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Sunny meals in the garden

We British are always talking about the weather, it seems we are unable to have a conversation with anyone without mentioning it.  So here I am, talking about the weather – but what incredible weather it has been this past week!

Mr Rigg is convinced this is our summer, last year March was stonking hot, this year maybe it’s May.  I do hope this isn’t the end of hot, sunny weather for the rest of the year, just a few more occasional weeks like this would satisfy me.

Mr Rigg and Buddy

Like everyone I’m sure, we’ve been out in the garden, down on the allotment, cooking and eating outside, and quickly getting in a tan in case this really is our one and only week of warm, cloudless skies.

Some of our many meals eaten outside (and some even cooked outside!) have included this new favourite pasta dish of prawns, rocket and sundried tomato paste…

Spaghetti with prawns and rocket

A rather scrummy and also new favourite omelette with colourful cherry tomatoes from our local farmer’s market, crispy Serrano ham, shavings of sheep’s cheese and snipped chives from the garden…

Cherry tomato and Serrano ham omelette

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Allotment barbeque

Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary, and having spent the previous 24 hours tucked away in bliss at the Inn at Whitewell, and with the gorgeous warm weather, we decided last minute to have dinner at the allotment.

Allotment dinner of new potatoes

We boiled up some new potatoes, got a barbeque going to cook the sausages and burgers, and Mr Rigg watered the vegetables.

Watering the allotment

It reminded me of how much I enjoy cooking outside with the challenge of limited gadgets and gismos to help you prepare your meal.  It reminded me of sunny evenings cooking market ingredients in the Loire Valley.

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Last week we had incredible fish and chips from a place in Didsbury called Frankie’s Fish Bar, but it left me feeling guilty that all I’d eaten for dinner was deep-fried fish and potatoes. 

So I was determined the following night to fill us full of vegetables, and this is what I came up with…

All the vegetables were English, although not grown by me.  There were new potatoes, boiled and tossed in lots of salty butter and black better.  Pink and white radishes sliced in half, asparagus spears and baby carrots blanched and sliced.

Broad beans and fresh peas shelled and briefly cooked in simmering water.  Lots of seasonal salad leaves, crispy bacon shards, and those gorgeous nasturtium flowers (bought from Waitrose, so delighted they’re selling edible flowers).

Not a lot of complicated stuff, just a lot of shelling broad beans and slicing.  But really delicious – I want to eat more of this sort of food over the summer.

Tonight we had to make something quick as Mr Rigg was heading out for a bike ride with Buddy.  So I made our favourite scrambled eggs on delicious Campanou bread (a French country style loaf) from Barbakan.

I boiled some asparagus, fried mushrooms in butter and added some pretty pink thyme flowers, before lightly frying the asparagus in the mushroom pan to give it a bit of glisten!  All on top of the scrambled eggs and soft bread it was lovely.

Last weekend we celebrated the fine weather with our first barbeque of the season (hopefully not the last!).  We had tiny buffalo koftas from Laverstoke Park Farm, asparagus, new potatoes baked in the embers, and homemade flatbreads.

This was a new adventure for us – attempting to make our own flatbreads - and I was desperately worried they would go all crispy, and not soft and doughy like I was hoping.  If there was anyone I was going to put my trust in, it was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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The other night Mr Rigg made us a delicious dinner of asparagus, mint and lemon risotto.  He found this great sounding recipe of Jamie Oliver’s, and although we did deviate from the recipe Jamie is always full of inspiration.

What did we do differently? 

  • Well, we cooked our asparagus in the oven like we did here
  • We cooked the risotto the way we normally do risotto, rather than learning a slightly different way. 
  • We added lemon zest as we were adding stock.
  • We stirred the sliced cooked asparagus and sliced mint into the risotto at the end.
  • And only added a spritz of lemon juice at the end to taste.

However, without Jamie’s recipe as a starting point I’d have never thought to combine asparagus, mint and lemon together in a risotto.  And you should – it’s divine!

Mr Rigg and I have had a lovely weekend with my family.  Yesterday before we left my mom and I made a delicious pasta dinner using green spring inspired vegetables.  Simply dreamt up with the ingredients we had.  Here’s how we made it…

Spring vegetable pasta

Feeds 2

2 small to medium leeks
Half a bunch of asparagus
Small bowlful of frozen peas
2 handfuls of shelled broad beans
2 spring onions
Long thin pasta for two
2 rashers of bacon (optional)
Parmesan to serve
Butter, olive oil, salt and pepper

Melt a generous knob of butter in a saucepan.  Finely slice the leeks and saute in the butter until soft.  You can also add a couple of teaspoonfuls of the pasta cooking water.  Season with salt and pepper.

If you are having bacon, cut it into small pieces and fry until crispy.

Put on a pan of boiling salted water and cook the pasta accordingly.  About 3-5 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broad beans and peas.  Slice the asparagus diagonally into small slithers and add them to the pasta, peas and beans to cook for a few minutes.

Slice up the spring onions and add to the leeks. 

When the pasta and vegetables are cooked, drain the water and tip the pasta into the pan with the leeks.  Stir well, add a little olive oil and season to taste if needed.  Add a little more butter if the pasta is a little dry.

Eat the pasta topped with crispy bacon and shards of Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Better looking photos thanks to the little sister’s camera!

Simple but so, so tasty!  Part of my attempt to eat as much seasonal asparagus as possible!

Asparagus and scrambled egg on bagel

Feeds 1

Asparagus
Olive oil
2/3 eggs
1 bagel
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and pop in an oven proof dish.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook for between 7-10 minutes until tender.  My asparagus came from Kenyon Hall Farm.

Cook the scrambled eggs your own way, or you could try ‘my perfect scrambled eggs‘ just omit the chives.  Be sure to use the best eggs you can get hold of – organic, free range, woodland, home laid – this will make all the difference to the taste of your scrambled eggs.  Mine came from Abbey Leys and were corkers!

If your bagel is super fresh from a deli or bakery (mine came from the Barbakan) you could just eat it fresh, sliced in half and lightly buttered.  If not, toast it before buttering.

Pop the buttered bagel on a plate.  Spoon over the scrambled egg.  Top with the grilled asparagus.

Mr Rigg ate his asparagus with a fried egg and crisp streaky bacon instead.  So many options!  All delicious!

As I mentioned previously, on Tuesday it was my birthday and Mr Rigg and I had lunch at The Victoria pub in Altrincham.  We have wanted to go and eat there for as long as we’ve known about it, but for whatever reason never been until this week.

We weren’t disappointed.  The pub serves dishes with a strong emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients.  We chose three starters/light dishes and sat listening to the Pipettes

What we ate…

Local Asparagus Muffin ~ grilled Cheshire/Lancashire asparagus served on a toasted muffin, topped with a poached egg and creamy hollandaise sauce.

Gorgeous fluffy muffin, tasty asparagus, a runny golden yolk and buttery hollandaise sauce.  I could have eaten this dish over and over again.

Sarsaparilla Glazed Belly Pork Ribs ~ Meaty pork ribs glazed in an orange and sarsaparilla sauce served with chunks of bread for mopping.

This was more Mr Rigg’s choice than mine – I did try a mouthful and the glaze was delicious.  Any menu that includes ‘bread for mopping’ is five star in my opinion!

Seared Mackerel Pikelet ~ Pan fried mackerel fillet, served on a toasted pikelet with a pickled walnut and rocket salad, with herb dressing.

A real surprise – I wasn’t sure about this dish when I first saw it, but the flavours were heavenly.  A toasted pikelet and soft mackerel with herby dressing and pickled walnuts.  I’d never had pickled walnuts before but they were scrumptious with the rest of this dish.

I was also equally tempted by their battered fish butty with tartare sauce and chunky chips.  We will be going back for one of these.  My only complaint?  Too much parsley.

If you live near to Altrincham or are visiting I would highly recommend a visit to The Victoria.  A lovely atmosphere, delicious and inventive dishes and ‘bread for mopping’!  Oh, and you can’t miss it – the whole building is painted mint green!

It is asparagus season and I’m planning on eating as much of it as possible!

Last night we made a sort of carbonara with asparagus and streaky bacon.  I say ‘sort of’ because we aimed to use eggs…and then discovered we had none. 

Instead, dinner was salvaged by a combination of creme fraiche and tallegio cheese.  Together with oven baked asparagus and crisp shards of streaky bacon it was a match made in heaven.  The tallegio provided a wonderful silky texture which was like that of egg yolk.

Asparagus and streaky bacon spaghetti

Feeds 2

Bunch of fresh asparagus
3-4 rashers of streaky bacon
Spaghetti for 2
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Piece of tallegio cheese, cut into small cubes

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Snap the woody ends of the asparagus – they will break naturally.  Pop them into an oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil, scatter over some salt and pepper and if you’d like some lemon thyme leaves.  Put them in the oven for between 5 and 10 minutes – remove when tender.

Meanwhile, put the spaghetti on to cook in boiling salted water.

Snip the rashers of streaky bacon into small pieces and fry in a hot pan until crispy.

Once the asparagus is cooked, remove and slice into smaller pieces. 

Drain the spaghetti, mix in the creme fraiche and stir well.  Add in the asparagus and crispy bacon, followed by the cubes of tallegio.  Mix well and eat right away.

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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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