Late winter – seasonal treats for February. Look out for the very best forced rhubarb and grasp the last of the Seville oranges whilst you can.
Bake a luxurious treat with our celeriac gratin for St Valentine’s Day or if you have fallen out of love, a decadent stack of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday will bring a smile to any lonely heart.
Marry with root ginger and a freshly squeezed blood orange then poach tenderly uncovered with a little honey to serve with your breakfast porridge or make brandy snaps and mascarpone for an easy to assemble dessert. Reserve some of the cooking liquor and use the syrup for a Valentine cocktail mixed with your favourite fizz.
Delicate, pink stems that are grown with such meticulous attention and harvested under candlelight. What could be more romantic? They fill my heart with joy. I want to wrap them in a cotton before placing gently in my basket to carry home from the market. Forced rhubarb is produced in the famous nine square-mile ‘Yorkshire Triangle’ which include the towns of Wakefield, Rothwell and Morley. Take time out to visit their festival on 17-19 February 2017.
Take care when selecting your Seville oranges we suggest that you opt for those that are marked organic and from a reputable source. Sadly due to its limited season and the abundance of trees in highly polluted city streets, many of the imported fruits are gathered from the gutters by disreputable wholesalers. Given that we use the whole fruit for marmalade and simply nothing is wasted when making this traditional preserve, let’s support the Spanish farmers who work so hard throughout the year taking care of their beautiful groves.
Such a versatile root vegetable but overlooked for not being very easy on the eye. What a shame as the bulbous root easily adds another dimension to a midweek supper and brushes up well for even the smartest of dinners. Try our rich gratin for a ‘get ahead’ side dish for a romantic meal or simply mash with a generous splash of warmed milk and butter to ring the changes from potato.
High in vitamin K and a perfect larder ingredient for when the days are short. Enjoy raw as a winter salad partnered with blood oranges, crumbled Dorset blue and chopped walnuts. Or try sliced in half long ways, brush with rapeseed oil and place, cut side down on a hot griddle. Serve with bulgar wheat, cubed feta and roughly chopped, preserved lemons. Snip a few chives from the pot you have tucked in your greenhouse.
I remember exploring a new garden as a child. It was an unusual plot, set in three terraces with a steep hill in the centre. This was covered in heather with a path of old paving slabs through the middle. Climbing was worth the effort. At the top I discovered a small vegetable patch. Beside some tired looking gooseberry bushes stood a beautiful row of leeks. My first memory is of child-like curiosity as I selected the thickest and in my mind the most glorious and pulled it from the ground. Met with the unmistakably scent, similar to chopped onion but sweeter. The smell was fixed to my chubby hands with an equal measure of sandy soil. Both of which stung my eyes as I rubbed them. Here my love affair with the leek began. And because it eats so beautifully with cheese, it is a love that will last a lifetime.
For four people you need:
Pancakes – makes 10-12 pancakes
110g (4oz) Plain flour with a pinch of salt
300ml (1/2 pint) semi skimmed milk
2 medium free range eggs – beaten together
Tablespoon of melted butter
For the stuffing
220g (8oz) Ricotta
220g (8oz) Spinach, washed, cooked and squeezed dry. Finely chopped
1 large leek, washed well. Finely sliced and cooked until soft in a little butter and oil.
220g (8oz) Button mushrooms, finely sliced and cooked
Seasoning and freshly ground nutmeg
For the topping
300ml (1/2 pint) cheese sauce
55g (2oz) grated parmesan or Lyburn Old Winchester mixed with tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
Tablespoon chopped parsley
Gratin dish brushed with melted butter then dusted with dry breadcrumbs
Prepare the stuffing and cheese sauce. Set aside to cool.
To make pancakes weigh flour into a large bowl and make a well in centre. Add eggs and milk. Beat well until there are no lumps remaining.
Preheat a small non-stick frying pan with metal handle or on a conventional hob.
Add melted butter to pancake batter and mix well. Place frying pan on boiling plate or over a medium to high heat on your conventional stove. Wipe your pan with a little sunflower oil and kitchen paper, if necessary but ensure that there is no excess oil remaining.
Pour a tablespoon of batter into pan and swirl quickly around the base of pan to create a thin and even covering. When bubbles appear on surface and edges of pancake are crisp, flip over and continue cooking for a few moments.
Stack pancakes between sheets of baking parchment whilst continuing to cook remaining batter.
Stuff pancakes by placing a tablespoon of cold filling into centre of each and spreading this in a line across diameter. Roll up and place edge side down in gratin dish.
Get ahead – Can be covered and stored in fridge at this stage.
Pour cheese sauce over stuffed pancakes, sprinkle with parmesan and crumb mixture. Bake uncovered in AGA roasting oven on bottom runner or in preheated conventional oven 180 C Gas Mark 4 for 20-30 minutes.
You can read Lisa’s latest feature in the Sherborne Times on pages 56-57