Green curly dwarf kale is a late season staple in my allotment. I should clarify: it’s the kale that is green curly and small and there is, sadly, no green curly dwarf so honoured as to have a kale named after him. Anyway, it’s a goodun – hardy, easy to grow, prolific, tasty, nutritious. Just one problem. Caterpillars. And not caterpillars like those the poor broccoli suffers. With those beasties, at least you know you’ve got them, eating, as they do, everything and leaving your broccoli a stumpy skeleton. Oh no. Kale caterpillars (I really feel it should be Kale Katerpillars, don’t you?) are stealthy little buggers. To begin with, they’re kale coloured. Plus, they hide themselves in the curly edges of the kale and surreptitiously venture out, under cover of darkness no doubt, to nibble at the young leaves before retreating to their hiding place until the next raid. Upshot is – they’re virtually impossible to spot, even when cleaning the freshly picked leaves. But it’s ok because they are quite obvious once the kale is cooked and on the plate… Mostly because they turn white when cooked. Anyway, they pick off easily when cooked, and the g&g household seems to have survived this method during the recent kale glut. Here’s what I did with the kale and caterpillar glut: […]
Blackberry picking leaves me a nostalgic and dewy-eyed sop. Perhaps it’s because I grew up on Brambly Hedge books, believing one could live in an oak tree and rural England really was full of enterprising field mice with umbrellas. Or perhaps it’s because my soft spot for Alan Bennett, who invented the verb ‘to blackberry’ (“I blackberry up the lane..” and so forth), transports me, when I blackberry, to some whimsical scene in which I’m a lonely-yet-contented woman picking blackberries and pondering the bittersweet moments of my life. The dog, in contrast, is incandescent that his walk is being constantly and unpredictably interrupted at every turn. Even a lick of blackberry and white chocolate ice-cream doesn’t appease him. […]
I have finally crawled out from under the avalanche of courgettes to write some recipes. There's no escape from them. They just keep on giving and the shelf in my fridge is bowing under [...]
Courgettes. They're like children, aren't they? (I'm guessing here, I don't have any...children that is) One day they're beautiful tiny darlings, all rosy cheeked with their bright little flowers shining up at you; the next day they're hulking great terrors taking over your veg patch, devoid of any redeeming features (taste) and demanding to be fed. Such is the temprament of my courgette patch at the moment. They grow so fast you can almost sit and watch it happen. It really has become a race to see if we can eat them before they turn in to marrows. And I will not be beaten. So hotly contested is this race, that I have for you this week a whopping four recipes that use a minimum of two courgettes each. That's eight courgettes gone. No pussy footing around with tempura courgette flowers here. I'm all about quantity this week...
“What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” Thus quoth Lady M, stained with the blood of King Duncan. And thus quoth I after dealing with this week’s glut – beetroot. Purple, orange, white, stripy, round, flat, long, short – beetroot comes in all shapes and sizes and isn’t all meant for the pickling jar. I’ve grown the classic Detroit variety this year, but I can also recommend the very beautiful Chioggia which has pink and white rings inside it and is jolly pretty atop a salad. Some golden beetroot has come my way too this week, which does make the glut look even more stunning, but only adds to the volume of beetroot to dispatch. Beetroot stores rather well in a cool dry potting shed. The Urban Veg Patch blog has more details on how best to do this. However, if, like me, you have something of a habit when it comes to beetroot, you may like to enjoy it at every meal as I have done today: Beetroot, Apple and Ginger Juice It’s not like me to have a juice for breakfast. To me, a liquid breakfast screams “Listen sunshine, I’m so important I’m too busy to chew so I have my people juice my breakfast for me. Time is money, kid”. And I don’t approve. However, for my Eat Beets Day I’ll make an exception: […]
here is more bamboo than branch in our cherry. More trussing than tree. No, it isn't very sightly. But it's the only way of keeping the birds off your cherry glut. It was the invention of my live-in handyman (AKA best beloved) and it, coupled with a studious watering and feeding regime has produced a truck load of cherries. This glut is simply too miraculous to use it as mere ingredient in a recipe. I can't bring myself to cook with them. Instead, we sit in the garden beneath the shade of the cherry tree and trough our way through most of the harvest. But even I can't eat a whole tree's worth of cherries in one sitting. I persuade myself to save some and to put them to good use: Cherry and Almond Tart.
Cucumbers have no patience. When they arrive in the greenhouse they arrive in almost biblical quantity. They enjoy but a fleeting window between too small and grotesquely (and inedibly) large. They don't stay fresh for more than 48 hours once picked. And once they start cropping, there's no stopping them. The only way to deal with this sort of attitude in a vegetable is to beat it at its own game: eat them. Eat them all. And eat them with relish. Do your worst, cucumbers, we can't get enough of you. I think this calls for a quick fire round of fast and simple cucumber recipes that will whip through your glut very pleasurably, don't you? Right then: Cucumber Water. 'Pickled' Cucumber and Salmon Tartare. Henricks and Cucumber. Cheers!
Poor herbs. Ever the bridesmaid, never the bride. Stuck on the side of a cheap plate of pub grub and insultingly referred to as 'garnish'. They don't even get a space in the allotment. Instead, I dot them around the flower beds in whatever gap I can find and leave them to fend off the onslaught of geraniums un-aided. Never the star of the show. Always the support act. Poor herbs. Well not today. Despite the neglect, the herbs absolutely love this weather and are thriving to the point of glutting. There are handfuls of them. Too many for a mere garnish. So today they take centre stage as the main ingredients in two new dishes: Herby Oatcakes and Lemon Balm and Lemon Thyme Sorbet
My neighbour's vegetable patch is sinfully fecund. Everything is cropping on time, with abundance and perfectly unscathed by bird or beast. We, on the other hand, have zippo in our allotment. In this climate, even the kindest gesture fans the flames of my covetousness. For example, my neighbour very generously, though not without a hint of smugness, offered me some of his strawberry glut the other day. Given that my strawberry patch is weeks away from harvesting, I swallowed my pride, thanked him graciously and hoofed it with a good two kilos of strawberries. Only one thing could come of this: Strawberry Afternoon Tea on the Lawn...
Some friends of mine came over to play in the kitchen yesterday afternoon. They are 10 and 8 years old and both demon cooks. Their favourite foods are French onion soup or sushi, they can bake a mean cake totally unaided and last time I went to their house they served a pre-dinner juice in passionfruit casings with umbrellas…. So now you can understand the proficiency of palette I’m dealing with. Frozen pizza and a Walls ice-cream would not cut it with these ladies. We spent the afternoon preparing a lavish supper for ourselves. The idea being that, having prepared a simple-yet-everso-slightly-chefy 3 course menu (below… we made a mess as you can see) with my occasional interventions and, I’d like to think, sage advice, they could go home and recreate it by themselves whenever they next hosted a dinner party (you’d be amazed what the under-10s get up to these days). […]
This week's glut of the week is a (smaller than hoped) bucket of mackerel, freshly caught on holiday in Lyme Regis. Making the most of twitchingly fresh fish means recipes like sushi maki rolls and barbequed mackerel. Plus, how to make perfect sushi rice and how not to get caught pretending you caught Sea Bream...
Mackerel caught at Lyme Regis. Recipes to follow soon
Ah radishes. The jewels of late Spring. Their shameless red skin against the dank, soggy soil: a beacon that heralds the imminent arrival of summer’s full show. The invigorating kick of heat that brings hope during the Hungry Gap. Quick. Easy. Tasty. There’s no downside to a radish. […]
From horror to hero: how to cook edible weeds like fat hen. This week I show you a weed souffle recipe
Copyright Wes West This past weekend I fed 80 people. Some of them more than once. I’m not a caterer. My mental arithmetic isn’t good enough. I shudder at the thought of rented crockery. I pale at the mere mention of long tables and stackable chairs. And yet here I stand, on a glorious Saturday evening, looking at 80 people sipping Pimms on a skin-kissed lawn and expecting to be fed in an hour. […]
My home brewed alcoholic Lovage Cordial.
“Oh you simply have to grow it”. The cliched phrase from every kitchen gardener. Perhaps even a “oh heavens, the stuff you buy in the supermarket doesn’t even compare to the home grown version” from the more sanctimonious. And yes, most home grown produce tastes far better than shop bought. But how much of that is the taste of smugness at having created such beauty rather than a genuine improvement on shop bought? What really is worth a cook growing themselves? I attempted, very subjectively and unscientifically I’ll admit, to answer this question when I gave a talk at the first Witney Food and Drink Festival last weekend and I thought I’d share it. So here’s my Top 10. Pay attention. Quiz and debate (heated I imagine) at the end: Hardy. Strong. Good doers over winter. Gorgeous as cheesy leeks on toast. […]
As we huddle in the staff hut of the Daylesford market garden*, warming our hands with chipped mugs of tea whilst watching the storm outside and wondering if that was it for Spring, the unmistakable smell of lovage wafts around us. It’s been harvested that morning and its pungency gets us wondering: what’s lovage for anyway? Overpoweringly fiery when raw, it’s too intense to be something you’d nonchalantly chuck in a dish for subtle flavour and a little colour. How could anyone use a whole bunch of it, let alone the field of the stuff that’s just been picked? And thus my challenge is set. I bring a bunch home. The smell lingers in the car, on my hands, in the fridge. But I will not be beaten. Google is no help. Apart from soup (yawn) there is some talk of an alcoholic cordial made with lovage (more of which later) and the only other option I find is a soothing lovage foot soak (here should you need one). I do discover that it’s been cultivated since Pliny’s time, so someone must have found good in it. I decide to pair its distinctive aniseed notes with some of my favourite things – booze, cheese, biscuits. Here’s the result: Lovage curd cheese: […]
The interweb wires of Britain are alive with the joys of rhubarb this week as food blogs the land over experiment with cyberspace's collective rhubarb glut. After by rhubarb-induced giddiness last week, I'm [...]