In these tumultuous times that we live in, I question if it’s frivolous to spend one’s time writing about food (and worrying about slugs). New government, a crumbled opposition, terrorism, revolution, environmental catastrophe – are we all doomed? And yet I’ve learned that in order to keep a clear head, it’s important to keep your feet firmly rooted to the ground. Immerse yourself in what’s real and meaningful, whether that’s feeding your family well or being kind to a neighbour. The world, and the happiness of people living on it, is determined not just from the big news events, but by everyone doing small things to improve our lot.
I’ve been asked a lot lately if we’ll be going on a summer holiday. Not likely, given that I’ve just sunk my life savings into this house. So day trips it is, not that they’re any cheaper, and yesterday took us to Chatsworth. They were gearing up for a BBC 6 Music gig later in the evening, so we mooched around the kitchen garden accompanied to the funk grooves of Craig Charles, Mica Paris and Lemar. And what a kitchen garden it is… bed upon bed of greens, brassicas, beans, redcurrant bushes dripping with fruit – and that’s before we got on to the cutting garden.
Amidst the dahlias, sweet peas and roses stood this sea of delphiniums, majestic and proud. I’m inspired to give them a go next year on the allotment.
Seeing this amazing veg patch, I can’t help but wish that this year’s allotment was better than it is. In my defence, it’s been a difficult summer (cold, gloomy, wet) and we’re under a siege of slugs. For the latter, I have finally succumbed to chemical warfare and now the beans, brassicas and greenhouse resemble an attack from the slime monster in Ghostbusters. Is it too late to make any difference? Time will tell.
But the harvest is coming: this week I’ve made the first blackcurrant ice-cream of the year (Matt’s favourite, recipe here: http://notesfromthevegpatch.com/blackcurrant-ice-cream/) and there’s a bowl of crisp lettuce with every meal.
But star of the show currently are the broad beans, half-way through their season and still small enough to need a quick simmer and a sharp dressing. This bean and mint salad is popping up on our table again and again: serve it hot, warm or at room temperature with grilled meats or as part of a veggie spread. To make it more substantial, tear in a ball of mozzarella or crumble in some salty feta.
Broad bean salad with mint
Broad beans in their pods – about a colander-full
Really good extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
Fistful of fresh mint leaves, chopped (you could also add hyssop, parsley or tarragon)
1 lemon, zest and juice
Salt and pepper
Optional: Mozzarella, feta or shaved parmesan
First, pod your beans, preferably in a chair overlooking the garden. Bring a pan of water to the boil, simmer the beans for about 5 minutes then drain well. If they’re big they may need to be double-podded.
In the same pan, gently warm a good glug of olive oil, then chuck in the garlic. It needs to putter in the oil but not really fry; we’re after a good whack of garlic flavour here. Keeping the heat low, throw your beans into the pan and toss to coat in the oil. Add the herbs, lemon zest and salt and pepper, and toss a little more. Lastly, squeeze in some lemon juice to finish your dressing.
Serve hot, warm or cold, perhaps with some mozzarella, feta or shaved parmesan.