The Kitchen Garden Challenge

“It is like turning the kaleidoscope I had as a child. One mouthful of this dish and the world of dull winter magically fragments and is changed to the vibrant, intensely hued flavours, colours and warmth of the Mediterranean”.

 The wind is set in a direction which turns my old house into an ice cold, Siberian hut. I have made fat cakes for the birds, lit the fire and embraced the warmth and comfort of slow roasts, succulent stews and oven baked apples with lemon peel and cloves. But what I really want is something new and exciting and full of zest. Something to take my mind off the Arctic chill and to get my heart and taste buds racing.

I set myself a challenge. I decide to leave the ‘hut’ and go outside into the garden and and pick as much produce as I can from  the greenhouse and The Kitchen Garden. Then, using just what I have grown and a few store cupboard ingredients, I am going to come up with something fresh.

This is what I picked……

Fennel, Salad Burnet, Italian Parsley, Dill, Thyme, Blood-veined Sorrel, Cutting Celery, Lambs Lettuce, Rocket, Chervil, Lemon Coriander, Baby Beetroot Leaves, Baby Pak Choi, Winter Salad Leaves, Carrot Tops, Rainbow Beet, Bolthardy Beetroot, Yellowstone Carrots, Amsterdam Sweetheart Carrots, Red Ball Brussels. Invincible Pumpkin was harvested last October and stored indoors.

Time to splash around some olive oil and get roasting!

Inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, I make ROASTED PUMPKIN WITH A HERB CRUST. I mix 3 tblsp of Panko breadcrumbs with 50g of chopped anchovies in olive oil, and then stir in, 6 tblsp chopped parsley, 2 tblsp chopped thyme, and the grated zest of 2 lemons, (keeping a little back for later) and 2 crushed cloves of garlic and salt and pepper. Remember that the anchovies are already salty, so be very careful if adding more. I cooked the thick slices of pumpkin (skin on) and brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 C)-Gas mark 5, then adding the crust onto the flesh of the pumpkin, cooking for another 20 minutes until tender and the crust was golden brown.

I make a sour cream dressing with half a cup of sour cream and a tblsp of chopped dill, which I sprinkle with the remaining lemon zest. I serve the warm pumpkin on a bed of garden salad and roasted vegetables and pour some sour cream dressing over the top.

A little magic cooked up from the produce of my winter garden and greenhouse. I used Pumpkin for this dish, but you could easily use Squash.

I taste the new dish and I am transported from my virtual hut in Yakutsk, to the warm, passionately life-enhancing climate of Italy. Suddenly, everything shifts and reconfigures. It is like turning the kaleidoscope I had as a child. One mouthful of this dish and the world of dull winter, magically fragments and is changed to the vibrant and intensely hued colours and flavours of the Mediterranean.  I pour myself a glass of Fiano Masseria Bianca; a real taste of sunshine from Verona and I can almost imagine a warm breeze blowing on my skin. Maybe Summer is not so far away after all.


25 thoughts on “The Kitchen Garden Challenge

  1. Wow – what a fantastic haul! Our garden is not as diverse, but we have been enjoying potatoes, leeks and parsnips freshly harvested. Perhaps the thing most evocative of summer, though, are the raspberries… frozen, but still delicious and zingy and reminding us of warmth past and future ❤

    • Oh, I so envy you those potatoes. I suffer so badly here with blight. I usually grow First Earlies, which fare a little better, but I do struggle with all the digging and earthing up that they require. I have Leeks, I love the look of rows of them in the garden with their bluey grey foliage. I agree with you about the Raspberries. I make Rhubarb compote and freeze it and have it for breakfast everyday. I often stir frozen raspberries into the warm compote, so that they defrost and keep their natural colour and shape. I then sprinkle the lot with Rose petal sugar…….heavenly Summer flavours!
      Thanks so much for the comment…lovely x

  2. What a delightful and informative post. that recipe sounds fabulous and the thought that you can shift your thoughts to a more glorious setting by this adventure is divine! Do you have all those things growing in your greenhouse at this time? Marvelous.

    • Hello Cynthia. I plant salad and herbs in the greenhouse in the Autumn and I pick them through the winter. But Fennel, Parsley, Chervil, Salad Burnet and Lambs Lettuce are growing and will survive really low temperatures outdoors. The flavours in the herb salad with this dish is intense. I hate those wishy-washy, tasteless bags of salad from the stores. I want to pick my own or have none at all.
      Thank you, as always, for your interest in my posts. It makes it all worthwhile.

      • One day, I’ll have a greenhouse and plant my own herbs and greens. I have basil and thyme growing on windowsills, but I love arugula and other greens, and would love to grow them in winter too.

  3. All those colours, absolutely wonderful. Your captivating way with words just takes us all on the journey with you – cheers!!!

  4. Delightful Karen! It’s amazing how the mood and landscape changes completely with simple changes to the decor or how you prepare a meal. Your kitchen smell alone must have transported you immediately. Lovely piece, as usual, Karen. I am in awe of your energy and resourcefulness.

  5. Thank you so much Jan. I am often so thankful to count myself as a creative personality. I can not imagine what life would feel like if I had no appreciation of beauty or I was not able to create some. Mind you, perhaps life might be a little more stable then, with fewer ups and downs. And you are so right, a splash of colur here, baking or cooking a new dish there…can change our whole perspective.x

    • Thank you so much Gretchen. I find it amazing that even when it is very cold, that delicate herbs like Coriander will still grow in there. I am always so proud to be able to pick my own.

  6. Your writing skills are impeccable. I drifted with you and was tranported to Italy and then home to your kitchen. I am impressed that you are able to grow so much in a winter garden. The dish you made looks scrumptious. Thank you

    • Thank you so much Honey. I guess that although I am complaining about the cold, that it is nothing like as bad as you get it in Sweden. I surprised myself by the challenge I set myself and I really enjoyed the meal.
      I so appreciate your comments, thank you so much for writing.

      • I assume that the high winds in your area drops your temperature because of wind chill factor. We have been slammed with a lot of snow the last 10 days. I am still not complaining about the snow.. That might now be the case if I was the one who had to shovel it all the time (LOL). It is gorgeous outside.

  7. Gorgeous shots, Karen! Your photographs always remind me of still life painting. AH. The colors are always incredible. Love the detail pics, too. And now I’ve got a hankering for sour cream dressing! ~Theadora (Happy New Year!)

    • It is always such a special day when you make a visit Theadora. Your special blog, your upbeat, sassy, and Parisienne style make a Winters day seem that little more Spring-like! I am so glad that you liked the photos and a Happy New Year to you too.

  8. Oh, wow! Wow about everything! The idea of the challenge, the fact that you have all those things available in your own garden, that you knew what to do with them, that you took great photos, AND wrote so beautifully about the process. I’m glad you provided yourself with a little Italy and provided us with this account!

  9. I’m a bit late catching up with reading posts, Karen, but so very glad I caught up with this one! Your photography and words are always so beautiful – and you can throw together some fresh, homegrown ingredients and come up with a magnificent dish! I haven’t mastered that art at all. The sour cream dressing sounds so delish, too! Also, thank-you so very much for nominating me for a blog award. I was tickled pink and very honoured. I will write a post about it in the coming week. Have a fabulous weekend, Karen. xoxoxoxox

  10. Your creative spirit just radiates through your words, photos and I can imagine taste! The colors from all those veggies just pulled me in-I am envious..we are under 14 inches of snow and below zero weather..I did have some Blue Scotch Kale out there until it was covered by snow ( it will survive our below zero weahter + wind chills in the negatives) but to have that much to choose from this time of year-AMAZING—thank you for sharing-as always you inspire me in so many ways!

    • Thanks so much Alexandra. I cant wait to see what you do! It is finding time for all these creative ideas when we all lead such busy lives, that is the problem

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