Tag Archives: recipe

From frosty leeks to hearty winter leek and potato soup

Post-Christmas we often turn to soup as a way of getting over the inevitable feeling of over-indulgence. For a home-grown homemade ingredient, this time of year is all about leeks for us in the Willow Cottage Garden. So rather inevitably soup du month is leek and potato.

This morning was one of those beautiful winter frosty mornings. Fantastic for walking the dog, but not so great for harvesting a couple of rows of leeks. I always find prepping leeks a bit of a faff to be honest, so prefer to do more han I need when I’ve got the time to do it. The frosty leaks were frozen through. They haven’t been looking so great this year either, but we had plenty for what I needed today.

Frost leeks

Frosty leeks


I use the spade to do some of the rough trimming of the roots and leaves which saves bringing any of the mud (and lumps of clay) into the house.

Leek trimmings

Leek trimmings, for the compost when I warm up


My hands were so frozen I’ve decided to leave these for when I’ve warmed up a bit and can pop them onto the compost heap.

Next up is cleaning the leeks up for cooking. I usually do this in the sink, and drop the trimmings straight into a bucket. 

Prepping leeks

Prepping the leeks


One thing I’ll never understand is how bits of mud work their way right into the leaves of the leek. It’s impo rant to get the mud out or you’ll end up with gritty soup!

Cleaning leeks

How does the mud get in here?


Onto cooking…
Ingredients (for serving 4-6)

Butter for softening onions and leeks

1 onion, diced

225g/8oz potatoes, cubed

2 medium leeks,sliced

1.2 litres/2 pints vegetable stock

150ml/5fl oz double cream, crème fraîche or a pinch of greated cheddar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Homegrown leeks and onions

Homegrown leeks and onions


Method

1. Soften the leeks and onions in a pan. Add the potatoes and cook for three to four minutes.

Softening leeks

Softening leeks. I do this in a frying pan then add to the soup pot.

2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Add seasoning and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

3. Blend the indregients together. Reheat and add the cream, crème fraîche or cheese to serve.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup, with cheddar cheese


Yum, and now I’ve warmed up, back to the garden!

Him

First garden grown meal of the year – homemade minestrone and fresh stawberries (not together)!

The garden is soggy but productive. We have not spent as much time out there as we would want to; the rain has been horrid and the packing has kept us busy. I thought I would have a wander down the garden this week to see what I could find.

I was delighted to pick the following selection of lovely garden yummyness.

If you look carefully you may spot courgettes, baby carrots, celery, fennel, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, new potatoes and spring onions.

This all inspired me to turn it into a hearty minestrone soup.

I only added some tinned tomatoes, chorizo (to provide a depth of flavour), ready cooked leftover pasta and some stock. The result was delicious and is always a favourite in our house. It’s never the same twice and is a great way of using up a vast selection of pickings.

This is even better the next day, so we make plenty!

To top it all, as I was picking the spinach I noticed a glimmer of red in the fruit cage, could it be? Yes, we have our first ripe strawberries!

The other berries were not quite ripe but these tasted great as they were.

Her x

Mini lemon drizzle cakes… great for those mini indulgent moments!

For those of you wh0 read reguarly, you will know that as my egg mountain increases I try to find new ways to use them up. This usually ends with a baking session. Sometimes I only have an hour before picking the children up from school and I look to make something that will be mixed, baked and on a cooling tray in that time.  This week I set out to make some butterfly cakes and ended up making some lovely mini lemon drizzle cakes.

I mixed up a basic sponge batter and filled 12 cake cases. As they were cooking I thought I would mix up some butter icing only to find that we had run out of icing sugar.  The mother of invention is neccessity, as I had nothing else in I thought I would make a quick lemon syrup, (juice and zest of one lemon and two tbs caster sugar, heated over a low heat until the sugar dissolves).

When the cakes came out of the oven, I spooned the lemon syrup over each mini cake. It soaked into the hot cakes quickly and bathed the little sponges in lovely lemony lushness.  A quick sprinkle of sugar on the top completed decoration and I can report they were a big hit in my house. Just the right size for an after-school snack. I will definetly be making them again.

Her x

Wild garlic pesto – always a winner for dinner!

We are still lucky enough to find wild garlic in the woods around where we live and I have managed to take the children out on a walk to collect some. The carrot at the end of the stick was the promise of fresh pesto for dinner. It is a firm favourite in our house and everyone loves it.

I have been very adventurous with the pesto recipes lately and have tried walnut and parsley, almond and rocket, basil and sunflower seed, as well as wild garlic and pinenut.

Last year I blogged about my green soup recipe and it just follows the same principle; it does not seem to matter what I put in the pesto as long as it ends up green and it always taste fresh and garlickly.

This week’s recipe had the foraged wild garlic, pinenuts, olive oil, parmesan and a squeeze of lemon.  The children asked for more garlic next time but ate up every last bit.

To save on washing up, and to bulk out the meal, I add some veg to the pasta when it’s cooking. This time we had broccoli florets and frozen peas. It all looked very green on the plate.

It’s great to make use of parsley, rocket and wild garlic at this time of the year as  garden pickings are a little bare (especially after our chicken’s escapades).  I can usually find these items in my garden or round-abouts and think it is much better to try and eat seasonally.

Her x

Homemade lemon puddings – great for a dinner party!

So, here goes…

Mix 80z mascarpone, 60z of creme fraiche, 30z caster sugar with the rind and juice of two lemons and a little vanilla extract. Place in a piping bag and fill a glass or a little pot half full.

Then add a layer of good quality lemon curd and continue piping.

I have used a selection of shot glasses.

Next, make a basic sponge mix and add the rind of one lemon, lemon extract and bake in a tin. When it was cooked I poured over a lemon syrup while the cake is still warm ( caster sugar heated with the juice of two lemons until sugar has dissolved). Then after cooling I cut out little circles with a scone cutter.

I had a few blackcurrants left in the freezer – these were heated with sugar to taste and passed through a sieve to make a sauce.

Next, it’s all in the assembly…do you remember those tiny meringues I made to use up eggs? They fit perfectly on the top of the lemon pots and the pink-swirl ones on a mini fruit salad.

Ta-da! What do you think? I did these for a dinner party and there was nothing left. ..not even a smear of sauce.  It was all in the preparation and the assembly was really quick. I would make these again – in fact I did make another batch of the lemon mascarpone mix for the children – yum!

Her x

I’m making meringues to make a dent in my egg mountain.

You may wonder what has become of my huge egg mountain….well, we made meringues!

My Big Girl and I spent a lovely morning churning out meringues of all shapes and sizes. It was a basic two eggs whites to 2 oz of sugar mix and, of course, we used eight egg whites as I needed to make at least a small dent in the egg pile. We baked the small ones for 40 mins and the larger ones for 70 mins in a preheated oven at 150°c.

So much fun can be had with a piping bag –  Big Girl is rather nifty with the piping bag and loves to ice cupcakes. She had a go at making meringue butterflies, flowers and regular swirls.

After a while we thought we would explore further with the addition of a little food colouring introduced to the piping bag through a straw. This gave a lovely pink stripe to our meringues as they appeared out of the piping bag.

With a particular dessert in mind I also piped tiny little swirls, some with a pink stripe and some with a flaked almond to the top.

They keep really well in an airtight container. Mine have not lasted a week as they have made tasty additions to yoghurt, cream, fruit or my lemon dessert creation.  I will try to find time to tell you more about the lemon dessert tomorrow.

Her x

Wild garlic, walks and wellington boots

This week we went on a lovely walk with seven children (not all of them ours), four dogs, two Mummies and a picnic. We went out of the back garden, across a field, up the lane, down a hill and into a wood – it’s a bit like going on a bear hunt. We are lucky enough to live in a very beautiful part of the world and we never have to go far to be in the middle of wonderful countryside.

Equipped with a picnic (usually eaten within the first half hour) , a coat (usually carried the whole way round by mum) and a pair of Wellington boots (usually very wet and muddy on return), we often spend our school holidays sat in a field, along a lane or on a park bench.

This week we stumbled upon an enormous sea of wild garlic. The children explored the smells and textures and took great delight in picking a few handfuls to take home.

In our family we all love garlic and add it to most dishes. Wild garlic has a particularly lovely flavour. It can be used ( very sparingly) in a green salad, added to a stir fry, used to flavour mayonaise or just to replace garlic in a recipe.

This is the perfect time for picking the leaves so if you are lucky enough to find some – give it a try. April is such a lean month for pickings from the veggie patch that it is great to be able to have something so fresh to add to dinner. It’s free food and you will feel a great sense of satisfaction for foraging your own food however little it actually adds to the main meal. You have to start somewhere!

Here’s a close up to help you identify wild garlic; it’s easy to pick out if you use your nose!

Her x