Tastes of Autumn

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.

Bolted lettuces in the greenhouse

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.

Greenhouse border weeded and sown with winter salads

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.

October crop of carrots

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.

Tidied autumn greenhouse

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.

October beetroot harvest

First I cooked, sliced and pickled the roots without any slug damage, to make five kilner jars of pickled beetroot.

Pickled BeetrootWhile 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!

Beetroot, chocolate and ginger spelt cookies

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.

Roasting winter squash with herb paste

They don’t have the nutty taste of a mature fruit, but they are not flavourless as I feared, rather fresh and sweet.

Roasted immature Musquee de Provence squash

They make a fine winter salad, mixed with warm chorizo and goat’s cheese, accompanied with lightly dressed salad leaves.

Winter squash, chorizo and goat's cheese salad

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.

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.

Steak, baked potato wedges and homegrown cauliflower cheese

I still have several kilos of beetroot to preserve: I’m considering beetroot relish, beetroot marmalade … any other suggestions?

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15 thoughts on “Tastes of Autumn

  1. Those food pictures have literally made my mouth water!!! I love kilner jars, just the image of a jar is so full of promise of tasty things to come.

  2. A great incentive to us to use our produce creatively – thank you. Although my beetroot failed miserably I will buy some specially to try out the cookies – I also need some spelt flour, having intended to buy some to try out one of http://croftgarden.wordpress.com ‘s recipes. Have you tried juicing beetroot? Juice 2 beetroot, 2 carrots, 1 apple, 1 orange, 1 stick of celery, 1cm root ginger for an ‘energy-lifting, cleansing & immune boosting blend’. There’s so much more to garden blogs than gardens, isn’t there?!

    • Thank you: juicing is a good idea … I wonder if we have a suitable bit of machinery to do that, don’t fancy squeezing beetroot or carrots by hand ;). My immune system could do with a boost, I have had a very sore throat and woolly head since last night :(.

      • It does need a juicer that can cope with hard fruit and veg, unfortunately. Would you like to try some of my freshly-made rose hip syrup for your sore throat and woolly head?!

  3. Great pictures of your produce, Sara. You certainly have been busy in the kitchen! I pickled some of my little beetroots the other day (my first time doing this), just to see how they came out. Tried them at the weekend. The verdict: “bootiful”! I’ll certainly do them again.

    • Thanks Mark, it was a busy weekend in the kitchen! Pickled beetroot are lovely aren’t they? We only recently finished off the last from a couple of years ago, which had a real chilli kick, very tasty!

  4. I tasted the most wonderful chocolate and beetroot cake last Christmas when we were in San Francisco, I can find the link for the recipe if you like. I tried (but failed) to grow beetroot just so I could make it. Christina

    • Sounds lovely. I enjoyed a chocolate and beetroot brownie from our farmers’ market last year, but haven’t tried anything similar yet, would love your recipe if you can track it down.

  5. I only ever grow enough beetroot for salads and roasting. Had some beetroot brownies at the River Cottage Canteen a while ago now and thought they were lovely. I made the mistake of saying on twitter that I’d never had cauliflower cheese before. You wouldn’t believe the floodgates that opened up. Your photos make it look very appetising. Maybe I’ll give it a go this winter. Any tips for the best cauliflower cheese?

    • We usually eat our beetroot in salads constantly through the summer, either grated raw or simply boiled, but this year we somehow left most of them until the last minute and now have lots to deal with.
      Ah cauliflower cheese! I must say I don’t think I’d eaten it since I was a kid, though I possibly knocked it up while I was at uni… not for years though. It was delicious – the cauliflower firm and sweet, not too much sauce but just enough to form a gentle soft cheesy blanket… It’s just a case of par-boiling the cauliflower, while making a quick bechamel and stirring grated cheese into it, then pouring the sauce onto the cauli and baking in the oven for 20mins or so. I glanced at the recipe in one of the River Cottage everyday books to check I wasn’t missing anything glaring, I think it would be a good one to follow if you weren’t sure? The taste of the cauliflower shone through, so a good fresh one would make a bit of a difference, I think.

  6. Oh I have beetroot envy as the bloomin’ rabbits and slugs ate ours every time I planted new ones and I gave up in the end. I only every roast mine for use in salads as well, as even when they have grown here it’s been in small quantities. Bethx

    • Lots of our beetroot seemed to disappear here this year, but a few short rows obviously came through – we threw away as many as we harvested, that just hadn’t swollen – or had been eaten too voraciously by slugs even when mature!

  7. What a satisfying weekend and to see all those jars and cookies will just keep reminding me of your good work.

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