There’s not better topping for pasta than fresh pesto, it’s a whole lot better than the stuff you get in jars that the Italians call ‘dead pesto’. Unfortunately, it can be a hassle to make and tends to only last for a few days in the fridge, and you hardly want to eat it for several days in a row… A great tip is to make a quantity of fresh pesto (or any intense pasta sauce) and put it into an ice cube tray. When it’s frozen, pop the cubes out and keep them in a plastic bag. When you need one, take it out of the freezer and throw it in the still warm cooked pasta. Stir round the pan a little to help it melt, and voila, fresh pesto in no time at all! The flavour is retained by freezing, and you can toss in as many portions as you require. Continue reading
Tender, juicy and full of flavour, the UK grows asparagus that is some of the best in the world.
There is perhaps no greater ringing endorsement of spring than the bunches of asparagus that start popping up in farm shops around the country in late April. Even the supermarkets get in on the act, and the miserable little South American tips are replaced by fat bundles of green spears emblazoned with the Union Jack. But there is good reason to put in more than the usual effort when seeking out this British champion. Asparagus contains natural sugars that start to deplete as soon as it is harvested; it is this troublesome characteristic that have led many to take the kitchen to the field, allowing them to cook it immediately over a portable stove. Such effort is probably beyond most of us (unless you are growing your own), but with a little local research you can get close to this ideal. Continue reading
The first show of these cheery green stalks with their flowery purple heads is the sign that summer is on its way, and the stubborn root vegetables that have been squatting in the vegetable drawer all winter will soon be replaced with an array of brightly coloured and richly flavoured British produce.
Purple sprouting broccoli reaches a peak around mid April – it’s available from March but the stems can be a little woody and may require some rather fiddly peeling. By April, they’re tender all the way down to the end, and require delicate treatment and careful cooking, followed by eating with much gusto and slurping. Continue reading
On Saturday we schlepped across the countryside for a much-anticipated trip to Riverford Field Kitchen near Buckfastleigh in Devon, and learned two things in the process: one, however tempting it is to cut across Dartmoor, don’t bother – the roads get curlier and slimmer the further on you go, and as beautiful as the scenery is, it does not make for relaxed driving. Two – if you miss the sign with the lorry on it and take the sign for the farm shop, you’ve gone too far.
However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the small but perfectly formed Riverford Farm Shop needs to be seen to be believed – a huge array of vegetables toppling over each other and begging to be popped into a basket and driven straight home. We spent a frantic 5 minutes gathering armfuls of candy-like tomatoes and chillies, luscious green tuscan kale and swiss chard, spiky romanesco cauliflowers, squashes, sweet potatoes and sweetcorn, and still had to leave behind mountains of other tempting morsels too numerous to mention. Even for an hour and half drive (curly roads or not), I can’t wait for the return visit.
And the field kitchen? Just, amazing. A real celebration of food, presented in beautiful surroundings by a team of people who have the desire and the ability to give you one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten. We were treated to guinea fowl on a bed of kale with cannellini beans, romanesco cauliflower and fennel with walnut dressing, beetroot and squash salad, swiss chard gratin and an aubergine and tomato bake. Perhaps the descriptions don’t really do justice to the food, though to be honest if you are looking for a review there are plenty more authoritative critics than I who have sung its praises. The freshest ingredients, produced with love and care, cooked with respect and expertise, and served humbly and unpretentiously. I can’t think of anything better. The whole experience was surreally but perfectly framed by a large group of local apple growers, young and old alike, engaged in the frantic but efficient process of pressing and bottling apple juice on a huge old press in front of the restaurant.
Needless to say, after following up the above with freshly prepared mango pavlova and baked cheesecake (plus the sticky toffee pudding my fellow diner graciously offered me), we left with taut trousers and big smiles, only to attempt to replicate the experience the next day with a huge sunday lunch made from the vegetables you see in the picture (and more!); creamy leeks with mature cheddar, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted butternut and onion squash with chilli and sage, heaps of greens (chard, tuscan kale and purple kale) with caper and tarragon dressing all washed down with a rich wild mushroom & madeira sauce. At some point I’ll upload some recipes for these delights, but for now I need to find some elastic to sow into these shrinking jeans…