Thursday, May 16, 2013

Violet Syrup

the 'dog violet'

after recently bumping into a recipe online for violet syrup (see the 'life's a lasagne' blog, here), I gave it a go myself. there's quite a few clumps of violets growing in the hedges around my garden so I didn't have to travel too far. If you are planning on making this recipe it does take quite a lot of flower to make 1 cup (240ml) of syrup.

if only for the colour itself it's worth making this vibrant syrup. it's apparently that's what I made it for too. I found out after smelling my syrup that it didn't smell much of violets at all! I discovered the violets I used were 'dog violets' which don't really smell at all. oops! the fragrant variety is called 'sweet violet' and bears a yellow centre. that's the violet to use for this recipe, so I did the leg work for you! now you know.

i'm planning on devising a cocktail with my syrup so stay tuned for the follow up post to this one. possibly a violet prosecco cocktail? I mean, whats better than after a good day in the garden than a refreshing drink? a partially foraged one.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Green Garlic Dressing

purple sprouting broccoli shoots, kale buds, pea shoots, ruby steaks mustard, baby kale, green garlic and chive
its hard to believe that yesterday was the first day I got a whole salad out of the garden. everything seems a month behind at the moment, the spuds only just got their heads in gear, the over wintered cabbages are yet to form heads (will they?) and my peas just poked through the soil a week ago.
the salad bed (from bottom left to top right): easter egg radish (with mixed leaves to follow), ruby streaks mustard, garlic, little gem, garlic, beetroot, snow pea and ruby streaks mustard
this year I took a page out of joy larkom's creative vegetable gardening book and planted my salad bed with contrasting colours and texture, as well as planting the rows on the diagonal for visual interest. as you can see from the above picture its still has a bit more to fill out but the idea is starting to shape out.

a small garlic shoot for thining and using as green garlic
I only recently learned about green garlic (a.k.a wet garlic) as an ingredient. before the garlic reaches maturity the whole bulb and stem can be used, I picked mine very early as a thinning measure. its great in soups, dressings and marinades. the flavour is more subtle than mature garlic lacking the strong spicy edge. think: chives but better.

green garlic
the great thing about growing garlic yourself is a) its super easy and b) you can have a go with green garlic in the kitchen. (I've only seen it one or twice in the green grocers ) the use of green garlic is starting to pop up more in cookbooks and restaurants lately, so if you don't grow you're own you might see it popping up at a good green grocers soon. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Smoked Butter

yes it's true! smoking butter at home is quite simple. you need a metal box with large-ish holes punched in it, wood chips, a pot with tight fitting lid, a plate and some butter. I saw this recipe first in the Lark cookbook. (to read the FWDR review on the book click, here.) it instantly got my attention, the chefs at Lark were equally as inspired by the NOMA Cookbook, where they first discovered smoking butter.

smoking butter is such a great and simple idea - we smoke cheese, why not butter? it adds a lovely flavour to country bread and is great tossed with steamed veggies, you can make a killer beurre blanc sauce with it too, as they do in the Lark Cookbook. I used it here with fresh sliced radishes and flaky sea salt.

my attempt at smoking butter was a bit of trial and error. I used fine oak shavings my carpenter friend gave me, the recipe first called for chips. I used a roses tin for the smoke box. which I needed to make the holes a bit bigger. i'd say half a centimetre would have been best.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cookbook Review- Lark: Cooking Against the Grain

Lark: Cooking Against the Grain by John Sundstrom, (head chef of Lark, Seattle) was recently gifted to me by my good friends back in Seattle. Lark first opened its doors in 2003. before then  john sundstrom worked in the acclaimed seattle restaurant: the Dahlia Lounge as well as being head chef at Earth & Ocean in the W hotel, Seattle.  John has been featured on the Food Network’s “Best of“ Show as well as ”Food Nation”. Also John was featured in the PBS original series “Chefs a-field”, which was nominated for a James Beard Award. John was named “Best Chef Northwest” by the James Beard Foundation. john sundstrom obviously knows what's up with food.
after working in the food industry for a number of years myself and discovering how hard it can be to run a business, i swore i'd never want to open my own place. while reading this wonderful cookbook i was won over by the romance of running a restaurant, selecting quality ingredients (local and from afar), cooking them with care and then sharing the bounty of great food with others. food with a story. i then began to have second thought sof my own. I've come to my senses since, but the power of this cookbook is still there. every time i open it i see something i missed the last time, its held its place by the bed for some weeks now. most books last a few nights if their lucky! 
the book itself is organised into seasons, the pacific northwest is generally a mild climate and lacks a real wintery cold period, much like Ireland. so, John Sundstrom breaks the seasons into three distinct categories: Mist (nov-march), Evergreen (april-july and Bounty (aug-oct). the menu at Lark changes weekly depending on whats available and at its peak from vegetables, foraged food, whole pigs, lamb and cheeses. with this in mind the book is not entirely devoted to staying local. how can you beat real parmigiano reggiano, anyway? some great foods are just worth the air miles.

i was absolutely sold on the book when i came across this recipe with smoked butter, prawns and Brussels sprout leaves. smoked butter? yes! in a sauce? wow. the books recipes are clearly written along with encouragement to mix and match the recipes to your liking and what you have in season at your given time.

i love the emphasis on vegetables as a main ingredient, a trend that is getting stronger as of late in the food world. veg isn't just a second thought on the table, its in the spotlight. just look at this yummy plate of beetroot three ways, cooked, pickled and raw. heaven.