March 2015

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March: first of the Hungry Gap months. Nowadays, most of us deal with that by buying foreign or greenhoused fare. But in fact there is enough to be had locally: from the garden, or from the farmers’ (or even super-) market fresh or stored, to keep you nicely filled. [1]

Did you know that many storeable foods get sweeter over time? Swedes, parsnips, potatoes, apples, squash – personally I don’t like them so much in the autumn, when they are still young. They do improve with maturity. A little bit like people, sometimes?

  • PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI [1] 
  • WINTER SQUASH [2]
  • SPRING ONIONS
    CAULIFLOWER [3]
  • PARSNIPS [4]
  • SPRING GREENS [5]
  • WATERCRESS [6]
  • KALE AND CAVOLO NERO [7]
  • RADISH – pink and, still going, black! [8]

As you can see below, there are still plenty of other winter veg which are still perfectly edible, as long as they have been kept cool throughout. Beware of leeks which still look good but are now starting to bolt: there is a subtle change in taste which makes me, for one, dislike them.

If you want your food this month to be not just cheap but completely free, have a look at http://www.wildfooduk.com: dandelions, nettles and seakale (right) are just a few of the wild things you can find if you know where to look. In your garden for instance!

To grow something interesting which you can eat next March, try sowing salsify or scorzonera in April. And my stalwart, black radish, keeps me going throughout the winter till the first little red ones are ready. Sow these in August.

To have fresh greens now, when you really want them, sow corn salad and American land cress (sharp) the end of August or September.

SOW:
broad beans, early carrots, early Brussels, parsnips, maincrop peas, radish, spinach (or spinach beet, better value than proper spinach), chard, turnip, lettuce, early/summer cabbage, spring onions, early cauli, bulb onions, beet, celery (late March). Plant: potatoes, onion sets, shallots, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes.

EAT:
Veg: sprouting broccoli, kale, cavolo nero, squash, cauli, spring greens, radishes, rhubarb, leeks, carrots, spring onions, salad leaves, parsnips, cabbage, chicory, sorrel, swede, beet, brussels, rocket, turnips, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, watercress. Fish: dab, red gurnard, grey mullet, mussels, oysters, clams, mackerel, herring, megrim, scallops. Meat: rabbit, turkey, wood pigeon, beef, mutton, pork, venison.

RECIPES

BROCCOLI OMELETTE with TOMATO SAUCE for two.
200g (purple sprouting) broccoli, onion, 4 eggs, seasoning. For the sauce: 1 tblsp butter, 2 tblsp flour, tomato puree, 250ml stock/water, seasoning.
To make the sauce: melt butter, add flour, stir. Very slowly add the liquid while stirring all the time. Add as much tomato puree as you like, season, cook through.

Cook broccoli in a little salted water for 7 mins. Chop onion, sauté for a minute while stirring, add drained broccoli and sauté 2 more minutes still stirring. Beat eggs with fork, season, pour on top of veg, stir for 1/2 a minute and leave to solidify. Turn upside down for just a few secs, serve with sauce. You can use cheese sauce instead if you like.

NETTLE SOUP
Half a carrier of stinging nettle tops or fresh-looking larger leaves; 50g butter, 1 large finely chopped onion, 1l water/stock, 1 large cubed potato, 1 large chopped carrot, sea salt, pepper, 2 tbsp crème fraîche, few drops of olive oil and tabasco. And maybe some ginger if you like it. 
Sort through the nettles, discarding thick stalks. Wash and drain. Melt butter, add onion and cook gently until softened.  Add stock, potato and carrot. Bring to a simmer, add nettles and cook until the potato is soft. Puree, season. Ladle into warmed bowls and float a tsp of creme fraiche on top.

APPLE-CELERIAC DISH
450g celeriac weighed after cleaning; 1 cooking and 1 eating apple; finely chopped shallots or diced onion, ½ pt dry cider, herbs (bay, sage, rosemary, thyme), salt, pepper, butter or 1 tblsp crème fraiche or cream. 
Cut celeriac and apple in bite-size pieces. Fry shallots/onion in butter for a couple of minutes, add celeriac. After some 10 mins add cider and herbs, cook till the celeriac is nearly soft. Add the apple pieces and cook some more. It’s ready when the celeriac is soft and the apples still hold a bit of shape. Cook without lid if it is still too liquid. Season and add more butter or a spoonful of crème fraiche/cream. Nice with couscous and cheese grated on top, or smoked fish, pork or chicken.

APPLE-ROASTED CHICKEN for 6: gluten-free.
1 chicken cut into pieces, 120ml apple cider, 3 cooking apples, rosemary, sage, 1½ tsp sea salt, ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
Cut up apples and cook in the cider till soft. Preheat oven to 190°C. Arrange chicken pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with the salt, pepper, rosemary and sage. Place in the oven and roast for 15 mins. Baste the chicken with cider mix. Roast for another 15 mins. Baste again with the cooking juices and roast for 15 more mins. Let rest for 5 mins before serving. Very good with oven-roasted squash and onions.

BROCCOLI-PUMPKIN STIR-FRY
400g pumpkin, 500g (purple-sprouting) broccoli, bacon, butter, coriander seeds. 
Dry-roast coriander, grind. Cook pumpkin and broccoli in a little water for 7 mins, drain. Heat butter, add bacon and fry slowly for a few mins, then add veg and ground coriander. Fry till done, season.

CABBAGE and SWEDE Cabbage, swede, onion, cooking apple, cumin (if you like), butter. 
Chop everything. Put swede in cold water, not too much, bring to boil, cook till not quite done. Add cabbage. Meanwhile, saute onion and apple. When swede and cabage are just about cooked, add them to onion/apple pan, along with the cumin. Stir till everything is done. Nice with a pasty for a simple meal.

BRAISED PUMPKIN
250ml coarsely grated pumpkin, 1 chopped onion, 1tbsp soy, (1tbsp apple juice), 120ml water/stock, pepper, (salt).
Put liquid, soy, juice, onions, pumpkin in pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat. Simmer for 10-12 mins, season.

WHITING with HONEYED APPLES
(You can use other firm white fish like grey mullet, pollack, snapper, grouper, coley)
4x150g fillets of fish, 4 cooking apples – cored and cut into thin wedges, 115g butter, 90g honey, 40g flour, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp black pepper, 500ml dried bread crumbs, 1 beaten egg.

Melt half the butter, fry apples until tender. Stir in honey, reduce heat, and keep warm. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in bowl. Place bread crumbs in another shallow bowl, and egg in another. Melt rest of butter. Dip fish in flour, egg, and bread crumbs. Place in the hot pan, and cook for 3-4 mins per side. The fillets should be brown and flake easily. Place on serving dish, and spoon apples over the top

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[1] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/mar/01/purple-sprouting-broccoli-recipes, www.bbc.co.uk/food/purple_sprouting_broccoli
[2] whatscookingamerica.net/squash.htm
[3] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/06/seasonal-food-cauliflower
[4] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/20/seasonal-food-parsnip
[5] www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/spring-greens
[6] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/30/seasonal-food-watercress
[7] www.discoverkale.co.uk/what-is-cavolo-nero
[8] For black radish recipes, see www.mariquita.com/recipes/black%20spanish%20radish.htm. Black radish is great for your health: see www.outofstress.com/black-radish-benefits/. Personally I peel them as otherwise I find them too sharp. Always keep black radish (cool) in paper bags, not in plastic or in the fridge.

For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.

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