Archives for posts with tag: the guardian

I  agree heartily with culinary go-to man Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall when he  says ‘…what’s not to love about lovage?’

Levisticum officinale is an unfussy plant that pops up each spring without fail. It seems to tolerate quite a bit of shade, lack of water as well as  general neglect. Although ours doesn’t grow to the two metres that some people’s plants seem to it does provide pungent leaves for at least ten months of the year.

In keeping with our medium-term goal of providing almost all our food from the garden I decided that the lovage needs to be eaten as a main component of a meal and not just as an occasional leaf in a salad or a sprig in a soup.

As usual Google was my first port of call when I decided I needed to make a soup using the fresh young lovage and the slowly ageing lettuce in our garden. Number five on the page was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Lovage Recipes courtesy The Guardian website. I clicked through to find a recipe for a lovage and lettuce soup.

Lovage leaves

Hugh says ‘…one of the most intriguing and versatile of herbs, yet when was the last time you saw it in a shop or even growing in someone’s garden? Time to redress the balance …’ I find myself agreeing with Hugh once again – at least as far as lovage being intriguing – although just how versatile it is remains to be seen in the upcoming weeks. Here’s a start. I didn’t follow Hugh’s recipe but went my own way and made a soup with ingredients I had on hand –  a smoked pork fillet, sour cream and three of these lettuces. With gay abandon – tempered with just a little bit of doubt – I used way more lovage than Hugh suggested. I’m pleased I did. The lovage flavour wasn’t overwhelming at all and I and the other lucky recipients of the meal all found it delicious.

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LOVAGE AND LETTUCE SOUP

Very slowly fry two large finely chopped onions in a large heavy pot in olive oil until very soft. Add four crushed garlic cloves, six very finely chopped young lovage stalks with their accompanying leaves and a diced smoked pork fillet. Add a few very generous grindings of black pepper. Fry all of this very slowly on a low heat for a long time until very tender. (It took me so long that I unfortunately had to miss a school PTA meeting)  I kept the lid on for much of the time.

In the meantime roughly chop three lettuces and cook them briefly in a couple of litres of vegetable stock.

Pick out about half the pork fillet but don’t worry if some of the onion and lovage stick to it.

Combine the lettuce and lovage mixtures, blend until nice and smooth and return to the  pot. Bring to the boil, add the reserved pork fillet and about a cup of sour cream and heat through. Serve the glorious green soup as a light but entirely satisfying supper.

Chopped lovage

I’ll be making this soup again, without the pork I think, but will add a big bunch of tarragon as per Kevin Lee Jacobs. And then I’m keen to try lovage tempura, lovage fritters and candied lovage.

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When I went into the supermarket in Northampton to buy the sugar for the hedgerow jelly I noticed they had samphire in the fresh produce section. I’ve been reading about samphire for some years now and had always wanted to try it so although I was supposed to be running down the food supplies aboard narrowboat Patience I decided I HAD to buy some samphire. Of course I had no clue how one was supposed to cook samphire – if one even cooked it at all. But what I did know was that I was definitely going to make it work with the ingredients we had on the boat.

Another quick Google search told me that samphire mixes really very nicely with spaghetti(which we had in the galley) and Hugh came up with ideal  cooking method –  ‘Add the samphire to the pasta pan for the last two minutes of cooking time.’ I improvised with the rest of the recipe by frying bacon, garlic, a shallot  and red peppers to which added a little leftover cream and let it bubble and reduce. I then tossed the sauce lightly with the spaghetti samphire mix and served it with some parmesan and lots of black pepper.

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And what I do know now is that I love that salty, crunchy, green gem of a plant. I have to get back to the UK for the next samphire season!

Who could resist the the ripe (and some not so ripe) fruit growing so temptingly along the banks of the River Nene? Elderberries, sloes, blackberries and small apples. We were on narrowboat Patience for the last few days of our six week trip from Braunston Marina to Cambridgeshire and back when all the hedgerow fruits seemed to ripen.

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At first I thought it was too late in the trip to be gathering fruit and cooking it what with having to tidy up and sort out the boat, pack and devote hours each day to work but it seemed churlish to ignore the delights of the river bank so I started picking fruit each time I operated one of the string of locks along that stretch of the river.

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A quick google search turned up the perfect hedgerow jelly recipe by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on The Guardian website. Thank you to Hugh – the recipe really was perfect! I’m just sorry I didn’t pick any haws or rowan berries. I think they were ripe but I didn’t know they were edible. Next time….

Hedgerow fruits in the pot

I had neither sugar, a scale nor a jelly bag on the boat but some guesswork took care of the weighing problem and a pair of ugly brown pantihose turned into a serviceable jelly bag. And we moored in Northampton that night so I could dash to the nearby supermarket for the sugar.

The jelly was so delicious eaten with cheese and oat cakes and I just can’t wait to be back on the boat in late August again.