It may look grim outside but the glut of new potatoes, broad beans and strawberries from the garden is still telling me that it’s summer. So my daily harvest may be very muddy but it’s cheering me up on this very rainy week. I’m enjoying it in the following ways:
When I pod the first tiny beans that are so tender they’re delicious raw, it reminds me why it’s worth bothering to grow your own – you never see them this small or fresh to buy do you? I love the first little beans just podded, mixed with olive oil, torn basil and shavings of parmesan (I use a potato peeler) and seasoned. They’re great as a salad or on bruschetta. But my favourite broad bean bruschetta is to cook a handful of podded beans for a couple of minutes, then squash them with a fork, mix with olive oil, a little garlic, salt, pepper, chopped mint and basil. Piled onto garlicky toasted bread, with a little olive oil drizzled on top, they’re yummy.
I’ve also cooked the first broad bean risotto of the year with parmesan and a poached egg on the top. I used lovage instead of celery with the garlic and onion at the beginning of the risotto, partly as it’s growing like crazy at the moment. But don’t be tempted to use too much, you only need a leaf or two chopped as the flavour can overpower. Homemade chicken stock from the freezer went into the risotto and of course lots of parmesan at the end. I nipped outside in the drizzle to pick a few pea shoots too to scatter on the top. Another thing that you can’t buy easily (not around here anyway) yet they’re so delicious I think it’s worth sowing peas in an overcrowded way purely for the shoots.
My other favourite broad bean recipe, that I cooked last week, is broad bean pasta. I originally saw it in the River Café Cook Book Two. You cook a handful of parsley, a finely chopped onion and some garlic in olive oil, then add podded broad beans, a little water and cook for a few minutes until tender while your pasta (I use penne or linguine) cooks. Puree half the broad bean mixture with a hand blender or liquidiser and add the lot to your pasta. Serve with yet more parmesan – well it does seem to go so well with broad beans, I need to replenish my supplies!
I will definitely be using broad beans in a Tuna Nicoise salad soon too – will be lovely with the crisp, little Gem lettuce leaves I’m cropping cut-and-come-again style and the new potatoes. At least that’s one parmesan-free supper.
We’ve only been digging them for a week or two so they’re still a delicious novelty simply cooked. The garden to plate timing is key to flavour so don’t dig them too early. With just a little salt, butter or olive oil, they’re wonderful.
But looking at the leaves, the rain seems to bringing on blight, so we need to do our best to eat like Irish navvies, with potatoes cooked every which way.
So when I cooked homemade pizza at the weekend, potatoes made an appearance. No tomato sauce on the potato section, just a drizzle of olive oil then slithers of garlic, thinly sliced potatoes, chopped rosemary, chilli, another drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Cooked in a really hot oven, they had crispy edges but you could really taste the flavour of the potatoes.
And when we had an afternoon call from a friend announcing he was coming to stay that night and I couldn’t be bothered driving to a shop for more food to pad out Ruby’s red pepper boats that we’d planned for that evening (halved, roasted with goats cheese, pine-nuts, basil and cherry tomatoes, she’d seen them on telly and they were lovely actually), potatoes came to the rescue. I cooked Sarah Raven’s Potatoes with Chorizo from her Garden Cookbook and the whole meal felt like Spanish peasant food.
Having dug far too many potatoes one evening I used the spares for a Sag Aloo with spinach and chard (the spinach is just about over, the chard about to flourish) which made another cheap but tasty supper with a lentil dal. Well, with shelves full of chutney, but very little in the bank, I’m a big fan of lentils.
As a pesky squirrel ate the lot when still green last year, these are our first strawberries from this garden. So we’re still enjoying them as they come, whether scoffed while picking or as a generous bowlful with cream, ice-cream or home-made yoghurt and honey. But I’ve been freezing the less perfect ones (the next grade down are a treat for the pigs) and have promised Ruby we’re soon going to make strawberry jam and strawberry ice-cream. Will keep you posted….