Sunday, 23 August 2009

Send her victorias.............................

We had the octogenarian mother up for dinner tonight - she was feeling better - and made her an allotment based dinner. She was in rare form. She enjoyed her visit to Canada apart from the endless driving and intense heat. She said she hadn't got used to there not being lots of people around yet. My uncle has five in his family and lots of grandchildren.

First up was Onion Tart. This is a good one. Two members of the Head Gardener's family are veggie and once when we were entertaining for Christmas he made this as their main course. There was nearly a battle over it with the rampant carnivores.

Onion Tart


150g butter
200g plan flour
1 kilo of onions sliced finely
1 tbspn olive oil
black pepper
3 egg yolks
200ml double cream
100g gruyere finely grated


Rub 100g butter into 200g plain flour and add enough cold water to bring the mixture together.

Press it straight into the tart tin with your fingers - do not roll or chill.
Line with greaseproof paper and gill with clay baking beans or real dried beans.
Cook for 15 minutes at 200 degrees
Remove paper and beans and return to oven to cook for further 5 minutes.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan.
Add onions and cook very gently for about half an hour - make sure they don't catch or go brown. They should be golden and soft.

Remove from heat and season with a pinch of salt, a pinch of nutmeg and some black pepper.

Beat together 3 egg yolks and the double cream.
Add the gruyere.
Combine the onions with the egg, cream and cheese mixture.
Spread evenly over the pastry case and bake at 190 degrees for half an hour until the filling is lightly puffed and golden.

Serve hot from the oven!

We had potato salad (standard recipe) with our own potatoes as well.

For desert I had plums that the octogenarian mother had brought from her own plum tree. They are Victorias which were always her favourite. She loved them so much that as a child she thought the words of the chorus of the (British) National Anthem were;

"God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen.

Send her victorias
Happy and glorious.....!"

She had an image of the queen receiving a crate of plums. The Head Gardener didnt want any so I was more than happy to eat them.

And now to figs.

We are the proud possessors of two fig trees. In 2002 we moved house to Mountmerrion in Belfast where we had a fabby back garden. I decided nothing would do but the Head Gardener would have a fig tree as a Christmas present. As you do. you should try getting a fig tree in Nrn Irn in December. It is a real experience. I went to all the garden centres in the country and they all said they didn't stock them at this time of year. I did finally track one down and bought it on the spot. It is a Sicilian White fig and the tree was a thing of great beauty. I was also over seven foot tall which I could see was going to prove interesting in terms of keeping it concealed. So I hid it in the neighbour's garden. The neighbours were Archie and Margaret who were neighbours from heaven. This still left me with the issue of what to do with it on Christmas Eve. Having no idea about relative sizes I thought I could hide it behind the oil tank. On the night in question the Head Gardener was ensconced in Carols from Cambridge and I said I would like to close the curtains over the french windows to "keep the heat in". This was the only time this was done in the house in five years. Naturally he didn't think anything of this. I then went in next door, as pre-arranged with my co-conspirators, and tried to cart this tree with its pot into our garden in a wheelbarrow. This was no easy feat especially when being aided and abetted by our two neighbours. Any passers-by would have seen two older people accompanied by a younger woman manhandling a tree and wheelbarrow down our driveway and swearing continuously because it kept falling off. We then got it into the back garden and having failed to conceal it behind the oil tank, I thought it best to disguise it cleverly by putting it beside the bin. See picture. Well it was dark.

About twenty minutes later I was upstairs and I heard the Head Gardener shout "HELLO!" He had gone to put something in the bin (damn! Why didn't I think of that?) and found a huge tree.

In the meantime I had also placed an order with another garden centre for a Brown Turkey Fig which they said they would probably be getting in in the spring. I thought that would be better than nothing if I couldn't get one at Christmas. I promptly forgot all about it. So when they rang at Easter it came as a pleasant surprise. It is the most wonderful tree. This one we have trained up against the fence in the back garden and from the very first year we were getting figs from it. The white sicilian took until this year to get settled - maybe that was connected with our house move as well.

This year they have both done well. So tonight we sampled figs from both! The brown turkey fig is the one with the lighter coloured flesh. They were both great!
So all together a great night!

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