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Rooting around!

Baby tromboncini – Tuesday’s was their daddy!

Mary has done so well in the garden this year with fruits and vegetables and herbs all making their tasty way into our kitchen. There can be no surprise (from seeing our last blog) that when time came to create supper on Tuesday, a couple of black radish, the size of tennis balls, scrubbed up well.

Three dainty beetroot, a curly squash (tromboncini) and a handful of late green beans also wandered in along with a sprig of thyme. Chopping the root veg into orange segment sized pieces, adding the coarsely chopped onion and beetroot stems and fine diced garlic, I dressed the mix with rosemary infused oil, chilli salt and fresh thyme leaves.

Sliced ready.

Into a hot oven for 20 minutes before adding the sliced tromboncini (and a Romano pepper that sat looking at me forlornly, desirous of being included in the party!) that I had sprinkled with orange infused olive oil and sumac.

The colourful roast

A further 10 minutes should be enough to keep the crunch and texture of the various elements.

We had the result with fresh picked chard sliced with the best of the beetroot tops and a bowl of cous-cous. Ahah – cous-cous – now there is the subject for another blog!

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Its black radish season!

A dish of the beauties.

I read a piece not long ago that was extremely disparaging about these autumn vegetables – how in Paris the market stalls are heaped with them at this time of year and how the good people of Paris have run out of ideas for their use! Perhaps they are better viewed as a friendly turnip rather than an unfriendly radish. Taken in that way, the uses become rather interesting. We have used them grated on salads, diced into casseroles and roasted as wedges. Generally they do not need to be peeled, simply scrubbed well with a vegetable brush thus retaining that fab colour contrast.

Thickly sliced

The choice today was to slice them in thick slices, brush them with aromatic olive oil, sprinkle with black pepper and chilli salt and then roast in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes. A grating of parmesan topped them and then back in the oven for 5 more minutes. They retained a goodly crunch and offered a fine texture contrast alongside our veal escalopes with sage and lemon.

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Soused mackerel fillets in medlar vinegar, ginger, rhubarb and Eva’s organic Cumbrian apple juice

I was inspired whilst browsing Stuart Ovenden’s ‘Orchard Cook’ book, but lacking some of the ingredients I went a little off piste! I started with wonderfully fresh mackerel from the fish man at Kendal’s Wednesday market and, in the scheme of things, I didn’t need anything other than sizzling hot butter and lemon juice. However it was John’s birthday so something slightly out of the norm was required. The liquor was a mix of Eva’s organic Cumbrian apple juice and our medlar vinegar making about 400ml, sufficient for the 6 fillets to steep in. A couple of finely sliced shallots and peeled fresh root ginger, tablespoon of golden caster sugar, teaspoon of sea salt crystals and a good shake of nutmeg lobbed in next, brought to the boil and simmered for a couple of minutes to begin softening the shallots.

Medlar time!

I loved Stuart’s idea of adding rhubarb giving texture and an extra gentle layer of acidity, so I chopped up a couple of sticks and popped them in, bringing the mix back to a simmer. Finally I laid the stars of the show, skin side up, on the liquor mix, again bringing it back to heat and simmering for a further couple of minutes, covering and cooling before putting the dish in the fridge to continue steeping. This will happily steep for at least a day but tastes just as scrummy served after only a few hours with thin slices of fruity, rye Donka bread from Hazelmere Bakery in Grange used, not only to accompany the fish, but also to soak up the juices!

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“It was beetroot what started it!”

Beware – the beetroot juice may attempt an escape!

That along with the big and bold marrow that was dangling from our left hand compost bay! Some lamb mince, fresh young rosemary tips, blackcurrant vinegar, onion, garlic, aromatic olive oil, a goodly twist of sea salt with lemon chilli from the Mini Jar Company – it all began to make sense. A couple of beetroot, freshly pulled, were scrubbed and topped and tailed and quartered and popped in the microwave with a good splash of blackcurrant vinegar. Just a few minutes will make them cooked to the point you can push a skewer through with some welcome resistance.

With the oven on, and waiting patiently at 180 degrees, the marrow (only to be peeled if the skin is too tough for enjoyment) was split down the centre, the seeds scooped out and placed into a suitable roasting tray (deep enough to retain the shape and the juices!). The onion and garlic were started off gently in a fry pan with some aromatic oil to soften then the heat built so that the lamb could be added to brown a touch and then simmer gently for a few minutes until the juices run clear. At this stage let loose your creativity. I added finely chopped rosemary tips and a goodly twist of that special salt. Dice the cooled beetroot and combine with the mince concoction then fill the marrow boats with the mix. Brush the edges with some more aromatic or rosemary olive oil. Into the oven for 35 – 40 minutes. The topping should have a touch of good colour and just hint of crunch. We served in large pasta bowls, as the whole should be rather juicy, along with some new potatoes.

Roasted marrow boats

As marrows and courgettes and beetroot and apples are all rather vigorous at present, I wouldn’t be surprised if more dishes appear soon!!

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Pontack sauce

It’s that prolific time of year again when the elderberries are beginning to hang in glorious, rich, deep purple, almost black, bunches, unusually ready to use before many of the blackberries. The sharp richness of the berries is a perfect foil for game, so why not try our take on the 17th century Pontack Sauce, created and served at the Pontack’s Head Tavern in Lombard Street by Monsieur Pontack himself.

We sweat 2 finely diced shallots in a teaspoonful of butter, add a couple of cloves (or none if you’re like me), 4 allspice berries, 2 pieces of mace blade (or a good half teaspoonful of ground mace), half an inch of grated root ginger, a teaspoonful of cracked black peppercorns and a good pinch of salt. Finally splash in 250ml of our elderberry vinegar (or 125ml each of our elderberry vinegar and red wine), bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and transfer to a non-metal lidded container to steep for at least 2 days before filtering and bottling. You can thicken with a little arrowroot or reduce it by half to concentrate the flavour when you come to use it.