• In season now: May

    New this month: Asparagus! The food of gods... and carrots are back.

    Still in season from last month: cauliflower, chard, green cabbage, salad leaves, main-crop potatoes (from store), salad leaves, sea kale, spring greens, rhubarb

    Goodbye till next year to: Purple sprouting broccoli (sniff, sniff), leeks, stored parsnips, forced rhubarb

  • What I’m doing here

    This all started when I picked the first strawberries from my new allotment.

    I'd never been so enraptured or so excited by food. It was a shock to find that anything could taste so good.

    So what - I'd never had strawberries before?

    No - all the strawberries I'd had were shop-bought, like as not flown in from intensive growers in Spain or Chile, and eaten in winter when strawberries should be a distant summer memory.

    It revolutionised my thinking about the fresh food we eat every day. I started to wonder if you got the same amazing taste from all types of food grown and eaten in season. And then I decided to do something about it.

    The Year of Eating Seasonally is my little experiment to find out what it's really like not to have it all. The only fruit and veg I and my family are going to eat in 2008 will be what's growing in the ground at the time (or, in winter, what I can get out of store).

    I want to find out if the hungry gap is really as hungry as everyone says it is: whether you're really eating nothing but cabbage all winter; and whether you miss strawberries in December.

    Along the way I hope I'll save a few tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere on my behalf, as I won't be requiring those French beans flown from Chile, thanks very much. And I hope I'll be rediscovering what food can really taste like.

    If you have any comments, please feel free to post them anywhere you like - or you can email me at sallywhite@hotmail.com.

The S word

Domestic goddess rating: 10% (lazy daisy curry night :D) Five-a-day: 3/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, marmalade and juice (breakfast); hummus and crackers (lunch); curry (it must be Friday)

I have kind of mixed feelings about celebrity chefs. Sometimes they hit the right note (Jamie Oliver on both school dinners and not eating battery-farmed chicken, for example) but sometimes they miss it by miles – how many celebrity chefs have you seen trying to convince you that you too can whip up a roulade a la blah blah with a cranberry jus? I mean – we don’t all get paid to cook all day, you know… (chance would be a fine thing!) And as for Delia and her abysmal “How to Cheat at Cooking” series…. well, I used to call her the sainted Delia but her halo has crashed and burned with this stunt.

However: today Gordon Ramsay is my top of the celeb chef pops. Why? Because he’s the one and only one to stand up and say “we need to eat seasonally”, with the honourable exception of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – though he doesn’t quite put it like this and besides he irritates everyone half to death.

I suspect Ramsay’s idea that we should fine restaurants who don’t offer seasonal food might be pushing it a bit – but I’m assuming he’ll put his money where his mouth is and make his own restaurants seasonal.

You can get the full story here, including his interview with the Beeb. We need more high-profile people like this speaking out for seasonal eating – the sooner it becomes a mainstream topic of conversation, the better if you ask me.

It’s ready when it’s ready

Domestic goddess rating: 50% (am having work-fest at the moment so hubby’s cooking, but I’m still growing) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, marmalade and juice (breakfast); pasta and pesto (lunch); chops, chips and home-grown swiss chard and pine nuts (supper)

I found a great article today, by a recent convert to seasonal eating – she liked it so much she left work and set up her own veg box scheme (even more extreme than me, then).

You can read it here. The bit I like is the comment from a local veggie farmer where she lives, in Bedfordshire, who when asked when his spring carrots would be ready said “When they’re ready.”

A man after my own heart. One of the nicest things about eating seasonally is that it’s the ultimate in slow food – you can’t hurry anything. The chard isn’t ready until it’s decided to grow: there’s not much you can do to hurry it up, so all you can do is wait a bit longer. All that anticipation makes it all the more delicious when it arrives. Too much instant gratification makes life very dull sometimes…

Salad days

Domestic goddess rating: 50% (haven’t exactly pushed the boat out today but since I’m GYO queen I’m happy) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, marmalade and juice (breakfast); pasta and tinned tomato sauce (lunch); bacon, potatoes and salad from the garden (supper)

I’m so proud of my salad patch. I started it in February with the first sowing, in a module tray, of a salad mix from Seeds of Italy – fantastic company, the packet was crammed full of seeds and I’m still only halfway through them.

I germinated the seeds inside, then put them in the (frost-free) greenhouse as soon as they’d poked their noses above ground. Then I’ve been sowing a tray every two weeks ever since, and it’s worked a treat.

I have a little space about two or three feet by around six feet right outside my back door, which decided it didn’t want to be a herb garden – so I devoted it to salad leaves and haven’t looked back, especially this year. We’ve just started picking that first February sowing – the plants are around 15cm (6″) high and bursting with health. And the taste… you’ve never eaten salad till you’ve eaten it with seconds between picking and the plate. Crunchy, sweet, juicy… I’m afraid it’s spoiled me for supermarket salads forever.

The darling buds of May

Domestic goddess rating: 0% (it’s my birthday :D so a day off goddess-dom today) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: bacon sandwich, greek yoghurt and honey (all-Sally’s-favourite-things breakfast); half a tuna sandwich (post-breakfast recovery lunch); fillet steak, asparagus and pommes nicoise (very posh birthday tea from hubby – who’s a lucky girl then)

What a great day – just kicked back and took it easy. And my first asparagus of the year, too. It doesn’t get much better than this!

So – here we are then. I feel like I’m emerging out of a long dark tunnel into the light – summer is just around the corner and there’s a hint – just a hint – that such undreamt of gorgeousness as fresh peas and beans might be on the way, too.

We’re still not quite clear of the hungry gap – but we’ve crossed the worst bit and are in reach of the other side. It hasn’t been quite as bad as I feared: I developed a bit of a thing about cabbage (am now a true connoisseur – can now tell a savoy from a cavolo nero at a hundred paces), and the advent of purple sprouting broccoli and chard really meant it wasn’t that long an endurance test after all.

As I’ve said before, apples are sorely missed – dried ones just aren’t the same – and I’ve also slipped a bit over the issue of cucumbers. Both are down to Princess the Younger’s very particular tastes: she does like a bit of cucumber in her sandwiches, and I can’t always fob her off with salad leaves. But since my salad patch is excelling itself at the moment (of which more later) I might have more luck this month. We’ll see!

A season in Italy

Domestic goddess rating: 20% (seriously working mum just lately so the house has gone to pot… managed to find some great new recipes though) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); sardines on toast (hastily cobbled-together lunch); pub grub (supper with a mate)

Have been shamefully remiss on the blogging front just lately as my workload has just catapulted from a bit on the heavy side to bloody ridiculous. What with kids and non-existent housework too it’s just been a joke. As a result my house is descending to the point where it’s tricky telling the difference between the kitchen floor and the garden, and we’re having to dust the telly before we can watch it.

But – I’m still eating seasonally! I have my husband to thank for this, as I’ve nicked his favourite cookbook. It’s called Recipes from an Italian Farmhouse by Valentina Harris, and it’s not your usual Italian cookbook. It’s packed with really good, simple but healthy dishes, and loads of them use what we think of as unusual veg – so you can find recipes in here that use spinach, cauliflower, and even turnip tops (the first recipe I’ve ever found that uses these!)

I’ve always found Italian cookbooks to be stuffed with more tomato-based pasta sauces than you could eat in a lifetime, so it’s so refreshing to find one that has something a little different, too.

Anyway, I was hunting down a recipe that used cauliflower the other day, and my hubby said he thought he remembered one in there. That’s when I discovered this yummy, yummy recipe for cauliflower in red wine – we had it with a delicious crusty French bread and salad. After that I moved on to Swiss chard and pine nuts (using more chard from the allotment – doing seriously well and looks like cropping for another month at this rate) the following evening, served with sizzly pork chops, and now I think my poor other half has lost his lovely cookbook forever. Kind of like the look of Christmas Eve cabbage, too…

Post-holiday comfort food #2

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (baking goddess despite frantic family day – ha!) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); chicken soup (lunch); spaghetti bolognese and salad (supper)

Back to life, back to reality… spag bol on the menu again as rushing around after the kids. When did they invent after-school clubs? And when did we suddenly think they had to go to one every single day? Actually we’ve been quite draconian compared to some parents by limiting it to two a week (it’s suffered mission creep even so – Princess the Younger is on three now, and Princess the Elder is waging a cunning campaign to up her quota with tales of athletics prowess, only slightly diverted by my lack of time to make the relevant phone calls).

Anyway, I baked myself happy this afternoon, with another armful of rhubarb from the allotment. I came across the recipe for rhubarb cake while wandering around Waitrose a while back, and was quite intrigued, never having heard of baking rhubarb before. Well – we had the result hot with creme fraiche for pud – lovely, light and spongy in the middle, with just the right amount of squidginess where the rhubarb meets the cake mix. And the combination of sweet sponge mixture and tart rhubarb is just amazing. I intend to sneak a slice cold later on, as I don’t think it’ll last the week. Mmmm-hmm. 

Post-holiday comfort food

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (holiday recovery mode so indulging us all) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); chicken soup (lunch); cauliflower goulash (supper)

Just got back from a lovely relaxing holiday in Cornwall to the standard attack of blues over not being able to spend all day on the beach any more. Actually that’s totally unrealistic anyway as we only got to the beach a couple of days – the rest of the time it was too rainy, too windy, or both. Mustn’t complain, though – we had a fab time anyway, and it really was lovely to get away for a bit.

Eating seasonally while you’re away is mainly a matter of self-catering, it seems. Go to a pub, and there will be tomato and cucumber involved somewhere (yeah, I know, I’ve moaned about this one before). But once you’re back in the holiday house, you’re laughing: we ate seasonally almost without thinking, all week long. It’s nice to know it’s become a habit rather than a necessity now.

Just to make us feel a bit better, I had an experiment with this month’s “it” vegetable – cauliflowers are back on the menu. I have to confess, this is a veggie that normally gets me totally stumped, beyond the rather stodgy cauliflower cheese. But I’m planning to spend a little time getting to know it better – hopefully I’ll discover it has hidden wonderfulness that I never knew existed. Or, it could just turn out soggy.

It’s a good start, though: cauliflower goulash is a mish-mash of Delia’s goulash recipe, plus a vegetarian goulash recipe I never thought worked very well. The result is actually rather fine.

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