Runner Beans Riches

Our south wall used to be shaded by a rabbit shed, later converted to a chicken hoop. Ever since I demolished that, the sun was directly blazing at it. It does not heat the house much because it is well insulated, but I felt somehow that the space is wasted. After some thinking, I have decided that it would be an ideal space for growing runner beans, one row, close to the wall. Runner beans do not mind the low-quality soil, so they do not need to be fertilized and thus there is no risk of polluting our well which is down the slope exactly on the opposite side of the house.

Last year was somewhat poor, the beans did not grow that much. There was enough rain, but not enough sun for them to really prosper. Even so, the harvest was big enough that we still did not eat it all.

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This year the weather was extremely hot and dry again. However, we managed to collect enough rainwater in the spring to be able to water the beans the whole time sufficiently, so they prospered enormously and covered the whole wall.

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They are still blooming and they will continue to grow until the first frost.  I will probably wait for two more weeks, then I will harvest all green immature pods and clip the plants so they do not waste energy on growing and instead mature the remaining pods quicker. But maybe I won’t bother. The harvest looks extremely promising even so, I will have to convince my mother to cook beans more often. I like them better than chicken anyway.

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I am thinking about buying seeds of other vine beans and planting them next year en masse on the vegetable patch where this year grew potatoes. But I like runner beans the best because they are big and thus they require the least work per weight when shelling. We used to have white runner beans too, but  I haven’t seen them in shops for a long time. I could not put seeds consistently aside, because the white and red beans hybridized and after two-three years I had neither white nor purple beans but a mish-mash.

More Summer Content

Don’t worry, there’ll be some more serious content soon, and for once it’s good news. But for now, let me take you on a tour of the garden. This year, somehow, growing the seedlings on my window sill didn’t work. Don’t ask me why, but there’s no peppers this year. The tomatoes are way behind schedule. But we’ll see how it works out.

Let’s start with the potatoes:

Beet with potatoe plants

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This looks more dense than it is, I think for the future, the beet can sustain twice the amount of plants.

Next: peas

Beet with pea plants

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I planted sugar snaps and normal peas, though the latter were disappointing, too. They’re strictly for snacking, something the kids greatly appreciate. They’re mostly done now, so I plante a courgette in between. We may possibly drown in courgettes come a few weeks.

Beet with tomatoe plants

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As you can see, the tomatoes are still too small. The metal boughs are leftovers from the old trampoline so i can cover them should it rain too much.

beet with corn, beans and squash

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And a “three sisters planting”, this year hopefully with the right kind of beans. Again, I tried to pregrow my corn, and then when it didn’t take off I just sowed more outdoors.  Those plants are much stronger now than the few pregrown.

That was the “serious” gardening, now for the fun part: Flowers!

Purple mallow plants

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I always throw a few hands of flower seeds on the wild side of the garden. Last year, there were a few purple mallows. This year there are a lot of purple mallow plants. I love them.

Red lilies

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Lilies, I think. I know I planted them last year, but too late to bloom. They’re so pretty.

And last but not least, the Hollyhock. I love hollyhock. I planted those last year as well, the need two years anyway. Let’s just hope that they’ll just reseed themselves like the mallow.

Red hollyhock flower

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Pink hollyhock flower

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Black hollyhock flower

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Tummy Thursday: Around the World in 5 Courses

On New Year’s Eve we held our traditional dinner where we all draw our courses and continents. With only three families left, two families had to do two courses each while one (we as the hosts) had to do one. You never know how much you can miss somebody’s bad cooking until they’re gone.

The first course takes us to Africa, to Ghana in specific:

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It’s a leek and peanut soup and damn delicious. I think this will become part of our culinary repertoire

The second course jumps across the Atlantic to México:

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Pimientos con queso y beicon. Bell peppers filled with garlic cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. They were delicious.

Back across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, straight to Italy:

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Classic lasagna and never a bad choice.

Now we travel east and south to Oceania for the fourth course:

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Chicken Fa Fa, a popular dish from Polynesia. This was my course and I didn’t want to do something from Australia or New Zealand, since those are very European cuisines. Of course I didn’t get taro leaves to make an authentic chicken fa fa, but several recipes said to substitute with spinach. You fry the chicken, then simmer in tock until mostly done, add spinach and coconut and thicken with a bit of starch and it’s so damn delicious. the chicken was tender as butter, the spinach creamy, and I had a lot of trouble not eating the whole thing before the guests arrived.

For the final course we didn’t have to travel quite that far, our dessert from Japan:

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Macha petit fours: Small coconut cakes with red bean paste and a macha frosting, served with green tea. Those were delicious. The “cake” itself is made from “Butterkeks” a not overly sweet biscuit, coconut and butter with no added sugar, while the frosting is basically just sugar and macha. This makes for the perfect amount of sweetness with the bitter macha notes.

All in all we had a delicious and nice evening, right before the crying started at midnight. You see, January the first is Uli’s birthday. For almost 20 years we celebrated together. She’d spend Christmas with her family, but New Year’s Eve with us. I remember celebrating with her back when I was still living at home, bringing out a cake at midnight with the whole neighbourhood bursting out in “happy birthday”. Or partying in way too small student flats, sleeping on a floor so cramped it was difficult to go to the loo. We said that she would host this year. Damn, Uli, why didn’t you just say that you weren’t comfortable with hosting so many people right after moving in? Don’t you think that dying on us is a bit extreme?

Gingerbread Houses

These are the more “traditional”

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

gingerbread houses my mother made this year.

 

Gingerbread Bird Feeder

My mother has tried her hand on something a bit different this year. She has made “ordinary” gingerbread houses too (I will post them later), but she also made this.

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© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Have some cake

I’m sorry, here I am again apologising for being a bad host, but what can I say, meatspace is demanding right now. But we got to celebrate the little one’s birthday this year, with cake and her first Covid shot.

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The filling is one of my favourite fillings right now: a cream cheese and cream filling stabilized and favoured with jello, in this case lemon jello. It makes for a light filling and you can add fruit to taste.

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Next step: frosting with vanilla buttercream. Thankfully it doesn’t have to be too even. This is after the cake spent some time in the freezer, because on top you get mirror glaze.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

When working with mirror glaze, you always have leftovers. I decided to refrigerate them and use them for Halloween. Here’s two things I learned:

  1. Purple mirror glaze resists all efforts to be died black. It will just become deep purple (haha)
  2. My cellar wasn’t cool enough to let the frozen and glazed cakes thaw slowly. They decided to spontaneously disintegrate.

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Well, on Halloween things are supposed to look horrible, aren’t they?

Tummy Thursday: It’s Pokémon Birthday Cake Time

The kid’s birthday was already at the start of the month, but of course with my body being an asshole again I couldn’t make a cake for her actual party. Thank goodness teenagers mostly require insane amounts of food and not attention, so she could have her friends over for a small party.

Last weekend we celebrated with our friends and she got her cake for that day. She went for her favourite Eevilution, Leafeon.

©Giliell, all rights reserved      The eyes are not my best work.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Yes, that’s a ton of individually cut and applied grass blades

The inside of the cake is a standard vanilla cake with a cream cheese and cream filling. The filling was really easy and tasty: I used a packet of lemon flavour jello to mix with the cheese and the whipped cream, added some lime zest and cut canned peaches. The only problem that I had was cooling it down quickly enough for the jello to work so it wouldn’t run all out on me. I then covered the whole thing in a thin layer of buttercream before adding the fondant.

Because a German buttercream (butter with custard) has too much liquid for fondant and an Italian meringue buttercream (my usual go to buttercream) was too much work for the state of my recovery, I made an American buttercream. I usually consider American buttercream the symbol of everything that is wrong with American cake making: It’s just butter and sugar, too heavy and too sweet. I love watching cake videos, but quite often the American ones leave me a bit puzzled: Yes, this looks amazing, but all you have in there is cake and buttercream. Where’s the flavour? Do Americans really spend 200 bucks on a cake that looks great but doesn’t taste of anything but butter and sugar? Please do tell me.

It did work well here, btw, because it was only a small layer to get the surfaces even and it contrasted nicely with the tart lemony filling.

Garden Update: The Big Growing

The heavy rains with nice temperatures basically made the garden explode.

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What I thought was squash were actually the two courgette seeds I had planted. Turns out they are more resistant to frost. We’ll, have a lot of them over summer…

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One of the three sisters beds with the monster squash/pumpkin/whatever. I bought a small, withering plant for cheap and gave it soil and water and it is a very grateful plant.

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I planted two different breeds of corn and it’s very noticeable.

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Look at my tomatoes! By now I have to put in multiple sticks to support the whole plant. The first fruit are visible and they made it through both storm and rain alike.

 

Tummy Thursday: Making Saitan

I think I mentioned before that I’ve reduced our meat consumption drastically over the last year or so. I’m not trying to become vegan or vegetarian (and no, I don’t want to hear why I should or how I should. This is not your post. Go somewhere else), but I think that meat should be a special treat.This is also possible since meat replacements have become so good that the family will eat them, when a few years ago they still tasted like underseasoned cardboard. One problem remains, though, and that is that many alternatives are based on soy and I’m allergic to soy. But I can totally eat gluten, so I tried making saitan.

You can just buy gluten by the pound, but you can also make saitan from scratch. add one part water to two parts flour and knead for 5 minutes. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then wash out the starch, This is messy and will lose you most of your mass. There are apparently people who then try to recover the starch from the washwater but not me.

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This is the gluten left from 2 kgs of flour and yes, it looks like a pig’s stomach used for wrapping roasts. At this point you can add seasoning and some salt and then you have to cook it. It can be baked or steamed, but I like to cook it in a mason jar with spices in a salty brine.

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Each jar contains about 500 ml in total, so you see that it’s not much, but one is also a good size serving for us. It needs to cool completely to get to the meat like consistency. This time I made pinchos. They were nice, I just used a little too much salt.

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It is pretty neutral in taste, which is why it’s often compared to chicken, so you can season it to your heart’s desire. Enjoy your meal.

What do you mean, poor people should have tasty food?

Pretty regularly you get not poor people all over (social) media being upset at the idea that poor people might eat something other than oats. Like buying a birthday cake on food stamps or the whole rule where you cannot buy hot food on food stamps which is only good for punishing people who may not even have cooking facilities. Or the recent scandal in the UK where the families that qualify for free school lunch got food hampers instead of a voucher, because they might buy something the Tories don’t approve of. Basically the same people who will tell you that all Cubans receiving staples of rice and beans is a horrible sign of socialism will demand that poor people in capitalism never eat anything but staples.

 

But sometimes “the left” isn’t any better and all signs of people enjoying food is seen as decadence. Last summer somebody dared to post a picture of her lunch, doing basically the thing social media was invented for, and received hate and harsh criticism for, checks note, basically having an unconstructed sandwich for lunch. Now, the ultimate irony is of course that in France a charcuterie board is probably the most “paysanne”  (rural and down to earth) lunch ever and nobody in the country of foi gras would think it bourgeois, but I guess for some people anybody having food that is not shitty (and has been that shitty for at least three generations) must be condemned as a sign of being a member of the elites.

You think that’s funny? Here’s one even funnier: You take an item that used to be present in every kitchen like the good old cast iron skillet, but got often thrown away as “new” things like teflon coated frying pans came up (making their descendants have to buy them again, thank you, grandma…) and declare them to be bourgeois. I mean, unless you decide you need Le Creuset in your life, they are not even expensive new and you can get them second hand because they are practically indestructible (unlike the silly teflon coated ones).

Which gets me to a hypothesis: The people attacking others for enjoying food are simply bad cooks. They themselves have no idea about how to prepare a tasty meal, regardless of whether the ingredients are cheap or expensive (tonight’s dinner: griddle cakes. Most expensive item: an avocado as a side dish. Cost per person: 1.50, including the avocado). And because they can only get good food when eating out, they equate good food with luxury. They would totally buy a cast iron skillet just to let it rust  (and put it in the dishwasher occasionally because it looks icky), but then they get angry at not being able to use it, so they have to declare it a “hallmark of bourgeois life”.

 

So, what’s the food or cooking item you’ve been shamed for because it was deemed “too bourgeois” (for a commoner like you)?

Tummy Thursday: A Rainbow for the New Year

Usually we spend New Year’s Eve with our friends, and for the last years we always did a culinary world travel. Now, travelling has been banned, parties as well (for good reason), so we stayed at home, wondering what to eat. #1 gave me a challenge: A rainbow dinner! I accepted and delivered a three course meal:

Starter: Tomato coconut soup with a cheese stick, red and orange

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The soup was delicious, and dead easy: Pureed tomatoes, coconut cream, onions, garlic, molasses, spices, butter. We also used grandma’s good china.

Main course: Cornbread (savoury) and spinach (and some meat), yellow and green:

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The cornbread was  a little dry, sadly, but the lamb was not so I simply soaked up the juices with the cornbread.

Dessert: Petit Fours with cherry jelly and lemon curd, blue, indigo and purple:

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

Petit Fours are always sweet as hell, but the lemon curd balanced it nicely. Still nothing where grown ups will ask for a second piece. Teenagers otoh…

 

Tummy Thursday: Espeon for the Win

I recently read the following on Twitter:

My 2020 diet tip: If you want a snack, think about whether you’re really hungry, or whether you just want a snack to compensate for the horrors we live through. Then have a snack, it’s the only joy we have left.

And, yeah. We couldn’t celebrate the little one’s birthday as planned, but she got her cake nevertheless.

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Two layers of vanilla cake with added lime zest, a filling of lemon and lime curd in an Italian meringue buttercream ring with added blueberries. I can tell you, it’s a combination to die for. The sweet buttercream offsets the tartness of the curd, and the blueberries add flavour.

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If your husband tells you that this surface of the moon crater landscape of a cake looks perfect, he either:

a) loves you very much

b) has no clue about cakes

c) both

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With a fondant espeon, glitter, sugar pearls  and silver stars. I’m quite proud of my Pokemon cakes by now.

I Was Like a Fox in the Henhouse…

Today I took a day off of any duties and works and I went for a walk in the forest, with my camera. And right at the edge of the forest, I got distracted.

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I had planned a long picture-taking walk, about five-six kilometers. I had drink and snacks packed, an audiobook prepared, and just in case I find some mushrooms, I had two cloth shopping bags in my backpack. I thought maybe I find enough for a dinner.

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Boletes are growing in huge numbers. I did not even get to the best places and I filled both shopping bags before venturing so much as twenty-thirty meters into the forest. They weighed about five kilos each, here you can see them after I took a hefty portion off the top to give to my neighbor, who likes them, but, like my parents, is too old to go collecting herself.

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My tiny kitchen counter was covered in mushrooms. It took me about six hours to clean all these and cut them. Most were cut to slices to dry, but some were too soft and spongy (and there were some blushers in there too) and had to be cooked right away.  And even though there was a lot of waste, I still filled the whole vegetable dryer and a table with drying, and my biggest pot with cooking. There are good ten-twenty meals in the pot, so after it all cools down, they will be divided and packed into small portions and frozen.

I must apologize, I did not make any pretty pictures for you today. But I am really tired, despite my walk being only about one-fifth of the length I planned.