Category Archives: garden produce

Garden Gratin

Jerusalem artichokes are easy to grow, they’re part of the sunflower family and are very undemanding on the gardening front. Pop the tubers into the ground and after that they pretty much look after themselves.

We grew Jerusalem artichokes last year and then forgot about them until last week when I went on an exploratory dig and discovered lots of knobbly roundish roots. They were in great condition and there are plenty of them. It’s presented the dilemma of what two do with them. Luckily they don’t all need to be eaten at once , they look quite comfortable in the bucket, muddy but dry, and will hopefully sit for a while whist we eat them up.

First up I made a gratin. I mixed some with potatoes, spinach, leeks and Tallegio cheese. This was adelightful combo, creamy, cheesy and very tasty with the sautéed leeks and spinach layered through and perfect eating for this weeks wet and wild weather. We ate the gratin after a beetroot and blood orange salad which is why the plate is pink.

One of the properties of Jerusalem artichokes is that they have a high content of inulin. Inulin has lots of dietary bonuses; plenty of fibre which in turn is helpful in managing diabetes, constipation and general gut health but they really should come with a warning. These powerful vegetables have great flavour but are also very windy. All that fibre causes mighty flatulence. Our duvet almost hit the ceiling when we went to bed. I guess it’s the type of vegetable to be only eaten with close family or friends – they aren’t known as fartichokes for nothing. Apparently if you eat them little and often you can override this side affect so I guess we need to proceed through the stash and see what happens.

The gratin was delicious!

Garden Gratin

600g potatoes

600g jerusalem artichokes

1tbs olive oil

250g fresh spinach

2-3 leeks

25g butter

a small bunch of thyme

300mls cream

250g Tallegio cheese

salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes and artichokes then slice very thinly. Put them into a big bowl. Drizzle over little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add the thyme. Toss well .

Clean the leeks then slice small. Wash the spinach and trim any big stalks. Put a saucepan with little butter on the heat, add the leeks and when it begins to sizzle turn the heat low and cover with a lid. Shake very couple of minutes until the leeks soften then stir in the spinach. Cover again with the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach has wilted down. Season with salt and pepper.

Pre heat the oven 190c

Rub a little butter or olive oil around a gratin dish put in a layer of half the potatoes and artichokes then add the spinach and leeks. Break the tallgio into small pieces and distribute over the top then layer up the remaining potatoes and artichokes.

Put the cream into a small saucepan and bring too the boil. Pour the cream over the vegetables. Cover the gratin dish with a piece off aluminium foil then bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top of the gratin is golden.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before eating. The ideal amount of time to consume a salad.


Marvellous Leeks

It’s like there is a switch in the middle of January which kicks everything into action again. Those few more minutes of extra daylight  give out a message that even our geriatric chickens respond to. Suddenly we have eggs and all the green things in the garden perk up. 

We have plenty to eat in our garden. Not a great deal of choice but we do have lots of kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and winter salad. We have a mighty crop of leeks too with long white stems that we are very proud of and we’re still munching our way through last year’s pumpkin harvest. 

The spinach and chard will begin to grow again in the tunnel soon and providing there isn’t a big freeze we’ll be picking outside by the end of March.  

We have enjoyed many wintery feasts of soups, stews and gratins often complemented by the fresh crunch of slaw and our imagination and memories are always on the go wondering how else we can cook these ingredients.

One dish that we resurrected is Poireaux al la Greque. 

This long forgotten recipe was from a time when we worked in a restaurant in Belgium. It was a fairly fancy bistro which served leeks braised in white wine with coriander seeds, olive oil and lemons. The cooked leeks were then split down the centre and served with a line of creamy pink tuna piped down the middle. I could always live without the tuna part – which was simply tuna, mayo and tomato puree to make it go pink, but I did enjoy the leeks. 

To celebrate our marvellous leeks I began to play with the recipe again and we ate them piled on top of mash – any mash will do but I used carrots, celeriac and potatoes all buzzed to a puree with a generous amount of butter – served with crispy caramelised lentils strewn over the top.

This way of cooking the leeks elevates them to star status. They can be eaten with the combination that we had or can be simply served as a starter or alongside chicken or fish using the braising liquid as a sauce.

Poireaux a la Greque

6 leeks

1 large glass white wine

2tbs olive oil

½ lemon

1 tsp coriander seeds

Salt and pepper

First clean the leeks. Trim the ends, cut off the green part – put the greens aside for something else – you could use them in a soup or stew. Rinse the white part of the leeks under the tap, shake dry then line them up in the bottom of a large saucepan that has a lid.

Pour over the white wine, it should come roughly half way up the leeks. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle over the coriander then squeeze over the lemon juice. Put the squeezed lemon in with the leeks. Season with salt and black pepper. Put the pot on the heat and when it comes to the boil cover with a lid, reduce the heat, then gently simmer for 30 minutes.

To serve, strip off the very outer layer of each leek, lay on a plate or over mash then spoon a little cooking liquid over or around. 

Crispy Caramelised Lentils

125g lentils

20g butter*

1 tbs olive oil

1tbs light muscovado sugar

2tsps white wine vinegar

Salt.

Put the lentils into small saucepan, cover with at least twice the volume of water then bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low so that they are simmering gently then cover with a lid. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are tender – try a few to check.

Drain the lentils, rinse under the cold tap then shake dry.

Put a small frying pan on the heat. Add the butter and olive oil and when it foams up stir in the lentils. Season with a little salt. Cook on a high heat stirring until the lentils begin to colour. Add the muscovado sugar and white wine vinegar. Mix well then continue to cook and shake until crispy.

* If you would like to make this dish vegan omit the butter and use a little more olive oil