The vegetable gardens are filling up with gorgeous summer abundance, almost every day it seems we are welcoming back another seasonal delight. 

Yesterday I made supper for over 50 people using delicious freshly harvested vegetables, fruit and herbs grown by Charles at Homeacres or me in my garden in Bruton. Charles has a glut of cucumbers already, whereas mine which were planted later are still at the flower and small baby cucumber stage.

Charles is also harvesting his first aubergines from his greenhouse – again, mine are still babies. It’s always interesting comparing how different vegetables are doing in our respective gardens and sharing the results!

Yesterday’s menu included aubergines, carrots, beetroot, onions, courgettes, borlotti beans (grown on my allotment, harvested autumn ’17 and stored in jars), broccoli and several different kinds of basil. The basil is from my polytunnel where I am growing around 10 different kinds including Thai, lemon, Indian and cinnamon basils. Charles just grows sweet and lemon basil in his polytunnel because these are very productive and great for his mixed salad, whereas I am growing for my family kitchen and can be more experimental – one of the differences between commercial growing for a market garden and growing for home.

I made 9 salads which we ate with Charles’ salad leaves and his homemade sourdough rye bread. There were rhubarb brownies, too!

All of the salads are plant based because that is what we grow. So often people say after eating one of my very vegetable-y meals (usually whilst getting second helpings!) that it’s the first time they have had a meal which was made entirely from plants – no dairy, meat or fish – and they are astonished how they didn’t miss those extra ingredients 🙂

I love the colours!!

Virgin Mojito Cucumbers

These are half-way between a salted cucumber and a pickle. They keep their crunchy bite for at least 24 hours so it is worth making plenty for snacking on. They are tasty in a sandwich too.

2 cucumbers
3 limes, juiced
a handful of chopped fresh mint – I used ginger mint
2 tbsp white wine vinegar – I used Moscatel wine vinegar but any will be fine, use cider vinegar if you have no white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt*

Peel the cucumbers (if you wish, older cucumbers can have tough skins but freshly picked are more tender) and slice. Put in a bowl with the lime juice and vinegar.

Sprinkle over the salt – I used a soft grey sea salt* and crushed it with my fingers, or use a salt grinder or pestle and mortar – and stir to coat the cucumbers with the liquid.

Put in the fridge or a cool place for 3-4 hours before eating.

If you fancy something a little stronger for a party snack, replace the vinegar with 2 tbsp (or more!) of white rum and reduce the salt to 1/4 tsp if you are going to drink the lime-rum liquid afterwards (or use it to make a salad dressing).

*I used Guerande salt, which is from the salt marshes of Southern Brittany. It’s a beautiful soft grey colour and is less ‘salty’ in flavour than regular sea salt. Feel free to use any kind of sea or rock salt that you have.

Roasted Fennel, Beetroot, Carrot and Walnut Salad

with orange vinaigrette

300g /10 1/2 oz beetroot, peeled and diced
300g/10 1/2 oz Florence fennel, diced
300g/10 1/2 oz carrots, diced
200g/ 7 oz walnuts
2 oranges, peeled and diced
Juice and zest of 2 oranges
60 ml/ 2 fl oz olive oil plus 2 tbsp for roasting
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tbsp fresh chopped fennel fronds
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/356˚F.

Spread the vegetables over an oven proof tray and coat with olive oil using your fingers or a pastry brush. Place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts on a baking tray.

Make the salad dressing by whisking together the orange zest, juice, oil, mustard, basil, vinegar – taste and season as you wish. (Tip: for a lighter dressing, omit the oil and reduce the vinegar to 1 tbsp.)

Five minutes before the vegetables are ready, place the walnuts in the oven to dry roast. Check every few minutes to make sure they are not burning – walnuts can quickly go from perfectly done to totally frazzled, so don’t wander off!

Put the vegetable and walnuts to cool.

When cool, place into a bowl with the orange and salad dressing. Mix thoroughly and serve.

This is also delicious hot.

The Creative Kitchen

I’m busy working on my new book with the team at Permanent Publications. It is so exciting choosing the recipes I will be sharing with you in this book – all of them plant based so you can use what you grow or what’s available in markets and shops. As well as food recipes, there’s also more of my ‘potion’ recipes, I’ve had such fun making those: things you can make for your body and home from plants you can grow. The publication date is October 31st.

More information soon!

 

Two Summer Salads - Virgin Mojito Cucumbers and Roast Fennel with Beetroot

 

7 comments

  1. The salads look great Steph – I shall certainly be giving them a whirl. We haven’t grown vegetable fennel … herb fennel does very well here. Perhaps try the real thing next year. Thanks for sharing the recipes.

    1. Thank you. It’s a beautiful vegetable to grow, easiest sown after the summer solstice so there’s time to sow now for eating later in the year. I also grow it over winter in the polytunnel.

      1. I love fennel too and so far my crop looks promising outside! Interested to know when you sow in polytunnel please as would like to expand winter poly use!

      2. I sow in the greenhouse in September and plant in October after the tomatoes etc are harvested. Solaris is good for overwintering. They even surprisingly survived very low temperatures during the Beasts!

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