With all this talk of the Indian Summer (Is it coming? Has it just gone? Are we about to have a heatwave or just more of this rain/sun/rain/sun thing?) it still feels as though there is time to sneak in a few more seeds. So this weekend just gone I sowed another batch of all year round lettuces and some spinach. Oh I do love both. Just perfect veg that you can pick and pick and always taste wonderful.
It’s nearing the end of the season and, feeling rather gung ho, I just filled all the available space in the recently cleared beds. At the back of my mind – no, the front actually – was the thought that more than half the seeds would be carted off by mice and ants.
The sun beat down after the rain providing perfect conditions. Then, guess what, it rained again, saving me the chore of watering the seeds. I know I should love doing this but actually I hate doing it, I think it’s the anxiety of watching and waiting and fearing that nothing will ever emerge or if it does that it will be slugged to death.
But, however much the sun shines, the early morning mists and chill remind me that we are on the inevitable journey towards shorter days. And that gives me a terrific urge to bottle and preserve what I can.
Raspberries… I have made three batches of raspberry jam so far using the simple but effective method of matching the weight of raspberries with the weight of sugar. I much prefer making smaller batches, say a kilo at a time. It’s so much easier to boil it up quickly and somehow the whole thing is less of a production. The kitchen feels less like an overheated factory and I don’t get so stressed.
But how else to use the endless supply of deliciousness? I have earmarked raspberry vodka as a possibility. But not having enough vodka in the house I plumped for baking a raspberry tart.
Actually it was the daughter’s idea though we adapted the recipe slightly replacing the cream filling with crème patissiere. On top of that we piled the fresh berries and glazed the lot with raspberry jam, sieved and warmed. Goodness, that was good.
Try our recipe for a raspberry and white chocolate tart.
Lemon verbena. What to do with that? It smells so heavenly I hate not to have it over winter so we decided to make some scented sugar. It couldn’t be easier. Just pick off the leaves, bash them with a pestle and mortar, adding a little caster sugar to get traction before adding more caster sugar and filling up a Kilner jar. A final sprig adds a little something to the look of the finished sugar. It smells amazing and will make lemon cakes just so much more delicious.
Rosemary we ground (using just the oil rich needles) in the mortar and mixed into rock salt and stored in pretty screw tops jars. You can buy rock salt in large quantities online for far less than you’d pay in a supermarket.
I keep a sack of rocksalt in the house and instead of spending a fortune buying bath salts make my own, usually sprinkling on drops of lavender essential oil. But using fresh herbs is nicer and more satisfying. Lemon verbena would work well too, or try a mix of herbs. In a vintage glass jar this makes a nice Christmas present.