Mar 292013
 

Puntarelle plants one month from sowing

How to grow Puntarelle

In my last blog post, I showed you how to use this versatile vegetable. As promised, I’ll tell you how to grow them in this post.

We found these very easy to grow last year even with all the rain and lack of sun.

If you’d like me to show you how to grow them,  please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:16
Mar 212013
 

Puntarelle Shoots as cut

Puntarelle are glorious to eat. This type of chicory is a versatile vegetable which you can eat raw or cooked. It’s also a doddle to grow. We grew it for the first time last year and it will be a firm favourite for the future.

You may see recipes for Puntarella, with an ‘a‘ at the end. However, to be precise, Puntarella  is the Roman Italian word for little shoot. So puntarella is one shoot,  and puntarelle – with an ‘e‘ at the end is the plural and means many shoots. We’re nearly always eating many, so the recipes use puntarelle. You may see the plant or seeds described as Cicoria (di) Cataglogna, Cicoria di Gaeta or Cicoria Asparago (asparagus chicory). As far as I can find out, the Cicoria di Veneto is a leaf only chicory like an endive and without the shoots. And some of the Cicoria Cataglogna seeds on sale are leaf only chicories. So be careful. In my next post, I’ll give you one UK source for the seeds for the right stuff.

According to Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, seeds of asparagus chicory used to be sold (in 1976) for UK growers by Thompson & Morgan. I’m told by Charlie Hicks (the über-costermonger) that puntarelle were grown in England 100s of years ago and used to be exported to Italy. Now he has to import them for the top chefs to use. It’s appears that we’ve lost the taste for them in this neck of the woods. Perhaps I can start a revival here. If you’d like to find out more about how to grow and cook them, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 08:52
Nov 202012
 

Harissa in jars

These are a blast for any chilliholic and will add a new dimension to the seasonings on any table. In the northern hemisphere, now is when we need to preserve green & red chillies. If you have a blender or food processor these couldn’t be easier.

Chillies and tomatoes are arguably two of the most influential culinary exports from South America where they originated. Traders took them to Europe, the middle & far east from the 16th century onwards. Their use is characteristic of many cuisines. Harissa & schug are similar to some of the original salsas & pebre of South America.

Tamsin’s tomatoes on toast with schug

They can be used virtually anywhere in your culinary repertoire. In soups or stews; as a rub on meat, fish & vegetables; spread on bread; as a dip, with hummus or felafel etc; or like a ketchup. On the left, the delicious snack my friend Tamsin made with the Schug I took as a present when we stayed with her & her family. Tamsin’s blog is a cracking read too.

Harissa is a Tunisian/Morrocan red chilli paste seasoned with spices. Some variations include tomatoes too, which round out the flavour.

Schug (zhug  or skhug)
is a Yemeni green chilli paste make with lashings of fresh coriander and seasoned with spices. There is also a red variant.

If you’d like to make these wonderful ingredients, please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:01
Jun 182012
 

Polyculture tarragon in polytunnel

My friend Emma has started Project Nosh to eat as many of the edible plants in her garden before she moves.

One of the plants Emma wants ideas for is French tarragon (artemisia dracunculus). The dracunculus in the Latin name means ‘Little Dragon’, perhaps referring to the teeth like shape of the leaves or its serpent like roots. I promised to blog a recipe for tarragon vinegar so that Emma could take the wonderful warm anise flavour with her.

To find out more about how we grow tarragon and for the recipe please read on. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 07:56
May 102012
 

Asparagus, tarragon and piave cheese tart

People have enjoyed the luxurious taste of asparagus for millennia. The Ancient Egyptians ate it. And it appeared in The Roman Cookery of Apicius in the late 4th & early 5th Century CE.

Asparagus seasonal right now but only for a short period. Also in season is the wonderfully aromatic, anise flavoured french tarragon. As with many things that are seasonal at the same time, these two ingredients make perfect partners. We grow both of these ingredients on the smallholding, so I had a ‘free’ meal in the making when paired with eggs from our chickens.

In this recipe I complemented these ingredients with some wonderfully sweet and full tasting, 24 month’s old, piave cheese. This is a cow’s milk cheese from a small area in Italy with the same name. I was lucky enough to receive some from my Twitter friend in Rome, Carla Tomasi.

The finished tart tasted really smooth, rich and special. The fragrance of the shoots, herb and cheese was subtle: our senses were gently stroked. We had the tart with new potatoes lightly dressed in wild garlic mayo and steamed brassica shoots the first day; and with lemony cous-cous and tarragon marinated tomato salad the next.

If you’d like to know how to make this tart and see some tips for how to grow your own asparagus, please read on…

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:18
Mar 202012
 

Potato, parsnip and wild garlic pesto mash, wilted dressed chickweed & harissa seafood
This meal started off as one of those: “What do I do with these?” scenarios.

Debs had made a gorgeous parsnip, cinnamon and lemon cake with some of our over-wintered parsnips. It was delicious. I had one parsnip left that Debs had not been able to use.

And I had cleared a space in our big polytunnel for a new kiwi ‘Jenny’ and for our tarragon.  (How posh is that, to have a big and a little polytunnel?) The space for these had a huge clump of chickweed in it that we’d been harvesting for ages.

And, of course, it’s wild garlic time.

So I thought that the parsnip would make a really intense sweet/savoury mash with potatoes and wild garlic pesto. It did.

I gave the chickweed a good haircut. Then I just washed it, gave it a good shake and wilted a 2 litre pan full, covered and shaken for 2-3 minutes. I dressed it with my normal vinaigrette.

I brushed the seafood with a little harissa and griddled it on a very hot ridged griddle for about 4 minutes. I then turned the heat off and covered with a saucepan lid to leave it to cook in the residual heat and steam.

The whole recipe took less than 30 minutes to prepare and had a lovely contrast of colours, flavours and textures.

So the only thing for me to add is a recipe for wild garlic pesto. Read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:04
Mar 182012
 

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The first nettles of the 2012 season for us.

While the spaghetti cooks, gently fry garlic & anchovies in extra virgin olive oil. Then add nettles to the pan and cover till they wilt. Season with salt, ground black pepper and lemon juice. Mix through lightly drained spaghetti with a good handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

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 Posted by at 13:49
Mar 112012
 

I promised some more salad dressings when I wrote the Vinaigrette recipe the other day. I really looked forward to doing this post because mayonnaise this way is so simple and so spectacular. You’ll have great mayo in less than a minute. I hope once you have made this the first time, you will not feel the need to buy mayo ever again.

What’s more, it gave me an excuse to make a food-related video to show you how easy it all is. So it was lucky I needed some mayonnaise yesterday. It was to make into a wild garlic mayonnaise to go with some juicy prawns grilled with breadcrumbs and parmesan. I’m afraid there’s no picture of the finished dish because we ate it!

If you want to know how make this, wild garlic mayonnaise or tartar sauce, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:43
Mar 092012
 

Panzannella - winter bread salad
If you make or use much good bread, you’ll have bits left over that are a shame to waste. Sourdough is great for this because it lasts without going mouldy much longer than yeasted bread. So you can collect a little stash. The bread needs to be a few days old and dry or drying.

Many people know about the summer panzanella made with juicy & fragrant tomatoes. For this winter salad, I made the bread into crispy parmesan croutons and added some raw and roasted vegetables to make a big, punchy & pretty salad for a main meal.

52 week salad challenge bannerI was asked on twitter if it’s filling enough for hearty appetites. Well this made enough for three hungry gluttons with some left over for a lunch the next day.

This is an ideal way to continue to have salad through the darker parts of the year. It’s another contribution from me to the 52 Week Salad Challenge.

It’s a very simple recipe, read on to find out more… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 09:06
Feb 282012
 

Chipotle chillies and 81% plain chocolate

Chillies and chocolate are a classic combination. The spicy warmth & smokiness of the chilli combine perfectly with the rich, smooth depth of the chocolate.

I was prompted to develop a recipe by Choclette’s February I Should Cocoa Challenge. The challenge was to use chocolate in a savoury vegetarian recipe. I’d previously done a Challenge in April last year in producing my Hidden Hearts muffins.

I had some wonderfully fragrant chipotle chillies which are mexican smoked jalapenos that I wanted to use.

The resulting chilli is rich, slightly fiery and smooth. The beans & grains provide substance. It’s a pretty frugal meal too that you can make loads of and freeze or can the leftovers for later. I served this with some brilliant yellow corn bread.

If you’d like to know what I did, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 18:19
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