Memory Loss and Pea Soup

The weeks seem to fly by with a veg box, remembering what I ate last week unless I blog it just seems to slip clean out of mind. However, seeing a fresh bunch of oregano on top of this week’s box today, reminds me that it made an appearance last week and I mindlessly steamed ahead and turned it into Pea and Mint soup . . . or so I thought . . . now I remember thinking it wasn’t quite as sweet as I was expecting and added a teaspoon of sugar.

Admittedly oregano, also known as wild marjoram is from the same family as mint but how could I mistake it? There’s even some growing in my herb bed along with oregano country cream, a variegated variety and more aromatic, very pretty. With the second bunch of oregano I’m going to have a go at drying it as the flavour should be all the better for it and I can store it. Here it is upside down in the bag, stapled at the bottom to allow some air in as it dries over the next 2 weeks. Find somewhere warm and dry to hang it.

Apparently, rosemary is good for sharpening one’s senses and an aide to memoir whereas, lavender which I use liberally in liquid form for insect bites, headaches, burns and other minor life crisis is a natural calming sedative.  Perhaps I need to change my medication?

Anyway mistakes often lead to the best inventions and I can definitely recommend a big handful of fresh oregano in pea soup. Here’s how:

Finely chop 1 medium onion, saute gently in a little olive oil and butter, I then added a handful of leftover, cold new potatoes, mix up with the onions to soak up oil. Add 1 litre of vegetable stock water, boiling. Simmer for a couple of minutes then add 300g of frozen peas and simmer for 5 minutes. Add fresh oregano (or mint) and allow to wilt a minute or so.

Blitz in a food processor or liquidiser, return to the pan heat up and then add another 300g of frozen peas and simmer another few minutes till peas are cooked. Season to taste and add a little sugar if you like. Eating whole peas in a pea soup which is traditionally a very smooth affair is a delightfully, refreshing unexpected experience; they do actually go pop in your mouth. Try it … let me know if it works for you.

Last word over to Hippocrates: According to the Oracle, H used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach upsets and respiratory troubles. Worth a try.

Virtual Foraging

Yesterday a friend likened my shopping habit on line for stuff to eat as virtual foraging. I like the sound of that. My foraging on line this week bagged me an impressive collection of cosmopolitan herbs from Norfolk Herbs to grow at home, including a pungent spicy Vietnamese Coriander, and several Mint varieties: Moroccan, Apple, Lime and Orange. What a lovely selection for making tea or sloshing around in a jug of Pimms. The herbs arrived by post as little plugs, each packed in its own plastic cocooned micro climate ready for planting on into pots. The packaging will come in handy for growing other seeds. Tick the box on recycling and tick another box for local sourcing (from Norfolk to my garden) versus shop bought produce air freighted from wherever. Add several ticks for self righteous smugness. Let’s hope everything in the garden grows then I might have the right to be smug simply for the joy of growing my own food!

The beauty of these little herbs, all eighteen in total is the sheer variety that I wouldn’t have found foraging around in local shops or garden centres.

Looking forward to the warmer days ahead and genuinely excited for the time when I can plant out and get my herb garden started. (Never done this before.) Meanwhile the kitchen floor serves as the indoor nursery where the Vietnamese Coriander is galloping ahead. Unlike the the flat leaf Coriander I am used to buying from a supermarket, the Vietnamese is a perennial and should survive the winter if I bring it indoors and treat it like a house plant. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Watch this space.


Box to Grow Challenge

As if whole veg in a box delivered to my doorstep weren’t enough I’ve now taken on the challenge of growing my own veg starting with the Riverford box to grow kit.

Somewhere in-between Devon and my door step the box has taken a bit of a shake up as the seedlings were all over the place when I opened the box.

After some salvage work and re-settlement into pots I think most will survive. (Each seedling appears to be growing out of a chocolate brownie.) Apart from the lettuces, spring onions and tomatoes, it’s hard to tell what’s what as the scramble in the box doesn’t match the layout on the paper plan. Ho hum . . . all part of the fun!

Anyway as far as I know the box contains: courgette, beetroot, rainbow chard, green cabbage, mustard, khol rabi, cucumber, rocket, red and green batavia lettuce and spring onion plus tomato plants and 2 packets of seeds: radish and sugar snap peas. Plus herbs: parsley and coriander, a few Charlotte potatoes and a few of something else I can’t remember. I have a list somewhere . . .

Last week I picked up a few wooden boxes from the local wine shop for growing-on the seedlings before they’re big enough to transfer into the veg bed. After that I’ll use the boxes for re-homing the herbs and then they can be put out in the garden.

Ten days on and most of the plants are getting along fine in the outdoor cupboard. The herbs from Norfolk have moved out of my kitchen onto the bottom shelf (except the Vietnamese Coriander who only goes out when it’s warm sunny). So far only two plants (in pots) out of the box haven’t made it, by a process of deduction they must be cucumbers.

Last but not least, here are a couple of seedlings grown from the Riverford organic Kabocha pumpkin that I served up Japanese style back in February. How marvelous! It feels great to have a hand in the circle of life. So far so good.

Last word: It’s official the water company supplying my part of Hampshire have announced a hose pipe ban. There goes another challenge to the veg to grow: how to collect and save water for the plants.

Spring Box

This week’s box: Lettuce and tomatoes, squash and red cabbage, carrots and potatoes

The very bright green frilly lettuce perched on top of the box is saying, ‘Eat Me! Eat me now, don’t put me in the fridge or I’ll wither and die’. As it happens we’re having a random hot day here in Hampshire, perfectly timed for a lunch time salad using leftover roast chicken and potatoes from this week’s box. I’m going to dress it all up with fresh Coriander Chutney. That will put a ZING into what feels like the first day of Spring but it won’t last so I’d better make the most of it and get the mower out after lunch.

Don’t know why but the veg box delivery slipped a day this week. Just as well. Yesterday was not the weather for salad or grass cutting. All these things happen for a reason.

Since my Veg Box Rules declaration, I’ve started using my cook books and have discovered a trove of treasure in ye olde recipe books. The recipe for Coriander Chutney comes from the Good Housekeeping book of Preserves which I love for its novel concoctions. (Anyone for Kumquat Mincemeat? Hats off to all daring housekeepers.) I would have called this a relish but I’m told chutney and relish are interchangeable definitions. Given the aliveness of the ingredients I’m re-naming it Coriander Relish and being one for relishing words, I like the way the relish word does what it says.

Fresh Coriander Chutney Relish

Take: 100g fresh coriander, 1 small onion, 2 fresh green chillies (seeded), 2.5cm  fresh root ginger, 1 level tsp salt (I used half the amount), 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 level tbs desiccated coconut

The fast option is to blitz all the ingredients in a food processor otherwise take the chop wood, carry water approach and chop everything according to its size, shape and character then combine the ingredients by hand for a more interesting texture and satisfying life. I’m loving the lingering fragrance of fresh limes and ginger on my fingers and the smell of fresh chopped grass wafting outdoors as I mow (eat your heart out Jo Malone). How delicious that the combination of all these things are available here in the middle of February.