Saturday was sunny but cold, the greenhouse having plummeted to freezing temperatures overnight. Once the sunshine had brought the ambient temperature back into the twenties, I spent an hour or so working in the rather-overgrown greenhouse to clear the beds of bolted lettuces, sneaky nettles and copious amounts of chickweed.
Until being given some to sample on Sarah Raven’s veg course the other week, I had never realised that chickweed was edible, or indeed so enjoyable to eat: crisp and fresh-tasting. Inadvertently we had raised quite a crop of this salad in the greenhouse beds vacated by our tomatoes last month. I look upon this plant in a rather different light now, and will be far less adamant about ripping it out of the vegetable beds in future.
Beneath the seedtray-shelf that King of the Hill built across one side of the greenhouse this year, I spread the contents of a spent growbag over the weeded bed, and sowed several salad crops, to hopefully give us some small harvests through the winter.
I also harvested the last of the crops from this area to take up to the kitchen – this is probably the biggest haul of carrots that we have had this year, after they performed poorly in the garden.
With the greenhouse tidied up as the sun set followed by a second night of freezing temperatures, I then spent most of the following day indoors, hard at work in the kitchen, preserving some of our produce. We had harvested several kilos of beetroot from the garden when frost was forecast at the end of the week, and so I tackled some of these roots for preserving.
First I cooked, sliced and pickled the roots without any slug damage, to make five kilner jars of pickled beetroot.
While these were cooking, I grated a smaller beetroot and made another favourite: beetroot, chocolate and ginger cookies. This time I must have whisked the eggs much stiffer, as the mix was drier and the ‘cookies’ more cakey than ever before – but they are still going down a storm. The cooling rack looked slightly emptier every time King of the Hill passed through the kitchen!
Two of our immature Musquee de Provence squashes were beginning to feel slightly soft; rather than lose them, we chopped them and roasted the flesh with a homegrown garlic and herb paste, along with another batch of roasted butternut squash from a bought fruit.
They don’t have the nutty taste of a mature fruit, but they are not flavourless as I feared, rather fresh and sweet.
They make a fine winter salad, mixed with warm chorizo and goat’s cheese, accompanied with lightly dressed salad leaves.
With the clocks sent backwards on Saturday night, Sunday seemed short and gloomy, and as darkness fell all too early, it seemed the perfect night to use the rest of our homegrown cauliflower in a comforting dish of cauliflower cheese.
To accompany the cauliflower cheese we cut wedges of potato and baked them in the oven while King of the Hill cooked the perfect medium steak; a rather monochrome plateful after our vibrant winter salad, but very enjoyable and ideal for a wintry night.
I still have several kilos of beetroot to preserve: I’m considering beetroot relish, beetroot marmalade … any other suggestions?