“It is like turning the kaleidoscope I had as a child. One mouthful of this dish and the world of dull winter magically fragments and is changed to the vibrant, intensely hued flavours, colours and warmth of the Mediterranean”.
The wind is set in a direction which turns my old house into an ice cold, Siberian hut. I have made fat cakes for the birds, lit the fire and embraced the warmth and comfort of slow roasts, succulent stews and oven baked apples with lemon peel and cloves. But what I really want is something new and exciting and full of zest. Something to take my mind off the Arctic chill and to get my heart and taste buds racing.
I set myself a challenge. I decide to leave the ‘hut’ and go outside into the garden and and pick as much produce as I can from the greenhouse and The Kitchen Garden. Then, using just what I have grown and a few store cupboard ingredients, I am going to come up with something fresh.
This is what I picked……
Fennel, Salad Burnet, Italian Parsley, Dill, Thyme, Blood-veined Sorrel, Cutting Celery, Lambs Lettuce, Rocket, Chervil, Lemon Coriander, Baby Beetroot Leaves, Baby Pak Choi, Winter Salad Leaves, Carrot Tops, Rainbow Beet, Bolthardy Beetroot, Yellowstone Carrots, Amsterdam Sweetheart Carrots, Red Ball Brussels. Invincible Pumpkin was harvested last October and stored indoors.
Time to splash around some olive oil and get roasting!
Inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, I make ROASTED PUMPKIN WITH A HERB CRUST. I mix 3 tblsp of Panko breadcrumbs with 50g of chopped anchovies in olive oil, and then stir in, 6 tblsp chopped parsley, 2 tblsp chopped thyme, and the grated zest of 2 lemons, (keeping a little back for later) and 2 crushed cloves of garlic and salt and pepper. Remember that the anchovies are already salty, so be very careful if adding more. I cooked the thick slices of pumpkin (skin on) and brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 C)-Gas mark 5, then adding the crust onto the flesh of the pumpkin, cooking for another 20 minutes until tender and the crust was golden brown.
I make a sour cream dressing with half a cup of sour cream and a tblsp of chopped dill, which I sprinkle with the remaining lemon zest. I serve the warm pumpkin on a bed of garden salad and roasted vegetables and pour some sour cream dressing over the top.
I taste the new dish and I am transported from my virtual hut in Yakutsk, to the warm, passionately life-enhancing climate of Italy. Suddenly, everything shifts and reconfigures. It is like turning the kaleidoscope I had as a child. One mouthful of this dish and the world of dull winter, magically fragments and is changed to the vibrant and intensely hued colours and flavours of the Mediterranean. I pour myself a glass of Fiano Masseria Bianca; a real taste of sunshine from Verona and I can almost imagine a warm breeze blowing on my skin. Maybe Summer is not so far away after all.