eating greengages

wheat stubble


Phew. Harvest has finished. After days of checking every weather forecast and stopping and starting between showers, the wheat was finished at the weekend and the beans yesterday. This morning, while this year’s harvest was loaded onto lorries to go to the central co-operative grain store, next year’s oilseed rape crop was sown in the cleared fields as the cycle starts off again. On a rather smaller scale, Beth and I have been out along the hedgerows picking blackberries for Slamseys Blackberry Gin. There is one field where the blackberries ripen at least a fortnight ahead of the rest of the farm so it’s good to make a start. A rather less frenzied harvest than the wheat harvest.




In the garden the plums continue to ripen. The cherry plums have all been eaten, the damsons are almost ready and although there are still Czar plums on the tree, we’ve lost enthusiasm for eating them because the greengages are at their peak.  Who wants to eat a boring plum when the greengages are ready? This has been a bumper year for greengages and looking out from the kitchen window, I’ve noticed that everyone walking from the yard makes a detour to pick and eat a few greengages en route to the back door. I could eat greengages for breakfast, lunch and supper and not tire of them in their short season. Sweet, juicy, delicious little greengages.

I’ve been making loads of greengage compote and greengage crumble; some is eaten straight away and the rest frozen. Sometimes I cook the greengages swiftly on the hob with a little water or roast them in the oven but more often than not I use my mother’s technique for dealing with greengages or plums. Because sometimes mothers know best. Simply put a kilo of very ripe greengages into a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave for a minute. Then tip the fruit into a bowl of cold water and slip the skins off. Cut the fruit in half, pop out the stones and lay the fruit in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with a dessertspoon of sugar, cover and put in the fridge for an hour or two for the sugar to draw out the juices. I vaguely remember Mum’s instructions were to leave them for longer, but I don’t plan far enough ahead for that. Kind of cooked but not cooked.

When I was explaining what I was doing to one of my daughters who’d wandered into the kitchen, I told her it was just like skinning tomatoes. “Who on earth skins tomatoes?” she asked in a scathing tone. Well, sometimes I do. I like sandwiches made with skinned tomatoes, white bread, plenty of butter and a little salt and pepper. Skinned tomatoes are best because when you squash the sandwich, the bread soaks up all the copious juice. What do you mean, you don’t squash your tomato sandwiches? Didn’t you ever take tomato sandwiches on a school trip and pull out a warm, soggy and flattened sandwich? I rather liked them and always thump my fist on a tomato sandwich to recreate the effect.

greengage sandwich

While we were having this conversation, a lemony Madeira loaf cake was cooling on the table and it was but a short step before I’d cut two slices of the loaf  and made a Greengage Sandwich – greengages, crème patisserie and Maderia cake. I thought about cutting off the crusts but decided that was a step too far. Much better than a Victoria Sandwich (mainly because there’s almost as much filling as cake).

Almost as good as a squashed tomato sandwich.

you say zucchini, I say courgette


courgette flower and leaf

It seems to be a good year for courgettes or zucchini or whatever you call them in your part of the world. Last year germination was poor, so this spring extra seeds were sown and of the six,  five germinated – three golden Alena Polka plants and two All Green Bush. This didn’t seem a problem when the seedlings were lovingly planted out, but as summer has progressed, so have the courgettes and each plant is sprouting courgettes like an old man sprouts ear hair.
So, what to do with this glut of courgettes. I fully intended to cut off each courgette when it was tiny; after all a deluge of finger sized courgettes wouldn’t be too hard to deal with. Alas, I turned my back for a couple of days and the courgettes went mad. We are overrun and I try to sneak courgettes into as many meals as I can.


Should you find yourself overrun with a glut of courgettes, zucchini or marrow of various sizes and shapes, may I suggest:

Oven Roasted Ratatouille. All the ingredients of ratatouille ie aubergines, red or yellow peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and of course courgettes roasted with a good glug of rapeseed oil and a scattering of basil. Obviously nothing like a proper ratatouille so probably I should find a different way to describe it. It goes without saying that courgettes find their way into every roasted vegetable dish at this time of year.

Courgette ribbons. I use the potato peeler to make ribbons of courgette (there must be an easier way and I don’t make it if there’s more than two people eating). Eat the ribbons raw with a simple dressing or melt a little butter in a saucepan, add the ribbons of courgette along with carrot ribbons and toss them around in the butter, pop the lid back on and cook for two or three minutes until they’re just tender.

Courgettes with lemon. Either roast batons of courgettes in a little butter for twenty or thirty minutes until they’re brown and soft or fry grated courgettes in a little oil and butter for two minutes. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice, maybe a little lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

Striped courgettes. Cut courgettes lengthways into thin strips, smear them with the merest trace of oil and cook in a ridged pan. A good minute either side cooks them through and stripes them.

Courgette Fritters. I tend to throw in a random selection of ingredients. You may be better to follow Celia’s instructions for Tromboncino Fritters here.

the courgette that got away

The courgette that got away aka stuffed marrow rings – a taste of the past. The recipe seems to have missed out the instruction to scoop out the seeds from the marrow, but you’d have realised that wouldn’t you?

Courgette Cakes – I made muffin sized versions of the courgette cake in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess that were surprisingly good, even though I omitted the lime curd and topped the cakes with a simple icing of sugar and lemon juice instead of cream cheese. Next on the list is Jane’s delicious looking Zucchini Chocolate Cake at The Shady Baker  

Pickled Courgettes – from Pamela Westland’s Food for Keeps. It’s still in the jar and untried but it looks pretty and I haven’t yet had a failure with any of her recipes.

Freezing for a supply through the winter as suggested by Mrs Mud(the Land Owners Wife). Her instructions are to: Chop into 1 inch cubes (well as near cubelike as a cylindrical shape can be); melt enough butter in a frying pan to liberally coat the number of cubes you are frying;fry for about 1 minute tossing the courgette pieces to ensure they are thoroughly coated;then tip onto baking tray and allow to cool down completely; and then put into freezer bags and place in freezer. The butter helps prevent the cubes from sticking together like glue and also makes them easier to separate when you want to grab a handful to chuck into a winter warmer.

Lemon and Marrow Marmalade. Use courgettes or marrow, whichever you have to hand. Just tell everyone that it’s Lemon Marmalade. The recipe for Lemon and Marrow Marmalade is here. Delicious on toast or with goats cheese.

Cheese & Courgette Scones – why not? A good way to use up a courgette or two. Scroll back to the previous post for the recipe.

Do you have a glut of courgettes? Any plans for them? Do share. Please.


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