The Challenge: Soup For The Neighbours

One of the upsides of lockdown is that neighbours have suddenly become very neighbourly. Carrier bags of ‘stuff’ keep appearing at my gate; last week it was rhubarb, this week it’s lovage.

Of course this is all very nice, but it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. In order for me to reciprocate and enter into the neighbourly spirit, it seems I have to make things from said ‘stuff’ and return it whence it came. So, last week I was making rhubarb and custard tarts and leaving them on Mark’s doorstep, but this week… what the hell I can do with a bag of lovage is a far bigger challenge!

It’s not a herb we Brits use a great deal. It arrives in the garden mid to late spring and sticks around right through til’ autumn. It belongs to the celery family and really does resemble celery; tall, green and leafy.

Flavour-wise it’s super powerful; the Germans use it a lot and consider it a vital part of any bouquet garni. In Germany, it’s referred to as Maggi Kraut; (Maggi Herb), due to the fact that it has that unique Maggi-like, umami flavour. It also has healthful qualities… “good for flushing out the kidneys”, so I’m told.

Lovage works well with peas; so a pea, potato and lovage soup was a knocking bet. Neighbours love soup, right? It also works really well with raw tomatoes, in a salad with goat’s curd, broad beans and spring onions, although tomatoes aren’t really at their best right now unless you can find some Isle of Wight early varieties. It’s also surprisingly good deep-fried, either as it is or in a very light tempura-type batter. Prepared like this, it would give a lovely flavour hit to a roast rack of spring lamb with asparagus and Jersey Royals.

 

The Challenge: Lovage Soup For The Neighbours

 

Pea, Lovage & Jersey Potato Soup… For The Neighbours

 

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add the vegetable stock and sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in the podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes until the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a knob of butter and maybe a dollop of crème fraiche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add a litre and a half of vegetable stock and 200g sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in 400g of podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes till the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose
their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a nob of butter and
maybe a dollop of crème fraîche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Share your own neighbourly lockdown creations on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge.

Try This: Courgette Flan

The eighth week of lockdown, coupled with the uplift in weather, suggests to me that it’s time to start eating more vegetables.

Last week, my veg box contained far too many courgettes, so I had to get a bit creative in order to work through them all. This courgette flan came out on top. Served with tomato sauce, it makes a really great sunshine lunch.

 

Try This: Courgette Flan

 

COURGETTE FLAN

 

INGREDIENTS:

600g chopped courgettes
1 courgette, sliced into thin coins and blanched in boiling salted water
1 finely chopped onion
1 grated garlic clove
50g cooked potatoes, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp vegetable stock
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
150ml double cream
3 beaten eggs
40g grated Berkswell cheese (or pecorino, or parmesan)
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

METHOD:

  • Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a pinch of salt.
  • Then add the chopped courgettes and season with salt and milled black pepper. Cover with a lid and continue cooking slowly until tender.
  • Add the vegetable stock and cooked potatoes, continue cooking until very soft then chill well.
  • Transfer the mixture to a liquidiser and blend ‘til smooth, then pour into a bowl and whisk in the double cream, eggs, cheese and fresh thyme.
  • Butter an oven proof dish 17cm x 11cm and pour in the mixture.
  • Cook in the oven in a bain marie at 160°C for 45 minutes.
  • Serve with fresh tomato sauce

Getting creative with veg? Fancy giving this courgette flan a go? Follow this recipe and post on social media using the hashtag, #21AtHome. 

Try This: Dan Warren’s Lockdown Chicken

Dan Warren, Head Chef at The Broad Chare, shares a simple ‘one-pot’ dish that really delivers when it comes to spring flavours. 

 

This chicken recipe is quick and easy to make, with no compromise on flavour. It’s made up of pretty straight-forward ingredients and is the ideal one-pot dish to see you through a day or two in lockdown.

The bird is cooked sealed tight with potatoes, aromatics, stock and butter, resulting in juicy flesh, tender vegetables and a rich fragrant liquor.

 

 

LOCKDOWN CHICKEN

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 free-range chicken (around 1.5kg)
400g waxy salad potatoes, peeled and halved
2 celery sticks, washed & roughly chopped
1 small leek, washed & roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
Sprig of thyme and lovage (optional)
1 unwaxed lemon
50ml EV olive oil
100g unsalted butter, softened
200ml chicken stock or water
Salt and pepper
300g peas (fresh or frozen)

 

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.
  • Remove the wishbone from the chicken to ensure easier carving when cooked, then season liberally inside and out.
  • Place the potatoes, celery, leeks, garlic, pared lemon zest and herbs in an ovenproof (ideally cast iron) dish, then set the chicken on top.
  • Spread the butter generously on to the bird, pour over the stock and olive oil and season again. Place a square of greaseproof paper on the chicken, then foil the dish to create a tight seal, to prevent any moisture from escaping.
  • Cook for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150°C / gas mark 2. Cook for a further 45 minutes or until the juices run clear.
  • Remove chicken from the dish and add the peas for a further 30 minutes, while the bird rests. The peas will lose their verdant colour but will swell and become tender and sweet, absorbing the rich chicken juices.
  • To finish, joint the chicken and colour skin-side in a little foaming butter if desired. Adjust the cooking liquor to taste with a little lemon juice and seasoning.
  • Serve the chicken with the braised vegetables and their juices. Enjoy with aioli and some good bread.

 

Fancy giving Dan Warren’s Lockdown Chicken a go? Follow this recipe and post on social media using the hashtag, #21AtHome.