Monday, 8 June 2009

Onion Harvest and Navarin D'agneau

Its been a bit busy this last week. My contract at work has been extended until the end of the year which is reassuring. Being a freelancer its always a bit daunting as you enter the last weeks of your contract as to whether it will be renewed or you will be told that your services are no longer required. Fortunately for me I havent been without work since I left a permenant post several years ago and took a gamble on going solo. Nows not the time to ask for a rise though, just count your blessings that you havent become a victim of the resession. So high five, I'm surviving thus far.

My parents are also on their UK tour, currently performing child-minding and the likes around our house for several days so we went to the Science Museum in Kensington, lunch in Belgos and Hamleys on Saturday and Bowling on Sunday. Quite a weekend and as much as I love my lotty, it was a great couple of days out and a pleasant change from the norm.

Anyroads - Over on the plot the onions had tipping over by the score suggesting that they had given up on bulb development and were finally ready, they were planted on september the 16th last year. So as I popped over last week I pulled a couple, then some more and just kept going until I had a mountain of red, yellow and white onions. Glorious fat bulbs of the yellows and whites. The Reds were satisfactory but by no means show winners. The shallots were also ready so up they came too. I struggled to get them all into the boot of my car and the smell from several hundred freshly dug aliums lingers to this day. When I got the back home I let them dry off for a few days outside. I stuffed them into the gaps of the trellis in our fence to keep them off the ground. Then after a few days rain beckoned so I cut some lengths of cable and hung them in the garage to continue curing. About thirty of the onions had developed "Fat neck" which happens when the central stem of the onion develops a flower head. Lot of people throw them straight onto the compost heap and don't eat them. I say thats a ridiculous reason to throw them, you just need to eat them or make preserves as soon as possible before the central stem begins to brown and eventually rot. These ones have been cut back of their foliage and are being used as a priority.

I Popped over to the plot quickly again on Saturday evening to show my mum the progress. We had dinner planned for Sunday so we got busy filling up a swag bag.

Firstly I pulled a big Kos Lettuce which was actually for Saturdays supper, it was a little bit past its best so quite a few of the outer leaves were composted. we then grabbed several beetroots. These where the first beets I had taken this year. They came out of the ground nice and easily, partly becasue they have been growing in a raised be but also because of the rain these last few days. I have to say that these were much taster than last years. We shredded them through the roto slicer and nearly fainted when my wife, with her life long abhorance of beetroot tried a bit at the dinner table and proceeded to put some on her plate and finished the lot. The variety I'm growing are the ones with the white flesh and pink rings inside. Maybe it was the colour that put her off, I tend to think it was the over abundance of pickled beets on the canteen menu at school.

Then I moved onto the broad beans. These are the over wintered ones which are short podded and contain 4-6 beans in each. After that my mum picked a couple of small pots of strawberries, most of them made it home but wheres the fun in growing strawberries if you can't eat them straight from the plant?

The early Nantes carrots have been ransacked a lot of late. That day was no exception as we pulled another thirty or so of them. Then the peas......Oh my god the peas........I have only had a tasters of these so far, last years peas where very mealy so it was a joy to snap them off and munch on several pods right there and then, about eighty pods still made it into the swag bag - so sweat I could live on these for weeks.

Max has been growing turnips and had given me the all clear to bring some home too so ten beautiful purple topped specimens were taken out of his plot and added to the haul.

Lastly I thought I'd show off my first earlies to my mum so took out the trusty fork and dug into a pile with some Pixie first earlies. It was dissapointing to only find six or so worthy spuds for the swag bag. They are pretty though with little pink eyes. I will give these a few more weeks as the Maris bards and home guard seem to be doing so much better. Presides I had about a kilo at home from the previous visit so I resisted temptation to dig any more.

So what do you do with all these spring vegetables I wondered. Well my mother in law had the perfect recipe and at the risk of upsetting 50 million French people I will impart with one of their old skool favourite recipes named Navarin d'agneau - Spring lamb stew to most of us. Its a delicous mix of spring vegetables at their very best and brings out the very best in lamb.

Serves - Too much for six hungry adults

1.5 KG Lamb Diced - Large n chunky - big is better
4 Medium Onions (sliced fairly chunky - think one centimetre)
4 tbl spoons of Plain Flower
1/3 bottle of dry white wine
1 Bouquet Garni
50 Grams of Butter
80 Podded peas
40 Podded broad beans
500 grams of New Carrots - Topped and tailed in skins - Chopped in half or three
500 grams of New Potatoes - washed in their skins - chopped in half if larger than an egg
500 grams of Turnips - Topped and tailed, peeled - same size as potatoes
6 white rooted small beetroot (optional) -Topped and tailed, peeled- same size as potatoes
Salt and Pepper.

This works great in a big heavy casarole - Everyone went back for seconds and it went down a storm with some home made bread cut up into doorsteps to mop up the sauce.

Add half the flour into the pan and throw in the cut lamb and cover the lamb as best you can with the flour. Then add the four chopped onions into the pan and add the rest of the flour.

Turn on the heat on the hob to HIGH and add the butter - Brown off the meat for several minutes turning regulary to ensure the onions do not burn. (Its normal to see brown at the bas of the pan, its the flour, lambs fat and butter).

Add two large glasses of wine, then the bouqet garni and then add water so that the liquids are a tad above the level of the meat and onions.

Cover and simmer for forty minutes.

Add Carrots, Potatoes, Turnips, Beetroot and another wine glass of Water. Salt and pepper as liked.

Cover and simmer for thirty minutes.

You can turn it off now if you have pre-prepared this. Or if you are eating straight away. Add the peas and beans. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat - let it stand for five minutes and give it a good stir.

Repeat stirring "genty does it" after another five minutes and serve in deep plates with bread and the remainder of the wine.

Just the trick for a Sunday that was ten degrees celcius less than the previous week.