James Wong's - Homegrown Revolution

Archive for the ‘Savoury Fruit’ Category

CUCAMELONS INTRO

CUCAMELONS: GRAPE-SIZED CUKES

Posted on: December 2nd, 2012 by James Wong 73 Comments

Doll’s house-sized ‘watermelons’ that taste of pure cucumber with a tinge of lime. These little guys are officially the cutest food known to man & oh-so-easy to grow even for real beginners. Let me show you how to get started…

HOW TO GROW CUCAMELONS:

Cucamelons can be grown in pretty much the exact same way as regular cucumbers, only they are far easier. They don’t need the cover of a greenhouse, fancy pruning or training techniques and suffer from very few pests. Sow the seed from April to May indoors and plant out when all risk of frost is over. Give them a support the scramble over, keep well watered and that’s pretty much all you will need to do!

Harvest them when they are the size of a grape, but still nice and firm.

They make pretty, high-yielding vines that can be planted really close together to get the most out of a small space – as little as 15cm between plants around a trellis.

My harvest from just 4 plants!

FINDING CUCAMELON SEEDS:

Want to know where you can get your hands a little plant?

I have teamed up with the lovely plant geeks at Suttons Seeds to sell Cucamelon Seeds as part a brand new ‘Homegrown Revolution’ range of weird and wonderful edibles. Why now check ‘em out?

HOW TO EAT CUCAMELONS:

The fruit can be eaten straight off the plant, or tossed with olives, slivers of pepper and a dousing of olive oil. Perfect for a quirky snack with drinks – or even popped like an olive in a cheeky martini.

PICKLED CUCAMELONS WITH MINT & DILL

To preserve their virtues right in to the depth of winter, you can even make cucamelon dill pickles. Fantastic in a simple ham sandwich or with a fancy cheeseboard.

 

They can be pickled whole, however slicing these little fruit in half and pre-salting them will result in far more crisp result – not to mention that fact that they will be ready in half the time.

Pre-salting simply involves sprinkling the sliced fruit with a really generous amount of sea salt in a colander (about 1 tbsp per cup of cucamelons) and setting them over a bowl for 20 minutes or so. This will draw out the excess water from the fruit, which prevents the fruit from diluting the vinegar during the pickling process.

After the 20 minutes are up give them a good rinse, pat dry with some paper towels and you are ready to go!

You can flavour the pickling vinegar with anything you fancy. My favourite mix combines dill, mint, pickling spice and a sprinkling of pink peppercorns. Add a generous sprinkling of sugar and salt and stir the mix to combine.

Adding an (optional) scrunched up vine or oak leaf will further help ensure a crisp result, as the tannins in the leaves will inhibit natural enzymes within the fruit that can cause softness.

Top up with a good quality vinegar to cover the fruit, seal the jar and give it a good shake.

Pop it in the fridge and they will be ready in a just a week!

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Cucamelons check out pg 101 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!

Rumtopf

HOMEGROWN RUMTOPF RECIPE

Posted on: November 8th, 2012 by James Wong 1 Comment

Sweet, sugary & with a deadly kick, there is no more indulgent (or easy-to-make) homegrown Christmas present than a jar of rumtopf. And there’s just about enough time to knock one up right now with the last autumn fruit…

WHAT IS RUMTOPF?

A traditional German Christmas treat, Rumtopf (literally meaning ‘rum pot’) is made by simply layering a small handful of each of your fruit harvests throughout the year into a glass jar and topping it up with sweetened (and often spiced) rum. Come December a whole 365 days of harvests can be enjoyed – as if by magic – in just one deliciously sugary, boozy concoction. Somewhere in between a fruit compote and a fragrant liqueur, it’s a wonderful way to use up odds and ends of your harvests creating probably the most simple, yet dangerously indulgent treat known to man.

MY NOVEMBER RUMTOPF HARVEST

THIS MONTH’S HAUL INCLUDES (FROM TOP DOWN) BARBERRIES, INCA BERRIES, ARONIA BERRIES, GOLDEN HUCKLEBERRIES, CHILEAN GUAVAS, ASIAN PEARS, WINTERGREEN BERRIES & JAPANESE QUINCES.

As November marks the last few fruit harvests of the year I dashed out today to gather the last few layers for a few rumtopf jars that I’ve been working on through the summer. You don’t have to be a forward-planning geek like me either, if you have a glut of autumn fruit you still just about have time to start your own – as the mix needs at least 6 weeks for the fruity mix to surrender their flavours to the sugar rum bath.

MY HOMEGROWN RUMTOPF RECIPE

FROM TOP: ASIAN PEAR, JAPANESE QUINCES & CHILEAN GUAVAS

All you need to do is wash and slice up any of the larger fruit and you are good to go. This year I made two versions, one using a little bit of everything that took my fancy & another which combines the three fruit in the pic above (Asian pears, Japanese quinces and Chilean guavas) for my own oriental slant on ‘Murta con Membrillo’ – a traditional Chilean dessert using guavas and quinces steeped in booze.

THIS SEASON’S FRUIT (ON TABLE) ABOUT TO BE JOIN THE EARLIER HARVESTS IN THE SUGARY, SPICED RUM

I have been working on making a few jars of rumtopf since July, creating layers of everything fro homegrown strawberries, figs & cocktail kiwis as the seasons have progressed. As new fruit come into season, simply pop another scattering of each into a Kilner jar and top up with 1 part sugar dissolved into 3 parts white rum.

A FULL JAR ABOUT READY FOR TOPPING UP.

Pretty much any fruit is a perfect candidate for making rumtopf, but I would stay away from very watery stuff like melons (which can dilute the rum) or particularly dark coloured fruit like like blackberries, which can stain the liqueur so dark you can’t see the contents. You can even plonk in a vanilla bean, sliver or two of lemon zest or cinnamon stick if you fancy. However with the zesty, herb-like fragrances of the Chilean guavas and wintergreen berries I decided to skip the spices this year.

The only trick you need to bare in mind is to keep the fruit well immersed in the rum mixture. Lots of people recommend placing a clean saucer on top of the fruit to keep them submerged, although this hasn’t really been a problem for me. Now pop the lid on and keep it hidden away from prying eyes in a cool, dark place until Christmas.

ALL SET FOR CHRISTMAS!

After at least 6 weeks (but preferably up to 3 months of steeping) you are ready to get greedy! Rumtopf is delicious spooned over yoghurt, ice cream or even stirred into mincemeat for some blinding mince pies. So what the hell are you waiting for? Go on out and have a go!

CHICKPEA 'EDAMAME'

CHICKPEA ‘EDAMAME’

Posted on: September 6th, 2012 by James Wong 19 Comments

Love those deliciously nutty pods of edamame beans you get in Japanese restaurants, but frustrated you can’t grow them in the UK? Well I think I have gone one better with super easy-to-grow chickpea ‘edamame’!

WHAT ARE CHICKPEA ‘EDAMAME’?

Chickpeas

Chickpeas might be a common sight in the UK in cans & blitzed into hummus, but the fresh pods of the young green ones have yet to make it to the shelves of even the fanciest supermarkets. So all the more reason to grow your own!

The mini pods, each containing just one or two ‘peas’ are far more sweet and nutty than regular edamame, which is now sold frozen in huge packs for just a couple of quid.

HOW TO GROW CHICKPEAS

THE VARIETY ‘PRINCIPE’ GROWING IN MY GARDEN

The plants make a excellent ground cover crop of ferny silver leaves and pretty white flowers & the best thing is they are virtually foolproof to grow. Ridiculously drought resistant, free from pests and can even be sown from a supermarket packet of dried (not canned!) chickpeas. So what on earth is stopping you?

THE PODS ARE READY WHEN THEY LOOK LIKE THIS

Pods are ready to harvest when they are slightly hard to the touch, but still a bright, fresh green. Brown papery pods with contain starchy dried up seeds. You should even be able to judge the size of them by holding them up to the light.

THE HARVEST FROM JUST ONE SMALL PLANT

Just one plant will provide a pretty decent starter for two people. With three plants offering up a gluttonous treat. To prepare and cook them simply snip off the pods and cook them just like regular edamame – more on this later.

FUZZY LITTLE GREEN PODS READY TO BE COOKED

HOW TO EAT CHICKPEA ‘EDAMAME’

You can also shell them first, boil for 1 minute or so and toss into salads, cous cous or rice dishes. You can even mash a cup of the cooked peas with an avocado and stir in 1 tbsp olive oil, a clove of chopped garlic & 1/2 tsp of chopped mint to create a mean dip somewhere between guacamole and a fresh green hummus!

CHICKPEA ‘EDAMAME’ JAPANESE  STYLE

FROM GARDEN TO KITCHEN IN 5 MINS FLAT.

For lazy sods like me though the simplest way to to dunk them in a pan of briskly boiling water for just a minute or two and serve them drizzles with sesame oil & a sprinkling of sea salt.

CHICKPEA ‘EDAMAME’ SPANISH STYLE

CHARRING BRINGS OUT THEIR PISTACHIO FLAVOUR

The same mix can be given a Spanish twist by charring the whole pods in a dry pan just until the begin to blacken on the outside. Douse with olive oil, smoked paprika and sea salt and scoff with a cold beer. Finally a beer snack you don’t have to feel guilty about!

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Chickpea ‘Edamame’ check out pg 96 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!