Friday, 28 December 2012

Oxtail Ragu.

Made with leftover oxtail meat and stock this a great dish a real meaty flavour even though it contains very little meat.
In a sauce pan cook a chopped rasher of bacon until it starts to colour. Add finely chopped onion, carrot and celery. Add some chopped garlic and rosemary. Sweat down the veg and season.
Add a small glass of red wine and cook off the alcohol. Add the shreded left over oxtail, a little oxtail stock and tomato sauce (see previous recipe), simmer until all the veg is cooked through.
Serve on pasta with grated parmesan.

Quick Tomato Sauce.

This is a quick version of a tomato sauce for pasta dishes etc using tinned tomatoes.
Grate (or finely chop) an onion - add to a sauce pan with olive oil, a clove of chopped garlic and half a chilli. Cooked for a few mins until the onion softens and add a tin of chopped tomatoes.
Add half a tea spoon of sugar and cook on a very low heat for an hour or so until it cooks down into a thick sauce (this also helps to get rid of the tinnyness of the tomatoes).

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Garlic and Herb Butter.

Chop a shallot as finely as possible place in a dish and add a cap full of Pastis (ie Ricard or Pernod) Add unsalted butter chopped into small pieces and several grated garlic cloves to taste. Add herbs ( I used dried as it lasts longer).
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and leave for an hour or so to let the flavours merge before using.
Great for garlic bread, garlic prawns etc.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Oxtail in White Wine with Celery, Shallots and Carrots.

In an oven proof casserole or similar sear your oxtail on all sides.
Flambé in brandy (this is a bit of an extravagence and can be left out as this is a recipe for a cheap cut! though it does add a lot of flavour).
Add a large glass of white wine and cook off the alcohol. Season and add enough stock to nearly cover the oxtail. Add a bouquet garni with thyme, rosemary, bay and garlic (be generous with the herbs), cover and place in a very low oven for 2/3 hours on 120/140C.
Seperate the meat from the stock and alow to cool - pref overnight as this dish improves if cooked over two days.
The following day you can skim the fat off the cooled stock if you wish and add a little more stock. Bring to heat and add the oxtail with baby carrots and celery hearts. Cook on a very low heat for 30mins or so and add the whole shallots. Continue to cook on a low heat until all the veg is cooked and serve with mash or jacket poatoes to counter the very rich stock.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Salt and Pepper Squid with Sweet Chilli Sauce.

Place pepper corns and sea salt into a dry pan and roast until you can smell the aromas.
Crush in a mortar and pestle and allow to cool.
Mix with corn flour.
For the sweet chilli sauce chop garlic, chilli, ginger and corriander leaves and crush to a pulp in a mortar & pestle with the juice of half a lime (or you can whizz to a paste in a blender). Place in a small bowl with a tiny dash of fish sauce and light soy sauce.
In a small sauce pan bring to the boil a small amount of water and caster sugar and pour over the paste.
Allow to cool.
Clean and thoroughly dry the squid. Cut into rings or scored pieces and coat with the flour mixture.
Flash fry for no more than a couple of minutes in a very hot wok or frying pan with a little ground nut oil.
Serve with the chilli dipping sauce.

Potted Shrimp

In a sauce pan melt some unsalted butterwith a bay leaf. Add a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of mace and a pinch of cayanne pepper. Squeeze in the juice from half a lemon and add 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste and season with salt and white pepper.
Leave to cool, mixing in the cooked shrimps when the butter starts to solidify.
This can be sealed with a little extra melted butter and will keep for days in the fridge but should be bought to room temp alowing the butter to soften before serving with toast.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

A great cold cure this one - don't ask how or why I just know if I have a cold and eat this I feel a lot lot better!
Use the stock from the previous recipe.
Heat some stock in a saucepan and add noodles of choice - simmer until cooked.
while the noodles are cooking chop your chosen veg - I used spring onions, carrots, red pepper and mushrooms.
I a wok flash fry chopped garlic, chilli and ginger for 30 seconds then add your veg at 30 second intervals (longest to cook first!) place in a bowl with shreded cooked chicken (see stock recipe).
Pour over the noodles and stock and top with a chopped corriander and a squeeze of lime juice and/or a dash of soy sauce.

Spicy Chicken Stock.

In a large pan of water add chicken (I used thighs), crushed garlic, sliced ginger, chillies, chopped carrots, quartered shallots (skin on), spring onion tops, lemon grass (bruised), corriander stalks and various spices - I used cardomon pods (crushed), whole pepper corns, corriander seeds, fennel seeds, but any combination that you have or takes your fancy will do.
Bring to the boil and reduce heat and simmer preferably on a heat disperser for an hour or so and leave to cool. Add a dash of thai fish sauce.
Remove the chicken thighs for use later and drain the stock.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Stir Fried Pork with Chard and Spring Onions.

Bit of a Nigel Slater inspired see what needs using up in the fridge / garden and concoct something!
I had some spring onions left over from last weeks shop that were on there last legs and a pork steak that had been marinading with garlic and fennel seeds since thurs so...
I added some chilli to the marinade last night.
The chard in the garden probably won't last much longer as heavy frosts are due this week so I decided to pick the younger more tender leaves.
Let the pork come to room temp. and slice.
Add some seaseme oil to a hot wok and add some sliced chilli and garlic. Alow to cook for 30 seconds and add the pork. Cook for 1-2 mins until coloured and then add some soy sauce and the chard stalks.
Cook for anothe minute or so and add the sliced spring onions and shredded chard leaves.
When the chard leaves have wilted serve.

Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Celeriac Mash and Beetroot Puree

Place your shoulder of lamb skin side up and drizzle with oilive oil and season. Massage in the oil, salt and pepper.
Turn over and repeat. Squeeze over some lemon juice and place crushed garlic, rosemary spigs and bay leaves onto your joint. Roll, tie off and place in the fridge to marinate.
Pre heat an oven at 220°C.
Place a quartered onion (skin on), chopped carrot, celery and any other vegatable odds and ends into a roasting dish and place the lamb on top.
Pour in a cup or so of water and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 160 °C and continue to roast for - Rare – 20 minutes per Kg, Medium – 30 minutes per Kg, Well Done – 40 minutes per Kg.
If the water starts to dry out top up with more.
While the lamb is roasting prepare the puree, mash and veg.
For the Beetroot puree place a roughly chopped beetroot in a blender with  a clove of garlic, thyme leaves and a chopped onion - season with salt and pepper and blend until the consistency of risotto.
Place in a saunce pan on a very low heat and cook for 30 or so mins (you may need a slash of water at the begining to stop it burning).
The Celeriac mash is very easy - same as mashed potatoes! or you can use a mix of celeriac and potatoes.
When the lamb is cooked remove from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm and allow to rest for 20mins or so.
Place the roasting tin with all the veg, water and meat juices on a the hob on a low/med heat and add a glass of wine and a dash of worcester sauce if you wish. Deglaze the pan and then strain the gravy into a sauce pan and reduce to correct consistency.
Carve the lamb and serve.

Jerusalem Artichoke Salad

Have a bowl with some lemon juice standing by and then peel and slice your (raw) chokes as finely as possible, placing in the lemon juice to stop them discolouring.
Season with salt and pepper and place on a plate.
Add walnut oil to the lemon juice mix together and dress the sliced chokes.
Sprikle with chopped parsley and serve.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Root Soup

Dice carrots, onion and cellery and sweat in a mix of butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Add water and bring to the boil and then simmer.
Peel and dice your root veg - I used parsnip, artichokes and celeriac, but any will work.
Add some chopped parsley and simmer til all veg is cooked and blitz in a blender til smooth.
I also ad a little bit of fresh chilli to give it some warmth. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Avacado Prawns with Marie Rose Sauce

Peel and slice an avacado and arrange on a bed of leaves, season with salt and pepper.
Slice some cucumber and arrange on the leaves with the cooked prawns on top.
For the marie rose sauce mix a couple of dollops of mayo, a tea spoon of tomato ketchup, a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of whisky and a pich of paprika or cayenne pepper together and spoon over the prawns.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Lamb steak with Parsnip Crisps and Chard.

Season the lamb and marinate overnight in olive oil, garlic, thyme, bay and lemon juice.
Peel the parsnip and with a potato peeler or mandolin cut into thin strips - place in an oven proof dish roll in oilve oil season and sprinkle with chopped thyme or parsley place into a hot (180 -200 degrees) oven. Gently turn a few times while they cook (they take around 10-12 mins depending on thickness and go from cooked to burnt very quickly so keep an eye on them!).
Griddle the lamb in a hot pan and leave to rest.
Cut the stems from the chard and place in steamer. Place the leaves on top and steam until cooked. Squeeze any excess water from the leaves and dress in butter/oil and a dash of lemon juice.

Mediterranean Salad

Nice easy and quick this one and can be prepared well in advance.
Slice your veg of choice I used courgettes, aubergine, red pepper, mushroom and baby artichokes.
Slice up all the veg  (except the chokes) and brush with oilve oil and season. Cook in batches on a hot griddle and leave on a plate to cool (Only the aubergines have to be cooked throughly as all the others are just as nice partialy cooked or raw).
Remove the tough outer leaves from the chokes and peel the stalks. Chop off the tough tops and place in a pan of salted water with lemon added to stop them discolouring. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until cooked. Drain and dress with a dash more lemon and oilve oil and leave to cool.
When cooled cut the chokes into halves or quarters and arrange the cooked veg on a plate with some mozzarella and parsley or basil.
Dress with the oil from the cooled chokes and maybe a bit of balsamic.
Roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus (griddled or steamed) and fennel would also work very well.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Beef and Mushrooms Braised in Guiness with Roasted Roots.

Dust the diced beef with plain flour and colour in a casserole, remove the coloured meat and set aside.
Finely chop some carrots, onions and celery and soften in oil/butter in the same casserole. Return the cooked beef and add some guiness enough to just cover the meat and veg.
Cover and transfer to a med / low oven and cook as long as slow as you can  - the longer and slower you do this the better it will be esp with cheaper more fatty cuts of beef.
About an hour before serving remove from the oven and add chopped mushrooms.

For the roasted roots i used some home grown salsify and artichokes with some bought potatoes and carrots, but you can use any - parsnips also go well, but the shop had sold out!
I par boiled the potatoes in salted water for 5 mins or so, while they were boiling i chopped a few carrots in half and cleaned and chopped the chokes (the trick is to get them all to a size that they will be ready at the same time so carrots and chokes larger than the potatoes). Put in a roasting tin with oil and chopped rosemary and put in the oven.
About half an hour before they are ready peel the salsify and par boil for a few mins in salted water with some lemon juice added to stop it browning.
Let it dry for a min or two before adding to the roasting tin.
When all the veg is cooked serve.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Rosemary Poached Pears.

Peel the pears and place in a saucepan cover with water add sugar to taste, a sprig or two of rosemary and a slice of lemon (best to keep it to one slice so as not to over power the rosemary).
Bring to a gentle boil and turn off the heat and place the lid on the saucepan and poach for 10mins (less if using soft pears or small ones).
The resulting pears have a very subtle hint of rosemary and can be served as a desert (you can reduce the poaching liquid after removing the rosemary and lemon and use as a syrup), or served cool with a salad - they are great with smoked salmon and chicory, or with cheese.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Blackberry Mousse

A little late for picking blackberries now as we are well past Michelmas, but if you have any saved or frozen then...
Wash about 1/2 kilo of Blackberries and place the best ones to one side for decoration later.
Put the rest into a pan with a dash of water and heat gently until they release their juices.
While that is cooking prepare some gelatine (either leave or powder).
Mash the blackberries in the pan and pass them through a fine sieve into a bowl pushing through as much juice and pulp as you can with a wooden spoon.
Pour the juice into a clean pan and add a some lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)- bring to a simmer them remove from the heat and stir in the gelatine. Set aside to cool.
Mix 3 eggs in a bowl with 100g of caster sugar until mousse like and while continuing to whisk slowly add the cooled juice and then 150ml of eith creme fresh double or soured cream or a comb of either.
Pour into glasses and put in the fridge to set.
Before serving decorate with the reserved blackberries.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Blue Cheese

A Mark Hix recipe this one, and makes a great starter.
Get a selection of different types of tomatoes - cutting the larger ones into half or quarters.
Place on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, scatter over some thyme and season with salt & pepper.

Place in an oven on 120 degrees - that's gas mark 1-2 for 2-3 hours until the toms are about half their original size.
I also used tiny cherry toms and added them half way through cooking.
Remove from the oven transfer to a plate - scatter with blue cheese - I used Stilton but Blue Vinny, Basque Blue or any good blue will do.
Scatter over some torn Basil and serve.
They also store well when cooled in kilner type jars - just cover with more olive oil.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Onion Tarts

Slowly fry sliced onions in a little butter, some olive oil and thyme. the slower you cook the onions the nicer these tarts will be - I cooked mine for a good 40-50mins.
While the onions are cooking roll out and cut some pastry to size for the dish / dishes that you are using - blind bake them for 10/15 mins if you wish.
Beat enough eggs to fill your tarts and combine with some sour cream or creme fresh and season with salt & pepper.
Finaly assemble the tart by adding the cooked onion, crumbling in a cheese of your choice and filling with the egg mixture and bake in a pre-heated oven til cooked.
I used three different cheeses for the tarts pictured - one is with Morbier, one Comte and the last one a good french goats cheese.

I also made a beetroot and goats cheese tart with some left over pastry & onion mixture. Just add some balsamic vinegar to the onion and boil a beetroot - slice and arrange on top of the onion with some goats cheese and bake (no egg mixture on this one).

If you are feeling really ambitious assemble the beetroot in the dish first put the onion mixture on top of that - then top with the pastry tucking into the sides of the dish, bake and turn out for a beetroot tarte tatin.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Garlic & Chilli Prawns with Rocket

Place an earthenware pot or ramekin in a very hot oven. As the pot heats up finely chop up a clove or two of garlic and chilli to taste.
Heat some oil (rapeseed or ground nut are better than olive oil) in a frying pan and add the chilli and garlic give it a quick stir and add your raw cleaned prawns (you can use pre cooked, but why?) cook until the prawns turn pink.
Then quickly remove your pot from the oven pour in the prawns etc and quickly cover with foil.
Return to the oven to finish cooking.
Stir in some fresh rocket dressing the leaves with the garlic and chilli oil before serving.

Broad Bean, Bacon and Mint Salad

Very nice as a warm starter this one or a side dish if you use more beans and a bit less bacon.
Bring a pan of water to the boil (no salt) for the broad beans and cook for a few minutes until just cooked - less is best as you want them firm.
As the beans are cooking fry some bacon until crispy.
Drain the beans and leave to cool slightly then add olive oil, a dash of a good vinegar and season lightly.
When the bacon is cooked chop and add to the beans plate up and scatter with freshly choped mint and serve.

An alernative to the above is to use peas as well or replace the bacon with peas and serve on a bed of leaves.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Lamb Stuffed Artichokes in Tomato Sauce.

I used small chokes for this but you could easily use larger ones - just up the cooking times etc.
With a sharp knife cut the tops off the leaves about one third of the way down, pull off the tough outer leaves and trim any tough skin from the stalk and base. The idea is to remove as much of the non edible bits as possible, but don't worry if you don't! Then with a teaspoon scoop out the choke in the centre and discard. As soon as this is done drop into a saucepan or bowl with some lemon juice added to stop it discolouring. Repeat for the rest of the chokes.
When all the chokes are prepared add a little salt to the pan and bring to the boil, simmer for around 10mins until the chokes are just cooked. Drain and leave to cool a little.
While the chokes are cooking prepare the stuffing/sauce. I used lamb as it a great combination with chokes, but you could use beef or even a veg option.
Finely chop a small onion and a clove of garlic and fry in olive oil, when the onion has softened add minced lamb and cook through.
Season and add thyme and tomato paste or puree (loosen with a little water if need be) cook down into a sauce.
Place all the chokes in a cooking pot and sprinkle with olive oil - then stuff with the lamb sauce - pour any remaining over the choke and pop in a moderate oven to heat through and serve.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Braised Lamb with carrots, onions and peas.

Nice easy quick supper this one - I usualy use neck fillet for it as it's a nice cheap cut with enough fat on it to create a good sauce so a small amount of meat and lots of veg go a long way.
In a casserole or similar oven proof dish with a lid fry the onions and carrots in a little oil and butter, add the neck fillet and colour on each side - season and add some chopped thyme add a little white wine and place in an oven (around 120/140 for a long slow cook) for 45 mins to an hour.
10 mins before the end of cooking add your frozen peas.
Serve with butteren new potatoes at this time of year.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Roasted Wet Garlic with Herb Goats Cheese.

Wet garlic is freshly harvested garlic which has a milder flavour than the stuff you normally get in the shops which has been dried. the drying process intensifies the flavour. If you are using dried garlic in the recipe just roast it for slightly longer.
Place the garlic bulbs in an oven proof dish and cover with a small amount of oilve oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in an oven on about 180 for 35-45 mins depending on the size.
While the garlic is roasting collect some fresh herbs of choice and finely chop.
Press the fresh herbs around the outside of the goats cheese to give it a crust.
Serve the garlic with the cheese and some good bread - squeeze the garlic which should be roasted to a puree onto the bread and spread a little goats cheese on.
To speed up the roasting process if you are using dried garlic you can wrap in foil before placing in the oven.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Hop Shoot and Herb Omelette

We are lucky enough to have hops growing wild by the front gate so this year thought I would try the shoots which if eaten early enough are suposed to be good. Richard Mabey suggests before the end of May in his book Food For Free (a foragers bible!).
I collected a good number of shoots and then did a quick trip round the rest of the garden for herbs to beef out the omlette collecting fennel, rocket, parsley, chives and lovage.
Fry off the hop shoots in a little butter for a min or two before adding the rest of the herbs and egg.
Richard Mabey suggests blanching the in salted water before frying in a little butter and eating like asparagus.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Leeks Braised in White Wine & Tarragon with Mustard Vinaigrette.

Heat some butter in a casserole and colour the leeks on all sides over a gentle heat.
Add some chopped tarragon and a splash of white wine and place in an oven to braise.
Remove from the oven and place the leeks on a serving plate - mix the cooking liquior with some whole grain mustard to make a  vinaigrette and pour over the leeks.
This dish can be served hot from the oven slightly cooled or even cold.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Wild Garlic Pesto

Blanch the wild garlic in boiling water and refresh in cold and squeeze out as much water as possible or leave to dry.
Place in a blender with some toasted pine nuts (you can use others - walnuts work well).
Grate in parmesan (I also added some stilton) and blitz while adding olive or rapeseed oil, until you have the right consisteney.
Scoop into steralised jars and seal with a little oil.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

April Showers and Spring Birds.

A busy afternoon in the garden as the sun was out for a change not that I am complaining about all the recent rain as we really need it (and more). It has prevented me from doing a few things outdoors that I would have rather got done by now, but nothing too urgent.
The week or so of constant showers has really bought the hedge rows to life though, lots of late spring flowers sprouting up nettles, burdock etc and the earlier ones such as cow parsley, lords & ladies and jack-by-the-hedge are coming into flower now.
Plenty of wildlife in the garden too the afternoon sun bought out a few orange tip butterflies and plenty of bird activity at this time of year - the shrill alarm calls of blue tits alerted me just after lunch, they were disturbed by the presence of a little owl perched on the branch of one of the birch trees right next to a nest box. Later on a green woodpecker spent a good five minutes perched on one the neighbouring birches.
Plenty of great tits, chaffinches and robins around also - on pair of robins are nesting in the bank under the oak. I don't fancy their chances much though as a pair tried in the same place last spring and as soon as the chicks hatched it took about two or three days before the nest was dragged out of its hollow during the night. this year its more overgrown on the bank so they maybe lucky - I hope so.
I got four globe artichokes planted that had been over wintering in pots in the greenhouse after being split last autumn and put a few borage plants in the borders as well as potting on some tomatoes (tumbling toms) and planted out more broad beans.
The asparagus has been very slow growing up to now, and we have only harvested four spears so far (which made a very nice asparagus pea and mint risotto). The first spears appeared at the end of March after a lovely unseasonal warm spell but the return to colder weather during this month seems to have slowed the growth down to a snails pace, thankfully though all the crowns i planted are putting out spears which means they survived the winter frosts. With any luck we will be eating it again this weekend.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Baked Mushroom with Stilton and Thyme.

Pre heat the oven to 180.
Cut the stalk out of the mushroom and chop return to the centre of the mushroom with a small slither of garlic.
Season with salt & pepper and brush with olive oil.
Chop the thyme and scater over with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Finally cover with crumbled stilton and cook for 10-12mins.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mussels with wild garlic, spring onions, fennel and cider.

A very simple supper using fresh ingredients from the garden.

Soften the chopped spring onions in butter or oil.
Add the shredded wild garlic and chopped fennel and cook for a few minutes to release their flavours.
Add some cider and when the cider comes to the boil add the cleaned mussels.
Cook for a couple of mins and give the pan a shake and continue cooking for another minute or two until the mussels have opened.
Discard any that have not opened and serve with frites or crusty bread to soak up the delicious liquor.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Wildflower Survey & Ramsons

This year I am undertaking a wildflower count for the Plantlife charity and yesterday took a walk along all the footpaths in my allocated square kilometre. If you don't know about Plantlife or the wildflower count you can get more info by clicking on this link .
Its very easy to do and you don't need to know anything about wild flowers so I urge anyone with a spare afternoon to register and do the count at least once this summer.
My allocated area is very close by, but an area of fields and wood I have never walk around in the few years I have been here, so I decided before choosing which paths to do the survey along I would walk all of them. You can just do a 1km walk in your allocated square and you can also choose two patches, a central square and a strip, and fortunately my area contains hedge rows (a wonderful display of mayflowers pictured), a small wood and a brook running through it so I have a few options as to what kind area i wish to do in more detail should I choose to do the more detailed study.
I also came across a large wooded hollow next to one of the footpaths that was carpeted in ramsons (wild garlic). However it was the other side of a hedge and on private land so I wasn't able to pic any, besides I have a small plot of them in the garden that I planted a few years back and now also know of a very large patch of them only half a mile from the cottage.
If you have never eaten or cooked with them you are missing one of the best free foods available.
It is the leaves of ramsons that you eat and they have a mild garlic flavour compared with the bulb variety you buy in shops. You can use them as a leaf in salads, shred them and add them to a broth to make a soup or just about any other way you would use bulb garlic. A recent dish I made was a wild garlic and mushroom sauce for a chicken breast, or try stuffing a shoulder of lamb with them for a very seasonal twist on an Easter roast.
They also make a great pesto - blanch the leaves first and make in the conventional way, or use walnuts and rapeseed oil instead of pine nuts and olive oil for a truly British pesto. This will last for weeks if not months in the fridge and means you can continue enjoying them well after their season finishes in a month or so.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cheats Hollandaise and Sorrel Potatoes

Disappointingly the asparagus spears that have appeared are still not long enough to harvest, I put this down to the cooler days and nights this week- maybe by Easter Monday.
Reading up on asparagus recipes this week, amongst others, I came across a very good one for Duck Egg with Asparaugus Soldiers which sounded great and one for a cheats hollandaise made inside the egg!! Despite my lack of asparagus and a duck egg, I plowed on regardless, after all the purple sprouting broccoli was ready for picking and would make a great subsitute.

Cheats Hollandaise with Broccoli Soldiers.

Soft boil an egg (around 3 mins on a rolling boil).
While the egg is boiling steam some purple sprouting broccoli spears.
Just before the broccoli is cooked put a knob of butter, a dash of white wine vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon juice in a small container and place in the steamer to melt.
When the egg is cooked take off the top season with pepper and pour the melted ingredients into the soft yolk.
Serve immediately with the broccoli, rolled in melted butter, use the soldiers to mix the yolk into a cheats hollandaise inside the egg!

A great starter and i can't wait to try it with asparagus and maybe a duck egg.

To follow I had a steak with sorrel potatoes. To prevent the sorrel discolouring to the unappetising brown that it usually does, let the potatoes cool slightly first, then add butter and let melt, finally adding the shredded sorrel just before serving.
The sorrel aparently only discolours at a certain temperature so with a little practice and judgement you can get the potatoes down to a low enough temperature not to brown the sorrel but still hot enough to serve.
I must try this with sorrel soup sometime.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Salad Burnet and Burnet Vinegar

Rain at last and god did we need it - not a great deal but enough to give all the plants a drink.
Spaghetti meatballs in tomato sauce tonight (all home made of course), and to go with it a simple green salad made of mixed leaves from the garden - rocket, lettuce (lambs and a few radicchio leaves) also in there will be the tender young leaves from Salad Burnett a native wild flower that I grew from seed. Its a very attractive plant that is just coming into flower now - the flowers are very dense and purple coloured not like conventional blooms at all.
Its leaves can be used in salads and have a slight cucumber flavour to them. They also make a very nice vinegar.

Salad Burnett Vinegar

Crush your Burnett leaves with a mortar & pestle and place in a bowl.
Bring a saucepan of white wine vinegar to the boil and pour over the Burnett leaves.
Allow to cool and pour into a jar or other container.
Keep for a couple of weeks - shaking the jar every day or so.
Strain to remove the leaves and re-bottle.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Best Sight of Spring.

Got my first potatoes in this afternoon - a row outside and also four in large containers. I know the tradition is to plant them at easter, but easter falls at different time each year anyway! and besides the weather at present is more like early summer than spring.
My tomato seedlings were also devided into seperate pots, some being returned to the window sills and some left out in the greenhouse. I left one out overnight last night as tester to see if the nightime temperature was not to low for them and it was in perfect condition this morning, though I am still a little worried that we might still get a slight frost, so the ones on the window sills are the pick of the crop as a insurance pollicy.
This afternoon though I saw the best sight of spring - the first asparagus spear poking through the soil. A very welcome sight as this year is the first time I will be able to eat it from this new bed since moving and leaving my old asparagus plants behind - the only problem is that I am going away tomorrow for the weekend, so I think these first spears may have been picked and eaten by the time I return on monday.
No point in them being saved for my return as they are at there very best cooked imeditately after picking, and besides I hope this spear is the first of many over the next month or so.
Asparagus recipies hopefully to follow in the next month or two.

A Walk over Twyford Down.

Entrance to White Lane.

Saturday was a real nice hot spring day, more like early summer than spring, and finally got to do the walk over Twyford Down.
We parked the car in Twyford, deciding it was best to get the road part of the walk done at the start, then headed west out of Twyford along the B3335 towards Winchester. Just after you leave Twyford the road dips down and turns to the left, to the right on this corner is a holloway called White Lane that leads you straight up onto Twyford down. As you reach the summit of the down the holloway peters out and you continue along the footpath with hedges on either side eventually coming along side Hockley Golf Club.
So much wild life around - Coma butterflies were basking in the sun on the chalk path by our feet, and as we were just about vear away from the golf course I heard a bird song that was very unfamiliar to me. Luckily after a minute or so of watching the undergrowth I spotted the bird and just as it disappeared into the brambles I got a glimps of the unmistakable head of a blackcap.
We walked on for another five or ten minutes until the footpath cross the Pilgrim trail and turned right and headed west along it. You eventualy cross Hazeley Down and come out onto the road which we crossed and headed in the same direction up Mare Lane. When you reach Downstead House turn right again and join the Monarch's Way. This part is through fields and looking over the hedge to your right you have great views back over Hazeley and Twyford Downs. There was also a lot of wild violets in full bloom along this stretch of the walk including some very pale ones which on first sight looked white - I had never seen wild violets this colour before.
Just before you reach the Twyford Pumping Station a footpath on your left takes you over the last field joing the road oposite Love Lane, unfortunately not another holloway, but a nice track road that you can follow back in Twyford.
In total the walk took two hours and a very steady pace with the occasional pause to view the wild life.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Butterflied mackerel.

An afternoon off work so got out into the garden to spread a load of manure over the raspberries as they are beginning to shoot - we are very lucky because the field behind us is used for keeping horses and the owners happily pile the manure on the other side of the hedge to our garden so we can hop over and collect it anytime. So the raspberries, chard, garlic and other things got three barrow loads spread around them.
Managed to get some seed sown in the greenhouse as well - hyssop (which I have never grown before), more thyme (I find I never have enough fresh thyme!) and chanced my arm on sowing some more chervil, despite the packet saying May sewing is best.
Dinner was a butterflied mackerel. I checked out a few recipes in various books Elisabeth David, Moro, and a great Jenny Baker cook book I got years ago called Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool.
I settled on the Moro one as the others tended to go for the classic pairings like gooseberry and rhubarb, none of which are in season.
I have never butterflied a fish before but it seemed easy enough. As the fish monger had gutted it and taken the head off all I had to do was cut through to the backbone, spreading the fish out and then carefully remove it without cutting the fish in half. The Moro recipe said to then season the fish and oven cook for 8-10mins in a lightly oiled pan then sprinkle with finely chopped garlic, sweet paprika and parsley. I decided to sprinkle the garlic on before cooking as raw garlic no matter how finely chopped didn't sound to my tastes.
Even after 10 mins of oven cooking and only a light sprinkling of garlic the garlic was a bit strong for my tastes and I think next time I cook this recipe I will leave the garlic out or used garlic infused oil.
With the bright green of the fresh parsley and the deep earthy red of the paprika sprinkled over the mackerel it was, I must say, a very attractive dish.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Not a woodpecker.

 Out in the garden today again as we cancelled our plans to go walking around Twyford due to uncertain weather. I am keen to do a circular walk north west out of Twyford and loop back east as I have seen what I think are a couple of holloways leading off the main road while busing into Winchester, but more about that after I do the walk.
At first I thought it was a woodpecker, but surely not as it was nowhere near loud enough and obviously very close - it was in fact a Great Tit sitting on the perch of one our nest boxes (we have five up plus a new house sparrow terrace this year). It was tapping away furiously trying to entice its mate into the box.
The other boxes with smaller holes were also being checked out by blue tits though I have not seen any taking in nesting materials yet. In fact i have not noticed any birds building yet. Must take an hour out sometime and watch a little closer as I am sure the Robins and Blackbirds must be building somewhere by now.
In the veg garden I managed to dig in some compost and rotted down horse manure and plant out spinach and winter gem lettuce which have been in pots in the green house as I used the greenhouse as you would a cold frame this winter - why have I never done this before? as the results were great lettuce, lambs lettuce, parsley, chervil, spring onions etc etc to eat most of the winter, and have given other things a real head start this spring.
First leaves now appearing on the currant bushes outside as well as first shoots appearing on the lovage plants - lots of things to be getting on the with in the coming weeks - I have decided to try and grow our three gooseberry bushes up and train them along a wooden frame (something I saw in a garden we visited last summer on one of the NGS open days) as this will save space - hope I can make it work as well as the ones I saw.
An aching back this afternoon as I spent an hour or so weeding grass etc out of the small chamomile lawn on top of the bank, still not got it all out and think it maybe an on going battle for the rest of the year!
Little sign of any of shoots appearing yet in any of the seeds I planted both out in the greenhouse or on the window sills - just one broad bean shoot so far. I put these in a few weeks back to replace the ones killed by the frost (the packet said frost resistant and the ones last winter survived worse conditions!!!), but hey ho that's the way it goes from year to year.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Springing into life.

Spring is finally arriving here - so many things shooting up in the garden and greenhouse. The fennel has been growing happly outdoors for a few weeks now (I have got a piece of pork marinading in fennel leaves) and the primroses and celandine have also been in flower for a long time.
The  Snake's head fritillary blubs I planted in the autumn have started to appear outside around the apple tree, which is a relief as its the first time I have planted any. Three appeared so far so hoping the rest have survived the winter too.
In the veg garden the Gooseberry bushes have started to show leaves and the strawberries are coming into life.
Got a lot of work ahead in the next few months as I am laying new paths through the veg garden (gravel with wooden edging) to the greenhouse, and have lots of things that have over wintered in pots in the greenhouse that need planting out - Horseradish, Letuce, Spinach, Chervil, Artichokes etc.
Indoors the tomato seedlings are already a couple of inches high, though the chillies have not appeared yet, so have to create some space inside the greenhouse by the end of April for the toms and chillies.
First post!

I have created this blog to share places I go and things I do.
I love to garden esp interested in veg growing and wild flowers and try to create a animal / bird friendly garden as much as possible.
I also love to cook, hence the veg growing. I try to keep things as simple and as fresh and seasonal as possible most of the time , but occasionally like to go the extra mile.
I also love to walk and explore the countryside and am a casual bird watcher and have been sice childhood.
My latest "thing" for walking is to try and discover and walk the ancient holloway's of southern England - Hampshire, Dorset and Sussex.