Originally and Indian recipe for spinach, this works with cabbage or kale, too.
I learned this wonderful way of cooking spinach so long ago I almost forgot where it came from. I think it was a Sikh friend who showed it to me, but it doesn’t just go with Indian cooking – and it works with other greens besides spinach. I like it with cabbage, and even kale sometimes. This should be enough for two people who really like their greens.
200 g or 300 g spinach
knob of ghee or else cooking oil and a knob of butter
about 2cm of fresh ginger root, grated
clove of garlic, pressed or chopped fine.
Wash the spinach well and drain. Heat the ghee (or oil and butter) with the garlic and ginger in a pan until it starts to sizzle. Then throw in the spinach, still wet, and cover the pan. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and smells delicious. With other greens you may need to add just a bit of water to stop it burning.
A traditional English recipe made with fresh gooseberries and cream, gooseberry fool can be just sublime. This makes four smallish portions, but it is so intense you don’t really need much.
200 ml fresh cream, either double or a mix of double/single, whipped.
200 g young gooseberries
sugar to taste
50 g butter
Stew the gooseberries and butter in a covered pan until they are just cooked – not too mushy. Smash them with a fork, sweeten with sugar to taste, and stir gently into the whipped cream. Spoon into small bowls or glasses and cool it in the fridge before serving.
From Sally Foster, inspired by our ancient copy of Jane Grigson’s Good Things.
Elderflower cordial made in June gives you the fragrance of summer all year round.
Our allotment site has lots of elder bushes growing around the edges which are covered with fragrant flower heads in June. There are lots of ways of using them, and elderflower cordial is our current favorite – the taste of summer all year round. We make a batch in June, and keep a few plastic bottles of it in the freezer. You can just dilute it with water for a refreshing drink, or use it more adventurously (elderflower sorbet?). My wife has used this cordial recipe for years, but now we can’t find the original on the internet any more. No matter, here is our version of it:
Pick the elderflowers on a dry morning, and try to use them within a few hours. Sniff them to find the best. Give each one a little shake to evict any insect visitors.
25 elderflower heads
1.5 litres of water
50g citric acid (from Wilko’s for example)
2 unwaxed lemons, finely sliced
Boil the sugar and water to make a syrup, stirring until it is all dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the citric acid, then leave it to cool. Put the flower heads in a container and pour the syrup over them and add the sliced lemons.
Cover it and leave it for two days, stirring occasionally. Then strain it through a jelly bag or muslin. You can squeeze the lemons to get a bit more zing if you like.
You can freeze it in clean plastic bottles, or use it fresh from the fridge for a few weeks.
I struggle to find things that work on my plot, but French beans and recently, Borlotti beans are my favourite…
I thought I would stick my oar in and recommend growing borlotti beans. I struggle to find things that work on my plot and have more failures than successes, but French beans and recently, borlotti beans are my favourite and make me happy!
Growing borlotti beans turn into lovely purple pods that start to look dried out at the end of summer and that’s when I pick them. Simmer the beans in water with a bay leaf, rosemary and garlic for about 30 mins, then add salt and let stand for 10 mins. Drain, add some olive oil and lemon juice and eat. They are creamy and tasty and you can eat them in salads, as a side dish or add them to a stew, whatever you fancy. So nice and so easy.
I like the taste, of course, but I really love the leisurely ritual of eating them…
Globe artichokes have always been one of my favorite treats. I like the taste, of course, but I really love the leisurely ritual of eating them, nibbling the flesh off the base of each leaf, with lots of gaps for conversation in between (if you are not too greedy!).
In our part of the world they are ready to pick through June and July, when they have swollen to their full size, but before they get too thistle-ish. The internet has lots of fancy artichoke recipes, and even tutorials on eating them, but I like the simple way: cover them in water and boil them. You can tell when they are ready by poking a fork into the stem. Then see if one of the lower leaves pulls of easily. Cooking might take 15 minutes for younger ones, or longer when they are older.
No need to trim the tips off the leaves unless they are prickly.
Drain them well and serve with something to dip the leaves in. I like mayonnaise or melted butter best, but some people prefer hollandaise or olive oil and vinegar, etc. Keep pulling and nibbling leaves until you get near the centre. Then clear the last bits, including the fluffy stuff (the choke) away from the heart, which is the fleshy disk attached to the stem. A couple more bites, and it is all gone!
Artichokes do interesting things to the taste of other foods eaten with them. I always liked to experiment with this as a child. I still do, sometimes.
Around mid-June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes – curly stems you can eat.
Around the middle of June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes as the bulbs ripen below the soil. Scapes are like flower stems, and they are delicious, only available for a short time each year. They are at their best when they are still curled around. They get tougher later, when they straighten out.
There are lots of recipes for garlic scapes on the internet – garlic scape pesto, pickles, stir fry, and lots more. My own favourite way of using them is to saute them for a couple of minutes in hot olive oil and then serve them up fresh with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Pick them up and eat them with your fingers!
Frijoles refritos are easy to make, and Borlotti beans work really well.
Refried beans (frijoles refritos) go with lots of Mexican or Tex/Mex dishes, like quesadillas, huevos rancheros, burritos, or as a dip for tortilla chips. They turn out to be easy to make, and the Borlotti beans that many of us grow work especially well.
One cup of dried beans makes two or three cups of frijoles refritos, depending on how soft you want it.
one cup of dried beans
about 60ml (quarter cup) of oil or lard
one onion, finely chopped
two or three cloves of finely minced garlic
Soak and cook the beans as usual. Drain them, but save the cooking water separately.
In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onions in the oil until they start to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté a bit longer.
Add a big spoonful of the beans, and mash them in well with the onions. Fry them for a while, then add some more beans and mash them in with the rest. Continue until all the beans are fried. This process causes a reaction between the starches and proteins in the beans (a Maillard reaction, if you want to know) which brings out the special flavour.
Now add a bit of the cooking water at a time, mashing it in as you go, until you get the right consistency. Make it a bit sloppier, actually, because they set firmer once they cool. I like to make the dip version quite soft.
Salt the mixture to taste. Beans stand quite a bit of salt sometimes. Keep tasting as you go.
A Japanese favourite Okonomiyaki is a cabbage ‘pancake’.
A Japanese favourite Okonomiyaki is a cabbage ‘pancake’. It’s really delicious and easy to make. This recipe is an Anglo-Japanese version. Whilst it’s not totally authentic, because it uses easily accessible ingredients, it’s still close to the original, and just as tasty.