Sunday, 30 September 2012

Whisky Part 2 - Kilchoman

In the absence of anything gardening related to tell you (mainly because I am shutting this garden down preparatory to moving to the new place, I have decided to continue my whisky series with Part 2 - Kilchoman.

A little bit of background. On my amazing whisky tour with my best mate, we happened to end up at Kilchoman the week they released their Inaugural Expression. We were one tour away from being able to buy big bottles, but the LAST tour which got the opportunity to buy miniatures. This has sparked something very like an obsession where I am attempting to buy every bottle that Kilchoman releases. This has resulted in the collection pictured above, and detailed below, and is starting to become expensive ;)

Anyway, without any further ado:

Kilchoman Inaugrual Expression Miniatures. Very proud of these. They are (apparently) quite valuable now also. I doubt I'll ever drink even one of these... well, maybe only one.

Kilchoman Machir Bay. This is VERY highly recommended by myself. It has a fantastic smoky flavour, but is not too harsh for someone just coming into peated whisky. At about £35 a bottle it is also exceptional value and I would really advise every whisky drinker to have a bottle or three of this. I plan on having a cellar-worth of this when I leave, so I never run out. I drink this a LOT.

Kilchoman's Spring 2010 release. This is made with spirit that has been matured off the island, so is not 100% Islay, but is still a very nice dram. For such young whisky, Kilchoman really does pack a taste-punch past a lot of 8-10yr distillations.

Kilchoman 2006 Release. Once again another exceptional dram, I for one am very excited about when Kilchoman starts to release it's 10 and 15 yr whiskies. With taste like this at 3 years, the older they get, the more impressive they will surely become.

The inaugural 100% Islay release. This is special as 100% of everything that goes into this bottle (from growing the barley to bottling the matured spirit) takes place on Islay, at the little farm that is Kilchoman's base. This, I feel, will also accrue nicely in value (and I bought two bottle of it so eventually this will be drunk).

Second edition of the 100% Islay. Once again, every single thing is grown, malted, brewed, distilled, barrelled, stored and bottled on Islay.

Kilchoman Single Cask Release. This I own purely courtesy of the lovely Tent101 on the twitter, who was up on Islay and managed to scrag me one of the last bottles :) I am very VERY grateful that I got this.  I'm not sure what occassion will cause me to open this bottle, but it'll have to be a pretty awesome one!

I do, additionally, have another bottle of Kilchoman which is still in it's delivery packaging as I have stored it up. One of these days I may take it out and show it you.

Anyway, there you have it. I am a LITTLE bit of a Kilchoman geek and very proud of this fact.

If you want to buy any of these (well, the ones that are still available) you can go direct to and they will ship it out to you (and no I am NOT on commission)


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Green Tomato Chutney

Today's blog is a long one with lots of pictures, but I am VERY excited about it so that is my excuse and I am sticking with it.

Let me set the scene first. My outside tomatoes, after a slow start, have over the last few weeks become very fruitful indeed. As I showed in the last but one blog post to this, I had well over one hundred fruits growing. Combine this with the fact that I am moving out of this house in a few weeks and I found myself with a massive amount of green tomatoes and no chance to leave them long enough that they may have ripened.

So, obviously, I decided to make some Green Tomato Chutney with them, combining the tomatoes with onions grown in the garden too.

I did a quick search and found the following recipe which I followed closely: Gran's Green Tomato Chutney

Without any further ado, then, let the picture diary begin.

The harvest of green tomatoes, with a couple of ripe ones (which are now sitting in the fridge waiting to be eaten some other way)

A couple of odd shaped tomatoes I found. These did end up in the chutney, but I found them interesting enough to show you. Aren't I nice

Weighing the tomato harvest. Yes, that is more than two kilograms of tomatoes (and I didn't pick quite every one)

That is what 2.16KG of green tomatoes look like

Weighing the home grown onions

I had to pull some of these in the dark and rain, as I did not have enough previously pulled onions to keep the ratios the same.

An onion about to be chopped

The same onion, chopped.

All of the onions chopped and set to one side

If you thought that was a lot of chopping, this is the first of the tomatoes I had to process..

... and all the tomatoes sliced, about an hour later with no breaks. The acid from chopping the onions (which were so strong my eyes were streaming) and these tomatoes actually made my fingers slightly sore.

The onions and tomatoes mixed together, with the salt already added, which will help the juice to be extracted, and improve the flavour (apparently)

Covered and ready to be left for 24 hours to mature.

All the above pictures were the process taken on the first evening of chutney making. I spent about 2 hours or so chopping and mixing.

The next evening the following happened.

Vinegar, sugar and raisins coming to the boil

I had decided to make a section of the batch with chillis in, so this is my chilli chopped and ready to be added to the smaller pan.

This is the tomato and onion mix after sitting for 24 hours...

... and this is most of the fluid which came out of the mix over night.

Adding the majority of the mix to the large pan ready to reduce

Stirring the chillis into the smaller pan, to make a chutney with bite

White pepper added to the chutney and stirred in before boiling

About an hour into the boiling process, the chutney is starting to turn golden brown and reduce down well

The chutney with chillis in it after reduction. This took about 1.5 hours of boiling as it was a slightly smaller amount to reduce than if you were boiling it all down in one big pan. I left the other bigger pan for another 30 mins or so

The jars ready for the chilli chutney, having been sat in the oven at 140 degrees for about 40 mins to sterilise them.

And the jars full of chutney. I had none left over out of that batch after filling these two jars, so that may give you an idea of just how much it does reduce down.

The nine small jars of normal green tomato chutney that were the product of the large pan. It is amazing how little is actually made, though these should last a while.

And finally the cling-filmed jars. I am SO rubbish at cling film, I almost wrapped myself up while trying to do this! Cling film is such a strange strange thing!

So, there you are. After a long time not blogged, I have posted a super long update for your delectation :)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Chilli on a pizza

I hope you have all missed me.

I have a great excuse for not posting for so long. Virgin Media are rubbish and my internet has been down (and is still being very temperamental) so I have not been able to get on here to update the blog.

Also, the weather has continued being awful and so getting out to do ANYTHING outside has been an impossibility.

My update today involves another instance of first-tasting of some of my produce - my chillis... and the first foodstuff to enjoy the garnish of home-grown-chilli? A pizza from Tesco :(

Anyway, onwards with the update.

This is the ruby red shiny lovely chilli that I harvested from the plant on the bedroom window sill.

I have chopped the chilli into rings, taking great care to lose none of the seeds.

The chillis have been placed carefully on top of the (not frozen) pizza bought from Tesco. (Other supermarkets are available)

The cooked pizza, ready to be eaten.

I did take a picture of my girlfriend eating it, but I don't think she'd be very pleased if I published that one!

The chilli was great! I rubbed my lips after chopping it, and the burn stayed for at least an hour. In the eating, they had a long and lasting heat, combined with good flavour and they were not too hot that the heat overpowered the rest of the pizza.

Anyway, I'll be back (virgin broadband permitting) tomorrow with a blog about the Green Tomato Chutney that I have made with onions and tomatoes grown by my very good self.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Lamb Roast with Cabbage and (very small) Parsnips

Last night I had another great feed involving food harvested from the garden.

This is such a great payback of growing your own because food really does just taste so much nicer when you have grown it yourself, and have watched it first poke through the earth and then slowly develop until it is ready for eating.

This time it involved the cabbage, and a few VERY early parsnips, one pulled to check the development of the crop, and the other two pulled accidentally while weeding.

The Bearded Bastard selecting leaves for dinner

Lifting leaves ready for eating

A shot of the cabbage leaves mid-harvest

Reading for chopping

I have the habit of removing the tough central stalk

I decided to slice these leaves into strips, ready for the steamer (10 mins only required for these)

The (tiny tiny) parsnips, fresh out of the ground

The washed and trimmed parsnips. I cooked these for about 5 mins in the roasting tin with the potatoes and lamb joint.

DINNER!!! Cabbage bottom left (obviously) and parsnip peaking out between the yorkshire pud top right and the tatty.

Can I just say that, tiny as they were, those parsnips really REALLY packed a punch. So sweet and so tasty. I can't wait for the rest of the harvest to come in.

The cabbage was a slight disappointment, not quite as tasty as the rest of the food which I have grown. It was nice though.

Right, a slight bonus for you here. Last night myself and the girlfriend went round the outside tomatoes and chillis and counted up the current harvest (there are more flowers ready to become fruit) and I drew the following diagram, with counts of fruit per plant, and a total at the bottom.

Yes, 111 tomatoes are currently going well in the garden.

Another (final) interesting point to observe is the two plants with 27 and 9 fruits on them were both runt plants which I almost threw away and just at the last minute pushed into the earth in the herb garden. So, however small and runty your seedling may be, give it a chance. That runt is now the most productive of them all.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Clearing Tomatoes and harvesting Onions, Garlic, Shallots and Parsnips

So I finally got outside to do some weeding, and tidy up the wreckage of the inside tomato plants (which had been blown to all corners since I moved them outside, and hadn't recovered at all, sadly).

This morning, in a fit of energy, I got out of bed and went straight into the garden. I have recovered the bamboo stakes and the little green plastic bits from the tomato plants, and then separated the soil from the plants.

 Soil from the inside tomato plants

The dead inside-tomato plants

Anyone got any ideas what I can do with the soil? I was just going to spread it onto waste ground... I presume that with all the roots in it there is a chance that next year some random tomato plants may appear?

Anyway, that done, I headed for my Parsnip Patch to weed, and pull a couple of plants to see how well they are doing.  The weeds were pretty bad, but it didn't take long to pull them back. No gloves, pulling stinging nettles out, and very very few stings... I think it is true that if you grasp a nettle hard, you don't get stung - it is when you brush past them that it hurts the most.

My weeded Parsnip Patch

A single Parnsip, looking very healthy.

While I was walking across the grass one time I spotted this little fella hopping away from me.

 This tomato plant was a runt which I just pushed into the ground and didn't even think about. It has a really good crop of tomatoes and is hugely healthy. So there you are :)

The most ripe tomatoes are still getting redder, which is nice.

This is the fruit of my harvest today. The (tiny) parsnips are to the left, next are all the garlic that I saved, then a mix of onions and shallots.

I think I left my onions and shallots in the ground too long because a good half were soft and rotted. This despite the above ground growth not having died down yet. I think this is because of the wetness of the year, which is a shame, but it is all a learning experience.

I actually harvested all the root crops completely by hand, without using any digging implements. I just dug my bare hands into the soil and filtered out the crop. This was a very satisfying (if dirty) method. I recommend it highly.

This evening I am planning on a lamb roast with cabbage from the garden, and I may fry those parsnips up too. I will blog about it.