I am smiling again! The sun is out here in the UK, the evenings are bathed in daylight and we can all wear sunglasses again without looking like some celebrity who is trying desperately hard to be recognised by pretending they don’t want to be recognised. I wore shorts for the first time this year and I’m seriously considering a long term transfer of my Converse-type shoe to a flip-flop. Oh yes, things are really getting interesting in my life I can tell you.
Thanks to the brilliant weather we enjoyed last weekend, my lovely lady and I decided to finally get off our backsides and pump some life back into our garden. Last year was our first attempt at growing our own produce and thanks to our lovely long terrace which traps the sunlight, numerous containers and pots and obscene amounts of soil hauled up four floors, we managed to produce some delicious produce, all of it organically grown by us. Last year we feasted on the sweetest tomatoes and cucumbers, carrots, peas, kohl rabi, leeks, potatoes and strawberries to name but a few of our successes and this year we intend to repeat it. Last Sunday we turned over our soil beds and de-weeded where necessary but what we discovered in some of the beds caught us somewhat by surprise. Buried underneath the soil in some of the planters were whole, unshelled peanuts. This puzzled us for quite a while until I discovered that Magpies were taking peanuts from the squirrels in the park directly opposite us and were stashing them for safe keeping in our beds. The thing is, some of those peanuts were so old, they evidently have forgotten they hid them there and moved on. I had no idea Magpies did this and when I see one again, not only am I going to say, “Good morning Mr Magpie, how are your wife & children today?” (My Grandma told me it’s bad luck to see just one Magpie and that’s what you say to prevent misfortune and she wouldn’t lie), I am also going to ask them why they put their peanuts in my soil beds? Seeing as I don’t speak Magpie I’ll probably not get very far and unless they speak English or a smattering of French, it’s probably going to be a fruitless conversation. There are some things in life we shall never know.
So, with weeds and peanuts removed, we planted our seeds. We are also propagating lots of other seeds and as I write this blog, I can see before me on my windowsills, 17 little pots all with tomato, aubergine, cucumber and squash seeds nestled in them, basking in the sunlight coming through the windows. It never ceases to amaze me how one little seed can sprout a little shoot which then grows into a full plant and produces food for us to eat. Incredible! I can’t wait to start making lots of lovely dishes with home grown produce again; it just tastes so much better.
Speaking of home grown produce; there is one vegetable planted last year of which I have still yet to pick the remaining harvest – Parsnips. I have just a few of these left and I have decided to make a light and fresh Spring/Summer dish with them; something that can be enjoyed with a crisp glass of Pinot Grigot and a bottle of suntan lotion. I’ll keep you all up to date with my horticultural antics over the coming weeks and don’t be surprised if I act like a proud father-to-be, shoving the ultrasound picture of his growing baby into the face of anyone who doesn’t walk with a white stick or guide dog, and plaster pictures of first the shoots coming through the soil on my site. I’m a proud father-to-be and I don’t care who knows it!
Until next time ‘Don’t be Scared, it’s Just Food!’
Parsnip & Pistachio Remoulade with Orange Zest
This is a perfect recipe for summer-fying the delicious winter Parsnip. A remoulade is light yet luxurious, creamy and zesty and is more traditionally made with grated celeriac and Crème Frâiche. This version uses a cashew Crème Frâiche and is just as delicious and creamy as its dairy counterpart. You can use other vegetables instead of parsnip with beetroot being a perfect substitute for this recipe; perhaps with a smattering of caraway or dill seeds if you like an aniseed twist. This dish is perfect for a starter or as an accompaniment to a main meal and is also perfect for stuffing in roasted Portabello mushrooms. For the picture, I served the remoulade as a light lunch on a bed of wild garlic with homemade Melba Toast.
(Tip: if you make some cashew crème in advance and keep it in the fridge, it makes dishes like this very quick to make. I keep a tub of blended cashews & water (cashew crème) on standby at all times for dishes such as this. Then all you need to do is to add some salt & lemon juice and you have your Crème Frâiche!)
Preparation time: (not including 45 minutes of soaking) 10 minutes Serves: 4
For the Cashew Crème Frâiche:
250g Raw, unsalted cashews (soaked in boiling water for 45 minutes until soft. Drain)
100ml Cold water
Juice of 1 ½ Lemons
1 tsp Salt
3 – 4 Medium sized parsnips
Zest of 1 Medium orange
1 handful Fresh Basil (chopped)
1 handful Fresh Parsley (chopped)
1 Handful Roasted Pistachios (roughly chopped)
Salt & pepper to season
To make the Crème Frâiche: Place the soaked cashews into a blender & add the water, salt & lemon juice. Blend down until completely smooth. You should have a crème which is totally lump free with a zesty, creamy consistency. Place in the fridge to chill.
Peel & grate the parsnips and place into a mixing bowl.
Add the orange zest, basil & parsley and spoon in the Crème Frâiche.
Mix gently with a spoon, making sure not to bruise the parsnips and season to taste.
Add a little more lemon juice if you wish and if it’s a little thick, drizzle in a little water. Just before serving sprinkle on the chopped pistachios.
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