SOWING SEEDS NOW FOR A DELICIOUS SUMMER…

Salad seedlings good to go

This is THE month for sowing seeds for a delicious summer-I’m hard at work in my vegetable garden sowing in anticipation of super fresh goodies to eat later in the year. Of course there are a few hurdles to surmount not least the vagaries of the British weather ( too much rain, not enough rain, too cold, too hot, not enough sun and too much sun) and the indiscriminate chomping by slugs and worse.

I have just sown some lovely rocket and mixed salad  and am looking forward to the peppery taste of the rocket and the freshness of the leaves which I will pick as a ‘cut and come again’ that is harvesting a few leaves at a time and leaving the plant to grow on and produce more and more…-no more smelly supermarket bags of leaves for me. The ones in the picture are just getting going but the fleece is on stand by in case we get a cold night and the crushed egg shells a good and organic deterrent to unwelcome guest who also want an easy meal. My favourite ‘Charlotte’ potatoes are in, these waxy, thin skinned salad potato  will be dug up to order and on the table before you can say Golden Delicous…. melting with butter or perhaps a little olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh herbs-quite yummy.  My little sons, when pressed into work in the vegetable garden didn’t need any encouraging to dig up the potatoes they said they ‘were digging for gold’ and they were.

Fresh herbs are perhaps the best to grow for culinary excitement so you can pick big generous handfuls later in the year rather than be content with the mingy little growing pots of over forced herbs in the supermarket.  My easy favourites are the aniseedy dill to serve with fish or just sprinkled over a creamy mayonnaise and the fragrant, spicy coriander to add sparkle to curries and and wake up my taste buds after winter comfort foods. Sweetcorn can be set off now (inside for this), nothing is better than eating the cobs straight from the plant and briefly cooked on a smokey barbeque. Homegrown peas are just the best, mine rarely make it to the kitchen let alone a pan of boiling water, I like them raw sprinkled over a salad or lightly crushed with some olive oil and garlic to make a chunky dip. I could go on…tiny sweet beetroots and baby turnips, finger thin carrots and more unusual vegetable such as pak choi and chicory..I am getting ahead of myself and there is a lot of work and TLC to be put in before I can enjoy the fruits of my labour.

However if you are new to this lark then start of with the easiest things and then you won’t be put of if things go wrong (and they do even for the experienced gardener)-my bet would be the salads and the peas.

Good luckx

PANINI PIZZA

Just back from the Italian Dolomites the skiing was lacking in style and quite scary but the pizzas were fantastic. Thin and crispy, with just a little topping, we watched as the pizza dough was twirled in the air to get the required thinness and then cooked quickly in a proper wood oven they were on the table in a trice before I had time to recover from the exertion of hurtling down the piste. There was a bewildering choice of toppings ( I wish that I hadn’t left the phrase book on the hall table at home..) from sausages and ham, eggs, rocket, tuna, seafood, pineapple, mushrooms, etc. My favourite was the plain and simple tomato with cheese and garlic. It had a stronger cheese for flavour (not sure which) and the lovely soft mozzarella that stretches between pizza and mouth alarmingly.  It doesn’t let go until you can manage the quick twist and flick of the chin. No doubt the tomato base was lovingly made by hand, gently simmering fresh tomatos with fragrant basil and then reducing it until it is thick enough to spread. I will try to make this properly sometime but in the meantime-

Let’s not kid ourselves sometimes a quick and easy dish using the really GOOD convenience ingredients available are just perfect for a ‘coming home for work don’t have time to cook’ sort of meal or,indeed for any day of the week. You can rustle these up in 20 minutes or less

Panini pizza for an easy supper dish or snack-pronto

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BEEF LASAGNE – SIMPLY DELICIOUS

BEEF LASAGNE – SIMPLY DELICIOUS

Take a look at these…there are just a few ingredients for this simple family lasagne. You can make the recipe ‘more special’ by using eg Gruyere or Parmesan cheese in the sauce.

I have used good quality minced beef from my local butcher so I know exactly what is in it (and what is not in it..).  Time can be an issue when choosing a local butcher or the supermarket but you can always in larger quantities and then freeze the meat. So stop horsing around and make your own!

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ALMOND AND RASPBERRY PASTRIES FOR MOTHER’S DAY

MOTHER’S DAY RECIPE FOR ALMOND AND RASPBERRY PASTRIES

There was a time when I would get up very early in the morning with my sisters to bake a cake for Mother’s day…..why we didn’t do this the night before I have no idea.  My 10 year old self thought this was quite sensible……..invariably the cake didn’t live up to our expectations.  We would never have enough time to let the cake cool down before the ‘big reveal’ and we would proudly present the cake at my mother’s bedside with the icing pooling in the middle, where it had sunk (yes, I know now the oven was not hot enough), and dripping off the sides.  My mum gave the impression, of course, that it was lovely-I can’t remember ever eating it so perhaps it was disposed of quietly.

You get my point it doesn’t really matter how good it is, as the cliche goes, ‘It’s the thought that counts’. These pastry cakes are delicious and perfect for serving with a cup of tea (or a glass of bubbly) for a special person.

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OH DEAR………HOME COOKING and MAINSGILL FARM SHOP

OH DEAR…..HOME COOKING and MAINSGILL FARM SHOP

Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear………… what is happening to our food industry? The issue regarding ‘other’ meat in some processed meat products is less about what is in these, manufactured, products but more what do WE know is IN the products and  then we can make a more informed decision about buying them. Do we know where the meat has come from, how the animals have been reared/dispatched, how the meat has been transported etc etc etc.  We don’t know what is in them-do we care-yes, of course. One answer is to cook more from scratch and to buy eg our meat from reputable sources and to cook it ourselves……..that is the top and bottom of it.

I could bang on about the importance of buying local , cutting food miles, etc and there are sound economic reasons -local grown vegetables are much cheaper to buy that from a supermarket and are not wrapped in plastic etc-meat is different.  Good quality meat is expensive to buy-there is no getting around this. One answer (and this is supported by the healthy eating lobby) is to eat less meat-not on a daily basis as we have become accustomed to. When we do buy meat we can buy the cheaper cuts instead of the more expensive (which can be used on high days and holidays) ones and, yes we are coming round the full circle and back to cooking our own food.  The problem is that many of these skills have been lost……………………………………

Quality meat is generally available from good Butchers and also small producers who rear their own animals for meat production and sell their meat at Farmers Markets or directly from the farm.

Mainsgill farm shop

 

This is an award winning Farm shop and Tea Room. Yes , I know it is not actually in Cumbria but lying only 6 km from Scotch corner, heading west on the A66 it is a must for passing travellers heading to and from Cumbria. There is a lovely tearoom (with delicious homemade cakes and scones etc.), gift shop, food shop (with lots of nice foodie gifts), and play areas for children and even a camel called Kevin..

The impressive butchery area has a wide range of meat and, most importantly, all the beef, pork and lamb are reared on the farm. So you know exactly what you are purchasing and can be assured of high quality and traceable meat.  Their attention to the highest quality of meat production has brought them national awards and they were finalists in the 2012 Farmers Weekly Awards.

I loved that children (and adults) can go onto the farm and see the livestock and really learn about where our food comes from and how important it is to do this well.

And Kevin?…………………..well, he looked surprisingly at home and content looking out over the beautiful countryside and enjoying the attention he was getting from all the visitors.

Put the brakes on when you are passing and enjoy a break here.

 

PANCAKE RECIPE

Enough of those American Pancakes (with blueberries..for heaven sake!), we love these traditional pancakes ones and who can resist flipping them in the air?  I certainly can’t and, as I say every year on Shrove Tuesday, why don’t we make these more often? They are quick to make, easy, cheap and quite delicious with lemon and sugar, golden syrup, chocolate Nutella type spread, honey, cream………………I could go on. You need a gentle touch to start with, the aim is to get thin pancakes with a frilly edge and to do this you must have a hot pan and only a little batter. Pour it in quickly and move the pan from side to side to distribute the batter.  You should see the little bubbles rising to the surface, flip up the side with a fish slice to see if it is brown enough but don’t get carried away and start batting it down with the slice-you will only make the pancake heavier. A quick flick of the wrist and you should be able to flip it into the air like a pro.  Once you have made one or two you will get the knack of it. They are best eaten warm with whatever takes your fancy.

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AMERICAN STYLE PANCAKES WITH BLUEBERRIES

 

These are quite yummy for Shrove Tuesday. Ok so you can’t flip them but none the less they are fun to make .  I tried these recently in the States and they were huge accompanied by bacon and eggs-we were full even after 8 hours of determined sightseeing and absolutely no lunch.  Be prepared for the first one (or two) to be less than perfect either too rubbery (pan not hot enough) or burnt (pan too hot) which can easily be remedied and then you are on your way to pancake heaven.  Try them with maple syrup (not as sweet as you might imagine), golden syrup or plain and simple fresh lemon juice and sugar.  I ate mine with blueberries but bananas would be good too perhaps with a dollop of creme fraiche or if you are feeling wild double cream. (coming soon Traditional Pancakes that you can flip) Continue reading “AMERICAN STYLE PANCAKES WITH BLUEBERRIES”

ALL ABOUT KALE!

Black Kale ‘Cavalo Nero’

Well obviously this is not ALL about Kale…but it is something delicious.  If you are a gardener cook like me the pickings in the vegetable garden are a bit lean at this time of year but  this morning I found  a dark and  handsome stranger standing nearly 1m high with a jaunty cap of snow.  This is the lovely Italian kale ‘Cavalo Nero’.  The beautiful crinkly leaves can be a tad on the tough side so try to pick only the younger leaves. If you need to use the older parts then  then tear the leaf from the woody mid rib and banish it to the compost heap pronto.  Once you have the leaves wash  carefully and then shred them.  It is easy to find bags of shredded green kale in any supermarket if you can’t get your hands on the real thing. If you are that way inclined have a go at growing your own-they are easy to get going but you will have to take precautions against pesky cabbage whites and pigeons.  I am going to cook them with the spicy Spanish sausage Chorizo. This is strongly flavoured with garlic and paprika and a good match for the hearty kale. You can buy the sausage  sliced but chunks of whole Chorizo are best for cooking.

 

 

Winter Kale with Chorizo
A very good way to eat up your greens!

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ROASTED ROOTS RECIPE TO WARM YOUR HEART

Roasted carrots, parsnips, squash and sweet potato

A pale winter sun is just making it’s way over Dent in the Lake District and it’s distinctly chilly. I want some warming food to cuddle up with and root vegetables are the seasonal stars. Here is a roasted roots recipe for a winters day.
Carrots, parsnips, swede and butternut squash are simply roasted in the oven until sticky and sweet …………………….If you can get them Jerusalem artichokes would be delicious as well, I must plant  these this year and take care as they can be thugs in the veg patch. I have thrown in some sprigs of thyme a robust enough herb to cope with the flavours of the roots. I’m happy to eat these winter roasts on their own, perhaps with some shavings of salty Parmesan cheese, but they go well with chunky sausages (Cumberland of course!), roast chicken or any other meat.

GORGEOUSLY STICKY WINTER ROOTS WITH AROMATIC THYME  Continue reading “ROASTED ROOTS RECIPE TO WARM YOUR HEART”

THE VERY BEST FRUITY CHRISTMAS PUDDING RECIPE

The very best fruity Christmas pudding.

This homemade Christmas Pudding recipe is my mum’s. It is very easy to make-just an assembly job really.  It does take some time to cook as you need to steam it for at least 4-5  hours! This does give you a  light texture-very different from any shop bought puddings! You can make it a few weeks in advance or a few days in advance.

The Very Best Fruity Christmas Pudding

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