May was certainly a blow out, the weather meant we didn’t know whether we were coming or going. I was sat here one evening with the sun on one side of the house and rain on the other and my husband said it was just like living in the tropics. I love this optimism- 12c, socks on and we’re in the tropics!
The garden has jungle potential with all the rain and the seedlings have been rather battered but the warmer weather has to arrive soon and hopefully they’ll perk up
Despite the crazy weather we have plenty growing in the tunnels, lots of salad, spinach, fennel, chard and herbs. The beans and peaches are coming on and the first of the beetroots are ready. Like all home grown vegetables, the first ones are usually the sweetest and greeted with enthusiasm.
Baby beetroots are delicious and we always grow a few different varieties which are great for the colour scheme
In better weather years the peas might be thinking of podding up in June but this year there’s not a chance, they’re hugging the ground but hey ho we have frozen peas to fill the gap.
We have plenty of mint, it doesn’t mind the weather and we have a big patch growing outside. Mint is one of these herbs that comes back every year, in fact if it wasn’t contained it would invade the entire garden. We’ll be able to pick this all summer long, well into autumn when the cool nights will burn the leaves and it’ll die back for the winter.
A favourite combination is beetroots, peas, lentils, and mint, the earthiness of the lentils complementing the brightness of the beets and peas.
Beetroot, Peas, Lentils and Mint with Whipped Ricotta
200g Puy lentils or lentils vert
½ tsp salt
100mls extra virgin olive oil
4-6 small/medium beetroots
200g peas, fresh or frozen
Handful fresh mint
1 red onion (optional)
2 tbs white balsamic or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper
Wash the beetroots, trim the greens off but leave a little at the top otherwise the beets will bleed. There are two ways to cook the beets, roasting or boiling. Roasting definitely boosts the flavour but takes three times as long as boiling. For me how I cook the beetroots depends on how organised I am.
To roast the beets, pre heat the oven 180c. Wash the beetroots then rub a little olive oil over each one then put into a small roasting tray and cover with foil. Roast for one and a half hours at 180c then check whether they are tender by piercing with a sharp knife.
To boil, cover with water, bring to the boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Check by piercing with a sharp knife, if it slips in easily they’re ready, if not give a further 5-10 minutes cooking and try again
Whichever way you cook the beetroot – this can of course be done ahead of time – they need to cool enough for peeling. The skins should just slip off when ready.
To cook the lentils put them into a small saucepan with at least twice the volume of water. Bring to the boil then cover with a lid and turn to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Check that they are ready then tip into a sieve and rinse under the tap. Put the lentils into a bowl, season with salt and drizzle a little olive oil over.
Blanch the peas in boiling water for a couple of minutes then drain and refresh under the cold tap.
If you are using onion, peel it and slice very thinly. I like to rub the onion slices with a little salt. This tenderises and separates the rings.
Rub the peel from the beetroots then dice into roughly 2cm pieces. Season with a little salt. Strip the mint from the stems then chop small. Put all of the above ingredients into a bowl but don’t mix yet. The less mixing the brighter the salad will be.
Make the vinaigrette in a small bowl. Whisk the vinegar and Dijon together then slowly drizzle in the oil whisking continuously to emulsify. Taste to check, if it needs brightening up add a little more vinegar and/or salt. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and gently toss together. Do not overmix.
For the whipped ricotta, drain any liquid from the pot then tip the ricotta into a bowl. Season with a little salt and a few grinds of black pepper then drizzle over 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil then whisk together with a fork and it’s ready to go! (a great trick for pasta too)
Serve the salad with a spoonful of whipped ricotta on top.