Time to get sowing!
Hallelujia, the tables have turned! The days lengthen and so does my list of chores on the plot. The freshly planted seed trays will have to reside in the kitchen windowsill at home until Spring has truly arrived, however tempting the recent warmth. The “greenhouse”, a £35 plastic Argos job from last year, has not survived the 12-month battering by the elements and is full of holes, but still stands. We’ll soon repair it with some polythene sheets.
Some San Marzano tomatoes went in trays last week; they’re seeds I bought in California but I hope will survive in this cooler climate. I’ve also put in some Chinese Ancestor aubergines which I’m very excited about—aubergines will be a first this year, and the seed packet promises all sorts of weird shapes and colours from white to heliotrope. Sweetcorn and more leeks are planted and they’re all watered and set to germinate in a sunny spot covered loosely with cling film. Some lettuces I sowed in trays last week are already peeking their bright green shoots through the soil—thrilling beginnings!
Last year’s root patch has been diligently dug over and enriched with compost. This year it is designated for “others”—ie anything but roots and brassicas– so all members of the onion and bean family, tomatoes, salad leaves, chard etc. Making two straight rows with string and sticks, onion sets went in the new “others” patch before the rain suspended play. We didn’t plant nearly enough onions and garlic last year and aim for more volume and variety this year. I know they’re cheap to buy, but the flavour and romance of your own sweet alliums is simply unbeatable, and after all, they’re the foundation of practically every savoury recipe I can think of.
I’ve hacked off a good few handfuls of peppery rocket for tonight’s supper. This is undoubtedly a big advantage of an urban plot—we never get too hard a frost, and despite the snow, the rocket just keeps on coming. With the recent warm spells, it’s just about to bolt, so this may be nearing the end…until the next sowing of course!
TIP OF THE WEEK: When washing greens such as rocket, swirl in a clean sinkful of cold water, then leave for 5 minutes for the soil and grit to fall to the bottom. Lift out the leaves and rinse again.
Tortellini with Creamy Rocket Sauce
Get hold of some really good tortellini or ravioli from an Italian deli or from The Fresh Pasta Company . Wash and trim rocket and measure approx. 300g, then chop coarsely. Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in a wide pan and fry 1 chopped red chilli and 2 cloves crushed garlic for 1 minute. Add rocket, season with a little salt and pepper, and stir. Cover the pan while the rocket wilts, about 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and immediately stir in 6 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt and the juice of half a lemon. Cover and leave to stand for 1 minute, then stir into freshly cooked tortellini. Serves 4
(Originally published by The Times online)