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CORNISH SPRING GREENS… 

20 April 2015

GOURMET LIFE

WELCOME TO THE CORNISH KITCHEN GARDEN

 

When a professional gardener starts getting excited about summer being on the way you just know that it’s time to start celebrating. This month I’ve caught up with the inspiring Ross Geach from Padstow Kitchen Garden to discuss growing vegetables and learn about the art of salad growing. For many of us growing vegetables is a lovely hobby but to transform that passion for homegrown food into a business is a scary step. Ross is a trained chef and comes at food from the kitchen angle first. He is a professionally trained chef who spent over ten years developing his skills with Rick Stein. As such, he understands what produce chefs need and appreciates the high standards they expect. I think that this Garden Chef approach is why his business is doing so well because not only does he love growing top quality food – he loves cooking and eating it!

 

Ross explained to me that ‘my main bread and butter is still salad bags but I want to be more than that’. So from baby leeks and baby herbs, to kales and edible flowers, Padstow Kitchen Garden supplies an enticing variety of delicious and high-quality produce. Following years of experimentation (and a few mistakes!); knowledge of cheating the seasons, and the use of polytunnels, Padstow Kitchen Garden can extend the availability of items throughout the year. What is also unique about Ross is he grows all the unusual things such as padron peppers and dragons eggs (type of delicious cucumber that tastes like a young melon!) but this means sometimes he’s ahead of the game… Chef’s love specialist ingredients but once he tells me it took a story to break in a sunday paper and a twitter exchange with a top London chef before everyone in Cornwall was then demanding his exciting ingredients.

 

If you visit the Padstow Kitchen Garden you will be blown away by the view, the beautiful fresh produce and by the intoxicating passion of a young family man who is running a thriving business on the hill overlooking the river camel. Ross supplies the very best chefs in Cornwall today and he grows a huge variety of vegetables which find their way into some of the county’s finest restaurants and cafes including Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant and St Petroc’s Bistro, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, and Michelin starred Number 6 and The Driftwood.

Ross’ reputation for producing outstanding and unusual vegetables is growing rapidly. A year ot two ago he appeared on ITV’s Hungry Sailors with me and my dad and also Hook It & Cook It with Nathan Outlaw. What is great news for aspiring gardeners and keen cooks is that Ross is now starting to run courses and workshops from his kitchen garden.

 

COURSES

If you’ve ever dreamed of growing your own vegetables to create fabulously nutritious meals, why not spend the day with Ross at beautiful Trerethern Farm in Padstow and learn how to establish your own kitchen garden. This fun but informative course is for gardeners of all abilities and no previous experience is required, although a passion for all things green-fingered is a bonus! Former head chef, Ross, will also prepare a scrumptious lunch made with ingredients sourced from the farm. Ross is keen to tailor the day to suit the participants’ requirements, therefore, over introductory tea/coffee and delicious home-made cake, he will ask each person what it is they would like to learn. Ross explained to me that ‘someone can come with little vegetable experience or with the ambition to set up their own kitchen garden’. He starts the day with an informal chat – sort of level assessment  and then ‘everyone gets what they need to out of the day’.

 

Instead of just looking at his impressive 25 metre rows of vegetables with green envy, Ross has also deliberately ‘invested in raised beds – so people can relate how they can build in their back garden’. The key isn’t experience on one of his courses but ‘wellies and waterproofs and a desire to get stuck in’. If you are lucky enough to get a place on one of his desirable courses then you’ll learn how to sow seeds from scratch, grow what you want to eat instead of ‘potatoes because dad grew potatoes’, and go away equipped with the know-how to grow ‘things that you’d eat in a restaurant’. A gourmet picnic lunch cooked by Ross is included and also some great chef tips on how to deal with gluts: making pickles, preserves, and real skills like making clamps.

 

One of Ross Geach’s best bits of advice is not to get too hung up on how to sow evenly but instead with things like leeks, fennel or radishes – eat the thinnings! Just go for it and sow then enjoy being a Garden Chef and use your baby leeks with seafood or your fresh shoots in a salad.

 

TOPICS INCLUDE:

Growing vegetables in the ground, raised beds, pots and a polytunnel.

Growing vegetables and herb plants from seed or cuttings.

Growing and harvesting seasonal veg.

How to grow baby veg and herbs for dinner parties.

Continuity sowing

How to deal with gluts.

How to correctly store your veg for example in clamps (see picture).

How to build a propagator.

How to build a hot-bed.

The importance of crop rotation.

How to make your own compost.

How to deal with garden pests and disease

Cooking tips will also be given for all the veg covered on the course.

 

NEXT COURSES

Sunday 28th June 2015, 10.00AM – 3.00PM
Sunday 19th July 2015, 10.00AM – 3.00PM
Monday 3rd August 2015, 10.00AM – 3.00PM
Monday 17th August 2015, 10.00AM – 3.00PM
Monday 31st August 2015, 10.00AM – 3.00PM

 

These fabulous courses are restricted to just 12 people to ensure each participant receives a thorough understanding of how to create a kitchen garden. To secure your place, or to enquire about group bookings or gift vouchers, please call Ross on 07974 697191 or email ross@padstowkitchengarden.co.uk

Please contact Ross to be notified when more dates are announced

£65 PER PERSON

 

 

MICRO KITCHEN GARDEN

 

All of us who have grown vegetables and herbs from seed have been part of the process of pricking out rows that appear too overcrowded, and then laboriously transplanted small seedlings into larger pots to bring them on. There is a great deal of work that goes on to get a cabbage from a cabbage seed, or a leek from a leek seed. Watering, potting up with compost, weeding, pest protection and harvesting. Before I talk about a more unusual way of growing, I’d like to say that I wouldn’t swap traditional growing methods for the world, however I do like to try out new techniques and then work together the best of the old with the best of the new.

When a seed sprouts it needs very little feeding as there is so much goodness contained within the small seed case. Light, water and heat are all essential after the initial germination period in the dark. It is at the young stage, after sprouting but before it becomes a vegetable when a seedling is at it’s most alive. Indeed the tastes are intensified and the seedlings are packed with beneficial antioxidants.  It takes some time to get used to the idea that micro greens are worth growing and harvesting but once you’ve tried a few varieties you won’t look back. The growing times range from 7 – 29 days and this means that you have a quick turnover with less initial capital needed. Plus, because they only grow to about 5 cm tall they are incredibly easy to harvest with just a pair of scissors. Using micro herbs and tiny salad leaves sounds like something very fancy that only chefs would do, but you can easily add a selection to a salad to add aroma and flavour or eat a healthy handful straight from the garden. The most well known example nowadays are pea shoots which people add to salads, or use as an attractive garnish.

Sow seeds for micro greens tightly together in square foot blocks. The closer together you sow them, the more they will want to grow upright and be uniformed and straight – much like a willow coppice but on a smaller scale. In my opinion some good varieties to start with for a cross section of colour and flavour would be; purple basil, mustard, peas, coriander and dill. Enjoy them and remember that ‘Small is Beautiful’…

 

STUFFED FLOWERS WITH COURGETTES RIBBONS

PINE NUT & FETA TAPENADE

 

Eating flowers has always been slightly controversial in my house but every summer we try some new ones.  Salads are often spruced up with some Borage or Nasturtiums and even Rosemary and Chive flowers make their way onto our plates. Courgette flowers are no exception… I particularly enjoy stuffing them and they can be eaten fresh or deep fried.

 

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

 

8-12 Courgette flowers

100 g Pine Nuts

200 g Feta Cheese

100 g Tapenade

2 tsp fresh Mint

2 Courgettes

1 Lemon

Olive Oil

1 tsp chopped Garlic

Salt and Pepper

 

FOR THE FLOWERS

Prepare the filling by chopping the Feta into small cubes and mixing in a bowl with the Olive Tapenade, Mint and Pine Nuts. Season with a little Black Pepper and the zest of the Lemon. Don’t worry about salt as the cheese is salty enough. Then fold back a couple of the outer petals gently and make a hole big enough to stuff the flowers. Fill the cavity with about 2 tsp worth and then either deep fry for no longer than 2 minutes or serve fresh. Tie with blanched chives for edible string…

FOR THE RIBBONS

Slice the baby courgettes very thinly lengthways using a potato peeler. Heat some oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. When it sizzles add the courgettes and stir until evenly covered. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 the Lemon and season with Salt and Black Pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the courgettes are soft and ready to eat.

 

GARDEN PEA & MINT RISOTTO

 

There is always the temptation when you are cooking with vegetables to think – “let’s make a risotto!” More often than not they are delicious, but I’ve selected this recipe to really show off the potential. Pearl Barley offers an extra bite to the texture and the peas are perfect paired with the mint, borage and goat’s cheese. It’s also a great recipe for using frozen peas you fancy cooking it out of season.

 

SERVES 4 – 6

INGREDIENTS

 

400 g frozen peas

2-4 shallots finely chopped

Handful of Pea shoots

300 g Pearl Barley

100 ml White Wine

150 g soft Goats’ Cheese

Salt and Pepper

50 g chopped Mint

500 ml Vegetable Stock

50 ml Olive Oil

100 ml Mint Oil

12 Borage Flowers

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Cook the peas, and shallots in oil for 3-4 minutes adding the wine and simmering for a further couple of minutes. Then add the pearl barley and half of the chopped mint. Stir and coat all of the pearl barley. Next start adding the vegetable stock a ladle at a time. Stir evenly and simmer for 20 minutes. When the water starts to evaporate and the pearl barley becomes hydrated stir in the remaining mint and the goats’ cheese. Serve with pea shoots and a drizzle of mint oil. You could also add more goats’ cheese or Parmesan at this stage.

 

 

ROCKET PESTO

 

Rocket is leafy plant that in the past has been seen as being a bit posh and trendy. It is however one of the easiest plants to grow, if you choose the perennial variety, and tastes great in any salad to add a bit of peppery heat. I love making this quick Pesto recipe as a refreshing change to basil or sage. The other advantage is that it uses loads of Rocket which grows so much that sometimes we think of it as a weed…

 

INGREDIENTS

12 scallops

200 g Rocket leaves (remove the leaves from the stems which are even more peppery)

100 g pine nuts

100 g grated Parmesan

2 cloves Garlic

50 ml Olive Oil

15 ml Lemon Juice

1 free range Egg

Salt and Pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

To make the Rocket pesto simply remove all of the leaves from the rocket and place them in a blender or pestle and mortar with half of the grated parmesan, the chopped garlic and olive oil. Blitz until it forms a smooth paste and then squeeze in the lemon juice before a final stir. Bottle this and keep in the fridge – it should last for 2-3 weeks and makes a great dressing for other salads.

 

Meanwhile crush the Pine Nuts by placing in a tea towel and bashing with a rolling pin. Next coat the scallops in flour and then the beaten egg. Finally roll them in the finely crushed pine nuts and season with some salt and black pepper. Fry in hot oil for 2-3 minutes or until they turn golden. You can garnish this tasty Rocket starter with a parmesan crisp. To make a parmesan crisp simply grate a teaspoon of the remaining cheese onto a non-stick baking sheet and heat in the oven at 180˚C for 3 minutes. This last stage isn’t vital as there is already enough cheesy taste in with the Rocket pesto – but if you’re feeling fancy then it’s worth experimenting…

 

Recipes taken from ‘Vegetables’ Made at Home series by Dick & James Strawbridge, published by Mitchell Beazley £12.99 www.octopusbooks.co.uk

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