• 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.

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.

Veggie abundance

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (the cookfest continues) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); can of coke – oops (lunch); chard pasta and rhubarb crumble (supper)

Howzat for a home-grown supper. The chard I used for this easy-peasy pasta sauce came from the allotment – I’ve had a couple of pickings now and it’s still going strong – and so did the rhubarb I used in the crumble, my first stems pulled from a very robust and healthy crown which is currently threatening to burst out of the raised bed it’s planted in.

I’ve suddenly realised what the secret is to successful veg growing – abundance. By which I mean, whatever you grow, you need to grow buckets and buckets of it so you don’t feel like you’re even a little bit restricted as to how much you can pick. There’s something so satisfying about pulling armfuls of rhubarb, or stuffing a carrier bag to bursting with home-grown chard. Veg growing is about generosity, about plenty, about celebrating everything that’s best in life. Time to double the seed order.

I heart filo pastry

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (ah I am truly excelling myself this week) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); cheese sandwich (lunch); chicken paper pie and roast veg (supper)

I love the school holidays. At last I have the time to cook, properly, and find lovely new recipes like the one I tried out this evening. This scrummy concoction of chicken and – yet again, but I can’t get enough of the stuff – purple sprouting broccoli was yet another use for filo pastry, a recent discovery of mine (can’t think why I didn’t use it more before).

It’s so easy – you just buy a packet from the shops and hey presto – instant piecrust. It’s cheap and you get enough in one small packet to make about five big pies, and what’s more you can freeze it, defrost it and use a bit more, and then freeze it again. And it looks fab once it’s cooked, too, just like crumpled brown paper. It’s even kid-friendly. So paper pies have become part of our staple diet just lately – and I for one am not complaining. 

Unhealthy (but tasty) eating

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (I stay off school – therefore I cook) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: about 10

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); chicken soup (lunch); cheesy leek and PSB bake, spring greens and mash (supper)

This evening’s supper was a bit of a heart attack on a stick – cheese, milk, eggs, butter, all in abundance and its artery-furring qualities only slightly cancelled out by being full of lovely leafy green seasonal vegetables. As my husband pointed out, all the ingredients except the PSB and the leeks were on his red list (that’s the list the doctor gave him of foods he should avoid to save himself keeling over from excess of dairy products). So I’m kind of hoping he’s still alive to tell the tale in the morning.

It did taste quite spectacularly yummy, though, so if you’re not that bothered about your cholesterol levels, go for it. Nobody ever said seasonal eating had to be healthy…

A warm welcome

Domestic goddess rating: 0% (taking it easy after hectic birthday weekend with grandma) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: croissants and jam (luxury grandma breakfast); beef casserole and mash (welcome-home lunch from hubby); curry and rice (blimey we’ve eaten well today)

Good old head chef. I mean hubby. I’ve had a truly hectic weekend of it so far – Princess the Younger turned six on Friday (happy birthday sweetie!) and that meant ten six-year-old girls descended on us to rampage around our house and eat jelly for three hours. By the time we’d waved them all off, sponged the jelly off carpets, sofas and curtains, and calmed down the Princesses until they were in a fit state to go to bed, we were hardly worth talking to.

Then Saturday it was off to Grandma’s for the Princess’s birthday treat – a visit to an amusement park where they discovered a previously undetected mania for large rollercoasters. Fortunately I’m responsible for the rollercoaster gene, so I happily joined in and Grandma watched unenviously from the sidelines. All in all, a great birthday, but exhausting – so I was more than delighted to arrive back to a welcome-home lunch from the Head Chef, which was not only utterly delicious but also entirely seasonal. He invented this rather wonderful beef casserole himself, for which I take off my rather threadbare goddess hat to him.