For everybody who has a kitchen garden or allotment there comes the question of what to do with the produce. Sometimes this can be a bit of a challenge; we all recognise that moment of ‘death by courgettes’ and the occasionally sinking heart that accompanies bringing back a basket of veg that has been lovingly nurtured but, unlike its smug blemishless supermarket cousins, needs some fiddly preparation.
Recipes below: Root Vegetable Korma, Mixed Greens & Puff Pastry, Risotto Prima Verde, Membrillo, Roasted Allotment Veg, Creamy Courgette Pasta Sauce, Blackcurrant Jam, A Gratin of Artichokes and Potatoes, Patas a Lo Pobre, Roast Vegetables with Rosemary, Roasted Tomato Sauce and Tomato and Basil Soup.
Nigel Slater’s Root Vegetable Korma
I was happily surprised to find that I had more than enough diversity of root vegetables remaining in the ground to fulfil Nigel Slater’s recipe for his root veg korma – on page 394 of Tender 1. He says that ‘despite instructions the length of a short story’ he can have this recipe on the table within an hour – well, it took me longer but it was worth it.
2 medium onions
A fat, thumb-sized piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1.5kg root veg – a mixture of parsnip, swede, carrots, and Jerusalem artichokes
6 green cardamom pods
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil, or butter
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
a cinnamon stick
2 smallish green chillies, depending on their heat, thinly sliced
150ml single or double cream
150g thick natural yoghurt
fresh coriander, chopped
Put oil (I used rapeseed) into a large pan and gently cook the onions, grated garlic and ginger. Grind and add to the pan the seeds from the cardamom pods, the cumin and coriander, along with the turmeric chilli powder, cinnammon stick and half the cashews, roughly chopped. Stir together, cooking gently then add the chopped vegetables – I also included a rogue potato I found in the ground – and season with thinly chopped chillis, salt & pepper.
Nigel then says to stir in 750ml of water, but I found this too wet so would next time add a couple of tins of coconut milk instead. Then leave to simmer gently until the roots are tender – about an hour I found. Carefully add the cream/yoghurt without allowing it to boil as that will cause it to become grainy. Nigel says to toast the remaining cashews and add with chopped coriander. I just chucked them all in whole without toasting and found it all delicious. Served with brown rice.
Mixed Greens & Puff Pastry
This is a very easy way to use up whatever greens you have available – for this I used red and white chard, spinach, beet tops, cabbage, sprout tops, curly kale and cavolo nero plus some mixed onions. You will also need good quality all-butter puff pastry, defrosted.
Start by removing any stringy veins but keep the chard stems and chop up small then gently saute along with chopped onion in butter with a dash of olive oil. Meantime, wash the greens and tear into smallish pieces – then either steam or add a cup or so of water and boil with the lid on for a few minutes (taking care not to boil dry).
Meantime, line a baking tray roughly with pastry and put in the fridge.
When the greens are just cooked, chop roughly and add to the onion/chard stem mix together with seasoning. In a jug, whip 3 eggs with a small carton of double cream and then add this to the veg, mixing well. Then just pour into the pastry and bake for around 25 minutes in a hot oven – until pastry is golden and crisp and the filling is firm to the touch.
Risotto Prima Verde
First pickings from the allotment make a lovely fresh risotto. For this I used a couple of new onions, mixed baby courgettes, a handful of baby broad beans, chives, some peas and young mangetout (golden sweet and shiraz). Plus vegetable stock, parmesan, olive oil and butter.
First, gently cook a couple of finely chopped onions in olive oil with a little butter until soft. Then stir in a couple of handfuls of rice (in this case carnaroli) and coat evenly.
Then add a good slug of white wine, enjoying the lovely sizzle and smell as it is absorbed into the rice – then start to add the warm stock, a little at a time, stirring well as you go.
Meanwhile, saute the sliced courgettes gently in butter with a little sea salt until they start to colour. After a couple of minutes, add the beans, peas and mangetout and cover so that they cook in their own steam – about 4 minutes.
Once the rice has absorbed as much stock as it takes to become beautifully mellow, sticky and cooked to taste, stir in a good amount of grated parmesan, season and then fold in the vegetables. I tend to add a final glug of wine at this stage and serve once it’s absorbed with a final flourish of freshly chopped chives and/or parsley.
For 2 kilos of quince – chop the whole fruits roughly and put in a large pan with about 300ml of water. Don’t worry about it discolouring as it will later take on a lovely deep reddish colour. Cover and leave to stew very gently for about half an hour or until the fruit is soft. Then pass it all through a sieve, keeping the pulp and discarding the remains (I gave it to the wiggly wigglers in my wormery – we’ll see what they make of it :0)
Weigh the resulting purée and for each 600ml add 350g of granulated sugar – carefully mix together and bring to a very gentle simmer. Be cautious as it is like boiling mud and will splatter dangerously! You need to keep stirring this mixture for about 45 minutes, or until it has reduced to the point where it has deepened in colour and comes away from the sides of the pan. Then pour into very lightly oiled containers or a baking tray. Leave to cool and set. It’s wonderful served with cheese, traditionally Manchego. Also very good in this Ottolenghi recipe for quince, stilton and butternut squash quiche (lots of Qs there!)
A mixture of green & white courgettes, long florence red & white snowball onions, chioggia & golden beetroot, all tossed in crushed rosemary, sea salt and olive oil – roasted for 40 minutes. Served with mixed grains and broad & french beans, purple and green, along with Golden Sweet mangetout, including a few peas where the pods were too stringy.
Creamy Courgette Pasta Sauce
The inevitable glut of courgettes prompted this creation, which is quick, easy and delightful in an understated sort of way. Start by chopping a large onion (this was one of my lovely pink Roscoff onions) and gently soften in 50/50 olive oil and butter. Meanwhile, grate a few courgettes – a good way of using up larger ones or those that are in danger of languishing in the back of the fridge…
Once the onions are soft, add the grated courgettes (you could also add a wee bit of garlic at this stage too, though I find the gentle sweetness of this dish enough without the temptation of any additions). Mix well and continue to soften – I tend to cover it at this stage, but you don’t have to. Just make sure it doesn’t stick or brown.
After 5 minutes or so, once the courgettes are slightly softened, add enough cream (I used double, but then I’m a bit of a piggy; single would be fine too, I’m sure) to fully coat the other ingredients, plus a bit more. Meanwhile, cook any pasta you like – here I used pappardelle – and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring gently. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.
It is exceptionally nice if you make too much and have it reheated the following day – the flavours seem to meld overnight.
What could be simpler? Just weigh however many blackcurrants you have (destalked but leave the little dessicated flowers), add to a preserving pan with enough water just to stop it sticking, i.e. cover the base of the pan.
Gently bring to the simmer and allow the fruit to collapse and release the juices. Then add the same weight of granulated sugar (no need for jam sugar as blackcurrants have plenty pectin) and boil hard until setting point, about 15 minutes (using either the ‘crinkle’ test, or with a jam thermometer from 102C). I also add the juice of a lemon, just to take the sweet edge off. Leave for about 15 minutes to cool slightly before putting in jars.
A Gratin of Jerusalem Artichokes and Potatoes
After eating some of the Vivaldi potatoes on their own with butter (heaven), the proportions of artichoke to spuds was just right to make a gratin. Start by lavishly buttering an ovenproof dish, then scattering finely sliced shallots (Jermor, very good this year) and elephant garlic followed by alternate layers of peeled and finely sliced artichoke and potatoes, each round topped by a generous scattering of thyme and seasoning.
When all the slices are arranged as neatly or randomly as you choose, carefully pour over rather a lot of cream (I used double, but you could equally well use single or a mixture of cream and creme fraiche) – until you judge most of the layers are well coated. Cover with foil and bake in a hot oven (roasting oven of the Aga, about 220C) for 45 mins or so. Then you can let it cool to use later, or straight away cover with finely grated Parmesan and bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes – until the top is golden and all thoroughly hot and cooked through.
Patatas a lo Pobre (Poor Man’s Potatoes)
Whenever I go to visit my sister Rachel in Spain, she always thinks it’s funny that my favourite food when we go out to eat is Patatas a lo Pobre, so-called because even the poorest peasants traditionally grew the necessary ingredients.
Now, based on information garnered from the lovely ladies at her local cafe Venta Maria, here is my version of this delicious dish. All the ingredients are from my huerto apart from the peppers. I had decided not to plant peppers this year as they had always previously failed – but with the warm summer they may actually have been viable this year.
I used Charlotte potatoes, but any firm waxy variety would do. Cut them into rough rounds and add to a large pan with a liberal amount of olive oil (more than you’d expect – more than for frying but less than to deep fry). I’m lucky to have oil from RayRay’s local co-operative, so somewhere in there is oil from her trees – which makes me happy.
Coat all the potatoes with oil, then cover the pan and leave on a low heat for about 10 minutes while you roughly chop onions and (any colour, to your taste) peppers. The amounts are entirely up to you, but the proportion that seems to work best is around double the potatoes to peppers and onions. The Spanish seem to use green peppers. I tend to use a mixture of colours.
As you can see above, I use a non-stick wok with a lid for this, which is ideal. On my Aga the simmering plate is just right. You don’t want the potatoes to fry but it’s nice to have some slightly tinged with brown.
Once the potatoes are at least half-cooked, add the onions & peppers with a good amount of freshly ground black pepper and quite a lot of course sea salt. Stir and check there’s enough oil to coat all the vegetables and still have some oil in the bottom of the pan. I find I often have to add a wee bit more oil at this stage. Then cover again and leave it all to cook over a low heat for about a further 40 minutes or so. It’s a very forgiving dish, so you don’t need to be exact about anything. The alchemy of this dish is the onion collapsing into a lovely sweet fragrant mush that complements the soft potatoes, deliciously infused with the other flavours.
Roast Vegetables with Rosemary
This couldn’t be easier and is a regular favourite during the summer – using whatever vegetables are currently available. Today this is a mixture of onions, garlic, courgettes, squash, white and red beetroot. Just chop into similar sized pieces, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with rosemary (slightly bruised to release the frangrant oils into the vegetables as they cook). Then liberally coat with good quality olive oil and roast in a hot oven (roasting oven of the Aga or 200C) for about an hour – until cooked through but not mushy. You probably need to turn once during cooking. I was lazy and just served this with a packet of Merchand Gourmet mixed grains, which is a perfect combination and extremely easy.
Just click on the pictures above to see them enlarged – the iPhone is a marvellous thing!
A Surfeit of Tomatoes!
So – what to do with a glut of tomatoes? Unlike the last 3 years when blight prevailed, the 2013 tomato crop has been stupendous. Leaving, of course, the problem of what on earth to do with those that you don’t give away. I’ve done 2 things over the past couple of days:
Roasted Tomato Sauce
First, roughly chop 4 large onions and a few celery stalks and place in a couple of roasting tins together with a handful of thyme leaves, a small piece of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped), a red chilli (deseeded and chopped) and 8 garlic cloves.
Then incise a small cross into the stalk end of your tomatoes (about 2.5 kilos), put them in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a couple of minutes to loosen the skin, then drain, remove the skin and cut into rough segments. Put these on top of the other ingredients, then sprinkle over around 2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar (preferably red) and a good slosh of olive oil (about 4 tablespoons). Liberally season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover the tins with foil and bake in the oven at 200C (roasting oven in the Aga) for about 45 minutes. Then peel back the foil and mix everything gently before covering again and returning to the oven for a further 40 minutes or so, until the vegetables have all become beautifully soft and luscious. You can then liquidise and keep to use as the base for tomato sauce or pizza topping – or use just as it is with pasta. It can be frozen.
Fresh Tomato and Basil Soup
This is amazingly easy and delicious. I use an ancient Thermomix for this – one I got on ebay, though my mother still has one that she bought new in the 80s and is still going strong. You can just use a normal pan to do the cooking, then blend at the end once it’s cooked. The only difference with a Thermomix is that it cooks and blends at the same time, making it very quick and easy.
To start, just sauté a few shallots in butter, then add tomatoes (I used all you see in the picture above – whatever you have left and in this case, as many as I could squash into the Thermomix bowl), two good stems of fresh basil (though dried basil would do) and season well with salt, pepper and an organic vegetable stock cube. Cook together for 10 – 15 minutes, then liquidise and serve with a swirl of cream and some fresh basil leaves. Yum.