Spring is in sight, quite literally, and here at LLHQ we are slowly but surely coming out of hibernation. Not that we haven’t been busy behind closed doors, as you’ll soon see on our Twitter feed. But we’re longing to get out in the garden, so we’re dipping our toes in to the season by turning our attention to our containers….
I am obsessed with food (you may have noticed!). My whole day revolves around the next meal/snack. I love to use seasonal, local produce but what I really love is finding something different, or using ingredients creatively. I’m no Heston Bloomin’ Eck, but I do enjoy a little experimentation in the kitchen….
“Surely it’s not that time of year already??!!” I hear you cry (cue horror music interlude). Indeed it is friends, indeed it is. But fear not, for this year you can actually enjoy your Christmas shopping and have it all wrapped up before December even arrives, meaning the 12th month of the year can be spent in a state of serendipitous calm……well, we live in hope.
We were much inspired by The Big Apple Weekend earlier in the month. It was fabulous to see so many visitors enjoying the fantastic displays and sampling the scrumptious ciders (and perrys) on offer.
For those of you that fancy giving it a go yourselves, here’s my father-in-laws simple guide to producing the amber nectar.
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As part of our ‘Lunchtime Challenge’ (#LC = making lunch for the team from and inspired by a veggie grown in the LL garden), this week I was presented with a somewhat ginormous ‘Golden Boy’ Beetroot….
I could have quite easily grated it in to a bowl of our winter mixed leaves to make a delicious salad but to be honest, I haven’t been feeling very salad-y this week. Blame it on the cooler nights, teeming rain and grey skies – my stomach was adamant that I cook something hot and comforting for the crew.
Nicki, from work, had given me her recipe for roasted tomato sauce last week and had been telling me about a no-pasta lasagne that she had made using the sauce and sliced courgettes instead of pasta sheets. I loved her twist on an old classic and using that as my inspiration, I decided to have a go a putting a twist on an old favourite of mine; moussaka.
I adore moussaka – it’s great comfort food with it’s cheesey bechamel sauce and richly seasoned lamb. Yet although it’s pretty perfect as it is, there’s always room for a tweak or two. So below is my recipe for a vegetarian version. I sliced the Golden Boy beetroot in to glorious rounds, about 2mm thick, and pre-roasted them in the oven seasoned with salt and pepper, fresh sage leaves and drizzled with rapeseed oil (from these guys – http://www.cotswoldgold.co.uk/). I also used Y Fenni cheese (a gorgeous Welsh cheddar cheese blended with mustard seeds and ale); it was all I had in the fridge but added a delicious richness to the sauce. Squash would also work brilliantly in place of the beetroot. And the red lentils have the most delicate sweet flavour….salivating yet? I’d best tell you how I did it, then!
1 x giant Golden Boy Beetroot, sliced
Fresh sage leaves
1 x red onion, diced
2 x garlic cloves, diced
1 x celery stick, diced
2 x carrots, diced
1 x pack porcini
1 x mug of homemade tomato sauce, or 1 x tinned toms
250g red lentils
For the Bechamel Sauce
1 x egg yolk (optional)
1 tsp mustard or mustard powder (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Slice your Golden Boy beetroot in to rounds aprox 2mm thick, place on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and sage leaves, season with salt and pepper and pop in to oven for about 20 mins or until soft but with a slight bite left in it.
Whilst the beets are cooking, fry off your diced veg (celery, carrot, onion and garlic) in some butter and oil. Boil the kettle and pop the pack of porcini in a pyrex – add boiling water to cover the ‘shrooms (up to about a pint) and leave to rehydrate (about 20mins).
When the mushrooms have expanded, pour them through a sieve, saving the juices/stock. Squeeze any excess moisture from the porcini and very finely chop (this is a matter of taste – I’m not a huge fan of dried mushrooms and think that even when they’ve been rehydrated they can still be a bit chewy, but the flavour that they impart is amazing, hence chopping them so finely).
Add the chopped porcini in to the veg mix. When all is lovely and soft add the red lentils, chopped toms (or home-made tomato sauce) and mushroom stock (about 1 pint). Allow to simmer until the red lentils are cooked but not mushy (about 20 mins). Check seasoning, adjusting if necessary.
When the beetroot slices are ready, remove from the oven. Now make the bechamel sauce; pop a good chunk of butter in a saucepan on a low heat. Add 1 tbsp of flour (gram flour makes a great bechamel for any gluten-freers or anyone fancying a change). Whisk together to form a paste and quickly add milk, still whisking to form a lovely, thick sauce. Continue to add milk, slowly, whilst whisking until you achieve your desired consistency and quantity (you want enough to cover your veg mix when placed in the dish. When you’re happy with the consistency, take off the heat and add your grated cheese, mustard (optional) and season to taste. You can also stir in an egg yolk for a glossy finish to the sauce.
Place your lentil mix in to an oven-proof dish. Layer the beetroot slices on top to cover. Then pour over your sauce. Place in the top of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top turns a delicious golden brown. We ate a huge scoop of this accompanied with the bosses home-made bread. It’s equally delicious served up with a leafy green salad. There was some debate as to whether or not I can call this a Moussaka, as it lacks pretty much all of the traditional elements, but until I think of an alternative name, Red Lentil and Beetroot Moussaka it is!!
Basket from a selection £15.
What a busy week! These gorgeous summer-like days have extended our time in the garden and with the knowledge that wintery weather can’t be too far away, I’ve been making the most of every opportunity to be outside! My focus has been to harvest the last of the Orchard and Greenhouse crops and to turn them all in to delicious items to eat….