Learning to Garden (9) – Two cookbooks

It’s winter, so some tidying up and scooping fallen leaves into the composter is all that can be done without crushing the damp grass or turning the beds into puddles of mud.  I ate the last fresh tomato yesterday and it will be February before I can sow seeds for next year’s crop, but I can think about what to try and grow.

Elizabeth David’s “French Provincial Cooking” and an “Omelette and a glass of whine” have been my comfort reading for a long time, it’s the type of cooking we aspire to, but actually eat things like “spag bol”, “fish pie” and “roast dinner”.  I’ve just just read a biography of her and realized that I should have chosen “Mediterranean Food”, I didn’t because some of France is a bit like southern England and not a lot like the Mediterranean.  Probably because she lived in the region for several years, “Mediterranean Cooking” seems to be more about personal experience than description.  At the weekend I cooked “Potato Kephtedes” and something that might translate as “Pulled Cauliflower”, both were simple and worked well (my wife was impressed) and with practice the next attempt may look like something Mrs. David might recognize.

Cooking and gardening are different stages of the same thing which is getting fed.  A lot of recent cookery books and columns are combinations of ingredients from diverse climates and cultures, whilst in Elizabeth David’s books climate, place and culture are consistent.

On our bookshelves is Sarah’s, my wife’s grandmother, hand written cook book which was probably compiled recipe by recipe sometime between 1900 and 1915.  At first glance, this notebook has nothing in common with “Mediterranean Cooking”, passing over the subtle differences between Lancashire and Provence, both books describe the meals which can be made with what was to hand, much of it local and which have appeared regularly at meal times.  The recipes include:

  • Stuffed Haddock (stuffing made with suet and breadcrumbs)
  • Boiled fish and parsley sauce
  • Fish cakes (left over fish and potatoes)
  • Exeter Stew (braised beef)
  • Hotpot (mutton stew topped with potatoes)
  • Beefsteak Pudding (suet pudding)
  • Shepherds Pie (Left over meat topped with potatoes)
  • Mince and sippets (toasted bread cut across corners)
  • Tripe and Onions
  • Sausage and mashed potatoes
  • Potted Beef

There are references to carrots and less frequently to turnips and cauliflower, but onions and potatoes feature in most recipes.  My 50 square meter vegetable patch can be divided into the shaded south and the sunny north.  The areas which in full sun will get the Mediterranean crops (tomatoes, peppers, celery and garlic also known as the gumbo ingredients) whilst the shaded bits will host onions and potatoes as grown in Yorkshire and Lancashire by our grandparents.  Part of the middle ground can be occupied by chantany carrots.

Only one more planting decision to agonize over!

Week ending 22-Nov-2015

Weather has been too wet to do anything interesting other than topping up the composter with fallen leaves.

With the exception of  “casablanca”, all the garlic which was planted in October has now sprouted.  So too have the broad beans, although they looked a bit sad after the first serious frost of the winter.


About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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