• 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.

Things I wouldn’t be without in the kitchen #3

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (turbo-charged super-goddess today – nurse, high-octane working woman, supermum and chef in one) Five-a-day: 4/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: toast, jam and juice (breakfast); cornish pasty (lunch – at desk again); pork chops, potatoes and steamed PSB (supper)

My poor hubby is laid low with a horrible virus of some sort so I had three kids to look after today. I did feel sorry for him though – any man who turns down a sizzling pork chop in favour of a bowl of leek and potato soup must be sick.

As well as the oven timer and the freezer, another thing I pay homage to on an almost daily basis in my kitchen is my steamer. Actually I inherited it (OK, filched it) from hubby, who also uses it pretty regularly.

Steaming is so much easier than boiling some poor vegetable half to death, as well as being healthier. You can cook potatoes in the bottom half, and in the meantime prepare your veg into the top half ready to go. Then with about 5-10 minutes of cooking time left on the spuds, just slot the top half in, put the lid on, and hey presto – ready-drained veg cooked to perfection.

It’s really difficult to overcook vegetables like this – our PSB this evening was deliciously crunchy yet tender, just as it should be (even the princesses went into raptures over it). Steaming also means you don’t lose so many vitamins, and you don’t get that horrible thing where you put the veggies on the plate only to realise you haven’t drained them properly so they splurt water all over your food. Steamed veg don’t hold water… so they don’t need draining.

You can buy electric steamers, but ours is just a straightforward metal affair with a thick-bottomed saucepan on the bottom and a second layer with a perforated base which slots on top of the saucepan. You can get three-, four- and even five-layer steamers if you’re keen enough. They’re not that expensive, and I think they’re quite good-looking too.

Apparently you can add herbs, flavourings and stock to the cooking water and it gently infuses the vegetables. Well – that all sounds a bit high-falutin to me. All I know is that I steam practically every vegetable we eat, with the exception of potatoes – I could steam those too but I just prefer the double-cooking method above – and particularly at this time of year when seasonal vegetables are so foul if they’re soggy (cabbage boiled for 15 minutes was a recurring nightmare of my childhood) it’s a godsend. I wouldn’t be without it!  

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One Response

  1. Amen to that. I remember learning in my high school Chemistry course about how most vitamins, especially C, dissolve in water, leaving boiled vegetables with little nutritional value other than carbs. For the same reason, it’s good to boil potatoes with their skin on — keeps the nutrients from leeching out. All this stuff was even on my final Baccalaureate exams! One of the only things I remember from advanced Chemistry, probably because it shocked me so much!

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