31 May 2014

Asparagus fritto misto with saffron mayonnaise

English asparagus is one of the great treats of mid to late spring. It can be grown in the back garden or on the allotment, but requires some hard work before one reaps the rewards. First a bed needs to be well-prepared during the winter, with plenty of organic matter added. In about mid-spring, shallow trenches are dug, into which asparagus crowns are planted. The trenches are then back-filled around the crowns. No asparagus can be picked in the first year, and only a few spears in the second. After that, asparagus can be picked for about 6-8 weeks from about mid-April onwards.

19 May 2014

Elderflower Sorbet

The elder is a slightly scrubby tree commonly found in hedgerows and on waste ground. In late spring it is covered in white flower heads. The flowers have a pleasant taste, and are often used to make wine and cordial. They can also be used to flavour cakes, jellies, ice creams and sorbets.

13 May 2014

Stuffed artichokes

I recently wrote a blog about growing globe artichokes. Since then the artichokes carried on growing, and I harvested the first two a day or so ago. I prefer to pick them relatively small (about the size of a cricket ball). Picking them also encourages the plant to produce more artichokes.

10 May 2014

Saffron buns

Saffron buns are a Cornish speciality and are part of the fine British heritage of enriched bread products. The addition of saffron gives the buns a wonderful yellow colour and warm flavour. Although saffron is often thought of as a Mediterranean spice, Cornwall had a history of saffron growing, (the spice having been introduced to the British Isles by the Romans) and saffron appears in a number of traditional Cornish recipes.

Saffron hot-cross buns

5 May 2014

In praise of the turnip

For many years the turnip has been a deeply unfashionable vegetable - more likely to be found as the butt of a joke on Blackadder, or as cattle fodder, than on a restaurant menu. It is, in my view, a useful vegetable, ill-deserving of its down-at-heel reputation. I suspect that harvesting when too large and over-cooking are both, at least in part, to blame.

2 May 2014

Wild garlic

Until a few years ago, wild garlic grew relatively undisturbed in woodlands in much of the English countryside, picked only by a few aged foragers clutching their battered copies of Richard Mabey's classic 1970s book 'Food for Free'. Suddenly wild garlic is on nearly every restaurant menu at this time of year. I'm a fan of the stuff, and have been picking it for years. It's great it has now become so popular.