Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


Big onion flavour for small gardens

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the December 12th, 2017

Spring and green onions (1)
In small urban gardens growing a crop that takes up to 10 months to harvest is not ideal. Especially ones like onions that are a once-off deal when they are harvested. There are many smaller members of the onion family that will provide year-round onion flavour. Chives, green onions, scallions, shallots, spring onions, walking onions and Welsh onions are members of the Allium family that are ideal for gardeners with limited space.
However, the names can be confusing, especially as other countries have different names for the same thing: for example, what we call spring onions in South Africa are called Welsh onions or scallions in other countries.

CHIVES
(Allium schoenoprasum and tuberosum)
Onion chives (4)
Delicious chives are an easy perennial that should be grown in every vegetable garden. Not only do they add flavour to any meal, they are also a very good protective plant, deterring many harmful insects, especially if grown as a border around beds. There are two types of chive: Onion chives have hollow leaves, lilac coloured pom-pom flowers and a mild onion flavour; and Garlic chives have flat mildly garlic-flavoured leaves and white flowers. They are larger and bushier than onion chives. They are both perennials, but onion chives are not as long lived as the garlic chives.
Chives are easily grown from seed or seedlings. They prefer full sun and moist soil but can handle dry weather. Every couple of years, divide chives in spring by lifting them and splitting them into new plants. When harvesting, don’t cut the tops as if you are giving them a hair trim, as this will just weaken the plant. Harvest by snipping off leaves 2 cm above the base with a pair of scissors. They will regrow quickly. Chive flowers can be tossed onto a salad or added to ice cubes and dropped into a cold soup. Chopped fresh leaves are great on just about anything. They are also delicious used to flavour cream cheese, oil, vinegar or salt.

GREEN ONIONS
(Allium cepa)
Green onions (2)
Green onions (also called scallions) are simply large onions that are harvested early, before the bulb has formed. Follow the planting instructions for normal onions, other than spacing. As you will be harvesting them before they have bulbed, you can plant them much closer together. They are also good companions to beetroot, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard.
They are ready for harvesting about eight weeks after planting, when they are at least 1.5 cm thick and about 20 to 25 cm tall. Loosen the soil around their base and pull them up. They don’t keep well, so only harvest what you plan to eat. The longer they stay in the ground, the stronger their flavour becomes. Both the green stalk and the white stem are edible.

SHALLOTS
(Allium cepa aggregatum)
Shallots (1)
(Photo courtesy Mountain Herb Estate)
Shallots are not often grown in South African gardens, which is a pity as they take less time to mature than onions or garlic and are therefore great for smaller gardens. Unlike onions, which produce a single bulb, shallots contain clusters of smaller bulbs. They have a deliciously mild oniony flavour (with a touch of garlic), without the sharp bite of an onion. Shallot seeds are available from Mountain Herb Estate.
Sow the seeds in seed trays from May to August. Transplant when they are six weeks old into well-drained fertile soil. Position the bulb base about 1 cm below the surface and press the soil down firmly. Once established, mulch well to control weeds and maintain moisture but keep the tops of the bulbs clear of earth or mulch. Water during dry spells and break off any flower stems as soon as they pop up.
When the bulbs have formed, loosen the soil to expose them to the sun. About 90 days after sowing, the foliage will begin to die back and they will be ready to harvest once the leaves turn yellow and flop over.
Sweet shallots are mild enough to be sliced raw in salads and sweet enough for long slow cooking, bringing out an intense caramelised flavour.

SPRING ONIONS
(Allium fistulosum)
Spring onions about to flower
These are bunching onions that do not form big bulbs. Sow them directly (or in seed trays and then transplant) year-round, except for the hottest midsummer and the coldest midwinter months. They like full sun, fertile soil and regular moisture.
Harvest when young for the best flavour. If you leave a few to go to seed, they produce white flower heads that bees and butterflies love and will seed themselves happily. Look out for seeds of red varieties, such as Red Rum, to add interest to your salads. The entire plant is edible, with the bulb being stronger than the green leaves. They can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.

WALKING ONIONS
(Allium x proliferum)
Walking onions (1)
Perennial Egyptian walking onions (also known as tree onions or top onions) are unusual in that they produce clusters of small bulbs (top-sets) where the onion flower normally would be. These reach up to 90 cm, become top heavy, fall over and then root themselves a short distance from the mother plant – hence their name ‘walking onions’. They can be planted in full sun from autumn through to late spring in fertile, well-drained soil (they do not like wet feet).
Four to five months after planting, the clusters of what look like miniature onions at the top of each stalk will have matured. Each plant will bear anything from one up to 30 bulblets, which range in size from 0.5 cm to 3 cm. As these bend and touch the ground you can encourage them to root by pinning the stem down with a paper clip. At the base of the plant, underground, there is a shallot-like swelling.
The underground bulb, leaves and top-sets are all edible, with the leaves tasting much like spring onions. The underground bulb has a mild flavour similar to a shallot. The top-sets have a stronger flavour and are great in soups, salads and sauces, or pickled. In their first year they might not produce top-sets. However, if the plant is left in the ground it will continue to produce bigger and more prolific top-sets every year.

A change of season meal: Slow roasted cabbage with slightly steamed asparagus. 

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the September 4th, 2017

It is the time of year when  Winter vegetables are coming to an end and Spring ones are popping out. This results in crossover meals. Like this slow roasted cabbage (meltingly sweet and soft) with crispy fresh asparagus. 


Slow roasted cabbage. 

* Cut the cabbage into quarters. Slice out the hard centre core. 

* Place each quarter on two strips of criss crossed foil. 

* Rub all over  with butter and drizzle with olive oil. 

* Sprinkle the cut sides with Italian herbs, salt, pepper and garlic powder. 

* Wrap in the foil, leaving room for the cabbage to steam, and bake at 160° for about 2 to 2.5 hours. 

* Meanwhile, slice ciabatta into small cubes. Mix this with grated Parmesan, pul biber (Turkish red pepper) and oil. 

* Open the cabbage up, top with the ciabatta mix and bake at 180° until topping is crispy and just browned. 

* Serve with asparagus, steamed for a few minutes, drizzled with lemon butter. 

Friday night cooking on fire.

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the August 25th, 2017

I love cooking on fire. I have a number of braais – from a Weber to a mini rectangular shallow braai with a lid to a couple of Cobbs. They all get used often. Even when it’s cold out. 

Tonight’s meal was bone-in rib eye steak (from Boomplaats Farm via Farm Table in Linden) with a winter salad of roast butternut, onion and cherry tomatoes with crunchy kohlrabi and radish on a bed of baby spinach. Garlicky roast baby potatoes topped it off. 


Rib Eye Steak

Mix together: 1 & 1⁄2 Tbs chopped oregano, 1 Tbs pul biber (Turkish red pepper), 1 Tbs ground coffee, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 & 1/2 tsp sea salt,  1/2 tsp ground pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1 & 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin. 

Brush steak with olive oil and sprinkle the spice mix, covering all sides. Leave to sit while you prep the fire, make the salad and potatoes. 

Cook over hot coals, turning once, until medium rare. Leave to sit, covered, for about seven minutes before serving. 


Salad

  • Slice butternut (leave skin on) and two onions and mix with olive oil and dried Mediterranean herbs. 
  • Roast at 200°  until butternut is soft. 
  • Add cherry toms for last fifteen minutes. 
  • While this is cooking, peel kohlrabi and slice into sticks. 
  • Slice radishes
  • Wash baby spinach, dry and place on platter.
  • Top with butternut, onion, tomatoes, kohlrabi and radishes. 
  • Drizzle with dressing of olive oil, balsamic,  basil with salt and pepper to taste. 


Garlicky roast potatoes 

  • Cut baby potatoes in half and  steam until just cooked. 
  • Place in hot pan with olive oil and cook over medium to low heat, turning often, until nearly browned. 
  • Add chopped garlic and cook until potatoes and garlic are browned.
  • Add chopped chives and parsley, sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. 

Delicious vegetable cous cous with eggplant and yum chicken breasts.

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the August 8th, 2017

Simple and delicious. And about 45 minutes from walking into the kitchen to sitting down to eat.
Start by marinating chicken breasts (skinless and boneless) in whey, or buttermilk, mixed with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Leave for about 30 minutes while you prep and cook the rest.
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Eggplant
*Slice baby eggplants in half, brush with sesame oil, season with salt and pepper.
* Roast at 200° for 30-40 minutes (turn halfway through) til soft.
* Toss with Apricot and Chimichurri sauce (made by Nataniel) or something similar.

IMG_3492

Vegetable cous cous
* Sauté cauliflower (broken into small pieces) til just browned. Remove from heat.
* Sauté sliced courgette til just browned. Add corn kernels, cauliflower, chopped garlic and pine nuts. Sauté til pine nuts are browned.
* Mix cous cous with boiling water and leave to swell. Mix with chermoula paste and add the vegetables. Stir through, flavour with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

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Chicken
* Remove breasts from marinade and cook on hot cast iron griddle pan til nicely cooked on both sides. Add halved naartjie segments to the pan
* Remove chicken and naartjies from heat. Slice chicken (it will still be pink in the middle) and mix with any yum barbecue sauce (I used Nataniel’s Asian Braai Sauce). Return to pan, reduce heat and toss til cooked through.
* Mix chicken slices with the naartjie segments, coriander leaves, chopped avocado and crispy fried onions (I get them from Impala Fruit & Veg).
Serve the cous cous vegetables topped with the chicken and eggplants.
*Note: Don’t leave the chicken for too long in the marinade – both whey and buttermilk will denature protein, which makes the chicken lovely and tender. But left too long it will break down too much and become mushy.

The best thin crust pizza recipe . . .

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the August 5th, 2017

The best pizza I  ever tasted was in Naples. I have always preferred a thin crispy pizza base but the Napolese one wasn’t crispy. It was thin and floppy, with the simplest topping of fresh tomato sauce (made from tomatoes grown in volcanic soil of nearby Vesuvius), buffalo mozzarella and basil. 

Back home the closest I have come to replicating that sublime pizza is the following recipe. I most often cook it until its crispy, but every now and then I don’t, just to remind me of that Autumn week in Naples. 

INGREDIENTS

 ¾ cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1½ teaspoons salt

2 cups Tipo 00 flour

olive oil, for greasing

METHOD

Combine the water and yeast in a bowl and stir. Add the salt and flour and mix until combined.

Turn the shaggy dough (and any loose flour) onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and place inside an olive oil greased bowl, turning so the dough is covered with oil. Cover and leave to rise for about an hour and a half, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature.

Place a pizza stone or baking tray in the lower middle part of the oven.

Halve the dough with a dough scraper. Take one piece and form it into a large disc using your hands to pull, turn and stretch it. Place it on a 30cm piece of baking paper. If you want it even thinner, use a rolling pin. (It will stick to the paper, but when it bakes, the dough will release from the paper.) If the dough starts shrinking back, leave it to rest for five minutes before trying again.

Repeat with the second half of dough.

Add your toppings and place the pizza (with the baking paper) in the oven. Bake for about five minutes then rotate the pizza, removing the paper as you do. Bake for a further 5 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

 Makes two 25cm pizzas 


This was the pizza from Pizzeria da Michele.    We went there on our first night in Naples after a long flight from Joburg via the Middle East to Rome. We shared a hire car with a couple we met at the airport who were also going to Naples. They were heading straight to a pizzeria that claimed to make “The best pizza in the world.” It certainly was the best pizza I’d ever eaten. The following day our guest house owner told us that Julia Roberts had been in town the week before, filming Eat Pray Love. One of the scenes was at the pizzeria where we’d eaten. It was a good start to a holiday!

The Secrets of Brassicas

Posted in Grow Your Own Veg! Tips & Techniques by Administrator on the February 10th, 2016

pics Feb 2016

For many years I only grew herbs and greens in my vegetable garden during winter. Summer veggies seemed more fun and winter became a time of dormancy for me and my garden. That all changed after I planted broccoli for the first time. It quickly grew into a luscious bed of edible heads. But the best surprise was how long they lasted. As long as I kept snipping off the newly developed side shoots before they flowered, we ate nutritious broccoli for months. Since then I have grown many members of the Brassica family and along the way learned a few things about this prolific and interesting family.

Secrets of Brassicas
Kale, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and more are all Brassicas. Probably the only other vegetable family with a wider diversity of shapes and sizes is the Cucurbit or squash family.

As Brassicas are heavy feeders, enrich the soil with compost and add a slow release, balanced fertiliser before planting.
All Brassicas prefer more alkaline soil and benefit from some lime being added before planting. This also helps prevent club root disease, a fungal disease affecting the Brassica family. Rhubarb leaves, which are very high in oxalic acid, help to prevent club root. Water the ground with a rhubarb drench (see below) before sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings.
Crop rotation also reduces chances of club root developing. Brassicas should not follow one another in the same spot for at least two years. When Brassicas have finished bearing, pull the entire plant out, roots and all, and compost it. Leaving the stumps in the ground encourages club root.
Companions: All Brassicas love growing alongside aromatic and flowering plants such as rosemary and sage.

The Four Stages of Growth

Some Brassicas, such as kale and mustard, are leafy greens and can be grown as such. Others – particularly broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage – require a little more care. These vegetables all develop buds, either a large single one like cabbage, or a mass of them, like broccoli. These Brassicas have four stages of growth.

In the early stages they concentrate on developing their roots and leaves.
During the second stage, the outer leaves develop.
The third stage is the most important, as this is when the plant builds up nutrients in the outer leaves. The third stage is the time that Brassicas most appreciate being fed some extra food.
Once sufficient nutrients are stored, the plant transfers them from the older outer leaves to the internal buds, which develop very quickly during the fourth stage. Feeding Brassicas during the fourth stage won’t make much difference as the growth is too fast for the roots to keep pumping nutrients to the heads. All the growth is drawn from the outer leaves.

So we need to feed our Brassicas with a balanced diet before the heads start developing. They require a balanced organic fertiliser, such as Talborne Vita-Fruit Flower (3:1:5), as this will help build large, healthy heads and buds.

IMG_9006

Cabbage is one of the easiest Brassicas to grow, as it is not too fussy about climate or soil. It comes in a variety of colours and shapes, from compact red ones to large frilly green ones. Although it prefers cooler weather, it can be grown almost throughout the year. Avoid cabbages maturing in midsummer or sowing seeds in midwinter. Although cabbages consist of a mass of green leaves, don’t make the mistake of thinking they need a nitrogen-rich soil. Too much nitrogen makes the inner leaves grow too quickly and causes the heads to split.

Cabbages like full sun and consistent moisture throughout their growing period. A good way to protect cabbages from leaf-eating bugs is to sprinkle of tansy, feverfew, artemisia or pyrethrum in amongst their leaves. More than most vegetables, cabbages benefit from polyculture plantings instead of monoculture. Interplanting with dill, coriander, anise, oregano, borage, nasturtium, sage and thyme will repel leaf-eating insects and camouflage the distinctive shape of the cabbage.

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Kale is a quick-growing leafy vegetable. It is very similar to cabbage except it doesn’t form a head in the middle. It is also hardy, easy to grow and is subject to very few pest attacks or diseases. It prefers growing during the cooler months and likes moist conditions.

Kale is easily grown from seed and isn’t too fussy about its soil. It prefers full sun, except during the hotter months, when it benefits from some shade. It needs consistent watering and well-mulched soil. Kale grows well with strong-flavoured herbs such as basil, parsley and sage.

Kale is not a delicate green, like spinach, which only needs to be cooked for a short time. Kale benefits from being thoroughly cooked, particularly the tougher, curly-leafed varieties.

Purple broccoli (1)

Broccoli is a superhero when it comes to packing a nutritional punch. It contains high levels of vitamins, calcium, beta-carotene, potassium and iron. When buying seedlings, choose compact ones rather than tall leggy ones, as these will transplant more smoothly. If you crowd the plants closer, the heads will be smaller. Keep an eye out for leaf-eating bugs which can damage the central growing point, especially when the seedlings are small.

Harvest the central head while compact, even if it’s quite small. If it starts looking loose, cut it immediately otherwise the buds will open and flower. Cut it about 10 cm below the head. As the weather becomes cooler it will continue producing side shoots. Harvest them before they flower, otherwise the plant will stop producing any more shoots.

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Cauliflower, unlike broccoli which continues to produce side heads after the first harvest, is a once-off deal. Despite this, it is worth planting a few in a small vegetable garden as freshly picked cauliflower has a flavour and crunchiness far surpassing your average supermarket offering. Choose from snowy white, purple, to the spiral Romanesque (pictured).

Cauliflower needs constant moisture, rich soil and just the right temperatures to form a good head. Different varieties have differing lengths of maturity, head sizes and resistance to warmer weather. They must be transplanted very gently with as little disturbance to the roots as possible. They produce better heads if grown in a firm soil.

When the heads are a good size (6.5–10 cm in diameter) cover them with some bigger outer leaves to keep them white. Either tie the leaves together over the top or break the leaves and fold them over. Check every few days after doing this to see if they are ready. Heads should be cut when they are compact and firm. Don’t let them become loose or develop individual florets.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb Drench

500 g rhubarb leaves, chopped
1 ℓ of water
Boil leaves in 1 ℓ of water for 30 minutes. Cool and strain. Can keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

A Delicious Launch

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the October 17th, 2015

What a great turnout at Love Books for the launch of Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening. I was interviewed by Jenny Crwys-Williams and she was so enthusiastic about the book. Great welcome home!

   
    
    
    
   

Delicious Launch at Love Books 

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the October 17th, 2015

What a great turnout at Love Books for the launch of Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening!  

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What to do with venison mince and fresh cabbage?

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the August 28th, 2015

My friend Guy is a hunter. And I am  a conscious carnivore – if I am going to eat meat I try and source it from an animal that has lived a natural life. (I used to say ‘a happy life’ but who am I to define an animal’s level of happiness?) Last weekend Guy gave me a bag of blesbok min. Tender, high in protein and low in fat, it is ideal for a bolognaise. But it can be quite rich. To leaven it I added mushrooms and creamy roast eggplant but then came the magic ingredient to add a fresh crunch to rich bolognaise: thinly sliced cabbage from the garden. After  placing the hot spaghetti in a bowl, I scattered the cabbage on top and then added the bolognaise sauce. A sprinkle of grated parmegiano and voila. A fantastic mix.  

 

Down Pmb memory lanes

Posted in Garden Diary by Administrator on the August 24th, 2015

I grew up in Pietermaritzburg. My Dad’s pharmacy (Stephenson & Griffiths) was in Longmarket street, providing easy access to the warren of lanes between Longmarket and Church streets. Their names – Timber street, Theatre lane, Buchanan Street – bring back floods of memories.

Entertainment venues came and went. The Laager ice rink ran for a few years and we all became skating fanatics until it closed. I remember family outings to the Putt Putt course near the Bird Sanctuary and the Drive Inn, out past Epworth School. The Royal Show was a highlight. In those days we had the fairground, with its Big Dipper and Swings, that accompanied the show jumping, cattle arena and The Fudge Lady. The annual Azalea Festival, with its parade of floats and drummies through the city centre, and Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race were also never missed. We went to movies at the Grand Cinema (with its red velvet curtains and upstairs balcony) and the 20th Century, both long gone. Weekends were spent riding ponies in Winterskloof, sailing at Midmar or hiking up to World’s View, stopping for a picnic in the pine forest.

In my teen years many a Saturday night was spent at the infamous Lord John disco at The Imp, as the Imperial Hotel was known. The ice rink was converted to the Electric Ballroom, which lasted for about two seconds, however, The Polo Tavern and its great folk music, entertained us for years. Twiggy’s Pie Cart, Bimbos and The Owl’s Nest were late night (or early morning) post party eateries.

But the lanes were a constant, with antique shops and hippies selling funky hand-made leather shoes, Gents’ Outfitters, second-hand book stores and delicious bakeries. Geoff, a flamboyant hair dresser from London, set up his salon here and shocked Pmb by introducing pink and purple hair dyes. Hey Jude, a record lending library, was always full of great music and people, and George’s coffee shop were Saturday morning hang out spots. Today, the lanes are still there, but the magical shops of my youth are gone. For Pmb children of today, the single lane of Liberty Mall is the one they prefer.

So the question today is: Are you feeling LUCKY???
I am thrilled to see that the annual Witness Garden Show is such a great success.

I have FREE TICKETS to give away to 12 lucky people – simply send an email to
info@janesdeliciousgarden.com with the subject line Witness Garden Show

The first 12 people to respond will receive them.

This year my fabulously green fingered friend, Tanya Visser and her team from The Gardener Magazine have taken over its management. Some of the new attractions include:
• A Gourmet Food Hall
• A Go Green Hall of eco-friendly products and services
• A bigger, better Kids Zone
• More, improved garden designs
• A greater selection of plants from more plant growers and nurseries
• Demos on gardening, cooking, flower arranging and more.
• Ready, Steady, Plant with Tanya Visser
• Competitions to win fabulous prizes

Pic for FB

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