Archive for March, 2010

Sunshine and showers

Well it had to happen, didn’t it? After banging on last week about how spring had arrived, it proceeded to pour down for most of the week. Ah well, it was to be expected in rainy old England. However the sunshine did manage to poke its head through the clouds for a little while today, so I took the opportunity to wander out into the garden and hunt down any sign that better, warmer weather is on its way – after all, British Summer Time has officially begun and there needs to be something to make up for one hour’s lost sleep!



Last week, along with purple sprouting broccoli, I also received a bag of freshly picked wild garlic in with my Riverford delivery, which was a nice surprise. I have never cooked or even seen wild garlic before, so this was yet another journey into the unknown.

Wild garlic grows in woodland, near or among bluebells, smells of garlic (surprise, surprise), and has long pointed leaves and delicate white flowers. The flowers only blossom towards the end of the season, and are said to have a stronger flavour than the leaves, and are edible. Although commonly found in woodland, wild garlic can also be cultivated in gardens, but I have been told that once it is established, it is very hard to get rid of.

I’ve been thinking all week about what my inaugural wild garlic dish should be, and decided on a risotto, one of my favourite meals to cook. (I promise not all the dishes I feature on this blog will be of the Italian variety!)

I love the freedom that you have with a risotto – you can pretty much add any flavour combination you like. My favourite risottos are butternut squash, Gorgonzola and sage, and spinach, pancetta and Parmesan, but these are not quite in fitting with the seasonal theme, so they will have to wait for another day.

I decided to pair the wild garlic with a strong goat’s cheese; the selection of goat’s cheeses in the supermarket wasn’t amazing, but I found a mature goat’s cheese from Cornish Country Larder which was strong enough to do the trick. I find most hard goat’s cheeses readily available are quite bland, and I didn’t want it to be overwhelmed by the wild garlic.



Wild garlic has quite a strong garlic flavour (but still milder than bulbs), and is also reminiscent of the green parts of spring onions, and this complemented the strong, tangy goat’s cheese. The flavours worked really well together, and I would definitely make it again.
The flavours also work very well in an omelette with (not-so-seasonal) tomatoes. However, omelettes are B.’s department and he cooked them for our dinner – rather embarrassingly, I cannot make a decent one; they always end in disaster!
All in all, the risotto was a delicious, warming dish with a fresh flavour – just right for a sleep-deprived Sunday full of sunshine and showers.


Wild garlic and goat’s cheese risotto
Serves 3-4
Few glugs of olive oil
Knob of butter
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, sliced
300g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
Glass of white wine (optional)
1 litre of vegetable stock, hot (I used Swiss Marigold Bouillon)
2 large handfuls of wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped
150g strong hard goat’s cheese

1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter over a low heat, making sure it doesn’t colour.
2. Add the risotto rice, stirring well to coat in the butter, then pour in the wine, if using. Cook for a few minutes to fry off the alcohol.
3. Add enough stock to just cover the rice, stirring continuously. Add more stock as it is absorbed for about 10 minutes (you should still have some stock left at this point).
4. Stir in the wild garlic, cook for a minute or so, then resume adding the stock, stirring continuously. Continue to add the stock until the rice is cooked, but still al dente. (I found I needed an extra 300ml of water).
5. Crumble in the goat’s cheese and heat until melted. Serve immediately, topped with a little more crumbled goat’s cheese.

New beginnings

After an extremely harsh winter, the first signs of spring seem to be appearing, and not a moment too soon. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to all the exciting produce that this season has to offer, and can’t wait to see what shows up in my veg box.

Spring is a time of new beginnings and, this being the first official day of the season, is the perfect time to begin my blog. I am lucky enough to work for a well-known food magazine as a sub-editor and writer, but this will be my personal space to talk about what’s in season, some ideas with what to do with the bountiful produce the seasons bring, and other food-related writing.

The recipes I post will be a mixture of my own and favourite recipes from well-known cooks and chefs – and all seasonal of course.

I live in the Surrey countryside with my boyfriend, B., and he loves food and cooking just as much as I do. We do most of the cooking together, so this blog is a joint project; although you will mainly hear from me, B. will always be in the background – and who knows, he may even make a special appearance once in a while.

Our kitchen is small, but we make good use of the space, and look forward to a time when we have a large, airy kitchen, hopefully with a Kitchen Aid. We receive a Riverford veg box each fortnight; we are quite adventurous and love trying new things, and hope that getting the seasonal box will help us explore even more new dishes.

Until recently we didn’t have a kitchen all to ourselves, so although we are enthusiastic cooks, there is still a lot for us to discover, even with everyday produce. Join us on our culinary journey, as we cook our way through seasonal fruit and veg (with the odd sweet thing, too).

I was excited to receive some purple sprouting broccoli in our veg box this week – it was more purple and had thinner stalks than the pre-packed type that I normally see in the supermarket. Although classed as a winter vegetable, it heralds the arrival of spring and the end of a sparse period on the fruit and veg front. Although I have eaten purple sprouting broccoli before, B. hadn’t, and I had never cooked it before, so this was an adventure for both of us.

First cultivated by the Romans, purple sprouting broccoli doesn’t need much cooking and has a much more subtle taste than its green cousin. It is a great addition to stir-fries and salads, and makes a fantastic side. However, I wanted to cook something where purple sprouting broccoli was the main event.

Despite the slightly warmer weather, there is still enough of a chill for me to hanker after something warm and comforting. I decided to do a quick pasta dish that I had been eyeing up for a while. Pasta with sprouting and cream from Nigel Slater’s wonderful book Tender Volume 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch is simple and speedy, and combines some of my favourite ingredients: blue cheese, crème fraîche and garlic.

The orecchiette pasta was surprisingly hard to track down (I eventually found it in a branch of Waitrose, sadly not my local one) but it was worth it. Meaning ‘little ears’ in Italian, this traditional Puglian pasta is the perfect shape for this dish and is often paired with broccoli. The sauce pools in one side of the pasta, and clings to the ridges of the other. Before today, I had actually never tried this pasta before, but I will definitely be having it again.

I cannot recommend this dish highly enough; the creamy cheese sauce had a tang from the Gorgonzola and a savoury note from the anchovies that complemented the purple sprouting broccoli perfectly. I couldn’t get enough, and I am not ashamed to admit that after polishing off the pasta and veg, I drank the rest of the sauce from the bowl (B. actually licked his!) – yes, it is that good. Normally I like to tweak recipes, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.

Overall, it was exactly what I hoped it would be: comforting, yet light and creamy, perfect for a sunny but cold spring day.

Pasta with sprouting and cream (adapted from Nigel Slater’s book, Tender Volume 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch)

 

Serves 3-4

250g purple sprouting broccoli

250g fresh (or dried) orecchiette

30g butter

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped

250g crème fraîche

170g Gorgonzola

  1. Bring two deep pans of water to the boil. Trim the purple sprouting broccoli; break into smaller florets, trim any dry ends or tough stalks but do not remove the leaves. Lightly salt the water in one of the pans and drop in the purple sprouting broccoli. Cook for 3-4 minutes until tender, then drain and set aside.
  1. Wipe out the broccoli pan and return to the heat with the butter, garlic and anchovies. Cook on a low heat for a minute or two until the anchovies have dissolved. Add the crème fraîche and Gorgonzola and cook on a medium heat, stirring continuously until the cheese has melted.
  1. Meanwhile, generously salt the water in the other pan and drop in the pasta. Cook according to pack instructions (about 5-6 minutes) then drain well.
  1. Add the cooked purple sprouting broccoli and pasta to the creamy sauce and serve immediately.