• 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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Leek pie

For the pastry:

12oz (350g) flour

6oz (175g) butter

3tsp (15ml) baking powder

5 tbsps (75ml) warm water

For the pie filling:

1 1/2 oz (40g) butter

1lb (450g) leeks, sliced

12oz (340g) mushrooms, sliced

4tsps (20ml) flour

1/4 pt (150ml) vegetable stock

 3/4 of a vegetable stock cube

1 clove garlic

pinch nutmeg

salt and pepper

31/2 oz (100g) cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

Start by making the pie filling. Melt 1oz (25g) of the butter into a pan and add the leeks and mushrooms, cooking them gently for about 5 minutes until tender. Take them out with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a bowl. Add the vegetable stock to the juices left in the pan.

Melt the rest of the butter and add the flour. Cook for a minute or so, stirring all the time, and then gradually stir in the vegetable stock and juices mixture. Add the vegetable stock cube, the garlic, nutmeg and season to taste. If the sauce is still a bit liquid, simmer it gently for a few minutes until it thickens up.

Return the leeks and mushrooms into the sauce and stir in the cheese and beaten egg. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make up a quantity of pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour and baking powder – you need to do this as quickly as possible, using your fingertips and holding your hands above the bowl so that the crumbs are combined with air at the same time. Keep going until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the warm water a little at a time, gently working it into the pastry mixture and trying not to be too heavy-handed with it. As soon as the pastry will hold together in a doughy ball, it’s ready. Put it in the fridge for half an hour if you can spare the time – it’ll make it easier to roll out.

When you’re ready to cook the pie, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200C, 400F) and grease a 9″ (23cm) pie dish. Roll out the pastry to a circle an inch or so larger than the pie dish, then carefully transfer it to line the bottom of the dish. Use a sharp knife to cut away the edges to the shape of the dish.

Fill with the leek and mushroom filling, then roll out another circle, exactly fitting the size of the pie dish this time. Brush the edges of the pie with milk or beaten egg, then put the pastry circle on top of the pie and press down gently to make sure the edges are sealed. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden.


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