Our national trainer, Jo Underhay, reveals why ‘grow-your-own’ is so rewarding and how you can use produce from your vegetable patch to make delicious recipes
The arrival of COVID-19 has changed almost everything, not least how we spend our spare time. Even with lockdown easing, our opportunities for ‘socialising’ remain limited. Some of the places we used to frequent before (gyms and theatres) are still closed. So, we are still spending huge amounts of time at home, especially in the garden, if we’re lucky enough to have one. And home-grown produce is nutritious, tastes delicious and even saves you money. Gardening is great physical exercise, of course, but it has valuable mental health benefits too.
Successfully ‘growing your own’ also boosts feelings of satisfaction, purpose and pride, all vital for healthy self-esteem. For foodies, you have an extra advantage. There’s something so rewarding about serving a meal prepared with tasty ingredients you’ve grown yourself from seed. If you started to grow your own when lockdown began, you should now have some amazing seasonal produce to sample. So, our national trainer, Jo Underhay, has sourced a selection of recipes to help you convert grow your own into tasty meals:
Tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines are all at their best this month. I admit that the latter can be tricky to cultivate successfully. However, it’s super easy to grow-your-own tomatoes and courgettes, making them ideal for anyone new to gardening.
No vegetable patch available? No problem! Cherry tomatoes are a brilliant option for balconies, as they are low maintenance and produce lots of fruit per growing season. You’ll get plenty of courgettes from each plant too (expect three or four a week). I think ratatouille is the ideal dish to use them all up.
Jamie Oliver’s version is an easy, one-pot option that’s perfect for a mid-week family meal. You cook the entire dish on the hob. Don’t be tempted to skip the balsamic vinegar as it really adds a deliciously rich sweetness.
Why not try making your ratatouille on our new C990i induction hob? It not only looks state-of-the-art with a TFT 7-inch touch screen but it’s so versatile you can move the pan around as and when it suits you thanks to our innovative Smart pan detection.
New potato & rosemary focaccia
I love potatoes any way you care to serve them, but there is something special about the Jersey Royal. As their name suggests, the genuine article is grown exclusively on the island of Jersey. But there are plenty other well-flavoured mainland grow your own varieties that are ready to harvest around now. New potatoes work well in all sorts of summery recipes and, lightly steamed, they’re a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal.
But I love this unusual new potato and rosemary focaccia recipe from BBC Good Food. Add a selection of cheese and preserves for a fabulous al fresco summer supper. It’s also perfect for a dinner party bread basket.
I find our Sense WD140BK warming drawer makes light work of proving bread dough! You can set your own temperature and keep it in the perfect condition to rise.
Top tip: Don’t forget to prove this dough twice – once before and once after you add your cooked new potatoes.
For me, summer desserts mean strawberries. So, when it comes to grow your own fruit, they are most definitely my first choice. Fortunately, strawberries are incredibly easy to cultivate, and can be grown almost anywhere: in borders, containers or even hanging baskets! While new plants are establishing, and during dry growing periods, they need frequent watering.
Strawberry Pavlova is such a quintessential summer pudding, and I think Mary Berry’s recipe is (as you’d expect!) one of the best. I adore the contrast in textures, and remember, it really doesn’t matter if your meringue cracks, it will still taste delicious!
Top tip: Don’t forget to chill your pavlova in the fridge for an hour before serving.
Grilled artichoke hearts
Globe artichokes are, in my opinion, a very under-rated vegetable. In terms of grow your own, you can cultivate them from seed or young plants. They are easy to cook and absolutely delicious to eat! Artichokes can usually be harvested from July onwards when the buds are about the size of a golf ball. Secondary heads appear after the main stem head (called the king head) is removed.
This recipe for grilled artichoke hearts is one of my favourites. They take a while to cook, and moist heat works best, so steam before grilling for the best results. You could even cook these on a BBQ. I serve mine with an aioli dip and lashings of freshly ground pepper.
Top tip: Reduce the usual steaming time slightly, as you’re adding extra cooking time with the grill.
If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, but now feel inspired to grow-your-own, don’t despair! It’s not too late to start. There are quite a few crops you can plant from July onwards, to make the most of the late summer sun. Chard, kohlrabi and radish are all promising candidates.
But before you begin, take stock of your available space. You’ll also need to be honest with yourself about how much time you have to spend caring for your crops. Some vegetables are far needier than others. If you’re a complete beginner,
lettuce is an easy win. Many salad leaves are easy to grow and fast to harvest: think just six weeks from sowing to picking. Lettuce is also great if you’re short on space.
You can grow it in pots, as it doesn’t need deep soil, just frequent watering and plenty of drainage. This lettuce soup recipe, from Epicurious, is a great way to use up outer leaves and ribs. It also works well with watercress, rocket and spinach.
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