Thursday, 19 April 2012

Seasonal Eating - April

      Seasonal eating is all about the enjoyment of food at it's best, and not about abstinence. With imports coming from all around the world, supermarkets are able to ensure that their shelves are permanently stocked with the same foods all year round. Have you ever compared the taste of a local strawberry, grown outdoors in the sun with one flown in from a foreign land in December? It does not even taste like the same food! There is no comparison.

       I believe there are several reasons why we should seasonally which I will touch on below, before adding a personal touch to this week's blog, by looking at what is growing in the Bridge Cottage garden and greenhouse and giving you two of my family's favourite recipes.

Why Eat Seasonally?
  • Reduce the amount of energy (and associated CO2 emmissions) used to grow, harvest, package and transport food from around the world.
  • Pay less for food that is in abundance locally rather than paying through the nose for food that is scarcer and has travelled a long way.
  • Support your local economy
  • Be in tune with with the season's cycles.
  • Bring seasonal variety to the meals you cook over the year
Perhaps most importantly, seasonal food is fresher and so is tastier and more nutritious 

So, let's have a wander round the Bridge Cottage garden and see what's on offer in April. As you can see from the picture at the top, I have just picked an armful of rhubarb, the majority of which I will cook with grated fresh ginger and honey to have for my breakfast on top of natural yogurt, freezing half for later on. I'll save about 500g to make into a delicious Orange and Rhubarb Meringue, and will give you the recipe after we've seen what else is growing.

In the veg patch there is an abundance of purple sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero and asparagus kale and spring greens.
In the greenhouse the perpetual spinach I sowed in the autumn has sprung into life, as has the flat leaved parsely and beetroot. So, I think a Spinach Pie is called for. Spinach Pie one of the delights of the result of the new growing season each Spring, and for me, heralds the beginning of harvesting another year's seasonal veg from the garden, and to quote my husband, 'is absolutely delicious!'

Bridge Cottage Spinach Pie        
         (serves 4-6)

Ingredients
500g block Puff Pastry
 approx 5 large handfuls washed spinach
1 onion, chopped finely
200g soft cheese
75g grated hard cheese eg cheddar and parmesan
2 free range eggs, beaten
1 handful flat leaf parsely, chopped
large pinch grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
milk or beaten egg for glaze

Method
Pre heat oven to 220 deg C, 425 deg F, Gas 7.
Place spinach in a large pan, and heat gently just til it wilts, turning it regularly, Drain in a colander.
Gently fry onion in olive oil til soft but not browned.
In a large bowl, mix the cheese, eggs, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper and beat til all mixed together.
Roughly chop the cooked spinach and add to the egg and cheese mix along with the cooked onions. Mix well.
Cut the block of puff pastry in two, with one half slightly bigger than the other. Roll out the larger of the two halves on a floured surface for the base, and place in a pie dish - mine is a metal tin about 40cm deep.
Place spinach mixture on top of the pastry base, and roll out the lid. Seal the edges using milk or egg and place lid on top of pie, crimping the edges. Make a cut in the top of the pie to allow air to escape and brush lightly with egg or milk.
Bake in the centre of a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
I served mine with roasted beetroot and freshly picked steamed greens (purple sprouting borccoli and kale) Absolutely delicious!


     Rhubarb and Orange Meringue
                  (Serves 4)


Ingredients
450g young rhubarb
1 orange
50g demerara sugar
40g cornflour
2 free range eggs, separated
75g caster sugar

Method
Pre heat oven to 160 deg C, 325 deg F, Gas 3
Wash and trim rhubarb and cut into short lengths (remember leaves are poisonous, so discard and put on the compost heap). Place in a 1.2 litre/2 pint shallow oven proof dish.
Grate rind and squeeze juice of orange.
Place in a measuring jug and top up with water to make 450ml / 3/4 pint.
Place demerara sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and gradually stir in the liquid. Heat until mixture boils, stirring, and simmer for 3 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.
Stir egg-yolks into orange sauce and pour over the rhubarb. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Lower oven temperature to a cool 150C, 300F, Gas 2
Whisk egg whites until stiff and dry (turn the bowl upside down over your head to test - they will stay in the bowl if whisked enough!!) then whisk in half the caster sugar until stiff again. Fold in the remaining sugar.
Spread the meringue over the mixture in dish and return to the oven, cooking for a further 20-25 minutes until the top is brown and the rhubarb is tender.


Other foods currently in season are: cauliflower, cabbage, wild garlic and wild nettles. The website Eatseasonably has some great suggestions of what to do with cauliflower, and tips about seasonal eating, plus an excellent interactive calendar of what's in season throughout the year.
I also like the website eattheseasons.co.uk which has advice about seasonal fruit and veg plus meat and fish that is in season. For my readers in North America, eattheseasons also has a page for North America and Canada.

Do feel free to leave a comment about your own seasonal eating, and if you have tried and enjoyed my recipes.

Next week's blog will continue with the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle theme.
So til next week, goodbye from Bridge Cottage




5 comments:

  1. Oh a bounty of good things at Bridge Cottage. From the great info and links to the delicious recipes and a walk about the garden. I love it all, thanks!

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  2. Thank you for the fabulous recipes. We have just finished a delicious supper of pasta with purple sprouted broccoli and gremolata (no, the lemons weren't seasonal, I'll admit!). We only have a small garden so enjoy a weekly veg box from Riverford Organics who have the most wonderful recipes on their site - that's where I got the psb one from.

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  3. Hi Joanna, good to hear from you. I've not had gremolata before - will have to check it out. Good to hear about Riverford Organics too. It's always nice to try new recipes, isn't it? I do love it when you can go outside, see what's ready and then plan your meal around it.

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  4. Joanna - have just googled 'gremolata' - why haven't I heard of this before? Will have to try it for sure - our garlic is growing really well this year too!

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