But yes, I have been out in the garden quite a lot. Making the most of it, pottering about, tidying up, shoes off, bare feet, with toes digging into the barren earth and soaking up the awakening energy beneath. Kneeling too, praising the return of the divine goddess Ēostre and rolling in patches of wild garlic under the cherry tree. Where it seems incidentally, that all the cats in the neighbourhood have been doing their business over winter. I must do something about that. No matter though, I am simply happy to be able to get back outside, into the open air, and if my wife refuses to let me back in after practising my usual faux-pagan rituals, well I can always go for a wash in the River Ingrebourne at the bottom of the garden can't I.
This year I have got big plans. Plans that were formulated last year on a scrap of paper but didn't quite come to fruition because erm, I got busy with other .......important matters. However, after binging on George Clarke's Amazing Spaces - Shed of the Year recently, I am almost certainly and very definitely going to build a spectacular wooden den this year, out of reclaimed bits and bobs. All complete with clay oven, log burner and a hot tub fashioned from the hull of a jet engine. It really is going to be amazing and when it's done, I am going to invite George over for a beer and a soak and smugly say for the cameras that it really didn't cost that much or take that much effort at all. Although in the back of my mind, I suspect it will be just the opposite of that.
One thing I also want to do is up the ante with growing vegetables at home. Maybe not quite to the same dizzying heights of Joel Bird's Allotment Roof Shed (Shed of the Year for 2014) but I think I could do a bit more on the horticultural side at home because growing your own is so very satisfying. I had quite a good crack at it last year and when I visited my mini pot-bound plot this week, I was surprised to see that my kale had sprung back into life. An event which, after three and a half paragraphs, segues neatly into this recipe post.
|Cavolo Nero (not so sexy kale is just out of shot)|
ANYWAY! Let's have a look at this wonderful recipe by food writer Diana Henry which can be found in her book A Change Of Appetite. A book about healthy eating funnily enough, but one that certainly doesn't bash you over the head with serene yet ultimately empty ideas. In her own words 'None of the recipes here are 'cranky' or punishing (or I wouldn't eat them).' And I would say that is true because every single one of them looks tempting. Divided into seasons and interspersed with personal observations about eating, ingredients and dieting myths, the overall tone is one of gentle encouragement, born out of experience; combined with an approach that says 'Hey, it ain't rocket science folks.' I like that. I also like the look of her spiced quail with blood orange and date salad, a sumptuous slice of her blackberry and apple rye galatte, and her rich bowl of red mullet and saffron broth with Corfu garlic sauce.
The one recipe that stood out after a first flick through though was Diana's borlotti beans and kale with anchovy and rosemary dressing. As I am quite partial to an anchovy or two and I was intrigued as to how they would fit in with earthy Roman beans. And seeing as I had a recent rebirth of kale, along with some cavolo nero (which is far more prettier in my opinion) it only seemed right that this should be the first recipe to try. Suggested as a dish that can be eaten alone or as an accompaniment to meaty fish such as monkfish or to be eaten with an old fashioned roast, I went for simple roast chicken that had been sprinkled with a fine dusting of smoked salt from the Cornish Sea Salt Co.
And oof, what a gorgeous mix of flavour so it was. All garlic and delicate chilli heat, tempered by a shot of citrus and the dose of good carbohydrate from the borlotti beans was really filling. So much so that I am glad that Mrs FU pressed my hands down when she saw me with a spud and my peeler and told me to step away from the sink. I blame for the one-sixteenth of Irish in my blood for always wanting to necessitate potatoes for my plate but she was right, they weren't needed.
The absolute hero of this dish has to be the anchovy and rosemary sauce though. Lumpy and slightly unsightly yes but drizzled all over the beans and kale and the chicken (for good measure) this piquant dressing brought everything together with all the aplomb of a conductor at the Royal Albert Hall. My only complaint would be that Diana's instruction doesn't enable you to make nearly enough of the stuff needed. Double up I say! Double up Diana!
On that note, here is the recipe, with kind permission from the author. Give it a whirl.
Borlotti beans and kale with anchovy and rosemary sauce
Serves 4 as a main course.
6 as a side dish
|Beans, garlic, leaves|
FOR THE BEANS AND KALE
200g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 head of garlic (halved horizontally), plus 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
a few parsley stalks
1 dried chilli, crumbled
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
3 celery sticks
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
FOR THE SAUCE
1 tsp rosemary leaves
6 cured anchovies, drained of oil
juice of quarter lemon, or to taste
2 and a half tbsp extra virgin olive oil
|Beans, kale, salt|
Put the borlotti beans into a heavy-based pan with water to cover, the half head of garlic, parsley stalks, chilli, carrot, bay, two of the celery sticks, each broken in half, and 4 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to its lowest, cover and cook for an hour, or until the beans are tender but not failing apart. Drain the beans and remove the garlic, parsley stalks, carrot, bay and celery. Return the beans to the pan with 2 tbsp more of the extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper.
To make the sauce, pound the rosemary in a mortar then add the anchovies and crush to a paste. Gradually add the lemon juice and then the extra virgin olive oil, a little at a time, grinding as you go. You aren't making a mayonnaise, so don't expect this to emulsify. You'll be left with a lumpy sauce, but the pounding just melds all the elements together. Add pepper and set aside.
Rip the kale leaves from their coarse ribs (discard the ribs) then plunge the leaves into a pan of boiling water. Cook for five minutes, then drain.
Dice the remaining celery stick and heat the remaining 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan (preferably a sauté pan). Cook the celery for one minute, or just until it is beginning to soften but hasn't yet lost its bite. Add the sliced garlic and chilli flakes and cook for another minute, then add the beans and kale. Carefully heat these through without squashing them or overcooking. Check for seasoning, add some more lemon and serve with the sauce.