Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Achard Revisited

Now a 'new' member of the Wells WI gourmet club, for my first evening I have made some preserves for our 'Curry Evening'.  As achard tends to be unknown in this area my host was keen for me to make some.  It is ages since I last made it.  It takes a lot of preparation if you are chopping my hand, and there have been many other jams, pickles and chutneys made and eaten.Many of them posted are posted my other blog: Mrs Mace Preserves.

Having to provide a  recipe sheet for each of the members of the club, I opted for a manageable amount of Achard, and  fine tuned quantities, and developed my own spice blend.

Achard using the salting method with cider vinegar giving a twist of Somerset

The following are prepared weights and is based on a small whole cabbage and cauliflower.  Weigh the ones you have, and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

575g hard white cabbage, chopped into julienne sized pieces
500g tight cauliflower, subdivided into tiny florets which will look good in the pickle
200g carrots cuts into fine julienne about 5cm long
150g fine french green beans, cut on the cross into fine slivers
200g shallots or pickling onions, cut through the root end so as to keep pieces together

300ml cider vinegar
50g  unrefined sea salt

4 large garlic cloves
50g crushed fresh ginger

125g cold pressed virgin rapeseed oil

Olive oil to dress the tops of the jars

Achard Spice Mix

3 level tablespoons ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon dark mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, one or two small dried chillies or to taste.  Put the spices all except 1 tsp mustard seeds and put through a spice grinder...not over fine. Mix in the whole mustard seeds, and set aside until needed.

Pack the prepared onions tightly  into a kilner jar or similar, cover with all the vinegar, cover and leave steeping at room temperature overnight.

Prepare all the other vegetables, except for the ginger and garlic,  the afternoon of day 1.  Place them in a large strong plastic bag, toss in all the salt, and turn with your hand.

Squeeze down the bag, to exclude as much air as possible, and shut it tightly with a clip.

Move and turn the bag around a few times over the next two to three hours to distribute the brine.

Place the bag of vegetables and brine in the fridge overnight.

 Overnight, the vegetables in the bag 'wilt' visibly as water is removed under osmosis.

 After 24 hours, cut a corner off the bag, and drain off the fluid, squeezing the bag. Then in a colander, quickly rinse the vegetables in very hot water in batches, then squeezed them very thoroughly in clean kitchen tea towels, to dry them as much as possible.

In a large pan heat the oil , then added all the spices, ginger and garlic, and cooked these gently stirring for five minutes on a gentle heat...taking care as they should not scorch or stick to the pan.

Add the drained onions, and cooked these for a couple of minutes. Add all the vegetables and  toss and turn these in the oil, with the heat still on.  Add as much of the vinegar from the onions to give a good coasting to the vegetables.  Stir for a minute or two...that's all the cooking done!  Taste and add a little salt according to taste.  Take care, it is better to add salt at the serving stage later, when you have tasted the mature achard.

Pack the pickle very tightly into sterilized  jars, pressing layers with the back of a strong spoon or similar.  Run a spoonful of oil over the top to form a seal.  Close the lids.  As soon as the achard is cool, store the jars in the fridge.

This achard needs at least a couple of weeks to mature in the fridge, then ought to be eaten within the following six weeks.

To serve, place in a bowl, and flick through with a will look like a dressed salad.  Do not return to the jar, but keep and eat within a day once taken out of the jar.

In Mauritius this sugar free pickle is traditionally eaten as a side dish to curry and rice, and great in crunchy sourdough type rolls with cheese.

Its interesting to ponder the history or origins of the Mauritian Achard.  My father was born to French and Portuguese settlers to the Island and the family were great entertainers having the whole extended family for 'banquets' where over 50 fifty people would congregate for New Year's day lunch.  I am sure Achard would be on the table. 

My father explained that before refrigeration, and particularly when there was a glut of vegetables, it was an effective way of preparing in advance and preserving  large amounts of vegetables.  The jars or most probably large stoneware jars of pickles were also easier and safer to transport.  In the heat of tropics a cabbage or cauliflower can go to seed in just a few days, or even when picked, without refrigeration will be spoilt in less than half a day.

The pickle also adds that tang which aids digestion to plainer dishes of rice, lentils, and meat or fish curries.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Six on Saturday - 20/4/2019

Being one of the several people who join up with  the propagator most Saturdays, here I go again.  During a week that started with cold weather with a stiff chilling breeze, and is ending with temperatures warmer than the Mediterranean, it is not suprising that the garden in some areas is putting on a real spurt.

For the first of my six, one of my favourite small plants which now grows along the dried clay 'path' is in flower.  Androsace sarmentosa Watkinsii in flower is delightful, but believe me I bought this plant a couple of years ago simply because I fell in love with the wolly rosettes of its leaves.  I search through my photographs and was amazed than I had not thought to photograph it, even though it is probably the most looked at little plant in my garden.  I bought it from Graham from Tadham Nurseries who has a pop up stall at Wells most Saturdays. Here is a link to a photograph...and I shall be sure to picture and follow this plant through the seasons and post more about Androsace.

For my second item here, growing away well are my own grown from seed Lychnis coronaria.  I received these as seeds from Cathy of  In a Vase on Monday, another meme that I love to take part in, and again these were seeds that originally were sent to her by another friend Sandra.  I feel that for me, the most successful method on the last few perennials I have grown is to use a little seed bed in the garden.  Sow last May, they formed nicely and were transplanted at the end of October.  These were probably set out a little too close!  I don't know what colour they will be as I am unsure from what colour plants the seed was collected from

My third entry is my little Apple Tree D'arcy Spice.  This is its second flowering.  As you can see it is most probably a tip bearer.  The two apples it bore last year were probably the best apples I have tasted.  

My fourth of six this Saturday is a view of what I have done to my two Pelargonium Ardens.  They started as two plug plants last spring.  I featured them in full leaf on a previous SOS.  Having taken out the growing tips, I could see several small shoots lower down, but no diminution to the strength of the growing tips.  I decided to repot them, found the roots strong and very thick .  I cut off the tops, and replanted in fresh medium all in the same pot.  Updates will follow  and whether or not this was a rash action or a breakthrough on achieving a multi stemmed Ardens only time will tell.

My unnamed Tiarella, brought to the new garden from the old one as a small piece, has grown into two nice clumps, whereas Tiarella Mint chocolate seems to be fading away, with no obvious problems below soil level.

My final and sixth item this week is my tray of newly emerged seedlings.  The runner bean comes up with a cotyledon, but the french beans show the cotyledon...just noticed this.  The french beans are same climbing french bean that I grew last year: Fasgold.  The Runner bean is Moonlight which is said to be self fertile.  Last year the bees were getting the nectar somewhere round the back of Runner Bean Desiree , which meant that they only set if I used by little paintbrush to fertilize the flowers.  It is alleged that Moonlight is more weather tolerant.  My two wigwams are up, but I'll wait a little while longer before setting them out into their sheltered positions in the 'potage'...the 'poshness' of the name is in inverse proportion to the size of the veggie bit of the back garden.

I shall be out at the crack of dawn to water some of the new plants.  Any views as to whether one ought to water in the evening or the morning.  If in the evening maybe it may attract slugs and snails? 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Inspired to bake Moroccan Anise Ksra

One of the blogs I receive announcements from regularly is Karen's Kitchen Stories.  Sometimes they inspire me to try something out.  When I saw her version of Ksara Moroccan Anise and Barley Flatbread, it reminded me of the wonderful cart loads of bread we saw when we were on holiday in Morocco.  

Loaves for sale in Morocco

Adapting Karen's recipe in several ways...using chickpea flour in place of barley flour since I had non, kneading a I love kneading...leaving in the fridge but not overnight, here are my two loaves.  The texture is soft and it is hard to believe that there is no sugar or honey.  The anise seeds give a lovely flavour...just right for mopping up meat juices.    Perhaps they are not quite flat enough...a sure reason to try this again soon.

Monday, 15 April 2019

In a Vase on Monday - A rolling stone.....

Yesterday I spent an hour or so trying to judge what I would cut for a vase.  There is not much during this in between time in the garden.  One little job I had been meaning to do is make up some little Kokedama balls with some of the rooted cuttings of Crassula Ovata Gollum.  With their moss these little balls roll around...but you can squidge them into standing uprightish!  It was another IVOM contributor who first tickled my interest: Sandra D of Wild Flower.

 Crassula Ovata Gollum as Kokedama

The rolling stones posing alongside on my stone top table, are true volcanic bombs from a Volcano that was active during the Silurian period.  I collected these from on bench in Moons Hill Quarry where they had rolled down after the last blasting.

On a previous geology field trip we explored a cutting where the moss laid thick.  A few handfuls were gathered to make the Kokedama.

Further along on the walk we came across a 'prehistoric' cliff along which the sea used to lap....the fields have long been managed organically, and although this was a geology field trip, I was on the look out for emerging wild flowers.

Yesterday I did cut and stage three stems of Daffodil Hawera at the Annual Wessex Daffodil Show.  Our gardening club helps out with the show, and there is a section for the 'local amateurs'.  My there stems were rewarded...but even after a short trip in the car journey, the pollen seem to attack my the flowers were left with a neighbour.  I was very generously given lots of tips for as to what makes a show worthy daffodil

Cathy who hosts this meme has a much more airy fairy arrangement this go and see...well worth it: first sweet pea flower of the season!

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Six on Saturday 12-04-2019

For my first of Six, I am asking advice regarding the cultivation of perennials from seed.  In this case a Thalictrum.  Started in the Autumn of 2017 from fresh seed, and good germination and growing on in 2018, I have placed two patches of three plants.  I  was really happy to have grown Thalictrum delavayi from seed, and must have had over 25 good plants.  The nice thing about growing perrenials from seed is that there are usually plenty to share.  This spring growth has emerged with two or three leaves, and the plants in the last couple of weeks sent up what a small taller shoot that looks as if it will be a flower shoot.  The points  I would like help with are:  Is this standard?  Should I leave this spike or remove it to help bulk up the plants?  Any further advice on ensuring some good plants in future years would be very helpful.

A little pot of dainty but triumphant Narcissi hawera flowering late in the season when all other daffs in the garden are over.  Planted from new bulbs last September.

The third item this week is a view of Saxifraga 'Aureopunctata'.  I've had this plant for years and years, moving a small clump each time we have moved house.  The flower spike  holds well too in a vase.  It sulked after the move, but this spring it is looking healthy.

Last week Anna asked what I had growing in my shade border.  This question prompted me to check my plant list...which is still being worked on.  Plants have yet to be added...and I am growing ashamed to just how long the list is and I have such a small garden!!  

Several of the plants are in the wrong place, but have been performing fairly well.  My fourth item this week definitely is happier now it is on the shadier side of the garden.  I had nearly lost it last year as I had planted it in the first corner of the garden to be cleared: the sunny side.  I had brought it on the removal van in a long trough filled with bits and pieces from the old garden.  In part shade it is making up and putting on some quality leaves.  Another favourite of mine: Saxifrage stolonifera looks rich as if from the floor of a tropical forest yet it survived the very cold winter several years ago.  Even in deepest winter the pretty evergreen leaves with the little plants growing on the end of the red stolons is enough to make you want to venture out to take a peep.

Saxifraga stolonifera

Saxifraga stolonifera flower closeup

The front garden is ready for a complete revamp...on one side of the drive a huge clump of Spanish Bluebells quite out of control.  I thought I had dug up loads and disposed of them....but they are up non the less.  Today on a cycle ride I see that the banks are showing both the native and this bolder stronger bluebell...

The last of my six this week are my two Pelargonium ardens.  Despite having been kept very dry and also in a coolish but bright conservatory, they did not go 'dormant'.  I have just taken out the growing point in the hope of encouraging branching.  They went completely dormant during last summer but sprung back into leaf a few weeks later.  Katherine the Tea Break Gardener who showed this plant last week may have suggestions of how to encourage it to flower this season. 

Just joined the HPS and off to my first meeting this morning as a 'Member'...hope they are all just as friendly....for sure!