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Minestrone soup with ravioli

Life is running along quickly and already I’m begining to feel like I’m behind with sharing what we’ve been up to lately and more details on our trip to France.  I spent last night at Aspen B&B in Herefordshire and ate what can only be described as the best breakfast ever – Rob and Sally who run the B&B and passionate about ‘real food’ and so the breakfast is exquisitely sourced and prepared, plus if you want to talk food then this is somewhere you should book a stay.

What I wanted to share is a delicious meal we cooked last week, a simple vegetable minestrone with ricotta filled ravioli.  We have followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his Jamies Does… book which was lovely, but I had spotted this fancy sounding smoky minestrone with tortellini and basil pesto.

My way of cooking is often looking at an image of a plate of food, or reading a recipe, then making my version of it how I would like to make it.  So I never follow recipes like this very strictly.  We didn’t have bacon or pancetta in the house so I just skipped that, so really ours wasn’t a smoky minestrone, but it was damn delicious.

Minestrone soup with ravioli

I softened chopped onion and garlic, then added finely chopped celery, carrots and potato and let it cook a few minutes.  I also added some finely chopped red pepper that we had lying around in the fridge.  Next I added about a litre of stock (half homemade chicken stock we had left over and half organic Kallo veg stock), and about 5 or 6 vine tomatoes that I’d roughly chopped and a glug of passatta – this was instead of the tinned tomatoes.  I also omitted the chickpeas because I didn’t have any.

I brought this to the boil then let it simmer until the veg was pretty much tender.  I added two small finely chopped courgettes and gave it a few minutes, before adding the ricotta and spinach ravioli (bought I’m afraid, one day I’ll be able to claim I made it myself…oneday…) and some podded broad beans.  The final vegetable I added was finely sliced rainbow chard (rather than kale).

I seasoned with some salt (we are still using up a delicious pot of greyish salt brought back from France) to taste and ate mine with a large dollop of my favourite raw basil pesto.  Mr Rigg had his as it was.  The simplicity of ingredients seemed to create this incredibly delicate but flavourful taste – one of the best things I’ve made and eaten for a while.

Minestrone soup with raw basil pesto

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Broad beans, peas and crispy ham on bread

Ok, so I’m trying really hard to get our French trip written up, but there’s so much I want to share that I’m still working on it when I have the time.  It will come, I promise.  With it very damp and grey outside (and on Midsummer!) I wanted to share our cheerful, warm, sunny evening meal last night which we made and ate on our allotment.

This is by far my favourite thing to do at the moment – cook and eat at the allotment.  I wish moments like that would never end.  We wanted to recreate a meal we made in France, which was broad beans and beans tossed with crispy ham and loaded onto slithers of fresh bread.

Broad beans and peas

I adore the repetitive but satisfying business of podding peas and broad beans – some might find it mind numbingly boring, but I love it.  After they’d all been podded, we blanched them in a pan of boiling water over the camping stove and then quickly cooled them down was cold water.  Next I spent ages more slipping the broad beans out of their silvery green coats.

Cooking at the allotment

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May flowers

It has been a while since I shared any pictures of what we’ve been cooking and eating at home recently, so I thought I would look back through my albums and share some with you all.  Following on from my post about cutting out cheese temporarily for health reasons, this has now been extended to a lot more things, specifically wheat, sugar, and yeast.  It has been a challenge recently, but I hope I will get to the point where I am happy to share more with you.

So here’s some of the food we’ve been making and eating during April and May…

Sorrel, fresh garlic and white asparagus frittata

Sorrel and white asparagus frittata

This was inspired by watching an episode of Two Greedy Italians where they met an elderly lady who knew all the wild herbs and plants growing around her mountain home.  She picked some wild greens and made a kind of frittata, popping the cooked greens through a mouli first to remove the tough bits.

Sorrel and white asparagus frittata

I don’t think my sorrel had many tough bits, but being rather short in both supply and knowledge of wild greens, I wanted to try out the idea anyway.  It was great fun mouli-ing the sorrel and then mixing into my beaten eggs.

We’d not tried white asparagus before, but it was available in our organic grocery – I sliced peeled the outside, sliced them in half, blanched them and then laid them on top of my fritttata.  Topped with a dollop of raw basil pesto (this stuff is amazing and I live off it at the moment) it was pretty tasty.

Lemony garlic baked chicken with rice, asparagus and leftover aioli

Lemon garlic chicken and rice

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After much umming and aahing we finally decided to go crazy and get ourselves a breadmaker.  I have been scouring Amazon reviews and settled on this Panasonic one which we picked up this afternoon from the Trafford Centre.  We’ve never used one before, previously making bread with only pure muscle power and the oven, but have decided to go for a breadmaker for the following reasons:

1) We want to be able to control exactly what goes into our bread.

2) We want to feel less reliant on supermarket/cornershop bread in an emergency – i.e. when we realise there’s no bread for breakfast or sandwiches, we want to know we can set this going before bed and wake up with a warm loaf of wholesome bread.

3) We want to have some fun and try out some interesting bread flours, which ordinarily we might not have done – the breadmaker, in theory, will make it easier to do this.

I’ll keep you posted on our attempts!

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Tonight we are attempting to make gnocchi for a Jamie Oliver recipe with a stilton and pear sauce.  Jamie uses bought gnocchi but I’ve never found the supermarket stuff to be very good.  So I thought I’d give it a go – will let you know how it turns out.

Jamie suggests its best eaten in front of a movie, so with the wood burning stove on I think that’s what we’ll do.  Have a lovely evening whatever you’re eating.

Just made tonight – not yet eaten – a winter root coleslaw with a mustardy dressing.  I used a green kohlrabi, carrots, white cabbage, golden beetroot and Chioggia (pink and white stripe) beetroot.  All raw, just sliced thinly by hand and then cut into strips.

For the dressing I used up some creme fraiche and mixed it up with mayonnaise.  Then I added wholegrain mustard to taste – I wanted it quite tangy as it gets diluted the moment you mix it with the vegetables.  We’re having this for tea with a homemade lasagne – it smells delicious and I can barely wait!

These are just out of the oven, still hot and I can’t wait to get some Devonshire clotted cream onto them when they’re a little cooler and some homemade jam.  We’ve just spent a week in Devon and I only ate ONE cream tea – I’m gutted, it just wasn’t enough.

Today I have made my first attempt at vegan cupcakes, or fairy buns as I want to call them.  Fairy buns because I have made them mini, although they look deceptively larger in the photos – they are in fact made in petit four cases.

I have a good friend whose little girl turns 5 next week, and tomorrow she goes to a wonderful school in a small wood, set up by her mom. Sadly my friend is really unwell at the moment and asked if I could make cupcakes for her to take to school with her.

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Sunday was spent mostly dealing with this beast…

This is a Zucca de Marmellata grown on our allotment, seeds bought from Sarah Raven.  After doing a bit of research it seems to be an Italian variety often known as a jam pumpkin – funnily enough for making pumpkin jam.

In total this pumpkin weighed over 20kg – can’t quite believe it!  As you might be able to see from the top picture it had started to go mouldy in the centre, so we will have to ‘process’ the other pumpkin we have of this size soon.

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Do you ever see a photo of something and just desperately want to eat it then and there?  I’ve been trawling through old pictures of food we’ve made and came across this one of a fish finger butty filled with homemade tartar sauce…

Oh how I want to scoff the lot right now.  Maybe with a cheeky slice of plastic cheese that’s started to melt from the heat of the fish fingers.  Hmmm…

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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