Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Reminder

This is just a reminder that this blog has moved to flaneurgardening.wordpress.com.


As you can see from the screen shot, I've also given the blog a general make-over, so please have a look and see what you think. You can click the image to be redirected to the new blog.

-Søren

Monday, 18 July 2011

Moving from Blogspot

This entry is just to let you all know that I've long been contemplating moving from the Blogspot platform to wordpress.com, and today I've finally done it. Not one bad word about Blogspot; it's been dead simple to set up the blog, but I just feel that Wordpress has more options for me.

I do hope you will all continue reading over at flaneurgardening.wordpress.com.

-Søren, a.k.a. The Flâneur Gardener

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Pea Risotto, Rhubarb Jam and Bliss

I went up to the garden yesterday with a friend who hadn't seen the summer house yet, so I'd scheduled an afternoon and evening of indulgence in order to give him the best possible impression.

Instead of the mediocre (at best) weather forecasted, it turned out to be a sunny and warm afternoon, and we even chose to retreat into the shade of the blood mirabelle tree in order to get out of the heat. That's always a sign that it's a nice day!

Anyway, for dinner I made a pea risotto with Serrano ham wrapped chicken filets, and I thought I'd share this with you.

First, grow your peas!
(I've cheated a little and grown some previously...)

Pea Risotto (2 portions)
  • 2 cups shelled peas (fresh or - if it must be - frozen)
  • The pods from the peas (or if using frozen, another two cups of peas)
  • Some chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube, or indeed just a roughly chopped onion)
  • A few herbs - I like to use a tiny sprig of fresh thyme, but 2-3 sage leaves also works a treat. Just don't over-do it, as the herbs can easily over-power the subtle pea taste.
  • 1/2 litre of water
  • 1 cup of risotto rice (arborio or similar)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion (or a handful of shallots if you have them)
  • 1 lump of butter (for frying the onions, garlic and rice, so you decide how much a "lump" is...)
  • 1/2 glass of white wine for the risotto, and 1 glass of white wine for the cook
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese - I like to use pecorino (a hard Italian goat's cheese), but obviously Parmesan or Grano Padano would be just as suitable
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

So we start with the peas :


Shell the peas and put them aside while dumping the shells in half a litre of water along with the thyme, stock (or just chopped onion). Turn up the hob to maximum and let the broth boil for 10 minutes, then turn it down to the lowest heat and simmer for two hours.


And yes, by the time the pea shells have cooked for a few hours they will look disgusting, a sort of brownish green. No worries; you won't be eating those, but the both will have a nice subtle taste of peas, and that's what matters. Strain the broth and pour it back into the saucepan and keep it on a low heat while you cook the risotto. Discard the shells.

Chop the onion/shallots and the garlic as finely as you feel like. No need to be too fuzzy, I think. Put the garlic and onion in another saucepan with the butter and gently turn up the heat to sauté them until clear. Then add the rice and stir until it's evenly coated with the butter. Add half a glass of white wine to the pan and pour yourself a glass as well, as this is the point when you will be stuck at the cooker for the next twenty minutes... You might as well enjoy it, right?

For the next 10-15 minutes you need to stir the rice every few minutes, adding a ladle of broth whenever the risotto starts to thicken.

When the rice is nearly tender, add the peas and continue as above for another 5 minutes until the rice is completely cooked. Add as much cheese as you feel you can do without tainting your conscience (in my case that's a LOT of cheese!) and stir it in. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper, but remember to be generous with the pepper...

Serve with some grated cheese on top and another grinding of black pepper.


In theory risotto ought to be served on its own as a starter, but I like to serve it as a main, so I normally break the protocol and serve some flesh on the side, in this case chicken filets wrapped in Serrano ham and pan fried. Oh, and if anybody is wondering, the glass at the top contained a lovely crémant de Bourgogne (Paul Delane - not very expensive, and nowhere near the price of Champagne) which went well with the dish, the bubbles undercutting the richness of the risotto rather nicely.

Mrs. Beeton's Rhubarb Jam Recipe:

I mentioned at one time that I'd made some rhubarb-and-ginger jam after a recipe from Mrs. Beeton's Every-day Cookery, and somebody asked for the recipe. Well, in Mrs. Beeton's own words:

INGREDIENTS - To each lb. of rhubarb allow 1lb. of preserving sugar, 1/2 a
teaspoonful of ground ginger, and the finely grated rind of 1/2 a lemon.
METHOD - Remove the outer stringy parts of the rhubarb, cut it into short lengths and weigh it. Put it into a preserving-pan with sugar, ginger, and lemon rind in the above proportions, place the pan by the side of the fire, and let the contents come very slowly to boiling-point, stirring occasionally meanwhile. Boil until the jam sets quickly when tested on a cold plate. Pour it into pots, cover closely, and store.
TIME - From 1 to 1 1/2 hours, according to the age of the rhubarb.

The rhubarb jam is in the tall jar, whereas the shorter jar contains a strawberry-and-lemon jam of my own invention. (If you've made jam once, surely you can then start improvising, right?)

And let me tell you... The ginger packs a punch! To my taste buds, the rhubarb jam is not for breakfast use, but much more suited for afternoon tea. TEA, not coffee... Coffee clashes with the ginger in quite a bad way, I can tell you, whereas a cup of Earl Grey tea becomes even more perfect with a slice of toast with rhubarb-and-ginger jam. If you have rhubarb in your garden, give this a go! You will not (I hope and believe) regret it...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Getting down on my knees

The garden is a bit neglected these days while I spend weekend painting our new apartment, but never mind. The beauty of plants is that they will grow without any attendance from their supposed "owner".


The hedgerow is filling out nicely. It's still too low, of course, but it will get up there eventually. And the lawn is too high, but:

There are advantages to not getting around to mowing the lawn too often. The insects love it, and especially the bees are a treat to watch as they flutter about in the clover. And no, our lawn is not very regulated... We have clover, violets, bellis and loads of other small flowers dotting the lawn when it hasn't been moved for a while.


I love how close they let you get to them; all pictures on this blog are taken with my cell phone camera, so my hand was literally inches from this bumble bee... Hence the title of this entry; I was crawling around on hands and knees, trying to get the best possible picture of this little bee that refused to sit still and pose for me.


Just look at the pollen bags on it's hind legs! Fascinating little critters, really...


The regular honey bees are perhaps less cute, but they're still very welcome guests in our garden!


The thyme from seed is doing well in the courtyard. I guess I should have thinned it, but that will come this weekend when I plan to use some of it for a dressing.


And just because... This is the black dahlia Arabian Night at its blackest; when the sun hits the flower you get the full, deep red velvet sheen of the petals, but in the shade the colour recedes into black and especially against a bright background.

And that's it for now. Off to work I go.

Monday, 4 July 2011

What a Garden Makes

The snap peas are getting ready to go... They're 4 ft high, and with a row of sweet peas at the back to attract pollinators. And they're MINE! And they started as SEEDS and are now almost at the point where I can start harvesting them.

The white radishes are almost past their prime, really, and I need to start eating them and re-sowing where I've pulled up the plants.


The pears have a long way to go yet, but they're there! Last year our pear tree gave not a single pear, but this year we have perhaps 10 pears... Grand! (The apple tree that gave around three dozens last year has not produced a single apple this year, though, and it seems the flower buds were frozen off before the pollinators had a chance to get to them.)


Like the pear, the plum tree didn't produce any fruit last year, but this year it seems to be doing fine, producing some 40 plums. I look forward to seeing what type of plums they are and whether they're any good or - like our mirabelles - somewhat dull.




In other news, the past Saturday gave Copenhagen approximately 150mm of rain in just two hours... Streets flooded, basements (including the one where we store a large part of the furniture for the new flat) filled with water and disruption to public and private transport, television signals, cell phone reception, and even the national weather forecasting service... Fortunately our furniture seems to have survived relatively unscathed, so all is well for us.



Oh, but I have more pictures... And I need to show them to you!

The red rose that I tore from the courtyard outside my flat last autumn... 


And the white rose that came with the house...

And one of the lilies in the courtyard, almost ready to bloom. 

And a day lily in bloom...


And the (almost) black dahlia "Arabian Night" that I bought last year.

Oh, and the clematis... This one is the most spectacular, its dark puple flowers hover like exotic butterflies around the white post of the patio, adding a dash of dark, rich colour to the greenery of the lawn and the post-bloom rhododendrons towards the road.

After all, while I love the utilitarian plants in the garden, a garden is essentially - the way I use it - a frivolous pursuit and in some way a luxury. Just like a blooming flower that serves no practical purpose, other than to be pretty and to make people happy. The garden does that for me.

The peas, the day lilies, the pears; all serve the common purpose of creating one happy Flâneur Gardener. In spite of torrential downpours, basement flooding and whatever.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

St. John's Eve Revelry/Flânerie

Here are a few images from St. John's Eve in Frederiksberg Gardens:


Estimated attendance was 30-40,000 people, and for Denmark this is quite a lot - about 0.5% of the population of Denmark... And this was just one bonfire of thousands and thousands up and down the country.

And here's your's truly, raising a glass to a lovely summer evening:

Monday, 20 June 2011

Happy Solstice to all


I wish you all a very happy solstice! At least here in the Northern hemisphere it's the longest day today, with the sun rising at 4:26am and setting at 21:59 in the garden, making the day 10 hours and 44 minutes longer than the shortest day this past winter...

This is the wonder of living in the North, even if it's not even the far North; we might have dismally long, dark winter nights, but we also have these white nights where even in the middle of the night we only get a sort of murky twilight but never darkness.

In Denmark we celebrate the solstice a few days late, on the Eve of St. john. On this night bonfires are light throughout the country but especially along the beaches, and to me that is a very special tradition. When I lived in London I once celebrated St. John's Eve by flying to Denmark on the 23rd to go to a bonfire by the beach and then back again the next day.


There are all sorts of ancient superstitions connected with the bonfires; they're supposed to scare away the forces of evil and should in this way help secure the harvest later on, but they also have a sinister echo of barbaric executions, as it is tradition to place a doll representing a witch on top of the bonfire. I've never really been keen on that, really... I much prefer the more recent tradition where this year's high school graduates throw their notes from the past three years into the bonfire; seems less morbid, somehow, than re-enacting an execution by burning.

The bonfire, however, is a wonderful celebration of light, which is of course also at the origin of Christmas celebrations, and as I won't have time to go up to the garden on Thursday evening to attend the community bonfire on the beach there, instead I shall go tonight and have my own little solstice celebration, though perhaps without a bonfire but with lots of sunshine according to the local forecast. I can then go to one of the many bonfires in Copenhagen on Thursday if the weather is nice.


So once again, a very happy solstice to all, whether it is the summer or winter solstice where you are.