Monday 1 June 2015

Waffle, Charcoal and Carrot Tops

I know I have been super slack in writing my blog and to make matters worse I have just taken on the task of writing a new weekly blog for Riverford. The idea is to help customers get exciting and easy ideas and recipes each week, to help them use up their veg boxes. Then I thought, since my blog is primarily about growing and cooking vegetables, I might as well share with you a few posts from my Riverford Blog.

I would love to be sharing with you more "Recipes from the Allotment" but so far this year all I have managed to grow is a ridiculous abundance of rhubarb. I have exhausted all rhubarb recipes I can think of in the last month but luckily I have just come up with a new use, which I think I shall never tire off. It is Rhubarb Margarita and I am currently working on the recipe which I will share with you as soon as it is perfected.

In the meantime, here are some exerts from my Riverford blog.

This week I started with a Medium Veg Box (less roots). It is an exciting time of year with so many new veg and fruit coming available every day now. Gorgeous bunched carrots and onions, tender baby spinach, new season’s UK asparagus and crisp little gem lettuces to name but some.
I couldn’t wait to get started with a Grilled Asparagus & Baby Gem Salad with Feta & Mint.  Grilling your veg keeps them lovely and crisp whilst adding a delicious hint of smoke. This is a great salad to make if you are having a BBQ at the weekend, as it is so quick and easy, especially if you already have the BBQ lit. Mint is everywhere at the moment. One of the first signs of summer in my garden is when the mint reappears from nowhere, green and lush. If you don’t have any in your garden, be sure to add some to your Riverford order. Like all my recipes you can easily adapt the ingredients and this super salad would have worked just as well with grilled courgettes or even whole spring onions. It occurred to me that a few delicious broad beans would have been lovely scatted on top as well. If you are looking for a good olive oil for this recipe, I would like to recommend Riverford’s Italian Extra Virgin at £5.95 for 500ml. I like the one from Giancarlo in Puglia best – it has a lovely peppery taste.

Grilled Asparagus & Baby Gem Salad with Feta & Mint

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
Bunch of Asparagus
One or two Baby Gem Lettuces (depending on size)
100g Feta
½ a Lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Few Sprigs of Fresh Mint

Snap any woody ends off your asparagus and drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Trim the very end off the baby gem lettuce and then cut in half lengthways through the root, taking car to keep it in tack. Cut each half into three wedges. Again drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Heat your griddle or BBQ until smoking. Lay the flat sides of the lettuces on the grill, turning as soon as they have a clear char mark. Do the same with the asparagus making sure they are just cooked through. (It is imperative that your asparagus is very fresh.) Make a dressing with the juice of half a lemon, whisked up with a good pinch of salt and some extra virgin olive oil. Arrange the baby gem and asparagus on a plate and crumble over some feta. Roll up your mint leaves and finely slice to create a chiffonade. Sprinkle over the top and drizzle on your lemon dressing.

Mushrooms and Spinach just go together for some reason, whether it be in a stir-fry, an omelette or a tart but this week I tried out a Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne with a bit of Goat’s Cheese thrown in as well. Serve alongside some of Riverford’s delicious salad leave and you have a meal in no time.

Riverford don’t do a Goat’s Cheese. Maybe they haven’t managed to find a good organic one. I used Helen’s Farm, which although not organic, does a lovely range of Goat’s milk products and they even come in a variety of strengths so there is something to suit to everyone. I chose the mild hard cheese and even managed to sneak it past the kids without a fuss.

Mushroom, Spinach & Goat’s Cheese Lasagne
Serves 2

One Punnet of Mushrooms
One Bag of Baby Spinach
One large clove of garlic
25g Butter
25g Flour
350mls Milk
50g Parmesan
120g Goat’s Cheese
½ box of lasagne sheets
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely slice your mushrooms. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and add your mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Fry on a medium heat until golden brown. Meanwhile heat a large saucepan with a lid. Add a very thin layer of oil to the bottom to stop the spinach sticking. Add the bag of spinach and add a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid carefully. The spinach should be just wilted. Tip the spinach into a colander and wipe out the saucepan. Very finely slice the garlic. Add a glug of olive oil to the pan and add the garlic. Fry until just golden brown. Add the spinach carefully as it may spit. Stir well and turn off the heat.
Heat the butter in a small non-stick saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to a low heat and stir until sandy. Carefully add the milk and whisk over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Season well to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C
Heat the butter in a small non-stick saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to a low heat and stir until sandy. Carefully add the milk and whisk over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Season well to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Cut the goat’s cheese into small chunks.

Take a gratin dish about 20cms x 15cms and put a very thin layer of béchamel on the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Break up the sheets if necessary. Top with the spinach and 1/3 of the remaining béchamel and 1/2 the goat’s cheese. Next do another layer of lasagne. Then top with the spinach the rest of the goat’s cheese and the next 1/3 of bechamel. Next the final layer of lasagne and finally the rest of the béchamel. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or so until golden brown on top and a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through.
Roast Sweet Potato Wedges with Sweet Chilli Sauce & Crème Fraiche

I never used to know what to do with Sweet Potatoes and I was always concocting
elaborate curries and chillies to use them up but I had forgotten how delicious simple roast Sweet Potato Wedges were until my son asked me to make them for him instead of potatoes. 

What always amazes me is how good sweet potatoes are for you. You cannot believe that something that tastes so, well .... sweet, could do you any good but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. They have got over 400% of your daily needs for vitamin A in one medium sized sweet potato as well as loads of antioxidents vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, fibre & potassium. They have got more grams of natural sugars than regular potato but more overall nutrients with fewer calories.They are low on the glycemic index scale, and recent research suggests they may reduce episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with diabetes. 

I lightly sprinkled them with a little salt and some smoked paprika, drizzled them with a little olive oil and roast them in the oven at 190⁰C for about half an hour until soft in the middle but crispy and golden on the outside. I then served them with a couple of dips - Crème Fraiche (Riverford’s is very good) and the other was some Sweet Chilli Sauce (once again, Riverford do make their own) and it soon became a firm, family favourite.

So that is it for this week. I promise lots more recipes next week. Please feel free to comment and let us know what challenges you are facing you this week. I know I never got round to those lovely bunched onions and carrots but I promise to next week and at least I finally found something to do with tops of the carrots which I always hated throwing away. I discovered that Waffle and Charcoal just love them!

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