Another winter is nearly over and we can look forward to longer days soon. There are many signs of spring at Nethergong and one of these is that we have got the spending bug! One of Lewis’ cricket friends makes lovely shepherds huts and we have taken the plunge and bought one. It sleeps a family of four and even has a wood-burning stove in it for the cooler April nights. We’re hoping its going to be ready in time for Easter. If you are interested in booking it this summer, just get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org . More details will be on our website soon.
10 a Day!! Surely not
The latest recommendation for extending your life is to eat 10 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. It sounds very difficult to achieve for non-vegetarians so I’ve devised an imaginary 10 a day menu to see if its feasible and doesn’t break the bank
Breakfast – porridge with two helpings of soft fruit - 2
Mid-morning – a banana - 1
Lunch – salad made from 3 salad veg, 1 piece fruit – 4
Dinner – Risotto with PSB and mushrooms, 1 piece fruit – 3
I’m not sure I could keep this up every day and I think you would have to major on the veg, perhaps having a vegetable smoothie every day. The cost of all the fruit would probably be prohibitive!
In your boxes………………
Finally we have leeks back, the ground being neither too soft or too hard. We’re thankful to Steve Parsley at Walmestone growers for providing winter salad leaves for us again, this time its mustard leaves. The purple sprouting broccoli is with us for such a short time we do try to capitalise on it!
Recipe 1: Leek and Ham Hock Gratin with Rosti Topping – serves 6
100g unsalted butter, plus extra if needed 6 leeks, cut into thirds
2 garlic cloves, crushed ¼ whole nutmeg, grated
50g plain flour 500ml good quality fresh chicken stock
300ml whole milk
2 bay leaves
300g shredded British ham hock (available ready prepared from supermarkets, or use shredded cooked ham)
25g parmesan, grated 800g floury potatoes (about 4 medium baking potatoes)
Melt 50g of the butter in a large sauté pan and add the leeks. Cook over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until the leeks are lightly browned and golden all over. Remove the leeks, leaving the butter in the pan. Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.
Add the garlic to the butter and cook gently for a few minutes until fragrant. Grate in the nutmeg, then stir through the flour. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes – the mixture should be thick and paste-like. Gradually, in a thin stream, pour in the chicken stock, stirring constantly – the mixture should thicken quickly, then gradually thin out, but always stay thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it becomes too thin, stop adding liquid and let it bubble for a minute. Once you’ve added all the stock, pour in the milk in the same way, but a little more quickly. You should end up with a glossy sauce with the consistency of double cream. Add the bay leaves and bubble for 2-3 minutes.
Put the leeks in a 1.5 litre ovenproof gratin dish and scatter with the ham. Pour over the sauce and top with the parmesan. Give it a gentle stir, then taste and season.
Melt the remaining butter in a pan and set aside (see know-how). Peel the potatoes, grate coarsely, then put in the centre of a double layer of muslin or clean J-Cloth. Gather the cloth around and squeeze firmly to remove any excess water.
Tip the potatoes into a bowl, pour over the melted butter and some sea salt, then toss with your hands. Scatter over the top of the cheesy leeks and top with a bit more salt. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes. If the rösti browns unevenly, melt a bit more butter and brush it over.
When golden and bubbling, remove the dish from the oven, leave for 5 minutes, then serve with leaves
Recipe 2: Spicy Leek and White Bean Stew – serves 4
Olive oil for frying 1 large onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed 4 small leek, cut into large chunks
2 tbsp harissa paste 400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed,
Juice of a lemon A large handful of chopped fresh parsley
Fresh crusty bread, to serve
Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion gently over a low heat for 5 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, add the garlic and the leeks to the pan and cook for a further minute. Stir in the harissa paste, chopped tomatoes and the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, season, then cook for 20 minutes.
Add the tins of cannellini beans, then simmer for a further couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then stir in the juice of a lemon and a large handful of chopped fresh parsley. Serve with plenty of fresh crusty bread to mop up the juices.