Time for Peas

I’ve been a little slack in getting the allotment back online after its winter break, so as the weather warms up and there are glimpses of spring-like weather its about time I got something in the ground. One of the pleasures of having an allotment is the fact that you can grow your own beans and peas. There is little in life better than shelling a basket of home grown peas (perhaps eating them pod as you pick them I suppose), and with this thought in mind I have set about preparing ground for this year’s peas, as well as sowing some in trays in the greenhouse.Pea Pods shelled of peasPeas sing of freshness and, as mentioned, there is nothing better than eating them super fresh from the pod on the allotment. However, this is not possible all year, and here we can rely on frozen peas. Frozen peas are frozen within a few hours of picking, so will almost always be sweeter than those bought in the grocers, as the sugars in the peas start to turn to starch as soon as they have been picked.

With a longing for the freshness of peas, and a reminder of why I was planting out the shrivelled peas on a cold day at the allotment, a pea soup was required. Pea soup on its own is a lovely thing, but for me pea and ham is a superior combination.

pea and ham soup title

You will need
knob of butter
2 spring onions, finely chopped
500g frozen peas
1 litre stock (I used vegetable, but for the best pea and ham soup, ham or pork stock is best)
Small handful of fresh mint
300g ham, sliced and diced

Melt the butter in a thick bottomed saucepan and as it starts to froth add the spring onions. Slowly cook the onions until they turn translucent and release their sweet allium flavour, before adding the frozen peas. Stir, and cook for a few minutes, before pouring in the stock and bringing to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the mint and blitz until smooth. To achieve a truly silken soup, I like to sieve the pureed soup once it is a little cooler. Once you’ve achieved the texture you want, add the ham and season accordingly.

Spicy Parsnip Soup

With the cold weather finally arriving in the South-East this week, the draw of a steaming bowl of soup is a strong one. Added to this is the fact that two TV programmes I watched last week extolled the virtues of soup in a healthy diet; citing evidence that soup fills you up more successfully than a conventional meal with the same ingredients.

Spicy Parsnip SoupSo, unsurprisingly, I’ve rekindled my love of soup this week. The cold weather is also good for the key ingredient in this particular soup. Parsnips; sown months ago, and slowly growing over the summer and autumn, taste infinitely sweeter once they have experienced Jack Frost’s icy touch. They bring an earthy sweetness to this comforting spicy dish. The addition of the North African nut and spice mix, Dukkah, sprinkled on top adds a crunch to contrast with the velvety soup.

You will need (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
4 good sized parsnips (roughly 800g), peeled and chopped
A couple of knobs of butter
700ml boiling water
salt and pepper to season
Dukkah and yoghurt to serve

spicy parsnip soup

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion and garlic until softened, before adding the spices and stirring through. Add the parsnips and the butter, and gently cook for five or so minutes to slightly soften the parsnips. Add the water and bring to the boil. Simmer the parsnips for a further 20 minutes until cooked through, adding a little seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool slightly before whizzing in the food processor and adjusting the consistency of the soup by adding extra water (or cream if you’re feeling particularly indulgent). Warm through in a pan and serve topped with a spoonful of yoghurt and a sprinkling of dukkah.

Roasted Carrot and Cumin Soup with Labneh

With weather a little colder in the last few days, and certainly as a way of warming up after yet another drenching, soup is firmly back on the menu. Our carrots at the allotment have been pretty good this year, but due to the clay soil I only every grow small varieties like Chantenay  and Paris Market. Although this means I have a good amount of carrots, their small size also results in their being eaten up speedily. All this means we don’t have any carrots in storage. However, the other day I was given a load of carrots by a friend, with the mission of turning them into something yummy. My go-to use for a carrot glut is carrot and coriander soup, but we’d had that last week, so an alternative was needed. Roasting the carrots was needed to get the best of their (slightly past their best) flavour, so I added some cumin, onions and garlic when they went in the oven. The resulting spiced carrots made the perfect base for a sweet, spiced warming soup. Topped with cool slightly sharp Labneh it was just what was needed.

You will need

700g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (larger chunks take longer to roast, so vary times accordingly)
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion (chopped into eighths)
Salt & Pepper
2 tsp of cumin seeds (slightly crushed)
drizzle of olive oil
1l good chicken stock
Labneh, freshcoriander and zaatar to serve – I made my own labneh, by straining 450g of yoghurt with a pinch of salt overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Add the chopped carrots, garlic and onions to an oven tray, sprinkle with the cumin, salt and pepper and olive oil. Toss the vegetables to ensure they are all covered in the oil and seasoning. Roast for 30 mins or until partly browned. Once the carrots have started to caramelise, pour them into a saucepan and add 1l stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft and tender. Whizz in the food processor and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serve the hot soup with a spoonful of the labneh (or Greek yoghurt if you want) and a sprinkling of zaatar and fresh chopped coriander.

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[…]

Early Summer Minestrone

Home grown veg, no matter how small or misshapen, are a world away from those bought from the supermarket. It has that something special, it’s been cared for by you, it’s got soul. Over the year homegrown veg can provide you with so many fresh and vibrant tastes; from the earliest of peas and beans, to the sugary sweetcorn of late summer, to the pumpkins and roots of autumn.
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This soup is like taking a seasonal look at the plot. It’s a vehicle for the fabulously mixed flavours of the allotment this month (or any month actually). At its base is a great chicken stock and a softened soffritto (the classic Italian soup and sauce base); but apart from that the soup is about using what is available. As such a recipe is not what you need to make this, all you need to do is go to the garden and pick what is in season. The soup benefits from the freshest of vegetables, balanced with a good source of carbs. In huge spirit of adding what you have in season, then this should be potatoes or dried beans. I often use broken pasta or some of the tiny pasta shapes like orzo, combined with small dice potatoes and cannellini or a similar bean.

You will need (serves 4)
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, cut into fine dice
2 sticks of celery, cut into fine dice
Seasonal vegetables of your choice (at the moment a couple of handfuls of fresh peas and broad beans, 3 large leaves of Swiss chard, shredded, but any veg works)
1.5l good quality chicken stock
1 potato, cut into 2cm dice
100g cooked and drained haricot beans (or whatever bean you have)
150g pasta (I’ve used broken bits of pasta, but orzo or another small pasta is great too)
Grated parmesan and a few mint or basil leaves, to serve

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the onion and garlic, softening for 5 minutes, before adding the carrot and celery and softening further. Add the rest of the seasonal vegetables in order of cooking time (peas won’t take as long as courgette for example) and allow to soften slightly. Stir in the potato, stir for a moment, then add the stock, the cannellini beans and pasta. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes until the potato and pasta are cooked. Season to taste, drizzle with some olive oil, a grating of parmesan and some torn mint leaves.

 

 

Favourite Five Mustard Recipes

Spadeforkspoon Favourite FiveMustard is a great ingredient offering piquancy to many a dish. It is a member of the Brassica family of plants which has tiny round edible seeds as well as tasty leaves. Its English name, mustard, comes from a contraction of the Latin mustum ardens meaning burning must. This refers to the spicy heat of the crushed mustard seeds and the French practice of mixing the ground seeds with must, the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes. Although mustard was considered a medicinal plant initially, it has become a staple of many food cultures. Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and combine them with wine to form a paste not much different from the prepared mustards we have today. It’s a store cupboard essential and here are my favourite five uses of mustard.

Mustard Soup  – This is a delicious soup which I first tasted in Amsterdam. It combines the piquancy and texture of wholegrain mustard with a silky smooth creme fraiche based liquor. Simple to make and a great winter warmer.

Cheese and Mustard Scones – Cheese scones are one of life’s little pleasures; especially so when served warm and the butter melted slightly on top. The addition of a little grain mustard really brings out the cheesiness, and gives them a slightly more sophisticated flavour. My son has recently been diagnosed as coeliac, so this recipe is for gluten free scones, but the addition of mustard to your usual cheese scone recipe would work. Combine 275g gf plain flour, 50g ground almonds, 3tsp baking powder, 2 tsp xanthum gum and 1 tsp salt in bowl and rub 100g butter into the dry mix to make breadcrumbs. Add 100g of whatever cheese you have around (generally cheddar and Parmesan in our case). Combine 2 eggs with a tbsp wholegrain mustard and 125ml yoghurt. Pour this into breadcrumb mix and bring the ingredients together with a fork. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and flatten to 3cm thick, before cutting out into scone shapes. Transfer onto a baking sheet, brush the tops with a little milk and grate a little more cheese on top. Cook for 10 minutes at 220 °C. Leave to cool slightly before eating.

Piccalilli – This has been my food revelation of the year. For years I’ve seen the yellow pots of Piccalilli on sale and thought they looked over processed and not too tempting. Then early in 2013 I had a dish in Bridport which had a delicious Piccalilli accompanying pig’s head croquettes. It just worked so well. So, when I had a glut of veg at the plot, I made some of my own and it’s been in constant use ever since. As well as vegetables from the plot, it uses a combination of English mustard powder and mustard seeds to make a simple punchy preserve.

Mustard mash – A simple use of wholegrain mustard to give the humble mash a bit of a twist. Boil, drain and mash your potatoes, before adding a knob of butter and a spoonful of wholegrain mustard. It goes brilliantly with sausages, but would work with other meats too.

Mustard and Honey Dressing – This is our ‘go-to’ dressing. Throughout most of the year we have a jar of this in the fridge. It’s speedy to make, lasts a few days, and really compliments a range of salad leaves. To make, just add the following to a jar with a screw-top lid: 3tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 clove of garlic crushed, 1/2 tbsp honey, pinch of salt and sugar and a few twists of black pepper. Cap and shake vigorously to emulsify. It can be easily upsized for the summer months, when there isn’t a day that goes by without salad featuring on our plates.

mustard dressing
What ways do you use mustard in your cooking?

 

 

 

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Cauliflower Soup – A Guest Post from @MissAmyPhipps

Recently my friend  of the fabulous Little Button Diaries recommended I check out one of her friends’ blogs. Amy blogs about her life; you’ll find recipes, craft projects, tips on gardening, and design inspiration. Amy and I met the other week and we decided to swap posts and write for each others blogs.

Here is Amy’ guest post. It looks delicious Amy. I’ll be giving it a go with the last of my Jerusalem artichokes.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Cauliflower Soup
The sun might be shining but let’s not forget it is only march and deceptively chilly in the shade… enough so to enjoy a hearty soup of a lunchtime. Especially when its harvest season for some of the most delicious root veg! I love cooking this recipe because not only is it jam packed with cold fighting ingredients, but yields enough for a dinner for the family or to fridge and last for 3 or 4 lunches. Fresh and creamy but totally vegan and gluten free!

Roasting the vegetables traps in their goodness and gives the most wonderful caramelised flavour. Do not be put off the slightly porridge look of the blended soup for what it lacks in visuals it makes up in abundant flavours!cauliflower and artichokes

You will need:
5/6 medium Jerusalem artichokes
A medium head of cauliflower (or half a giant one like the one pictured!)
1 bulb of garlic
1 red onion
1 white onion
1 lemon
A couple of good sprigs of rosemary
100ml rapeseed oil
2 litres of wheat free vege stock such as Kallo or Marigold
A food processor or good stick blender is essential!

To make the soup…
Pre heat your oven at 180 degrees. Chop the veg into medium sized chunks and muddle together in a large roasting tray. Break up your garlic bulb and throw it in with skins on. Fear not, roasting whole takes the edge of that zingy garlic flavour. Season with salt & pepper then drizzle all over with the rapeseed oil. The lemon really compliments caramel flavours of the roasted veg and livens up the whole recipe.
roasting tray and veg
Roast for an hour turning veg occasionally until edges start to crisp and go brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes or so.
roasted veg
Discard lemon pieces and remove the garlic cloves to peel their skins off before placing into your soup pan with the rest of your veg.
discarded lemon and garlic
Make 2/3 litres of stock and pour over the veg before blending thoroughly in a large pan. If your artichokes are too big to blitz with stick blender you might need to whizz them separately in a food processor! Re-heat and serve.
Roasted Jerusalem artichoke and Cauliflower soup
Enjoy!
My post for Amy’s blog about salad grown in a Pallet Planter can be found here.