Things have become a bit strange during the continued pandemic lock-down, to the extent that simply having a few friends meet with us on our back deck (suitably distanced of course) becomes an occasion for celebration. So it was last evening when Kirk, Nancy and Dawn joined us on a late October day when the temp was in the mid 70s (Jack is proud of not putting a possessive apostrophe before the plural ‘s’).
As well as enjoying the balmy night and the wide ranging conversation we also tucked into one of my curries. Wendy is a spice wimp so it’s always good to have others on hand who are into hot foods.
For some time now I’ve made big batches of basic Indian restaurant style sauce and then bagged and frozen it ready to bring out a bag as and when necessary. The recipe is easy and can be found on-line.
This sauce should be thought of as a blank canvas on which you will paint the finished picture. It’s fairly bland and I usually add onions, red and green peppers, and any other veggies going spare. I also decide what additional spices are needed to get to the desired heat (“hot or Indian hot, sir?”). I usually saute the chopped onions in some ghee, then minced garlic, ghost pepper powder and hot curry powder and finally add the sauce and veggies.
Then it’s time to decide what protein will go in, if any. I sometimes just leave it as a veggie curry, but also often add chicken or shrimp. I cut chicken breasts into bite sized chunks then marinade them overnight before grilling in the oven and adding to the curry. I use a chicken tikka spice blend in the marinade. Shrimp is easier but shouldn’t be added until late if it’s already cooked and pink or it will be tough and chewy – in fact I often serve it separately for folk to add if they want or not as they choose.
Just lately, instead of freezing the basic sauce we’ve been canning it – mainly because we have access to a pressure canner and Wendy has become skilled at the process. Personally I find the whole thing pretty scary, as I have never experienced it. In fact I don’t really understand why it’s called canning when it actually involves glass jars!
So now we have twenty eight jars of curry sauce, which should keep me going for a good long time. And Wendy will be eating something else.
Jack feels doubly competent today – the blog post on time and – – –
One of the things I really like about living in this part of the USA is the weather. The winters are similar to Scotland, but a good bit shorter, and the summer is much sunnier and warmer. Combine that with lots of short sharp rain showers and you have perfect conditions for growing things.
So Wendy and I have been learning how to (or not to) grow vegetables and herbs. It’s been a steep learning curve but we’re getting there. We inherited a large back yard that already had a veggie plot laid out so, nothing daunted, we set to. The first problem was that the yard had six mature walnut trees on two sides and we learned from Wendy’s former student Erin Dotson, a genius in gardening (yes you can hire her) that these are death to many plants in the nightshade family. They send out a maze of tendrils from their roots that exude something called juglone that is poisonous to many vegetables.
But we didn’t know that when we started preparing the long neglected plot and found a layer of garden cloth below the soil, so we pulled it all and threw it in parts of the yard where we wanted to kill things. Big mistake! It was there because of the juglone – – –
Luckily there were some raised beds that still had the barrier in place. So we were able to grow peas and asparagus in them and choose other stuff for the areas we had denuded of cloth. We also planted tomatoes as far away from the walnuts as we could or in plastic bags with earth from elsewhere, and these did well.
I’m happy to report that we were successful with peas, tomatoes, kale, onions, and lots of herbs. Much less with potatoes, peppers, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. We also inherited raspberry canes which also have done well (too well in places) and volunteer cucumbers appeared without warning in our wooded areas.
We’re watching our second crop of peas developing right now and have high hopes for them before the frosts arrive, and we’re experimenting with planting seeds and seedlings in pots inside the house to have them ready for either an early start next year or even some winter produce. These include cumin, coriander, red current and marigold cherry tomatoes, basil, thyme, and blue potatoes. All are thriving. We even have a winter squash wending its way from the back garden toward the house, developing fruit along the way. We’re feeling almost competent!