Eat your greens

With winter well and truly taking hold here, I start to yearn for spring and all things green. Well luckily you don’t really need to wait at all, there are so many delicious winter greens to keep you going until the first shoots of spring announce the beginning of the new growing season, just a few weeks away.

Here are a few of my favourite winter dishes using a selection of cabbages, leeks and spinach.

Kale ribollita with chargrilled sourdough

A hearty spring soup full of green vitality makes the perfect supper dish with slices of chargrilled garlic bruschetta.

Serves 4

Prep time: 1 hour (includes cooking beans)

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Soaking time: overnight

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, 2 chopped 1 left whole

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 large leek, trimmed and sliced

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 large celery stalk, finely chopped

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

500g kale, trimmed and shredded

4-6 slices sourdough bread

For the beans

125g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water

1 onion, quartered

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 sprig fresh rosemary

6 black peppercorns

Method:

Start by cooking the beans. Drain the soaked beans, rinse and place in a saucepan with the quartered onion, garlic clove, rosemary stalk and peppercorns.  Add 1 litre of cold water and bring to the boil, skimming the surface. Cover and simmer gently over a low heat for 50-55 minutes or until the beans are tender.

Drain the beans, discarding the the onion quarters and rosemary stalk. Transfer half the beans and liquid to a food and puree until smooth. Return to the pan.

Make the soup. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion, garlic, rosemary and a little salt and pepper for 10 minutes until softened. Add the leek, carrot and celery and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, the cooked bean mixture and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes until the carrots are tender. Stir in the kale and cook for a further 10 minutes until wilted

Meanwhile, heat a ridged grill pan until hot and grill the sourdough until lightly charred on each side. Cut the remaining garlic clove in half and rub over the toast. Drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Spoon the soup into bowls and serve topped with the bruschetta.


Quinoa salad with broccoli, preserved lemon and avocado oil 

The preserved lemon adds a lovely zing to this salad dish with the combination of dried fruits, nuts and green veg. Perfect for lunch.

Serves

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Cooling time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

200g quinoa

350g broccoli

3 spring onions

1 small avocado

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as coriander and mint

50g dried cherries

30g pumpkin seeds, toasted

4 tablespoons avocado or extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, squeezed juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon

2 teaspoons honey

salt and pepper

Method:

Rinse the quinoa under cold water and drain well. Heat a frying pan until hot, add the wet quinoa and stir over a high heat, firstly until dry and then continue for a further 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted and starting to crackle.

Add 450ml cold water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a very low heat for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat but leave undisturbed for a further 5 minutes. If there is any liquid remaining drain through a sieve and leave to cool.

Trim the broccoli, discarding the stalk and cut into florets. Place in a steamer and cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes until al dente. Remove and let cool.

In a bowl, lightly whisk the oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the preserved lemon, honey and some salt and pepper.

Combine the quinoa, broccoli, spring onions, pumpkin seeds and cherries. Add the avocado and herbs and toss together. Add the dressing, stir well.

Tip: if you prefer serve this salad warm, rather than allowing the quinoa and broccoli to cool completely.


Orecchiette with softened spinach, Dolcelatte and hazelnuts

A classic combination of spinach and dolcelatte cheese is given a modern twist with the addition of toasted hazelnuts

Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 lemon, grated zest

500g spinach leaves, washed

50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

50g butter

350g dried orecchiette pasta

150g dolcelatte cheese

4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

salt and pepper

freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Method:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or saucepan and gently fry the shallots, garlic, lemon zest and a little salt and pepper over a low heat for 5 minutes until softened. Add the spinach leaves and stir well, then cook over a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes until wilted.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan and add the hazelnuts. Stir over a medium-low heat until the nuts and butter turn a lovely nutty brown colour.

Meanwhile plunge the pasta into a large saucepan of lightly salted, boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain well reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta and liquid to the pan.

Stir in the spinach mixture, dolcelatte, mascarpone and all the Parmesan. Stir well over a low heat for 1 minute until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Divide between bowls and serve topped with the hazelnut butter and some extra, freshly grated Parmesan.


Baked savoy cabbage with Emmental and breadcrumbs

A fabulous way to bake cabbages in a creamy, cheesy sauce topped with crispy breadcrumbs and Parmesan. You can use any cheese you like.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

1 medium savoy cabbage. About 650g

25g butter, plus extra for greasing

1 whole nutmeg

500ml single cream

150g Emmental, grated

50g freshly made breadcrumbs

25g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/ gas mark 6 and grease a 2.5 litre baking tin with a little butter. Remove any really large tough outer leaves from the cabbage and very carefully cut into 6 wedges making sure you cut through the stalk so that the wedges remain attached at the base.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the cabbage wedges and blanch for 4-5 minutes until vibrant green. Using tongs or a slotted spoon remove the cabbage from the pan. Shake off excess liquid and drain on kitchen towel.

Arrange the wedges in the prepared baking tin. Season with freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and dot over the remaining butter. Scatter the Emmental between the cabbage pressing some down into the leaves and pour over the cream. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and the Parmesan and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.


Recipes © Louise Pickford 2019

Images © Ian Wallace 2019 ( ianwallacephotographer.com )

First published by Sainsbury’s magazine March 2016

From jewels to jellies…….

Finally I have gotten around to making crab apple jelly! One of my earliest culinary memories is of my mum stirring a bubbling volcano of sweet juiciness, which miraculously ended up on my toast. I thought jelly went with ice cream (well of course this one could I guess?) but I was just as happy with my teatime treat. I am not totally convinced that at that young age, I truly appreciated the wonderful flavour of crab apples, but I certainly do now. So I wanted to share my weekends work in the kitchen and take you through the process from tree to table.

In spring our tree is covered in the most stunning, vibrant pink and white blossoms and then as we come to harvesting, the fruit has transformed into red and yellow, cherry-sized crab apples, hanging in jewel-like clusters on the laden branches. Here we can see the different shades of the apples from red and orange through to a soft yellow colour.

Literally pick as many as you want, discard any that have started to rot and don’t be tempted to pick from the ground, as it is likely that these will have begun to deteriorate. So far I have picked over 8 kilos. I think it will be jelly and crab apple cheese this year. Once picked, discard leaves, stalks and any spoiled fruit. Rinse really well and transfer to a large saucepan.

Add enough cold water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a fast simmer and cook for about 50 minutes, or until the fruit is pulpy. Pour the fruit and all the liquid through a sieve, lined with a double layer of muslin (or large jelly bag) into a large bowl or bowls. Very carefully tie up the muslin to make a bag and find a good place to hang them overnight, over the bowls, to catch all the juices.

Remove the muslin bags and discard the fruit (the muslin can be washed out and re-used). Be very careful as you do this and do not press on the pulp as the liquid will be too cloudy. It should be a delicate, slightly milky pink, which will clear as it is boiled up with the sugar. Because the crab apples do not contain quite enough pectin (the agent that helps set the jelly) I am adding lemon juice, to help the process along. Pour the liquid into a large, clean saucepan, adding the sugar and lemon juice. * At this stage it is really important to sterilise the jars you are going to use. Wash them in hot, soapy water and place in a preheated oven 100c. and leave them there to dry until you are ready to use them – the jars should be hot when filled.

Stir the liquid over a high heat until it reaches a rolling boil. At this point pop a tablespoon into the freezer to get really cold. Continue to boil the liquid, skimming off the scum that rises to the top, for at least 30 minutes. Remove your chilled spoon and pour a tiny amount of the jelly onto the frozen spoon. Leave for a few seconds and then test with your finger – the jelly is ready if it starts to wrinkle and set. Cook for longer if it is not yet ready.

Very carefully pour or ladle the jelly into the hot, sterilised jam jars, taking them straight from the oven. Wear oven gloves as they will be hot, as will the jelly. As soon as you have used up your jelly and filled your jars, top each one with a clear plastic disc making sure it covers the surface of the jelly and then seal the jars.

Leave the jelly to cool before adding a label – if you try to do this now, the label will not stick to the hot jar. Store the jam in a cool, dark cupboard until required. It will last for several years, but if you do get any mould appear on the top of the jelly, discard it.

And now for the recipe.

Crab Apple Jelly

Makes: 6-7 x 500ml jars

4kg crab apples

1.5-2kg granulated sugar

juice 11/2 lemons

Wash the crab apples, discarding stalks, any leaves and any rotten or damaged fruit. Place in a large saucepan (or 2 smaller ones) and add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat for 45-50 minutes, or until the fruit is pulpy.

Cool slightly and then carefully transfer to 2 large sieves lined with a double layer of muslin, or jelly bags, over 2 large bowls. Tie up securely to enclose the fruit. Hang the bags up over the bowls and leave to drain overnight.

The next day very carefully remove the bags, making sure you don’t squeeze at all, or the resulting jelly will be cloudy. Measure the apple liquid and transfer to a large saucepan, adding 7 parts sugar to 10 parts liquid (1 had 2.75 litres of liquid and added 1.75kg sugar) Add the lemon juice, and heat gently, stirring over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Bring the liquid to a rolling bowl and cook for about 30 minutes, carefully removing the scum on the surface as it appears. Meanwhile, place a tablespoon into the freezer to chill. After 30 minutes test the jelly to see if it ha reached the setting stage. Pour a drizzle of the syrup onto the chilled tablespoon and leave for a few seconds. Using a finger push the jelly, which will wrinkle and separate if set.

Using a ladle, spoon the hot jelly into the sterilised jars, top with a clear plastic jelly disc and sell with the lids. Allow to cool before adding the labels.

 

 

 

Recipe of the week…………pearl barley

Barley, roasted vegetable and caramelized garlic risotto

Risotto

Serves: 4
Pearl barley makes a great alternative to arborio rice in risottos as it doesn’t require constant stirring and gives a lovely nutty texture to the dish. Here it is combined with oven roasted vegetables and caramelised garlic.

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions

8 large garlic cloves

250 g carrots, roughly chopped

250 g baby beetroot, cut into wedges

250 g peeled pumpkin, diced

2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

350 g pearl barley

100 ml dry white wine

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

25 g freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 c/fan forced 180c and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Cut 1 onion into thin wedges and place in the prepared tin with the garlic, carrots, beetroot, pumpkin, herbs and salt and pepper. Add half the oil, stir well and roast for 45-50 minutes, stirring half way through until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, after the vegetables have been cooking for 15 minutes, finely chop the remaining onion. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion with a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Add the barely and stir for 1 minute until all the grains are glossy. Add the wine and boil until evaporated, then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 30 minutes until the barley is al dente and the liquid absorbed.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir into the barley with the cheese and herbs. Season to taste and serve with extra cheese and basil leaves.

 

 

Seasonal delights……..asparagus

As the ground starts to warm after the winter chill, the garden is abloom with spring flowers and the first signs of life in the veg plot start to twist and turn their way towards the sun. It is still too early for any homegrown asparagus but as I drive around the local area I noticed several of the local producers have started to advertise their early crop and it won’t be long before bundles of vibrant green asparagus stalks are all over the markets.

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It is without doubt my first real treat of the season and I am going to pair some tender young stalks with soft poached duck eggs. For something a little different to normal I have scattered over a little dukkah, an Egyptian blend of toasted nuts and spices, which marries perfectly the soft creaminess of the egg and the sweet, almost citric flavour of the asparagus. A bed of creamy tahini yogurt and a slug of fruity olive oil makes this combination truly delicious.

Asparagus with duck eggs, tahini and dukhah

Serves: 2

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini paste

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 duck eggs

1 bundle young asparagus, trimmed

2 teaspoons dukhah*

a drizzle extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste. Divide between 2 plates.

Cook the duck eggs in a small pan of boiling water for 7-8 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh under cold water to stop further cooking. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and cut in half.

Plunge asparagus spears into a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and shake dry.

Arrange the asparagus spears over the tahini sauce, pop the egg halves on top  and scatter over the dukhah. Drizzle with a little oil and serve.

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  • dukhah is available from Middle eastern stores, delis and some supermarkets

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