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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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For someone who loves his meat, I love that one of Mr Rigg’s favourite meals is mushroom burgers. 

This week we decided to make a summery version, with a little mayonnaise smeared on the sliced buns, the mushrooms grilled with a garlicky butter, then filled with blobs of soft goat’s cheese and a sprinkling of chives.  Finally they were topped with a handful of salad, including tiny nasturtium leaves.

One day I hope to make this meal again, with everything but the sausages grown in my garden or on our allotment.  I do believe that the best food is made with what’s available seasonally and from an idea of what it is you want to eat.

What started as a simple meal (and possibly one of our favourites), of grilled sausages, new potatoes and salad, turned into something a bit more interesting.  The sausages came from the fab new Kenyon Hall Farm Shop, the new potatoes were boiled and violently shaken with salty butter and lots of mint from the garden.

But it was the salad that became something far better, using up odds and ends from the garden and the fridge.  To a bowl I finely sliced spring onions, added a splash of white wine vinegar and some salt – I like to do this to take the edge off the onions.  Otherwise I find that all you can taste is onion.

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It has been ages since I last posted a recipe – as a result I can’t remember what I’ve been eating over the past few months and I don’t have the notes written down anywhere to recreate anything nice that we made.  Last night’s dinner was worth finding some time to sit down and share it with you – I could have eaten platefuls.

To start with, there was scrambled eggs on lightly toasted bread.  I like to make my scrambled eggs by melting butter in a pan, cracking in the eggs, letting them cook a little before breaking them up a bit, letting them cook some more, stirring, and so on.  This produces a scrambled egg with bits of white and yolk rather than just a uniform pale yellow version.

I also fried some pieces of streaky bacon, before using the same pan to whistle up a warm tomato dressing.  I didn’t tip away the bacon fat, instead I chopped up the tomatoes and tipped them into the hot fat, cooking them quickly so until they almost disintegrated.  To the tomatoes, I added salt and pepper, and a tiny splash of sherry vinegar.

So, to buttered toast I added the scrambled eggs and popped the crispy bacon bits on top.  Then I realised that I hadn’t stirred my chopped garden chives through the egg, so resolved to sprinkle them on to at the end.  I spooned over the warm tomato dressing, and topped it off with a good handful of chopped chives and purple chive flowers.

I just love the colours as well – it’s like summer on a plate.  This will be one version of scrambled eggs that I won’t be forgetting soon and will definitely make again.

This was my first attempt at making tomato pilaf.  Not really sure what a pilaf is, but it was tasty and a bit like a risotto.  I’d seen the recipe in Jojo Tulloh’s Freshly Picked and it sounded so simple and potentially tasty.

We used brown rice instead of white so it took longer to cook, but by far the most enjoyable part of making this was skinning the tomatoes – it’s just such a mucky job but deeply fun.  This is fantastic comfort food and requires excellent tomatoes.

Tomato Pilaf

Feeds 4 (but we found it only fed 2!)

olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
200g long-grain rice
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp salt
450g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
knob of butter
small bunch of basil
black pepper

Warm about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized pan and gently fry the onion until it is soft.  Stir in the rice and cook for about a minute.

Pour over 500ml of just-boiled water (I used the water I’d used to loosen the tomato skins) along with the salt.  Bring to a simmer and cover and leave to cook – the recipe says for about 10 minutes but our rice (which was brown) took a lot longer.

When the rice is almost cooked, heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and tomatoes.  Fry over a high heat until the tomato is almost a sauce, but still with some chunks.

Stir the tomatoes into the rice, along with torn up basil leaves and a generous knob of butter.  Season with ground black pepper and eat right away.

Taken and adapted slightly from Jojo Tulloh’s ‘Freshly Picked’.

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.

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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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.

I have just created a brand new Recipe Index for the blog to help people find the recipes they want – and hopefully some others you’d like to try! 

I thought it would be a breeze to put it together…but in fact it turns out I’ve added rather a lot of recipes and took me a lot longer than I expected.

Hope you enjoy!

These are the last of the berries from my garden: blackcurrants, raspberries and loganberries.  Although there are a few loganberries still ripening, the raspberries and blackcurrants are all but finished. 

We’re heading off to Yorkshire this weekend to visit Mr Rigg’s family and be joined by my parents.  A restful few days awaits and someone else to do the cooking – and very good cooking it is. 

I will pop this small bowlful of berries into the freezer, and cook with them over the coming weeks (at least that’s the plan!). 

Whilst picking the berries I was dreaming up different ideas of what I could do with them, and my favourite idea so far is a sort of late summer berry crumble or pie

I have spotted blackberries turning deep purple in the hedgerows, so think supplemented with a few of these a crumble or pie would be lovely.  Plus we have a tub of homemade clotted cream ice cream to finish.

Is anyone else starting to feel that summer is waning and autumn is approaching?  Maybe it’s just the warm, wet and windy weather we have had recently in our part of England that has awakened a longing for stews and pies.

Have a lovely weekend and I hope to be back afresh next week to catch up on all that I’ve promised to post – this week has been unnaturally busy and I’ve barely had a chance to breathe.

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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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