Chilled Lettuce and Pea Pod Soup for Plot 22

We have been able to pick the first of our peas recently and enjoyed them as part of a broad bean and pea pasta dish. When I visited the local community allotment, Plot 22, earlier I noticed how well their peas were growing. So when asked by Emma to write something for their site I had to do something based on peas; well, based on pea pods actually.Pea Pods shelled of peas
Check out the rest of the post and the recipe I wrote for them below.

Chilled Pea Pod and Lettuce Soup
The process of picking and then podding peas is such a great one. It almost forces you to sit at the kitchen table and take time to pop out the sweet green orbs, occasionally failing to resist the temptation to eat a stray pea. However satisfying this is, you’re always left with a mountain of fresh pea pods[…]

Ox cheek cottage pie

This recipe came from an idea in the Waitrose Kitchen magazine and the discovery of half a kilo of ox cheeks in the discount section of my local supermarket (£1.78 by the way). I’ve started to look on these shelves on a regular basis. Not necessarily out of necessity, but more out of a desire not to see waste and if I can save money then all the better.

If you have the time (close on four hours), cuts like ox cheek, oxtail and breast of lamb are delicious, frugal and very comforting. The combination of the meat with vegetables from the plot made this dish easily stretch to feed the family with some leftover.

Ox Cheek Cottage Pie

You will need

500g Ox Cheeks
1 finely chopped onion
Stick of celery finely chopped
1 finely chopped leek
1 finely chopped carrot
Small bunch of thyme
1 bay leaf
500g potatoes
Glass of red wine
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Litre of beef stock
Salt and pepper to season
Grated cheese

Start by trimming any large pieces of fat or sinew from the meat and cutting into large chunks, before tossing in seasoned flour. Brown the meat in a little oil and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add the onions, leeks, carrot and celery to the pan and gently cook until soft and the onion is translucent. When the vegetables have softened, add the thyme and the bay leaf, then pour in the wine and allow the alcohol to boil off. Return the browned ox cheeks to the pan and pour in the stock and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Bring the liquid to the boil before placing in a preheated oven (160°C) for three hours. Whilst the meat is cooking peel, boil and mash the potatoes.

After three hours the meat should be super tender and you can pull it apart with a couple of forks. I like to keep a few small pieces, so there is a variety of textures within the meat mix. Construct the cottage pie by putting the meat mix into an ovenproof dish and then topping with mash. Leave some texture on tip, as this helps to get a crispy crust to the mash, and grate a little cheddar or similar cheese over the mash. Place in an oven at (180°C) for 30 minutes, until the top of the mash is browned, then serve with wilted greens (something like the iron rich Cavolo Nero I grow at the plot).

Ox cheek cottage pie


Make, Do, and Mend

This Christmas I’ve tried to make a few of the presents I’ll be giving. One of my motivations for this has been a financial one; it’s often cheaper to create your own and the extra effort is always appreciated. However, the main reason for making things comes from a quote I came across a while back when thinking about ways to improve my happiness.

Time set aside for making good things for family and friends becomes a luxury in itself.

The great people at Action for Happiness have a ten keys to happier living, and the first item is giving; scientific research suggests that helping and giving to others boosts happiness and life satisfaction. Since discovering this idea I’ve looked at making things for others slightly differently; recognising the benefit it is giving me, as well as those I’ve made things for or shared things with. So look out for some homemade gifts making their way onto the blog and under your Christmas trees; and remember that by receiving them, you’re helping me to be happier.

Boulangère Potatoes

Our potato crop was pretty decent this year, despite the hot weather and the fact that across our allotment site people were complaining about low yields. We’ve still got some left over, as well as onions and loads of sage. So this comforting dish was an ideal one for the cold winter nights. I served it as an accompaniment to roast pork, but it could easily be a frugal supper for two. This classic French potato gratin dish translates as “Potatoes in the Style of the Baker’s wife”. The story being that in the past, a French family would prepare these potatoes and then take them to the local boulangerie, the baker, to be cooked in the even heat of his oven, hence the name.

You will need
500g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (it’s work getting them really thin, so that the layers are deliciously delicate)
1 onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Some fresh sage, leaves picked and finely sliced, some leaves left whole
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
200 ml vegetable stock
1 handful of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 knob butter

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Get an ovenproof dish and grease the bottom with a little of the butter. Place a layer of sliced potatoes over the base, then a layer of sliced onions, followed by a scattering of sliced sage and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Continue this layering until all the potato is used up, or you run out of room. You want to end with a layer of potato on top, which I overlapped around my dish to give a nice finish. Once you’ve completed the layers, pour your stock over the potatoes. Season the top layer with a little salt and pepper; then place a few whole sage leaves, some small dots of butter, and your Parmesan on top. Pop the dish on the highest shelf of the oven and cook for around an hour, until the top is crisp and golden and the potatoes cooked all the way through.

This post is an entry for #FluffyMarisPiper Linky Challenge sponsored by Potato Council. Learn more at