Blueberry Herbert

If I were to ask you what the top ten selling items in a supermarket in the UK by value were many of you would guess milk, some chicken and you would be right but I wonder how many of you would guess blueberries? If you did, you would be correct. These little berries reputation as a “superfood” means these little bad boys fly off the shelves even though they are not cheap to buy fresh.

Kale Cavolo Nero

Kale used to be one of the only fresh green vegetables that could be grown in the UK over winter and tough little numbers like Hungry Gap would brave out the winter frosts, snow and wind. The trouble is that toughness to survive a winter storm lead to toughness on the plate and once supermarkets started flying in vegetables from around the world people turned away from their less palatable staples. Kale was gradually abandoned and started to sink out of peoples memory.

It took  The River Cafe  which opened in the late 1908’s to bring kale back in to the spotlight but not any kale……..This was a kale of which we’d never seen in the UK before or if we had it had long gone out of production. The kale was Cavolo Nero

Beetroot – Boltardy

Christmas is over and there are only a few things still on the plot; kale, parsnips and beetroot. In the autumn you can lift beetroot to store in sand to see you over the winter but as our winters are getting milder and milder I generally take the risk and let them stand, only taking what I can eat in a week at a time.

Shallot Tart Tatin Roses

These look desperately impressive and taste fantastic but are actually very easy to do if you are buying your own pastry.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Chilli Mayo

  This year I have bought some purple sweet potatoes to grow in the allotment.  I will probably grow them in the poly tunnel as they need a slightly better climate than the UK can offer, originally coming from central/South America. The purple sweet potato is one of the staples of the Okinawan diet in…

Chilli Paneer

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that one of my favourite Indian dishes was actually Indochinese, an Indian homage to China, found in many Chinese restaurants in India. The Chinese equivalent I suppose or chips with curry sauce, the chow mien or the UK’s favourite dish, chicken tikka masala.

Brave Potatoes

Having been a bit sniffy about deconstruct foods like deconstructed apple pie being blobs of apple, crumble and custard on a plate I’m going to give you today a deconstructed patatas bravas only so that you can use it as a canape. Pop a cocktail stick in to the potato to save your guests sticky fingers and use the tomato sauce as a relish, for this reason I’ve made it a bit more chunky than the traditional Madrid recipe which is more like a pouring sauce. For that reason I don’t think you can really call this Patatas Bravas but it’s really good,  trust me! 

Pepper, Red Onion & Halloumi Skewers

  I’m cheating with this canapé a bit as it isn’t 100% vegan so doesn’t quite fit in with the advent plant based canapé theme for but you could swap the halloumi for firm tofu if you prefer. Again this is really simple to make and most can be prepared well in advance so all…

Spring Vegetable Gyoza

Gyoza are the Japanese version of Chinese pot sticker dumplings and both make ideal canapes or appetisers.

In supermarkets now you can buy a variety of ready made gyoza, both meat, prawn or vegetable based to keep in the freezer until cooking.  Itsu  is a brand that you will often see. In oriental supermarkets you will get a much wider choice and you can also buy gyoza wrappers to make you own.

Summer Rolls

For todays canapé I’m going back to Vietnam and although these are served all over Vietnam, rather specifically in this case I’m thinking of the Mekong Delta. We stayed in a wooden homestead on the delta and were served on our first night, make your own summer rolls with pineapple and a fish which looked a little like a piranha! I’m not going to show you that but suffice to say the addition of pineapple to the rolls is now something I always do as it brings a lovely sharp, sweet tang.

Beetroot – Golden Detroit

Love beetroot but fed up with you and your kitchen looking like a bloodbath after? If so then you could try giving yellow beetroots a try. There are two main yellow varieties, Burpees Golden which dates back to the 1970’s and Golden Detroit from the 1820’s.

Gnudi with pumkin and panchetta

The biggest difference you will see between the UK and the USA/Canada at this time of year are the halloween decorations. Even though the UK was the home of the pagan Samhain which is the father of halloween, it generally passes most people by. In contrast in the US and Canada there were streets of…

Peppers – Shishito

In the USA growing increasing popular it is the Japanese cousin of the Padron tapas pepper, called the Shishito. In Japanese the name is Shishitōgarashi the word translates to chilli pepper that looks like the head of a lion

Tomato Ildi

As a young child I hated tomatoes. In the early 80’s tomatoes in the UK were horrible things, flavourless and often underripe to stop them being damaged in transit. Gradually people started asking why the tomatoes eaten on holiday in Europe were just so much better than you could get here and things started to change.

Cucumber – Cucino F1

Do you ever get a bit fed up of buying massive supermarket cucumbers, wrapped in layers of plastic to make them grow straight and prevent them going floppy in a few days which inevitably you can’t eat all of it and find it mouldering a few days later in your salad draw? If so why not give growing some of the new baby cucumbers a go? Each one is perfect for a snack or in your lunchbox.

Strawberry – Mara Des Bois

If you want to watch a pastry chef drool just mention the strawberry Mara Des Bois. This French variety bred by Jacques Marionnet in 1991 was bred specifically to have the flavour and scent of wild strawberries but with much greater productivity, especially in spring.

Potato – Casablanca

Here’s looking at you spud! Of all the allotments in all the world, you had to walk in to this one! Cook it Sam, if you can cook it for her, you can cook it for me!

I spent some time trying to find a little about this darling modern variety of potato including how it got its exotic name. Is it named in honour of the film, the city? Does it originate from Casablanca (unlikely)? If anyone finds out then do let me know.

Grow Your Own – Lemongrass

If you’ve ever spent any time in southeast Asia or if not at least visited your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant you would almost certainly have tasted the perfumed taste of lemongrass. You might not realised it but it is an actual grass, but one with a fragrant citrus and slightly coriander taste and scent.

Chargrilled Asparagus with Parmesan

It’s time to put my asparagus to bed for the year but there is still time for one last meal and to take advantage of the box of free range eggs given to me by a friend from his own chickens so what could be better than asparagus dipped in to a a freshly boiled Legbar or Plymouth brown rock egg?

Falafels

Falafel can easily be bought from the supermarket and you seem to be able to buy them in an increasing array of flavours from sweet potato to beetroot. Interesting as they may be, nothing beat the taste of freshly cooked hand-made falafel.