South Leigh Seasonal Recipes

Looking back through past seasonal spring recipes, I can see that they feature all the wonderful ingredients that signal that spring is here. Recipes using new potatoes, the first of the season’s rhubarb, asparagus and fresh herbs such as chives, wild garlic and young nettles. Not to mention spring lamb, chicken, eggs and of course, as it’s Easter, chocolate. This year, the situation is very different as we are all in the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown. Shopping is difficult and getting together with extended family and friends is out of the question, so this spring I am putting together a few recipes that use mainly store cupboard ingredients. Of course, you can scroll through some of the previous spring recipes - there are quite a few that use basic ingredients, or vegetables and herbs that you might have in the garden - I hope they may tempt you into the kitchen. Stay well and well fed. EL.

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Wheaten Bread ~ Makes 1 loaf

This Irish soda bread is easy and quick to make and doesn't create much washing up as you just need one bowl. It makes a delicious alternative to yeasted breads and goes with everything from marmalade to mackerel paté.

300g wholemeal flour
300g plain white flour
1½ tsps salt
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
400-425ml milk
2 tsps of lemon juice or cider vinegar
2 tblsps vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C, Gas 6. Lightly oil a large baking tray.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the milk with the lemon juice, or vinegar, and stir in the vegetable oil. Pour this into the well and using your hand, quickly mix the liquid and the dry ingredients together. Do not over-work this mixture - the less you handle it, the better - but quickly add more flour if the dough is too wet or a little more milk if too dry. You are aiming for a very soft, but not sticky dough. Sprinkle the work top with a generous amount of wholemeal flour and tip out the dough.

With clean, dry hands, quickly and gently form the dough into a round loaf shape, turning it over to hide any gathers. Place on the prepared baking tray and flatten out the loaf slightly. Sprinkle more flour on top and then, using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the dough.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes. When cooked, the loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the base. Turn the loaf upside down for the last 5 minutes if necessary. Remove from the oven and cover with a damp tea towel while the loaf is cooling as this will keep the crust soft.

Cauliflower and Turmeric Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds ~ Serves 4

A cheery bright yellow soup, to brighten up even the dullest day. Don’t waste the stalk and leaves of a cauliflower they are really tasty - just discard the very outer leaves and toughest part of the stalk.

1 onion, chopped
vegetable oil
1 heaped tsp ground turmeric
1 small cauliflower
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 litre chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley, coriander or chives, to serve
crème fraiche or natural yogurt, to serve, optional

For the toasted pumpkin seeds:
100g pumpkln seeds
1 tblsp runny honey or maple syrup
salt, pepper and chilli flakes (optional)

First prepare the toasted pumpkin seeds. Mix the seeds and honey or maple syrup in a non-stick frying pan. Season with a little sea salt and chilli flakes (if you want a bit of spiciness). Heat gently until the sugar bubbles and the seeds begin to pop. Tip the hot mixture onto a sheet of baking parchment and set aside to cool and go crunchy.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion for a few minutes. Stir in the turmeric then add the stock and bring to the boil. Break the cauliflower into small florets and roughly chop the stalk and tender leaves. Add the cauliflower and parsnip to the stock and simmer gently until they are completely soft. Blitz the soup with a hand held blender, food processor or potato masher. Season to taste and add the chopped herbs. Serve with crème fraiche or yogurt and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.

Chocolate and Oat Cookies ~ Makes 12

Cooking with the children, who are now off school and getting restless, is a good way to keep them occupied. When I was young I liked to cook when I was bored (I still do!) My friend, Helen, and I would make buckets of these delicious cookies. They don’t take long to make - or eat! The addition of coffee really brings out the chocolate flavour but you can leave it out if you wish.

100g self-raising flour
2 tblsp cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
75g rolled oats
100g butter, melted
1 tsp instant coffee diluted in 2 tsps hot water, optional

Heat the oven to 180º, 170º Fan, Gas 4. Lightly grease and flour a large baking sheet or line with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and cocoa into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and rolled oats and mix well. Pour in the melted butter and coffee and mix to make a soft dough.

Taking walnut size pieces of the dough, roll them into 12 or so balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheet, squashing each cookie down slightly with the back of a fork.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. They will still be soft so leave them on the tray until cool.

No-bake Chocolate Biscuit Fingers

Don't even think about the calories in these incredibly moreish treats. You can cut them into fingers or bite size squares. You can add other bits and pieces to this mix, e.g. nuts and dried fruit, but we like it just as it is.

500g digestive biscuits, crushed into a mixture of small crumbs and some larger pieces
100g caster sugar
4 large tablespoons golden syrup
200g butter
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved

Grease and roughly line a baking tin, approximately 20cm x 20cm.

Gently heat the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat until it comes to the boil then immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the crushed biscuits and quickly stir to make sure that all the biscuits are coated. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, press down gently and cool in the fridge. Lift out of the tin and cut into squares or fingers.

Shepherdless Pie ~ Serves 4

This is a very adaptable dish made with mainly store-cupboard ingredients. You can vary the type of beans you use, though the black beans do lend a depth of colour and a richness to the pie, making them a good substitute for the 'shepherd'. You can pretty much substitute whatever vegetables you have - I have made this with cauliflower, canned sweetcorn, courgette and sweet red and yellow peppers. It is also good to mix other vegetables such as sweet potato or celeriac into the mash topping.

1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
vegetable oil
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
4 spring onions or 1 leek, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 x 400g can of black beans, drained
1 x 400g can red kidney beans, drained
150g button mushrooms, sliced,
1 x 400g can tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Mashed potato, for topping

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC, 180º Fan, Gas 6.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until the onion softens. Add the paprika, spring onion or leek, and celery and sauté for 2-3 minutes, ensuring they are coated in the paprika, before adding the mushrooms and mixing again. Add both of the beans and mix well. Tip in the tinned tomatoes, parsley, honey and lime or lemon juice. Season and continue cooking for a further few minutes.

Spoon the bean and vegetable mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potato. Cook in the pre-heated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is browned and the mixture bubbling around the edges.

Chunky Smoked Mackerel Paté ~ Serves 3-4

Peppered smoked mackerel fillets are great for this recipe as the paté is automatically seasoned. However, if you can’t get peppered fillets simply use the non-peppered variety and add lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste. If you prefer a smooth paté, give all the ingredients a quick whizz with a hand held blender or in a food processor.

3-4 peppered smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed
2 tblsp horseradish sauce
2 tblsp yogurt, crème fraiche, cream cheese or cream
a really good squeeze of lemon juice and a grating of lemon zest
chopped parsley or chives

Place all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and, using two forks, break up the mackerel so that all the ingredients are combined but the paté is still chunky. Check the seasoning and chill until ready to serve.