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Monday, 16 January 2012

Creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup

Jerusalem artichokes may not look that much but they have a lovely sweet and nutty flavour. They are high in iron, potassium and vitamin C. The plant can be invasive but if you have a part of the garden where they can be fitted in try them. The tubers are planted in February to March at 10cm deep and 30cm apart. Regular watering will produce larger tubers but the sunflower type plants are very attractive. Each plant will provide up to 2Kg and will be ready for harvesting about nine months after planting.

Whether you grow some or buy some, try this lovely soup which is a good way of incorporating a new vegetable into your diet.

You will need the following ingredients:

Olive oil for frying
2 medium sized onions finely chopped
500g of  Jerusalem artichokes, roughly chopped
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of flour
3 cups of vegetable stock
3/4 cup of milk
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

How to make your soup:

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes and salt and pepper to taste and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Add the milk, stir in the flour and gradually add the stock whilst stirring continuously until the soup boils and start to thicken. Simmer for a further 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before using a hand blender to puree until smooth. Garnish with parsley and serve with a nice crusty roll.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Briquette maker

We recently purchased a briquette maker which is an excellent way of recycling paper to use as fuel in our wood-burning stove. I don't know if we do but the average household throws out 500kg of paper a year.

Collect paper in a bag keeping newspaper, cardboard and other paper but don't keep any glossy paper. You can also keep wood chippings and sawdust to add to your briquette mixture.

Once you have sufficient paper - shred into strips ans soak in water over night. Drain and mix in any wood chippings and sawdust and put pulp into the log maker. Once full, the handles are squeezed to remove most of the water. Remove your briquettes and leave to dry out fully which will take from two to four weeks.

Use your briquettes in the stove and you will find they burn well, burn for quite some time and leave very little ash.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Candied orange peel

A favorite Cypriot and Mediterranean treat is candied orange peel which is easy to make for yourself.

If you can get your hands on five or six freshly picked oranges use them but if you can't buy organic oranges which have not been sprayed or wax  coated.

Firstly peel your oranges into strips about 2.5cm wide. Remove some of the pith but don't worry if you can't remove it all, as you will be able to remove more after the peels have been cooked.

Place the orange peels in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil for a few minutes, drain, to remove the bitter water, re-cover the peels with cold water and boil again for a few minutes.

After draining, allow the peelings to cool completely before removing most of the pith. Then return to the saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil for a few minutes, drain and allow to cool.

Make a syrup with two cups of sugar, one cup of water and one tablespoon of lemon juice. If you want to add some zing include some powdered ginger in your syrup. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes by which time it should thicken. Put the drained and cooled peels into the syrup and cook   for about 45 minutes until the peels crystallize.

Leave the peels to cool in the syrup overnight. Remove each peel from the syrup and allow most of the syrup to drip off before placing the peel on a wire rack to dry. Once dry, store in a pre-sterilsed plastic container in your freezer and defrost when needed to decorate desserts, for baking or to enjoy with yogurt.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Citrus skin firelighters

We eat and use a lot of oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits and are left with lots of citrus skins which, in large amounts, do not compost very well, so we usually just through them away.

Not liking waste, we have been looking for ways to use our citrus peelings.

One method we are going to try  is to sun dry the peelings and use them for firelighters in our wood burning stove or on the bar-be-que. The rinds apparently blacken in the sun but the citrus oil remains in the rinds which contains flammable oils. The firelighters will have the added benefit of giving off a lovely aroma when used.

Other suggestions are to add the dried peelings to a potpourri or use the zest in baking, making candied orange peel or various homemade cleaners.

Monday, 9 January 2012

How to make preserved lemon

Preserved or pickled lemons are widely used in Asian and Arabic recipes and are grated to add to soups, stews, fish dishes, whilst baking, rice dishes and many other recipes.

You can make your own by selecting sufficient unblemished lemons to fill a large jar. Wash lemons thoroughly and cut lemons into quarters but only cut halfway through the flesh leaving the lemons whole. Fill each lemon with salt and pack tightly into your pre-sterilised jar.

Once your jar is full, sprinkle the lemons with an additional 1 tbsp salt, add a few bay leaves, 2 tablespoons of crushed peppercorns, some whole cloves and a cinnamon stick.

Pour the juice of three lemons and sufficient boiling water to nearly fill the jar and fill to the top with olive oil.

Place your sealed jar in the fridge and allow to rest for 6-9 weeks before use.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Make your own mint jelly

If you enjoy mint jelly with your roast lamb why not try making your own with fresh mint gathered from your garden. All you need are the following ingredients and some time. Mint jelly is best made in small batches as it can only be stored for about three weeks in the fridge.

1 bundle of freshly packed mint leaves
300ml of water
1/2 Kg of tart apples

Wash the apples and cut them into small pieces including the cores and peel. Put the apples pieces into a saucepan with the water and most of the mint and cook gently until the apples are very soft. Allow to cool before pouring into a jelly bag and leaving overnight to strain into a bowl.

The following day measure your juice, pour into a pan and add 225g of sugar to each 280ml of juice. Heat gently and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to the boil and add about 1 teaspoon of chopped mint for every 280ml of juice. Boil rapidly until the jelly sets when tested and pour into a pre-sterilized jar and seal. Once completely cooled store in the fridge and use within three weeks.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Candied watermelon rind recipe

This recipe takes some time but is well worth the effort and makes about two to three cups of candied watermelon rind, depending on the size of watermelon used. All you need is:

1 small watermelon washed
1 Tbs salt
2 Cups granulated sugar, plus more for coating
2 Cups water, plus more for cooking
2-3 sprigs fresh mint leaves

Cut the watermelon into 4 to 6 slices and remove the flesh to enjoy later.

Take each slice and scrape as much flesh away from the white as possible and peel away the green outer skin. You’ll be left with the white part of the rind which you should cut into chunks.

Place all the rind chunks into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5-8 minutes. Drain and rinse the rinds.

Clean the saucepan and place the rinds back into the pan with enough water to cover adding 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes and then drain and rinse.

Clean the saucepan again, dissolve two cups of sugar in two cups of water and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the mint.  Add the rinds and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour (or until the rind is softened but still firm). Drain the rinds from the syrup, reserving the syrup for other uses if you wish.

Line a baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Scatter the drained rinds across the sugar and turn the rinds to distribute the sugar evenly. Place in a pre-warmed oven at  250 degree and allow to dry for about two hours but stir occasionally until the rinds are slightly tacky on the outside but still hold their shape. Remove from the oven and allow to cool partly before rolling  in sugar to coat the chunks thoroughly.  Store in a jar of sugar syrup and enjoy (they probably won't last very long).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Make your own orange peel oil cleaner

We try to make as many of our own household cleaners as we can. This one is easy to make and can be used for all sorts of cleaning jobs. Not only is it great at removing grease but has the added advantage of leaving behind a lovely scent. By making your own cleaners not only will you save money but you will cut down your exposure to chemicals.

All you need to make this cleaner is orange peel and white vinegar. Keep your orange peels in a jar until the jar is full and then fill the jar with white vinegar. Seal the jar and allow the mixture to sit for 2-3 weeks in a cool dark place Once a week give the jar a few hard shakes to thoroughly mix the contents.

After 2-3 weeks, filter out the liquid into a clean jar. You can now use your cleaner by filling a spray bottle to about 25%-50% (depending on the strength required) and then filling with water. Use with a rag to clean mirrors, wooden furniture, worktops, sinks and windows.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Make your own organic weedkiller

Lemon juice and vinegar both contain acetic acid which can be used to make a very effective organic homemade weed killer.

While most table vinegar's have an acid content of around 5% to 8%, a more concentrated solution of 10% to 15% can be achieved simply by exposing vinegar to the air and allowing it's water content to reduce by evaporation and so increase it's acidity level. The higher the acidity level the more effective your solution will be at killing weeds.

At the right strength this organic weed killer will kill the leaves of any plant it comes into contact with but will not kill its roots, so it's best used on young weeds which will not have enough energy to re-emerge. Repeated spraying can destroy any more established weeds.

You can make your own organic weedkiller by mixing 150 mls of lemon juice and 1 liter of strong vinegar.

Use your mixture to directly spray weeds and the most effective time to do so is during the heat of the day.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Gardening in Cyprus - Jobs for January

January is the coldest of the Cypriot months with temperatures averaging between 13c to17c. The days can still be warmish at lunchtime but become very chilly as the sun sets. The month is also on average the wettest month with an average of eight days of rain.

There are plenty of jobs to keep you busy during January. It's the month when the major garden cutback and clean up can take place, with the pruning of flowering shrubs and fruiting trees (if required) such as almonds, olives, apples, plums, citrus trees and figs.

The vegetable plot is now producing rocket, spring onions and garlic whose stems can be chopped and added to salads, parsley and radishes. The peas, broad beans, onions, leeks, garlic cauliflowers, cabbages, spinach, carrots, beetroot for early spring harvests are all developing well.

Late in the month it will be the time to dig holes in the beds intended for growing marrows and melons and fill them with a mix of well rotted manure and compost. They will be sown with seeds under plastic or planted with propagator raised plants later in the Spring.

If the conditions are right you can sow beetroot, mustard greens, pak choi, carrot, parsley and salad leaves.

You can start seeds like okra, borage, cayenne pepper and tomatoes in the propagator.

Happy gardening and harvesting for the month and if you require any further information go to www.cyprusgardener.co,uk or http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/