Sunday, 21 March 2010

New beginnings

After an extremely harsh winter, the first signs of spring seem to be appearing, and not a moment too soon. I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to all the exciting produce that this season has to offer, and can't wait to see what shows up in my veg box.

Spring is a time of new beginnings and, this being the first official day of the season, is the perfect time to begin my blog. I am lucky enough to work for a well-known food magazine as a sub-editor and writer, but this will be my personal space to talk about what's in season, some ideas with what to do with the bountiful produce the seasons bring, and other food-related writing. The recipes I post will be a mixture of my own and favourite recipes from well-known cooks and chefs - and all seasonal of course.

I live in the Surrey countryside with my boyfriend, B., and he loves food and cooking just as much as I do. We do most of the cooking together, so this blog is a joint project; although you will mainly hear from me, B. will always be in the background - and who knows, he may even make a special appearance once in a while.

Our kitchen is small, but we make good use of the space, and look forward to a time when we have a large, airy kitchen, hopefully with a Kitchen Aid. We receive a Riverford veg box each fortnight; we are quite adventurous and love trying new things, and hope that getting the seasonal box will help us explore even more new dishes. Until recently we didn't have a kitchen all to ourselves, so although we are enthusiastic cooks, there is still a lot for us to discover, even with everyday produce. Join us on our culinary journey, as we cook our way through seasonal fruit and veg (with the odd sweet thing, too).

I was excited to receive some purple sprouting broccoli in our veg box this week - it was more purple and had thinner stalks than the pre-packed type that I normally see in the supermarket. Although classed as a winter vegetable, it heralds the arrival of spring and the end of a sparse period on the fruit and veg front. Although I have eaten purple sprouting broccoli before, B. hadn't, and I had never cooked it before, so this was an adventure for both of us.

First cultivated by the Romans, purple sprouting broccoli doesn't need much cooking and has a much more subtle taste than its green cousin. It is a great addition to stir-fries and salads, and makes a fantastic side. However, I wanted to cook something where purple sprouting broccoli was the main event.

Despite the slightly warmer weather, there is still enough of a chill for me to hanker after something warm and comforting. I decided to do a quick pasta dish that I had been eyeing up for a while. Pasta with sprouting and cream from Nigel Slater's wonderful book Tender Volume 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch is simple and speedy, and combines some of my favourite ingredients: blue cheese, crème fraîche and garlic. The orecchiette pasta was surprisingly hard to track down (I eventually found it in a branch of Waitrose, sadly not my local one) but it was worth it. Meaning 'little ears' in Italian, this traditional Puglian pasta is the perfect shape for this dish and is often paired with broccoli. The sauce pools in one side of the pasta, and clings to the ridges of the other. Before today, I had actually never tried this pasta before, but I will definitely be having it again.

I cannot recommend this dish highly enough; the creamy cheese sauce had a tang from the Gorgonzola and a savoury note from the anchovies that complemented the purple sprouting broccoli perfectly. I couldn't get enough, and I am not ashamed to admit that after polishing off the pasta and veg, I drank the rest of the sauce from the bowl (B. actually licked his!) - yes, it is that good. Normally I like to tweak recipes, but I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing.

Overall, it was exactly what I hoped it would be: comforting, yet light and creamy, perfect for a sunny but cold spring day.

Pasta with sprouting and cream (adapted from Nigel Slater's book, Tender Volume 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch)

Serves 3-4

250g purple sprouting broccoli

250g orecchiette

30g butter

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped


crème fraîche

170g Gorgonzola

1) Bring two deep pans of water to the boil. Trim the purple sprouting broccoli;

break into smaller florets,

trim any dry ends or tough stalks but do not remove the leaves. Lightly salt the water in one of the pans and drop in the purple sprouting broccoli. Cook for 3-4 minutes until tender, then drain and set aside.

2) Wipe out the broccoli pan and return to the heat with the butter, garlic and anchovies. Cook on a low heat for a minute or two until the anchovies have dissolved. Add the crème fraîche and Gorgonzola and cook on a medium heat, stirring continuously until the cheese has melted.

3) Meanwhile, generously salt the water in the other pan and drop in the pasta. Cook according to pack instructions (about 5-6 minutes) then drain well.

4) Add the cooked purple sprouting broccoli and pasta to the creamy sauce and serve immediately.


  1. That looks incredible - PSB is one of my absolute favourite vegetables, but I haven't seen much of it in the shops this year. I wonder if perhaps the season is late because of the harsh winter as with blood oranges?

    On another note, we happened upon some wrinkly old nonnas making orecchiette in a backstreet in Puglia a couple of summers ago. I don't know who stared more - them or us (actually I do, we're British).

    Look forward to reading more!

  2. Very pretty dish. I love purple sprouting too. Welcome to the world of food blogging :)

  3. Thanks to you both - was surprisingly nervous clicking 'publish'! Hopefully the next post will be a recipe of my own...

  4. Good Luck with your new blog. Purple sprouting is a good one to start with - who doesn't just love it and the sauce sounds wonderful.

  5. LOL You had me at me at "I drank the rest of the sauce from the bowl" You go girl! I'm into bowl licking and sipping too!

    I love purple broccoli too and very much for the same reasons you mentioned above!

    Welcome to the obsessive world of food blogging!

  6. Welcome, welcome! :)
    And nice start - we're growing PSB for the first time this year so will keep it in mind!

  7. Thank you Choclette, Bethany and Kavey! So excited to be blogging - think I will quickly become obsessed!

  8. Wow! That is some flavorful dish! Delicious! New blogger? Welcome!

  9. Welcome to blogging - looks like you're a natural! Can't wait to meet you at FBC10 (spied your tweet on twitter earlier).

  10. Welcome to a blogosphere! :) You are coming to FBC10. Great! Look forward to meeting you there! Have fun with your new blog baby! ;)

  11. I haven't seen purple broccoli before either and would be interesting to see how you use it :) As for the sprouts and pasta, looks so simple, light and delicious! well done and yes, please bring Spring on!

  12. Welcome to blogging! Look forward to reading more!
    Hope you try and enjoy the ox cheeks! :)