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.

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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.

February

Month Sow indoors Sow outdoors When to harvest Jobs to do
February Summer Cabbage 

Summer Lettuce

Garlic 

Onions,  spring sets [at the end of Feb]

Sprouting Broccoli 

Autumn/Winter Cabbage

Spinach

Swiss chard

Kale

Leeks

Parsnips

Time to start doing desk work as in buying seeds and planning what goes where, this is a good time to go to seed exchange events.  Also this is a time for mulching the earth and composting, start sorting out trays and the space where your seedlings are going to go