Friday, 25 June 2010

Gradually getting there

On Monday we had homegrown mangetout with our dinner.
On Tuesday we had homegrown mangetout and broad beans with our dinner.
On Wednesday we had homegrown mangetout and broad beans with our dinner and strawberry cheesecake for afters.
On Thursday we had homegrown mangetout, broad beans and new potatoes with our dinner, strawberry cheesecake for afters and elderflower cordial to drink...

It sounds a bit like a game like "I packed my bag", doesn't it? But what a satisfying meal we had on Thursday night.

I started the week by picking a small sandwich bag of mangetout and a few strawberries. Well, it was my daughters who picked the strawberries. Off they went in their enthusiastic way with their plastic mushroom trays to put their harvests in whilst in the meantime I picked the mangetout. They appeared at my side a few minutes later and as I raised my eyes from the plants I caught sight of my eldest's tray, half full of lovely ripe strawberries already. "Oh, well done," I said, raising my eyes further to see how my youngest had done. Her tray was empty and her mouth stained red. "I was peckish," she said with a grin.

On returning home I asked my daughters what I should do with the strawberries that had made it as far as the kitchen. As it happened a few weeks ago there had been a deal in Tescos where you could buy a meal for 4 people consisting of a main course, side and dessert for £5 so I gave it a go, choosing a raspberry swirl cheesecake as the dessert. My eldest had always been suspicious of cheesecake (as I had been at her age) so had never felt adventurous enough to try it before but this one was so pretty she decided to brave it. And she loved it so when I asked about the strawberries she asked if I could make a strawberry swirl cheesecake. Well, I'm always up for a challenge but I needed to buy some ingredients first.

I went to the supermarket on Tuesday and along with the cheesecake ingredients I also went in search of some potatoes to tide us over until our own were ready to harvest. As I have said many times before I hate old potatoes and supermarket potatoes at this time of year are rubbish. They were harvested sometime in 2009 and stored for months so when you get them home they immediately start sprouting and when you fry them they are so full of sugar that they burn and taste sweet. So I spent several minutes in the vegetable department scrutinizing the potatoes looking for something that was harvested in 2010. Eventually I found a bag labelled "Organic new potatoes" so I went for those. At dinner time I chopped them into chips and fried them and then it became obvious that these potatoes weren't new at all. They browned and turned soggy and were completely horrible. Surely, they meant "boiling" rather than "new" potatoes. Isn't there some kind of rule about the use of such a word?

On Wednesday, as I tackled the strawberry swirl cheesecake challenge I sent Steve out to the allotment to investigate our own potatoes. He returned with a little pot of small potatoes just as I was removing the cheesecake from the oven. Success on two accounts.

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake

6 oz crushed digestive biscuits
2 oz melted butter

7 oz soft cheese
3 oz caster sugar
1 egg
4 fl oz whipping cream
4 oz strawberries
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1-2 tsp lemon juice

To make the base: Put the biscuits in a bag and crush them with the end of a rolling pin until finely crushed. Melt the butter and mix it with the biscuit crumbs. Press the mix firmly into the bottom of a flan dish and chill for about 1 hour.

To make the filling: Preheat oven to 180 °C, gas mark 4. Cream together the cheese and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and cream and whisk until thick. Place the strawberries in a blender with the icing sugar and lemon juice and blend until smooth then sieve to remove the seeds. Dollop the creamy filling onto the biscuit base and spread out evenly. Drop teaspoonfuls of the strawberry puree onto the cream mixture then use a chopstick or skewer to carefully swirl the strawberry puree through the cream mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes then turn out the oven and leave it in the oven for another 10 minutes. After that open the oven door and leave the cheesecake inside to continue its slow cooling so that it doesn't crack. Serve chilled.

By Thursday my little bag of mangetout had all been eaten so I went back to the allotment to see if there were any more. I was amazed that in those few days everything had shot up several inches. The potato plants seemed to have put on about a foot of growth and the peas had not only grown upwards but had grown numerous pods. The mangetout plants had been busy too so once again I set to work picking them as my daughters went on their strawberry hunt. We came home with 1lb of mangetout, a bag of broad beans, a punnet to strawberries and a lettuce. A pound of mangetout!! In the shops that would have cost £4. And so to cook the tastiest meal of the year so far. Forget gravy and put away the ketchup... time to taste fresh vegetables at their absolute best.


  1. Janine Doughty28 June 2010 at 17:30

    Dear Hazel,
    I have just discovered your blog, you may have a new "biggest fan." I have my elderflowers and rhubarb at the ready to attempt your jam recipe.
    What a fantastic site, it has done its job and given a great deal of inspiration to my kitchen adventures today.

  2. That cheesecake looks to die for! The only problem is that if I make it I would just have to eat it all. Still.....