Archive for Potatoes

Fruits of the Earth

I recently found out that there are fifty thousand edible plant species on earth, and we manage to consume just a hundred of them. Yes that’s right, just a 100 varieties out of all the cornucopia this world provides. In the late seventies, I along with a million other people bought a book called “Food for Free” written by Richard Mabey, a slim paperback which I read more for the pleasure and information it provided, than because I wanted to go foraging.

Like all of us I have picked blackberries in autumn, ate hazelnuts, and young shoots of hawthorn, (bread & cheese). I’ve picked mushrooms, and prickly sloes for gin. My mother as a young girl was sent out to harvest the hedges for rosehips during the second world war, as they were a good,”free” source of vitamin c.

But there are so many wild plants we not longer value, from the humble dandelion, best gathered fresh in spring, a great leaf for salads, young tips of nettle, a good substitute for spinach, to green sea weed which is becoming quite trendy dried as a condiment. We have become disconnected from the countryside, viewing it as a vast play ground interspersed with industrial sized farming units, which provide us with the “correct” food to eat.

Now I realize that there are plants out there that are poisonous, or just taste plain strange to our modern palette. But with a good reference book, or in the company of an experienced forager, the walk you take for pleasure could also give you ingredients for a meal.

 There are so many recipes for “wild food” out there, from Elderflower fritters, to a four herbs vinegar,

(Cut basil, borage, mint and chives just before plant flowers. Bruise the leaves and pack them into a glass jar. Heat white vinegar and pour over the leaves. Cover and infuse for fourteen days shaking occasionally. Strain and store in glass bottles with screw top lids.)

that whole books are devoted to recipes, drinks and tonics made from natural products. If you have a favourite wild food recipe, we would love to hear about it. Why not drop us a line?

Pea Green has been celebrating summer with something slightly different, a wonderful fresh tabbouleh medley, made from puy lentils, sweet baby orange tomatoes, lemon, mint and spring onions. Served with our Asian Slaw and new potatoes, an exotic mix which is going down really well.

Take the few short steps across the car park. escape the glare and come into the cool, shaded Pea Green café for a taste of summer.

 

The Spice of Life

Our daily food has changed out of all recognition since I was a girl. My Mother was a plain cook, and the only seasoning I remember in our house was salt and pepper and packets of  Paxo (other stuffing are available!). Maybe a clove or some nutmeg at Christmas. I recall that one of the few positive things she ever said about my cooking was to praise me for making my own stuffing.

 

Now spices are a part of every day cooking in most households and are readily available on the high street  and online, where the range is of cause literally global. The most expensive spice is Saffron, known as Red Gold, so that should give you a clue. A lb of Saffron, if you should require that much would cost a mere £4000.00. No I haven’t put in too many o. While the cheapest spice is chilli powder. We grew chilli plants last year, fiery red little beasties which we have only just finished using.

The definition of a spice is that it is a seed, fruit, root, or bark of a plant, while herbs are the leaves, stems, or flowers of plants.  Another definition of the word spice is, ” something that makes something else more exciting and interesting”. I love words, the way you can squeeze two meanings out of one. Cinnamon was one of the earliest spices to be used, the Egyptians used it as an embalming agent!

Black pepper is the most used spice. Now I like a sprinkle of black pepper on my chips, but the use of white pepper has been a revelation to me. I knew about its use in white sauces, the colour blends in, but had never thought about its taste. We use white pepper and nutmeg to season our mashed potato, making something special of an every day dish I’ve eaten all my life, giving them a lift, a spicy warmth.

Spices have an ancient connection with us having been used for many different purposes. Magically in rituals as incense, for their healing properties, in tradition. And always and forever  in the art of the preservation of food, its taste and flavouring.

Here Comes The Sun

When the sun has been visible this week, it has had the grainy texture I associate with a Turner painting. Turner was producing his work at a time of scientific advancement, and one of the scientists he most admired was William Herschel, who revealed that the sun, rather than a disc, had a surface of “openings, shallows, ridges, nodules, corrugations, indentations and pores.” From then on Turner’s suns took on an almost three d quality, standing out from the rest of the painting by the thickness of the paint applied.

Likewise our own made savoury potato cakes stand out from the rest. They resemble the disc of the suns Turner created with their beautiful criss- cross layers and golden hue. Served with a fried egg and local bacon, they make a wonderfully cheering lunch.

Our honey cakes too are a reminder of summer afternoons spent in shady gardens, and served with an elegant Earl Grey tea in a china cup, perfect for a tea time treat. Our recipe for these won the first ever Ludlow Food Festival award for the best cake to be entered.

So, when the wind dies down and snow stops falling, pop along and warm yourself up.