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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.
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.
We have finally found some time to spend in our garden and on our allotment. Being there is one of the most peaceful times, I find myself with an empty, calm mind and it’s blissful.
We are trying to do little by little at the moment rather than our usual tendency to over-exert ourselves one day and not come back for weeks. We have got some bark chippings down to mark out four beds and have started to plant in some seedlings.
These peas I’ve grown from seed – I’m just hoping the bunnies or slugs don’t munch on them.
It has been days and days since I last posted about our meat-free month. During those days (weeks really) we have had highs and lows of eating meat-free. When I last posted, with a snapshot of a vegetarian curry we were making, I was on a real high, thoroughly enjoying our meat-free month and the delicious new recipes we were trying out.
The past week has seen that go downhill with real desperate cravings to eat bacon and egg, and sausages. I don’t know why, but my body has just been desperate for something else – the result is we’ve eaten a lot of stodgy comfort food as you might get a glimpse of in my diary. My lovely friend Caroline who has just finished her meat-free month also said they experienced this, getting more and more desperate for, again, bacon and egg by the end of their month.
For now, here is my better week of eating…
Monday 23rd January
Stilton, onion and potato pie. Really, it is just that. Make some mashed potato, sweat some onions down until nice and golden, then in an ovenproof dish layer mash, onion, stilton and then more mash on top. Bake in the oven and eat. Fabulously stodgy and simple comfort food. Really should be eaten with lots of greenery.
Tuesday 24th January
Ah! No idea of what we ate! Didn’t take a picture so can’t remember. Oh well.
Wednesday 25th January
Macaroni peas. This is a new firm (and super easy and quick) favourite from Hugh’s Everyday Veg. You basically cook peas, then blitz half of them to a puree with some of the pea cooking water. You also add some sliced garlic you’ve gently softened in butter, along with some grated Parmesan (it’s a bit like a pea pesto). Then you mix together your cooked macaroni, pea puree and the remaining whole peas. It’s really delicious.
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.
I am so happy to be back in my little blog home – it has been far too long and I have missed sharing my food adventures.
Since getting engaged back in September 2009, we have been steadily planning and preparing for our wedding. As the date drew nearer – 21st May 2011 – I have just had little time to do much else (whilst juggling it along with my job and my website).
Here’s a picture of some of the cakes our family and friends made for our wedding – the big white one in the middle so beautiful decorated was made by my Granny!
To save me rambling on for too long, I’m going to do some bullets of what’s been going on in our lives for the past few months I’ve been missing from here, and then aim to follow with a nice post and recipe for a fab barbecue we had over the weekend:
- Most importantly – we got married! On 21st May 2011, I married Mr Rigg in my home village in Gloucestershire – we had a beautiful, rustic country wedding, with a party in my parent’s garden, lots of local cider and perry, AMAZING food (lots of it local) and just an all round fab day. If you’re at all interested, photos and details will follow on my website.
- We honeymooned in an incredible Canopy & Star’s hideaway for a week and took Buddy with us (more details and hopefully a couple of foodie posts on this to follow).
- Sadly, Mr Rigg’s lovely Granny who was always so interested in what we were doing passed away.
- After spending an exorbitant amount of time and effort getting our allotment covered in manure and getting rid of all the weeds over the winter…we have neglected it and it is now overrun with weeds – we are totally and utterly the worst looking allotment – gutted.
- Although we haven’t got a lot growing (and the radishes all matured as we headed south for our wedding), we have got a couple of healthy pea plants, some small beetroot seedlings, potatoes growing (only just!) and quite a few courgette, squash and pumpkin plants.
I am just so happy to ‘be back’ and can’t wait to get growing and cooking some decent food – and to share it all! I’ll leave you with a picture of my overgrown garden…
I so desperately want to have the time to write here again – I have a camera full of photos and lots I would love to share, I just don’t have the time. I think I might pop!
We have, however, managed to plant some seeds last weekend – carrots, salad leaves, beetroot, radish, parsley, and peas…and today we spotted the first green pea shoots poking through! So exciting!
Dinner tonight was in a hurry – thankfully just the making part, the eating was a little more relaxed. We made a trout, pea and chive pasta with a silky coating of creme fraiche.
First I steamed the trout fillets and then used the pan of water to cook the pasta and peas together. The pasta we used was a small-ish tube cross shell – perfect for scooping up the peas!
Once the pasta was cooked and drained, I used some of the reserved cooking water to thin out the creme fraiche into a nice sauce. Into this went the chopped chives, then the peas and pasta. The final step was to season with salt and pepper and stir through the flakes of trout.
It tasted even better than I hoped, definitely one to make again. Is anyone else suffering from work and life overload and struggling to feed themselves well? I feel like I’m living on bread and dairy at the moment, and I long for the salads and fresh dinners of summer sat on the patio.
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.
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.