Cauliflower

Cauliflower

White and Romanesco Cauliflower (and Sprouting Broccoli on the right)    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

White and Romanesco Cauliflower (and Sprouting Broccoli on the right)

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cauliflower


Creamy-white Cauliflowers are immature flower structures eaten before they have chance to open.  The vivid-green Romanesco is a cauliflower too and has become more and more popular in recent years.  Both have a similar texture and flavour whether tasted raw or cooked, though the Romanesco has a little more depth.  The fascinating Fibonacci spiral whorls of the Romanesco, along with that incredible colour, surely explain its appeal.  Cauliflowers also come with purple ‘curds’ (the edible head), and there are yellow/orange varieties too but don’t expect them to keep their colour after cooking.  Broccoli is another immature flower structure and in Italy cauliflowers can, confusingly, sometimes be referred to as broccolo.  Both are members of the Brassica (cabbage) family but cauliflower and broccoli look distinctly different, with broccoli, generally, producing looser flower stalks.


It’s believed the Arabs in the Middle Ages developed the Cauliflower and the first mention of them being grown here in the UK is in the last decade of the 16th century.  It was said the best seeds came from Aleppo.  There are summer, winter and intermediate varieties of Cauliflower, which is why they are almost always available throughout the year.  They grow best in cool, moist conditions, though, so we tend to see the best crops early and late in the year.  


Cauliflower is a vegetable which is delicious eaten raw when you can detect that slight heat of the brassica family – a little like raw Brussels sprout.  Separate into florets and dip into a dish of Bagna Cauda (a hot butter, garlic and anchovy dip).  Cauliflower ferments and pickles really well and it is an essential part of Piccalilli.  


As a rule, for cauliflower, the shorter the cooking time, the better the flavour.  Its delicate flavour, some would say, blandness, means the Cauliflower carries other flavours such as spices well.  A dish of Cauliflower Cheese is a classic, of course, with bay and clove flavouring the sauce.  Cauliflower’s creamy texture lends itself to a soup. The addition of cream and potatoes tempers any possible sulphurousness attributable to over-cooked brassica.  A scattering of toasted almonds brings texture to the softness of a side dish of cooked Cauliflower.  


Eggs go well too.  There is a lovely simple recipe in Rachel Roddy’s book Five Quarters for serving tender florets of Cauliflower dressed with oil, lemon, garlic, anchovies and black olives and served with warm boiled eggs.  In the same book, you’ll find a very good Pasta e Broccoli recipe that works with either Romanesco Cauliflower or the looser-stalked Broccoli.  Meera Sodha has a recipe in her book Fresh India for Whole roasted Cauliflower with Mussalam which smothers the brassica in a tomato sauce spiced up with ginger, black pepper, garlic, cinnamon, cloves and chilli powder.  There’s also a good recipe for Cauliflower Korma with Blackened Raisins too and I highly recommend the Cauliflower Cheese + Chilli Stuffed Roti, which uses finger chillies and cumin for spicing.


Oh, and don’t think you have to discard all of the leaves.  The more tender, inner leaves are good to eat too.

Classic Cauliflower Cheese    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Classic Cauliflower Cheese

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic  


We are usually enjoying the aroma of English Wild Garlic (also known as Ramsoms, Buckram, Wood Garlic or Bear’s Garlic) in our arch by April.  This beautiful and tasty leaf is a wild relative of chives but is more than a bit-player in cooking.  Wild Garlic likes the damp, shady conditions of deciduous woodland, putting up leaves in early spring before flowering just as the tree canopy starts to shade out light.  As with all wild food, clean growing conditions are a must and whenever we can get it we buy foraged English Wild Garlic from private woodland in Somerset.


In case you are tempted to pick your own, you must be sure not to mix it up with Lily of the Valley, which has a similar leaf but is highly toxic.  Crush a piece of leaf between your fingers to release a distinctive pungent garlic smell to confirm you have the right plant.


Wild Garlic has an affinity with eggs, so works well in omelette or frittata.  You can also chop it and add to a spring vegetable soup, wilt it in butter for a quick pasta sauce or make a wild garlic pesto.  Do use any flowers along with the leaves as they not only look beautiful but also have good flavour.


Recipe:

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Pasta with Wild Garlic

(Serves 4)


Ingredients:

300g dried pasta (ribbon pastas or Spaghetti or Linguine)

80g (3oz) unsalted butter

2  handfuls of wild garlic, well washed and roughly chopped

Good olive oil and salt and pepper to season


Method:

Bring a large pan of water to the boil then salt the water well.  With the water at a fierce boil, add the pasta and stir.  Return the water to the boil and cook at a lively pace according to the cooking instructions. 


While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter gently in large pan and add the washed and chopped garlic leaves, salt and pepper.  Cook for a minute or two then take the pan off the heat.  Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water, and add the cooked pasta to the buttery garlic leaves.  Mix in about 50ml  of cooking water to loosen slightly.  Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and some good olive oil to season.


This recipe works well with spinach or chard leaves too.  You could use Asparagus or Hop Shoots instead so long as you blanch the vegetables first.


March News 2019

March News 2019

Spring veggies    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Spring veggies

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

MARCH


The first month of meterological Spring is always the most unpredictable time of year.  At this time in 2018 I wrote of snow falling in London and bad weather in southern Europe.  In 2019 the last week of February saw record high temperatures in the UK, peeking at a scarily high 20+C.  A clear illustration of the spring’s volatility.  But whatever the daytime temperatures, night temperatures and light levels play a part.  Crops don’t grow quickly at this time of year and it’s a quiet time for our home-grown crops.  


We look mainly to southern Europe for fruit and vegetables to supplement our slow-growing winter Greens and Root crops.  Tender Artichokes, juicy mineral Agretti and crisp Fennel are examples of what we expect from Italy.  Crunchy Marinda and Camone Tomatoes still fill the gap until sun-ripened ones arrive.  Citrus continues and, usually, the first new season Wet Garlic Bulbs arrive from Morocco followed by bulbs from Europe.  From Italy, the first of the Broad Beans, Peas and palest-green Spring Courgettes.  Citrus, including Amalfi Lemons, Tarocco Oranges and Common Mandarins continue to arrive from Italy.

Here is a taster of the things you can expect to find here at Puntarelle & Co in the month of March:

Roman Artichokes    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Roman Artichokes

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

British Brassicas including Savoy Cabbage, green and purple hued January King, blistered-leaved Black Cabbage/Cavolo Nero, Kale, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Kohlrabi.

For Roots, which store well, there are Jerusalem Artichokes, Beetroot, Turnips, Swede, Celeriac, Potatoes and CarrotsLeeks are still come in from the fields. 

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is reaching its peak.  Its stalks are a little thicker and more deeply coloured now, and are tasting at their best.

Untreated Italian Citrus in the form of Leafy and Amalfi Lemons, juicy Tarocco Oranges and sweet Mandarins.  Bergamots and Cedro make an appearance.

Broad Beans, Fresh Peas, Wild Asparagus, cultivated Purple Asparagus from European climes.  

Broccolo Fiolare (Minestra Cabbage) and Broccolo di Bassano from Italy.

Time to start looking out for punnets of fragrant Candonga Strawberries from Italy and Gariguette Strawberries from France. 

There is vitamin and mineral packed Italian Spinach and Chard and colourful bitter-leaved heads of Radicchio.  There’s Puntarelle Chicory and Cime di Rapa too.

Crunchy, juicy Agretti/Monk’s Beard continues, an excellent accompaniment to fish or simply blanched and tossed in anchovy butter.

Spiky Sardinian Artichokes, globes of Romaneschi Artichokes, medium-sized Tema Artichokes and the small purple Petit Violet Artichokes.  

Pale green Italian Courgettes and crunchy red Tropea Onions from Italy.

Providing tasty Tomatoes through winter is a challenge but the green seasonal Marinda and salty, crunchy Camone are welcome, and they are at their best now. 

Jersey Royal    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Jersey Royal

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Look out for the first Jersey Royal Potatoes and the French Ile de Ré and Noirmoutier Potatoes.  All coastal-grown roots that bring a welcome rush of earthy salinity at this time of year.

Spring Radishes arrive, usually the first are from France along with crunchy small Grelot Onions.

March could see the first Morel Mushrooms - usually the first come from Canada, followed by Turkish ones.

Short season Wild Garlic Leaves arrive this month, and the first Wet Garlic from Morocco before the French crop.  

Stimulating, iron-rich spring Nettles could arrive from France soon, possibly before the end of the month. 

London Fermentary Seasonal Water Kefirs    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

London Fermentary Seasonal Water Kefirs

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Right now our seasonal Water Kefirs take advantage of the fantastic late winter fruits that are coming through our doors.  Flavours include Yorkshire Rhubarb, Blood Orange and Wonder Mandarin.  As those of you who are familiar with our Water Kefirs know, there is much more to them than their beautiful jewel-like colours.  Apart from being delicious, these unpasteurised fermented drinks bring beneficial micro-organisms, B vitamins, minerals and enzymes in a slightly sour, zingy, low-sugar form.  More about our range of Fermented products at: www.londonfermentary.com

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands       If you need a little inspiration for what to cook in March, here’s a suggestion:       Greens, bacon, cream & mustard    (Serves 4)      Ingredients:  500g of greens - broccoli, kale, kalettes, sprout tops or cabbage, washed and cut into manageable pieces  200g bacon (smoked or unsmoked), cut into small pieces  100ml single or double cream  2 tablespoons of grain mustard  Salt and pepper to season     Method:   Bring a pan of water to the boil and add salt. Add the greens and cook until just tender. Drain and plunge into iced water then drain. Put aside.    Fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Add the cooked greens, tossing them in the bacon fat until nicely coated.    On a low heat, add the cream and the mustard, and season with salt and pepper, mixing everything well.    Serve with bread for mopping up the juices.

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands


If you need a little inspiration for what to cook in March, here’s a suggestion:


Greens, bacon, cream & mustard

(Serves 4)


Ingredients:

500g of greens - broccoli, kale, kalettes, sprout tops or cabbage, washed and cut into manageable pieces

200g bacon (smoked or unsmoked), cut into small pieces

100ml single or double cream

2 tablespoons of grain mustard

Salt and pepper to season


Method:

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add salt. Add the greens and cook until just tender. Drain and plunge into iced water then drain. Put aside.

Fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Add the cooked greens, tossing them in the bacon fat until nicely coated.

On a low heat, add the cream and the mustard, and season with salt and pepper, mixing everything well.

Serve with bread for mopping up the juices.


Agretti

Agretti

Agretti    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Agretti

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Agretti


The botanical family of Agretti is Salicornia.  It is a Saltwort, also known as Land Seaweed.  The closest we have to the plant in the UK is our Marsh Samphire, otherwise known as Glasswort from when it was calcined to alkali for glass-making.  This fact sits oddly with Samphire’s delicious, succulent eating qualities.  Agretti has a myriad of other names in Southern Europe where it grows.  These include Barba di Frate, Roscano and Monk’s Beard.  Here we’ll call it Agretti for simplicity.


Agretti is a plant that has adapted to grow in salty seaside conditions but can be grown commercially given enough warmth and water.  At Puntarelle & Co, we source our Agretti from Italy.  It’s a plant that is not much grown commercially here in the UK as it needs a long germination period.  Harvests here come in June-September.  It grows in fleshy, succulent, grass-like strands, usually sold with some length of reddish/brown roots but it is a good “cut-and-come-again” plant.  Our own native Samphire arrives in spring/summer.  Though their succulent growth looks quite different – Samphire stems being thicker and jointed - Agretti and Samphire can be treated very similarly in the kitchen.   Both are good when briefly boiled or steamed and simply eaten with butter or a hollandaise sauce.  A few anchovy fillets heated in butter until they melt, make a perfect sauce.  Try blanched Agretti with diced winter Camone tomatoes and a grating of bottarga (salted cured fish roe).  Both Agretti and Samphire make excellent accompaniments to fish and are a good addition to a bowl of crab soup.  They also pickle and ferment extremely well.  


Though Samphire is familiar to us in the UK, given that it grows around our own coastline, Agretti is a much more recent arrival on our plates.  You will search in vain for the vegetable in popular recipe books published more than 7-8 years ago – whatever name you search for it under.  It’s not difficult to see why chefs in the UK like it.  Arriving in our late winter/early spring, Agretti comes as a welcome change from the broccoli and cabbage varieties that have featured strongly on our plates over the winter months.  With a crunchy yet juicy texture and mineral flavour, it effortlessly fills the early spring hunger-gap until more tender varieties of vegetables arrive on our plates.  

Crab Broth with Agretti    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Crab Broth with Agretti

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Citruses

Citruses

Sicilian Tarocco Oranges    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Sicilian Tarocco Oranges

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Sicilian Citrus


As soon as the Sicilian Citrus season starts in December we are in contact with our growers to find out what is being harvested and when we can get them for our customers.  The fruit is grown organically or with minimum intervention.  There are easier ways to put citrus on our shelves but nothing compares with the taste and quality of the citrus we receive direct from Sicily. 


In the citrus ‘gardens’ of Sicily, a sharp drop in temperature for a short period overnight results in the oranges taking on the distinctive red pigmentation.  This gives a boost to Vitamin C and the Antithynins which make Sicilian Blood Oranges so special.  The darker the flesh, the higher these levels are.  Citrus harvesting starts at the end of November and can, in a year of normal weather, go on through the varieties until June. It’s the oranges that grow best in Sicily and they get the most attention, thanks to their uplifting colour palette and versatility.  Citrus varieties crossbreed readily, which is why new varieties of citrus come to market from time to time.  From Sicily the important varieties of orange are Moro, Tarocco, Sanguinello and the sweet Navelina.  Of the bloods, the Moro develops the reddest flesh and its juice is almost raspberry-flavoured.  The Tarocco is a little sweeter and its skin and flesh more variably-coloured.  Our arch is aglow when the Tarocco Fire variety arrives thanks to its fiery orange/red streaked skin.  The Sanguinello appears later in the season.  Its thin peel make it a more delicate traveller so we tend not to get this variety.  The sweet Navelina is less special but still good.  And we’re always happy to receive Pink Grapefruits from our growers as it’s so difficult to find unwaxed grapefruits.  As weather conditions change, lemons are now growing more happily on the island and, if we can get them, we take them. Super fragrant Common mandarins are always desirable fruit in our arch. Very fragrant floral zest and amount of seeds , make them best for marmalades and jams. They are very pleasant eating fruit too. 


While much citrus is enjoyed simply as raw fruit or juiced, it is a key part of Sicilian cuisine.  Sliced orange with fennel, sometimes some sliced onion and/or black olives, is dressed with olive oil for a classic Sicilian salad; a dish of risotto seasoned with sharp orange juice; a lemon or orange granita, maybe scooped into a brioche bun; a whole-orange and almond cake; all are synonymous with Sicily.  Here in London we can’t get enough of sweet/sharp new season oranges, whether they come blushed or full-blooded.  Blood orange marmalade, orange curd tarts, caramelised oranges and Crepes Suzette are other ways to go with the orange. And don’t forget to use the peel, either for candying or by air-drying thin peelings for later use in fish or meat stews.  

Kale

Kale

Kale   Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Kale

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Kale


A member of the Mustard family, which includes Brassicas, Kale originated in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Varieties come in serrated, crinkly, curly, flat or deeply cut and feathery, and in colours from pink-edged silvery green through pale to dark, almost black, green and deepest purple.  Blistered-leaved Cavolo Nero/Nero de Toscana is considered a Kale despite its ‘Black Cabbage’ translation. 


Sharing bitter-sweet and peppery flavours with their relatives Cabbages and Brussels Sprouts, like them, Kale develop their best flavour and colour after a period of cold weather, particularly after frost.  This activates the natural sugars in the plants.  A cut-and-come-again plant, they are at their best during the January to March ‘hunger-gap’ when northern hemisphere greens are few and far between.  Kale is rich in vitamins A, C and K, folic acid and manganese.


Kale can be eaten raw in a salad, after discarding any tough stalks.  Their leaves can be torn and tossed in olive oil and a little salt before baking in a medium oven for 15 minutes to produce kale crisps.  Tender young leaves can be sautéed briefly in a little olive oil with garlic, and, optionally, chilli.  Later, larger leaves need to be chopped up and sautéed after first blanching in salted boiling water.  Romans call this treatment ripassate.  You can add raw Kale leaves to a soup.  The leaves are particularly good with potatoes and add an earthy depth to mixed vegetable soups.   Kale pairs beautifully with salty fried bacon or anchovies melted in hot butter.  The leaves also have an affinity with eggs – add cooked kale to a frittata or tortilla or top with a poached egg and, maybe, a little grated gruyère for a quick lunch.      

February News 2019

February News 2019

January King Cabbages    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

January King Cabbages

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

FEBRUARY


In February the colours of January continue with pinks, reds, greens and claret-splashed yellows of Chicories, stems of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb turn from pink to red and the shades of citrus become more varied as more varieties arrive from Sicily.  Large, spikey Sardinian and fat, round, Romano Artichokes share space with an array of British root vegetables, including Celeriac and Jerusalem Artichokes, but, undoubtedly, February is the leanest month in the northern hemisphere’s growing calendar.


Here is a taster of the things you can expect to find here at Puntarelle & Co in the month of February:  

Winter Selection    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Winter Selection

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Vibrant pink-stemmed Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb will continue throughout the month.

Probably the last of the Seville Oranges for making bitter marmalade and buttery curd but there will be Clementins that work well too.

Un-treated, un-waxed Blood Oranges, Sweet Clementines and, if we are lucky, Pink Grapefruits.

Deep red, sweet-sharp, Pomegranates.

English Purple Sprouting Broccoli, which is particularly good right now, and, creamy Cauliflowers

 Hispi Cabbage from southern Europe.

Crunchy, salty Italian Camone and Marinda Winter Tomatoes.

From Italy too, bunches of the Mediterranean succulent Barba di Frate/Agretti/Monk’s Beard, Rainbow Chard, Bulb Fennel, Roman Artichokes and spikey Sardinian Artichokes.

Bitter-sweet Italian Greens like Puntarelle and Cime di Rapa and new season Courgettes.

A variety of colourful bitter-sweet pink and red Radicchio and milder-leaved yellow/green Endive.

Roman Artichokes & Italian Aubergines    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Roman Artichokes & Italian Aubergines

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Vitamin and mineral-rich British Brassicas including Savoy Cabbage, green and purple hued January King, blistered-leaved Black Cabbage/Cavolo Nero, Kale, Brussels Sprouts and Brussels Tops

Winter Pumpkins.

Root vegetables including Celeriac, Jerusalem Artichokes, Swede, Beetroot, organic Heritage Carrots and Leeks.

Potato varieties are Cyprus and Desiree, Maris Piper, and waxy-fleshed La Ratte.

Fresh organic Ginger Root and Turmeric Root.

London Fermentary fridges

London Fermentary fridges

Our freshly-stocked londonfermentary.com fridge this month typically includes Water Kefir flavours like Blood Orange, Yorkshire Rhubarb, Cranberry & Chilli and Honey & Camomile. Don’t forget your refillable bottles for “Kefir on the tap” option. In LF fridge you’ll find an extensive range of seasonal Fermented Vegetables too. Please , check LF website for latest Inspirational Fermentation Course dates www.londonfermentary.com

Forced Yorkshire Rhubarb & Tarocco Blood Orange about to go in the oven    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Forced Yorkshire Rhubarb & Tarocco Blood Orange about to go in the oven

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Here is a recipe using fruits that are at their best right now – that beautiful pink forced Yorkshire Rhubarb and Sicilian Blood Oranges.  It’s adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe in Tender Volume II and I can think of no simpler way to celebrate these two wonderful ingredients together.  


Rhubarb with Blood Orange

(serves 4-6)


750g Rhubarb

4 Blood Oranges

Caster Sugar

1 vanilla pod


Heat the oven to 200C (180C Fan).

Rinse the rhubarb, cut off and discard the leaves.  Chop the stems into short lengths and place in an oven-proof dish.

Remove the peel from two of the oranges, cutting away any white pith, then slice the fruit thickly and add it to the rhubarb.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining two oranges, and pour over the rhubarb.

Add a good tablespoon of sugar and the vanilla pod.

Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven until the rhubarb yields to the pressure of a fork.

Check and adjust the sweetness to your taste.

Allow to cool then spoon into serving glasses, cover with clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour but will keep for 2-3 days.


Radicchio

Radicchio

Radicchio

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

There are two main varieties of cultivated chicory – the Endives which come in curly and broad-leaved varieties (which we will cover in a future bulletin) and the Radicchio which is the most colourful member of the chicory family and the one we focus on here.


Radicchi is an Italian word for weeds that grow wild in the Mediterranean region.  The Radicchio, and other members of the chicory family (Cichorium) that come through our doors are cultivated varieties of these.  The farming world has worked for thousands of years to reduce bitterness in crops including lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers and aubergines.  But some crops are still prized for this quality and Radicchio is one.  Many cultures take bitterness as a signal of medicinal value.


Each variety of Radicchio is named for one of the towns in the Italian Veneto where the crop has PGI (Protected geographical indication) status: Chioggia, round and white-ribbed like a small red cabbage; Treviso, the ‘Prococe’ type having wide burgundy leaves forming a loose head and the later ‘Tardivo’ type that has more tightly packed leaves that curl into a twist at the top; Verona, smaller with deep red leaves and a loose oval shape; and Castelfranco, its creamy yellow rose-like leaves splashed with wine-red being perhaps the most eye-catching.  In Radicchio, the extent of bitter compounds varies with Treviso containing most and Chioggia and Castelfranco the least.  The technique of blanching, growing in cold and dark conditions, (imbianchimento in Italian) brings out the red hues in what would otherwise be a largely green-leaved crop.  


Served as a salad leaf, Radicchio pairs beautifully with orange.  The chef Florence Knight has a recipe in her book ‘One’ for mildly astringent Castelfranco mixed with prosciutto and toasted hazelnuts and dressed with an orange vinaigrette.  Cooking Radicchio intensifies its bitter qualities and adds a delicious counterpoint to rich, fatty foods – just think of a bacon and dandelion salad.  Subjected to a little charring on a grill, a more bitter Radicchio like Treviso pairs wonderfully well with a soft, creamy cheese like ricotta, goat’s curd or a blue cheese, maybe Gorgonzola, Stilton or Stichelton.  Simply chop the radicchio into quarters, coat lightly in olive oil, season and grill until lightly browned and softened then serve scattered with pieces of the cheese and a vinaigrette dressing.  A few toasted and salted walnuts wouldn’t go amiss.  

Forced Rhubarb

Forced Rhubarb

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb


Each year in early January slim soft-pink through to ruby-red Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb stems begin to appear at market.  A native of Siberia, there is evidence that rhubarb was grown for its medicinal properties – thought to be effective in gut, liver and lung problems - at least as far back as 2700BC.  It was grown in the UK for around 150 years for use as a purgative before it became valued as a food in the early 18th century.  Garden-grown rhubarb is a much more muscular proposition than ‘forced’ rhubarb.  Its thicker, darker red/green stems need a little more cooking and extra sugar to make it palatable.  But it was the accidental ‘blanching’ of rhubarb, caused by gardeners at the Chelsea Physic Garden piling up waste plants over winter, that led to the growing of ‘forced’ rhubarb.  By the time the roots were uncovered, tender stems had pushed through towards the light and these were found to be far tastier than outdoor, uncovered rhubarb stems.  


The method was embraced and developed into the use of ‘forcing’ sheds, after the roots have experienced a blast of frost first in the fields, to produce an earlier, more delicate tasting crop.  In Yorkshire, rhubarb farmers were able to produce such a good crop, and get it to market so efficiently, that growers in other areas of the country gave up trying to compete.  Today forced rhubarb continues to be grown in a small area around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield in Yorkshire known as "The Rhubarb Triangle".  It’s labour-intensive work which means the crop commands a relatively high price.  One of the oldest growers is E Oldroyd & Sons Ltd.  Oldroyd's forced rhubarb still finds its way to London markets and to our shelves.


Rhubarb is valued for food from Russia through Turkey, Pakistan and the Middle East.  Persian cooking values it for balancing meat stews, particularly lamb.  A lightly sweetened compote is a good accompaniment to cut the fattiness of pork or oiliness of fish, like mackerel.  For desserts, the tender stems can go into cakes and tarts.  The most versatile way with forced rhubarb is to gently poach it to make a sweet compote - 5 parts fruit to 1 part sugar is about right if you don’t want it too sweet.  Additions you can make when poaching include a vanilla pod; a little preserved ginger; orange zest and/or juice; or a single clove.  Alternatively you could add a teaspoon or two of rosewater just before serving.  Fold into lightly whipped cream, or a mix of cream and yogurt, to make a rhubarb fool.  If you have some meringues and a little cream you have the makings of a take on Eton Mess.  Rhubarb also makes a good cordial, though you’d be better waiting for the cheaper outdoor-grown variety for that.


Yorkshire Rhubarb    Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Yorkshire Rhubarb

Photo © Puntarelle & Co

Fennel

Fennel

Fennel bulbs    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Fennel bulbs

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Fennel


A member of the Carrot family, along with celery, Fennel differs from them in its strong aroma, owed to its close relation, anise.  This makes the fennel bulb, also known as Florence Fennel to distinguish it from the feathery herb, a more dominant and less versatile vegetable than carrot or celery.  But if you embrace its licorice-like qualities and its lemon notes this crunchy, refreshing bulb can be served from the start, through the middle, and even to the end of a meal.  The strength of the anise flavour does vary according to growing conditions and should you want to ramp it up, cooking with a splash of Pastis or some crushed fennel seeds does the trick.   


The outermost layer of the bulb is always tough, as are the stems, but both are good used in soups and stocks.  Any frondy tops can be used just as you would use the fennel herb.  The bulb can be eaten raw or cooked.  In Italy, Florence fennel is sometimes served raw at the end of a meal just as you might serve a piece of fruit.  Fennel and orange is a typical Sicilian combination that is perfect for the winter months as crunchy Florence Fennel bulbs come through our doors along with crates of new season Sicilian oranges.  A salad of thinly sliced crunchy, aromatic fennel, sweet oranges sliced or segmented, and salty, fleshy black olives is classic.  There is a recipe in Rachel Roddy’s book Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome for this salad, where she mentions that sometimes sliced red onion is added or pomegranate seeds could be considered for extra acidity and visual allure.  Florence fennel also ferments particularly well.    


Quartered Fennel bulbs can be baked or fried in butter until just coloured, then covered and cooked with a little lemon juice until tender.  Cover with parmesan or a 50/50 mix of parmesan/breadcrumbs, and pop in a medium-high oven until the topping is golden; the bulbs are very good simply sliced and braised in some olive oil and a little water, cooked lid-on until tender then lid-off until the liquid evaporates.  Serve with fillets of fish, like sea bream or sea bass - add to the fennel pan if you like, cover for 5 minutes before turning the fish and cooking for a further 2-3 minutes; Claudia Roden, in her book The Food of Italy, suggests simply boiling trimmed and quartered fennel in salted water until tender (not floppy), then drain, transfer to a buttered oven-proof dish, sprinkling with salt, pepper parmesan and double cream and bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown – delicious alongside roast chicken.  In Tim Siadatan’s Trullo: The Cookbook there’s a simple and tasty recipe for Braised fennel and purple olive dressing which introduces a hint of anchovy and a little chilli heat to the dish.  Brindisa: The True Food of Spain book has a recipe for Vegetable broth with salt cod and fennel.  The bulb also makes a satisfying cream of fennel soup or an aromatic risotto.  And in Peter Brears Cooking and Dining in Medieval England you will find Sops in Fennel – sliced fennel, finely chopped onion, olive oil, salt and a little cinnamon simmered for 30 minutes until soft then poured over thick slices of toasted white bread.

Returning to the theme of fennel as an end to a meal, the chef Florence Knight, in her book One: A cook and her cupboard, gives a recipe for candying slices of fennel and serving them with chocolate sorbet.

Fennel & Blood orange salad   Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Fennel & Blood orange salad

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Artichokes

Artichokes

Globe Artichokes in prep    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Globe Artichokes in prep

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Artichokes


As I write this in the second week of January, the Artichokes are already arriving.  Globe Artichokes are not much grown as a commercial crop in the UK.  Here they are mostly grown on allotments and in private vegetable gardens but in recent years we have been able to get some English-grown ones for our customers.  In southern Europe their harvest runs from May through to September and many Artichokes produce two crops a year.  In late winter and early spring, when colour is surely a welcome addition to our roots and greens, Artichokes like the large bulbous romano or mammola from Italy with their violet-tinted leaves are a welcome sight.  We can also see purple baby artichokes and spikey Sardinian Spinosi.  Right now, it’s the Romano Artichoke that is bringing colour to our arch.  


The Artichoke, or Globe Artichoke, is the edible immature flower of a cultivated thistle.  They grow readily in dry conditions and light soils and spread prolifically in Mediterranean areas.  The Arabs named them al-kharsuf, from which comes the names carciofi in Italian, alcachofa in Spanish, and artichoke in English.  But it was the Italians who developed the varieties of artichoke with less bitter notes than the original that became prized in Europe.  The first real evidence of artichokes being commercially available is in records from the beginning of the 15th century showing they were shipped from Sicily to Florence.  By at least the early 17th century they were grown and appreciated in England, before mysteriously falling out of favour for a while towards the end of the 1900’s.  Maybe it was increased travel that revived the British taste for the artichoke’s well-guarded heart.  Along with Asparagus, the Artichoke is considered one of the finest vegetables we can grow.


How do you tackle an Artichoke?   First, unless they are tightly closed, soak them upside down in a bowl of salted water to dislodge earth or insects.  Have half a lemon to hand to rub any cut surfaces as you prepare them, or prepare a bowl of acidulated water.  If the artichoke is the spikey type, you’d be well advised to snip off the vicious tips.  Larger Artichokes can be trimmed and their stems peeled then steamed.  Alternatively, boil them whole and serve with a bowl of aioli to dip each leaf into (the base of the leaves being the edible part).  Unless you are planning to eat them whole, the outer, tougher leaves should be removed and the top third of the flower cut away.  Check to see if there is any fluffy ‘choke’ in the centre and, if so, scrape it away with a teaspoon.  Cut the stem, leaving a good few inches of the tenderest part, then peel it along with the base of the flower.  


Young artichokes are very good eaten raw – very thinly sliced, immersed in acidulated water then dried and dressed with a squeeze of lemon, a little salt and some good olive oil (truffle oil is good if you have it).   There is an English recipe in Good Things in England by Florence White, dating from the early 1700s for ‘A tart of Artichoke bottoms’ – a pie filled with the most cherished part of the artichoke, a little “minced” onion, and “sweet herbs”, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  When cooked, a white sauce thickened with yolk of egg and sharpened with tarragon vinegar is poured in.  But it’s in the cuisine of Italy where you will find most recipes.  Cook them slowly Roman-style (Carciofi alla Romana), stem end up, until soft in a scant broth of water, olive oil, white wine, a garlic clove, parsley, mint, salt and pepper until the liquid has been absorbed.  There is a traditional dish amongst the Jewish community in Rome called Carciofi alla giudea.  Small, trimmed, whole artichokes are deep-fried at a high heat so the crispy brown leaves open like a flower.  Serve with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.  

 

Soon the Artichokes will be joined by early broad beans and peas.  Then you can make Vignarola, the classic Italian spring vegetable stew – prepare the artichokes, cut the base and stems into quarters and add to a pan of sliced spring onions, softened in olive oil, adding a little wine or water and a pinch of salt .  Cook, covered, for 15 minutes before adding peas and blanched broad beans.  A ball of milky mozzarella di bufala or creamy burrata is often served with it.

Globe Artichokes    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Globe Artichokes

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

January News 2019

January News 2019

Italian Oranges & Lemons    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Italian Oranges & Lemons

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

January

December ended with early new season unwaxed Italian citrus in the form of Sicilian Pink Grapefruits, Oranges and Clementine Mandarins.  And, of course, there were all the staples essential to the Christmas festivities.  We are back from the Christmas break to get your New Year off to a healthy start with plenty of fruit and vegetables including some big-hitters when it comes to delivering vitamin C.  Here is the key short-season produce you can expect to find at Puntarelle & Co in January, along with all the usual staples:

Seville Oranges for marmalade    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Seville Oranges for marmalade

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

For the first week in January, we have the first Seville Oranges of the season.  There are Blood Oranges too this week, the Spanish ones, as ever, arriving first.  Later in the month we will have Sicilian bloods for you.  Meanwhile, we do have Italian Mandarins, Clementines and Pink Grapefruit which are pretty special as it is difficult to find unwaxed Grapefruit in the UK and their skins make the most delicious candied peel.  We also have fabulous Lemons from Sicily in this first week.

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is on its way and we expect to have it the second Saturday in January.

Pomegranates are still coming in from Italy.

We have a selection of English Apples still coming from the stores of our favourite farm in Kent, and which should be available through the winter.  Some English Pears too, though they will come to an end soon as they do not store as well as apples.

Winter Lettuces    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Winter Lettuces

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Highlights on the ‘greens’ shelves this month include crunchy, mineral Italian Barba di Frate which goes so well with fish, Cima di Rapa, Broccolo Fiolare Minestra Cabbage for warming soups, bitter-leaved Chicoria and juicy Puntarelle.

There is English Rainbow Chard, Black Cabbage/Cavolo Nero, Brussels Tops, Cabbage, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Kale.

The cold weather Chicory salad leaves are arriving in greater numbers now, including the red Radicchios like Tardivo, Treviso and yellow/cream red-speckled Castelfranco.

 Camone and Marinda Tomatoes, their crunchiness and salinity should see us right through winter.  

Root Vegetables include Turnips, Parsnips, Carrots , Leeks , Celeriac and Potatoes.

London Fermentary News

Water Kefir  Photo ©Puntarelle & Co

Water Kefir Photo ©Puntarelle & Co

The fridges at Puntarelle & Co have been re-stocked with London Fermentary Ferments, including our new introduction ‘Spiced Arabica Kraut’, and Water Kefirs, in flavours of Rhubarb, Blood Orange, Sicilian Citrus.  Our next Inspirational Fermentation Course is on 16 January and is a rare opportunity to learn fermentation in one day, rather than our usual 3 sessions over 3 weeks course.  As I write there are only 3 places left.  Visit our website for how to sign up.


Ribollita    Photo and recipe ©Evie Saffron Strands

Ribollita

Photo and recipe ©Evie Saffron Strands

Our recipe this month is the perfect way to banish all memories of Christmas over-indulgence.  We may have passed the shortest day in the northern hemisphere but that only marks the start of true winter in the UK and thoughts turn to warming  soups.  With a good mix of vegetables, some beans, bread, a little cheese and a big hit of iron-rich greens, you have a whole nutritious meal in a bowl.  What's more its flavours simply get better should you have any leftovers for the following day.

The Italian word ribollita means re-cooked, or re-boiled and every area of Italy has its own version.  In Tuscany it refers to a dish of leftover minestrone (soup) with the addition of cabbage and bread. This list of ingredients is not prescriptive and if you have other vegetables to hand, it takes well to substitutions – celeriac or pumpkin, perhaps.  The soup should be quite thick and hearty.  The toasted bread can be completely submerged in the liquor, which is more traditional, or placed on top.  

Ribollita
(makes about 12 servings)

250g dried Borlotti or cannellini beans, soaked overnight, brought to the boil and simmered for 1-2 hours depending on quality, or 1 x 400g tin of beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3-4 sticks of celery, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium leeks, halved and sliced
2 medium potatoes
2 large handfuls (about 500g) of Broccoli Fiolare (minestra cabbage), cavolo nero or other cabbage, shredded
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
Water to cover
Slices of good sourdough bread or baguette
Best quality extra-virgin olive oil to serve
Parmesan

Having first prepared your beans, fry the onions carrot and celery on a medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the leeks, garlic and the potatoes and fry for a further 5 minutes.  Add the plum tomatoes, broken up, with their juice and add water (do use the cooking water from the beans if you have it) to fully cover the vegetables.  Add the cooked (or drained) beans, bring to the boil, season, then simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the cabbage and simmer for a further 15 minutes, top-up with more water if necessary but keep the soup quite thick.  Check the seasoning.

Allow the soup to cool a little to appreciate the full flavours.  When ready to serve, fill the bowls, top with toasted sourdough bread or pour the soup over the bread and add a good slick of your best olive oil.  You may want Parmesan cheese on the table. 


Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

***CHRISTMAS OPEN DATES***

We will be open at Spa Terminus Thursday 20, Friday 21 & Saturday 22 December 08.00-13.00 each day.

We will be closed between Christmas and the New Year and 

Re-open on Saturday 5 January at 08.00


We wish all our customers a Very Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2019

Brussels Sprouts    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Brussels Sprouts

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Brussels Sprouts


Brussels Sprouts are the bitterest of leaves in the Cabbage family and quite a strange looking development in the Wild Cabbage family.  Looking like elegant miniature cabbages, their small tight heads cluster around a long stalk.  It’s the plume of large leaves which shelter the rosettes that confirm the cabbage origins of the Brussels Sprout.  First mentioned in 1213, listed in market regulations, and again recorded in the 16th century on Flanders, it  seems safe to assume they were developed around Brussels.  Thomas Jefferson, after spending time in Paris as Minister to France in the 1780s, probably enjoyed them - he planted the first Brussels Sprouts in America in his Monticello garden in 1812.  It seems they took a while to catch on in Britain.  The first known recipe for Brussels Sprouts appeared in Eliza Acton’s book Modern Cookery published in 1845.  Today the Christmas Day feast is unthinkable without Brussels Sprouts on the table.

 

Sprouts are the bitterest of leaves in the Cabbage family.  Their challenging compounds – much reduced in modern day varieties - are concentrated in the centre of the sprout.  Pungent and bitter notes works as a defence against being eaten by insects and animals but, in this case, these qualities are good for us.  The mantra ‘Eat your Greens’ turns out to be good advice.  The sulfurous qualities of the cabbage family are more pronounced in warm weather and less so in winter, and frost acts as a positive sweetner.  Some cooks advocate cutting them in half before boiling to allow this bitterness to leach out – which does explain why many of us have memories of being served soggy sprouts at the Christmas table.  If you hate Brussels Sprouts, it may well be an aversion to the mushy texture of the overcooked ones you remember rather than their flavour.  


Cooked well, Brussels Sprouts have a sweet, peppery flavour.  Eat them shredded, or pulled apart into individual leaves, then briefly cooked in duck fat or oil and you may change your mind about the bitter quality of Sprouts – a spritz of lime to finish is good.  You could add sliced raw sprouts to fried bacon or pancetta and some cooked chestnuts.  

The cabbage family has an affinity with juniper and caraway.  It’s good to remember that cream, mustard, lemon, blue cheese, soy sauce or Worcestershire Sauce are good ingredients to counter any lingering sulfurousness after cooking.  If you’re still not convinced about Brussels Sprouts, try Kalettes, also known as Flower Sprouts, which are a milder flavoured brassica created by crossing Brussels Sprouts with Kale.


Don’t dismiss ‘Sprout Tops’ either.  For some, this is the best part of the plant.  Treat them as you would cabbage leaves.


Cabbages

Cabbages

Cabbage ‘January King’    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cabbage ‘January King’

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cabbages


From the sweet, loosely-packed leaves of ‘Spring’ Cabbage early in the year through tight-pointed ‘Hispi’ in the summer to the stronger flavoured, tightly-packed heads of crinkly ‘Savoy’ in winter, no wonder there are so many ways to use a Cabbage


In the wild, Cabbage originated in Mediterannean coastal areas.  Its thick, waxy leaves stand  up to the salty, sunny climate.  Wild cabbage grows by the coast in Northern France and the UK too and was eaten by the Celts before the Romans introduced cultivated varieties.  Jane Grigson describes the wild cabbage as “very nasty indeed”.   Its domestication 2,500 years turned it into a vegetable that is tolerant of cold climates and turned it from something which may have been eaten as a medicine – the old addage ‘if it tastes bad, it’s good for you’ – into palatable food.  The Cabbage family is quite various.  Members of Brassica oleracea include Kale, Black Cabbage, Collard Greens and Portuguese Tronchuda, all of which resemble the wild cabbage in that they bear separate leaves along a fairly short, thick main stem.  The Cultivated Cabbage, which we are focussing on here, forms a head of closely nested leaves at the tip of the stalk.  All have various degrees of pungent sulfurous characterists producing a bitterness that isn’t to everyone’s taste.  Children almost always dislike the taste but, like a rite of passage, most of us learn to love it.  We have to mention here Brussels Sprouts, which were developed from the cabbage.  Producing many small tight heads around a long stalk, they are the bitterest of leaves in the family.  The challenging compounds being concentrated in the centre of the sprout, many cooks advocate cutting them in half before boiling to allow this bitterness to leach out – which does explain why many of us have memories of being served soggy sprouts at the Christmas table.  There are Asian cabbages (Brassica rapa) too, Chinese Cabbage being the most obvious but including Bok Choy and its variants.


There are so many varieties of domesticated Cabbage, from smooth to deeply ridged, ranging from white through green to deep red and, in the case of the ‘January King’, eye-catching pale and dark green with purple markings.  In spring and summer the sweetness of cabbage can be appreciated eaten raw in Coleslaw. Cooked well, cabbages have great texture and a sweet, spicy flavour.  They have an affinity with juniper and caraway.  Cream tempers their bitterness.   Mustard, soy sauce or Worcestershire Sauce peps things up nicely.  


Here we have a few favourite dishes using cabbage:  Bubble and Squeak (traditionally, fried beef and cabbage), Champ (buttery mashed potatoes mixed with greens including cabbage), and Irish Colcannon (fried potatoes, cabbage and onion) being variations on a theme.  Cabbage stands up particularly well to the strong flavours of duck, pork and game.  There’s a hearty soup from southwest France called Garbure which demonstrates the virtues of long-cooked cabbage: generally cabbage, onion, leek, turnip, carrots, potatoes, salt pork or green bacon and confit duck or goose leg, it is cooked gently for anything between 2-4 hours.  The French also have Chou Farci:  stuff a whole, blanched, cabbage with fried minced pork, or chopped roasted chestnuts, and poach in a vegetable stock.  Impressive, but an easier version is to blanch individial leaves until pliable enough to use as wrapping for the stuffing then poach the parcels in stock.  And, of course, you can ferment cabbage into Sauerkraut.


As Christmas is fast approaching you might want to check out Nigel Slater’s recipe for a winter slaw ‘A slaw of red cabbage, blue cheese and walnuts’.  And here is an intriguing recipe which seems ideal for the festive season.  It’s from Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book and comes from Schleswig in Germany where it’s eaten with sausages or pork chops:


1 large firm cabbage

125ml double cream

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon


Slice and wash a firm cabbage.  Put 2cm of water in a pan and bring to the boil.  Add the cabbage and boil until just cooked (around 5-6 minutes).  Drain and cool in a colander.  Squeeze out the moisture and chop fairly finely.  Return to the pan, mix in the cream, heat through gently, season with salt and pepper.  Allow everyone to help themselves to a sprinkling of sugar/cinnamon to their own taste. 


Cabbages at Christmas    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cabbages at Christmas

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

December Seasonal News

December Seasonal News

January King Cabbage    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

January King Cabbage

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

December


Through November our shelves groaned with the weight of English Apples and Pears and colourful Crab Apple branches decorated the arch.  Pumpkin Squash varieties increased and nutty-flavoured Fenland Celery arrived for its short season.  A touch of early frost brought good flavour to Cabbages but we were happy too for the warmth of Italy where our Persimmons and Pomegranates had been grown.  


It’s now three short weeks to Christmas so, with your festive shopping needs in mind, our December Report concentrates on the zesty, tasty and colourful must-haves to take us into the holidays.  It’s definitely looking and smelling like Christmas here in our Spa Terminus arch. Here is the key short-season produce you can expect to find at Puntarelle & Co between now and Christmas along with all the usual staples:

Italian Citrus    Photo ©Puntarelle@CO

Italian Citrus

Photo ©Puntarelle@CO

Sicilian Grapefruits    Photo ©Puntarelle & Co

Sicilian Grapefruits

Photo ©Puntarelle & Co

Just arrived and filling the arch with zesty, festive aromas is our Citrus delivery from Italy.  Novelino Oranges are now perfectly sweet and juicy; the earlier delivery was a little underripe for our taste.  

We have our first, and only, delivery of new season unwaxed Sicilian Pink Grapefruits.  These are pretty special as it is difficult to find unwaxed Grapefruits in the UK.  The skins make the most delicious candied peel.  Get them while you can.

We have sweet, juicy Nova Clementine Mandarins too.  In our opinion, a box would make a wonderful Christmas present.  

Cavolo Nero/Black Cabbage    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cavolo Nero/Black Cabbage

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

British grown greens are benefitting from the colder weather and we are getting particularly good Cabbages including purple/green hued January King, crinkle-leaved Savoy, juicy Red Cabbage and earthy Black Cabbage/Cavolo Nero.  Also expect to find Brussels Sprouts, Sprout Tops and Kalettes.  More greens available through to Christmas include Cima di Rapa, and heads of Puntarelle with their juicy centres that are perfect for salads (particularly with anchovies) and beautifully bitter outer leaves for adding to soups and stews.

Sicilian Flat Onions    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Sicilian Flat Onions

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Root vegetable offerings are Parsnips, Swede, Turnips, Salsify and several varieties of Potatoes are here.  Carrots too, including easy to prepare baby Heritage and the French Sand-grown Carrots which are sweet and store really well.  Silky-textured British Leeks are alongside sweet, flat Sicilian OnionsCipolla Ramata - that are so good roasted whole. 


Castelfranco Radicchio    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Castelfranco Radicchio

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

For salads, new season Chicories are arriving, including members of the Endive group like large-leaved Escarole and tight-leaved Belgian Endive along with some of the Radicchio group - Tardivo whose red and white leaves curl into a twist at the top, looser-leaved Treviso and yellow, red-speckled Castelfranco which is the mildest of the bitter-leaved chicories.   


We have Cranberries, both fresh and dried, Vacuum-packed Chestnuts, Walnuts in their shells and a selection of other Nuts and Dried Fruits.

Christmas specials from London Fermentary

Christmas specials from London Fermentary

London Fermentary news:

As usual we have a range of Water Kefir flavours in our fridges but, for Christmas, we have created two special edition Water Kefirs available in one-litre bottles.  You can choose between flavours of Mulled Wine or Mince Pie, both created with a mix of warming and uplifting natural seasonal spices.  We will also have our Cranberry and Chilli Water Kefir available in the run-up to Christmas for those who like their Water Kefir hot!  We also have a Fermented Sauce made from fresh and dry cranberries fermented with chilli and garlic.  These are worth considering when you are looking for the perfect present for a food lover.


Our recipe suggestion this month is the perfect solution to when you just want a little something, rather than yet another big Christmas meal.  It uses Leeks, which are very much in season, for a delicious take on the dish ‘Welsh Rarebit’.  This recipe is based on the one in Rosie Sykes’ The Sunday Night Book which is full of easy, comforting recipes.  This one has a kick of mustard to wake up a jaded palate.


Leeks with Caerphilly and mustard    made according to the recipe in The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes    Photo and recipe ©Evie Saffron Strands

Leeks with Caerphilly and mustard

made according to the recipe in The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes

Photo and recipe ©Evie Saffron Strands

Leeks with Caerphilly and mustard

(serves 2)


2 medium size leeks

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 few sprigs of thyme

1-2 tablespoons grain mustard

100g grated Caerphilly cheese

2 thick slices of bread

1 clove of garlic

Salt and pepper

Ketchup or chutney to serve (optional)


Trim and cut the leeks into 2cm slices, wash well.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan with a lid on medium heat, add leeks, thyme and 3 tablespoons of water, salt and pepper.  Stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the leeks are very tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking (add a little more water if necessary to soften but you want them just juicy, not watery).  

Pre-heat your grill.  

Lift out the thyme sprigs and stir the mustard and cheese into the leeks. 

Toast the bread lightly, both sides.  Rub one side with the cut garlic clove.  Pile the leek and cheese mixture on top and toast under the grill until it bubbles and starts to brown.




***CHRISTMAS OPEN DATES***

We will be open at Spa Terminus Thursday 20, Friday 21 & Saturday 22 December 08.00-13.00 each day.

We will be closed between Christmas and the New Year and 

Re-open on Saturday 5 January at 08.00


Leeks

Leeks

English Leeks    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

English Leeks

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Leeks


Leeks are very tolerant of cold and, in the UK, can be harvested throughout the winter.  Mounding up the soil around the leaves as they grow – which is why you should always wash leeks well - results in an increase in the prized white portion but all parts of the Leek can be eaten, including the roots.  A member of the Onion (Allium) family, which includes shallots, onions, garlic, chives and ramson, it’s the inner leaves and roots of the Leek which have the strongest flavour.  The dark green tops tend to be tougher and have more of a brassica-like flavour which makes them valuable for adding to soups and stews.  If you’re looking for herbs to go with leeks, think of tarragon, chervil or thyme.  And if the leeks you buy still have their roots, they are delicious pickled or fermented , like London Fermentary’s  “Luscious Leeks”.


Members of the onion family share a strong, often pungent, sulphurous flavour when raw - garlic in particular.  These are excellent qualities when it comes to deterring animals from eating the plants.  Cooking transforms this chemical defence into a savoury, almost meaty quality which is valued by many cultures in in thousands of dishes.  The cooking method and temperature affect the flavour balance of alliums.  Cooking at high temperatures in fat produces a stronger flavour while baking and drying generate trisulfides which have the characteristic notes of overcooked cabbage, and pickling results in relatively mild flavours.


Nigel Slater describes the Leek as “the onion’s refined sister” … “for the times you want the latter’s silken texture but less of its bold sweetness”.  Leeks cook best in butter.  Sliced thinly and cooked until soft and lustrous, they are delicious added to a bowl of steamed mussels; add a little cream to leeks cooked in butter and you have the filling for Flamiche, or Flemish Leek Pie, which is encased in puff pastry;  chicken and leeks make a very good marriage as a creamy filling for a pie or in a brothy soup or stew; creamed leeks partner beautifully with smoked haddock, top off with mashed potato.  You can briefly boil whole small leeks until tender, drain them and top with a dressing of shallots, vinegar and oil with cornichon and chopped hard boiled eggs and you have Leeks Gribiche.


Leeks love cheese you can serve them gratineed – boil the leeks for 3-4 minutes until just tender, drain well, place in a shallow buttered dish, make a cheese sauce and pour over, top with a little more grated cheese and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes.  There’s Leek and Potato soup, of course, or a Scottish cock-a-leekie soup, both perfect winter warmers.  In Rosie Syke’s book, The Sunday Night Book, there is a delicious take on Welsh Rarebit using leeks and Caerphilly cheese.  Check out our next Monthly Report, which will be out on 6 December, for how to make it.

Leeks with mustard and Caerphilly    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Leeks with mustard and Caerphilly

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Sicilian Red Pomegranates    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Sicilian Red Pomegranates

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Pomegranates


The word Pomegranate means ‘apple with many seeds’.  Cut into it and you find what Jane Grigson describes as “a closet of juicy seeds”, the fruitlets nestled in seemingly randomly arranged clusters separated by a creamy-white membrane.    Skin colour can vary according to variety, from ivory to gold and pink, through deep red to maroon.  Seeds, too, vary from white to deep wine-red, their colour being a guide to the balance of acidity (white) and sweetness (red), though Pomegranates can be sweet, tart, and often astringent, all at once.  They are packed with beneficial anthocyanins and antioxidants.  


As the seeds of the fruitlets are so prominent, they are often juiced for drinking or cooked down to make a syrup or molasses.  The juice can also be fermented into wine.  In northern India, they are dried and ground for use as an acidifying powder.  Juicing the whole fruit, rather than just the seeds, makes it much more tannic.  In fact, the rind of the fruit is so rich in tannins that it was once used for tanning leather.


Pomegranates are native to arid and semi-arid regions of the Mediterranean and Western Asia.  They need a very hot and dry climate to ripen fully and are now commercially grown in countries like Iran, Turkey, India, China, North Africa, Sicily, Spain and the Central Valley of California.


Choose fruits that are heavy for their size as they will have more seeds and less membrane.  Pomegranate juice is good for tenderising meat and the seeds add colour, flavour and texture to salads and desserts.  Scatter the seeds over a green salad with grilled spatchcocked quail, duck breast or lamb chops; the Barrafina cookbook suggests making a dressing from oil and pomegranate juice to dress chicory, and serving it with mojama (wind-dried tuna) and some seeds of the fruit; Jose Pizarro, in his book Seasonal Spanish Food, scatters the seeds over a smoked beef salad; and in Brindisa – The True Food of Spain, Monika Linton has a luscious-looking recipe for slow-cooked pheasant with sweet aubergine and pomegranate.  The juice can also be frozen to make a wonderful granita.  Kitty Travers, in her book, La Grotta Ices combines the juice of pomegranate with bitter orange for a deep, dark granita ice that can be tempered, if you like, by a spoonful of zest-spiked whipped cream.


How to de-seed a Pomegranate?  There are >29 million entries on the Internet.  It’s really not that difficult!


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Persimmons

Persimmons

Ripe and almost fully ripe Persimmons    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands       Persimmons      You need to know that not all  Persimmons  are the same. The orange tomato-like fruit,  Diospyros kaki , originated in China and thereafter became highly valued in Japan at least a thousand years ago. They fall into two types: the astringent  hachiya  persimmon and the non-astringent ones like  fuyu  or  Jiro . You sometimes see persimmons labelled as  Kaki  or  Sharon  to identify them as the non-astringent persimmon developed in the Israeli Sharron Valley (though these days much of that commercial crop is grown in Spain). The non-astringent fruits can be eaten at any stage from firm (good used sliced in salads or baked), through to soft, when they can be eaten uncooked as a dessert.     The astringent  hachiya  persimmon, on the other hand, is way too sharp to eat until the juicy, almost jellied flesh is practically bursting out of its skin. They tend to be larger than their cousins. The plum-like shape settles into a voluptuous round when very ripe. Whenever possible, we buy persimmons from Italy where they are known as Cacchi. Late October to December is their season. Sometimes they arrive still a little firm, which means our customers need to keep them a week or so until they ripen. At other times they come through our doors at their ripe, honeyed best, nestled in protective trays, looking like translucent deep-amber jelly bombs. Handle with care!     In Italy, the provinces of Salerno, Napoli and Caserta are particularly persimmon growing regions. The writer Patience Gray, in her book Honey from a Weed, writing in the 1980s, describes the persimmon trees being of “great splendour”, their fruits pale green turning to “burning gold remaining on the tree long after its leaves have fallen”. She remembers the Tiber Valley and the valleys between Naples and Benevento being illuminated by them in late autumn. Gray also recounts being told how, in Japan, some fruits are left on the tree deliberately until the frosts arrive and turn the soft pulp into instant sorbet. And dried persimmons have long been an integral part of traditional Japanese New Year celebrations.     There is a smaller, plum-sized, variety of Persimmon native to America –  Diospyros virginiana  – which, when found growing in the wild by settlers, was described as like a medlar or sorb which must be left to break down until soft and pulpy. It was then commonly used in stewed fruit puddings. There’s a Mexican persimmon too, known as the  black sapote or black persimmon , also known as the  chocolate pudding fruit  for its taste resemblance.     With both main types of persimmon we see here, when ripe, you need do very little to them. You can peel the ripe fruits and freeze the pulp for a sorbet – no added sugar required. The pulp also makes a good base for a steamed sponge pudding or can be used wherever a thick fruit puree is needed – a fool or mousse for instance. But best of all, if you have a persimmon at bursting point, is just to slice the fruit in half and dip your spoon in – maybe adding a little cream.

Ripe and almost fully ripe Persimmons

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands


Persimmons


You need to know that not all Persimmons are the same. The orange tomato-like fruit, Diospyros kaki, originated in China and thereafter became highly valued in Japan at least a thousand years ago. They fall into two types: the astringent hachiya persimmon and the non-astringent ones like fuyu or Jiro. You sometimes see persimmons labelled as Kaki or Sharon to identify them as the non-astringent persimmon developed in the Israeli Sharron Valley (though these days much of that commercial crop is grown in Spain). The non-astringent fruits can be eaten at any stage from firm (good used sliced in salads or baked), through to soft, when they can be eaten uncooked as a dessert.


The astringent hachiya persimmon, on the other hand, is way too sharp to eat until the juicy, almost jellied flesh is practically bursting out of its skin. They tend to be larger than their cousins. The plum-like shape settles into a voluptuous round when very ripe. Whenever possible, we buy persimmons from Italy where they are known as Cacchi. Late October to December is their season. Sometimes they arrive still a little firm, which means our customers need to keep them a week or so until they ripen. At other times they come through our doors at their ripe, honeyed best, nestled in protective trays, looking like translucent deep-amber jelly bombs. Handle with care!


In Italy, the provinces of Salerno, Napoli and Caserta are particularly persimmon growing regions. The writer Patience Gray, in her book Honey from a Weed, writing in the 1980s, describes the persimmon trees being of “great splendour”, their fruits pale green turning to “burning gold remaining on the tree long after its leaves have fallen”. She remembers the Tiber Valley and the valleys between Naples and Benevento being illuminated by them in late autumn. Gray also recounts being told how, in Japan, some fruits are left on the tree deliberately until the frosts arrive and turn the soft pulp into instant sorbet. And dried persimmons have long been an integral part of traditional Japanese New Year celebrations.


There is a smaller, plum-sized, variety of Persimmon native to America – Diospyros virginiana – which, when found growing in the wild by settlers, was described as like a medlar or sorb which must be left to break down until soft and pulpy. It was then commonly used in stewed fruit puddings. There’s a Mexican persimmon too, known as the black sapote or black persimmon, also known as the chocolate pudding fruit for its taste resemblance.


With both main types of persimmon we see here, when ripe, you need do very little to them. You can peel the ripe fruits and freeze the pulp for a sorbet – no added sugar required. The pulp also makes a good base for a steamed sponge pudding or can be used wherever a thick fruit puree is needed – a fool or mousse for instance. But best of all, if you have a persimmon at bursting point, is just to slice the fruit in half and dip your spoon in – maybe adding a little cream.


Seasonal news November

Seasonal news November

November


Autumn finally arrived here in the UK in the last week of October.  The unseasonably warm, sunny days have been tempered by brisk northerly winds, though blue skies  and sunshine haven’t totally abandoned our isles.  Here at Puntarelle & Co we see the change of seasons clearly, and not just in the chill morning start to our day.  Our choice of fruits is paired-back now.  Yes, we could select southern hemisphere strawberries and peaches but we choose not to.  Our customers recognise and appreciate the seasonal shift in foods and so do we.  And there is so much to enjoy through November.  


Here is the key short-season produce you can expect to find at Puntarelle & Co this month along with all the usual staples:

Rainbow Chard    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Rainbow Chard

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

British Produce

Apples from brothers Ken and John, who grow fruit on our favoured farm in Kent and have been topping off our fruit crates with the most beautiful boughs of crab apples this year.

Pears, from the same source, include Doyenne du Comice and Conference. 

The English Quince crop is outstanding this year.  The weather has suited them particularly well producing large, good-keeping fruits.  We expect to have some of the French crop soon too.  

Our display of Organic varieties of Pumpkin and Winter Squash is growing by the day.  Click on the link to our focus piece from last year to find your favourite. 

Sweet, nutty Fenland Celery has arrived this week. It will be with us for just a few short weeks.

Our favourite greens at this time of year has to be Rainbow Chard , its vibrant stems of orange, pinks and reds are standing out amongst the Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Cavolo Nero/Black Cabbage.  Though the colourful Kale varieties are giving some competition for colour so early in their season. 

Cabbages have had their first nips of frost, making Primo, Red and White all taste fantastic now and you can expect to see Brussels Tops and Brussels Sprouts right through the cold months along with Heritage Carrots, Parsnips, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Turnips.  

Potatoes at the moment are waxy Pink Fir Apple, King Edwards for roasting and mashing and Cyprus which is a good all-rounder.

We have small amounts of Chanterelles and Girolles Mushrooms from Scotland. 

Sicilian Pomegranates    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Sicilian Pomegranates

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Italian Produce

We are getting beautiful Sicilian Pomegranates this year, large and sweet/sharp juicy with great colour.

Flavourful Fennel is coming directly from Verona right now.  

Hard to believe but we are still getting crunchy Romano Courgettes and some tasty Sorrento Tomatoes as I write this at the very start of November.  

Beautiful Persimmons are arriving from Italy now, some perfectly ripe which are very difficult to transport, and others which need only a week in a warm kitchen to come to perfection.

Fragrant, zingy Bergamots began arriving in late October and we expect to have them throughout November

The bitter cold-weather leaves are now arriving.  Mildly bitter, juicy Puntarelle is in, so good served with an anchovy sauce. Broad-leaved Cima di Rapa and Chicoria, with its dandelion-like leaves began arriving in late October.  Both great winter greens to serve up alongside our English root vegetables.

We have sweet-fleshed Delica Squash in now.  They have a rich, nutty flavour and are very plentiful.  

We always look forward to the varieties of Chicory leaf that begin to arrive after the first cold snaps.  Expect to see green/yellow Endives like curly Frisee, large floppy-headed Escarole alongside colourful Radicchios like speckled Castelfranco, deep red leaved Tardivo and Treviso and the pink Rose Radicchio from November onwards.

On the Citrus front, apart from Bergamots and some Miyagawa Mandarins, we are receiving new season Navelina oranges but we will have to wait till December for the blood orange season to get going.

Seasonal specials this month are: Fresh Cranberries, Walnuts in their shells and vacuum-packed chestnuts.

Puntarelle & Co News:

We have been concerned for some time about the amount of packaging there is in our dry goods section.  We recognise that, like most food businesses, we still have a lot to do to get to where we want to be on the sustainability front.  Visits to Italy, where dried pulses are often sold scooped from the sack rather than pre-packed, have inspired us to do the same.  A visit to Puglia this August, where selling loose pulses is commonplace, provided us with the spur to adopt this more sustainable model. We have sourced Italian grown beans, rice and grains which our customers will now be able to scoop-up in the quantities they want into reusable bags.

We are also pleased to announce that we have sourced our first organic cold-pressed olive oil from Campania / Italy, by Bufano olive oil mill. This oil has been bottled specially for us by .  We should have this for sale the second week in November.

London Fermentary news:

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We are very happy with how London Fermentary is developing and excited to announce that we have nutritionist Olga Bonde joining our team.  She will be working with us on production and as a consultant to help us develop our brand.  

Some of you will already have met Oona who has been running customer tastings every Saturday morning for the past few weeks.  Please pop in to try our fermented food and drinks between 09.00-13.00.  


Our Inspirational Fermentation Courses are proving to be a great success so we have developed a ONE full-day workshop for people who cannot commit to the 3-week course.  The first course will run on 16 January 2019.  Click to find out.

Seasonal Water Kefirs this month include:

Apple, Beet & Ginger

Honey & Camomile (with a hint of ginger and turmeric for their healing properties)

Bergamot & Orange

Lemon & Juniper

Quince & Calendula

Pomegranate & Rose Petals

The english Apple crop is so good this year, not only is it plentiful but the fruits are crisp and delicious throughout the varieties.  So, this month we have a recipe for using these fantastic seasonal fruits.

Buckwheat Pancakes with apples, raisins and walnuts    Photo and recipe ©Evie Saffron Strands

Buckwheat Pancakes with apples, raisins and walnuts

Photo and recipe ©Evie Saffron Strands

Buckwheat pancakes with apples

For the filling:
About 500g of warm apple compote + a few raisins
(peeled and chopped apples – whatever you have -  cooked down with a knob of butter and sugar to taste.  Add a handful of raisins while the apple is still hot)
A handful of shelled walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

For the pancakes:

(pancake mixture makes around 12 x 20cm thin pancakes)

120g buckwheat flour
50g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 medium egg
175ml full cream milk + 175ml water
30g melted butter


Combine the flours and salt.  Make a well in the centre and add the egg and a little milk then start to draw in the dry ingredients to the wet, adding more of the milk and water gradually until you have a smooth batter.  Add the melted butter and mix in.
 
Lightly butter a 20cm heavy-based frying pan and heat to medium-hot.  Keep the heat at this level throughout.  Pour in enough pancake mixture to quickly swirl it around the pan and lightly coat it and cook until the underside is lightly browned. This is a sacrificial one as the first pancake is always poor so discard it.  Add just a little butter before cooking each pancake.  Pour about 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the pan and quickly swirl it around the pan to coat it thinly.  Brown lightly and turn the pancake to lightly brown the other side.  Repeat the process and when each pancake is light browned on both sides add it to a plate and keep warm in a low oven until you have used up all the mixture.

Spoon a heaped tablespoon of the warm apple and raisin compote onto each pancake and add some of the chopped walnuts folding the pancakes over.  Serve with cream.