We’re halfway through January and Christmas seems a long time ago. It always strikes me that January and February are the austerity months when belts tighten in every way. We bemoan the extra pounds gained from weeks of overindulging in rich, calorific food and we watch the January bills come in with trepidation.
Both are very good reasons for continuing or starting with a veg box delivery! I know from personal experience that having a variety of vegetables in the house encourages healthier cooking and eating. Many of us now do ‘meat-free’ days or weeks and vegetables are key to ensuring tasty food is dished up. My recipes this week are both ‘sans-meat’ but grilled chops or sausages could easily be added.
Those of you who have been following us for a while will know about our pair of swans who have nested and produced a brood at Nethergong for many years. I reported that the male swan was acting strangely last year and unfortunately we have discovered that he has died. His carcass was found in the field next to us a few weeks ago. I wondered what his partner would do as we are told that swans mate for life. Would she pine away, go off on a long cruise around the dykes of East Kent? No, she’s back on the lake with a new, younger -looking model! At least we think its her as the female swan on the lake is friendly and comes over when Jed feeds the ducks. Lets hope they settle down and have a first brood this spring.
In your boxes…………………
We’re still waiting for the first Purple Sprouting Broccoli to be ready in large quantities and have been told another week! However, we’ve managed to find cauliflowers which are in short supply and very expensive in the supermarkets at the moment. We have lovely Cavolo Nero again, fast becoming my favourite winter brassica. After listening to your comments we’ve packed another large bundle of herbs to make up bouquet garnis for stocks, casseroles and stews. The packed herbs we buy in the supermarkets must be one of the biggest moneyspinners and wasteful items in our trolleys. I’ve lost count of how many bags I throw away having used the herb once for a recipe and left the rest to rot in the fridge. Put our bunch in a jug of water on the windowsill and it will last longer.
Recipe 1: Healthy minestrone soup – serves 4-6
splash olive oil
200g/7oz streaky bacon or lean back-bacon, rind removed, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped 6 celery stalks, trimmed and roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 2 onions, roughly chopped
2 potatoes, such as Maris Peer potatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 bouquet garni
0.75 litres/1½ pints reduced-salt vegetable stock
Handful of Cavolo Nero leaves, trimmed and roughly chopped (remove stalks)
1 large handful soup pasta
fresh flatleaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
100g/3½oz Parmesan, finely grated
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the bacon and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until cooked and starting to brown.
Add the carrots, celery, garlic and onions and fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, bouquet garni and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, then simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Add the cavolo nero and soup pasta and return to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan with the lid, then simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Discard the bouquet garni.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, then sprinkle over the parsley and Parmesan
Recipe 2: Cauliflower Dhal – serves 4 as a main
1 large cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
30g fresh ginger, grated
400g tin chopped tomatoes
250g split red lentils
Bunch fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Greek yogurt and lemon wedges (optional)
Heat the oven to 220°C/ 200°C fan/gas 7. Toss the cauliflower in 2 tbsp of the oil, season well and put in a single layer in a large roasting tin. Roast for 15-20 minutes on the top shelf of the oven until golden brown and tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large deep sauté pan or large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, stir well, cook for a few more minutes, then add the lentils and 500ml cold water.
Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 20-25 minutes until the lentils have started to break down and create a thick dhal.
Season well, then stir in the roasted cauliflower and half the chopped coriander. Serve the cauliflower dhal scattered with the remaining coriander leaves, with greek yogurt and lemon wedges on the side, if you like