The summer weather on North Uist is currently as wet as my garlic crop. Wet garlic is back in season and without the requisite farmer’s market nearby to acquire this delight in the short growing window, I can make the best of this delicacy from my own garlic crop instead.
For the uninitiated, wet garlic is simply garlic harvested before the bulb and cloves are fully formed. It has a more gentle, sweet almost creamy flavour, much less assertive than its powerful dried self, as comes later in the season. The whole plant can be used: the bulb, stem and leaves, cooked or raw. Don’t pass up on the chance to try some if you are growing your own garlic for storing later. Wet garlic triumphalism
The contents of my lovingly tended and meticulously weeded raised beds are suffering with the relentlessly unsettled weather. I was actually in a state of denial when I recently described my raised bed contents as micro vegetables, they were actually nano-veg and have only now reached the dizzy heights of micro-veg status. The raspberries have been overcome with chickweed, the early peas are sagging despondently (those that have not detached due to basal rotation in the wind) and the tomatoes are sulking in the sunless polytunnel, having entered a post-second truss torpor.
I can (almost) sweep this despondency aside because my garlic crop is delivering yet again. I previously covered growing and storing garlic here and once again, it is proving to be my most successful crop.These softneck plants can best be described as thugs, remaining robust and strong despite the adverse weather. Several visitors have commented on how great my ‘leeks’ (garlic) is looking. My leeks are in fact spindly bedraggled pencils, but the garlic is truly magnificent. With 150 growing bulbs, I have enough spare to enjoy some wet garlic.
My stored garlic is finished and really can’t make it through storage until this year’s crop yields. The green shoot that appears in the core of the stored cloves of bulbs in spring is bitter and requires to be removed and is a signal that the storage period is coming to an end. I have learned that any excess bulbs left after May will spoil, so need to manage any surplus by preserving. It is a tricky balance to stretch the crop out across the year, but I think I’m there.
The great wall of North Uist?
Aside for looking forlornly at my veg and fruit, we have been dedicating our time to some pretty hefty outdoor chores that we can put off no longer. The somewhat alarming ‘to do’ list covers some +30 jobs, some of which are fairly ambitious, not least building of a 20m long retaining wall between the house and workshop.
Normally at this time of year, I would be spending time on the island of Mingulay for the annual seabird count (more about that another time), but the time window to help with the wall would have passed if I had gone and how could I possibly miss out on such a fun week, excavating a trench between the house and the workshop to build the wall foundation? Hold me back….
It was very tough work, yet another wheelbarrow bit the dust and at one end required extensive and pretty deep excavation to locate firm ground. No surprise, given the extra 150 tonnes of hardcore required for the workshop foundation.
With help of a friend (to whom we are incredibly grateful) and expert in such matters as concrete, shuttering and block laying, The Man Named Sous has acquired a new range of skills he has been putting to use over the last few weeks. I am merely a fairly ineffective labourer, but that’s fine as I can focus on where my skills lie i.e. go back to looking forlornly at the vegetables. All the foundations done, only 5 pallets of block laying remains. Easy. Next job, the deer fence…
The Great Indoors
I really enjoy a feral outdoor summer existence here, but the bewilderingly crap weather has forced us to retreat indoors frustratingly often, but that’s not so bad. The Man Named Sous turned his attention to technology and bread, adopting his roles as Technigeek and Boulanger in tandem.
I had suggested he might help me find a replacement for my end of contract iPhone, a task he pursued with exuberance and glee and one that would have made me lose the will to live. He eventually emerged (sans anorak) having indulged in hours of web surfing to proclaim he had, on balance, identified ‘the best mobile phone in the world’ (allegedly, according to 50 squillion in-depth reviews of the minutiae of the device). Hence I am now the owner of the HTC One, turning my back on iOS / Apple in favour of Android. What a revelation, there will be no going back for me. I am now spending an unhealthy amount of time fiddling with my ‘phone’. Revelatory and sad but true at the same time.
The Boulanger skills of The Man Named Sous have been coming along too, assisted by Paul Hollywood’s book ‘How to Bake’ he has produced some magnificent barms, ciabatta, fougasse and baguettes, allowing me to focus on enriched dough recipes, all to be featured in future posts. Get in there!
Summer Music Fest
The summer music festival season is well underway. It is a very long time since we felt inclined to attend one of these events, Knockengorroch, the Galloway Roots festival circa 2003 being the last. I am still scarred by some of the unforgettably far out experiences of ‘musical theatre’ and white-robed, barefoot tai chi in the mud (observed, no participation for me, thank you). Before that, it was Monsters of Rock 1992, the scars from which were more physical rather than psychological. With Slayer on the bill, grind and grime were in equal measure.
I am now bewildered as to why anyone would want to go to these gargantuan festivals (not even Bloodstock can lure me) and I don’t remember particularly enjoying any of them, even in my teens. I came across this article in the New Statesmen by Eleanor Margolis that more or less sums up my experience and feelings about these money-spinning behemoths and saves me continuing on an extended diatribe about same.
These days, we aim for small gigs of 500-2000 capacity, optimising the more intimate musical experience at a bargain sub-£30 cost which, in the last couple of years, has included incredible gigs: Mastodon (x2), Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta (RIP), Opeth and Devin Townsend (of course).We are occasionally torn about going to the slightly bigger not-quite-stadium size gigs that many of the more popular / mainstream bands we like play. We recently had this quandary about Neil Young who we have seen twice before, also tempted by QOTSA and Black Sabbath, but the combination of ridiculous ticket prices and unappealing aircraft hangar venues is off-putting Nine times out of ten, on reflection, we don’t buy tickets for these type of gigs (exceptions including Metallica and Dream Theater spring to mind).
Of course, we have been utterly spoilt by seeing so many great gigs in the ultimate venue (since the Glasgow Apollo closed) Glasgow Barrowlands. How we love the place and its sticky beery floors and glitterball, the sprung dancefloor bouncing and flexing as the 2000 or so strong crowd go crazy and acts look from the stage into the roaring mass in disbelief at the response they are receiving (in particular when we saw Robert Plant, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals and the late great Gary Moore).
It has a reputation as being one of the favourite venues for so many bands and the electric atmosphere no doubt influenced many of the outstanding gigs we have enjoyed there: Faith No More (exceptional Angel Dust Tour gig in 1992), Motorhead, Mastodon, The Cult, The Black Crowes, Steve Earle, Paul Rodgers, Robert Cray, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Mission and countless others…
So, while most music at mainstream festivals is not really our taste, from the comfort of our sofa, glass of sauv blanc ironically in hand, we could not resist having a peak at the Glastonbury ‘performances’, particularly given the much anticipated (over-hyped) appearance of The Rolling Stones.
We were lucky to see their show at all. Had they their own way, the ever cash-conscious Stones would have had a filming blackout and sequestered the performance for a lucrative special release DVD or a pay-per-view deal for $40 a pop, as they did for a NY show last year. The band were apparently reluctant to perform for the benefit of BBC TV licence paying viewers, not for money, bien sûr, just issues of control and vanity, minor really.
The band initially told the BBC that the corporation would not be allowed to screen more than a four song set sample of their performance. C’mon guys, you are where your are in your career, no one really gives a monkeys about how you look except perhaps the pathetic Daily Mail. Most punters just want to say ‘I was there’.
I’m not about to be ageist about the Stones in the way that so many media articles have been. It is not about age. So many performers that are peers of the Stones still cut it: for example Old Shaky, George Thorogood (my parents saw him 2 weeks ago), the much older great BB King. When did The Stones last produce some really exciting music? 1971 as far as I recall from their back catalogue and regurgitating it 42 years later is just not enough to endear them to me. Then there is the issue of the Stones trying to wring out as much filthy lucre as possible.
We would probably forgive them for all of this if their performance had been in any way memorable. However, it was not and reminded me of a James Brown gig I saw on TV, performed towards the end of his career when he was carried by multiple backing singers, choirs and a plethora of supporting musicians. Credit to Mick for his energy levels, though not his often flat and rushed delivery of songlines but Keith Richards is not the guitarist he once was and it took support from Ronnie Wood et al to prop him up. That said, his resilience is incredible, it is amazing he is still here. As Bill Hicks said ‘I picture nuclear war, two things survive: Keef and bugs.’
I was quite flabbergasted to read post-gig reviews in the mainstream press describing how The Stones ‘took Glastonbury by storm’ and ‘blew the stage apart’. Really? Emperor’s new clothes or what? Did I miss something fundamental?
Both feeling pretty underwhelmed by The Stones performance, we opted to watch ‘Some Kind of Monster’ again, a documentary about Metallica directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that Metallica hold any moral high ground over The Stones in some respects. They were the biggest selling US rock act in the 1990s, then there is all the Napster baggage and the fact that they have not delivered any outstanding albums since 1991 (controversial I know, especially since for many hardcore thrash fans 1991’s Black Album was itself considered to be the band selling out).
That said, re-watching this film was a whole lot more entertaining (though no more musical) than ‘Glasters’ on the Beeb. This 2004 film documents the making of the awful St Anger album at a time when the band are about to implode as a consequence of addiction, conflict, egos, control and the historical baggage of the band and its members, past and present. There is very little music in the film and you need not be interested in Metallica, their music or heavy metal to appreciate this honest, riveting and at times very tense psychodrama. Highly recommended viewing.
OK time to wind my neck back in. Where was I? Oh yes. Wet garlic…
Old spot pork chops with sage beurre noisette and wet garlic
This is a super quick and simple recipe that allows good quality meat and fresh herbs to come to the fore. Beurre noisette (brown butter) is appropriately nutty, flavoursome and a bit indulgent.
The sage I am growing in the herb bed has been established for a few years, does manage to overwinter but is always attacked by some beast or other and looks like broderie anglaise . The plants I have grown from seed this year are safe in the coldframe and much happier with big index finger-sized leaves and I have used them here. The wet garlic is included in both the sage brown butter sauce and light sauce for the pasta – chopped bulb and shredded green leaves are folded through the pasta. The Old Spot pork chop featured is part of the half pig we bought from our neighbour and butchered ourselves. It is boneless, from the bottom of the loin and simply seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled.
Sage beurre noisette
3-4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 small wet garlic bulb, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. green peppercorns, rinsed
salt and pepper, to taste
- Put the butter in a thick-based sauce pan, heat over a medium heat until it foams gently then add the wet garlic.
- Cook for a minute or so then add the sage and peppercorns. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes more until the foaming butter turns nutty brown, and also smells a bit nutty and remove from the heat immediately to prevent the butter or garlic and sage burning.
- Season to taste and pour over the grilled chop.
The pasta sauce is really more of a dressing with a splash of olive oil, throw in a small chopped bulb of wet garlic, cook for a minute then add a chopped portobello mushroom, cook for a couple of minutes, add some halved cherry tomatoes and some shredded wet garlic leaves and then fold through your pasta of choice. Done and dusted in under 30 minutes. This was served with a cheerful salad of leaves and flowers from the garden. Sunshine in a bowl, given the absence of same from the sky. And finally it is Wimbledon final tomorrow. C’mon Andy!