Published in the Scotsman Saturday 17th March 2018
Life is full of surprises. You think the first day of Spring is upon us and the snow arrives by the meter. The beginning of this mouth was more than just a surprise it was a shock. Snowmageddon indeed.
The impact in the restaurant was felt with cancelled bookings and closed restaurants but the garden took an absolute bartering despite looking like a picture from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It looked stunning. But two feet of snow for almost a week has left its mark. The Musselburgh leeks (our favourite Slow Food Ark of Taste vegetable) that were perfect for harvest have rotted at the stems and I fear we may have lost all of them. The herbs in the potager are almost burnt and many will need to be removed and replanted from new. Hopefully the fruit is robust enough as there were no new shoots to be damaged but time will tell. Our gardener, Bryony and I had to arrange three different times to drive down to Pat at Roachdene Nursery in New Abbey, Dumfries. It’s a two hour drive from our garden but we’ve been working with lovely Pat at the Nursery since last year. They are a wholesale horticultural Nursery and they propagate some seeds for us. We plan this in February so we can get fed these seedlings throughout the spring to fast track our growing.
They man their nursery seven days a week over the growing season and have the perfect nurturing conditions to maximise those early days that plants need the most tender loving care. One hot day, yes they do happen, can have a disastrous effect on young seedlings if you forget to water or air them. Sometimes with pressures of the restaurants we have in the past forgotten this basic of tasks and it can set the garden back by weeks.
Pat will be propagating more leeks, broad beans, several varieties of courgettes, Black Tuscan Kale of course, Rainbow carrots, Tokyo Turnips and a few other staples. Herbs and edible flowers we’ll grow from seed along with a huge range of lettuces. This growing year has started later than we would normally hope but here’s hoping the cold spells are all behind us and we’ll have the best hottest summer for years with a wonderful range of harvestageddons to gather.. Happy growing.
Steamed mussels with cream and pesto Genovese
Mussels are something you have to eat with no regrets. Get stuck in there and who cares if it gets a bit messy.
1kg of fresh Shetland mussels
1 small onion very finely chopped
generous splash of white wine
100ml of double cream
One tablespoon of pesto genovese
pinch of salt
extra virgin olive oil for frying}
- Leave the mussels in the fridge for half an hour in ice cold water. Any mussels that float to the top or are open – BIN! Drain the rest and you’re ready to cook
- Choose a pot with a lid that will fit all the mussels once they are opened
- Fry the onions in the olive oil until soft. Add the wine and cook off to remove the alcohol
- add the mussels, cream, a small pinch of salt and place the lid on the pot
- Cook for about 3 – 4 minutes until all the shells are open. Add a tablespoon of the pesto
- Enjoy with a big chunk of lovely toasted bread
Pesto Alla Genovese –Serves 4
With spring on its way lighted dishes irresistible after a cold winter. This pesto is lovely with fish and delicious with pasta of course.
1 garlic clove, peeled
50g pine kernels
4-5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
250g basil leaves
75g Pecorino Romano, finely grated (not Parmigiano Reggiano)
- Using a pestle and mortar, cream the garlic with a pinch of salt.
- Add the pine kernels and loosen the mixture with a little olive oil.
- Gradually add the basil, blending it into the garlic mixture.
- Add more oil as required until you have a smooth paste that is the consistency of soured cream. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Finally add the Pecorino Romano and more salt, to taste.
Pineapple and Amarena baked Alaska
This is the only snow I want to see in March. My brothers birthday is in March and I make this for him every year. This is slightly different version of the classic.
1 Genovese sponge
Makes one sponge
120g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 and line a 24 cm sandwich tins with baking parchment.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl until light and pale in colour. Very slowly beat in the sugar until the eggs are creamy and fluffy.
- Sieve in the flour and fold in very gently with a slotted metal spoon. Pour into between the tin.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until the sponge bounces back when you touch it. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
250ml vanilla ice cream
50g Amarena Cherries
100g fresh pineapple cut into chunks
For the meringue
3 large egg whites
125g of caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.
- Remove the ice cream from thefreezer and scoop small balls of it onto a flat tray.
- Place the tray, with the balls of ice cream, back into the freezer until you are ready to assemble the Alaska.
- Place the sponge on a large flat baking tray.
To make the meringue:
- Beat the egg whites until stiff, then very slowly beat in the sugar, one teaspoon at a time, until the eggs are glossy and form stiff peaks.
- Remove the ice cream from the freezer and arrange the ice cream balls on top of the sponge.
- Stud the ice cream with the pineapple and cherries berries between the balls of ice cream.
- Trim away any excess sponge from around the base, leaving less than 2.5cm to help hold the meringue.
- Using a piping bag or two spoons, very quickly add the meringue, working from the sponge base to the top to cover the ice cream. You don’t want any gaps or the heat will get through the meringue and the Alaska will melt to a puddle.
- Sprinkle a little caster sugar on top of the meringue and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes until the meringue is golden and toasted.
Alternatively, you can colour the meringue with a cook’s blowtorch. It is quicker and less risky for the ice cream if you’re braveenough to use one.