Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Week 19 - Hawksmoor at Home

Having more time at home does come with some unexpected benefits. A much shorter commute (yes, I am still showering and making it downstairs each morning. Although the trousers have been jettisoned...). There seems more time to go online and spend ridiculous amounts on hipster wines and beer that looks like orange juice. And, of course, far more time for cooking.

There's been #selfisolation sourdough bread; obviously. Made to rise using Keith, my yeasty starter. Yeasty sourdough starter. There's been buttermilk-brined chickens, and southern fried chicken (who need the Colonel anyway?). And there's been some fermenting. A project I pretty much undertook solely in order to make the famed Hawksmoor kimchi burger.

While there is a recipe in the book, I went slightly off-piste with my version, picking suggestions up, magpie-like across the internet. While the traditional uses napa cabbage and Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru), I used a bog standard white cabbage and red chilli flakes I bought from a market in Palermo, on our last trip to Italy.

Having tried a reasonable amount of Kimchi (sadly on these shores as we haven't yet made it to Seoul) I was very happy with my effort. While not entirely authentic, it tasted salty, hot, crunchy and a little bit funky; perfect to cut through the fatty beef and oozy cheese in a burger.

Kimchi, my way

1 cabbage chopped into large chunks (traditionally Chinese or napa, but I used an ordinary white one)
1/4 cup rock salt

1/2 cup of fish sauce
1/2 cup red pepper flakes (Korean gochugaru if you can, but I used some I bought on holiday in Italy)
1 tbs light soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 knob of ginger, peeled
a bunch of spring onions or chives, washed, trimmed and chopped into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and julienned

Place the cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt and massage in.
Leave for at least three or four hours, turning the cabbage every hour. (I got distracted and ended up leaving mine in the fridge overnight)
Place cabbage in a colander and wash thoroughly with cold water to get rid of excess salt,
drain and dry cabbage very well, place in a large bowl and add spring onions and carrots.
Whizz the ginger, garlic, soy, fish sauce and chilli flakes in a blender until it becomes a smooth paste.
Tip the paste into cabbage mixture and massage in (use rubber gloves to stop the chillies irritating your hands).
Pack the cabbage into sterilized jars or a clean plastic box, put the lid on and leave at room temperature for about 48 hours, undoing the lid each day to release any gases that have built up.
When you can see small bubbles, store in the fridge, where it will keep fermenting and should keep for at least a couple of weeks.

As I frequently say to my wife (to her displeasure) if you're going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. So, as well as fermenting the kimchi, we also grew the lettuce at the allotment (well, it had already been growing, but we harvested some fresh for the purpose); I ordered some Ogleshield (a kind of English raclette, made on the same farm in Somerset as Montgomery Cheddar); and we hiked to the butchers for some freshly ground chuck to make the patties. The Ewing even made the Dan Lepard brioche bun recipe from the book. 

If you find yourself with free time then the buns are well worth a bash; she also shaped some into finger rolls which are the perfect vehicle for a sausage, also picked up from the butchers. Well, would be a shame to walk all that way without stocking up on some extra pork products. And the burgers themselves? Well worth the wait.

Hawksmoor brioche buns

50g custard powder (or potato starch or cornflour)
550ml milk
25g unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar
750g strong white flour
1 (7g) sachet of instant dry yeast
2 tsp salt
A beaten egg for glazing

Whisk the custard powder into the milk and pour into a saucepan. 
Bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar until melted, then pour into a mixing bowl and leave until barely warm. 
Add the flour, yeast and salt, mix well and leave for 10 minutes. 
On a lightly oiled surface, lightly knead the dough until smooth, then return it to the bowl and leave covered for an hour and a half.
Divide the dough into pieces (the Ewing went with 90g, but I'd recommend about 120g) and using a little flour, shape them into balls. Place them on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly with a rolling pin. Cover and leave to rise for about an hour or until they have doubled in size.
After waiting for the buns to double in size, brush with beaten egg sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. 
Leave to cool before using.

Kimchi burgers serves 2
Adapted from Hawksmoor at Home

2 burger buns
200g minced beef (I used chuck containing about 20 per cent fat)
Ogleshield cheese - one thick slice per burger
Hellmanns mayonnaise
Lettuce (romaine or baby gem)

Divide the meat into two and shape into rounds about 12cm-14cm in diameter. Press the meat firmly together. With your thumb make a slight hollow in the centre of the burger – this will prevent it from rising up while cooking and looking like a meatball.
Season the burgers with salt and pepper.

Preheat a ridged grill pan over a high heat until almost smoking.

Lay the burgers in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to oil them first, just don’t be tempted to turn them too soon.)
Flip the burgers and repeat the process until they are nicely charred. This will give you a pink interior. Cook them longer if you prefer them more well done.

Preheat the grill to melt the cheese. While the burger is still in the pan add the slices of cheese and place under the hot grill for a few seconds until melted.

Remove the burgers from the grill and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes.

To assemble the burger, toast the cut sides of the bun and spread with mayonnaise. Place the lettuce leaf and kimchi on the bottom of the bun. Place the cooked burger on top and sandwich with the top half of the bun.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Week 18 - The Two Davids - Outsider Tart

And just like that the Ewing was 40 (something). While a birthday stuck at home during a global pandemic may seem less than fun, it ended up feeling like a very special day. Starting with presents in bed, followed by flowers in the post, videos of our nieces and a phone call from my Mum, moving on to pink wine and lunch on the patio, films and a snooze on sofa and ending with homemade fried chicken and a personalised Zoom quiz with our friends.

As we weren't going further than the garden, we had plenty of time to plan the piece de resistance - a Bruce Bogtrotter-style Coke layers cake, from the Outsider Tart cookbook. A book that is already a firm favourite thanks to the incredible s'mores cake that contains a whole packet of digestives in the sponges, and is coated in blow-torched meringue. 

The Ewing is by far the biggest chocoholic I have ever met - one earlier date had me tearing around Greenwich, looking for a newsagent after she had a sugar crash and waited at the pub for me to return laden down with bars of Green and Blacks - and so I knew a recipe that contained over half a kilo of the stuff would always be a good choice. (Awww...that's true lurve - TE).

Plus it had marshmallows (we used chocolate coated, in case there wasn't enough chocolate already), nearly three quarters of a kilo of sugar, most of the EU butter mountain, and a can of Coke. Full fat of course. This is not a cake for those trying to exercise restraint.

In fact, it was the most joyful cake for the most joyful person. (You are so lovely, I love you very much - TE). A perfect fluffy sponge, sweet but with smoky caramel and a rich cocoa bitterness, coated in a tangy sour cream fudge frosting that perfectly gilded the lily. The ultimately celebration cake. And luckily she loved it. As did our neighbours (yes, after some gentle persuasion, the Ewing did share...). Happy birthday, my love.

Chocolate Coke Layer Cake
adapted from Outsider Tart

340g unsalted butter
350ml Coke (not diet)
65g marshmallows, chopped
85g plain chocolate, chopped
530g plain flour
115g cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 of a teaspoon of salt
675g granulated sugar
80ml of flavourless oil
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
300ml buttermilk, at room temperature

Chocolate sour cream fudge frosting
315g milk chocolate, chopped
200g plain chocolate, chopped
340g sour cream
1tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180c Butter two 9 inch round cake tins, line the bottoms with baking paper, dust with flour and tap out any excess. 

Place the butter and Coke in a saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the butter melts. Add the marshmallows and chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate and marshmallows have melted. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, set aside.

Thoroughly combine the sugar, oil and vanilla in a kitchen mixer on medium speed or with an electric whisk. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until evenly incorporated. 

Alternately add the flour and buttermilk in 3 or 4 stages, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared tins.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. It is best to rotate the pans front to back, top to bottom about half the way through. If the cakes are browning too quickly, cover the top with foil.

Allow cakes to thoroughly cool on a cooling rack before slicing in half horizontally

To make frosting melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Remove bowl from the heat and whisk in sour cream and vanilla.
Allow the mixture cool to room temperature, gently stirring occasionally.
When the frosting has thickened enough to spread, sandwich the layers together with the frosting, before covering the the top and sides. Work quickly, before the frosting sets, although you can gently reheat the frosting over simmering water if it thickens too much.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Week 17 Bill Granger - Sydney Food

This time last year we were in Australia. Drinking cold tinnies, camping in the bush and flinging another shrimp on the barbie. Since the government guidance to Stay Home, the furthest-flung we have managed to get is the patio. 

There are worst places to be, to be honest, especially since the weather has been almost uniformly glorious since lock down started. But in an attempt to bring some of the Antipodean vibe back to Buckinghamshire, I decided to make that Aussie classic (although a Kiwi may have something to say about that), the pavlova.

The recipe (sort of) comes from adored Australian restauranteur and food writer, Bill Granger; and is taken from his Sydney Food book - a hefty tome that was a kind gift from my sister. Just as kind was my Mum, who carted it back for me from Oz in her suitcase. 

One of my favourite memories from the trip we took to Australia for my 30th birthday, was going to Bill's in Surry Hills with my Sister and the Ewing and having his famed ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter. A recipe that I have also recreated at home, and is also in the book.

I never really thought I liked pavlova, as I never really liked meringue. Turns out that a real pav shouldn't be the classic crisp, feather-light meringue, which shatters on impact, but more a gooey marshmallow centre, held together by a thin, crisp crust.

This texture is achieved by a tsp of cornflour (or potato starch or arrowroot - Bill uses both) and a tsp of acid, either white vinegar or lemon juice. You then need to bake in a low oven to dry out the outside, without colouring it too much, and too keep the inside nice and squidgy.

This is something I learnt the hard way, after the first effort got over-baked (despite following the recipe cooking times) and then cracked after I needed to take it out the oven before it had cooled down, as I wanted to cook some chicken schnitzels and hadn't planned things as well as I thought I had....

The meringue for the second effort was slightly grainy, as I was too impatient when incorporating the sugar, which caused it to weep slightly when cooling (this time left in the oven overnight). But was also taller, and paler, and full of glorious vanilla-scented gooeyness. As it should be.

I topped mine with mango and blueberries, as that is what they had at the petrol station shop near our house (it is a Little Waitrose, so not quite as surprising as it may seem), but you could use any fruit. Strawberries and raspberries are great and passion fruit is my favourite. I also used some toasted coconut flakes that needed using up. It is recommended you serve as soon as you have put the topping on, but I think I prefer it best a day or two later, when it has become even more squidgy.

Adapted from a recipe by Bill Granger

For the meringue
4 egg whites
250g white caster sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornflour (or potato starch or arrowroot)
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the topping
200ml double cream
200ml greek yogurt
fruit of your choice - I used mango, blueberries and toasted coconut

Heat oven to 110C
Using a pencil, mark out an 20 cm circumference on baking parchment. Turn the parchment upside down (you should still be able to see the outline of the circle) and place on a baking sheet.
Whisk 4 egg whites (use an electric whisk, unless you want a good work out) until they form stiff peaks.
Whisk in 250g caster sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until the meringue looks glossy. 
Whisk in 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp cornflour and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Spread the meringue inside the circle, creating a small crater by making the sides a little higher than the middle. 
Bake for 1 hr, or until pale and set on the outside and still soft in the middle. Then turn off the heat and let the Pavlova cool completely inside the oven.
When the meringue is cool, whip the double cream to soft peaks and gently stir through the yogurt.
Spread gently over the top and decorate with the fruit of your choice.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Week 16 - British Food - Jane Grigson

This was the week that lock down began to bite. This happened in the most middle-class way possible after I discovered, late on a Saturday afternoon, that I didn't have all the ingredients I needed for the majestic pork pie I was planning. This became both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because I decided we should walk to our great local butcher (about two and a half mile round trip, up a vertical hill), and a curse as we have gone there every weekend since. Completely derailing project #eatthefreezer and actually managing to contribute to the original problem. Ironically, they also sell extremely good pork pies. And scotch eggs and sausage rolls, if you're into that sort of thing.

I've made a hand raised pie before, a fancy number with chicken and apricots, but this time I went back to the old school with the pork pie from Jane Grigson's seminal English food. First published in 1974, and updated by Grigson in 1990, a year before her death, it's an anthology that celebrates and resurrects the reputation of English food, with recipes that range from rib-sticking puddings, pies and stews to summery soups, seafood and salads.

Alongside the classic mix of pork belly (Grigson actually uses spare rib, but obviously I didn't ready the recipe properly before setting off (really? that's unusual darling - TE)) and green streaky bacon, I added a couple of chicken thighs (to make up the weight) and chopped the meat and fat by hand for a chunkier texture. I also added a little allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, as per Grigson's recipe. She calls for the addition of anchovy essence, and so I added a scant teaspoon of Gentleman's Relish, a gift from some foodie friends.

Jelly in a pork pie is a controversial thing, which I think most of us come to appreciate more as we get older. Grigson has a recipe for a traditional jelly, with split pigs trotters, but I decided I lacked the dedication to boil bones for hours to make something that will most likely be discarded on the edge of a plate and so plumped for stock, set with some leaves of gelatin. Originally I was going to use chicken, but I found some porcini stock cubes from a recent trip to Sicily, that I thought would add a heady, savoury note and turned out to be an inspired addition.

Of all the pastries, I think a hot water crust is by far the easiest. Melt the fat (lard, or a lard and butter mix) with water, then stir into flour and salt. The pastry can then be pushed up the sides of a loose bottomed cake tin, or fancy pie mould if you have one, leaving about a quarter to roll out for the lid, and that's about it. The lard adds a lovely crispness and a savoury edge and the pastry, with a little help from a beaten egg brushed on top, should bronze like a daytime TV presenter.

While the recipe may appear intimidatingly long, it's really very easy to follow, and the results are very impressive. Plus it tastes far better than a mass produced pie ever could. Although, I must confess I still have a fondness for the pink-paste stuffed pastry snacks, picked up from motorway service stations.

Hand raised pork pie
Adapted from Jane Grigson's English Food

For the filling
750g pork belly, shoulder or spare rib
250g streaky green bacon
250g skinless boneless chicken thighs (or just use 1kg of pork)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Gentleman's Relish (or anchovy essence)
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Large sprig of thyme, finely chopped

for the pastry
500g flour
175g lard
200g water
large pinch of salt
1 beaten egg

for the stock
1 stock cube (porcini, ham or chicken)
2 leaves gelatin, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
400ml boiling water

For the best texture chop the pork into small cubes, about 5mm in size. Or you could chop half, then whizz the other half briefly in the food processor.
Finely chop the bacon and chicken (if using)
Mix the thyme, salt, pepper and spices into the chopped meat.

Make the pastry
Put the lard and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. 
Sift the flour and the salt into a large bowl. 
Pour the hot lard and water into the flour, mix well then leave until cool enough to handle. 
Don't allow to cool down too much, or you won't be able to shape it.

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Lightly grease and flour a 18 cm loose-bottomed cake tin. 
Take a quarter of the pastry and roll it into a lid that will fit the top of the cake tin. 
Place the the remaining pastry in the base of the tin, and then firmly push the dough up the sides with your fingers. If it slides down, leave it to cool a bit more. patch up any tholes otherwise the jelly will leak out. 
Spoon the filling into the tin and press it down. It should come almost to the top of the pastry.

Brush the edges of the pastry above the meat with beaten egg. Lower the lid into place and press tightly to seal with the edges. Poke a small hole in the lid (I used the handle of a wooden spoon) to let out the steam and put the tin on a baking sheet. 

Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 160C and bake for 60 minutes until the pastry is pale gold. Brush with the beaten egg and return to the oven for 30 minutes (the temperature should read 65c in the centre of the pie). Cover with foil if the top is browning too fast.

When the pie has cooled, add the boiling water to the stock cube and stir until dissolved.
Add the gelatin leaves and stir again.

Allow the mixture to cool a little and then, using a funnel, slowly pour the stock into the hole in the top of the pie. You may have to do this in stages to give the stock time to work it's way through the pie filling and settle .
Leave the pie to cool in the fridge, preferable overnight.

Serve with English mustard and a glass of bitter.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Week 15 - Feast - Nigella Lawson

As a Good Catholic Girl, it always has to be fish on Good Friday. Normally we would be spending Easter with my Aunt and Uncle and assorted cousins in their little village just outside Leeds. Drinking wine and eating my Aunt's simnel cake and my Uncle's seafood extravaganza, with shellfish fresh from Kirkgate Market.

As staying at home has become our new normal, at least for now, I turned again to the wonderful Nigella and made my riff on her Blakean fish pie, from her Easter chapter in Feast.

Choosing a favourite book of hers would be akin to choosing a favourite child, but this is a good one, with the chapters arranged to celebrate various different feasts throughout the year. It also contains a whole chapter on chocolate cakes, which would make a great #cookbookchallenge, but probably when I can leave the house more than once a day, so I can make sure I will actually still fit through the door...

I have to say, of all my challenges so far, this is the first one that really only paid a mere nod to the recipe (although my wife thinks I fail to follow any instructions, I have been quite disciplined so far...) In fact, although I did briefly skim the recipe, the whole making a stock to poach the fish and the bouquet garni and reducing down saffron-infused cream seemed rather a faff for Nigella. It was certainly too much faff for me.

So I (whisper it) used frozen fish pie mix for the first time, picked up on my weekly shop, and cooked the chunks of cod, smoked haddock and salmon from frozen, along with a bag of frozen prawns. To the fish I added a leek-infused bechamel sauce, and topped with saffron mash. Which gave it a pleasing hue inspired by the title. Although I hadn't made a fish pie before (scarred by the boiled egg-studded pies of my youth, it was excellent. And very easy.

Amy's Blakean Fish Pie (adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)

1 kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large, even chunks
butter and seasoning to taste
Good pinch of saffron threads, soaked in a little warm milk
1 (400g) bag of frozen fish pie mix or equivalent chunks of fresh fish of your choice
1 (250g) bag of frozen prawns (medium, for preference)
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into rings and cooked gently in butter until soft
50g butter
50g flour
500ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1 tbsp mustard (dijon or wholegrain)
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes until soft, mash with butter and seasoning to taste and stir in the saffron infused milk.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan on a medium heat, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook out for several minutes.
Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring continuously, until the sauce has thickened.
Add the mustard and cooked leeks, season and stir well. (Cover the sauce with cling film if not using straight away, to stop a skin forming).
Place fish pie mix and prawns in a dish (I used a le Creuset casserole dish).
Add bechamel sauce and stir well to combine.
Top with mashed potato, making sure there are no gaps. I like to fluff my mash with a fork to make wavy lines.
Cook in a pre-heated 180c oven for about 40 minutes, or until top is brown and the centre is hot and bubbling.
Eat with peas. Always peas. And maybe a glass of Picpoul.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Week 14 - Abundance- Alys Fowler

As well as #cookbookchallenge, being on lock down has also seen us trying to #eatthefreezer. And this week's effort saw two birds with one stone as I tried to use up a big block of broad beans that had been taking up at least a two litre ice cream tub's worth of room since last summer.

Preparing for isolation meant the Ewing had rushed to our local library and bought home armfuls of library books (half are now being employed as a prop for my laptop as I work from home). One that wasn't roped in to my makeshift office was Abundance, written by erstwhile Gardener's Worlder Alys Fowler, which also happened to be full of lots of useful tips about pickling, salting, fermenting and preserving. Very useful when you're only allowed out for that weekly shop.

There is also a handy freezer chapter that featured a recipe for broad bean falafel using almost exactly the amount I had in my freezer (you can also use chickpeas, or a mix of half and half) plus dill (I had a slightly wilted bag from one of my last pre-lockdown Waitrose trips) plus mint and parsley (our slightly straggly plants had just started to take-off in the spring sunshine). It was a fait accompli.

The only thing I was slightly concerned about was the cooking - the recipe said to shallow fry which always seems like the most awkward cooking method - little splash of oil; no worries. Boiling cauldron of oil, no problem. That middling amount of oil; sudden panic (plus the boredom of standing around, watching them intently while they go from pallid and pale to carbonic in mere minutes)

In the end I used a couple of centimetres in a small cast iron saucepan, cooking three of four at a time until lightly golden. And, apart from a couple breaking up a little at the edges, they crisped up nicely and only took a couple of minutes per batch.

Broad bean falafel 
Adapted from Abundance by Alys Fowler

500g broad beans, defrosted if frozen and double-podded if tough
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 pinch of chilli flakes
A small handful of parsley chopped
A small handful of dill, chopped
A small handful of mint, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

Blanch the broad beans for 3 minutes then rinse in cold water.
Mash all the ingredients together with a hand blender, adding a glug of olive oil if needed or a teaspoon of flour until you have a sausage-meat like consistency. Aim for the dry side so they don't brake up too much when you try to shape and fry them.
Rub olive oil in your hands and roll into small balls then dust in flour.
Shallow fry in oil is a wok or deep frying pan until golden brown.
Serve with yogurt mixed with a pinch of salt, 1 tsp of dried mint and 1 tsp of tahini.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Week 13 - Vegetables - Antonio Carluccio

Lockdown, or at least social isolation, finally reaches the blog (which shows you how far behind I am writing these up...). The tail end of March saw the Ewing and I sent home from the office one morning and as I write this - some three-and-a-half weeks later we are still here. Luckily we are considered key workers and can both work from home, so, although adjusting to our new life has been somewhat of a challenge at times, and we have both been kept busy, we both feel very fortunate.

Another reason to feel lucky is the wonderful countryside that surrounds us, which we have been exploring on our Government-approved daily walks. While much of it is familiar, it's surprising just how much is hidden on your doorstep. And of course, the allotment which, according to Michael Gove, is still considered part of your daily exercise. The first (and probably last) time I will agree with him about anything.

It was on one of our visits to the allotment that the seed for this week's recipe was planted. While March is a fairly barren month, the Ewing kept talking about patches of red-veined sorrel that had self-seeded after she grew it years ago. 

I don't remember cooking it back then, but I chanced upon a recipe for a sorrel risotto in Antonio Carluccio's Vegetables  - a far more inspiring title than it probably sounds - and a plan started to fall into place to use some of the wild leaves that are so  beloved of the Italians, and are also abundant here at this time of year. And also avoiding a dreaded trip to a post-Corona world supermarket, with its increasingly bare shelves and paranoid customers.

We picked some wild garlic from the one patch that grows in the woods by our house, and I was also thrilled to find the little patch we have been nurturing under a bench in our garden is also beginning to thrive. Well, enough to make a jar of wild garlic and walnut pesto with, which was added to some homemade gnocchi as well as a splodge ending up in this risotto, too.

I also put on my marigolds and picked some young nettle leaves from the end of the garden (you can see Pusskins came over the fence to help), and then we went on a walk past the allotment and collected the aforementioned red-veined sorrel, originally planted by the Ewing circa 2013, when she first got the allotment, and still popping up in tufts reminiscent of the late Keith Flint's hair when I saw The Prodigy at Reading Festival as a teenager.

Risotto of wild vegetables -  adapted from Antonio Carluccio
serves 4

a large handful of fresh sorrel leaves, washed and tough stems removed
a large handful of wild garlic, washed
a large handful of nettles, washed and tough stems removed
2 tbs of wild garlic/basil pesto (optional)
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
small glass of dry white wine (Italian if you've got it)
350g risotto rice
50g Parmesan, freshly grated
a large knob of unsalted butter
salt and black pepper

Blanch the nettles and wild garlic in boiling water, rinse in cold water and then blend into a puree. Set aside.
Put the stock into a saucepan on a low heat, next to where you will make the risotto.
Heat the olive oil in a pan (I use a casserole dish), and fry the onion for about 10 minutes, until softened a little. Add the wine and bubble for a minute or two until the alcohol has burnt off.
Add the rice and stir around to coat each grain. 
Add the hot stock a ladle at a time, stirring until it is fully absorbed before adding more liquid.
After 10 minutes add some salt and the puree.
Continue cooking, stirring and adding stock, for about another 15 minutes, which is when you should taste a grain of rice for your preferred al dente texture and the rice should be moist, but not too wet. When it is nearly ready, add most of the sorrel leaves, roughly chopped if large, saving a few to garnish.
When the rice is to your taste, take the pan off the heat, beat in the Parmesan and the butter until glossy, and serve with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper and the remaining sorrel leaves