Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Hungry Gap

In the centuries before refrigeration and air freighted foods out of season, this time of year was known as the Hungry Gap. This was the time between the winter crops becoming inedible and the summer crops ripening. If you eat seasonally ( and I hope to persuade you to do so) you will be running out of ideas for a decent meal.

I get around the Hungry Gap by using this time to declutter my freezer in preparation for the summer goodies to come. This is allowable, even under a "seasonal only" decision in my book, as you are not importing or using up out of date tough and stringy foods either.

The parsnips have at last been all eaten up, the carrots have sprouted as have most of the potatoes, but I still have preserves in bottles, garlic and onions (although they are on the edge!) dried beans and, of course, the contents of my freezer. I used a pack of my pasta sauce with some frozen mince, added some herbs and pepper to this for a simple, tasty and very quick spaghetti bolognese

There are signs of life in the allotments - my winter lettuces are getting bigger as are my green herbs. Particularly good at the moment is parsley which has spread rampantly across all areas. Did you know you can make a soup out of parsley? Creamy-parsley-soup

For salad there starts the first leaves of spring. A tad bitter, but good for you after the winter. A bit like a natural detox! My salads this week contained chicory, lambs lettuce, chopped parsley, rosemary flowers, dandelion leaves and land cress. All in season and growing now in an allotment near me!

For pudding you cannot get better than rhubarb. My rhubarb this year is very abundant and delicious. This plant was ignored on the whole for many years after the Second World War as it was the only readily available "fruit" that many people could get hold of and with sugar rationing, none too sweet either. Many people living through those years have less than pleasant memories of it and taught this dislike to their offspring. Times change and at last rhubarb is starting to appear on more people's menus. It is so stupidly simple to grow, I do wonder at the price it fetches in supermarkets. Get to know your next door neighbours and you'll probably find at least one of them has a rhubarb patch. Offer to run errands in exchange for rhubarb ....

Rhubarb Crumble

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
Rhubarb mix

700g rhubarb, trimmed, sliced into 2cm pieces
2 pieces preserved stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
2 tbsp stem ginger syrup (from the jar)
25g  caster sugar

Put all these ingredients into a medium sized pie dish and mix well. Top with the crumble mix as follows;

Crumble mix
175g  plain flour

50g  rolled oats
100g butter, cut into small pieces
50g sugar

In a mixing bowl rub the butter into the dry ingredients and mix well. Add 50g flaked almonds. Scatter the mix evenly over the rhubarb and press down firmly. Rough up the top a bit with the prongs of a fork. bake in the centre of the oven for about 3/4 hr or until the crumble is brown and the rhubarb tender. Serve with custard, ice cream or cream. All three if you feel particularly greedy :)

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