Friday 17th May: All tarted up

Spinach, thyme and goats' cheese tart2

Alas, the Riverford Farm organic veg box arrived today, and after a short trip to the local shops for a few bits and bobs, it came to be that a cornucopia of ingredients sat expectantly in the fridge and larder, waiting to be whipped into something delicious.

Three items didn’t have to wait long.

This week’s seasonal surprises were as follows: carrots, cherry tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms, courgettes, aubergine, squash, peppers and a bag of mixed salad leaves.

I supplemented this with a few fresh herbs (dill, thyme and basil), baby spinach, spring onions, leeks and broccoli, alongside goats’ cheese, Roquefort, mozzarella, natural yoghurt, crème fraiche, eggs, sun-dried tomatoes, best-quality puff pastry, bulgar wheat and dried green lentils.

Total cost of the weekly shop, including veg box: a few pence over £51.

I do love the fact that I choose not to hop online and discover the delights that will be delivered in the box beforehand…I instead prefer the sense of spontaneity that comes with its arrival – a bit like diving into a fairground Lucky Dip…(and much less of a chance of getting covered in candyfloss, too!)

So with the week’s bounty purchased and stowed, it was time for a spot of supper, followed by my favourite bit…meal planning. Throw in a few cookery books and I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening, quite frankly.

Now, let it be said that I’m not averse to getting tarted up on a Friday night – in fact, that’s exactly what I did. It’s at this point that I should throw in the words ‘puff pastry’ and ‘spinach’, in the hope that it clarifies the true essence of ‘tart’ – in this case, that of the edible variety.

Tonight’s supper was taken from a recipe I spotted in my trusty River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook by Hugh F-W (aka my bible of all that is naturally delicious) – although of course, I couldn’t help but tinker about a bit with it (well, what’s a bit of experimentation between food lovers?!). Cue Spinach and Thyme Pasties. Which I turned it into a tart. And it was delicious.

On top of an all-butter puff pastry base (which had been baked for 5 minutes beforehand to develop a crispy edge), I placed chopped, wilted spinach, which had been combined with softened onion and garlic, a handful of thyme leaves and a generous wedge of goats’ cheese. Sprinkled over which, I added a pinch of nutmeg, some parmesan shavings and salt and pepper. Into the oven it went for around 10 minutes (180 deg/ gas 5), after which it was served on a plate with a handful of salad leaves. You can’t get anything more satisfying that.


The Egg and I: Flippin’ delicious

So I have a glut of eggs. Combine this with a hatred of waste and the acknowledgement that they are nutritional power-houses, and it makes for a rather cheap and healthily satisfying set of meals.

I could do a cheesy, herby, spinach omelette, I could boil them and serve them with hot, buttery soldiers or I could poach them, breaking open the wobbly white sacks and watching the ooze of the yolk as it cascades down (all of which I will do later in the week, of course)– but instead, on this occasion, I made pancakes.

A traditionalist when it comes to pancakes and wholly influenced by the European ‘crepe’ variety, I decided, in a moment of experimentation, that it was time to cross continents and go state-side for a change. Cue a batter so thick, creamy and gloopy that it was heavenly to stir. And very simple, too – one cup of flour, one cup of milk and one egg and within minutes you have a catalyst for so many flavours and combinations that it’s almost overwhelming.

Also a traditionalist when it comes to toppings (lemon and sugar without doubt), I seized the moment to switch to savoury. Why? Just because. That, and I had some blue cheese and spinach to use up, and I never let anything go to waste.

So into a small frying pan went a ladle of batter on top of a knob of melted butter (never margarine) and after a few moments, in went a few squares of British Stilton. A flip in time plus a spot of seasoning and onto the plate it went, topped off with a generous slather of blue cheese mixed with mayo, above which lands a big handful of spinach and a sprinkle of walnuts. Repeat with a second Stilton infused pancake and subsequent cheesy, spinach-laden layers, finish with a drizzle of olive oil and you’re in for a treat!

Spinach and Stilton Pancakes

And the most joyous outcome of this flipping frenzy? Having enough batter left over to enjoy a couple of fluffy, golden brown pancakes with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast the next morning.  Happy days.