I love the hearty stews, roasts and other comfort food we all eat in winter, but sometimes I get the urge for a good salad. Particularly post Christmas, when it is easy to feel one has over-indulged during the festive periods. It is good to get a bit inventive with winter salads, and I like to include things like julienned root veg, citrus fruit and finely sliced sprouts, but a few interesting leaves always help meld a salad together. Many gardeners grow salad leaves in summer, but far fewer grow them in winter. There are in fact many salad leaves that will grow in winter. Here a few to have a go with.
11 January 2017
8 December 2016
Herrings are a hugely populous fish, and are often landed at Channel fishing ports in winter. They usually swim in large shoals, so when caught are often caught in large numbers. They also deteriorate quickly. As a result, herrings are often preserved. Smoking - either as kippers or less commonly bloaters, salting or pickling are the common methods in the UK. Fermentation is also popular in Scandinavian countries. I love a good pickled herring, but I find the shop-bought ones a bit too sweet and vinegary. Better to do it yourself. If a good catch of herrings has come in at the fishmongers, I often pickle a whole batch of them. They keep well in the fridge, and make an excellent lunch or starter.
23 November 2016
Foraging used to be the preserve of dedicated enthusiasts and hippies seeking an alternative lifestyle. These days it is very much in vogue. Sunday paper supplements feature articles on wild ingredients. Any restaurant worth its salt will have at least a few foraged ingredients on its menu. So much so that professional foragers, usually wild-eyed men in disturbingly dirty boots, can be found lurking in restaurant kitchens as often as the more traditional meat, veg and other delivery guys. Foraged ingredients seem exotic and unusual, and it is easy to think that any foraging trip requires an expedition to the local woods or seashore. However, much like charity, foraging can begin at home. Or to be more accurate in the garden. There are many common weeds that are in fact edible. Weeding isn't my favourite job, but the prospect of free ingredients does make it more enjoyable a task. What follows are all edible weeds that I find growing in my modest urban garden.
4 November 2016
30 October 2016
Last year I planted a hop plant in the garden. Hops used to be a common crop in Kent and East Sussex for centuries until the late 1970s, when big brewing companies started using imported pelletised hops. I liked the idea of growing something that was such a part of the agricultural heritage of my part of the world. Hops are mainly known as an ingredient in beer. I wanted to see if they had other culinary uses. When I was a student I had a summer job working on a farm where they grew a few hops, and I had done a bit of hop picking. I remembered the amazing smell that hops had - a bit like an IPA beer, but much fresher - and wondered if I could capture that flavour in food.
21 August 2016
Agretto, also known as barba di frate, monk's beard, or by its latin name salsola soda, has become increasingly popular on restaurant menus in the last couple of years. It is native to the Mediterranean and has been eaten in Italy for many years. Texturally it is quite like marsh samphire. It has a fresh grassy flavour, with just a hint of iron-tinged bitterness which belies the fact that, despite appearances, it is related to chard and spinach. Although found on restaurant menus, it can be hard to come by in the UK, where I've never seen it for sale in any retail greengrocers. Last year I thought I'd have a go at growing some. I can't have been the only one, as the handful of seed merchants I found who sell the seeds had all run out. This year I made sure that I got my seed order in early. My experiment was successful and I found it grew very well.
|Cockles, agretto, lemon beurre blanc|
25 July 2016
Lamb is a pretty expensive meat these days. With the modern interest in slow cooking, once cheaper cuts like shoulder and shank command a similar premium to the classic roasting joints like leg and best end. The only really cheap cut of lamb is the breast, which is a thin strip of meat, about 2 feet long that is taken off the ribs and belly of the animal. Like pork belly, it contains layers of meat and fat, and if cooked properly can be delicious. I took the inspiration for this method of cooking lamb breast from Elizabeth David's recipe for lamb breast Ste Menehould in her classic book, French Provincial Cooking, paired it with some seasonal veg from the garden and gave it a modern twist.