There is nothing better than vegetables just picked, nimbly prepared, and eaten straight away. The flavours are at their peak, the form and texture as plump and perky as can be.
Rather than wait until the proper meal time I often just rustle up a mini-meal there and then, to celebrate the journey I’ve taken to get that vegetable from seed to plate.
If I had an allotment instead of a garden, and couldn’t get back to the kitchen in 20 minutes or less, I would seriously consider taking along a gas ring, a pan some butter and a fork, just to enjoy a few of those moments.
Here’s a few things I’ve been enjoying this week:
Nothing beats fresh-as-fresh-can-be pesto. You can keep excess in a jar to use later, but that initial zingy intensity is lost.
To make: Simply whizz up a load of basil leaves, a clove of garlic and some lightly toasted pine nuts. transfer to a bowl and stir in grated parmesan cheese and a good quality virgin olive oil. A grind or two of salt and pepper. Stir into fresh hot pasta. Devour.
Artichoke flowers are a thing of pure architectural marvel. You can understand why they have been celebrated over and over by sculptors and ceramicists.
They are also a bugger to prepare and eat. If you grow them as a vegetable, you must eat at least one every year to remind yourself that they do make stunning flowers if you (Whoops! oh dear…) let them go past their edible best.
To prepare: Pick them big enough to make it worth the trouble but before they start to flower. Cut off the painfully spiny ends of the petals. Steam for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size. If a petal pulls off easily with a tug, it’s done). Melt some butter or make a simple vinaigrette. Pull the petals off one by one, dip the succulent end of it into the butter and nibble it off. Discard the rest of the inedible petal. (Don’t bother with the tough petals on the underside). As you work your way in, the petals become more fragile. Don’t bother with tiny ones. Instead cut the remaining flower head in half and eat the core with a knife and fork. Don’t eat the hairy bits (they’re like small fish bones). Toss the rest on the compost and, unless you’re a glutton for punishment, let the remaining flowers develop into beautiful purple blooms.
Broad Beans & Baby Carrots with Walnuts
A bit of an odd combination, adding walnuts, but I like to experiment! I also drizzled the lot with some rather special vintage Apple Balsamic Vinegar from Liberty Fields that I’d been keeping for a special moment like this. (Liberty Fields are based in Dorset and use the Italian balsamic method.. but on Somerset apples instead of grapes… read more about their apples here).
To make: sauté the beans and baby carrots (washed and trimmed) in butter and pepper (I LOVE goats’ butter. Subtle flavour and not at all greasy) until they are hot but still crunchy. Toss in a few nuts and a splash of a nice balsamic vinegar. Either eat warm, or cool and have as a salad with some slices of ham.
What have you been nibbling from the garden this week? Do the peas even make it to the kitchen, or do they, like mine, go straight into your mouth?