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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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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.

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This year is set to be the summer of salads, I’m sure of it.  The heat here in England is incredible at the moment, our office temperature gauge said it was 29°C!  Far too hot to be working. 

At home we are relishing salad after salad, and I am enjoying creating these light, wholesome salads to fill our bellies.  With this heat no one wants to eat much, just a few lovely salads and some grilled meat, or a bowl of simply dressed pasta with a side of green leaves.  We have had friends round for barbecues and my parents visited for a day, so I have been perfecting my salad making skills.  And when I say salad, I don’t just mean a bowl of leafy greens, I mean plates of spring vegetables, prepared with different flavourings and complimented with cheeses and herbs.

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The first of these salads that I’m going to showcase is a dish of roasted spring carrots with cumin and feta cheese.  I serve this warm or room temperature, not hot.  Like so many of my favourite recipes, this is so simple and easy to do – a real ‘no fuss’ dish.  I discovered some bunched English baby carrots at my one of my local farm shops, which were a perfect size for what I wanted – if you can’t find baby sized carrots, just take normal sized ones and cut them into slender batons.

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Trim and scrub the carrots.  Bung them in a roasting tin, drizzle with oil, add a grinding of black pepper and some salt, and finally sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of cumin.  Give them a good toss to coat with all the yumminess an pop them in a moderately hot oven.  They should only about 20-30 minutes, and are ready when they are tender.

Because I like to serve the carrots warm not hot, it means you can cook them in advance, turn the oven off and leave them to cool.  When you’re ready to serve the salad, take a pretty serving plate, spread out the carrots over the plate, crumble over the feta cheese, sprinkle over some fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

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If you fancy, you could always serve the carrots in a tortilla wrap or mashed up a bit and served on a crostini. 

Hope everyone else is enjoying some sunny evening meals in the garden!

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Apologies for not having posted for a few days, I have been busy cooking for my parents who came to visit for a day, eating great food, and being a bit stunned by the fantastic hot weather we have been blessed with. 

My pea plants seem to have doubled in size since last week, stretching skywards.  We have so much lettuce and salad leaves I don’t know what to do with it all!  I really want to tell you about some lovely salads that I have been creating over the past week, and to show you pictures of a gorgeous French style strawberry tart that my lovely friend Natalie made.

For now I am tired so I shall leave you with a picture of burgers from tonight’s barbecue – homemade burgers from Little Heath Farm and homegrown lettuce leaves:

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The Organic Farm Shop near Cirencester in Gloucestershire was one of my first experiences of a farm shop.  It is my ‘local’ farm shop when visiting my family, and stopping off here on the journey is a sign that we’re nearly there. 

As you turn off the road and down the long tree-lined drive to the farm shop, you pass piggies in a field and a market garden sized field of fruit buses and pollytunnels, before you reach the farm shop nestled amongst a grove of trees.  There is something lovely about seeing the produce growing in the fields before you enter the farm shop, something reassuring – and a great reminder about where a lot of the produce you buy in the shop comes from. 

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In addition to the farm shop (which is stocked with fantastic goodies) there is a cafe serving delicious, home-cooked vegetarian food.  Meat-eaters do not be detered by the veggie menu, it is scrumptious food and you won’t sit there wondering where you steak is.  If N can cope, anyone can.

As it was my birthday weekend, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in the cafe.  It serves daily specials and have a standard menu which comprises of a variety of baked potatoes and omelettes.  Most meals are served with a selection of salads, which are displayed on the counter. 

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You can pick and choose which salads you want – N and I turned down the mung bean, red cabbage and cauliflower salad, but were really surprised by salad of celery, cucumber, fennel and sunflower seeds.  I was also converted to the true potential of polenta – an ingredient that I have had disastrous-throw-in-the-bin results with – these were crisp, cheesy ‘croutons’ that topped off our salad.  Yum yum.

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So N opted for a selection of salads topped with melt-in-the-mouth goats cheese (he had eaten his before I had a chance to take a snap).  I chose from the specials board and tasted my first asparagus of the season – an asparagus and cheese tart with salads.  This tart was so good and would really like to recreate, or at least try to!

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As you can see it didn’t take us long to finish it all off.  I am also coming to the realisation that I am a bit obsessed by taking photographs of empty plates (those that are empty because the food that previously was on them has all been gobbled up).  I was so tempted to take a photo of the table next to us after the family had left, there was something fascinating about the empty plates, cutlery, cups and crumpled napkins strewn across the table.  N gave me such a look at the suggestion that I quickly put the camera 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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