Eynsham picture

Enter a query to search our site.

Note that you can use "*" and "?" as wildcards.

Enclosing more than one word in double quotes ("Letterbox") will search for the exact phrase.


extra content...

Tip: Looking for something?
Try the Site Search or the
Document Archive

Eynsham Parish Council

Dishes for April

  • Creamy pasta with quail’s eggs and ham
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 08/04/2014

    The most difficult thing about this recipe is peeling the quails eggs, you can buy them bottled and ready peeled, but the fresh ones are best, it’s just that this task really does take time. I have found the easiest way to peel them is to roll the cooked egg (cooled) in the palm of my hands to crack the shell all over, then gently pull the shell away under running water.

    For best results when cooking this dish make sure you are using dried pasta created from Italian durum wheat which allows the pasta to cook al dente “to the tooth”. Overcooked pasta really can spoil the dish.

    To serve 2 people you will need:

    200g dried penne pasta

    150g ham diced

    8 quail eggs

    150 ml fresh single cream

    2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

    1 tablespoon chopped parsley

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorn to season


    First cook your quail eggs by immersing them in a pan of boiling water and allowing to cook for two minutes.

    Cool the eggs with cold water, peel carefully and set to one side having cut some in half.

    Cook the pasta in salted water that has come to a fierce boil, tasting a piece for doneness after about 8 minutes, though it will probably take 10-12 minutes to cook.

    Strain the cooked pasta in a colander, retaining a small amount of the cooking juices in case you want to thin the sauce before serving.

    Pour the cream into a warm saucepan, adding the ham, eggs and parsley. Season and stir carefully for a moment, taking care not to break up the eggs. Add the pasta, then stir again grating the cheese on top just before serving with a green salad.

  • Pasta and purple broccoli with anchovies and mushrooms
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 13/04/2013

    Because the earth is still cold this year, vegetables such as purple broccoli that are normally coming to the end of their season by now are still sprouting, which is why my friend Wendy arrived at my cottage carrying a bag of freshly picked broccoli spears that she had gathered on her allotment.

    It was celebrity chef Alistair Little, known for the many Italian influences he weaves into his dishes, who reminded me of how well anchovy and chilli blend with vegetables such as purple broccoli.

    You will need:

    1lb (½ kg) purple sprouting broccoli

    1 x 50g (30g drained) tin anchovies - chopped fine

    1chilli - de-seeded and chopped fine

    2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

    2 oz (50g) mushrooms chopped fine

    12oz (350g) pasta of your choice

    1oz (25g) grated parmesan

    Olive oil

    Pepper if you wish, but the anchovies should provide enough salt.


    Trim stalks and leaves from the broccoli, chop remaining into small pieces and cook until almost soft in boiling water, drain when almost cooked and set to one side.

    Cut the chilli in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and chop the flesh fine.

    Chop the garlic, mushrooms and anchovies fine.

    Begin cooking the pasta in boiling water until al dente, which will take anything from 7 to 12 minutes. This gives you time to cook the rest of the ingredients.

    Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, add garlic, anchovies and mushrooms and sweat for moment or two, then toss in the broccoli, stir and cook gently for two or three more minutes.

    Season with a little pepper.

    Drain the pasta and toss it in olive oil.

    Mix the pasta with the rest of the ingredients and divide between four plates.

    Toss grated cheese over the finished dish and serve.

  • Wild garlic soup
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 26/04/2014

    Wild garlic is now bursting with life - you will discover it in semi shaded spots in moist woodlands. It grows in drifts of glorious white flowers that mingle with the bluebells. An aroma of garlic fills the air. It is a wondrous plant to cook with too, as every part of it is edible, even the leaves.

    Because of the garlic’s fragrance you will find this soup a splendid dish to serve at this time when you are not looking for robust, earthy flavours, rather something that’s gentle on the palate and promises of spring.

    As the main ingredient costs nothing if harvested from the wild responsibly, and the other main ingredients such as potato, onion are reasonably priced, this soup is quite cheap to make, yet tastes like a seasonal dream.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    2oz/ 50g butter

    One large onion roughly chopped

    2 generous bunches of wild garlic leaves (one for the soup, one for pesto)

    2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

    Small bunch parsley - chopped fine

    2 tspn double cream

    300 ml hot chicken stock

    Extra virgin olive oil for pesto

    2oz (50g) walnuts for the pesto

    2oz (50g) parmesan cheese for the pesto

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns.


    Cook the onions and potatoes with the butter over a medium heat until they begin to soften - ten minutes should belong enough.

    Stir in the stock, season and bring to the boil and continue cooking until the onion and potatoes are quite tender, season and add the chopped parsley.

    Stir in one bunch of the wild garlic leaves and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the cream. Allow to cook for a few minutes then zap in a blender until reaches a smooth consistency.

    Make the pesto by crushing the walnuts, grating the parmesan and crushing the wild garlic leaves in a pestle and mortar with a little olive oil. Season, stir together and adjust taste then add a swirl to each bowl of soup once it has been brought back to full heat. Serve with chunks of crusty bread.

  • Radish & rice salad with orange dressing
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 26/03/2013

    This is one of those recipes that you create from the salad vegetables you have grown yourself and have in the fridge. Using your imagination to combine colours and flavours will make a colourful side dish. It certainly gains much from slices of the peppery radish, that mingle perfectly with slices of orange, kiwi fruit and rice particularly when pressed together and flavoured with an orange dressing.

    As radishes are one of the first salad vegetables to push their way through the earth at this time of the year they are a way of celebrating the forthcoming vegetable season.

    The most important things you need for this salad are the stainless steel rings, which encase the ingredients one by one. They can be purchased at any good kitchen shop - try Eynsham Emporium.

    INGREDIENTS: I am not giving quantities here, it really is a matter of using what you have.

    Radishes, sliced so that much of the red skin is exposed

    Orange slices, one slice per ring should do.

    Orange zest grated to garnish zucchini

    2oz (50g) Basmati rice boiled and cooled

    Capsicum, whatever colour you wish de-seeded & sliced thin

    Rocket leaves

    Zucchini - sliced thin for garnish


    Juice of half orange

    One tspn Soy sauce

    1 tblsp olive oil

    Pinch of salt

    Pinch dry mustard powder.


    Place all ingredients in a small jar with lid.

    Shake well and gently pour a little into each ring before removing the ring and serving.


    Arrange rocket leaves in a small circle on the plate that the salad will be served and place the ring on top.

    Begin your arrangement by spooning cooked rice into each ring and pressing it down firmly.

    Now use your imagination, adding sliced salad vegetables and fruits in a manner that makes the most of their vibrant colours and flavours.

    When the ring is almost full, top up with cooked rice and press down really firmly.

    Gently pour a little dressing into each ring and garnish the top with slices of radish and a leaf of parsley or coriander.

    When ready to serve the salads, carefully remove the ring and decorate the finished salad with slices of zucchini and grated orange zest. Pour a little dressing over the zucchini and serve.

  • Hot cross buns
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 27/03/2012

    When the aroma of hot cross buns baking fills your kitchen with a delicious spicy fragrance, you will know all the effort put into making them yourself was well worthwhile and that you will never buy them from a supermarket again.

    To make a dozen buns you will need:

    1lb 3 oz (625g) strong white flour

    1 tspn salt

    2 tspn ground mixed spice

    Pinch cinnamon

    1 ½ oz (45g) butter - melted

    3oz (85g) caster sugar

    Grated zest of one lemon

    1 sachet dried yeast

    1 free range egg - beaten

    10fl oz milk at blood heat

    4 oz (125g) mixed dried fruit.

    For the cross: 2 tbspns plain flour & 1 tbspn cold water.

    For the glaze: 2 tbspns sugar & 2 tbspns water cooked together until the sugar has dissolved.


    Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon into a large warm bowl, the butter, sugar, lemon zest, yeast and dried fruit.

    Mix the beaten egg with the warm milk and work into the flour until you have a pliable elastic dough.

    Knead for about ten minutes on a floured surface, then place back into the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place such as the airing cupboard until it has doubled in size, which will probably take an hour.

    Knock back the dough and knead for about five minutes before dividing it into 12 pieces and rolling them into balls. Place each one on a greased baking tray and return to a warm place for at least 45 minutes.

    While the buns are rising preheat the oven to 240°C / 475°F or gas mark 8 and make the paste for the crosses by working the flour and water together and rolling it into ¼ strips to be placed on the buns just before baking.

    Bake for about 10 minutes or until they have turned a golden brown, remove from the oven and immediately glaze with the sugar and water.

  • Baked eggs with pesto and peppers
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 15/04/2012

    This dish is really easy and can be turned into a light lunch or supper dish in under half an hour. When served with a mix of salad leaves it makes for a perfect balanced meal.

    You will need:

    4 red peppers

    4 tbspns pesto sauce

    8 large free range eggs

    1oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season


    Turn the oven to 160°C / 350°F or Gas Mark 4.

    Cut the peppers in half and remove seeds.

    Place peppers into a saucepan of boiling salted water and allow them to cook until they begin to soften which will take about 5 minutes.

    Remove the peppers with a slotted spoon and place under running cold water for a moment before draining on kitchen paper.

    Place cooled peppers into a baking dish cut side up and spread a spoonful of pesto sauce inside each one.

    Break an egg into each half and scatter grated cheese on top.

    Sprinkle salt and a little pepper over each one and place dish in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the eggs are set and the cheese is browning the surface.

    Serve with a mixed leaf salad.

  • Crème caramel
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 05/04/2009

    Most gardeners who keep hens will have discovered that they are laying again - and in earnest. Suddenly there are more eggs in the larder than you need. Crème caramel is a really easy pudding to make and a great way of using up all those glorious new-laid eggs with their golden yolks.

    You will need:

    4 new laid eggs

    4 oz granulated sugar

    2 tbspns caster sugar

    One vanilla pod or 3 drops vanilla essence

    One pint milk.


    First you need to make the caramel. Do this by placing the granulated sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, along with about 6 tablespoonfuls of water.

    Place granulated sugar and water over medium heat, and wait for the sugar to melt, turn up the heat and allow the mix to bubble until the sugar begins to turn a golden brown. Resist the urge to stir this mix - it will look after itself.

    Very, very carefully remove this boiling mix from the heat, and hold it under the hot tap. Add a trickle of hot water to the mix, taking care not to let the mix splutter over your hands. About one fluid ounce should do the trick and thin it down enough to stop it turning into a solid toffee mix.

    Pour the caramel into a warm soufflé dish.

    Set the oven to 150°C/300°F or gas mark 2.

    Now heat together the caster sugar, vanilla pod and milk until warm, but not boiling.

    Beat the eggs well in a large bowl and stir in the warmed milk, removing the vanilla pod, which can be used again once dried. (If you are using vanilla essence you will need about three drops).

    Now very carefully pour the milk mix onto the caramelised sugar and stand the dish in a roasting dish that has been half filled with cold water. (The water stops the pudding cooking too quickly).

    Place in the middle of the oven for about an hour and a quarter, or until it feels firm when you place a finger on the centre.

    Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

    Turn out onto a large plate that allows enough room for the caramel sauce to swim around the edges.

  • Rhubarb fool with cardamom
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 08/04/2009

    Rhubarb is now ready to harvest and just in time for Easter. The beauty of rhubarb is that although it has a very distinct flavour, it can be enhanced by with loads of different things, including cardamon pods. This dish is easy to make and so light it is even easier to eat.

    For 4 to 6 people you will need:

    1 lb (450g) freshly harvested rhubarb

    6oz (175g) caster sugar

    3 green cardamom pods

    Juice and grated zest of an orange

    100 ml double cream

    100 ml yoghurt.


    Wash the rhubarb and chop coarsely.

    Place the chopped rhubarb in an oven-proof dish along with the sugar, cardamom pods, orange juice and zest.

    Cover with tinfoil and place in a moderate oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft and cooked.

    Allow to cool, then remove the cardamom pods and zap through a liquidizer until you have a thick purée.

    Taste, adding a little more sugar if needed.

    Whip the cream until thick, stir in the yoghurt, then very gently stir in the fruit purée to obtain a ripple effect.

    Serve with sweet biscuits.

  • Chicken and rhubarb
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 05/04/2010

    The combination of chicken and rhubarb can work very well, and makes for a colourful dish at this time of the year when those first shoots of rhubarb are just coming through, but you don’t have enough to make a pie.

    I added half a teaspoon of Thai seven spice seasoning to this dish and was very pleased with the exotic flavour it provided as it combined well with the sharpness of the rhubarb.

    To serve 2 people you will need:

    2 small sticks of rhubarb

    2 chicken breasts

    2 cloves garlic - chopped fine

    1 small onion – chopped fine

    Generous handful baby spinach leaves

    2 heads purple sprouting - rough chopped

    One piece fresh ginger the size of a walnut - chopped fine

    7 fl oz (200ml) chicken stock

    Oil to fry chicken

    Flour to dust chicken

    1 level tspn cornflour

    1 level tspn Thai seven spice seasoning

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season


    Cut each chicken breast into three or four slices.

    Cut the rhubarb into two-inch sticks, cutting each stick into four lengthwise if thick.

    Chop garlic, onion and ginger into small pieces and rough chop purple sprouting.

    Dust chicken pieces with seasoned flour and fry at a high heat in large frying pan to which a little oil has been added.

    When the chicken begins to brown, turn the heat down a little and add garlic, onion and ginger and continue cooking until the garlic begins to give off a delicious aroma.

    Stir in the Thai seven spice seasoning.

    Mix the cornflour with a little cold water and the stir the mix into the stock.

    Add the purple sprouting and rhubarb pieces to the pan along with the stock and let it all cook gently until rhubarb softens and the cornflour has thickened the sauce slightly, which doesn’t take long.

    Adjust seasoning then place the handful of baby spinach leaves on top. Turn the heat off and place a lid on the pan until the spinach has wilted.

    Serve with rice.

  • Paprika chicken
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 12/04/2010

    This is one of those casserole dishes that tastes even better the next day, when the paprika spice has had time to fuse with the other flavours that have been added to the pot. I add loads of tomato paste to my paprika chicken to give it a really deep tomato flavour, then enhance it with a little soured cream at the end, just before serving.

    This is an ideal dish to serve with a green salad at this time of the year when the weather is continually changing and you still need a warming dish from time to time.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    4 boned chicken breasts cut into generous sized slices

    4 smoked bacon slices - chopped

    1 heaped tspn paprika

    2 medium onions - chopped fine

    2 cloves garlic - chopped fine

    4 oz button mushrooms - halved

    Small bunch parsley - chopped fine

    1 red capsicum de-seeded and cut into strips

    1x 400g tin chopped tomatoes in tomato sauce

    1 135g tube double concentrate tomato paste

    Oil to fry chicken

    1 dspsn plain flour

    5fl oz(150ml) chicken stock

    5 fl oz (150ml) soured cream

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season


    Dust the chicken strips with the flour and fry in a little oil until they begin to turn brown.

    Remove chicken with slatted spoon and cook the bacon pieces in the oil that remains in the pan, adding the onions as soon as the bacon begins to crisp up.

    When the onions begin to soften add the garlic, slice capsicum and mushrooms and cook for a few moments.

    Now stir in the paprika pepper, then parsley, the tinned tomatoes and then the stock, stirring well to loosen all the tasty bits that will inevitably stick to the bottom of the pan.

    Add the tomato paste, stirring well in, then season.

    Toss in a couple of bay leaves, and place the browned chicken pieces back into the mix and bring to simmering point. Place a lid on the pan, and cook in a preheated oven (170°C / 325°F or gas mark 3) for about 45 minutes.

    Pour on the soured cream just before serving.

    Serve with pasta, rice or a green salad.

  • Asparagus & avocado salad
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 23/04/2009

    It’s those lovely crisp, clean flavours of spring that make this time of the year so amazing. What’s nicer than a freshly prepared spring salad, tossed in a vinaigrette sauce?

    Now asparagus is in season, it’s worth adding it to all the salads you make.

    For 4 people you will need:

    2 ripe avocado

    One bunch spring onions

    Handful of fresh salad leaves

    Handful of fresh mint leaves

    One bunch freshly harvested asparagus

    Olive oil

    One fresh lime or wine vinegar

    Salt crystals and freshly ground black pepper to season.


    Rinse the asparagus spears in cold water, cut away the woody ends and place in a frying pan filled with salted boiling water.

    Cook until soft - shouldn’t take longer than 6 minutes - remove from the pan and immerse in chilled water immediately.

    Cut the avocados in half, remove pip and skin and chop into bite sized pieces.

    Trim the spring onions, and cut lengthways into slithers.

    Arrange salad leaves and mint leaves on serving plate, add cooled asparagus and the chunks of avocado. Toss the slithers of spring onions on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

    Drizzle a little olive oil over the salad, then squeeze on the lime juice (or wine vinegar if preferred – but lime is really nice!) and then scatter the salt crystals and ground peppercorns on top.

    Should you wish you can finish the whole dish off by adding a little Parmesan cheese - you will find that Sandy stocks some excellent Parmesan at Cornucopia. She sells some great breads too, if you haven’t time to bake your own.

  • Asparagus risotto
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 22/04/2009

    Asparagus has arrived! The arrival of this superb vegetable heralds the beginning of summer and all those wonderful fruits and vegetables we will be able to harvest soon.

    If you don’t grow your own asparagus, take a moment to visit Medley Manor Farm, Binsey Lane, Oxford - you won’t find fresher or cheaper asparagus.

    As the asparagus season only lasts until midsummer day - it’s worth making a real pig of yourself and adding it to every meal you cook. Start by serving it steamed or boiled with lashings of butter, then begin enjoying it in fancy recipes such as asparagus risotto.

    For 4 people you will need:

    One bundle of freshly harvested asparagus

    One bunch of spring onions, trimmed and chopped fine

    2oz (50g) butter

    13 oz (400g) risotto rice

    250 ml dry white wine

    500 ml hot chicken stock

    Small bunch fresh parsley - chopped fine

    2oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.


    Begin by preparing the asparagus. After washing it briefly in cold running water, cut the tips so that they are 3cm long and slice the rest of the spears diagonally into thin slices, stopping when you get to the woody bit at the end.

    Poach the tips in boiling salted water for a few moments until almost cooked, remove and set to one side.

    Using a large frying pan in which you have placed the butter, gently cook the spring onion and uncooked asparagus pieces until almost soft but not brown, then toss in the rice, also the chopped parsley.

    Stir continually until the butter is absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the bottom, then pour in the wine and continue stirring.

    When the wine has been absorbed, add a ladle of chicken stock, stir and when the dish looks dry, add another ladle of stock. Continue doing this until you have used up all the stock, adding a little boiling water at the end if the rice is not fully cooked.

    Season, then stir in half the Parmesan cheese and the cooked asparagus tips.

    Dish up, scattering the rest of the Parmesan cheese and a twist of grated black peppercorns on top.

  • Home-made mint sauce
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 05/04/2009

    What a wonderful time of the year this is. The earth is coming to life again and all those plants we had forgotten about are bursting into leaf.

    Mint has already arrived and should be celebrated by adding it to salads and using it to create home made mint sauce to go with the delicious Wood Farm spring lamb now available at Eynsham’s family butchers. Richard Golsby and his nephews Martin and Paul say that spring lamb is one of their most popular lines at the moment. By serving it with home made mint sauce, rather than the commercially made variety, it will taste even better.

    I am not going to give exact measures for this recipe, because you don’t need them.

    First pick a bunch of mint - don’t be frightened of pinching off the tops of those new shoots that are pushing their way through the earth - if this warm weather continues the plant will repair this damage within days.

    Remove the stalk and place the leaves on a clean chopping board.

    Sprinkle about half a teaspoon of granulated sugar on top of the leaves, and chop sugar and leaves together until the leaves are chopped fine.

    Place the chopped leaves and sugar in a small bowl and add about a dessert spoon of boiling water, stir, then add enough vinegar to taste.

    That’s all. This is not only a tastier option - it is far cheaper than buying ready-made mint sauce.

  • Lamb and minted peas
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 09/04/2009

    Lamb neck fillet is one of those glorious joints of meat that is guaranteed to be both tender and flavoursome. Ask Richard Golsby, Eynsham’s family butcher about it and he will agree. He’s very proud of the lamb he has in his shop at the moment, it’s local, it’s tender and it is worth every penny you pay for it.

    Unfortunately peas are not in season now, but the main flavouring agent for this dish - mint - is pushing its way through the earth with gusto. Mix lamb, mint and peas together and you have the most amazing combination of flavours to play with.

    To serve 2 people you will need:

    6oz (175g) frozen peas (the Co-op are selling frozen peas harvested from their own farm and therefore 100% British)

    One lamb neck fillet weighing aprox 225g

    One tspn home-made mint sauce

    Flour to dust lamb fillet

    Oil to cook lamb fillet

    Small bunch of freshly harvested mint

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.


    Roll the fillet of lamb neck in seasoned flour.

    Heat a little oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan, place the fillet of lamb in the pan and allow to cook gently on all sides while you prepare the peas.

    Place the frozen peas in enough salted water to cover, add the mint and cook until done.

    When the peas are cooked, remove from heat, spoon half into a liquidizer with a little of the cooking liquid and any mint that was added to the pot and zap into a purée.

    Drain the rest of the peas, toss together with the pea purée and mix well. Keep warm until needed.

    When the lamb fillet has turned a delicious golden brown, remove from pan and allow to rest for a few moments.

    Add a teaspoon of mint sauce to the pan in which the lamb has cooked, along with a generous splash of water, then bring to full heat, stirring in all the crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan as it cooks. When this mix has boiled for a couple of minutes, season and reserve while you cut the lamb fillet into thick slices.

    Reheat the pea mix, spoon onto a serving dish, place the lamb slices on top, then pour the gravy over the lamb and decorate the completed dish with fresh mint.

  • Nettle quiche
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 07/04/2009

    When I served this the other night, my guests assumed I had filled the quiche with spinach - one should never assume. I’d actually made it with nettles growing in the garden, and the great thing about using nettles is that they are free.

    For 4 to 6 people you will need:

    A carrier bag quarter full of nettle tops

    One small onion - chopped fine

    One clove of garlic - chopped fine

    2oz (50g) grated cheddar cheese

    3 free range eggs

    1 oz (25g) butter

    250 ml milk

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns

    For the pastry:

    6 oz (175g) plain flour

    3 oz (75g) butter or soft margarine

    1 oz finely grated cheddar cheese

    Pinch of salt


    First make the pastry by rubbing butter or margarine into the flour until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs.

    Add the finely grated cheese and pinch of salt and mix in.

    Carefully add enough cold water to create a soft dough and set to one side in a cool place while you prepare the filling.

    Wash the nettle heads in a sink of cold water, using rubber gloves to remove any thick stalks. Drain and set to one side.

    Melt the butter in a large frying pan, and gently fry the onions and garlic until soft but not brown.

    Add the nettle heads and fry for a further minute or so until soft, place a lid on the pan and allow to cook gently on the back of the stove for a further five minutes, then set to one side to cool.

    Turn the oven to 180°C / 350°F or Gas Mark 4.

    Roll out the pastry until it will fit a standard sized flan dish, set pastry in place, trim and crimp the edges, then spike the bottom with a fork to prevent pastry rising when baked.

    Place the nettle mix into the flan case, mix together the eggs, cheese, milk and seasoning and pour gently over the spinach until the dish is full.

    Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the mix is firm to the touch and has turned a delicious golden brown.

    Remove from the oven, allow to settle and serve warm with a mixed leaf salad.

  • Nettle soup
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 06/04/2009

    Stinging nettles poked their heads through the ground several weeks ago, but now the weather is warmer they are growing rapidly. They are one of the many weeds that allotment holders and gardeners will be throwing onto the compost heap now as they prepare the soil for this year’s crops. If you are able to separate the stinging nettles from the other weeds and have enough nettles to half fill a carrier bag, you can turn them into a delicious and nutritious soup.

    For 4 to 6 people you will need:

    Half a carrier bag of nettles

    2 medium potatoes - peeled and diced

    2 medium onions - rough chopped

    1 clove garlic – chopped

    2 sticks celery (optional but nice)

    Handful fresh marjoram leaves

    1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

    2 oz (50g) butter

    2 tbspns cream to add to the soup and a little extra to garnish

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns.


    Using rubber gloves, pick over the nettles, removing the leaves from the stems.

    Discard any tough stems and wash the leaves in a sink full of cold water while still wearing rubber gloves.

    Melt the butter in large pan and sweat the diced potatoes, celery (if using), and onions over moderate heat until the potatoes begin to soften. While these ingredients are gently cooking, heat up the stock so that it has reached boiling point when you need to use it.

    Add the chopped garlic and marjoram leaves to the pot.

    Pour in the boiling stock to the pot and then toss in the nettle leaves and simmer until the nettles are cooked, which shouldn’t take long during spring when the leaves are young and tender.

    Remove from the heat and liquidise in batches, returning the soup to a clean pan.

    Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black peppercorns, then stir in a couple of tablespoons of cream.

    Reheat until hot - but not boiling - and serve garnished with a swirl of cream.

  • Thai salmon, asparagus & bramley apples
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 22/04/2009

    Now that the spring crops are flourishing, it may sound ridiculous to suggest that an autumn crop such as Bramley apples be added to a recipe. However, 2009 is the bicentenary of these delicious cooking apples, which, thanks to cold storage techniques, are available throughout the year.

    Bramley apples lend themselves to mixing with summer fruits. They mix well with raspberries, for example, allowing the cook to create a raspberry based pudding that is padded out with apples when there aren’t quite enough raspberries to fill the dish.

    Bramleys add a special flavour to savoury dishes too, and now play an important role in creating fusion foods, which marry one cuisine with another. This Thai salmon dish is one of them.

    For 4 people you will need:

    4 salmon fillets

    200 ml coconut milk

    2 level tspns green Thai curry paste

    Two Bramley apples

    One small bunch fresh coriander leaves - chopped fine

    4 spring onions

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns

    One bunch fresh asparagus to garnish.


    Trim spring onions.

    Peel and chop one Bramley apple very fine, slice the other leaving the skin on.

    Pour the coconut milk into a large frying pan, along with the spring onions, chopped coriander leaves, the green Thai paste and chopped apple, mix well, season and bring to the boil. If you want a really fiery dish, add a little more green Thai paste.

    Cook the coconut milk mixture for about two minutes, reduce the heat and add the salmon fillets, having placed four thin slices of apple on each one.

    Place a lid on the pan and allow salmon to simmer gently in the sauce for about four minutes or until the fish is cooked and the apple slices have softened.

    Adjust seasoning and serve the salmon with steamed rice and fresh asparagus.

  • wild garlic
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 03/05/2009

    You may discover clumps of wild garlic in a wood, growing alongside the bluebells, or find it has entered your allotment or garden uninvited. It can be invasive - but it can prove a very useful ingredient in salads, stir-frys or even sandwiches.

    Its white star-like flower is so beautiful you may be inclined to include it in a flower arrangement. Don’t do that unless you want the aroma of garlic pervading the house.

    Instead pick as needed (its leaves go limp very quickly) and use as a valued spring ingredient.

    The bulb is small and has a very mild flavour, nevertheless it can be used as a flavouring agent.

    The leaves have a chive-like garlic taste, and make a great addition to a dish of mixed salad leaves. I tend to tear them into bits rather than chop them.

    The flowers, which are out now, can be plucked from the stem and scattered over a salad to provide both taste and an attractive finish.

    Try adding the leaves to a beef sandwich, having wilted them in a little warm oil and a squeeze of lemon, or use the wilted leaves as a decoration to other savoury dishes.

Thumbnail panels:
Now Loading