Friday 23 December 2011

Notes from the Secret Garden Club

 I've posted the notes from this month's Secret Garden Club session on The Allium Family on the Club's blog here.
Fortified by MsMarmiteLover's warming glöggWe discussed varieties from garlic, onions, shallots and leeks - how and when to plant, how to look after them and how to harvest and store so that you always have them to hand. 
After the garden session, we enjoyed an allium-themed tea prepared by MsMarmiteLover and some lively discussion about alliums, and kitchen gardening in general.

Attendees took home a pot of chives, a 'lucky dip' of onion sets and garlic cloves ready for planting out, and a packet of authentic Walla Walla sweet onion seeds.

French onion soup
Garlic bread
Warm salad of leeks

Chocolate chip and garlic cookies 
Home-made mince pies

Next month, the Secret Garden Club meets on Sunday January 29th, when we'll be looking at herbs and medicinal plants and talking about how to plan and plant your own herb garden, no matter how small your space. Click here for details and how to book tickets.

Thursday 15 December 2011

A seasonal feast

This week I spent a hugely enjoyable evening at Anna Colquhoun’s Cooking Club, sampling some very moreish Swedish Glögg (or was it Danish Gløgg?) and looking at some creative ways to cook seasonal veg, supplied by Riverford, the organic box people. It was comforting to hear that Riverford have the exact same problem purple sprouting broccoli issue as i do – that the PSB is mature and ready for eating NOW rather than in March/April as normal. I loved the purple sprouting briefly blanched with dollops of Hollandaise sauce, but the standout dish for me was Anna’s butternut squash and sage risotto.

The risotto was a revelation, very sweet with onions cooked very slowly to melting tenderness and the squash roasted first in the oven. It has made me realise that although I think I make risotto in the classical manner, I actually rush it. I will definitely take my time with risottos in the future. Anna also used industrial quantities of butter, which I may only emulate for special treats rather than everyday suppers. I’ll certainly adopt her finishing touch though: a drizzle of sage leaves and squash seeds fried in brown butter.

The Cooking Club takes place on the second Tuesday or Wednesday of each month. Apart from the delicious food and drink, it also seems to be attended exclusively by friendly and engaging people. I’ll be back.

All about alliums - next week's Secret Garden Club

I’m getting ready for my second Secret Garden Club workshop next week. I’ll be talking about alliums – garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and a few other more unusual specimens – with some practical planting and harvesting advice and lots of tips for successful growing. As with last month’s successful session on smoking, MsMarmiteLover will create a delicious feast from the alliums we talk about – there’ll be some unexpected treats in there, I expect.

I'm afraid I’m rather predictably calling the session ‘Know Your Onions’ – if I can think of a better name between now and Wednesday December 21, I’ll change it. We don’t normally run the Secret Garden Club in midweek, but we chose December 21 deliberately, as the old saw has it that you should plant your garlic on the shortest day of the year ... come along next week (book here) and find out if there’s any truth in that.