Rhubarb!

It’s a part of West Yorkshire’s industrial heritage. There’s a saying – ‘load of old rhubarb’ – meaning what nonsense. Every allotment still has at least one plant.

The stalks are chopped, cooked with sugar and ginger then a dollop of custard added on top for a lazy school pudding. It’s a certain kind of person who can consume that tart, slippery mess – a hungry one!

I’ve always had some in a garden. The leaves are good for pesticide when dunked in water. the stalks freeze rather well, but an instant crumble is best.

I’ve read a little recently about its history in Kew on a Plate with Raymond Blanc. Rhubarb comes from China (as many plants have) and Siberia. It became popular in West Yorkshire and the Victorian era, in London.

There is the tradition of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb whereby it is grown in sheds in the dark by candlelight. Certainly sparks the imagination!

‘Forced rhubarb plants are shrouded in such an aura of mystery and romance, like fragile prima donnas that have to be handled so gently,’ says Raymond.

We are all stalks in the dark sometimes, growing slowly.

Image from slowfood.org.uk 

rhubarb

Counting Butterflies – A Day Off

A longer weekend. We have rain after what seems to have been weeks of heat. In fact, it’s only been three, or was it four. I wonder if the grass will grow again, will it be green and long. No hose pipe bans here as yet. I remember the summer of ’95 and syphoning off bath water to feed the greenhouse then.

We grew all kinds of fruits in that little space. Cucumbers, loved by us and the slugs that found their way in. Peppers and tomatoes, turning from green to yellow and red, like traffic lights. An aubergine plant, a melon plant which broke through to the outside, reaching for the sky – no fruit though.

I grow nothing right now. But hope to again. Instead I go in search of good fruit. The local grocer has a decent variety as do the market stalls. The difference between a large lemon with  thick skin and a puny think-skinned one is all about aroma, flavour, longevity.

Aldi offers decent avocados, in a relaxing, meditative green that you’d want to dive in to. Piccolo tomatoes which smell as if they are straight from the soil. Clusters of beets, radishes, carrots, all bundled.

Shopping around pays, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth either.

I have gotten through a fair amount of writing in recent weeks and achieved quite a bit. There is now a brief hiatus as I wait for autumn to bring fresh results. September tends to bring change for me year on year.

As I go walkabout, it is more and more apparent to me what my life *should* be hereon in.

In the meantime, I have reading. Ivo Andric’s Bosnian Chronicle, Collected Fictions – Jorge Luis Borge and to finish Pullman’s latest La Belle Sauvage, which is delightful. Three more shorter novels on the side thereafter with cuisine themes, and a reserve at the library waits for me – George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo.

Someone once said all you need is a library and a garden and life’s just fine. Okay. I may have finally come to accept that. Except one needs yarns too.

Starting today for the next three weeks, Butterfly Conservation are asking us to count butterflies. Visit their website, download the app or chart. Spend 15 mins at a time counting. This can be done as often as you like over the next three weeks. I’ve noticed many butterflies recently in this hot summer, and bees. Just lovely, absolutely lovely.

A veggie rice pita

Filo is easy to work with and not that hard to make! But if you want to buy some, go for Greek of Turkish if you can. Failing that, there are standard varieties available. You may have noticed there’s more than one type. Experiment with them all and you will find what suits you best and for which type of filling. Also whether you roll or stack.

For this pita, because the filling is heavy, I have gone with a packet of eight large sheets, using two sheets per roll of filling, bending each roll in a circular fashion around the tevsija.

You will need:

A large oven dish, ideally round and enamel

Packet of 8 large filo sheets

For the filling:

Cooked brown rice

Half an onion, 1 courgette, half a squash, half a red pepper, half a carrot, 1 celery stick – all chopped. You could add feta if you like.

Olive oil, 1 tsp of good no-salt veggie stock, ground black pepper, fennel seeds, thyme

Put the filling ingredients on a pan on the stove top with  a lid on, low heat, until the veg have softened.

Let the filling cool a little then spoon along two sheets on top of each other then roll over, repeat until all sheets are used.

Put olive oil in the oven dish and lay the rolls on top.

Place parchment paper on top and bake slowly for 45 mins to 1 hour. Serve with Mexican bean salad!