Sunday, 14 April 2013

Growing sweet peas in containers

I love sweet peas, their pretty colors and best of all their gorgeous fragrance!
I have great childhood memories of my dad growing them on enormous trellises and then picking bunches for mum and I.
I have tried to grow them since, without a lot of luck. Big trellises don't work in my garden and the dwarf sweet pea plants just flopped over all their neighbors in the garden, to the detriment of those plants.
When visiting a friend I saw a great idea. She had planted sweet peas around the edge of a large, round tub. Then she had made a teepee shape with fine twigs tied at the top. She then trained the sweet peas up the twigs.
I copied this idea last year and when they flowered they were beautiful. I had put the pot by the front door so the fragrance wafted into the house.
This year I was lucky enough to find a large frame at a garage sale and have used that.
The first rings were a bit high for my little plants to attach to, so I used some meat skewers and twine to give them a "leg up" so to speak!

Planting in a pot seems to help keep the bugs away that are very fond of soft little leaves. I am hoping for a lovely display again this year.

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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cajun calamari

I love salt and pepper squid( calamari) but I have done a variation that I really like. I still do the usual prep, flour then egg, but the final coat is fine polenta with a spoonful of Cajun spices and a little salt mixed through it. How much cajun you put in depends on your own taste levels. Start with a teaspoon of cajun and try it.
The picture below is the coated squid rings ready to fry.

I shallow fry it. When cooked, a generous squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice, a side salad, a glass of wine and enjoy.
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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Preserved lemons

I love preserved lemons. I make a delicious salad dressing with them and also a tangy breadcrumb crust for fish. Here is my very simple recipe for this very useful addition to the pantry.
The first task is to find organic lemons, the best are those from someone you knows tree. They must be unwaxed. Wash them to get rid of any dust or spray. Cut off the stem and the point at the other end and then quarter the lemons.

Prepare your glass jars for the lemons. Make sure they have a tight fitting lid and that they are scrupulously clean. They must be sterilized and I find the easiest way to do this is to put about a tablespoon of water in the glass jar ( do not put the lid on) and microwave on high for approx one minute. Take care when removing from the microwave as it is very hot. Drain the water out and the jar is ready.
I always wear gloves when I do this for two reasons. One to keep everything clean and secondly the salt is very drying on your skin.
I pack salt around each quarter and put in the jar, I use the handle of a wooden spoon to position the lemon quarters.

I wedge the lemon quarters tightly in layers in the jar and then on top of each layer I put a generous layer of salt.
Keep going till the jar is full.

Juice enough lemons so that you can fill the jar with lemon juice.

I use a skewer to release air bubbles as I pour in the lemon juice, once no more bubbles come out you will know you have got rid of all the air bubbles. Clean around the top of the jar with paper towel. I then put a piece of baking paper over the jar so that the metal lid is not in contact with the lemon juice.
Now put them away in a dark cupboard for six weeks.
And as they say here is one I prepared six weeks earlier.

In the picture below I have scraped the pith and lemon from the skin. This is shown on the right, on the left are the skins which I will use in recipes. Once I have opened the jar I keep it in the fridge.

This is my preserved lemon salad dressing recipe.
Put all the ingredients in a glass jar and shake well. Keeps well in the fridge.
1/2 cup of light salad oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1 dessert spoon of sugar
2-3 of the lemon skins finely chopped.
1/2 teaspoon of the preserved lemon juice.
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