Dreaming of spring...
Okay, much as I love mashed potato and celeriac, I have now officially Had Enough of winter. The worst part is, it's only getting started - soon we will be cowering beneath stormy January skies and skating on icy February paths.
I have retreated to my seed catalogues, to choose all the new produce for next year - including some climbing beans especially for drying and storing (such as the purple-flowered bean above), and plenty of green things. Although salad is scarce right now, salad is just exactly what we feel like after the heavy Christmas eating. So, I am trying to grow Arctic King (for early spring lettuce) and planning red chard and perpetual spinach for next year. (Both can be cut and eaten young, and will keep on producing.)
Here is one of my favourite ways to use up the leeks that arrive, every week, in our vegetable box. This is good with a green salad, or maybe with a fresh coleslaw - shredded carrot and cabbage dressed with vinaigrette - and some bread if you like; it's a good source of protein. It looks pretty boring, but it tastes fantastic.
LEEK AND BUTTER BEAN GRATIN
2 cups dried butter beans
1 large leek
1 cup creme fraiche OR 1 cup double cream with a squeeze of lemon in it
2tsp grain mustard
1tsp sea salt
Soak the butter beans in boiling water, in a heavy casserole with a lid, for as long as you can (at least one hour). Drain the water and fill with fresh water, then bring to the boil and simmer the beans for about 30 minutes (but keep an eye on them - don't let them turn squidgy - aim for beans with bite). Drain the beans immediately into a colander and run some cold water over them. Now pull off the skins. It's a boring job but worthwhile. If the skins are soft and not hanging off you don't need to take them all off. Put the skinned beans into an ovenproof dish. Now finely shred the leek and mix it with the beans, adding the rest of the ingredients too. Cover with foil and bake at 160 degrees for twenty minutes, removing the foil for the final five.