Saturday, 28 January 2012

Struggling with multiple gluts

lots of little tomatoes
Picked (over the last few days)
  • 6 eggplants
  • 3 punnets of tomatoes (berries and cherries)
  • 2 cos lettuce
  • 2 cucumbers
  • handful of beans
  • spring onions
  • green-yellow sweet chillies
  • chillies
  • lemons
  • mint
  • thyme
Still a struggle to go to work  after taking such a long break  off over Christmas so the opportunities for a long weekend provided by Australia Day falling on a Thursday was too good to let slip so I took the Friday off as well.  Time for cooking and eating.

Still so much cos lettuce in the garden - we need to eat more. So the cos I have picked will be eaten tonight as a san choi bao.  Normally people use iceberg lettuce but I don’t have any of that growing and a cos creates a nice longish boat-like scoop to hold the filling and its crisp and firm so, why not?
I never grow iceberg. I grown the more open –hearted varieties generally, and a bit of cos (which I guess IS a lettuce that hearts isn’t it?). Lettuces are pretty trouble free in my experience. I have only had  trouble if the season is very wet and the soil isn’t draining properly or if you have mulched up too close to the plant. Then they can get a little soggy and slimy. But given space and drainage then they offer no problems.
As well as the cos I have a few heirlooms in as well and should get raising some seeds to put a new batch in.

Today I made a batch of my favourite sweet tomato and chilli jam. I make this about every two years because one batch lasts me for two years. It’s a great way to use up lots of tomatoes. I confess I didn’t use my own tomatoes cause you need 2 kilos of them for this recipe and because you really need to peel them. Ever tried peeling cherry tomatoes?  So I bought some egg tomatoes from the green grocer. 

Tomato chilli jam
Tomato Chilli Jam
(makes about 6 jam jar-sized jars)
* from the garden

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens,  A Growers Guide to Vegetables -  one of those magazine–like publications you find in newsagents. My lovely brother bought this for me ages ago and it has become one of my favourite veggie growing references. I remember brother Matt saying to me, “the vegies in this book look like they come from a ‘real’ garden”... I might have said it myself!

The original recipe doesn’t cook the jam on for long enough for my liking, and I have never timed how long I cook it for but you will notice it changing colour (getting darker) and getting a sticky jammy-like look after some time.  Just keep it moving so it doesn’t stick -  it needs some dedication to make but it is worth it.
2 large red capsicums
8 red chillies*, finely chopped (original recipe calls for 4)
2 kilos tomatoes peeled and chopped (definitely peel the tomatoes!)
4 green apples, peeled and grated
4 garlic gloves*, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon rind*, grated
¾ cup lemon juice*
3 ½ cups sugar

Cut capsicum into large pieces, remove seeds and membrane.  Put under hot grill to blacken skin. Put in a plastic bag and sweat to loosen skin, wash skin off.  Chop finely.

Place capsicum, chilli, tomatoes, apple, garlic and lemon rind in a large pan and simmer till the pieces start breaking up. Add lemon juice and sugar and cook on keeping the mixture moving. Cook until the mixture changes colour and gets ‘jammy’ and the individual ingredients start melding together. Remove from heat and ladle into hot sterilised jars. 

Seal and cool jars before storing. Once opened place in fridge.  I leave to mature in the jar for about 2 weeks before opening my first one. This sticky jam is heaven with cold meats, left-over roast lamb, a cold left-over sausage …
In  not using my tomatoes in this recipe I have been left with a massive bowl full of cherry and berry tomatoes! These have to be used tomorrow.

Over the last few days we have made a few eggplant dishes dealing with some of the glut. 

BBQ eggplant
This is one of the simplest things and yummiest things to do with an eggplant.  Simply put on the BBQ and roast till the inside is soft and sloppy and preferably before they explode (yep, it can happen!). Take off and cut open and eat with lemon and black pepper. 

Roasted Eggplant with haloumi and pomegranate
This recipe is from Organic Gardener Magazine Sept/Oct 2011. It’s an amended  Matthew Evans’ recipe and is suggested as an entrĂ©e but we made it as a main - to deal with the glut. The original calls for one eggplant and from the photo it is a typical egg-shaped one but David used our long thin ones. It is a surprisingly delicious combination of flavours and textures.
long thin eggplants*
olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
6 mint leaves*
1 packet of haloumi
1 pomegranate seeds removed
Preheat oven to 180C. Prick eggplants and bake until tender (not sloppy). Allow to cool then peel. Cut in half. Arrange on baking tray and place in oven to reheat a little.
To make the sauce, whisk oil, molasses, vinegar, lemon juice, mint and salt and pepper in a bowl.
Fry cheese in a non-stick pan, with a little olive oil if sticking, until brown.
Serve by placing eggplant on plate topping with haloumi.  Spoon over dressing and scatter with pomegranate seeds.  

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