Archives for category: Fruits and vegetables

Thank goodness we didn’t go on holiday this year. It would have been a disaster from a vegetable gardening, cooking and eating perspective.

There were a few moments when I wished I was at the beach or on narrow boat Patience but as I sit down to write this blog post I realise if we had been away for a month many of our carefully planted and nurtured vegetables would have rotted, grown old and unpalatable or been devoured by the birds, snails and slugs.

Instead we have delighted in the fact that all our meals for the last month and a half have been centred around the vegetables we’ve been picking every day. The only vegetables we have bought have been onions, potatoes and garlic.

IMG_1867So what have we produced with these earthly delights?

Some super fresh pasta dishes for a start.

Green Marinara Pasta

Combine seafood  – prawns, calamari and mussels  flash fried in butter – with barely steamed green beans, sautéed courgettes, raw mangetout peas, basil and mint and serve on a bed of fresh tagliatelle with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Double Courgette, Pea and Pesto Pasta

This pasta dish turned out to have quite a few components that came together very festively to create a dinner party of a dish.

  1. Creamy sauce: Bring to the boil about a cup of cream (I think I also threw in about a half a tub of crème fraîche) and the juice and rind of a lemon or two. Reduce until thick and stir in some grated parmesan and a few grindings of black pepper.
  2. Pasta component: Cook the pasta (spaghetti or tagliatelle) in a large pot. When the pasta is just about done throw in a couple of handfuls of julienned courgette. Drain immediately and toss with some mangetout peas and the lemony cream sauce.
  3. Shoestring courgette fries: If you have ever eaten at Tortellino d’Oro in Oaklands, Johannesburg you will surely have tried to replicate the crisp courgette shoestrings that adorn many of their plates. I’d unsuccessfully tried to make them a couple of times but it was not until I googled ‘zucchini shoestrings’ and serendipitously came upon this perfect recipe from Drizzle and Dip – also inspired by Tortellino d’Oro – that I actually succeeded.
  4. Minty pesto: Blend together olive oil, large handfuls of mint and basil, salt and black pepper with a clove or two of garlic. Stir in some grated parmesan or pecorino and a handful or two of ground almonds.
  5. To serve: Pour the hot creamy pasta mix onto a large serving platter. Swirl in a minty pesto and garnish with shoestring courgette fries.

Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum, has been a failure in our garden. Or perhaps I should say we have failed Rheum rhabarbarum. After a very promising start when we grew six or eight plants from seed and watched them grow to maturity, we neglected to harvest any of the stalks and watched the plants die one by one for reasons we have never been able to determine.  I have keen to try growing rhubarb again but am too ashamed to mention this desire to Richard.

When I occasionally see rhubarb in our local greengrocer I sail past it without even thinking of  buying it and making something delicious with it. Rhubarb, after all, should be grown in the garden and not bought packaged in miserable polystyrene punnets.

However when I recently stumbled upon an enormous bunch of organic rhubarb in Haenertsberg in Limpopo I could not resist it.


It was clear from the size of the bunch that there was far too much for just one dessert. What was I going to do with this rather large bunch of rhubarb? I can’t remember ever actually cooking rhubarb. I had liked the idea of cooking it, I had had little fantasies about walking down the garden path to pick the lovely pink stalks and making a tangy pie, but all I had done was kill the half dozen plants that were going to turn into potential pies.


Naturally some online research was in order – and Google come up with the goods.

The first recipe that caught my eye was for rhubarb posset. I adore lemon posset.  Lemon posset has been a familiar food on our narrowboat trips since the year  my daughter first made it when she was drawn to a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe in The Guardian. 

I was aware that possets  have been around for centuries although not quite in the form familiar to us denizens of the 21st century. I got a little sidetracked reading up on the history of possets, learning that possets were both enjoyed as a dessert and used medicinally. In the process I found myself reading more than just a few posts on this engaging blog, British Food: A History. 

Rhubarb it seems has even more ancient roots than medieval posset. It was also used medicinally although in this instance in Tibet  – thousands of years ago. It was grown in China too,  but according to James Beard in Beard on Food, Siberia gave us the more common variety of rhubarb that we know and grow.

I was further sidetracked by the accounts of  growing rhubarb in the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle.

After spending a couple of hours in cyber space I realised time was ticking by so I put my mind to getting the rhubarb cooked. I was rather taken by a recipe for lamb cutlets cooked with rhubarb. We were planning to cook Gemsbok shanks that night and it seemed this very English lamb recipe was just begging to be translated into a hearty Limpopo supper particularly suited to a misty rainy day.

We cooked the Gemsbok shanks for about six hours in a very low oven on a bed of chopped  onions and rhubarb, flavoured with star anise and black pepper, with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar.

At the same time, although not for the six hours allotted to the shanks, we roasted the balance of the rhubarb with castor sugar.

In the end, it was hard for me to give up the idea of the posset.  I wasn’t sure we had the right cream so we made a rhubarb fool by folding the baked, cooled rhubarb into whipped cream which we poured into long-stemmed glasses and refrigerated overnight. It made the most unexpected yet exquisite and festive breakfast. Just the thing for a Monday morning.

I am now very keen to get back to Patience (and the UK) as soon as possible to get some of that perfectly pink forced Yorkshire rhubarb. The season I believe starts in December and ends in March. Very chilly weather to be cruising the canals, I think. But perhaps we’ll attempt growing rhubarb in our suburban Johannesburg garden again. As James Beard says, ‘ Rhubarb is one of our first and great garden delights. It should not be forgotten.’

I’m going to need a large and regular supply of rhubarb. Some of the must-make rhubarb recipes on my list are: