This week I went for a medium veg box original. At this time of year leeks often replace onions in the boxes for a few weeks and I always get caught out, because I just expect onions to be in the fridge at all times. I am constantly surprised to find that there are none there. Recipes are easily adapted to the leek instead, but the substitution of leek often results in me changing the recipe altogether.
Mussels are in season now and make a lovely, simple and quick supper. I can’t quite remember where I first came across this recipe for Moules Mouclade although I suspect it was when I did a stage at Rick Steins, down in Padstow, many moons ago. Leeks replace the shallots in its more famous variation of Moules Mariniere and its mild curry sauce is especially good moped up with a piece of bread.
2 kilo mussels
2 leeks, shredded. washed well and drained well
2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced)
500 ml white wine
1 teaspoons Madras curry powder (medium strength)
1 teaspoon cumin
125 ml double cream or crème fraiche
Small bunch fresh coriander
Soak the mussels in some clean, cold water and – if they haven’t been dealt with in the shop – sort through them, de-bearding, and knocking off any barnacles with the back of a small knife. Tip the mussels into a colander, discarding any that haven’t closed.
Take a large pan with a lid. Add a large knob of butter and the sweat the leeks for about 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid catching. Add the sliced garlic, the curry powder and cumin and fry for a moment more. Next add the mussels and the white wine, put on the lid and cook on a high heat for about 3 minutes. Shake the pan around as they are cooking. When you lift the lid, the mussels should have opened. Discard any that haven’t. Add the double cream or crème fraiche and the freshly chopped coriander. Taste the sauce, adjust to taste and serve.
Courgettes are another vegetable that are in abundance in the boxes right now and on recommendation, I tried out a recipe from Riverford’s website, for Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta. It really did turn out to be quite delicious. I just made a couple of changes, using lemon zest instead of juice and adding a pinch of chilli. Make sure you really give the courgettes enough time to cook down properly. You can decide how creamy you want the finished dish at the end. Balance the amount of crème fraiche with pasta water to get your desired consistence. Finally, the choice of pasta is up to you but we are particularly enjoying Rummo’s Linguini in our household at the moment but Riverford stock some organic varieties too,
Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta with Lemon and Chilli
500g courgettes, very finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Pinch chilli flakes
1-2 tablespoons crème fraiche
200g pasta of your choosing
Parmesan or pecorino
Heap the slices into a sauce pan with 2 tbsps. of olive. Add a pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for about 20 mins, they should start to cook and reduce. Stir every so often and make sure they aren’t catching on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 15 mins, adding a dash of water now and then if it starts to catch. Meanwhile cook your pasta. Season the courgettes with salt, pepper, a pinch of chilli flakes and the lemon zest. Stir in the crème fraiche, some good olive oil and a dash of the pasta water to loosen. Mix with the drained pasta and top with a generous grating of cheese.
I am always asked for more recipes for leafy greens. It is not surprising since one type or another is usually available all year long. Starting with spinach around May, joined by Spring Greens and then Summer Greens a little later on, with Savoy cabbage close behind and on through to January. Kale kicks in around September and Cavalo Nero around November and carries on until April when the Spinach starts up again and so on.
Here is one of my favourite recipes for Chard although it would work equally well with perpetual spinach. Would you believe that in my day this tart was actually on the menu as a starter at The River Café. Not quite what you expect from a Michelin stared restaurant but I guess that is why it was such a unique restaurant. This is one of those recipes which somehow tastes greater than its sum of ingredients. This as usual is to do with the mixture of Umami flavours. Umami is known as the fifth flavour and is found in great quantities in Parmesan Cheese and Chard so when the two are brought together, it becomes something else.
I am a great fan of ready rolled all butter puff pastry which can be easily found now a days in most supermarkets. Make sure it is all-butter; its ingredients should not list much more than butter and flour. It can be kept in the freezer until needed and quickly topped with all sorts of vegetable so it is a great use up lunch or supper.
Use-up is very much on my mind at the moment as I am not only off on holiday soon but when I get back I am moving house. So, as you can imagine our household is overflowing with suitcases and packing boxes – basically chaos!. Due to these rather major events, I shall not be blogging for a few weeks but I will never stop in my pursuit of finding great recipes to help you use up your vegboxes and I am sure that the markets in the South of France will inspire me as always, so I hope to return rejuvenated in a couple of weeks with new ideas.
Swiss Chard, Red Onion and Crème Fraiche Tart with Olives
1 packet of ready rolled all-butter puff pastry (230g)
3 Red onions, finely sliced
Leaves from 1 sprig of thyme
½ head of wet garlic or 4 garlic cloves
300g Swiss chard
10 stoned black olives, chopped if large
1/2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 tbsp. Crème Fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add the onions and thyme and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until soft and just beginning to caramelise. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Lay the pastry out on a baking sheet and put in the oven until puffed up and golden brown on the to and the bottom.
Meanwhile, if the chard has a large stalk (this is not usually the case early in the season) separate the chard stalks from the leaves and chop both leaves and stalks roughly, keeping them separate. Add the stalks to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 2–3 minutes, until tender. Remove the stalks with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the leaves to the boiling water and blanch briefly. Remove and spread out on a dry tea towel to cool. When cool use the tea towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Cut the wet garlic or garlic into very thin slithers. Heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic until just turning light golden brown. Add the Chard and season with salt and mix well. Fry briefly and remove from the heat. Spread the onions all over the pastry base, just leaving a narrow edge. Top with the chard and then sprinkle with the chopped olives, Parmesan and a few blobs of crème fraîche. Bake in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
I never used to know what to do with Sweet Potatoes and I was always concocting elaborate curries and chillies to use them up but I had forgotten how delicious simple roast Sweet Potato Wedges were until my son asked me to make them for him instead of potatoes. I lightly sprinkled them with a little salt and some smoked paprika, drizzled them with a little olive oil and roast them in the oven at 190⁰C for about half and hour until soft in the middle but crispy and golden on the outside. I then served them with a couple of dips – Crème Fraiche (Riverford’s is very good) and the other was some Sweet Chilli Sauce (once again, Riverford do make their own) and it soon became a firm, family favourite.