Packets of magic – never underestimate the power of seeds

Remember the story of Jack and the beanstalk where Jack foolishly sold his cow for 5 magic beans? He wasn’t undersold, his beans were the passage to a store of treasure in the sky. And it’s true – seeds are natures treasures.

I have just received a parcel of seeds for this season and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the postman dropped them off. Along with the store of seeds saved from last year this promises to be my food for the coming year, the provide the colour and scent of my garden, the taste of fresh sprouting seeds in my salads and a year’s fun sowing planting and harvesting. Who needs a gym when you have access to a garden or allotment a few packets of seeds and a few tools.

Seeds may be tiny, but they’re packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. A seed is life. It is a living food. Seeds also provide most cooking oils, many beverages and spices and some important food additives. In fact food from seeds, beans, nuts and grains (all seeds) forms the majority of human calories.

To get the most out of them remember the golden rule – raw food provides the highest sources of vitamins and cooked food helps the body extract the highest amounts of minerals so vary the way you eat them. Salads, raw seed and nut dips for vitamins and added to bread, biscuits or toasted for minerals.

Eating sprouted seeds adds another dimension of flavour and texture as well either raw in salads or cooked in stir fries.

When the garden sends you broad beans…

Well the allotment is starting to take off on the picking front with broad beans, courgettes and runner beans and as usual I can’t keep up, so the broad beans are getting a bit big and I like them small and sweet.

The following recipe is not just something to do with an overload of broad beans, it is a reason for growing them! Thick, garlicky (is that a real word?) and herby.

Broad Bean Dip from The Taste of Health by edited by Jenny Rogers

This recipe calls for dried beans but I used fresh of course.

 

 

 

Ingredients

250g broad beans (removed from their jackets and peeled)

1 small onion

6 garlic cloves

A bunch of fresh thyme and a sprig of sage

2 bay leaves

110ml olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime

Salt & pepper

Method

If using dried beans soak them for a few hours or overnight otherwise just carry on with the recipe.

Put beans into a saucepan and cover with water.  Tie the 3 garlic cloves, the onion and the herbs loosely in a muslin bag and add to the pan. Simmer until the beans are tender then discard the muslin bag and water.

Put the beans into a processor with the olive oil, lemon/lime juice, salt & pepper and the the three remaining garlic cloves and process until they are a smooth paste.

yum yum

click here for the book

Tomato Day – an obsessive’s day in the kitchen

I am a bit of a tomato freak and grow quite a few varieties all over the place every year, so I set aside one day in September to make the most of the end of harvest tomatoes. Friday was Tomato Day in my house. Turn off the phone, turn up the music, strip the tomato plants, get out the recipes and get cooking. Each year is a mix of old favourites and new recipes. This year thanks to a bloomin’ bountiful crop I came up with some lovely food and had a great day at the same time. And I still have lots of fresh tomatoes to enjoy.

Tomato Ketchup from Thane Prince’s Book Jams and Chutneys – Preserving the Harvest. This is THE BEST ketchup recipe I have found, especially as I use Elderflower Vinegar instead of cider vinegar. The mixture of spices really set it ahead of others and I have made it for the last three years since I discovered Thane’s book.

Tomato Soup, a great staple recipe I found whilst researching Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen, sounds fairly ordinary but it is hearty and warming and it freezes well. (page 112 if you want to make it).

 

Cherry Tomato Focaccia with Basil from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister – all the better to dip into your Tomato Soup.

Tomato, Red Pepper and Red Onion pasta sauce with basil, an old favourite recipe to stock the freezer

 

 

 

Celery, Lentil and Green Tomato Warmer is new recipe from Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel. I won this book earlier in the year and what a fab book it turned out to be. A bowl of this was rushed round to a friend with a cold who needed a bit of nourishment the rest disappeared on Friday night!with for winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, but certainly not least, Green Tomato End of Harvest Soup from In Praise of Tomatoes by Ronni Lundi. I love this book and although I have copies in my shop I have my own copy, never to leave the kitchen. This soup is absolutely great and I will be making it again – a lot –  with green tomatoes, onions, celery, squash, beans, courgette, corn kernels, carrots, greens (kale or collard), potatoes, thyme. Everything I have on the allotment – hurrah. I used runner beans, everything I cook has runner beans in at the moment.  I can’t tell you how delicious this is – so try it. Buy the book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

For In Praise of Tomatoes by Ronni Lundy Click Here

For Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen Click Here

My Favourite Bean Dish

A great dish for the summer with the fresh baby broad beans coming through.This comes from In One Pot by Blanche Vaughan, a great book with dish after dish that I want to try.

Broad Bean and Dill Pilaf 

250g basmati rice

20 unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves. sliced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

250g broad beans, podded

20g bunch of dill, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Soak the rice in plenty of water with a pinch of salt while you are preparing the other ingredients.

In a heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and fry gently for at least 5 minutes. Once the onions are soft and sweet, add the garlic.

Drain the rice.

Turn up the heat and add the allspice and rice the the onion mixture. Fry for a minute, stirring so that the rice is coated with butter. Season well and add the broad beans and dill.

Pour over enough cold water to just about 1cm over the surface and cover with a piece of baking parchment and then the lid.

Turn the heat under the pan to medium and cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until the rice is soft and the water absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

This isexpecially good served with tahini yoghurt or cucumber raita. I have also used fennel when I can’t get dill.

What’s in a name?

One of the side pleasures of gardening are the fabulous names of flower and vegetable varieties. I am captivated by flower variety names especially roses. Who could resist Spirit of Freedom, Dizzy Heights or Teasing Georgia, all climbers, or Tess of the D’Urbervilles (sigh) or Eglantyne (was she a Borrower?) or Snow Goose (a rambler reaching for the skies) or for your lover, Thinking of You. Reading rose catalogues is a trip through a garden of imagination. And while we are on roses how about Pretty Lady (a showy floribunda) or with a scone Lady of Shalott (a spiced tea rose). My advice, if ever you feel a little lacking in romance read a rose catalogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetables on the other hand have some weird and wonderful names. I am a bit of a tomato freak (I have nine varieties on the go this year) and have found some great varieties at seed swaps where you find the best names. I couldn’t resist Bloody Butcher and Jazz Fever even though I have no idea what they are like. Livingstone’s Favourite and Mrs Fortune went straight into the basket as well with the aptly named Green Zebra and Yellow Headlights. What about Sub Arctic Plenty, which was allegedly developed in the 1940′s for U.S. military to provide tomatoes to their troops in Greenland or Ivory Egg, a great plum tomato that looks a bit like a duck’s egg and tastes lovely.

Ne Plus Ultra pea says it all there is no better than this variety which is going great guns on the plot.

But beans seem to have the edge. My favourite, again from a seed swap is the lovely French Bean District Nurse, a rampant, prolific and tasty purple spotted bean, or Good Mother Stallard or Lazy Wife and there is always French Bean Trail of Tears which, so the story goes, were the beans carried in the pockets of Cherokee Indians on their tragic forced relocation from North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains to Oklahoma in 1838-1839. A bean planted for each person who died along the way.

Perhaps one day there will be a rose named after me – Rita’s Romance or  more likely something like Rita’s Red Hot Radish!

Super Summer Broad Bean dish

A great dish for the summer with the fresh baby broad beans coming through.This comes from In One Pot by Blanche Vaughan, a great book with dish after dish that I want to try.

Broad Bean and Dill Pilaf 

 

 

 

 

 

 

250g basmati rice

20 unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves. sliced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

250g broad beans, podded

20g bunch of dill, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Soak the rice in plenty of water with a pinch of salt while you are preparing the other ingredients.

In a heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and fry gently for at least 5 minutes. Once the onions are soft and sweet, add the garlic.

Drain the rice.

Turn up the heat and add the allspice and rice the the onion mixture. Fry for a minute, stirring so that the rice is coated with butter. Season well and add the broad beans and dill.

Pour over enough cold water to just about 1cm over the surface and cover with a piece of baking parchment and then the lid.

Turn the heat under the pan to medium and cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until the rice is soft and the water absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

this isexpecially good served with tahini yoghurt or cucumber raita. I have also used fennel when I can’t get dill.

 

It’s all go in the bean patch

The first glut of the year down at the allotment – I love it! The broad beans are going a bit mad and we are having problems keeping up with them while they are small and tasty. Not many black fly this year either.

So tonight’s dinner is Broad bean and dill pilaf. It’s on the cooker now so I will let you know how it goes tomorrow. Smells delicious.