With cooler (and darker) evenings, misty, dewy mornings and the apples ripening on the trees, it’s starting to feel like autumn is almost here. Next thing you know there’ll be leaves to be raked up, a whole load of pumpkin recipes in the magazines, and Christmas will have arrived in the shops.
It’s time to be sowing hardy annuals for next year’s cut flowers. Calendula, cornflowers, ammi and cerinthe will all overwinter with a bit of protection, producing sturdier plants and earlier flowers than their spring-sown cousins. The first tray of seeds is sitting outside under the shelter of the eaves of the house, while the ammi seeds are in the fridge for a later sowing because I forgot to chill them in time.
It’s time too for worrying that I haven’t ordered any garlic yet… or indeed, dug out the space in the veggie patch that will be home to the garlic and shallots in a few weeks’ time. And next week is Wild About Gardens Week – as good a time as any to get on and build a log pile for the hedgehogs and get more of the nectar rich perennials that I brought in pots from our old garden into the ground here. Yes, the ‘to do’ list is growing longer as the days get shorter.
Despite the long list of garden chores, most days it’s really tempting to sit quietly among the fruit trees at the top of the garden and enjoy the afternoon sun. The fallen fruit is attracting bees, butterflies and birds – very good companions.
We’ve been picking apples for crumbles, and to give away to anyone who stood still long enough to be offered them, for a couple of weeks now. So many apples this year… and no space left in the freezer for bags of pureed apple to make cakes and pies through the winter. The cooking apples ripened first, but now they’re joined by the dessert apples. We’re doing taste tests to see which apples are our favourites for eating. There are already a couple of trees that are being visited regularly for after school snacks. And for lunches too… they make a really good salad with some chunks of Wensleydale cheese and a handful of homegrown salad leaves.
Apple & Wensleydale salad
(enough for a hearty lunch for one)
For the salad –
a small knob of unsalted butter
1 small apple
1 tsp runny honey
a good squeeze of lime juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a handful of mixed salad leaves
25g Wensleydale cheese, crumbled into small chunks
For the dressing –
9-10 blanched hazelnuts
2 cherry tomatoes
1 small, red chilli (or to taste), deseeded and chopped
10 fresh basil leaves
1 tsp rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp honey
½ tsp lime juice
Start by toasting the hazelnuts gently in a dry frying pan over a low to medium heat – it only takes a few minutes, so don’t leave them too long. Once they’re just starting to colour, tip the nuts into a pestle and mortar and return the pan to the heat.
Add the butter to the warm pan and while it melts, peel, core and thinly slice the apple. Add the apple slices to the pan and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Stir the apple slices to turn them in the butter. Add the honey and lime juice and continue to cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the dressing by crushing the hazelnuts until they’re still chunky, but not too big. Add the tomatoes, chilli and basil leaves and bash the whole lot together to get a fragrant, mushy mixture. Stir in the oil, honey and lime juice – taste and add more honey or lime juice to get a flavour you’re happy with.
Arrange the leaves on a plate. Stir the cheese and apple slices together in the pan, then tip them over the leaves. Spoon the dressing over the salad, and serve straight away with a thick slice of home baked bread.