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I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

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This week I am taking a few days off from work and have left Mr Rigg and our menagerie of animals behind in Cheshire.  I am visiting my family in the Cotswolds and trying not to get too hot in this almost unbearable humidity.

My mom’s garden is full of bee’s swarming over her lavender hedges, whilst everything else is looking a little thirsty.  We’ve done a bit of shopping, sat for a while to chat and drink coffee and strawberry lemonade (delicious) in Made By Bob, took Alfie the family deerhound for a walk in search of a little owl that is nesting in an old tree (sadly we didn’t see it), and ate a scrummy courgette risotto.

Tonight we are planning a summer vegetable pasta dish, using vegetables from my mom’s allotment – the last of the broad beans, French beans and an assortment of courgettes.  All mixed together with a health glug of good olive oil and lots of garlic.

We also rescued a rather forlorn butterfly from the village church, who was covered in cobwebs.  We freed him from the dust and webs and set him on a bunch of purple wisteria flowers – he happily tucked into the nectar and I took a few snaps.

Will be back towards the end of the week no doubt with a full round up of making clotted cream ice cream, homemade scones, strawberry jam and other bits and pieces!  But for now, I’m enjoying not being tied to the laptop.

I remember drinking Robinson’s Barley Water squash as a child, so it is lovely to discover that this derives from an old-school drink.  This recipe is care of Rose Prince’s New English Kitchen, although I used some of my leftover sugar syrup from my homemade lemonade rather than sugar to sweeten.

Homemade Orange Barley Water

225g approx. pearl barley
2.5 litres water
6 oranges
2 lemons
sugar to taste (or sugar syrup)

Wash the barley well before putting it in a saucepan and covering with the water.

Bring to the boil, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for up to an hour or until the barley is tender. (Note – I think I let mine cook too long and ended up with less leftover liquid than I think I should have).

Strain the barley over a dish to catch the barley water.  You can keep the cooked barley to use in another dish.  Leave the liquid to cool.

While the barley water is cooling, zest 3 of the oranges and 1 lemon.  Juice all of the fruit. 

When the barley water is cool stir in the zest and juice.  Add sugar or sugar syrup to taste – Rose Prince says it should not be too sweet.

Now I decided to strain the liquid to remove the zest – I let it sit a while first – as we didn’t fancy ‘bits’ in our barley water.  It was also unclear from the recipe whether you should dilute the barley water, so we did to taste.

Rose Prince says it will keep for a day or two in the fridge – ours didn’t last out the day, it was too delicious and refreshing!

We have been making refreshing summery drinks to keep us cool in the hot weather we’ve been having.  This recipe is from one of my favourite recipe books, one that I imagine I will still be opening in twenty years from now – Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking.

The most complicated part of this recipe is making the sugar syrup – which involves boiling water and sugar together.  Yes, that’s it. 

Then all you do is mix water, lemon juice and sugar syrup to taste.  The remainder of my sugar syrup is bottled up in the fridge – ready whenever we want to make more.

Sugar syrup

Makes 825ml (20 fl oz)

450g (1lb) caster sugar
600ml (1 pint) water

In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then turn off and leave to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.  In a fridge it will keep for months.

Note: this makes quite a lot of sugar syrup, so we made half this amount – I still have leftovers in the fridge.

Homemade cloudy lemonade

Serves 6

Juice of 3 lemons (I use the best I can find – big fat ones from Italy are my choice, available at Unicorn)
225ml sugar syrup
700ml water (sparkling or still)
Ice cubes

Mix all the ingredients in a large jug and add the ice cubes when you are ready to serve.

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.

The little sister and I picked a bowlful of my first homegrown raspberries and a couple of wild strawberries.  It was so exciting – my raspberry bushes have gone mad this year, with tons of fruit.  Photos taken by me, but with my little sisters camera – I want it!

I didn’t realise that you could grill smoked mackerel fillets – it turns out you can, and they’re delicious!  This is one of the recipes Heston has done for Waitrose – I tweaked it a little, like substituting red onion for shallots.

It’s basically new potatoes that are tossed in lightly cooked onion, wholegrain mustard, lots of herbs and a dash of wine vinegar.  The lovely tang of the potatoes goes nicely with the strong peppery fish.  Very yummy especially when eaten with crisp garden salad.

The full recipe can be found here – perfect to use the seasonal bounty of locally grown Cheshire new potatoes near us.  Here’s to another day of eating in the garden on a warm June evening…

I have been wanting to make and devour this meal ever since I spied it.  What would we do without Nigel Slater?  This recipe was found in his book Tender, which is fabulous, and everyone should read it.

We had rain yesterday and this morning, but by the time we got home from work it was hot and sunny again.  A perfect excuse to use the barbeque, if only to chargrill some courgettes.

The green lentils are boiled until cooked, then mixed into a dressing of red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar (I substituted sherry for cider as this is what I had), olive oil, finely chopped garlic, sliced spring onions, salt and pepper.

For the courgettes, you slice them thinly (I used a selection of green and yellow), pop them in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  You leave them for at least half an hour, then wash them and pat them dry.

Chargrill them, then toss them in extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

And finely, the ham.  This was excellent quality, acorn-fed Spanish ham.  That’s it.  You don’t do anything to it, just lay out the slices on your plate, or tear them up a bit.

Altogether on a plate this is a beautiful combination of tastes and textures.  Eaten outside it is, of course, all the better.

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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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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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