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This afternoon we popped down to the Walton Lea Garden Party in Warrington. We went last year and it’s always a lovely opportunity to go and enjoy their pretty walled garden and buy some gorgeous homegrown vegetables and fruit.
We had a nice wander round the walled garden whilst munching on teeny tiny cupcakes – literally a mouthful. I so enjoy seeing vegetables and fruit growing in such a beautiful old walled garden and going to the Walton Lea Project is almost like going to a National Trust garden.
Everything is looking a lot more parched and dry than last year what with all this steaming hot weather we’ve been having recently.
But there is some gorgeous vegetables – like these stunning onions, all of which are for sale in the shop…
There is also a lovely selection of bedding plants and some good sized fruit bushes (redcurrant, whitecurrant and jostaberry) for a very good price – I would like to come back and get a few for the allotment.
We came away with…a selection of yellow and green courgettes, a punnet of redcurrants (destined for the pot to make a relish to go with a bacon and brie sandwich Mr Rigg fancies) and a punnet of blackcurrants (possibly for blackcurrant cordial)…
They were out of blackcurrants when we arrived, so whilst we enjoyed a stroll around the walled garden, someone went off to collect us a punnet of them! Where else do you get service like that?!
And this gorgeous bunch of sweetpeas picked from their walled garden – and for only £1!
What could be prettier than a garden grown salad with radish flowers…
Making a ‘risotto’ with pearl barley is perhaps one of my favourite dishes. It’s lovely in every season and has a more interesting texture than risotto. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore risotto (Milanese or saffron risotto is my favourite) but a barley risotto is a more rustic version.
You make a barley risotto in the same way you would a normal risotto – softening some onions and maybe some garlic, stirring in the barley and adding stock. But this is where it differs: using risotto rice you would add a ladleful of hot stock at a time, stirring all the while, but with barley you can just bung in all the stock at once and leave it to simmer away.
So this is what I did. At this point, all you have is a pan of plain barley, softened onions and lots of stock. It depends on what vegetables you are adding to the dish as to when you add them.
For this one with its lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas, they are all quite delicate vegetables that don’t need a lot of cooking. So I added most of them in towards the end – the spring onions a little before the other veg so that they soften and lose some of their pungency – soft and sweet is what I want from spring onions in a dish like this.
Once all the stock has been absorbed by the barley – try it, it should still have a chewy bite to it – it’s ready to be eaten. I topped it with some chunks of ripe brie just for a bit of luxury. The heat of the risotto should start to melt the cheese and it begins to ooze and slide over the peas and between the barley grains.
This is ‘my recipe’ for it, sorry that there aren’t measurements or amounts. I use the same amount of pearl barley for two as I would for risotto – we use 3 oz per person. So for a meal for two, using 6 oz of pearl barley, I would cover it in about 500ml of hot vegetable stock – if you find it’s all been absorbed and the barley needs a bit more cooking, simply add a little more hot water until it’s done.
Better late than never – some images and a ‘how to’ for making a delicious dinner of wilted lettuce with broad beans and a ham omelette.
You cook the spring onions in a little butter, then add halved Baby Gem Lettuces to the pan before covering with vegetable stock.
To this you add pre-cooked broad beans and freshly podded peas, a little seasoning and let it all simmer together for a few minutes.
You can stir in a few mint leaves before serving, but basically that’s it! The full recipe is here.
It was recommended that this was delicious eaten with ‘old fashioned English ham’ so we ate this with a ham omelette.
I am feeling rather sorry for myself today. This morning when I was out walking Buddy, he started barking at another dog (he has ‘other dog’ issues) and knocked me over. I scraped my wrist and have taken all the skin off one of my knuckles – yuk!
I was very upset by the whole thing, but was comforted by my plaster…many thanks to Mr Rigg who bought me these for Christmas…(apologies that the plaster looks a bit tatty – I’ve been doing a mail out today at work)…
So my afternoon at the local food event was good. It’s always lovely to meet other people who are running similar projects, be inspired by others and generally network. I would prefer more ‘doing’ at these events and less listening – I come home feeling inspired by what I’ve heard, but I would have liked to do more group problem-solving.
The lunch I must tell you, was really miserable. Perhaps my work running community events and conferences makes me hyper-critical, but I would have thought that an event on local food should have a vibrant, seasonal lunch of local produce. The only obvious local produce was the apple juice (from Eddisbury Fruit Farm), but otherwise it was miserable beige food (read: soggy garlic bread with cold melted cheese) and a few token carrot sticks.
But enough of that, tonight I made up a delicious pesto using some slightly-too-old peas and a bag of sugar snap peas that were in desperate need of being eaten. I was also in real need of green, vibrant vegetables for tea.
Homemade pea and sugar snap pesto
So I quickly cooked the sugar snap peas and ordinary peas (that I’d podded first – possibly one of my favourite jobs ever) in boiling water. I allowed the sugar snap peas a few minutes longer, but really only let them turn a bright green before draining them and cooling quickly in iced water.
I popped them into my handy small blender, along with some walnut oil (thought I’d try something different), sliced mint from the garden, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. I whizzed it all up, added some more oil to loosen it, adjusted the seasonings to taste and hey pesto (sorry…it was too irresistable!) my pea pesto was finished!
After cooking the pasta, I added the pesto along with a splash of the pasta water and mixed it in. For an extra dash of colour, and in the spirit of using as much of my edible garden as possible, I added a few lilac mint flowers to finish it off.
This is not a powerful, punchy pesto like the basil version. It is subtle, with the sweetness of pea, the earthy nuttiness of the oil, and the savoury-salty flavour of Parmesan. Lovely, seasonal, and a great way to use up forgotten vegetables.
This afternoon I am heading south into Cheshire to attend a local food meeting at Reaseheath College. I am going with my local food hat on, representing my local low carbon group. It will be a chance to network with other likeminded individuals from around Cheshire and Warrington who are running fab local food projects or like me, aspiring to run them.
Meanwhile, I’ve just spotted a recipe for chocolate doughnut holes…they definitely sound like they should be made…
Image: Smitten Kitchen
I am getting a backlog of lovely posts that I want to share – overdue recipes for cooking with a glut of lettuce, two homemade summer drinks, and the last of what I got up to with the little sister (and more importantly what we were eating!).
However, for now I wanted to share this delicious garden salad we had tonight. I’m very proud of the fact that everything was grown by me from seed. This was a salad that I truly nurtured.
Here’s everything seconds after being pulled from the earth or cut…
Baby carrots – a type called Paris Market Baron that produces carrots that are fat and round. Perfect for anyone growing in rocky soil! And radishes – my favourite kind, French Breakfast, with their elegant long body and crisp white tips that gently blush to a deep pink…
Pretty spring onions – sorry I can’t remember what type they are!
Vibrant green Little Gem lettuces…
And my edible discovery of 2010 – that you can eat radish seed pods! A big thanks to Alys Fowler and her series The Edible Garden for opening my tastebuds to the joy that is radish pods. Simply leave some of your radishes to flower (or if you’re like me they do this out of neglect…), then the flowers turn into these elfin shaped pods and eventually fatten up. Eaten they – unsurprisingly – have a radishy taste…
After trimming the hairy roots from the spring onions, washing the dirt from the carrots, slicing the radishes into discs and arranging them all in a pretty dish this is what it looked like…
Look at this lovely picture the little sister took of my lovely bunny Borage…
Image: Izzy Burton Photography (the little sister)
She keeps changing her blog name, but hopefully now it’s sticking at this. She also took some lovely photos of deer at my local National Trust – Dunham Massey. She’s aspiring to be a pet photographer at the moment and I’m her biggest fan.