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Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Apr 11 2017 08:00AM

At this time of year we start to see some real growth in the garden. Unfortunately for the aesthetic horticulturalist, that often means weeds rather than seedlings.

In April you really need to stay on top of things in the garden if you want to avoid undesirable interlopers. The lack of frosts and plenty of rain means its boom time for garden weeds.

But there is an upside if, like us, you find it difficult to keep things tidy in the garden. As well as being much better for wildlife, you'll occasionally get a crop that you didn't intend to grow. One in particular comes into season in early spring, and if you can bear to leave a small patch of them growing in your garden, they'll provide you with your first green (and free) meal of the year.

We are, of course, talking about stinging nettles. The first young shoots will have started to grow in mid-February so by now you should have a decent, harvestable crop.

You'll need a plastic bag and a good pair of gloves. To get flavoursome and delicate leaves, only pick the first few centimetres of the plant tips. As with most freshly picked, green leaves, nettles will keep for a few days in the fridge.

There is a definite spinachy tang to nettle leaves and they can be used in most recipes as a substitute (although you should probably avoid using them in salad.) In terms of accompaniments, you'll find that nettles have an affinity for nutmeg and most recipes will be perked up by a fresh grating. You can also make a simple, refreshing nettle tea from half a dozen fresh leaves left to infuse in boiling water for a few minutes.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jan 29 2016 03:00AM

As promised in our penultimate blog, here's our recipe for a silky smooth Jerusalem artichoke soup.

As we've probably mentioned before, they're not from Jerusalem and they're not artichokes. But, apart from that, the name is spot on. They are actually tubers and they have a unique, nutty and sweet flavour. It's this fantastic full flavour, together with the fact that they're in season from November to March, that means they make the perfect winter warmer soup. (Although, if we happen to have a heat wave it also works very well as a chilled soup). Even better, you can do everything in one pan so you can focus on keeping warm rather than doing the washing up.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

500g artichokes, washed, peeled and diced

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

300ml stock (chicken or vegetable)

50ml cream

salt and black pepper

olive or rapeseed oil

Gently heat a tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and fry for five minutes until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the artichoke pieces and the stock. Increase the heat and bring to the boil for 10 minutes until the artichokes are soft. Blitz with a hand blender (or pour out into a food processor) until smooth and silky, add the cream and give it one last blast. Season with salt and pepper and serve. For that cheffy touch, swirl a dash of oil onto each bowl and don’t forget the warm, crusty bread.

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Jan 19 2015 09:46AM

A quick glance at our seasonality charts reveals that, whilst there are plenty of options for fish and meat on the menu in the deep mid-winter, healthy green vegetables are rather thinner on the ground. Roots such as carrots, parsnips and swede are all still good at the moment but, by the middle of January, above-ground leafy produce is very hard to come by.

Thankfully a thin, purple superhero comes to our rescue this month. He's become so popular in recent years that he goes simply by an acronym - PSB. The Vegetable Formerly Known As Purple Sprouting Broccoli is hitting the shelves right now and will be around to sustain us right through to the Spring.

Every part of this slender, leafy plant is edible so don't be put off if your PSB looks a bit stalky compared to "proper" broccoli. The first crops usually arrive in January and the season comes to an end around May. Whilst there are some modern varieties which grow outside of those times, they are generally pretty tasteless and can be tough, so best avoided.

Good PSB is a real treat but it's easy to be put off by poor quality produce - woody stems and wilting, flavourless leaves are, unfortunately, all too easy to find. Choose yours carefully; it should look fresh and healthy. If the florets are yellowing or look dry then it's not fresh enough. The stems should snap cleanly in the same way as asparagus. Cooking is straightforward - exactly the same as 'normal' broccoli but a bit shorter.

Rather than be tempted by "early season" (usually imported) asparagus in January or February, why not try a few stems of the freshest PSB with hollandaise sauce as an accompaniment? It'll add a perfect touch of seasonal glamour and goodness to your Winter dinner table.

If your PSB does go past its best, don't throw it away - make up a batch of warming PSB and Blue Vinney Soup. This cracking winter soup will warm even the coldest cockles of your heart as the mercury falls at this time of year.

PSB and Blue Vinney Soup

To serve 4:

750g purple sprouting broccoli

1 and ½ pints of good vegetable stock

175g Dorset Blue Vinney (or other Blue cheese – e.g. Stilton or Sitchelton)

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and simmer for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the chopped potato and pour in the stock, retaining about ¼ pint. After 5 minutes of boiling the potato, add the PSB and continue to boil for another 10-15 minutes until both the potato and broccoli are very soft. Crumble the cheese and stir in. Take pan off the heat and blend the entire contents, adding in as much of the remaining stock as you need to achieve the desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note - you should not need much salt as the cheese provides quite a lot - for this reason we'd suggest not adding any more until the final stages) Serve with warm crusty bread

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