Spaghetti with chard

Ruby chard yields great harvests throughout most of the year – especially now when it’s still mild and hasn’t been clobbered by frost.

It’s nice washed and wilted with either garlic sliced and softly sauteed in olive oil or sultanas or raisins and toasted pine nuts.

I’m also picking sprouting white and purple broccoli, bulb fennel, red cabbage, kale, parsley, chrysanthemum greens and wonderful salad leaves.

The overwintering garlic and onions, planted in autumn, seem to be doing well – despite some of the new shoots being nibbled by something! They’ll be ready later in the year in early to mid summer.

I’ll also sow some Bedfordshire Champion onion seed under cover next month to supplement these.

They and some shallot sets will be planted out in spring.

In other allium news – the leeks are almost all gone.

I’ve been madly cooking with them over the past month before they go to seed or succumb to rust. Look back at my previous recent posts to find the original recipes for my leek, chestnut and apple pie and the leek, lemon and walnut pilaf.

I’ve made some good leek and potato soups. One I tried to jazz up with white wine and lemon juice – it was OK but I realised simple is best.

This one was made on a rocket stove at the allotment and took more than 2 hours to come to the boil!

It was comprised of a couple of finely chopped shallots, a medium onion also chopped, and about three large leeks well washed and sliced or chopped – greens included.

I threw in a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and about two large peeled potatoes diced maybe 1.5cm or half and inch square.

And covered that with veg stock.

I cooked it for twenty minutes or half and hour.

Then I blended half of it smooth and left the rest chunky. I think a good handful of finely minced parsley lifts the whole thing.

Add a dash of soya cream or milk  just before serving if you like.

Cider update

Well I’m almost ready to bottle – I’m hoping to inveigle friends into helping me.

Tony Davey – a good friend of mine gave me a dozen of his one and a half litre Grolsch bottles which he described as ‘gold dust’.

He also passed on some of his old pressure barrels to make wine.

Thanks Tony!

I should be able to bottle half my 25 litres of cider in these 1500ml bottles

The three barrels he’s given me will allow a little experimental wine making – most likely with the glut of currants and gooseberries that are in the freezer at the moment!

These are some of his demi johns in his amazing wine cellar!

Back to the garden and you can see the chard’s a more intense ruby red than ever.

I’ve given bags of it away to friends.

I learnt a couple of new ways to cook it from Steve who came to stay over New Year.

He made a wonderful tomato, chard, olive and caper pasta sauce with garlic and onion and a slug of red wine.

It was so tasty I had thirds.

The other recipe was a chard and ‘cream’  sauce with nutmeg – also for pasta.

You need to wash the chard well (at least three times in my opinion).

Separate the leaves from the stems and roll them up and slice into thin ribbons.

You fry the chopped stems and onion first in olive oil for about 10 minutes and then add the chard leaf ribbons – stir frying with two spatulas to keep it all in a large frying pan.

Then add and stir in soya cream (I use Provamel) and nutmeg and a little vegetable bouillon  and cook for a further couple of minutes – delicious.

The key is not to swamp the spaghetti.

Spaghetti with chard
Servings: 4
Author: Cath
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 400 g Swiss Chard or Ruby Chard stalks and leaves included
  • 250 ml soya cream or oat cream
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • 1 level tsp ground nutmeg
  1. Wash the chard well and separate the main bits of the stalks from the leaves. Cut off any ragged untidy ends of the stalk too.

  2. Chop the stalks into small dice the same size as or slightly larger than your chopped onion (no bigger than your finger nail) 

  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and chard stalks over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't brown.

  4. Then add the chard leaves which you've stacked, rolled and sliced into fine ribbons and cook for another five minutes - keep the leaves moving until they wilt down.

  5. Add cream and the bouillon and the nutmeg and cook gently for another five minutes until the cream has started to thicken and is well incorporated into the chard and onion. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

  6. Serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle ( about 370 g dry weight for 4 people). Don't be tempted to swamp the pasta just a couple or 3 tablespoons of the sauce per person should do.


Borlotti beans with garlic

This season has been a disaster for beans!

The drought really put a stopper on fertilisation of flowers and so I had very few pods develop.

That applied to all sorts of beans including my absolute favourite – borlottis.

I’ve just harvested what few I did have and I’ve taken down the bean poles to be stored away until next year.

I’ve written a little about growing and storing them before.

But here is another recipe that is brilliant – real comfort food.

The beans are cooked for a long time on a low heat and turn a beautiful pinkish brown.

Serve with polenta and “sausages” and some greens.

Or mash them slightly and thin down with some more stock or water to make a pasta sauce with finely shopped rosemary or sage.

Borlotti Beans with Garlic and Parsley

Real Italian comfort food. The beans are rich, creamy and almost velvety.

Author: Cath
  • 375 gr fresh borlottis or 125g dried and soaked beans
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 4 or 5 decent sprigs parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400 ml water
  • 1 heaped tsp marigold bouillon powder or half a veg stock cube
  1. Rinse beans and cover with water in a medium sized pan with a lid.

  2. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the roughly crushed and chopped 3 cloves of garlic (I use the heel of my hand on the flat of my knife on the unpeeled clove to crush then remove loosened skin and chop - see image in main article)

  3. Cover with lid and bring to the boil add bouillon or stock cube then simmer on a very low heat for an hour or until beans are well done. Stir occasionally. 

  4. Some of the liquid will have been absorbed by the beans and some will have evaporated during cooking.

  5. There should be a thickish sauce in the bottom of the pan - you can mash a few of the beans and stir in to create this if it hasn't happened naturally.

  6. Stir and add salt and lots and lots of finely chopped parsley. You could also top with crisp fried sage leaves.







How to Dress a Salad

I was visiting one of my oldest friends, Kate, recently and we were in the kitchen.

I was trying hard not to interfere.

She was making pizza – an airy yet crisp crust slathered with a rich tomato sauce – and she asked me to dress the green salad.

I automatically did what I always do – gently massaged a little salt into the leaves, sprinkled and turned a judicious amount of red wine vinegar through them and then did the same with some olive oil.

All with clean hands of course.

When we sat down to eat she was amazed at how good it was.

“Why didn’t I know this before?”

“Please tell me how to do it!”

I couldn’t remember when I’d started to do this as a matter of course  – it kind of snuck up on me and I think I was inspired by various Italian cookbooks.

Looking at Marcella Hazan’s “The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” – I think I’ve taken her way of dressing simple potato salad and applied it to other vegetables including fresh leafy greens.

The proportions remain about the same as a vinaigrette -about 1 part vinegar or lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil, and a couple of shakes of a salt cellar or turns of a grinder.

I don’t put much on at all – maybe a one or two teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice and a tablespoon or a tablespoon and a half of oil.

This is for a green salad in a fairly large bowl – say six large handfuls of leaves.

Any vinegar will do but I prefer red wine or cider vinegar as they are more mellow than white.

You must eat a green salad dressed like this straight away.

Other more robust vegetables will stand this method for longer!

This lettuce is just beginning to yield leaves. I pick the outer ones and leave the plant growing

I’m writing this because I’ve just picked the first leaves off my late sowing of lettuce which I will be covering with fleece in the next week or two as it gets colder.

The fresh crisp leaves are a delicate green flushed at the edges with a champagne pink and burgundy.

I’ll be eating this for lunch with the remainder of my black cherry tomatoes and some chopped cucumber  – I found what must be the last two of the outdoor ones hiding under the parent plant’s leaves.

I may add a little finely sliced red onion and some fennel tops – my late sowings of that vegetable are starting to look a bit stronger now even though I planted them in the shade of a cob nut tree that badly needs coppicing.



The edible garden – cauliflower and millet soup

The perennial nine star cauliflower yielded what I think will be its last florets until next spring.

I wasn’t expecting anymore but when I was walking past the veiled hoops that I put up a couple of weeks ago to protect them – I saw one of the two plants had put on a last flush of growth.

Anyway, I remembered I had about a third of a pristine, shop-bought cauli in the fridge that I didn’t know what to do with.

I thought of adding the two together to make Creamed Cauliflower and Millet soup from a brilliant book I bought in an a secondhand shop recently.

This excellent book is by Emanuela Stucchi
This has saved me the trouble of writing out the recipe! I used vegetable stock instead of water
I sauteed the chopped cauliflower first, then added the well rinsed millet
About a litre of vegetable stock is added and the soup is simmered for about half an hour
The soup is blitzed with a magic wand and finely chopped flat leaf parsley is added

It’s a very simple yet delicious recipe using a highly nutritious grain and fresh cauliflower and parsley.

Try it!

You can get millet from a wholefoood shop.

In other news

My old school friend Jenny and her daughters Mara and Freya came and stayed for three days.

We enjoyed cooking curry one night. Mara is an accomplished cook already.

They also helped sow seeds including purple amaranth and peppermint!

Sowing on the terrace in the early summer heat

I have almost finished excavating the finished compost – sieving it so it’s fine means I can use it for potting on kale, red cabbage and cauliflower plants.

I’ve also weeded the asparagus bed and interplanted it with small lettuce seedlings – green oak and brun d’hiver.

A couple of crystal lemon cucumber plants have gone in.

The vegetable garden at dusk

I’m also about to plant very small, miserable looking chicory called grumolo verde.

I’m hoping they will feel much better about life and the universe once they’re in their final planting positions.

And finally – yesterday we had torrential downpours (parts of Norwich were flash flooded) so I added another water butt to decant/siphon off the overflow from the original one outside the glasshouse.

I also cleaned the gutters and removed some of the moss on the roof – although I think we need someone professional to come and clean the bits higher up!

Other garden jobs I must do!

  • plant out marigold seedlings
  • turn new compost heaps and consolidate both adding QR activator
  • plant out Blue Hungarian and Candy Roaster Squash
  • sow red Treviso chicory and Florence fennel
  • sow carrots (it’s going to be cooler this next couple of days)
  • sow Red Perilla (Shiso leaves) from old seed – fingers crossed
  • erect bean tepees and plant out various varieties
  • get some more big cardboard boxes (bike shops have them) to continue creating new mulched beds – the fruit bushes are nearly done
  • make elderflower cordial (with pink flowers!)

As well as the perennial cauliflower we’ve been harvesting loads of cut and come again lettuce, chard, asparagus and the first delicate green garlic bulbs which have within them pearl like cloves that really are unmatched in flavour…

The Carouby de Mausanne peas are just coming into flower – the most gorgeous burgundy and violet blooms that will soon be tender pea pods.