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Mr Rigg is away in Edinburgh this weekend on a stag do…last I heard was “still up” via text sent at 3am this morning…

Buddy and I are having a much quieter weekend at home.  So far we have trimmed bushes in our tiny front garden, massacred the raspberry canes at the end of the garden, picked a small bowl of loganberries, followed a rumour that a farm nearby sells homegrown flowers at the gate (they do, just none today), and planted winter hardy leeks at the allotment.

Sadly I forgot my camera today when we went to the allotment, but thankfully I have some photos from my last visit looking very much the same.

Everything growing on the allotment seems to have doubled in size since I was last there.  The courgette and squash plants are trailing and spreading everywhere…

The sunflowers are starting to flower and have lots more buds just waiting to pop open…

There is masses of camomile and my pink Cosmos are thick with flowers…

The onions have been dug up and left out to dry – which has been difficult considering the rain we’ve had…

Lots of ladybirds everywhere – I love them so much…

And this cheeky rabbit who clearly thought he hadn’t been spotted…

I came home with a basket laden with onions, one giant green courgette, a single burnt orange sunflower, and handfuls of Cosmos and camomile to brighten up the living room…

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!

This is how I made my Spring Chicken Pie that I created especially for Mother’s Day.  The recipe can be found at the bottom of the post.

To start with I softened a couple of onions.

soften the onion

soften the onion

Sliced the baby leeks lengthways and sauteed them very briefly in a little oil and butter until their yellowy-green colour started to pop – you just know it when you see it. 

next the baby leeks

next the baby leeks

Next I finely sliced the spring greens and savoy cabbage (the bunnies were SO pleased with the leftovers of this meal) and gently cooked them in oil, butter and a splash of boiling water to give a sort of steaming effect. Again, these were very briefly cooked, as they would go into the pie which would spend 30 minutes in the oven anyway.

saute the spring greens and savoy cabbage

saute the spring greens and savoy cabbageThe day before we roasted a whole chicken - a stunning giant of a bird from Abbey Leys Organic Farm. "Bertha"

We stuffed her – affectionately named Bertha – with onions and lemon and a big handful of fresh thyme. She was roasted for about 3 hours until the meat was falling off the bone. N was already imagining his roast chicken sandwiches made from the leftovers.

onion, lemons and thyme

onion, lemons and thyme

To compile the pie, I placed the gently cooked veg into my pie dish (I used a large terracotta dish) as I fryed it. So softened onions first, then the leeks, then half the springs greens and cabbage.

flake over the chicken

flake over the chicken (sorry Bertha!)

Next I flaked large chunks of roast chicken over, and covered it with the remaining greens. A big handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley and it was almost ready to be encrusted in its pastry lid.

top with chopped parsley

top with chopped parsley

The final ingredient for the pie was a white sauce with a subtle hint of cheese. I’m not going to post a recipe for white sauce here, because I just make it up, cross my fingers and hope for the best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s one of those things I just don’t have the patience to measure out properly and follow a recipe. I know the basics of how to make a white sauce – melt butter, add flour, which makes a roux, stir for a minute or so to cook out the floury taste, add milk (I have started adding warm milk in a bid to reduce the risk of the dreaded lumps!) and stir vigorously until thickened. I remember my mother telling my to continuously stir her white sauce until it had thickened to prevent lumps, and hers always turned out nicely. To my white sauce I add a grating of fresh nutmeg, some salt and pepper, and a little bit of strong cheddar – this I adjust until the sauce has just a slightly cheesy hint.

make a nice pastry lid (sorry the photos ran out here)

make a nice pastry lid (sorry the photos ran out here)

Pour this over the pie. All that was left was to roll out the puff pastry, cut out a lid, place it securely over the pie, cut a few air holes, and then create a few unnecessary but satisfying details – namely pastry leaves. Just before I put my pie in the oven (at about 180°C) for 30 minutes I glazed it with an egg yolk. Sadly, I was in such a rush to get the damn thing onto the table, along with the new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli (which wasn’t co-operating) that I didn’t take any pictures. It was truly beautiful, a flaky, golden delight, its pastry leaves glowing. You shall have to imagine it, although I’m sure you have all made/or seen such a pie.

Spring Chicken Pie

Makes 1 large pie, enough to feed 4-6 people

To roast the chicken:
1 large organic chicken
3 lemons, quartered
2 onions, quartered
Bundle of fresh thyme

For the pie:
2 onions, finely sliced
6-8 baby leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced lengthways
1 medium savoy cabbage, sliced
Couple of handfuls of spring greens, sliced
Bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
White sauce
Packet of good quality puff pastry
1 egg yolk
Rub your chicken inside and out with butter. Stuff your chicken with the chunks of onion and lemon, and the big bundle of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken (approximately 45 minutes a kilo, plus 20 minutes) – we cover ours in foil until the last 20-30 minutes when we remove it to crisp up the chicken. When the chicken has cooled, you can get your handy boyfriend/husband to remove all the tender chicken.

In a large frying pan, soften the onions in a little oil. Transfer them to your prepared pie dish and spread out over the bottom. Next, add a knob of butter and the sliced leeks. Cook for a couple of minutes until they just start to soften. Season with salt and pepper then spread over the onion. Next, add a small knob of butter and a splash of boiling water to the pan and add half the sliced spring greens and savoy cabbage. Heat through until this also just starts to soften. Spread over the leeks. Add the remaining springs greens and cabbage and cook as before. Turn off the heat. Spread a good layer of roast chicken pieces over the veg, and top with a final layer of greens and cabbage.

Make your white sauce. Add some grated cheddar and a grating of nutmeg and mix well before pouring it over the pie. I let my pie cool a bit before covering in the pastry topping because I wasn’t going to bake it straight away and I didn’t want the heat from the veggies and sauce to make the pastry soggy.

When you’re ready to bake your pie, preheat the oven to 180°C.

Roll out your puff pastry. Cut out a lid that is slightly wider than your pie dish. I wet the rim of my pie dish, and using some off-cuts of pastry I created a pastry rim to which I could attach my lid. Next, carefully lay your pastry lid over the pie and pinch the edges to secure it. Use a sharp knife to cut a couple of air vents to let out the steam as it cooks. For a final flourish you can use any spare bits of pastry to decorate your pie with leaves or some other finishing detail.

Just before you put the pie in the oven, beat an egg yolk and brush it all over the pastry top. This will give your pie a beautiful golden glaze. Bake your pie for about 30 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden, and the sauce bubbling out from under the pastry lid. You are only really cooking the pastry and warming all the ingredients through as they are pretty much pre-cooked anyway.

We served our chicken pie with new potatoes gently tossed in a knob of goat’s butter and a pile of steamed purple sprouting broccoli. Serve the pie at the table to make sure everyone appreciates your pastry leaves!

This past weekend has been largely spent outside in the garden.  The weather has gone unusually warm for this small wet island, not that I’m complaining, so I welcomed the opportunity to get outside and into my garden.

cherry blossom about to burst

cherry blossom about to burst

Last spring N built me four raised beds at the end of our garden for growing vegetables.  Because they were built so soon before the growing season, we literally built them and that was it.  All the grass between the beds got really long and difficult to cut during the summer and was a haven for slugs and snails!  Then over the winter it just got patchy and muddy from us walking on it.

before and after of raised beds - April 08

before and after of raised beds - April 08

So over the winter we decided that this year we would lay some anti-weed membrane and cover it with bark chippings to tidy it up a bit.  The weekend before last we managed to dig over all the grass around the raised beds, and this past weekend we successfully laid the membrane and covered it with bark chippings.  The layer of bark chippings is pretty thin due to our funds drying up, but soon we should be able to buy a couple more bags and finish the job off.  It looks so smart and completely changes the shape of how our garden feels – wider rather than long and narrow.

raised beds - March 09

raised beds - March 09

Just before Christmas I saw a beautiful picture in a book of a weathered picket fence covered in purple flowers and small orange pumpkins and knew that it would be a perfect way to keep my naughty bunnies out of the vegetable bed.  It was fine last summer once everything had got going and the plants were abundant because the bunnies could chomp their way through the parsley or hide in the pea plants and no one would notice a few bits missing here and there.

Borage eating veggies from the garden...

Borage eating veggies from the garden...

But at the moment when there are tiny seedlings and shoots are starting to emerge they are a nuisance!  They just decimate everything.  The poor chives – these vibrant green juicy blades that are poking out of the rich brown soil – they just get mown down leaving only an inch or so remaining.  I’m sure it’s very good for my bunnies digestion but not for my tiny plants.  So now I am saving for a picket fence, have saved in my Ebay list seeds for the Cup & Saucer plant which was the one in the picture with the large purple flowers and am armed with a packet of ‘Jack Be Little’ pumpkin seeds.

some of my indoor seedlings

some of my indoor seedlings

The other success from the weekend was sowing lots more seeds.  I feel so much happier now that I have planted another set of seeds, just knowing that with a little bit of water and tender loving care tiny shoots will soon appear.  In the garden I put straight into the ground a row of rainbow carrots (yellow it turns out are even sweeter than orange carrots), a row of ‘Guardsman’ spring onion, a row of ‘Paris Market Baron’ carrots (round and stumpy), and a row of ‘Paris Silverskin’ onions (perfect for pickling).

broad bean plants

broad bean plants

At the back of our house we have what can only be described as a sort of lean-to, badly constructed conservatory type boot room.  The previous owner had his washing machine plumbed in which took up most of the space, but we use it to store anything and everything, and during the spring and summer it becomes Seedling Central.  One-third is brick, and two-thirds is windows, a back door and a plastic roof.  It’s perfect for starting off seeds as it gets so warm, much like a greenhouse.

the beautiful plant after which naughty bunny 1 is named

the beautiful plant after which naughty bunny 1 is named

So in an assortment of trays and pots, I have planted from seed peas, broad beans, leeks, and a selection of lettuces.  I have also started off some dwarf sunflowers, borage, cosmos, and some special blue sweetpeas called ‘Charlie’s Angel’ from N’s mom.

newly planted dwarf sunflower seeds

newly planted dwarf sunflower seeds

I am so excited to see the tiny seedlings from my sowing session a couple of weeks ago springing up, and the broad bean plants are doing incredibly well – there is something so satisfying about their sturdy green leaves unfolding.  More updates to follow on how my seeds do.  Happy planting!

tiny lettuce seedlings

tiny lettuce seedlings

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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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