It’s hard to believe that high summer is upon us already. As ever we’re trying to catch our breath, from several intense weeks of event management (me) and back-to-back fabrication projects (him)…but there is an end in sight. Which is well, because this time of year needs to be savoured, noticed, enjoyed. Harry and I disappeared to Sussex at the weekend to visit old friends, armed with bucket and spade. It’s so noticeably hotter and dryer down there, with golden fields ready for harvesting and sun-kissed calm seas.
Back home, it’s time for a few remedial allotment jobs. The fruit cage, which never quite served its purpose, finally gave way to old age and was precariously close to collapse; it’s now been half taken down (because to take it apart properly would take too long and Matt’s always at work) so it sits haphazardly on its side, no longer a threat to Martin’s dahlias but at just the right height for me to whack my head on every time I take a look at the blueberries.
I’ve done a more thorough job of staking. My birthday present from Matt was my very own hammer, meaning I finally whollop the homemade oak stakes into the ground myself. Chrysanthemums, dahlias and sunflowers have now been supported with stakes and string – not the prettiest way of doing it, but it works.
The week of hot weather has brought the harvest on. We have a sea of cerinthe, ammi and gypsophila, which is unexpected and joyous. Nestled amongst them are two courgette plants, which in the weekend I was away managed to give birth to two giant whoppers (marrows already!); I need to keep a closer eye on them. Behind them the climbing beans are finally starting to climb, and the sunflowers are shooting up. I like the mix of flowers and veg jostling for space; our allotment always takes an age to reach fruitfulness but when it does, it’s so satisfying.
I’m now picking the last of the broad beans, plus the first of what I think as high summer flowers – the cornflowers, calendula, and this time for the first time, wine-coloured snapdragons.
It’s the time of year when I have to make time for veg and fruit processing – as well as the broad beans I also had a trug-full of peas, which I had grown intending to eat as mange tout, but Harry was so in to eating peas from the pod, I left them in for a little longer. It look an hour to pod this lot, accompanied by Claire Balding walking the Sussex and Kent countryside on Radio 4’s Ramblings. Note the blueberries, coming fast now from my Mum’s bushes and also our own, plus the piddling handful of red gooseberries, the only ones to survive the pigeon attack.
On the flower front, I am not much of an arranger, but I do enjoy the contrast of the tall foxglove spire with the froth of ammi and gypsophila. There’s the odd dahlia now, plus jam jars full of English summer flowers – some garish, some tasteful, but always making a house feel more like a home.
What to do with all the broad beans and peas? It’s a good question: both these vegetables have a tendency to glut, and given that Matt’s not home so much, there’s only really me who will eat them. I blanched the lot, to give them a few extra day’s life. Some will make their way to a creamy, herby, garlicky pasta dish, and others I’ll blitz with lemon and garlic to make a beany-hummousy-dip. And then there’s beans on toast, or even better, sausage and beans on toast. The sausage is actually a kind of do-it-yourself chorizo, made from minced pork, paprika, garlic and fennel. The beans are broad beans and peas. Hash them together in a frying pan, perhaps with a few sliced potatoes and a fried egg, or just a bit of feta, and you have an easy flavour-packed brunch, lunch or supper dish.
Sausage and beans on toast
Recide serves 4 but if it’s just you, the ‘chorizo’ will store in the fridge for a few days, or can be frozen for another day. Inspired by River Cottage Reunion, though I’m not slavishly following their recipe
First, pod enough broad beans and/or peas for four people, or you could use frozen. Blanch them in boiling water for two to three minutes, then drain. If they’re really big, pinch the broad beans out of their skins.
Make your ‘sausage’. Take 250g pork mince and squish it together with 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, two chopped cloves of garlic and a good pinch of salt. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the flavours to come together.
To cook, heat a large frying pan and crumble in the sausage mixture – you may want to add a little oil to the pan to get things going. Brown the meat all over, then add one thinly sliced red onion and the beans/peas. Hash the meat and vegetables together, turning in the paprika-stained oil until it’s all cooked through. You could add a slosh of white wine to get a little steam going. Finally add some chopped parsley to finish.
Serve on toast with a fried egg, or perhaps a little feta cheese. Sliced cooked potatoes and courgettes are also a good addition to this.
Also this week:
Harvesting: Blueberries, a handful of gooseberries, cos lettuce, first chard, last broad beans, peas, first courgettes, mangetout, new potatoes, ammi, cornflowers, calendula, foxglove, gypsophila, dahlias, nasturtium. French beans, beetroot, courgette, raspberries, and blueberries from Mum’s garden. From the shops, excellent English cherries, proper tomatoes, early corn, watermelon and strawberries. Excellent Amalfi lemons from Cowdray farm shop.
Cooking and eating: I really need to start making an effort again. Blueberry, raspberry and gooseberry crumble cake. French bean and potato salad. Flapjacks. Sarah made two outstanding salads at the weekend: green beans with an orange dressing and toasted hazelnuts, and a freekeh salad with pomegranate, mint, parsley and finely diced red onion. Also a home-made fish finger sandwich at The Lobster Pot near Bognor. I find I have to have a coffee a day now in order to function, and there is always wine in the fridge.
Jobs: Staking flowers on allotment. Planted out dahlias and salivas in the garden, which is now in that straggly in-between stage that lies between early and late summer. Feeding pots once a week. Watering allotment. And WORK, all the time, obviously.
Also: Reading nothing, I am too tired. Watching very little, I don’t get time. Visited Chichester, Arundel and Denman’s garden in West Sussex, a dry gravel garden, very interesting, but Harry not happy so no time to linger.