If you go down to the woods today or any day in the next week or so, you should find swathes of wild garlic. Right now is the time to pick it, while the leaves are young and at their most tender for cooking.
Although it looks more beautiful later on, when the small white flowers pierce out from amongst the lush greenery, it becomes a little more fibrous to eat.
Even if you aren’t able to go foraging for it yourself in the woods, this delicate wild plant has now become available in farmers’ markets and specialist shops, so it’s worth seeking it out to enjoy it during the short season. Although called ‘garlic’, its flavour is more like a gentle spring onion and when cooked, it is only softly pungent and enhances other flavours, rather than overpowering them.
Supplemented with a few spinach leaves from my garden (still going strong despite being overwintered), all I needed were fresh eggs, a spoonful of ricotta and fresh herbs to make the perfect early spring dish.
They’re the beating heart of a kitchen, the ideal bed partner for many ingredients, and breed endless possibilities for the curious cook. Yet eggs are strangely undervalued. With the launch of my book, EGG, in the U.S. it feels like the right time to give eggs the praise they deserve.
Eggs are magical things. These beautiful ovoid forms are one of the greatest gifts nature ever gave to the cook. No other ingredient can perform in such a complex way. They are simple and yet protean, indispensable but taken for granted, sometimes treated harshly and misunderstood, and yet continue to be the cornerstone of cookery.
Underneath the shell – that perfect vessel both to store and protect it – the egg gives us not one, but two ingredients: yolk and white. These parts can be separated and used either individually or together, both of which offer unique elements that perform in completely different ways. Yolks can emulsify to make thick, creamy sauces, while egg whites can be whipped into a foam and grow into great clouds. Whole eggs can be poached, fried, boiled, baked; or beaten together to give body and lightness to cakes.
Hand made gifts often mean more than anything bought. It’s not just the thought they require, it’s the time taken too. Last Christmas my sister gave me a basket full of jams and preserves she had made with fruit grown in her garden, and special ingredients foraged from the Cornish hedgerows where she lives. Every time I open a jar to scoop out some green tomato chutney or some rowanberry jelly, I think of her and the flavours transport me to rural Cornwall.
The experience of food can be a hugely evocative thing; taste and memory are so closely intertwined and many memories are of dishes cooked for us, or eaten with, our mothers: the restorative vegetable soup she made when I was ill; her English muffins baked fresh for breakfast with homemade marmalade; roast lamb for Sunday lunch. These are not just memories of the taste and texture of the food, they bring back the experience of the table where we ate; the room; the light and the emotions.
Nowness, the video channel premiering the best in global arts and culture featured a film of me at work..here’s what they say and a link to the short film:
July 13, 2015
A Woman’s Work: Blanche Vaughan
The lauded British chef reveals her culinary inspirations
For the third episode of A Women’s Work, we venture into the kitchen with British chef and food writer Blanche Vaughan, who has quietly created her own delectable take on English cuisine. Director Errol Rainey captured Vaughan’s elegant handiwork at her West London home and Devon country escape, which she shares with her art dealer husband, Hugo de Ferranti.
As a young chef, Vaughan sharpened her knives at some of London’s most revered institutions – Moro, St. John and River Café – before publishing an acclaimed kitchen handbook, In One Pot: Fresh Recipes for Every Occasion. A serious car accident left her with temporary memory loss and an inability to multitask; in the face of adversity, however, the remarkable chef developed recipes influenced by the personal constraints she was facing.
This past spring, Vaughan released another successful book, Egg: The Very Best Recipes Inspired by the Simple Egg – a celebration of her refreshingly uncomplicated approach to British produce.
Now is the perfect time to be picking nettles. They are young and tender and like any new season’s produce, at their freshest and best. Given that we spend most of our time avoiding contact with these stinging plants, it’s surprising to think what a pleasure they are to eat. So welcome their new growth and arm yourselves with gloves to go picking, because the reward is certainly worth it. Last week I ate a superb dish of nettle pappardelle at the River Cafe which inspired me to deviate from my usual nettle soup or ravioli recipes. (See my recipe for the Guardian for ravioli stuffed with nettles and ricotta ) The fun of this new method is getting the green colour and the flavour of the leaves into the pasta dough, rather than using the nettles as stuffing for ravioli or blended in a soup.
Fresh young nettles, stings still in tact
This month, my new cookbook Egg was released, or should I say hatched? It’s an exploration and a celebration of this wonderful, simple and perfectly packaged ingredient. We have been cooking with eggs for thousands of years and during that time, we have come up with some ingenious ways to use them: to make risen souflees and cakes, crisp meringues, rich custards, thick mayonnaise and even foamy cocktails. When I sat down to write this book, the hardest part was choosing which recipes to leave out.
It’s pancake day and there are a number of ways you could choose to make them: fluffy ones for breakfast with crisp bacon and maple syrup; buckwheat galettes for lunch rolled around a fried egg and a slice of ham; drop scones with jam for tea and finally and arguably the classic, and still my favourite – lace-thin crepes for pudding at dinner, with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar.
Fluffy breakfast pancakes with berries, bacon and maple syrup