• 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.

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Baked leeks

My mum’s recipe – I think this might be one of those dishes which is handed down from generation to generation, as whenever I mention it everyone’s mum has always cooked it. I know it was always one of my favourites.

4 leeks (this will feed four adults – adjust quantities accordingly) 

1 pt (500ml) milk

3oz (75g) butter

2oz (50g) flour

1/4 pt (150ml) single cream

about 1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

You can either chop the leeks into rounds, or my mum used to trim them and split them lengthways, resting them in the baking dish flat-side down. Whichever, you need to wash them thoroughly and then steam them for 5-10 minutes until tender.

While they’re cooking, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan, and stir in the flour. Cook for a minute or two, and then slowly pour in the milk, whisking or stirring all the while so that it forms a smooth sauce.

Turn the heat right down and simmer it very gently for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Finally, stir in the cream and nutmeg, and season to taste. Cook gently for another five minutes.

Lay the leeks at the bottom of a shallow roasting dish – if you’re doing them lengthways, try to keep them intact and lay them cut face downwards. Pour over the sauce so it covers the leeks entirely.

Bake in a slow-ish oven – gas 3 (150C/300C) is fine – for about 20 minutes, or until they’re required. If you need to leave them in there for more than 20 minutes, cover them with a little tin foil to stop the top drying out too much. Some people grate cheese over the top for a crispy, brown, bubbling finish – but though this looks good, I think it takes over the subtle taste of the leeks and makes it a less interesting dish (and besides, it’s not the way my mum did it). It’s up to you!

Either way, this tastes delicious with boiled ham or gammon, and makes an excellent – and easy – vegetable dish for a Sunday roast. Your kids will remember it for life.


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