Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


Quick & Delicious

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 31st, 2020

In summer, with the sun setting so late, I prefer not to spend hours cooking. After getting home from a dog walk, supper should be ready in about half an hour. Tonight’s meal took about that to prepare. Everything fresh from the garden.

* Sweetcorn fritters with curried yoghurt

* Zucchini salad with tomatoes, basil, feta and sprouts

* Sautéed eggplant slices

Grilled eggplant slices

* Slice a large eggplant and toss with flour and Herbes de Provence.

* Sauté on both sides in olive oil until browned on both sides and soft in the middle. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt.

Sweetcorn fritters with curried yoghurt

The trick to making light and fluffy fritters is to use chickpea flour. Wheat flour creates wetter, denser fritters.

I never follow exact proportions when making fritters. You are aiming for a wet mixture that just holds together enough to be picked up in a spoon and dolloped into the oil.

* Mix together: chopped jalapeño, sliced spring onions, cooked sweetcorn kernels, salt, pepper and curry powder to taste.

* Add chickpea flour and baking powder (approximately one teaspoon to one cup of flour) and mix.

* Mix together one egg and a little milk. Add it to the centre of the veg and stir to incorporate. Add more milk as required.

* Heat sunflower oil in a frying pan and drop in spoonfuls of the batter. Cook over medium heat until browned on one side. Turn and cook the other side.

Zucchini salad with tomatoes, basil, purple beans, feta and sprouts

* While the fritters are cooking, julienne the zucchini and toss with feta, cherry tomatoes, basil, chopped fresh purple beans and sprouts.

* Mix together and dress with olive oil and balsamic.

GROWING TURMERIC

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 27th, 2020

Turmeric isn’t just for adding flavour to food, it also benefits health and looks beautiful in the garden

It’s surprisingly easy to grow, however it requires a little patience. Here’s how to grow turmeric and how to use it.

PLANTING

In spring look for the freshest rhizomes you can find, preferably with a few sprouting buds (they look like small horns popping out of the skin). You can find fresh rhizomes at Indian spice shops, greengrocers such as Impala or selected Woolies and Checkers. Livingseeds sells fresh rhizomes in spring.

Turmeric likes fertile, well-drained soil, and although it thrives in hot weather, it doesn’t do well in full sun, preferring morning or filtered sun only. Wait until daytime temperatures are above 20°C before planting.

A few days before, cut the rhizomes into 5–8cm long pieces, making sure each one has at least two buds. Cutting them ahead of time allows the surfaces to dry, reducing the chance of disease. If you have small tubers, don’t cut them.

Plant the rhizome at an angle, with one side about 7cm deep, and the other just below the surface. Position it so that the growth buds point upwards. Cover with compost and press down firmly. Water well until the ground around the rhizome is soaked; keep it moist until the first green shoots appear – which can take anything from 20–45 days.

TIPS FOR GROWING TURMERIC

Turmeric grows about a metre high and has shiny green leaves. In fertile soil, it’ll need little more than a compost mulch after harvesting, and a side dressing of bonemeal and Talborne Organics Vita Grow (2:3:2) in spring.

For the first year, leave it to become established before harvesting. Look out for the exquisite flowers, which form at the base of the leaves in midsummer.

In late autumn it begins to die back and by the beginning of winter, the leaves will have turned brown and withered. Mulch well with compost and it’ll pop up again in late spring, as soon as the weather is warm enough.

It spreads by growing new rhizomes underground, forming large clumps above ground.

You can also grow turmeric in containers. Make sure that they are at least 30cm deep and don’t let the soil dry out.

PESTS AND DISEASES

In hot dry weather, spider mites can be a problem. Spraying with water mixed with garlic oil will sort them out. In very moist hot weather, fungal diseases can affect the leaves. Spray with 1 part milk to 4 parts water to prevent this.

HARVESTING

Once established, you can harvest pieces of root off the side of the plant throughout summer. In late autumn or early winter, once the leaves have died down, push a fork deep into the ground under a section of the plant and lift the rhizomes. Cut the stems off and place the rhizomes on a hessian sack. Give them a good wash with a hose on a high pressure setting, turning and rubbing to remove all the soil.

STORING

They’ll keep, refrigerated, for three to four weeks. If you need to keep them longer, cut into manageable pieces and freeze in an air-tight container. To make turmeric powder, cut rhizomes into slices and leave to dry before grinding in a spice or coffee grinder. Note: Fresh turmeric stains everything!

EATING AND USING TURMERIC

The roots, leaves and flowers are all edible. Aromatic roots add flavour to curries, marinades and rice.

Fresh turmeric root has a more intense taste than dried and isn’t as bitter. It contains plenty of curcumin, an effective anti-inflammatory. To obtain the maximum benefit, mix it with black pepper, as its active ingredient, piperine, aids the body’s digestion and absorption of curcumin. Warming turmeric and mixing it with fat also increases its efficacy. Add it to smoothies or warm milk with other spices.

The flowers give an exotic flourish to salads, and fresh leaves impart a subtle turmeric flavour if torn and added to curries and soups at the end of cooking. They go particularly well with coconut dishes. The leaves are also delicious as wraps for sticky rice buns, or as parcels for steamed fish.

Calculating mulch.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 20th, 2020

People often ask me how much mulch to add. It depends on what mulch you are using. Straw or leaves can be added a bit more thickly than compost for example, as they are looser.

If you are buying mulch in bulk and want to work out how many cubic meters you need here is the process:

1. First work out the square meterage by multiplying the length by the width of each your beds.

2. Then combine these to get a total.

3. If you have circular beds the maths is a bit more complicated:

  • Measure the radius of the circle (the distance from the center of the bed to the outer edge.)
  • Then multiply that number by itself. Then multiply the total by 3.14 (π):

R x R x 3.14 = square meterage of a circle.

4. If your beds are odd shapes, divide them into imaginary rectangles and circles and add up the totals.

Now decide how deep the mulch will be. If I’m using compost and leaves mixed together I make it about 10cm but with straw it can be 10-15cm.

Take your total square meterage (meters) and multiply it by the thickness (centimetres). Divide it by 100 to get the metre cubed amount you need to buy.

For example:

40m² x 10cm deep = 400cm³

400cm³ ÷ 100 = 4m³

If you are buying in bags:

Compost is sold in 30dm³. This is 30 cubic decimetres and 10 bags make up one cubic meter.

For 40²m you would need 40 bags.

Preserving Summer’s Goodness

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the January 10th, 2020

A dehydrator is an excellent tool for preserving summer’s abundance. Especially when you suddenly find a couple of baseball bat zucchinis skulking in the garden!

First step is to slice them evenly. A mandoline is essential.

Don’t cut them paper thin – they will get skinnier as they dry. About 3-4mm thick is good.

Next step is flavouring. The choice is up to you: lemon, salt and Mediterranean herbs; soy sauce and chilli powder; rice vinegar, mirin and soy sauce; apple cider vinegar, garlic and parsley – whatever you like. Don’t leave them in the marinade for long – five minutes will do the trick.

And then layer the slices in the dehydrator and dry until crisp. Store in an air tight bottle.

These can be eaten as snacks or added to soups and stews.

Yum!

Delicious eggplant, zucchini, peppadew, mint and feta salad.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the December 28th, 2019

This is a quick and delicious salad, combining cooked and raw ingredients.

  • Slice a freshly picked eggplant and sprinkle with flour, herbes de Provence and salt to taste.
  • Slice fresh garlic cloves.
  • Sauté eggplant and garlic in olive oil until both sides are browned and the centres are tender. Remove from heat and slice in half.
  • While the eggplant is cooking:
    • Julienne a freshly picked zucchini into a bowl
      Add chopped mint, crumbled feta and sliced peppadews. Toss together.
      Add the hot eggplant and mix through gently.

    Delicious and easy hummus.

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the November 2nd, 2019

    Hummus is expensive to buy and really quick and easy to make.

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 x 400g can of drained chickpeas

    • ¼ cup lemon juice plus more to taste

    • 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped

    • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

    • ½ cup tahini

    • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more as needed

    • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

    METHOD

    1. In a food processor combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt. Blend until the garlic is very finely chopped. Leave to rest for 15 minutes – this mellows the garlic.

    2. Add the tahini and blend until it’s thick and creamy, scraping the sides and bottom as needed.

    3. With the processor running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water. Scrape down the sides and blend until it’s smooth and creamy. (If your tahini was very thick to start, you might need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more ice water.)

    4. Add the cumin and chickpeas. Blend and add the olive oil while it’s running. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides as needed, for about 2 minutes. Add more ice water by the tablespoon if necessary until it’s creamy.

    5. Taste and add lemon and salt to taste.

    6. Sprinkle pul biber on top and drizzle with olive oil.

    Water-wise Vegetable Gardening

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 25th, 2019

    It is very disheartening seeing our lovingly tended food plants die because of heat and lack of water. However, we can prevent this by following a few simple techniques and methods.


    Create healthy soil

    Water does more than provide liquid for our plants to drink. It breaks organic matter in the soil into soluble nutrients. Water carries these through the soil, to the roots and into the plant where they are put to use. Healthy soil will allow water to soak into it (rather than run off immediately), holding onto some but allowing the excess to drain away. This leaves both moisture and air in the soil pores. No-dig gardening and increasing the amount of organic matter and humus in the soil, will improve its water retention ability.

    · When preparing beds for the first time, remove the topsoil and dig a 30cm deep trench.
    · Add a thick layer of well-rotted manure and compost. Fill in the trench, adding the topsoil last.
    · After this, never dig the soil again. Digging up and turning over the earth is more harmful than beneficial to the soil. Digging upsets the balance in soil life, destroys beneficial organisms and loses moisture and nutrients.
    · Maintain fertility by adding compost and well rotted manure regularly to the surface of the bed.
    · To avoid the soil compacting, never stand on the soil. Create small beds with pathways around them and edging to keep the enriched soil inside.

    Mulch, mulch and more mulch

    Mulching (adding leaves, compost or other organic matter to the surface of the soil) is one of the simplest yet most beneficial things we can do in our gardens. A mulched surface creates a forest floor environment that plants love. It reduces weeds and spread of disease, strengthens roots, improves the quality and fertility of the soil and most importantly retains moisture and regulates temperature.

    · Preferably use organic mulches such as compost, straw, leaf mould, grass clippings, autumn leaves and clippings from shrubs – especially artemisia, sage and lavender, which constantly need trimming. Artemisia has the added benefit of repelling bugs, which hate its smell.
    · Apply when seedlings are about 3 to 5 cm high. Depending on the material, mulch can be anything from 5 to 15 cm thick.
    · If using fresh grass clippings, mix them with leaves first, otherwise they become dense and slimy, preventing water and air from reaching the soil.
    · Leave a mulch-free circle of about 3 to 5 cm around stems to prevent rot. For larger plants with woody stems, leave a mulch-free zone of about 10 to 15 cm to prevent the bark decaying.
    · Always weed and water the beds well before applying mulch.

    Waterwise planting

    · By practicing no-dig gardening and using smaller beds, we can space plants close together, so when they grow to full size, their leaves just touch one another. This creates a living umbrella which shades the soil, keeping it moist and requiring less watering.
    · Plan ahead by sowing seeds under plants that will shortly be harvested and removed. Their leaves will provide protection and help retain moisture for germinating seedlings.
    · Group plants with similar watering requirements together.
    · On a slope, create terraces along contours to retain water.
    · Plant cover crops such as mustard, clover and buckwheat to improve soil and avoid leaving it exposed.

    Choose drought tolerant plants

    You will be inviting disappointment if you sow lettuces or coriander during the hottest summer months. Rather choose plants that enjoy the heat and don’t go to seed quickly. Examples are: sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, beans, eggplants, rocket (which becomes spicier in hot weather), spring onions, chives, chilies and Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary.

    Go undercover


    Erecting a shade cloth covering or roof will reduce the effects of the sweltering sun. Keep the sides open to allow air to flow through. In hail prone areas, make the roof pitched – if flat, the stones will quickly collect and their weight will break the supports or tear the shade cloth.

    Be water savvy

    Even when using these methods, if there is no rain, we need to water. Drip irrigation is the most effective way to deliver water directly to the roots, without any wastage or loss from evaporation. Drip irrigation can be connected to a timer to ensure regular watering.
    · If plants are drooping during a hot day, don’t worry, they are just closing stomata (minute openings in their leaves used for respiration) to retain water. If they are still drooping when it has cooled, it is time to water.
    · Rather water deeply and less often than shallowly, often.
    · During hot weather water either early in the morning or after the sun has set to reduce loss of water through evaporation.
    · Overhead watering – especially during summer – can increase the chances of spreading disease such as mildew. However, there are times when plants benefit from increased moisture in the air from overhead watering. During hot, dry weather, increased humidity will encourage vegetables such as chillies, beans and tomatoes to flower.

    TIP

    Home made drip irrigation hose
    You can make your own drip irrigation by piercing holes in an old garden hose using a punch or a heated needle. Attach one end to the tap and place a stopper on the other.

    A Rain Dancing salad for Hot weather.

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 22nd, 2019

    Phew. It was 37° yesterday and today was not much cooler. Tonight’s salad was a mixture of cooked and raw ingredients served on a bed of fresh lettuce. It included the first cherry tomatoes of the season. Served with a tahini dressing.

    Here’s the recipe

    Salad

    Start with a bed of mixed lettuce, rocket and sorrel.

    Scatter the following on top:

    • Grilled haloumi cheese slices.

    • Falafel broken into pieces (from last night’s dinner!)

    • Tomatoes (cherry plus a larger one chopped) mixed with shredded basil.

    • Parisian carrots, steamed until just tender and tossed with mint and olive oil.

    • Sliced fennel bulb.

    • Rose and nasturtium petals.

    Dressing

    Mix together: tahini (about three to four tablespoons); lemon juice (from half a lemon); dash of rice vinegar; dollop of sesame oil, sprinkle of sea salt, pinch of pul biber and a few glugs of olive oil. Add water to thin.

    Time for Summer Salads

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 17th, 2019

    I just love creating salad platters. The possibilities are endless. Tonight’s deliciousness was a bed of mixed greens, papaya, cherry tomatoes, sliced rib eye (from Boomplaats Organic Farm) toasted cumin, Gorgonzola from Linden’s Cheese Gourmet and edible flowers. served with herbed couscous.

    Papaya and rib eye salad.

    Pick a mix of greens (watercress, rocket, lettuce, nasturtium leaves) and spread out on a platter. On top spread the following evenly:

    • Chopped cucumber, papaya and cherry tomatoes.
    • Sliced rib eye (with a spice rib of: dried oregano and thyme, pul biber, salt, pepper, cumin, sugar and a touch of ground coffee.)
    • Toasted cumin seeds
    • Crumbled Gorgonzola
    • Rose petals, nasturtium and watercress flowers
    • Crispy sun dried onion sprinkles.

    Dress with olive oil, balsamic glaze and lemon juice.

    Herbed couscous

    • Pour boiling water over couscous (equal proportions). Leave to absorb.
    • Chop basil, mint and celery.
    • Mix herbs with olive oil, sea salt and pul biber. Muddle to blend and extract herb flavour.
    • Add to couscous, using a fork to fluff it up.

    Yum yum yum!

    Black Pearl Layer Cake

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 29th, 2019

    I first made this cake for Keith’s birthday in 2005 or so, after seeing the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine. I was intrigued by the ingredients. Wasabi mustard? Ginger? Sesame? In a cake??? I had to try it – despite it looking like a hectically complicated recipe.

    It was so utterly scrumptious that a friend of mine said to me “If you weren’t married – I’d propose!”

    In 2011, another friend (who had also been at the tea party) asked me to make the cake for her wedding.No pressure!

    Her wedding was out in the bush under a massive wild olive tree, but luckily – despite the bouncy dirt road – the cakes made it intact.

    On Friday I made it for the third time. To celebrate my birthday yesterday after what has been a particularly difficult year.

    It is a celebration cake. One of the most delicious I’ve ever eaten. And it is worth the effort. But be warned – it might lead to unexpected proposals!!

    Here is the recipe, adapted from the Bon Appetit one:

    Black Pearl Layer Cake

    Black pearl ganache

    • 170 g dark chocolate, chopped

    • ¾ cup whipping cream

    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

    • ½ teaspoon wasabi powder

    • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

    • 1 tablespoon golden syrup

    • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

    Place the chocolate in medium bowl. Bring the cream, ginger, and wasabi to boil in small pot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate; cover with plastic wrap and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth. Mix the sesame seeds and syrup in small bowl until all the seeds are well coated and stir into the chocolate mixture. Cool to lukewarm then stir in the butter. Cover and stand at room temperature overnight to set.

    Ginger syrup

    • 1 cup water

    • ½ cup sugar

    • 5 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger

    • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

    Place the water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan, and add the bean pod. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Stand at room temperature for 1 hour for the flavours to blend.

    Strain the syrup into a small bowl. Chop the strained ginger and keep it aside to be added to the cake mix. (The syrup can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate the ginger and syrup separately.)

    Cake

    • 2 cups boiling water

    • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

    • 2¾ cups flour

    • 2 teaspoons baking soda

    • ½ teaspoon baking powder

    • ½ teaspoon salt

    • 2¼ cups sugar

    • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

    • 4 large eggs

    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter three 20 cm diameter cake pans with 5 cm high sides. Dust with flour and line the bottoms with baking paper.

    Whisk the boiling water, cocoa powder and reserved chopped ginger in a medium heat-proof bowl. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

    Using an electric mixer beat the sugar and butter in another large bowl until fluffy, for about 1 minute. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then add the flour mixture in 4 additions alternating with cocoa mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.

    Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto racks to cool completely. (Cakes can be prepared a day ahead. Wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.)

    Whipped cream icing

    • 2 cups chilled whipping cream

    • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons icing sugar

    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

    • ½ teaspoon ground ginger

    • black sesame seeds for decoration

    Beat the cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ginger and beat until stiff peaks form.

    Using a long serrated knife, trim the rounded tops off the cakes to create a flat surface. Place one cake layer, cut side up, onto a plate. Brush the top with ⅓ cup ginger syrup. Spread half of the ganache over the top. Place a second layer, cut side up, on top of the first layer. Brush with ⅓ cup syrup, and spread with the remaining ganache. Top with the third cake layer and brush with the remaining syrup.

    Spread the sides and top with whipped cream icing. Sprinkle the top with black sesame seeds. Refrigerate until the ganache is set, about 4 hours. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. (Can be made a day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

    Delicious served with blueberries and strawberries.

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