I make a cooked breakfast every Sunday. It’s a luxury—a gift I give myself as much as to the family. So it doesn’t feel like a chore to get up early and cook once a week.
At least, most of the time it doesn’t. Once in a while I’m uninspired on a Sunday morning, particularly if I spent Saturday in the kitchen.
Last week was one of those Sundays. I couldn’t be bothered making scones or pancakes or muffins. So I pulled out a recipe my mother gave me years ago. One I don’t recall ever having made, but it was a simple, stir-together baked oatmeal that struck me as just the thing for a Sunday I didn’t feel like cooking. Best of all, the bread oven was still hot from the previous day, so I didn’t even have to use the electric oven.
I modified the recipe a bit (because I can’t seem to ever make a recipe exactly as it calls for).
here’s my version of baked oatmeal—delicious with a generous dollop of unsweetened yogurt or a splash of milk.
125 g (1/2 cup) melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups quick cooking oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a 23 cm (9-inch) square baking pan. Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) for 30-35 minutes.
The carrots are just at the thinning stage right now. I’m embarrassed to admit it took years for me to figure out that if I pulled the largest carrots at thinning time, we could eat them, and the ‘runts’ (which I used to pull out) would grow to a fine size.
But I’ve learned, and so at thinning time, we enjoy handfuls of pretty little baby carrots.
I planted six varieties of carrot this year. And despite my talent for over-planting, I’ve never yet grown enough carrots to satisfy the family’s annual consumption. The range of varieties encourages me to plant more, and they make for beautiful kaleidoscope dishes, cheerful with colour.
Ugly but delicious.
Gooseberries are ripening by the bucketful right now, so when I was planning dessert for a party last Saturday night, I naturally turned to gooseberries for inspiration.
I made a large batch of gooseberry pie filling and baked up dozens of gooseberry tarts. Unfortunately, the fruit bubbled over, creating a sticky mess that glued the tarts into their pans.
Almost every one broke when I tried to take them out of the pans. One was so crumbled I had to spoon it out …
… right into my mouth. It was a sublime experience. Deliciously sweet and sour with a flaky crust, I thought I’d serve them anyway. I requested a second opinion from my husband and kids, giving them each the most broken tarts. They moaned in pleasure and nodded.
No one at the party mentioned how the tarts looked. I’m not sure they sat on the tray long enough for anyone to examine them—one taste and they vanished.
A delicious baking disaster. I’ll definitely have to do it again.
Gooseberry Pie Filling (enough for two full-size pies)
8 cups fresh gooseberries
4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp corn flour (cornstarch)
enough water to prevent sticking (less than 1/4 cup)
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 1-2 minutes, until berries soften. Crush berries in the pot with a potato masher. Boil about 5 minutes longer until the mixture begins to thicken.
The pie filling can be baked in a double or a single crust. If you choose a single crust, top with streusel topping:
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbs (80 g) melted butter
Blend all ingredients with a fork until crumbly.
I baked my tiny tarts for 35 minutes at 190ºC (375ºF). A full pie should take 45 – 60 minutes.
The online recipes for marinated artichoke hearts tend to be for small quantities—enough to make a small jar. So when I decided to make marinated artichoke hearts with eight large artichokes left over from dinner, I took those recipes as a general guide, and made it up as I went.
Into the bowl with the cooked artichokes went equal quantities of cider vinegar and water until the vegetables were mostly covered. Then I added a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, some ground dried garlic (because I had none fresh), and a handful of chopped fresh oregano. I poured olive oil over the whole thing until the artichokes were completely covered by liquid, and then I stirred to mix it all.
The result was a beautiful vat of marinated artichoke hearts so good, they need a fancy dinner party to go with them.
Just a few of the artichokes…
It’s artichoke season again, and we are officially overwhelmed. It’s no longer a question of whether we’ll have artichokes for dinner, but what we’ll have with them. I seem to have permanent spines in my fingertips from preparing them, and my fingernails are stained an unattractive grey from the purple ones.
But the spines and the stains are worth it. Having this many artichokes makes me feel like a queen—who else could indulge in such a luxury? (Never mind that a queen wouldn’t have to prepare her own artichokes.)
This weekend, if I can manage it around open homes, I’ll bottle (can) a year’s worth of artichokes. It’s nearly a full day’s work. Picking and prepping 60 to 70 artichokes in one go is daunting, but then we’ll have riches year-round, and all we’ll have to do is open a jar to get them. Not too hard to take.
The new property isn’t quite gushing berries like the old, but it’ll get there.
The family spent much of last Sunday gardening at the new property. It had been several weeks since I’d worked in the garden there, and the weeds had been busy. The list of weed species on the property continues to grow, with cleavers and field madder the newest unwelcome volunteers. I found convolvulus too, scrambling along the perimeter fence through a clutch of gorse seedlings. At least the convolvulus will have pretty flowers.
There were nice surprises, too. The artichokes we transplanted are growing well. And nearly all of the cuttings of gooseberry, red currant, black currant, and blackberry have survived and are flowering. The strawberries have done well, too. One of them even offered me a ripe berry—the first fruit of the new property. It wasn’t the best strawberry ever, but it was the flavour of possibilities, the flavour of things to come.
A few days ago, after a busy day, I couldn’t be bothered to cook. I decided to throw together a quick pasta, so I headed to the garden to pick a few vegetables.
But when I arrived in the garden, the sight of the winter spinach, growing like a weed and thinking about bolting, inspired me.
All that spinach would make an excellent spinach quiche. I even had some feta in the fridge, and there’s nothing better than spinach with feta.
Of course, a quiche is a whole lot more work than pasta …
And it really would need dill, too …
I scoured the weedy parts of the garden for volunteer dill, because my seedlings weren’t ready to pick yet. The weedy dill plants clinched it.
No longer tired, but inspired, I set about cooking. The result was worth the effort (as I knew it would be).
And that’s what I most enjoy about gardening—when the daily grind gets me down and I just want to order takeaways, it provides the inspiration to instead make a glorious meal.