Today has been one of those incredibly rare days. It’s been slightly overcast but bright, and a perfect temperature… with a gentle warm breeze.
And it’s a Saturday.
It’s almost the end of August and the long-range weather forecast says it will be “consistent for this time of year”. What does that mean? It means autumn is almost upon us.
But, for today, we are still in summer. I have my shorts, flip-flops and t-shirt on. The Jack on the neighbouring farmer’s flagpole is clanging and clattering like a stay on a harboured sailboat. With a bit of imagination, we could be in Greece (my mock-Mediterranean staycation hallucinations continue).
I have been keeping an eye on the white butterflies, who seem to have multiplied tenfold, and are ‘going for it’ around a mixed bed of Brassicas and cucumbers. They know it’s the end of summer too. The tips of my cabbages are starting to push up against the netting and any chance those butterflies can take they’ll take it. There’s a lot of twerking going on. They have no shame.
I get up and absent-mindedly follow them around the nets, brushing off the eggs they’ve just deposited, and then I notice that the cucumbers have had a growth spurt. There are loads of them!
This year I’m trying out the variety ‘Crystal Lemon’, which produces round, pale yellow cucumbers, the shape and size and colour of… lemons. I gather them up and sit back down to read a book. It’s another cookery book by Jenny Linford, this time titled ‘Garlic’. I flick through the pages and bang! I know at once I’ll love this book.
As anyone who has read the Eat My Veg posts will know, I am not a disciplined cook. I am not a precise cook. I’m a terrible menu planner. I tend to make things up as I go along to suit the ‘random ingredients’ in the larder, what I have growing, how much time I have (usually 10 minutes) and what might go down well with the 13-year-old. It’s all a bit trial and error… with some successes.
But I’ve been getting a bit bored of this style of cooking lately. So I was delighted to find Jenny’s Garlic book is right up my garden path… It features mostly seasonal vegetables I grow myself, and the ‘other ingredients’ are all ones I’d already keep stock of. (A lot of the recipes feature meat and fish as the key protein, by the way, so this is probably not the best book for vegetarians).
So, despite having a lazy day, I’m inspired to get off my backside and try something out. I’ve got a heap of dried garlic, some of which is on the small side and could do with using up… With my pile of freshly picked Crystal Lemons I wonder if there’s a cucumber X garlic collaboration… And there is! A simple but evocative tzatziki. The last time I had tzatziki was in Vasiliki three years ago, under the stripy shade of a cane-covered verandah, the sail stays clanging in the wind, my shoulders slightly sunburned.
And this is perfect to make outside (if I had some lamb, and a BBQ, it would be sizzling fat onto the hot embers right now). I go inside and gather all the ingredients and utensils I’ll need. I’m going for the full ‘I’m on holiday in a villa’ experience. (If I had a pair of black pop-socks I’d have put them on for the Greek-lady-on-a-doorstep look).
Now, although Crystal Lemons are delicious cucumbers, their skins are a bit on the tough side, and they’re tricky to peel without wasting. I suddenly remembered my Amazing Apple Peeling Gadget, and this turned out to be ideal. It also meant I didn’t have to get messy grating the cucumbers as it slices them finely in a long curl and then they’re easy-peasy to chop finely.
I put the finished dish in the fridge to cool and gave myself a pat-on-the-back Pimms with – you’ve guessed it – a curly cucumber garnish and some left over mint.
The combination of the home-grown garlic and cucumbers was a marriage made in heaven. If you grow garlic and have lots of it, or if you simply love garlic and want some fresh and flavoursome ideas of how to combine it with your home-grown, do get this book.