In My Kitchen, May 2013

I know, it’s the last day of May, but I was going to burst if I didn’t manage to post a few photos from the kitchen over the past month. I’ve missed doing these posts, but luckily I’ve been able to stop in at a lot of great kitchens regardless. Check out Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for links to the amazing and diverse In My Kitchen posts.
So, without further ado in my kitchen this month there are:

Artichokes! The large one to the left is a regular globe artichoke, but the three small ones are all from my purple artichoke plants. Violetta di Chioggia, to be precise, from seeds that I ordered from Chiltern seeds. Isn’t it interesting how different they all look? I’m happy to report that they were uniformly tasty.
In my kitchen, there are

Broad beans! And as you can see, they double quite nicely as toys to be sorted in a tart pan. These are the last of them – I’m sure you’ve noticed that they are quite large. The inner beans are already starchy but this makes them perfect for fava, a venerable member of the pantheon of meze, or starters enjoyed around these parts.
The problem with broad beans is getting the beans out of their skins. It’s super tedious and it’s worse when the beans are not young and pert. Perhaps for this reason, fava is often made with dried beans.
Anyway, the procedure is the same once you’ve got your hands on the skinned beans, fresh or dry (although the dry ones benefit from a pre-soak). Cook the beans with water, a quartered onion, and olive oil. The beans should be cooked and a little wet in the end, but you can always add more water. Then blend it all to make a thick slurry, salt to taste, add snips of dill if you’ve got it, and lemon juice. This is absolutely perfect on toast. So if there are any of you out there who waited a little too long to harvest the last if the broad beans, this is something you can do with them. (Alas, no photos!)
I’ve saved the best for last. In my kitchen there are:

Flowers! This is not that significant in and of itself. I mean, flowers are nice but the real reason that this means something is that the only time we ever have cut flowers on the house is when my mom is in town. Yes, she made it! After waiting for two months, her visa came through and she hopped in the next available flight. She wasted no time in patrolling the garden, snipping flowers. In other words, she has fallen right into her routines here and it feels almost as if she never left in the first place.
Whew – made it! Now to post June’s IMK before the very end of the month…

Not exactly a back porch, but…

Celi, beloved chronicler of the Kitchen’s Garden , posted a challenge last week asking us what we see from our back porches. I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since (no doubt helped by the wonderful views that have been popping up in her posts). We don’t have any back porches or even back doors, but I found myself paying attention to views that I don’t usually stop for and thought I’d share a place and a plant with you.
We are on the mountainside, which means that we spend a lot of time running up and downhill. There is always something to fetch and one of the places I run to and from the most often is the Shed. We keep our tools here, as well as shade netting, staple guns, saws, wire, spare potting medium, sprinklers, pipes, valves, faucets, paint and probably about two dozen other things that I have forgotten to mention (like screws, nails and staples!)

Ali has a jasmine habit that needs to be constantly satisfied, so we have star jasmine in various spots around the garden including, cannily enough, in this most frequently used space. (That whitewashed window off in the corner is a bit of the greenhouse.)
We have a palm growing here, with an amaryllis to keep it company, and we’ve got some white pomegranate trees that Ali is growing from cuttings that a neighbour gave us a few years back. White pomegranates, as their name implies, are much paler in color than the regular ones, both inside and out, and they are much sweeter in flavour.
Although it is not so visible in the photo, we have shallow beds on the roof of the shed. It was on a whim. The first year, we threw wheat that we feed to the chickens up there so that something would grow, and grow it did. Upon seeing the lush green wheat grass, one of our neighbours, a villager experienced in garden matters, gently suggested that we might like to plant our wheat in the field next time! We scattered wildflower seeds the following year and they still come up in the spring.
The plant that I wanted to share with you is an acanthus that grows by the stairs. It is directly below a massive lavender shrub, and I think it might be slightly overlooked for this reason.
Initially, I was attracted to the idea of growing acanthus because it is the inspiration behind the Corinthian column. I have come to appreciate the plant for its less historical qualities, not least its lovely dangerous looking spikes of purple flowers. Here it is, with no lavender in sight to steal its fire:

Just two things that caught my eye as I hauled buckets of “chicken poop sherbet” to our hungry plants!

Hi Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day!

We celebrated the way we do every year — by doing precisely nothing to mark the day. However, the weekend was full of nice surprises. It poured rain yesterday, for instance, and I took a nap with Kaya. It felt so decadent to be lying in bed listening to the rain and dozing off. The temperatures dropped dramatically (it is now in the low 70s after a week in the 90s), so blankets are back, which is just delicious. I even woke up and read awhile before getting out of the bed. Bliss.

The grass and weeds in the garden are shoulder high in places, and you know that our pathways are very narrow, so when the garden is wet, it is difficult to navigate without getting soaked at least to the knee. I put on a pair of shorts this morning before venturing out to do some garden work and marveled at how nice it felt to have wet grass brushing up against my legs. Feeling a pair of jeans becoming progressively more sodden until they are clinging to your legs in a cold embrace is depressing. Feeling the leaves against your skin and the water beading up and rolling down your legs is a celebration of the good parts of being outdoors.

Osman and Dudu slaughtered a goat this weekend and offered to sell us some of the meat. Ali went off while I was napping yesterday and returned with a 3 1/2 kilo haunch! It is nice, clean meat and I am grateful to have it. I cut the meat from the bone, leaving a leg and a shoulder the way they were. They’re in the freezer waiting for you to arrive! I’ve got a pot of stock from the bones, too, that I think will be nice for soup noodle.


The mulberry tree is fruiting, and pretty heavily at that. Between the fruit and the rain, some of the branches drooped all the way to the ground. Of course, this is the nice thing about young trees — they are still small enough to be able to reach up into them with your feet on the ground. We had two big bowls at the end of our picking session, even with Kaya on my back, eating every other one. I made a mulberry cobbler with creme anglaise (Ali has been collecting eggs but not eating them, so we have about 20. This made 7 egg yolks seem not like an extravagance, but a blessing. I will be making meringues for Baki tonight with all of those whites). This reminded me that last year we discovered together that they somehow get tastier when you cook them. I hope that you will make it here in time to have some — there are plenty more still on the tree.

The red rose is mostly finished, but there are lots of other flowers popping up everywhere. And when I say popping up, I do mean that they are emerging in unexpected places. There are the sweetpeas that self seeded again, and snapdragons are also opening up everywhere. And look what I saw when I went to pick a sprig of rosemary from that plant we put up by the pecan tree (which is very big now, and will meet with your approval I am sure):


It looks like someone found that passion flower before I did and took a bite.

There was a sad sight waiting for me when I got back to the apartment — one of the new chicks died. They are a week old now, and down to 17 in number. I am not sure what killed that one — the others look pretty healthy as far as I can tell. We’ll see how they fare.

Still, I hope that there will be more good news when I call Ankara tomorrow to ask about your visa. It is high time you joined us and enjoyed all of these pleasant surprises alongside us!


When noses weep

I wish I had Smell-O-Vision so that you could feast your noses on this:

The jasmine is so strong that it smells a bit like bananas, and the red rose is seductive as ever. I have been cutting the flowers to make rose jam and rose sherbet. I collect the flowers in a big bowl and just hold my face in it. The smell is so delicious; if I were an immortal being, it’s all I would eat – roses.

The wisteria is also still going strong. Something about the flowers makes me think of women in gowns with ribbons tied around their necks. And the smell of them is enough to make me feel elegant even in grubby jeans and sandals. Ali likes to plant them under trees (that’s a wild pear under all that purple).

The Brown House is visible in the background, still clad in its winter wear – we have rolled it all up since that photo was taken. The weather heated up overnight and we have temps of 35 C (in the 90s to you Fahrenheit folks)! It’s a little too much heat too soon and I’m not the only one who thinks so – the garden is swooning. We’re doing our best to offer succour to the citizenry.
This is a season where there is much to delight the nose (with more to come – the honeysuckle looks set to burst forth any moment). And yet, if you are unfortunate enough to be allergic to any of the multitudes of pollens flying about, this season can bring you to your knees.
I’m not allergic to much, but when the grasses pollinate, I’m a goner. “I can see the pollen!” I told someone the other day, who smiled at me, and said patiently, “You can’t see it.” But I don’t know if they knew just how much grass I was talking about. I have truly looked the enemy in the eye:

And I was the first to blink!