too many choices for baking with plums in the past week or two. First, @Dan_Lepard tweeted what appeared to be his first recipe in the Guardian, a cobnut and plum tart. Then @Zebbakes sent around a link to a lovely recipe for stone fruit yogurt cake with plums (based on one of Dan’s) in her blog. The next day, Nigel Slater’s single-crust plum pie appeared in the Observer Food Monthly. Meanwhile I had bought a kilo of the things at the Cambridge market. Where to begin?

I couldn’t decide, and was busy making other things, so the plums sat in the fridge until today, when I remembered a favorite recipe of my father’s that he had emailed me once, and that I had never made. In the end, guilt and family loyalty won, but I think both were worth it, and it really was easy. Here’s his recipe, which he adapted from one in the NY Times; I’ve added in a few metric equivalents.

Plum Torte

1 cup (200 g) sugar, maybe a little less
1/2 cup (60 g) sweet butter (ordinary salted butter will do)
1 cup (110 g) unbleached (plain) flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla (I’ve been using vanilla bean paste for everything these days, really good stuff)
pinch salt
2 eggs
~24 halves pitted purple plums (mine were bigger than Italian prune plums, so I used fewer)

topping: sugar, lemon juice (or brandy), cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

1. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the flour, baking powder, vanilla, salt, and eggs, and beat well.

2. Spoon the batter into a 9 inch (23 cm) spring form, or into a 10 inch (25 cm) pan with a disc of parchment inide. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.

3. Bake for one hour. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (or double cream or custard if you live in the UK!).

4. To serve frozen tortes, defrost and reheat briefly at 300°F (150°C).

Yield: 8 servings

This very elementary recipe also works well with other fruits, including fresh raspberries. The fruit sinks into the batter during the baking process.

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This week’s veg box, at the very end of summer

Here’s what I got with this week’s veg box scheme. Every week I get portions of potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, plus a handful of other vegetables, though I can swap some of those if need be. So this week I swapped out potatoes and carrots – because I have accumulations of both I need to use up – and the sum total is three tomatoes, two leeks, yellow onions, fennel, a bag of ‘spring greens’ (? They look rather like collards, less wrinkly than kale), an ear of corn (just one? really?), two large portobello shrooms instead of one, and a zucchini/courgette. To the left (just out of sight, sorry) are a couple of pounds of plums I got from a vendor in the market square. And there’s half a large cabbage in the fridge, along with the remains of borscht from last week’s beetroot.

I shall apply my veggie kabbala meditation to this collection and see what I come up with. I think I could easily use a number of these items in one swoop. We’re having company for dinner on Monday – a Belgian gentleman with, I think, sophisticated taste – so there may be some kind of veggie and fish chowder in the offing. Andrew loves mushrooms so I may even delegate to him the mushrooms on toast recipe in today’s Guardian feature of student recipes by celebrity chefs (one of the few among the bunch that doesn’t have bacon in it!). And the plums? Well, still haven’t figured out what to do with those, because there are too many choices, frankly. But they’re going in the fridge pronto, as they’re starting to ooze juice (yum).

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End-of-summer produce

A few items from our garden. Not quite enough to live on, but we'll get there.

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