July News 2019

July News 2019

English Gooseberries and Strawberries    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

English Gooseberries and Strawberries

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

July 

July brings the sensuous stone fruits from France and Italy.  Apricots, Nectarines and Peaches – white, yellow and blood – arrive in abundance, their flavour boosted by hot sunny days.  English Cherries come through our doors, their variety changing from week to week.  There are English Raspberries and Strawberries, of course, and fragrant French Melons to cool us on hot summer days.  From Brittany comes the fresh haricot bean Coco de Paimpol (Coco Bean) and the longed for meaty, juicy Cuore di Bue (Ox Heart) and Vesuvio Tomatoes.  


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


Percocha Peaches    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Percocha Peaches

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

We love our fruits from France, Sicily and other parts of Italy.  They are all in their sun-ripened glory in July.  We have Nectarines and Peaches - yellow, white, blood, flat and orange-fleshed Percocha peaches which are so good for cooking and preserving. 

Apricots from Southern Italy and, later we hope for some French Bergeron apricots. 

A variety of Melons from France and Italy, fragrant and heavy with juice.

Plump Green Fioroni Figs (Pigeon Figs) from Puglia.  

Strawberries reach their peak in July there are Raspberries too from our Kent grower.  We also get Gooseberries and Blackberries direct from the same farm.  

This is the month of English Blackcurrants and Redcurrants too.

English Cherries are starting to arrive, taking over from the lovely French and Italian ones.  The English harvest lasts for around six weeks.

Vesuvius Tomatoes    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Vesuvius Tomatoes

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

English Peas, Broad Beans and Runner Beans.

We start to move into the British Sweetcorn season in July, taking over from the French corn cobs.

July brings fresh haricot beans Coco de Paimpol (Coco Beans) from Brittany and creamy, red-splashed Borlotti Beans.

Herbs are in their prime too, including Ligurian Basil, Tarragon and Lemon Verbena.

Different varieties of Aubergines.

We expect to get particularly good sun-ripened Italian Ox-Heart Tomatoes (Cuore di Bue) and Vesuvius tomatoes, both varieties are meaty, juicy and very delicious

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London Fermentary News

July is an inspiring time for the London Fermentary side of our business.  You can expect seasonal vegetable ferments like our Giardiniera and Ocean Slaw which makes delicious use of Cornish Seaweed.   You can expect to find Water Kefir flavours like Elderflower, Summer Raspberry, Peach & Verbena, Apricot & Raspberry.  Later in the month we will be creating a Blackcurrant Water Kefir, and a Cherry one too, of course.

Visit www.londonfermentary.com 


Cherries with almonds & Sabayon    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cherries with almonds & Sabayon

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

This is an easy recipe from Evie’s blog for turning ripe cherries into a more special dessert.  

Sabayon is so easy to make.  It takes only 2 minutes of whisking with an electric whisk if you want a warm frothy sauce to eat immediately, 5 minutes to produce a 'creamier' one. If you want to make it up to an hour ahead (the one in the photograph above), you just need to keep whisking it off the heat until it has cooled.  This stops it separating before you get to eat it.

Cherries with almonds & Sabayon sauce
(Serves 4)

300g cherries
2 tablespoons elderflower cordial
1-2 teaspoons caster sugar
4-5 almonds

For the Sabayon:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons sweet white wine, Marsala or elderflower cordial

Wash, halve and de-stone the cherries over a bowl.  Add the Elderflower cordial and sugar.  Allow to macerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the Sabayon, put all three ingredients in a heatproof bowl.  Place over a pan of just simmering water so that the bowl is not touching the water.  Whisk for about 2 minutes until pale and uniformly frothy - at this point you could serve it immediately as a warm sauce. 

For a 'lightly-whipped single cream' consistency for immediate serving, continue whisking over the pan for another 4-5 minutes.

If you want the sauce to stand for an hour without separating, take the bowl off the heat and continue whisking for a further 4-5 minutes until the mixture has cooled and thickened a little more. 
Drain the fruit and serve - sauce or fruit first is up to you.  Top with slivers of almond and a sprig or two of mint.

June News 2019

June News 2019

Stone fruits    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Stone fruits

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

JUNE 

The month of June is laden with expectations.  Soft fruits are in their prime and the range of stone fruits starts to increase.  Strawberries go from a couple of early varieties from southern Europe to English abundance, Raspberries and Gooseberries arrive and Apricots turn from good-for-jam to sweet enough to pick up and eat.  Rainier Cherries from France start the season and there are English Cherries to look forward to. This month we turn more to our local growers.  English Asparagus is still king, but there are sweet English Peas, Broad Beans and small crunchy Cucumbers coming through our doors. There are also cooling Melons from France and, hopefully, luscious Green Figs from Italy.  And there are Herbs aplenty this month. 

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

Ligurian Basil    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Ligurian Basil

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Asparagus from our Kent grower continues into June.

Artichokes, Peas, Broad Beans, Cucumbers, Radishes, Spring. Onions and Spinach start to come from the UK rather than the rest of Europe.  

We welcome more varieties of sun-ripened Tomatoes from Italy and southern France.

Lots of Herbs including English-grown – Mint, Coriander, Parsley and Dill in particular this month.

From Italy comes Green and Purple Ligurian Basil and Lemon Verbena from France

Tropea Onions & Heritage Radishes    Photo ©Puntarelle&Co

Tropea Onions & Heritage Radishes

Photo ©Puntarelle&Co

There are Italian Borlotti Beans and Courgettes Round, Romano, Yellow and Green.

French Grelot Onions, Italian Tropea Onions and English Spring Onions

Early Corn-on-the-Cob arrives from France.

English Strawberries, Raspberries and the first of the Gooseberries arrive.

There are French Rainier Cherries and the English Cherries arrive late in the month

Tomatoes    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Tomatoes

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Small red/yellow Watermelons, Cantaloupe Melons and new season Sicilian Green Lemons - prized in particular for their highly fragrant zest.

White and Blood varieties of both Peaches and Nectarines (pêche de vigne & nectavigne) start to arrive.  

Apricots start to arrive from Spain in May but June sees riper, sweeter and juicier fruits arriving from France and Italy.  

Green Almonds in their furry coats sometimes arrive from France this month and we’ll be on the lookout for luscious pale-fleshed Italian Green Figs.  

Water Kefirs    Photo ©London Fermentary

Water Kefirs

Photo ©London Fermentary

NEWS:

In case you haven’t yet spotted it, we now have a small La Grotta Ices freezer so you can buy Kitty Travers’ very special ice creams every Saturday at the Puntarelle & Co arch.  It’s re-stocked every week by Kitty with her ever-changing seasonal ice cream and sorbet flavours.  


Our London Fermentary fridges are nearby stocked with seasonal ferments including our very popular Water Kefirs.  Expect flavours like Elderflower & Lemon, Summer Raspberry, Apricot and later in the month Peach & Lemon Verbena.

SEASONAL RECIPE:

We’ve mentioned this recipe for Apricots before but as the Apricot season is underway, and it’s such a good one, it’s the perfect time to point you to it again.  It comes from one of our favourite food books Honey & Co: The Baking Book by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich.  

Baked Apricots with marzipan filling & almond crumble    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Baked Apricots with marzipan filling & almond crumble

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Baked Apricots with marzipan filling 

& almond crumble

(Serves 6)


12 ripe apricots

120g marzipan

60g soft butter

100g demerara sugar


For the crumble:

100g almonds, roughly chopped

20g sesame seeds

a pinch of fennel seeds

a pinch of ground mahleb or cardamom

a pinch of sea salt

50g runny honey

1 tsp oil


Cream to serve


Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan).

Cut the marzipan into 12 pieces.  Partially halve the fruits and remove the stones.  Stuff each fruit with a slice of marzipan and reclose it.  Brush each with soft butter and roll in demerara sugar before roasting for around 10 minutes until soft.  Mix the crumble topping ingredients and spread it thinly on a baking tray.  Roast in the oven until crisp.  Serve two apricots per person, with cream (their suggestion is for a 50/50 mix of double and soured cream whipped with a little brandy) and scatter some crumble over the top.   

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Italian Ridged Cucumbers    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands    Cucumbers   The first cucumbers were cultivated in India around 3,500 years ago. It took a thousand years for cultivation to reach as far as the Mediterranean region. Now, the Cucumber is the second most valued  Cucurbit  (member of the gourd family) throughout the world – the first being the watermelon. The cucumber is around 95% water (the watermelon around 92%) but both are good sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Unsurprisingly, both are at their refreshing best eaten raw and cool. The larger a cucumber grows the milder it gets and the higher its natural sugar content becomes – though this is a modest 1-2%.    With older varieties of cucumber, the male flowers needed to be removed to prevent a bitter flavour developing but that astringency has been bred out of modern varieties. Breeders too have taken out the ‘windy’ element associated with older types - ‘Burpless’ varieties are the norm now.  Fermented Cucumbers, or Acidified Pickled Cucumbers which produces a less complex flavoured pickle, are better made with small, thicker-skinned varieties of cucumber. We buy Eastern European grown ones especially for this treatment as they stand up to the ‘pickle’ solutions without turning to mush as thin-skinned types do. Marinating them in a sweet dill pickle is the easiest of methods for preserving them when they are at their best. There are also ‘Armenian Cucumbers’, which are actually a form of African melon, and their relative the Gherkin whose true fruits are quite rounded.  The subtle, grassy, flavour and melon-like aroma of Cucumber is well matched to dill, both the green herb and the seed which is well known for its digestive properties. Scattering borage flowers on a cucumber salad deepens its flavour, as well as making it look beautiful, whereas a sprig of mint contrasts. Cucumber has an affinity with soft, creamy cheeses and yoghurt. It can also be paired with its close relative the melon, especially the green-fleshed Galia type, in a cold soup or salad. There’s ‘Salad Elona’ which calls for slices of cucumber and strawberries to be seasoned with salt, pepper and sugar and a little dry white wine or wine vinegar. Or you can make a Cucumber salad by marinating thinly sliced shallot in lemon juice for 15 minutes, whisking in olive oil then pouring this over thinly sliced cucumbers. Serve with yoghurt and mint.  You can cook with cucumber. If you are including it in a sauce you might want to salt it first to draw out some of the water. There are recipes for creamy Cucumber soups to be served hot, and brothy versions to be served chilled. For an accompaniment to baked or poached fish, sauté diced cucumber, peeled or unpeeled, in a little butter until just tender, add salt and pepper, diced tomatoes and chervil or dill fronds.

Italian Ridged Cucumbers

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Cucumbers

The first cucumbers were cultivated in India around 3,500 years ago. It took a thousand years for cultivation to reach as far as the Mediterranean region. Now, the Cucumber is the second most valued Cucurbit (member of the gourd family) throughout the world – the first being the watermelon. The cucumber is around 95% water (the watermelon around 92%) but both are good sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Unsurprisingly, both are at their refreshing best eaten raw and cool. The larger a cucumber grows the milder it gets and the higher its natural sugar content becomes – though this is a modest 1-2%.

With older varieties of cucumber, the male flowers needed to be removed to prevent a bitter flavour developing but that astringency has been bred out of modern varieties. Breeders too have taken out the ‘windy’ element associated with older types - ‘Burpless’ varieties are the norm now.

Fermented Cucumbers, or Acidified Pickled Cucumbers which produces a less complex flavoured pickle, are better made with small, thicker-skinned varieties of cucumber. We buy Eastern European grown ones especially for this treatment as they stand up to the ‘pickle’ solutions without turning to mush as thin-skinned types do. Marinating them in a sweet dill pickle is the easiest of methods for preserving them when they are at their best. There are also ‘Armenian Cucumbers’, which are actually a form of African melon, and their relative the Gherkin whose true fruits are quite rounded.

The subtle, grassy, flavour and melon-like aroma of Cucumber is well matched to dill, both the green herb and the seed which is well known for its digestive properties. Scattering borage flowers on a cucumber salad deepens its flavour, as well as making it look beautiful, whereas a sprig of mint contrasts. Cucumber has an affinity with soft, creamy cheeses and yoghurt. It can also be paired with its close relative the melon, especially the green-fleshed Galia type, in a cold soup or salad. There’s ‘Salad Elona’ which calls for slices of cucumber and strawberries to be seasoned with salt, pepper and sugar and a little dry white wine or wine vinegar. Or you can make a Cucumber salad by marinating thinly sliced shallot in lemon juice for 15 minutes, whisking in olive oil then pouring this over thinly sliced cucumbers. Serve with yoghurt and mint.

You can cook with cucumber. If you are including it in a sauce you might want to salt it first to draw out some of the water. There are recipes for creamy Cucumber soups to be served hot, and brothy versions to be served chilled. For an accompaniment to baked or poached fish, sauté diced cucumber, peeled or unpeeled, in a little butter until just tender, add salt and pepper, diced tomatoes and chervil or dill fronds.

English Cucumbers    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

English Cucumbers

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

May News 2019

May News 2019

Ligurian Basil    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Ligurian Basil

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

MAY 

 

Although May can be an unreliable month for weather, spring produce truly arrives this month.  April’s Wild Garlic flowers and fades, outdoor-grown Rhubarb knocks the Forced variety off its perch, and it’s the month the unbeatable Alphonso Mangoes from India are at their peak.  This is also the month of juicy, peppery spring Radishes, crunchy small Cucumbers, English Watercress and Spring Onions.  Fruit from Europe is moving from Citrus to soft fruits like Strawberries, and the first stone fruits in the form of Nespole (loquats) are arriving.  Maybe there will also be Apricots soon.  The Broad Beans, Peas and Wet Garlic from France and Italy are followed a little later by the English crops.  And, of course, there’s English Asparagus, which we bring to you direct from the Kent countryside.


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

English Asparagus    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

English Asparagus

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

There are earthy, saline Jersey Royal Potatoes still and versatile Cornish Potatoes.

Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring Nettle Tops, we get both English and French (bag with care!).

Perhaps some late English Wild Garlic leaves.

Watercress from our preferred English grower, Kingfisher. 

Italian Tropea Onions and French Grelot Onions.

UK-grown sweet, juicy Cucumbers and mild, crunchy Spring Onions

Italian Ridged Cucumbers which are so good for fermenting and pickling.

From Italy, Romano and Tondo Courgettes

From our Kent Grower, English green Asparagus, both fat-speared and thin sprue.  Also European purple and white Asparagus varieties.

New Spring season Rainbow Chard from Italy.  

Italian Peas and Broad Beans.

Lemon Verbena    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Lemon Verbena

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Fat, sweet, stems of Wet Garlic from France before the English is ready (don’t forget most of the stalk is useable too.

Outdoor-grown Rhubarb, picked up from our preferred farmer in Kent, who also grows our Asparagus.

French Heritage Tomatoes along with large Pineapple Tomatoes.  Later in the month we look forward to large Provence Tomatoes too. 

Colourful spring varieties of Radish.

Cool weather harvests of bitter Radicchio and Chicories like Puntarelle and Cime de Rapa from Italy are falling away but there are Aubergines , Peppers and Tropea Onions.  There are fat bulbs of Italian Fennel still.

Spinach varieties, the Italian arriving cut with their rosettes intact.

New season Aubergines from Italy.

Italian Green and Purple Artichokes, large and small.  

Early in the month there could be Morel Mushrooms still.

First Italian Cherries    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

First Italian Cherries

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Strawberries from France and Italy.  The English ones could be with us towards the end of the month.

It’s a lean time for European fruits but the Nespole from Italy support the early Strawberries.

Alphonso Mangoes from India too.

Given the right weather conditions we can expect to see Apricots and we may see Cherries arriving.

Nespole/Loquats    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Nespole/Loquats

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Focus on:


Nespole arrive from Italy.  In early spring, just as our stores of apples are emptying and before maincrop strawberries come good, they are a welcome sight.  Looking a little like apricots, they can be smooth or slightly downy-skinned and vary from yellow to orange.  They have a succulent flesh, a little tart, a little sweet with a tropical fragrance.  They are a fragile fruit that keep only a couple of days at room temperature but up to a week in a cool place.  They can be poached in sugar syrup and simply served with yogurt or ice cream, or added to a fruit salad.  Under-ripe fruits make good jam and jelly, or chutney which goes well with fatty meats like roast pork.  

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Raw Asparagus Salad

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands


The early English Asparagus from our Kent grower is wonderful eaten raw.  Here is a recipe, inspired by our friends at 40 Maltby Street, celebrating the early spears.  It also makes a little go a long way.  


Raw Asparagus Salad

(Serves 4 as a starter)


8-12 asparagus spears
A handful of pea-shoots

A few mint leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus.  Cut a diagonal slice off the bottom of each spear then slice them thinly.  Add salt and pepper to the lemon juice and mix.  Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.  Toss the sliced asparagus and the pea shoots in the dressing.  Pile onto plates and serve.  (Add a few curls, or a grating, of Italian Parmesan or English Berkswell cheese if you like).  


Spinach

Spinach

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Asparagus

Asparagus

Asparagus grows from long-lived rhizomes that spread underground.  The spears are the tender young shoots of Asparagus officinalis that grows into a fernlike plant over a metre tall when harvesting ends. 


The spears start pushing through the ground in early Spring.  In recent years, a variety of ‘early-season’ asparagus has been developed enabling some producers to get an Asparagus crop to market ahead of the game.  Normally, the asparagus farmer has a few weeks of frantic activity harvesting the crop for market, and then it's all over until next year.  Traditionally, in the UK, the season begins around St George's Day (23 April) and by mid-Summer's Day cutting should stop.  The plants continue to put up spears but these are allowed to grow into tall fronds that photosynthesise in order to build up nutrients in the rhizome for next year's crop.  In November the plant is cut back to ground level.  


It takes about three years for an asparagus crown to become established and, if treated right, it can be productive for 10 years.  Harvesting of Asparagus has to be done by hand. The white version is even more labour intensive as the growing spears have to be banked-up with soil to produce the blanched stems.  Popular since the 18th century, white asparagus has a more delicate flavour than the green.  If exposed to light after harvest, white asparagus will turn yellow or reddish.  Purple varieties of asparagus are high in anthocyanins, though, like other purple and red coloured vegetables, cooking results in loss of this colour and it turns green. 


This all adds up to making asparagus one of the most expensive treats of spring and early summer.  Freshness is key to taste so, when you do finally get your hands on it, don't let it linger in the fridge or it will lose its sweetness.  The spears are packed with beneficial nutrients - vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium and iron.  They have a natural snap-point separating the tough from the tender parts, so, it’s best to bend the spear and snap off the base rather than cut it for cooking.  Young, fresh spears don’t need to be peeled but later ones benefit from peeling the lower 6cm or so.  


The first, fresh Asparagus are fantastic eaten raw.  Slice thinly, and toss in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  The wispy early spears marketed as ‘Wild Asparagus’, or later thin spears known as sprue, are wonderful for par-boiling then adding to an omelette or frittata.  Thicker spears can be plunged into boiling water for a few minutes until just tender – melted butter, mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce are good accompaniments.  Asparagus has an affinity with eggs so pairing them is a very good idea.  To cook the spears on a griddle or to roast them in the oven in olive oil, par-boiling for one minute in boiling water first is recommended.  




Wet Garlic

Wet Garlic

Garlic - New Season (Wet/Green)

Our impatient wait for the new season Wet (or green) Garlic is usually rewarded in March and the fat-necked, purple-streaked green garlic bulbs are quite special.  Picked at this stage, green garlic needs to be used within a matter of weeks rather than the several months of life of dried garlic, but it is at its sweetest.  You can, after peeling away a layer or two of skin, eat both the white and the pale green stem, discarding only the basal core.  Mild and mellow with none of the hot, pungent qualities of mature garlic, Wet Garlic is perfect for roasting whole with a little thyme, olive oil and a splash of water.  Once cooked, squeeze the roasted cloves to release the caramelised garlic.  Spread on a fried bread crouton or mix with some anchovies melted in a warm pan with butter to make the Italian dipping sauce, Bagna Cauda.  

 


April News 2019

April News 2019

Purple Artichokes    Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

Purple Artichokes

Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands

APRIL 

 

April heralds a real change in our arch, bringing Wild Garlic Leaves, Nettle Tops and Jersey Royal Potatoes.  English winter/spring Purple Sprouting Broccoli comes to an end this month and we see the very brief season White sprouting form this month.  Forced Rhubarb gives way to Outdoor Grown Rhubarb.  Earthy Morel Mushrooms and, briefly, St George’s Mushrooms are to be expected.  From Italy come Broad Beans, Peas and both wild and cultivated AsparagusSpring Herbs shoot up now and juicy radishes and small crunchy hothouse Cucumbers arrive.  We usually see some fantastic Wet Garlic bulbs this month too.  There are European Artichokes still, joined by early Courgettes and Tenarumi.  April also brings the early varieties of Strawberries – French Gariguette but it’s not unknown for us to have UK-grown ones before the month is out.  The best Mangoes of the year arrive from India and Pakistan this month too.


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


Roman courgettes    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Roman courgettes

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

April marks the last of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli and the shorter season White Sprouting Broccoli.  

We have earthy, saline Jersey Royal Potatoes

Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring Nettle Tops (bag with care!).

English Wild Garlic leaves feature strongly this month.  

Watercress comes in from France and there is English-grown too. 

New season UK-grown sweet, juicy Cucumbers and mild, crunchy Spring Onions.

Romano Courgettes and the first Ridged Cucumbers – so good for fermenting and pickling - from Italy. 

Wispy Wild Asparagus from Italy, as well as fat spears of the purple and white Asparagus varieties.  If we get a warm spring, there is early English-grown too.

Rainbow Chard from Italy.  

Italian Peas and Broad Beans 

White asparagus    Photo © Puntarelle&Co

White asparagus

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Fat, juicy bulbs of Wet Garlic – the first is usually from Morocco before the European ones arrives.

Outdoor-grown Rhubarb, from our preferred farmer in Kent, takes over from Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb.

April sees early varieties of Strawberries, including Gariguette and the best Mangoes of the year from India and Pakistan.

Heritage Tomatoes begin to take over from winter Camone and Marinda this month and large Provence Tomatoes begin to arrive. 

Radishes change from large winter varieties to small, crunchy spring ones.

Cool weather harvests of bitter Radicchio and Chicories like Puntarelle and Cime de Rapa reduce through April.  

Tropea Onions from Italy make a welcome return.

New season Aubergines from Italy are now coming in more variety of sizes and shapes and there are Spring season Green and Purple Artichokes, large and small.  

Morel Mushrooms are a feature of April and St George’s Mushrooms make a very brief appearance.

Potted Spring Herbs join our usual display of cut herbs. 


Seasonal vegetables   Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Seasonal vegetables

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Strawberry & Rhubarb water kefir   Photo © Puntarelle&Co

Strawberry & Rhubarb water kefir

Photo © Puntarelle&Co

NEWS:


Don’t forget to check-out our London Fermentary fridges when you visit our arch on Saturdays.  If you follow Puntarelle_Co on Instagram and/or on Twitter, we’d love it if you would show your support by also following us  @london_fermentary on Instagram and/or @LondonFermentary on Twitter.  We’ll be able to keep you informed with news, like what seasonal Ferments you can expect to find each month.  


Bridging the gap between winter and spring this month we have an Outdoor Rhubarb & Gariguette Strawberry Water Kefir and a Mango & Lime version for you.  Carrot Kraut, fermented with mustard seeds & ginger is back in stock and you’ll find jars of Kimchi too along with our fermented sauces including our ever-popular Yellow Mellow Sauce.


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


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Rich in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, iron and calcium, considering Nettles as a weed seriously undervalues their nutritional benefits.  Here at Puntarelle & Co we have them in Spring and early Summer when they are at their vigorous best.  Like everything that grows wild, you need to be sure it has grown in a clean environment if you are going to eat it.  Buy from us or, if you have a trusted patch near you, go out and snip the tops.  Take care picking them or filling your bag as they pack a mighty sting until subjected to brief heat or cold.

Here is an idea for using them:

Nettle & Spinach Soup

(Serves 4)


Around 350g (12 oz) nettle tops

Around 350g (12 oz) spinach or chard

50g (2 oz) butter or olive oil

2 leeks or onions, sliced

1 medium potato, diced (optional)

Around 1 litre (1¾ pints) vegetable stock

Salt and pepper

Cream to serve


Wash the nettle tops carefully (they sting until cooked) and the spinach or chard and drain both.

In a large pan, melt the butter and add the sliced leeks or onions.  Cook, without colouring, for 5-10 minutes to soften.  (Add diced potato at this point if you want a heartier soup).  Add the nettles and spinach or chard, cover and cook until just wilted.  Pour in the stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. 

Liquidise then reheat and season with salt and pepper.  

Serve with a spoonful of cream atop each bowl of soup.

Radishes

Radishes

Radishes


A member of the mustard family, Raphanus sativus, the Radish is native to Western Asia.  Cultivated for thousands of years they had reached the Mediterranean by the time of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. In Egypt, labourers working on the pyramids were given rations of garlic and radishes.  The Greeks even made votive offerings to Apollo in the form of models of radishes in gold – turnips merited the use of lead, and beetroots were rendered in silver.  The Romans were early appreciators of the radish too.   


Shaped by human selection, the Radish now comes in many forms and colours, from pure white throughout; black with white flesh; a form that is green outside and red within; a variety called Blue Moon which is pale purple of skin and has striated purple and white flesh; and others that have deep-red skins at the top, fading to white at the base, or are completely round and red-skinned.  They also come in a huge variety of sizes from the small, elongated Breakfast Radish to large varieties of Daikon, or Mouli, which can grow to more than 30cm long and weigh as much as 3kg.  All share a crisp texture and varying degrees of pepperiness.  If left in the warmth too long, radishes will soften.   Place them in a bowl of iced water for an hour or so and they will regain much of their crispness.  


In early Spring, it’s the small red, or red and white, Radish that catches the eye.  They take only 3-4  weeks to grow and are best grown early as summer’s heat can turn them harsh and woody unless watered assiduously.  They are best simply washed and eaten raw with salt, bread and butter.  Larger varieties can grow through the summer until harvested in the autumn.  Firm and drier, these later varieties can be roasted or braised.  The long, white Asian Daikon/Mouli is relatively mild and can be used raw or cooked.  Most of the heat in radishes lies in the skin, so peeling moderates the heat.  Cooking them deactivates the peppery enzyme and brings out their sweetness.  


Serve small, spring radishes with a bowl of salt; with carrots, young peas or mangetouts and dip them into a bowl of mayonnaise or a garlicky aioli; dip radishes into a bagna cauda sauce (melt anchovies into olive oil and garlic before whisking in butter).  Make a radish sandwich – butter brown bread, add a layer of radish leaves and top with sliced radishes and season with salt.  The leaves of radish add a light pepperiness to a bowl of salad leaves too.  Larger types, like Daikon/Mouli, can be sliced, mixed with chicory leaves and finely sliced fennel, or paired with anchovy.  Both ways are good with a citrus and olive oil dressing.  Radishes pickle well too.  Personally, we wouldn’t cook radish.  It’s the peppery crunch that makes them so appealing, so, if you want a mild pepperiness, maybe you should reach for a turnip instead.  

IMG_9835.JPG

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