She has this off beat twitter/blog party cum quiz at Christmas which she terms #12dcp
Its about the 12 days of Christmas. There’s playlists on spotify, interesting tales, tough questions and requests to share stories.
Its all good fun. Mostly.
Anyway this year on Day 5 she posted about the 2012 Olympics and sport in the UK and challenged us thus:
So my challenge to you today is to make an Olympic pledge, if you live in Suffolk you can learn more here. Not sure if there are similar pledge sites in other counties/countries. But even if it is to walk a mile a day can you commit to something in the lead up to 2012?
Well with the Olympic site only a couple of miles from me (although we aren’t a borough that is hosting any events) I think definitely need to pledge to do something Olympian…. I shall return later with details of the pledge…so right now I’m erm pledging to pledge :S
After much thought my pledge is to do 2012 miles by the Olympics either walking, cycling or swimming in any mix that takes my fancy so long as I do 2012 miles. If I do it on foot that just under 4 miles a day. compared to now thats challenging but not impossible. Wish me luck
So here I am on the brink of something foolish/epic/Olympian/painful …who knows
Here is some footwear I hope is going to help me on my way….
Last week I took part in Dan of Food Urchin’s dinner blogging challenge (called ‘Where’s my pork chop?’). Basically I cooked him some dinner and in return I got, well these:
There’s loads of potatoes, beans and courgettes hiding under the kale
I’m going to be blogging what I cooked for Dan in a separate post so check back for that in the next few days. Here I want to tell you some of what I’ve done with the veg so far.
Dan had been down to his allotment bright and early on the day of the swap and picked me a selection of goodies in their prime. In the bag were charlotte potatoes, curly kale, green (French) beans, courgettes and COURGETTE FLOWERS ?. I’d been hoping for some of the latter as I’ve only tried them once before and they aren’t that easy to buy. We’ve tried to grow our own courgettes this year but we aren’t having much success so far (the first lot of seeds didn’t germinate) so I was particularly delighted with the flowers.
Of course as everything had been picked only a few hours before I took the picture above the veg were absolutely bouncing with freshness. I was pretty pleased with my haul and it really demonstrated how lovely and fresh veg can be when their distance from the ground to the kitchen is short. I now have allotment envy.
So what I have I done with the veg so far?
Well as recommended by Dan I did some of the kale with oil and chilli. I actually steamed it first then gave it a quick sauté in rapeseed oil and chilli flakes. It was really good, the kale still had a little bit of crunch to it and the chilli complemented the slight bitterness that is inherent in brassicas like kale. I’ll definitely try it like this again and venture out into varying the spice choice as well.
The potatoes are just brilliant. One of my gripes about potatoes is that its not that easy to get ones that taste of anything much but when you do WOW instead of thinking potatoes taste kind of bland and nothingy you realise they have an earthy sweetness all of their own. Dan’s potatoes hit the mark on this – I assume its because they were straight from the ground. So far we’ve had them simply boiled and also crushed and cooked with some onion. Yum.
The beans and the courgettes we’ve steamed and tossed in a little oil or butter – again when things are this fresh they can shine on their own. And the flowers?
Well searching in cookbooks, on the internet and tweeting all seemed to point to stuffing the flowers, dipping in a tempura batter and deep-frying. Hmmmmm. I’ve never deep-fried anything; I don’t own a deep fat fryer, I too vividly recall close calls with chips pans in the 1970s (and that safety advert they used to run) to suddenly think that deep-frying them is the way to go. I also don’t want to experiment with a new technique on my precious courgette flowers – imagine if it goes wrong…..after a bit more thinking and searching I decide to just have them fresh and perky as they are in a salad but I do go with the flavours that many of the deep fried recipes suggest i.e. fresh soft cheese and herbs.
I simply tore the flowers and tossed them with the rest of the salad (rocket, basil, lollo rosso, tomato, cucumber) before adding some of my favourite Buxlow Wonmil cheese and drizzling with a little oil. The flowers aren’t particularly strong in flavour but they add a both a different colour and texture to the salad. They are curiously soft yet slightly crunchy at the same time and a good addition. I guess if I get more flowers I might dare to experiment with deep-frying but for now I’m happy I stuck to adding my flowers to a salad. (Dan – more flowers please….)!
It’s a kind of recipes at dawn this, Chile Verde vs. asparagus tart, one blogger pitched against another. Masterchef without the cameras, or the publicity, or the random commentary, or the…….well almost any of it. Just a bit of fun.
You might remember back in early May I was ‘adopted’ by Karen over at ‘Karen Cooks’. We did a blogo-interview of each other to introduce our very different worlds and in the meantime I’ve been asking Karen lots of questions about food and blogging and incorporating things I’m learning into my blog. Anyway, we thought it might be fun to have a cook-off: each pick a recipe from the others blog that would be a bit challenging and new and then cook and blog it. We agreed that we mustn’t pick something too easy but also we aren’t to email back and forth to ask for guidance if we get stuck, we’ve got to make our own judgements on how to substitute things. No winner, no loser just some fun.
But as soon as you start to think about it there’s lots of hurdles and tests.
Can you get all the ingredients? On the face of it I might have an advantage here: I’m in London, population 7.55M, over 300 languages spoken and with 40% of the population from a non British background there’s a huge variety of influences and lots of shops selling all sorts of things from around the world (hopefully Chile Verde ingredients!). Karen meantime is in Havre, Montana, population just under 10,000 so maybe the food supplies will be more limited, or maybe not. I can see she’s tried lutefisk at the local church dinner so they aren’t short on interesting dishes/ingredients.
Havre, Montana (copyright Karen)
Do you even have an idea what the dish should taste like? Um no, in my case I don’t. I’ve picked it because Karen describes it as her second favourite Mexican dish ever and also she says that it’s so good you’ll taste it and think you’ve gone to heaven (well in fact the Imperial Valley in Southern California). Actually, come to think of it, I don’t even know anything about the Imperial Valley so how do I know I want to be transported there…..
And can you actually follow some one else’s instructions? Especially if you have to start to free form if you can’t find all the ingredients….
We’ll see, let the cook off commence!
Right to cook my recipe I need:
Here’s Karen’s ingredients (copyright Karen)
10 tomatillos – I’ve heard of these so surely they can’t be that hard to find….can they? I’ve no idea what they taste like and the web’s not much help. Mainly the consensus is sour tomatoes but then someone goes and says then can be quite mild and sweet. Helpful.
5lbs of boneless pork shoulder – ha easy! Britain is a veritable pork farm especially in nearby Suffolk and Norfolk. But hey 5lb (2.25kg) of pork! How many are we cooking for? Oh, right, Karen doesn’t say – maybe she had people coming over that day, or maybe it’s a great ‘make loads freeze it’ thing, but still, 5lb is a LOT of pork. Maybe we’ll scale back a bit on this. I mean imagine if we find that, for us, the Imperial Valley is more like hell and we don’t fancy a return trip, there’s now way I would want to end up with 10 portions languishing in the freezer.
2 tbsp of olive oil – at least I’m assuming that what Karen means by ‘2 T’ – anyway olive oil, yup, we’ve got plenty of that to hand.
1 tbsp chicken bouillon – again Karen says ‘1 T’ and she doesn’t say whether its powdered liquid or whatever. Well I’ve got cubes so they’ll do.
5 cloves garlic peeled –that’s nice and simple.
1 onion, coarsely chopped – another easy bit.
2 large jalapenos, stemmed and seeded – yeah easy, I’m sure I’ve seen them in the supermarket.
7oz can whole green chiles – hmmm can this one be hard, maybe, what exactly are green chiles? This will call for a bit of checking I think.
2 corn tortillas – ooo another easy bit the supermarket definitely has Mr ‘Old El Paso’ corn tortillas (Karen does kindly confirm my one question that its soft tortilla I need not nacho thingies).
So next it’s onto the internet to find out where to get my mitts on tomatillos and green chiles. A bit of rummaging tells me that green chiles are Anaheim chiles and you can get them fresh and canned, well you can, but there’s no fresh ones right now in the UK as its too early in the season. And cans don’t seem to be that easy to come by either. Ok so lets look for tomatillos. Again you can get them fresh but its way too early, they won’t be ready until at least late June and we’ve set a deadline of 16 June to post. There’s tins as well and I find that Cool Chile Co stock these and they have a stall at Borough Market – great its been ages since I’ve done a trip to Borough so that’ll be some fun AND I can go via there on my way to meet a friend for lunch AND Cool Chile do corn tortillas so I can pick up some of those.
Close to be being sorted I sit back and relax and do other stuff. How foolish of me!
On my next trip to the supermarket I check for fresh jalapenos and also look, in the somewhat small Mexican section, for green chiles. None of the latter and no fresh jalapenos either – had I imagined them in the past? There’s sliced pickled ones mind, so I might have to substitute with them.
But its okay. I’m going to Cool Chile at Borough market on 11 June and I’ll be able to make up lost ground. Yes. Well. That would be the case if the lovely RMT didn’t decide to call a 48 hour tube strike meaning its madness to go into central London unless you have to – is a can of tomatillos a ‘have to’ trip? Probably not, and as I’m in London on Friday (and the strike will be over) I might be able to pop by Borough then. No wrong again. I have to be somewhere before Borough opens (why does it only open at midday!) and there’s not going to be time to get there afterwards.
It’s getting rather close to the deadline.
Of course Borough is open on a Saturday but I’ve heard its mad busy and packed with people ambling and not buying, and I won’t even be able to do a smash and grab style shop as I don’t actually know where the stall is within the market. Although there’s a map its not that easy to read without a portable electron microscope……
My husband is now set on the idea of Chile Verde, however, and shuffles our Saturday plan around then packs me off to Borough to try to get tomatillos.
Tower Bridge, London, copyright Geoffrey Metais, from Fotolia
The tube journey is amazingly fast for once and from Monument it’s just a walk over London Bridge. Well just a walk through the thronging crowds of Euro tourists admiring Tower Bridge who’ve presumably come to take advantage of the exchange rate (and not just the views). I’m glad they are helping the battered British economy (and boy does it need some help right now) and they all seem to be having a lovely time in the sun admiring the views up and down the Thames, but I’d kind of prefer it they were splashing their Euros just slightly off my direct route to tomatillo buying. You can’t have it all ways so I do my helpful deed of the day when a couple of Irish lads ask if they are near Oxford Street and, having broken the bad news that they are way off target, I point them back in the right direction (like back on to the tube with very specific instructions).
Eventually I get to the market and plunge in through the nearest entrance, which, somewhat amazingly, brings me in pretty close to Cool Chile, and woo hoo they have tinned tomatillos. Ah, on closer inspection they prove to be giant catering tins containing 2.9kg (6lb 6oz) of whole tomatillos! Um, that’s a few more than I need. The lady says nope there are no smaller tins, they used to get them but can’t seem to anymore, they freeze well though. Right. I’ve never tasted them. I might not like them. I’ll have enough to feed a Mexican family for, well who knows how long. After some discussion we agree that I will cheat using the tomatillo salsa, it’s a normal size jar, its got a few other things in it, but it makes more sense and I won’t end up with stretched arms carrying it home.
I also find that they don’t do tinned green chiles but I am able to get the tortillas and some whole pickled jalapenos. Mission kind of accomplished I decide it’ll be nice to wander round the rest of the market and may be have a coffee from the wonderful Monmouth Coffee Store. About 2 seconds later I realise it can only have been the high of finding something that is vaguely tomatillo-y that made me think this. This market is PACKED with people ambling so slowly they are almost in reverse and there’s a queue at Monmouth coffee that is frankly, even if this ranks as one of London’s best coffees (and it does), more than any sane person could take. I make my exit and tube it home to a coffee there.
Next stop is the supermarket and pork shoulder; drat all the pieces are rolled and ready stuffed, Sunday roast style, with apple and sage – how annoying! I spy some cut as kind of chops with no extra adornments and get those, another search (thats 3 laps of the relevant sections) but no green chiles to be found at all so I go for green bell peppers and I’ll load the jalapenos a bit to balance things out. I spy a bottle of Mexican red wine (!) and decide that will be fun (or hangover material) and grab some of that.
Back home it’s time to get a move on and start cooking.
I’ve got 750g of meat (so 1/3 of Karen’s recipe). It’s hard to tell from her measures how much 10 tomatillos is so I just decide to use all the jar of salsa, 3 green peppers, 1.5 jalapenos, 3 cloves of garlic, half a small onion and 1 chicken bouillon square which I whizz together in the food processor to make the sauce. I cube the pork and cook it in oil to seal it (I do it in two batches, its easier) then in goes the sauce, stir it all round, bring it to the boil, turn down and simmer for four hours. Right now its just coming up to the 2 hour mark….so I’ll be back in while to tell you about progress.
With 30 minutes to go I’ve popped in the rest of the onion and the chopped up tortilla. I’m musing on what accompaniments to serve. The smell is pretty good so I’m hopeful it’s going to be a hit of a dish.
We served it with rice, guacamole, tomato salsa and refried beans – who knows whether that’s what you have it with but that’s what we chose.
AND THE VERDICT?
It was fairly hot, but I’m a bit of a chile wimp. I thought it was going to build up to something that had me mopping by brow with a tea towel but it didn’t, staying tingly but with the tartness of the sauce cutting through the heat to make it a really refreshing dish. The Mexican wine was pretty good too, big flavours and fruity.
So overall a 9/10. It was delicious ? and in fact I’m regretting not getting the catering can of tomatillos after all because this is a definite big addition to my cooking.
Wonder how Karen’s doing with the asparagus tart…..
Yesterday when I was catching up with posts on a few of my favourite blogs I spotted a pasta blogging event that Mangocheeks at Allotment2Kitchen was taking part in. So I followed the links and ended up at Presto Pasta Nights, which this week (PPN #117) is hosted by Katie at Thyme for Cooking. The concept is that you blog about a pasta dish (well anything that has pasta or noodles in actually) and as pasta is one of my favourite quick dishes I thought it might be fun to take part especially as I had pasta for lunch on Monday from a mixture of things lurking in the fridge.
As I work from home quite a lot I get to rustle up whatever I fancy each day from whatever I can see in the fridge. I don’t often buy things specifically to use for lunch but instead muddle through with whatever I can find from leftovers and store cupboard basics. Its fair to say our cupboards and fridge are fairly well stocked so it not often that I struggle to make something tasty, but I do tend to really on pasta, salads and open sandwiches a lot.
On Monday the fridge yielded:
some cooked garden peas and new potatoes leftover from dinner the night before
the remains of a bunch of asparagus that had got hidden behind something else so it wasn’t in top form any more but still edible
some fresh tarragon pesto that was dangerously near its use by date
the last of a chunk of parmesan
So I headed to the cupboard and dug out the current pasta shape (some De Cecce Tortiglioni) and cooked it as per the packet instructions. I steamed the asparagus above the pasta for about 7 minutes and then cut it into 2cm lengths. Once the pasta was done I drained it, put it back in the pan and stirred in a couple of spoonfuls of pesto, and tossed it with the asparagus, peas and potatoes (cut into 1cm dice). Into a bowl with a good grating of parmesan on the top and there was my lunch. Maybe 15 minutes from fridge to table – not bad.
Note: The fresh pesto was Purely Pesto. I’m going to be doing a producer review soon so watch out for that.
Since Wednesday I’ve been trying to live a more local existence on the food front. The challenge I set myself had 4 parts to it and centred on using up things I already had in the store cupboards, buying local produce, thinking about the provenance of what I ate and trying not to nip to the supermarket in the car unnecessarily.
So how have I been getting on?
Well I’ve not even been taking a hard-core approach to this i.e. only eating local produce yet its tougher than I thought. You get set in certain ways and habits food and shopping wise and breaking them takes some effort. I thought I was pretty good in my choices already but I can see that I can be much better. I can also see there are some other issues with only eating local, such as a hugely restricted and potentially dull diet (especially if it was winter) plus how can you unravel the centuries trade around, say, coffee, spices or chocolate (even if you wanted to) without having an enormous impact on global trade and the communities that produce them. The birth of global trade and its imperialistic history may well be something to be apologetic for but equally we can’t just halt it without considering what this would do to those who livelihoods depend on it. We can work for a fairer ways for this trade to operate (and I know many of the initiatives are deemed flawed but they at least acknowledge that things need to change) but I don’t think we can just stop altogether.
I managed to stick to eating from the store cupboard and not going on a supermarket or food only trip in the car. I didn’t manage to only buy things from the area I had defined, partly because the labelling is not always good (it often just says grown in UK, sometimes it does give the region), partly because I had three business meetings where I had very little control over the food or drink on offer and also because I only managed to find two English wines on sale despite this being English wine week! I also learnt I have enough food in the house to survive a siege…..and that making your own bread is good fun and a lot tastier even when it doesn’t go quite right.
So here are the things I had, I’ve noted new purchases in brackets:
Not at all local (can i ever eat them again!):
Mint and other fruit infusions (need to find a UK grown versions or use fresh from garden when possible), avocado, Serrano ham (have tracked down a few UK air dried hams), cheese – Parmesan, various Norwegian cheese. I had one truly local cheese from Suffolk as well; I can probably switch to almost 100% UK cheese going forward but would only have about 5 choices if I stuck strictly local. Cashews (oh but I love cashews there’d not be many nuts on a UK based diet – cobnuts and walnuts mainly), coffee, chocolate (imagine a future with neither chocolate of coffee……..), white tea, tinned tomatoes, spices, dried pasta (I could make my own as often as possible), chick peas, butter (Danish!), black pepper, sugar. Flatbrod, chorizo (I’ve now found a local supplier hurrah), lamb salami, Spanish wine (Rioja), white wine from Chile, cassis (looking for a UK producer), rice – risotto and basmati
Within my local area definition:
Filtered tap water (mind you I don’t know where it comes from do I?), pork meatballs, rapeseed oil, fresh herbs (from the garden), paneer (yes it was made in Leicestershire) – new purchase. Maldon salt, cider (bought), mushrooms (bought), bacon, sausages (bought), mince beef to make burger (bought – this and sausages from a good farm shop I have found). Mayonnaise and ketchup – both locally produced but might not be completely locally grown. Salad leaves (bought), homemade stock, asparagus.
From the UK but not specifically local or not known if local:
Cauliflower, spinach (bought), baby turnips, tomatoes (local ones not yet available these were IOW), yoghurt, flour and yeast to make bread (I know I can find local alternatives for the flour and will be switching). English wine (from Kent), frozen broad beans, Worcestershire sauce.
Not bad but not an outstanding performance – lets see how things go for the next three days. I’m thinking the bigger challenge will be to keep making the right choices after the seven days are up.
It’s a vegetarian challenge, I’m no vegetarian but I do like a bit of a challenge.
One of the things I’m finding so great about food blogging is checking out the other food blogs and from that getting the grey cells moving to come up with new ideas or remember forgotten favourites. Suddenly lots of ideas come together and you want to try something different.
This months ‘No croutons required’ has an extra twist – its been Holler’s birthday and so along with the soup or salad (based on tomatoes this month) we also have to come up with a birthday dinner menu for Holler – fortunately we don’t have to cook and test the whole lot together – though I’m thinking it might be wise to at least have tried the rest of the menu before?
This is (very) loosely based on the Tuscan soup Pappa al Pomodoro.
First some tips and WARNINGS!
We are actually going to be smoking the tomatoes with a smoking mix of rice/tea/sugar so if you don’t like smokey foods forget it now. If you’d like to go an adventure with me hop on and keep reading.
Once the smoking thing gets going it really does make the house smell, well pretty smokey, so ideally do this in the garden, on a camping stove, on the gas ring of your fancy barbeque any heat source you can find. If not open all the windows, shut internal doors, put the extractor on max and hope for the best.
The smoke, as well as creating tasty smoked tomatoes, will get all over the pan/steamer you use so don’t use your best/favourite pan as its takes a lot of effort to clean up. Use a non-stick wok if you can and one of those cheap(ish) bamboo steamers. If you have a smoker use it (not them).
If you don’t like smokey or chargrilled foods you won’t like this – stop now make something else.
Be careful where you put the steamer down post smoking; don’t make an impossible to remove mark on your new work surface like I once did ?
Ingredients (for the smoking bit):
½ cup rice – don’t worry what type – I used basmati
¼ cup tea – whatever you fancy, the stronger the tea the stronger the flavour – I used Darjeeling
2 tbsp soft brown sugar (I think its this that makes a lot of the mess)
6-8 ripe tomatoes – medium size
Mix the first three ingredients together – makes about 1 cup of smoking mix.
Get a piece of foil about 3cm bigger all round than the base of the pan you are going to use. Fold the edges up, tip in the smoking mix, pop it in the bottom of the pan.
If you want to skin the tomatoes then nick the skin in a cross on the bottom, plunge in just boiled water for about a minute, remove and peel off skins. I can never be bothered to do this but it’s your call.
Put the pan with the smoking mix on the heat, cover the pan and let is start to generate smoke – about 5-10 mins to get a good flow.
Put the tomatoes on a piece of foil bigger than the steamer and fold up the edges but don’t cover the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in the steamer.
When you’ve got a good amount of smoke then pop the steamer on top of the pan containing the smoke mix and smoke for up to 15 minutes depending on the intensity of smokiness you fancy – we did about 10 mins.
The tomatoes will have cooked and let out juices don’t loose these they go in the soup.
For the soup (2 as a hearty lunch, 4 as a starter):
the smoked tomatoes (as above) – use as few as or as many as you like to adjust the smokiness of the soup
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pint vegetable stock (made with bouillon powder is fine)
4oz dried pasta, either small soup pasta, or whatever you have broken into smaller bits (I used linguine snapped into smaller lengths)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Gently sauté the garlic in about 1tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes but don’t let it go brown and bitter
Add the smoked and tinned tomatoes and squish them around to make sure they are in smallish pieces
Add the stock
Add 1 sprig of rosemary stripped from the stalk and roughly chopped
Bring it all to simmering point then add the pasta
Simmer for 10-15 minutes so its all warmed through and the pasta is cooked
Serve garnished with a small sprig of rosemary
And the taste – well it was pretty smokey. I liked it but Ian wasn’t convinced (which is odd because he’s usually a fan of smoked foods). I think if I did it again I’d smoke the tomatoes for less time, maybe use a very subtle tea – although Darjeeling isn’t usually though of as a strong tea the flavour after 10 minutes of smoking its pretty intense, and perhaps use fewer of the smoked tomatoes saving the others to make a bruschetta or toss in a salad.
As for the rest of the menu….
Chick pea pancakes with wilted greens and fresh soft cheese: I’d use the recipe in my Spicy chickpea pancakes post but omit the chilli, ginger and cumin seeds and add lots of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley instead. I’d wilt a mix of the nicest looking greens I could find probably spinach, kale and wild garlic for preference, pile these on the pancakes and add some lovely fresh soft cheese cut into slices (ideally I’d get some Stichill or Crowdie but any nice goats cheese would also work well) and then fold the pancakes in half and serve with some steamed leaks and purple sprouting broccoli.
For desert there’d be my Rhubarb and pink ginger ice cream, with a dash of stewed rhubarb and a little cream poured over so it freezes on the ice cream in the way I loved so much as a kid.
I’m thrilled to say that I WON April’s ‘No Croutons Required’. I don’t usually win stuff so I’m quite excited and am going to be proudly displaying the winners badge in my sidebar
Thanks to all who voted, and for all the comments.
I’ve been blogging now for a couple of months and I’ve been looking at some of the other food blogs out there to see what goes on in the food blogging community. I noticed that some bloggers run ‘events’ as part of what they do and I thought it might be fun to join in now that I’m starting to get used to (or possibly obsessed by) the whole blogging thing.
Early on I’d seen the ‘In the bag’ monthly event that is run jointly by Julia at ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie’ and Scott at ‘Real Epicurean’ and was disappointed to have missed out on the January deadline; then I got so absorbed in playing with my blog, adding (and subtracting) widgets, reading Blogging for Dummies, checking out other blogs – you all know how it is I guess you’ve been there too – that I didn’t spot February’s ‘bag’ until it was so close to the deadline I knew I wouldn’t have time to think something up.
So as not to miss out again I watched closely for March’s bag to be announced and then got to thinking about what I could do with these three ingredients (leeks, cheese and eggs) which feature frequently in my cooking but, I immediately realised, rarely in one dish.
So off I went to do some researching in my various cookbooks.
As leeks seemed to be the key ingredient I started by looking for different ways with them that also used both eggs and cheese (for this first attempt I didn’t want to drop one of the ingredients even though you are allowed to, that seemed way too easy). There were plenty of choices with leeks and cheese and a few with leeks and eggs but little that combined all three beyond the inevitable leek and cheese flan/tart/quiche – delicious but very obvious – I was hoping for something a little different and also a dish that could perhaps become a new favourite in my cooking.
I did spot a leeky Welsh rarebit recipe in Hugh F-W’s River Cottage Year that looked rather tasty but decided it felt a little too much like a hearty winter dish and I wanted something that would work well as a fresh and light spring dish. I was also reminded how versatile leeks are, its so easy to fall to just steaming them and serving as a side dish when with a little imagination they could shine in their own right.
Some of the ideas that I toyed with along the way but discarded were (some of my general sources of inspiration are shown in brackets for those who want to pursue any of these):
With pasta in a kind of vegetarian carbonara style or with homemade pasta (using the eggs) and a leeky cheesy sauce (any Italian cookbook will help).
As a kind of French onion style soup with a nice melted cheese crouton (I think this was from a Jamie Oliver book where he does a three types of onion soup – I think its Jamie at Home but can’t seem to locate it right now – sorry).
In a risotto (any Italian cookbook).
As a gratin….
And so it went on – lots of fun delving in recipe books, finding great ideas, discounting them because they either didn’t use all three ingredients or they didn’t seem to fit with the fact the weather was getting wonderfully spring like. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be submitting again this time…….
in the chapters devoted to March and April (with wild salad leaves, with sorrel, with spinach and prosciutto). Something started to stir – I really like frittata and other similar styles of omelette and I often cook one with a delicious fresh cheese called BuxlowWonmil that I get when I’m in Suffolk.
There wasn’t going to be chance to get any of that particular cheese for this dish but I did want the refreshing tang that it has, so goats cheese seemed a possibility and thinking back to the leeky cheesy rarebit that I’d liked the sound of I remembered that Waitrose stock a Welsh goats cheese (Pant ysGawn) that would fit the bill. I was beginning to feel like I might be in business. A spring frittata made with good British ingredients to be served, hopefully, with a side salad of early spring salad leaves (I was really hoping for some sorrel as I’d spied some in the herb section at Waitrose recently)
So off to the supermarket this morning to get the ingredients (sadly there isn’t a farmers market near where I live other than going into London to Borough market, which I love but rarely have time for, hence a huge reliance on the local Waitrose.). There was no sorrel left but I did find some English watercress and had to settle for some French lambs lettuce as none of the leaves seemed to be English just yet. So here’s the recipe.
For 2 as a light lunch you need:
4 medium eggs (organic for preference)
½ – 1 Pant YsGawn goat’s cheese (I used a whole cheese but see later) – or other fresh tangy soft cheese
1 slim leek
freshly ground black pepper
Salad leaves of your choice
Make sure the grill is on and warm before you start
The Leek: Top and tail the leek and cut into chunks about 1 inch in length then slice these into quarters, rinse the leek thoroughly to remove any grit and drain or spin in a salad spinner. Heat a little butter in an omelette or other shallow pan (of about 6-7” in diameter). Add the leeks and allow them to soften for a maximum of 5 minutes, you are aiming for them to retain some of their crunch.
The eggs: break the eggs into a bowl; add a splash of milk and some salt and pepper. As soon as the leeks have softened a little pour the eggs into the pan and allow to cook slightly. Draw in parts of the sides a few times to create a little fluffiness in the texture. Once you think you have a good base but the eggs are still runny for most of the depth then…..
Add the cheese, which you have crumbled or cut into small chunks. Cook for a little longer and then pop the pan under the grill (be careful with the handle if its not heat proof) to cook the frittata from the top. This will take about 3-4 minutes if the grill is hot.
Remove from the grill and allow to cool slightly, slice and serve with your chosen salad leaves.
I was pretty pleased with the result, the leek flavours showed through well and they were soft enough but still with some bite, the cheese contrasted with them nicely and had a good tang and the salad leaves (dressed with just a little extra virgin rapeseed oil) made for a nice soft balance. I think probably the whole goats cheese was a little too much as the egg flavour was a bit lost so when I make this again I’d probably scale back to ½ of the cheese.
I really enjoyed the whole ‘In the bag’ challenge; it made me think about some ingredients differently, gave me chance to read lots of recipe books and generated lots of ideas for ways to have leeks that I’d either forgotten or not thought of before.
So I’ll be looking forward to whatever is ‘In the bag’ in April.