Thursday 3 September 2009

Feast or famine.

It's that time of year. Everybody who grows their own food will recognise the syndrome - it's either salted fields and a complete crop failure, or else more stuff than you know what to do with, and you spend the entire time generously handing wagonloads of the stuff out to your nearest and dearest (and indeed many who are much less near and dear...and possibly even some people you hardly know at all...on the basis that you've bottled and preserved and frozen and cooked as much as you can deal with for yourself, and the freezer and the pantry are full to bursting, and yet still you have your own little EU mountain of the stuff, and are beginning to despair of ever seeing the back of it!)

Being a happy recipient of all this largesse, I'm far from complaining, though. Just within the past ten days, I've had thrust upon me:

- From Professor Chiellini next door, after I'd been round to disentangle my climbing roses from his lemon trees, a bushel or so of Kumquats (which he describes as 'Chinese Mandarins', although to me that sounds like a tautology) which got used up variously in a kumquat and lemon bavarois, and as the topping for a series of Tartes Andaluciennes, where they deliciously replaced the more usual slices of orange.

- from Belforte, an authentically gnarled cucumber (to form part of a dish of Smoked Salmon tiède)

- from my parents, tomatoes, aubergines (aubergine tart; and cooked with anchovies and garlic to accompany a roast), apples (apple, strawberry and vanilla tarts; apple & blackberry pies; and the kumquat version of Tartes Andaluciennes) and, of course, blackberries (for aforementioned blackberry & apple pies, but also to be used as a layer in lemon-flavoured Salzburger nockerl.)

- from the farmers wife from whom we collected the mini-four-footed last week, several bushels of runner beans (cooked with tomato and cumin; or à la crème, with chopped parsley; or just as they came)

And right now, it's all been used up, and for the first time in ages I've actually had to go and re-stock the crisper drawer from a shop!

Not for much longer, though, as by this time next year I expect to have my own little EU mountains of produce from the orchard and kitchen garden at Santa Caterina, where we already have lemon, orange, fig, pear, apple, apricot, cherry, plum and almond trees ( and the rather culinarily useless, IMHO, persimmons and 'nespolas'), as well as several grape arbours and plans to import peaches, mandarins, walnuts and hazelnut trees once we're properly installed. Anybody wandering around in that part of Pisa around harvest time next year would be well advised to carry with them several empty carrier bags, as I can see positive cornucopias of surplus-to-requirement produce looking for a good home!

Tonight's Dinner:

Asparagus & Gruyère Tarts.

Cod in Parma Ham; Lentils with Orange.

Black Figs roast with Walnuts & Honey, served with Crème Chantilly.

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