Category Archives: Food Blog

Lucy Madden’s Walled Garden Blog

It must be admitted that the frozen pea has spoiled us for the seasonal treat of the fresh pea, but I have to concede that the freezing process has probably been more successful with the pea than any other vegetable.  In spite of this, as every gardener knows, the joy of bringing the first basket of peas into the kitchen is hard to rival.  It’s important to eat fresh peas as quickly as possible after picking as the flavour begins to degenerate with the sugars turning into starch.   Once picked peas have made the journey into a shop, I would say it is too late.  Best of all is to grow your own, but if you do buy them, make sure the pods are as plump and green as possible.  Otherwise, it is probably best to cook with the frozen varieites.

We have to thank the Italians gardeners of the sixteenth century for introducing us to peas which have remained a popular staple of our diet ever since.   Today there are confusingly many different kinds of peas available.  Imported mange-tout, sugar peas, snow peas and sugar snaps are in the shops all year round and will grow well in our own summer gardens.  Peas have been domesticated since the Stone Age, and there is a story that in the 1800s an archaeologist excavating the ruins of Troy dined on peas he had found in an ancient storage jar.  More than 3000 years old, the 440 pounds of peas were still edible!

EARLY SUMMER PEA SOUP

There are many ways of making pea soups, using older peas or frozen peas, but the delicate flavour of a soup made with the freshest of young garden peas, is hard to beat.  This is a special occasion soup.  Keep a handful of the pea pods to add to the pot.

About 600g/1 ¼ lb shelled peas

175g/6 oz spring onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

175g/6 oz butter

250ml/8 fl oz cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chopped mint, parsley or tarragon

Melt half the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the onions and garlic.  Cook over a low heat until translucent and then add the peas and the reserved pods and about 1.5 litre/2 ¾ pints water.  Simmer until the peas are just tender, taking care not overcook.  Puree in a blender and then sieve.  Pour into a clean pan and reheat until just below boiling point.  Stir in the remaining butter, cream, seasoning and herbs.

PEA CUSTARDS

These delicate little custards can be eaten on their own or served as an accompaniment to fish or poultry dishes.

450g/1 lb shelled peas

150ml/5 fl oz milk

150ml/5 fl oz cream

5 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Put the peas into a pan containing an inch of fast boiling water, cover with a tight lid and cook for no longer than 6 minutes.  Puree the peas and any remaining cooking liquid in a blender or food processor.  Push the pea puree through a sieve with a wooden spoon.  Pour in the milk, cream and eggs and season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.  Pour the mixture into 6 buttered ramekin dishes or a 1.5 litre/2 pint basin.  Place in roasting tin half filled with boiling water and cook at Gas Mark 4/350F/180C for 45 minutes.

To serve, cool the custards for 5 minutes and then run a sharp knife around the edge of the moulds.  Turn upside down and gently shake each out onto a plate.

PEAS WITH BACON AND NEW POTATOES

Throw in a handful of skinned broad beans to this and some chopped fresh herbs.

To serve 4:

8 rashers bacon, diced

2 tablespoons oil or butter

Enough small new potatoes for 4 (depending on your appetite)

A few mint sprigs

350g/12 oz shelled peas

A few shredded lettuce leaves

Fry the bacon lightly in the oil or butter.  Add the potatoes and the mint sprigs. Pour over about 400ml/3/4 pint water, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, adding the peas and lettuce leaves 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

 

 

Lucy Madden’s Food Blog-February

These cold mornings should have us all reaching for the porridge oats.  It is said that a bowl of porridge will keep you going for half the day since the raw ingredient, oatmeal, is a whole grain complex carbohydrate that is low in fat, cholesterol free and rich in fibre. It’s also a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin B1.  As if this wasn’t enough, eating porridge, too, helps the brain produce serotonin, a substance that keeps spirits up and appetites down.  No more reaching for the biscuit tin mid-morning then.

Of course there is much more to oatmeal than porridge.  Whether you buy oats in the form of rolled oats, jumbo oats, pinhead oatmeal or finely ground oatmeal, you have an ingredient that can be used in many different ways in cakes, biscuits and puddings.  Oats are a staple ingredient of black and white puddings, are sometimes used as a crust for roasting meat, and are essential in flapjacks.  Try adding oats to a crumble mixture or mixing them with fresh fruit, cream and a little sugar to make an instant pudding.  Oats can be added to meatballs or make a good coating for oily fish such as mackerel and herrings fried and served with some crispy bacon and a wedge of lemon.  Or stir a few spoonfuls of oatflakes into some chopped onion softened with butter.  This dish, known as skirlie, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley, was traditionally served as an accompaniment to fried fish much as you might serve potatoes or rice.

Oatflakes have long been used as an ingredient in soda breads as in the recipes below.  The ingredients can be mixed in a matter of minutes and you have none of the proving times necessary when making bread with yeast.  It is difficult to be accurate with oven times, since ovens vary, so the recommended times are not rigid.  The way to test whether or not a loaf is cooked is to turn it out of the tin, or upside down, and tap the bottom with your fingers.  If it sounds hollow, your bread is ready.

OATMEAL BREAD

150g/ medium oatmeal

300 ml/1/2 pint water

150ml/5 fl oz natural yoghourt

350g/ 11oz plain flour

1 level tablespoon baking powder

1 level teaspoon salt

extra oatmeal for sprinkling

Put the oatmeal into a large mixing bowl.  Stir the yoghourt into the water and mix into the oatmeal.  Leave so that the oatmeal can soften for at least 1 hour.

Place a sieve over the mixing bowl and sift in the plain flour, baking powder and salt.  Using a knife, cut and stir the ingredients to make a soft dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 3 turns, just to remove any cracks.  Form the dough into a round disc, about 5 cm in depth and transfer this to a floured baking tray.  Using a floured knife cut a deep cross through the bread to allow it to cook evenly.  Bake at Gas Mark 6/400C/200F for 25-30 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool.

PINHEAD OATMEAL BREAD

450g/1 lb wholemeal flour

225g/8 oz pinhead oatmeal

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon bread soda

25g/1 oz soft margarine

500ml/18 fl oz buttermilk

 

Put the wholemeal flour and pinhead oatmeal into a large mixing bowl and sieve in the salt and bread soda.  Using your fingers, rub in the margarine and then pour in the buttermilk.  Stir until the mixture is smooth and then put into a greased bread tin and bake in a hot oven Gas Mark 7/425F/220C for 10 minutes then lower the heat to Gas Mark 5/375F/190C for about 25-30 minutes.

 

SPRING SODA BREAD

 

Even if there’s not much sign of it, we can pretend that spring is on the way.  If you don’t have tarragon, use another chopped spring onion.

 

225g/8 oz wholemeal flour

375g/13 oz plain flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon bread soda

25g/1 oz soft margarine

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

50g/2 oz medium oatmeal

600 ml/1 pint buttermilk

 

Put the wholemeal flour into a mixing bowl and then sieve in the plain flour, salt and bread soda.  Rub in the margarine and then stir in the spring onion, parsley, tarragon and oatmeal.  Stir in the buttermilk and then knead lightly until smooth.  Shape into two rounds and place on a greased baking sheet.  Using a floured knife cut a cross on the top of each round and sprinkle with a little wholemeal flour.  Cook in a preheated oven Gas Mark 6/400C/200F for 25-30 minutes.  Eat while fresh.