15 February 2017

Seville Orange Possets

Citrus fruits are one of the culinary joys of winter. Their bright colours and zingy flavours bring a ray of sunshine to cold days and dark evenings. Seville oranges are a bitter variety of orange, available only for a few short weeks in January and early February. Seville oranges are usually used for making marmalade, but their culinary uses go well beyond preserves. Possets are one of my favourite desserts. They are easy to make, and can be made in advance if you have guests coming round and simply whipped out the fridge for serving. Possets are typically made with lemons, but work equally as well with Seville oranges, which give a nice twist to this classic dessert.

Seville oranges

11 January 2017

Winter salad leaves

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.

8 December 2016

Pickled herrings

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.

Pickled herrings

23 November 2016

Garden foraging - a brief guide to edible weeds

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

Which tomatoes should I grow?

One of my favourite vegetables to grow is the tomato. I love the smell of the plants, the excitement as the first tomatoes start to ripen in high summer, and most of all the great taste - so much better than supermarket tomatoes. Each year I grow a number of varieties. I like to have a good range of colour and sizes, particularly for salads. I also like to grow some tomatoes that are particularly good for cooking. I thought I'd share my views on the varieties I have grown over the last couple of years. I'm always interested to hear from people what varieties they have had success with, so feel free to add your comments.

tomato harvest

30 October 2016

Culinary adventures with hops

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.

Hops

21 August 2016

Growing agretto and a recipe for agretto with cockles and lemon beurre blanc

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