Sprouting Broccoli

After many months of waiting for the ‘triffid’ plants also known as sprouting broccoli, here they are finally ready to be harvested.  If you grow broccoli, you will have been waiting almost as much as waiting for a child to be born!  Now is the time to be rewarded with the shoots of broccoli.

Here is a simple recipe that uses both green and purple sprouts, you don’t need to use both, they can be interchanged, also instead of boiling, you can pan fry them until they are golden or roast on a tray with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until soft outside and crunchy inside.

Warm Broccoli Salad

Serves 6

1 head of Broccoli, separated into florets

200 g sprouted purple broccoli

50 g crumbled fetta cheese

70 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

The juice of half a large lemon or 1 small one

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp pine-nuts, toasted

black olives

 

Boil both types of broccoli in separate saucepans of lightly salted water until soft but still firm, about 4 minutes [you can pan fry the florets or even roast them instead].  Drain very well and combine in a warmed salad bowl.  Sprinkle the fetta cheese on top.  Mix oil, oregano, parsley and lemon juice together, heat the dressing up in a microwave or gently warm up in a saucepan.  Add to the broccoli –be extra careful because this might sizzle.  Lift and turn the pieces to mix properly.

Sprinkle the toasted pine-nuts and black olives.  Serve immediately.

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Leeks, glorious leeks!

Leeks are in season right now and if you grow your own, I need not to tell you that they are just like asparagus, best when they are young and do little to them, braise them in wine for instance or pan-fry them with a little olive oil.

Larger leeks are slightly tougher and they need more time to soften, braising again is a good method of preparation.   Below is a nice recipe from Jane Grigson’s great Vegetable Book, for a very simple Leek Pie.

Flemish Leek Pie

Ingredients:

125 g butter

1 medium onion

375 g leeks, sliced

125 g double cream

1 tsp plain flour

salt and pepper to taste

500 g puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

In half the butter, cook the onion slowly to soften, add the rest of the butter and put in the leeks.  Cover the pan and leave the vegetables to cook for 5 minutes.  If there is much liquid left, raise the heat to evaporate, making sure the vegetables do not brown or burn!

Beat the cream into the flour to make a smooth paste and stir it into the leeks.  Cook for one minute, then remove from the heat, season and cool down.

Roll out the pastry and cut two large circles, one slightly bigger than the other.  Put the smallr of the two on a moistened baking sheet.  Spread the leek filling in the middle, leaving a 2 cm rim.  Brush the rim with egg.  Place the larger circle over the top.  Press the edges firmly together and twist to seal.  Make a hole in the centre of the lid and score the pastry lightly with the tip of a knife.  Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes at 220 C / Gas Mark 7, then lower to 180 C / Gas mark 4 and continue baking for 20 minutes.

If you have a wet filling or if you are unsure about baking a flat pie, you can always fit in a cake or flan tin 22-23 cm in diameter.

Something delicious to do with Cavolo Nero

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Here is another good recipe for cabbage cooking, today it is the turn of delicious Cavolo Nero, which is not only abundant, but especially tasty, because this nice brassica, improves its flavour with a good frost!

Celery is in season as well in January/February, so it is good to try these two vegetables in this dish.

Braised celery, red onions and Cavolo Nero

Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion

½ head celery

500 g curly kale or cavolo nero or any other beautiful seasonal cabbage or spring greens

50 ml olive oil

50 ml water

a good measure of vermouth about 50 ml.

the zest of a lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp parmesan (optional)

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C

Cut the onion into wedges

Trim the celery and slice in a diagonal, 1 inch slices are nice

Trim and wash the kale, reserve

In a large pan, heat up 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sauté the onion for one minute; add some of the greens and sauté for another minute.  Transfer to a baking tray and mix well with the celery and the rest of the greens.

Mix the oil and water with the vermouth and pour this mix onto the vegetables, mix to coat well, season with salt and pepper and cover tightly with foil.  Put in the oven and leave to braise until the vegetables are soft.  This can take about 30 minutes.  If you want to make this dish in advance, cook until the vegetables start to look cooked but they still feel al dente, later on you can put back in the oven and continue cooking until they are soft; this last process can last about 8 minutes. Once ready, mix with the lemon zest.

Serve on a dish and decorate with some shaved or grated parmesan and eat immediately.

Caldo Verde or something delicious to do with a Savoy Cabbage

Wintertime is cabbage time and here is a recipe that is says simplicity all over: Caldo Verde.  This is a very simple Portuguese soup that uses Savoy cabbage which is abundant at this time of year, you can also use spring greens, Cavolo Nero, and plain or curly kale for this.

This is a meatless version, if you want to add meat, try some pan fried pancetta, chorizo or some sausage.  Delicious winter warmer, cheer me up type food!

Serves 4 – 6

Medium sized Savoy cabbage about 400 g

1 kg potatoes

3 garlic cloves, peeled and made into a puree

2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1.5 litres of vegetable stock

½ tsp pimenton –maybe more according to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with finely chopped parsley that is pounded with olive oil and pimenton –if you want you can add a little garlic to this mix.

Prepare the cabbage by removing the outer leaves and cut into quarters, then core and slice very finely.   Peel and dice the potatoes and put in a pan with the garlic, tomato, pimenton and stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes and break the potatoes to a rough puree.  Season with salt and pepper and add more pimenton if you want.

Just before serving, add the sliced cabbage, bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minues or until the cabbage has cooked.

Make a garnish by putting some finely chopped parsley, pimenton a clove of garlic and some olive oil, pound and mix until it resembles a puree.

Serve in bowls and put a teaspoon of the garnish.

Seville Orange Marmalade / Mermelada de Naranjas de Sevilla

For those who happen to live on northern latitudes, January can be seen as a bleak month, when after all the jolly of Christmas, we are left over with extra pounds of belly fat, with short days that seem to take an eternity to become longer and with a desire for something exciting and new to happen.

The appearance of Seville or bitter oranges (citrus auriantium) at fruit stalls and markets certainly is no cure for winter nostalgia, but it can be seen as some kind of first aid: their bits of green/yellow and orange colour, provided by these fruits can be added to our seasonal cooking palette.  These fruits become like the first rays of sunshine, coming to our rescue from those winter blues.

And rescue they do.  Seville oranges are only available for roughly a period of six weeks from early to mid January and they are used mainly for making marmalade because they have a high pectin content and also because they are very sour and bitter as a fruit.

Gorgeous it is to see these oranges at the shops and glorious is the smell they produce when they are turned into conserve.   To make a large batch of marmalade every January not only gives you enough stock to spread on your toast for the rest of the year, it also gives you a sense of seasonality.

It is fun to turn the kitchen into a production line, invite friends and family and make large batches of marmalade, you can achieve a lot by sharing jobs and have a great time during the process.

So when you see Seville oranges at the shops buy loads, don’t eat them as a fruit, instead turn them into marmalade.  This in time will become something that will make you appreciate January.

Recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade

This recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander’s cooking bible: The cook’s companion

Makes 1.5 – 1.8 litres

1 kg Seville oranges

3 large lemons

2 litres water

2 kg sugar

old jam jars and lids

labels

Begin by peeling the rind of the oranges and lemons using a potato peeler, then cut into long strips or julienne.  Juice the fruits and reserve the pith and seeds –this is important, the seeds are full of pectin that you will need later on.  Place these inside a muslin bag or cloth and tie well.  Put the juice, muslin bag, water and zest into a non-reactive saucepan [stainless steel] and bring to the boil;  as soon as this happens, reduce to a very gentle simmer, partially cover the pan with a lid and cook for one hour, stirring from time to time.  You want to reduce the liquid to about half of its original volume.  Take off the heat and leave covered overnight.

The day after, begin by squeezing the muslin bag very well of any liquid/pectin, remember any pectin is valuable, so you want to really squeeze as much liquid as possible from the bag.

Add the sugar to the citrus mix and stir well, heat up gently, stirring all the time, up to boiling point.   Once it begins to boil, stop stirring and leave to bubble for about 7 minutes or until it comes to setting point.  Test for setting using a thermometer, it should reach 104 C, if you don’t have a thermometer, just place a blob of marmalade on a cold plate and leave for a couple of minutes, push your finger into the marmalade, it should separate in two halves; this is setting point.  If this does not happen, continue boiling for a bit longer and test until you are able to do so.

Sterilise your glass jars: Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse well in hot water.  Submerge  into a large pan full of boiling water for 10 minutes, carefully take out of the bath and place upside-down over a clean tea-towel to drain.  Dry well by putting them inside an oven at 150 C.  Take out of the oven and avoid touching the insides of the jars and lids.  While these are still hot, fill them with hot marmalade and then screw on the  lids.  Do this with care.

Leave them to cool down, a vacuum should be created, you can tell this by feeling the concave shape of the lids when they are cold.  Label and date the jars… when you open a jar in July and see the date, you will remember the day you made this!

December

Month Sow indoors Sow outdoors When to harvest Jobs to do  

December Autumn/Winter Cabbage 

Chard/Swiss Chard

Kale

Parsnip

Spinach

 

This is a time of harvesting brassicas and of cleaning tools, a yearly oiling of tools will do wonders.  Look for seed exchange events in the near future.

November

Month Sow indoors Sow outdoors When to harvest Jobs to do

November Broad Beans Garlic

Onion autumn sets

Autumn/Winter Cabbage

Chard/Swiss Chard

Kale

Leeks

Parsnip

Pumpkins and winter squashes (if a warm autumn)

Spinach

 

if you want to do some permaculture you can work on the soil by adding sand and sprinkle  some chicken pellets on bare soil, then cover with horse manure and spent mushroom manute, cover with cardboard and dark plastic.  Leave until spring