It’s been a year since a freak accident caused me to give up the allotment plot I had kept for eight years and which had come to be known as the Circus Garden. It was a real wrench to leave it behind.
Once I had recovered (I had suffered multiple rib fractures), I agreed with my wife Sara that I would take over responsibility for maintaining our garden. For years it had served as a cricket and football pitch for our growing children, and was little more than a lawn.
That was about to change.
The transformation has not been easy. I have had to negotiate with Sara for every inch of lawn that I have converted to growing soil (she likes having a lawn and loves to sunbathe – despite my constant admonitions – and she was determined not to lose it, only the responsibility for mowing it). In the end I managed to secure an area about a tenth of the size of my old allotment plot, and over the last twelve months I have gradually transformed that small area into an organic potager-style garden.
Despite the limited growing space we are currently harvesting lots of courgettes (three different varieties – Genovese, yellow zucchini and Rondo ni Nizza), beetroot (also three different varieties – golden globe, Barabietola di Chioggia and boltardy), red spring onions, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, rhubarb chard and cavalo nero, as well as a bountiful supply of fresh herbs including basil, mint, chives, parsley, oregano, French tarragon, Thai basil, marjoram, rosemary, sage, dill and fennel.
Still to come are chickpeas, artichokes, romanesco cauliflower, Japanese red onion squash, radicchio, Florence fennel, butternut squash, various outdoor tomatoes, leaf salads, pears and sweetcorn. Planted in amongst this lovely produce is a sea of flowers to attract pollinators, including lavender, jasmine, California poppy, clematis, hollyhock, achillea, campanula, honeysuckle, cornflower, foxglove and sunflower.
It sounds like there’s a lot going on, but our garden is modestly sized. With careful utilisation of space we have reached an arrangement which still allows Sara to stretch out on the careful manicured lawn to work on her suntan whilst I have room to potter about contentedly in amongst my beloved plants.
On a recent fine summer’s evening we relaxed together on the garden bench, listening to the bees droning contentedly in and out of the surrounding flowers. After a while Sara turned to me and said, “you know, I really love this garden now”.
Now that, my friends, is the real transformation.
The courgette season is well and truly upon us, and those of us who grow this prolific vegetable suddenly have to start thinking of imaginative ways to use it in our cooking.
This recipe provides one solution. These burgers are easy to make and they taste amazingly good, especially with the chive aoili.
carrot, courgette and halloumi burgers with chive aoili
1-2 courgettes, approx 280 g
1-2 large carrots, approx 200 g, grated
225 g halloumi, grated
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sumac
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
125 g breadcrumbs
1 tsp sea salt
30 g rice or corn flour
Ground nut oil, for frying
for the aoili
1 free-range egg yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1. Grate the courgette then place in a clean tea towel and squeeze tightly to remove drain excess moisture. Tip the courgette into a bowl and add the grated carrot, halloumi, cumin, mint leaves, breadcrumbs, sea salt and eggs.
2. Mix the ingredients together then form into fritters, each around 75 grams. Dust the fritters lightly with the rice or cornflour, then place on a baking tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the fritters to firm up.
3. Now make the aoili. Place the egg yolk in a large bowl and add the mustard. Whisk together whilst gradually adding the olive oil, a little at a time. You should end up with a mixture that has the consistency of mayonnaise. Whisk in the lemon juice. Add the chopped chives and stir into the aoili. Set to one side.
4. Pour some oil into a frying pan and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the fritters. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain briefly on kitchen paper before serving.
5. Serve with a generous helping of the aoili. Serve as it is in a burger bun or with a green salad and sweet potato fries.