Spring is springing vivaciously, verdantly, vividly.
I love Spring, almost as much as I love Autumn; its all about the edges of things for me. The edge of Winter as it graciously gives way to the bounding, lively greenness of Spring. Those crisp mornings where you can smell the life around you shaking off the frost and stretching towards the sun.
As I have rather a lot of time on my hands at the moment I have taken to rambling about the countryside with the dog, searching (as I do any time I go for a wander to be honest) for edible treats along the way. Much of what I’m hoping to find falls into the ‘Spring Greens’ category, things like Wild Garlic, Three-cornered Leeks, Dandelions and new growth Nettles.
Trug Full of Love
As I have mentioned before I am atrocious at baking bread. All but this sourdough recipe elude me…I have no idea why. It didn’t take too much practice to crack cakes (as I was generally a terrible baker until I got to like 22…), but bread is still tricky for me.
A sourdough loaf is very different from what mostly passes as bread these days. In fact, it is the antithesis of the industrial factory loaf – that soft, structureless, flavour-lite bread that is produced in such huge quantities and lasts for like two weeks even after you’ve opened it… Sourdough, by contrast, is bread with immense character, with presence – bread with a point. Freshly baked and smeared with cold, creamy butter, it’s exceptional. Torn up, dabbed in good olive oil, and sprinkled with a few flakes of rock salt, it’s a delight. It also has longevity without all those nasty preservative chemicals. After a few days you’ll find it makes the best toast ever, it’s brilliant for bruschetta and, as it gracefully comes to the end of its life, it produces the very finest breadcrumbs and croutons. And that’s why I think you might want to have a go at making it yourself too.
Sourdough topped with griddled chicken, sun dried tomatoes and rocket, dressed with olive oil
Possibly the most popular of the elevenses snacks I’ve made in the last few weeks has been the flapjacks, particularly with the crew (Jack and Tom). Served on getting into port with a hot cup of tea after a rather wet and windy sail, they went down a storm (sorry). Here’s the recipe so that you’ve got something nice to snack on after a cold and blustery dog walk, or Sunday stroll to the pub.
Flap Jacks and Toms
350g rolled oats, 175g sugar, 175g butter, 175g golden syrup, two handfuls chopped, dried apricots
Heat the oven to 150 C, line and grease a baking tray. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugar and the syrup and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and then stir in the oats and apricots (or other dried fruit, cranberries would be a nice Christmassy addition). Pour into the baking tin and squish it down well. Bake for 40 minutes, allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning it out and slicing, then a further ten minutes (if at all possible) before serving.
*So when I looked at the recipe for these I didn’t notice that you do in fact need twice as many oats as any other ingredient…so on pouring a very sloppy mix into tins, checking to see how long they needed and noticing my error, I had to pour it all out and start again….Note: Read recipes carefully
Thrifty cooking is something that has always been close to my heart. Not just from the budget point of view but also as a method of reducing waste. I hate wasting food, even the tops and tails of veg aren’t wasted when I’m cooking at home, they make excellent stock.
Thrifty cooking starts with thrifty shopping. Before you even go to the shop, start with a weekly menu plan. I plan out roughly what I want to cook for the week, work out who I’m going to be cooking for and whether there is anything they don’t eat or anything they love that I haven’t cooked for awhile. From this menu I can make a shopping list of things I need based on what I already have in the cupboard. For me, as a cook on a boat, this is essential. It means I can let the crew know what’s planned for the week and anyone can raise objections before I go shopping rather than after I’ve cooked the dinner. It also means that when I come to cook the meal, I know I have everything in stock. There is nothing worse than wanting to cook something and realising you’re missing the main ingredients (like on Sunday when I desperately wanted to make brownies but there was no butter and ALL the shops were shut because this is France…).