What a gorgeous weekend we’ve had with wall to wall sunshine. The children have, for once, had a lovely Easter break with more dry, sunny weather forecast this week.
Our resident birdwatcher is back and has spotted the first swallows of the summer flying over the frog pond. April 8th is quite early for them and we’re hoping it’s a sign of good things to come. He’s also seen the male Barn Owl flying backwards and forwards into the owl box, probably feeding the female sitting on eggs. Finally the Little Owls are back in the woods, roosting in an old, decayed tree by the side of the road.
We’re pleased to say that the campers’ children have been catching many frogs from the refurbished frog pond. Because we’ve dredged the pond over the winter and the sludge has disappeared, the children have been wading into it again.
This lovely Spring will bring the veg on quickly we’re hoping and your box this week is certainly more varied than in past Aprils.
Broadstairs Spring Festival
This weekend Lewis will be at the Food Festival at Pierrmont Hall in Broadstairs. It’s a mini event compared to the Autumn Food Fair but there are still plenty of stalls and local producers. Why not go along and make a day of it with an ice cream at Morellis and a stroll on Broadstairs Prom?
Some of you know that Lewis and his partner Lucy were expecting a baby and we’re delighted to announce that baby Billy Jenkins was born a very healthy 8lbs 8ozs on April 1st. He’s a budding veg box entrepreneur already and will probably make his debut behind the stall at the Easter Festival!
In your boxes……………..
A great treat this time of year is the spring Romanesco Cauliflower. If you’ve not had one before they taste like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Delicious in a cheese sauce they can also be steamed or roasted.
We’ve also got the first lettuces of the year, butterheads from Steve Parsley and also his tasty mini cucumbers.
Romanesco Cooking Tips
1. Steam or boil florets for a few minutes until just tender and toss with olive oil or butter and lemon juice to taste, or stir fry for 4-5 minutes in a little oil. Add some toasted flaked almonds if you like.
2. Cut romanesco into florets. Toss in olive oil, season and roast until just tender but still with some bite (15 minutes). Toss the roasted florets with stir fried or griddled leeks, a tin of cooked, rinsed and drained white beans and a dressing of oil, Dijon mustard and lemon juice, with some chopped herbs, e.g. parsley or tarragon.
3. Use romanesco instead of cauliflower in a cheese sauce, or try a gratin: blanch florets for 3 minutes. Drain and toss with a tub of crème fraîche, 6 tablespoons of grated Cheddar and 1 teaspoon of mustard. Cover with breadcrumbs and a little more grated cheese. Bake until golden.
4. Eat raw, either finely sliced or cut into small florets and use in salads. Or blanch for a couple of minutes and dunk in cold water to stop the colour fading, if you prefer a slightly less crunchy texture. Try mixing with red onion macerated in a little red wine vinegar and sugar
Recipe 1: Romanesco Pasta with garlic and chilli
approx. 160g dried pasta
1/2 head of Romanesco,divided into small florets
1 small red chilli, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
Small handful of finely grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to season 1. Begin by cooking the pasta according to packet instructions.
2. Gently heat a good glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chilli and garlic over a low heat, till just soft.
3. Add the romanesco to the pan, season with salt and pepper and fry gently for about 2 minutes before adding a dash of water to the pan. Stir the mixture regularly, adding another little dash of water once the first water has evaporated (this will help to steam the romanesco and stop it browning).
4. When the pasta's ready, drain then add to the romanesco along with a small ladeful of the cooking water. Toss the pan over a medium heat for about 30 seconds then add the finely grated parmesan to the pan and toss again.
5. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil.
Recipe 2: Cheesy Leek Pancakes – serves 4
230g plain flour
2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
2 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
For the cheesy pancakes
Butter, for greasing
3 leeks, trimmed
250g young spinach leaves
180g (6 slices) finely sliced honey roast ham, trimmed of fat and halved
200g Vacherin Mont d’Or
30g Beaufort, Comté or Gruyère cheese, finely grated 01.Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the eggs, milk and 100ml water into the well. Using a wooden spoon, gradually beat until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a jug and stir in the oil. Rest for 30 minutes.
02.Place a 18cm non-stick frying pan or crepe pan over a medium-low heat. Rub with a little oil and when hot, pour in a little batter and rotate the pan so that it is evenly coated in a thin layer. When it begins to set, loosen the pancake with a palette knife and flip over. Cook for 30 seconds more, then slip onto a plate and cover with a cloth.
03.Repeat to make about 12 pancakes. At this stage, you can freeze the pancakes. To do this, layer them between sheets of baking paper, wrap well in cling film, then foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
04.Preheat the oven to 200°c/fan180°c/gas 6. Liberally butter 1 or 2 shallow baking dishes.
05.Cut the leeks in half lengthways. Remove the outer leaves and wash thoroughly. Bring a large pan of salted water up to the boil. Add the leeks and cook for 3 minutes or until just cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool under cold running water. Squeeze dry on kitchen paper. Cut each leek into 4.
06.Add the spinach to the boiling water. As soon as it has collapsed, drain and cool under cold running water. Squeeze dry and gently unfurl.
07.Take the first pancake and place half a ham slice in the middle. Add 2 pieces of leek and a little of the spinach. Finally, add a lump of the Vacherin Mont d’or (you can use the rind). Neatly roll it up and place in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbling.