Saturday, September 26, 2015

The best recipe ever for Piccalilli

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We love pickles, chutneys, salsas and spicy sauces as accompaniments with a wide variety of foods. Amongst our favourite is Piccalilli however, it has to be home-made. So far I have not found a shop bought version that can come anywhere near the recipe handed down from my great grandmother and probably even earlier.

September views from La Pasera

Each year in September we look forward to harvesting a variety of green vegetables that form the basis of our piccalilli: cucumber, celery, green tomatoes, cauliflower, courgette, onion and anything else that blends in with the mix. The key to a good mix is the fine chopping of the ingredients to ensure that everything is approximately of similar size. The other key components are a specific brand of dry mustard powder (Colman's) and good quality Turmeric.

This is the basic recipe that is tweaked each year to accommodate the vegetables we have available. We usually double these quantities.


1 cauliflower
1 cucumber
3-4 courgettes
2 lb of shallots or onion
2 lb of green tomatoes
1 head of celery

About 6 lb of vegetable in total. Chop all the vegetables into small pieces. The cauliflower should be broken into small sized florets and if small enough, the shallots left whole. Soak overnight in a brine solution made with 8 pints of water and 1/2 lb of salt.

The following day, drain and rinse well, leave to drain and pat dry with a large clean towel whilst you make the sauce.

4 oz of mustard powder
1/2 oz of Turmeric
1 lb sugar (can be reduced if necessary)
2 1/2 pints of vinegar
1 cup of plain flour

Make a sauce with all the ingredients, thicken with the flour and gently bring to the boil to cook out the flour. Be careful not to burn the sauce, stir constantly. Add the dry vegetables and bring to the boil and immediately remove from the heat. Cover and leave to cool. Bottle and seal in sterilised jars the following day and label.

The piccalilli is best left to mature for at least 3 months but it will keep for over a year if kept in a cool dark place and if your bottles/jars are  sterile on bottling. Hide from everyone except your best friends....

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Black magic in the garden

As the garden has developed we have both grown very fond of deep red, dark purple and almost black planting in the garden. Sunlight enhances the rich coloured leaves by enabling them to show their rich deep red and purple tones whilst the dullest of days serves to bring out the black. Add rain or dew to the mix and you get an altogether different perspective: the raindrops reflect the light like diamonds. This group of hues adds focal points to the garden and serves as a splendid backdrop to other plants and flowers or helps to lead the eye to a view.  If you have any recommendations for black or deep purple foliage plants, please let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Feeling peachy and full of beans...

Harvests come and go and when you grow the majority of your own fruit and vegetables or forage fruits and nuts, you cannot delay harvesting or processing; if you do you risk losing them to the animals or to nature.

In Asturias we have a wild peach called Piesco that produces small fruits which have a strong peachy taste but once ripe, do not last. If the rain comes their skins spoil and the insects and birds can soon devastate the crop. Knowing when to harvest is paramount. The reason we use these wild peaches is because of their wonderful flavour and they are perfect for making jams, chutneys and for dehydrating. A kind neighbour lets us have their crop of piescos that grow on one of their fields as they don't use them and they know how much we love them. 4kg of them were used to make jam and a further 6kg were chopped and frozen for use either for jam or chutney. They freeze well and it is a great way to preserve as much as the crop as possible before they spoil, especially if you don't have the time to use them straight away. We will collect more this week for dehydrating; they make a great snack for when out walking.

The beans have just been harvested and just in time. The recent heavy rains has caused some damage to the outer pod but fortunately this has not spread to the beans inside. We quickly shelled them and have left them to dry for a few days in the sun after which they will be frozen as is for 24 hours, re dried and stored. The freezing part was a tip from a neighbour who tells us that it destroys any lingering bugs or bacteria and therefore they last much longer and in better condition. It works for us.

Elsewhere we are just about to harvest our first tomatoes which is always a treat. We still have lots of basil left so plenty of scope for some Italian inspired tomato based dishes. On the list of things to do this week include: making piccalilli, chopping wood, extending the stone skirt to the garage, beginning to thin out and weed the garden....enough already.

What are you currently harvesting and what jobs are taking up your time during September?