Saturday, 27 February 2010

Signs of spring

Tuesday marked the return on the school gardening club after its winter break. Fortunately, I planned some inside activities for this first session, which was just as well as I set off for school in a snow storm! Unfortunately, my main theme for the afternoon was springtime. My first question was "What season are we in now?" The children raised their gaze towards the window and returned a unanimous "Winter!"

Nonetheless, I talked enthusiastically about snowdrops, catkins and potato chits and they soon got the hang of it. Their theme in class this half term is fairy tales and this week they were concentrating on Jack and the Beanstalk. Linking into this I talked about how all beans (and seeds for that matter) are magic, laying dormant until required then bursting into life and growing a plant that then produces food. It was more than fitting that we went on to sow some broad bean seeds that afternoon.

Back at home, I had brought a small seed tray in from outside at the end of the weekend and now the compost had thawed out so I decided to scatter a few leek seeds into it. Previously I had sown lettuce seeds in it late in the autumn with the hope of getting one last salad crop in before the winter but in the end the poor seedlings had been killed off by the frost before reaching an edible size. Leeks are very slow to germinate and grow, which is why they need to be started so early so I was surprised when I saw green shoots on Thursday this week. I only needed to move a little closer to see that the seedlings were in fact lettuce and not leeks. Ah... the magic of seeds again! Still, maybe I'll be able to harvest a few trendy micro salad leaves before I have to give the leeks more room.

It's not been a particularly busy week in the kitchen but I did make a spectacular lasagne for dinner on Wednesday night. It was dead simple to do as it happens because I used the other half of the bolognese I had made last week. So all it required was a cheese sauce and half an hour in the oven. It looked glorious when it came out of the oven with its bubbling, brown top. I served it simply along side some homemade garlic bread. Yummy!


A portion of bolognese made using about 300g mince
25g butter
25g plain flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
300 ml milk
60g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
30g grated Parmesan
6 sheets of "non-cook" lasagne

Preheat oven to 22o°C, gas 7. Melt the butter in a small pan then add the flour and mustard, stirring as you go to avoid lumps until it forms a paste. Add the milk 100ml at a time, stirring well to mix and avoid lumps. Cook for a minute or two after the last of the milk is added then stir in the Cheddar cheese. When the cheese is melted, taste and season. Remove from the heat. Pour the bolognese into a pan and bring to the boil. Spoon half the bolognese into the bottom of a suitable ovenproof dish then put a layer of lasagne on top, breaking the sheets to fit the dish without overlapping. Spoon over half the cheese sauce and spread out evenly over the lasagne sheets. Pour the remaining bolognese on top, add more lasagne sheets and the remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the Parmesan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve hot with garlic bread.

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