This year, lots of our trial edible seeds are coming from Peter Bauwens (denieuwetuin.be). He’s my latest veg gardening guru. I love growing his stuff — it is a shortcut to a broad and interesting culinary life. He’s done tons of research into delicious, beautiful and easy to grow edible plants from almost everywhere in the world — which means I don’t have to… and dipping into his website is a like a whistle-stop world food tour.
Last year we had a few things which came from him. My number one was a broccoli called Spigariello. We’ve been eating from this narrow-leaved brassica since July and still today I picked a bunch of tender-stem broccoli (that’s what it’s most like, but it has kale leaves down the stem which also make good eating). We went to minus 5 last night, but there it is bright and perky, giving us more and more delicious food. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been out there, simply breaking off the flower buds without scissors or a knife, ready for my basket. Like asparagus, they give just at the point in the stem they turn tough, so you can cook the whole spear if you want to.
We’re going to have our Spigariello for supper with lentils and ham hock. Here is the recipe. I made a double portion (so cook it for 8) so I can store some in the fridge to eat in the next few days or it’s good to freeze. Served with plenty of English mustard, I can’t wait.
Kale, Lentils and Ham Hock
This is a recipe from my next cookbook GOOD GOOD FOOD which will (finally!) be out this spring.
250g Puy lentils, rinsed
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
Large sprig of thyme
1 tbsp dried, flaked dulse seaweed
250ml red wine (or 1 x 400ml tin of tomatoes, to give necessary acidity)
250ml vegetable stock (see page 00), or 1 x funghi porcini stock cube (found in the special food aisle of the supermarket) plus 250ml water
300g Spigariello (or kale)
500g mix of chestnut, button, oyster and flat field mushrooms – quartered or cut into sixths or eighths
60g bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Cooked Ham hock or melted cakes of goat’s cheese
Put the lentils in a pan, cover them generously with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse to remove the indigestible starches. Set aside.
In a heavy-based pan, sauté the onion and garlic over a gentle heat in 1 tablespoon of the oil until soft. Add the par-cooked lentils, chilli, bay, thyme, and most of the dulse, and stir briefly.
Pour in the wine (or tomatoes, if using) and stock. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the lentils begin to soften but not collapse. Add a little more wine or water if necessary to prevent them from boiling dry, but don’t drown them. Remove the thyme.
Roughly chop the Spigariello (or if using kale remove the stalks from the kale and chop the leaves into strips). Steam them for 5 minutes. Allow to cool a little, then chop them down a little more.
Put the mushrooms in a large frying pan and cook gently in the remaining oil, sprinkled with the remaining ground dried dulse (to replace salt), stirring occasionally for 10–15 minutes until they start to brown.
Add the mushrooms to the lentils. Add most of the parsley, followed by the balsamic vinegar.
Serve the lentils, Spigariello and mushrooms on individual plates, each topped with ham (or warm melting goat’s cheese), or present on one large platter, with the ham (or cheese) arranged on top.
Serve, scattered with the remaining parsley.
Peter Bauwens new veg variety and growing course is on Saturday the 9th April, click here for more information.