Cook’s notes: grow yourself healthy with a garden allotment

Growing your own vegetables and fruit is one of the healthiest pastimes in every way, for both mental relaxation as well as physical health, not to mention all the bracing fresh air! When working in the garden, your mind simply concentrates on nature. In this day and age when we are encouraged to buy our produce pre-wrapped in plastic (and probably irradiated for a longer shelf life) or be presented with the same varieties, over and over again, a garden – or allotment – provides the healthy alternative. Over the years we have embraced the idea of home-grown produce, either in an allotment or in a garden environment – or even on a rooftop!

Chard, red pepper and orange: tangy and full of vitamins and iron.

Chard, red pepper and orange: tangy and full of vitamins and iron.

I was so pleased to meet up with head gardener Claudia Pottier from Dr Neil’s Garden in Duddingston, who kindly allowed me access to her amazing personal allotment situated in Joppa. Claudia’s allotment was full of wonderful vegetables (even at this bleak time of year), from ‘Fordhook Giant Chard’ with dark green leaves and contrasting stems, to beetroot, Russian kale, sorrel and sage.

A safe spot for your tools and the centre of the allotment.

A safe spot for your tools and the centre of the allotment.

Beetroot

Beetroot is a root vegetable with the most distinctive colour (deep purple) smooth in texture with green stalks. There are many red varieties (the most popular is Boltardy) although you can source an interesting yellow beetroot from the USA.

Is there anything more satisfying that growing your own vegetables?

Is there anything more satisfying that growing your own vegetables?

The stalks of the beetroot are very high in vitamin C and the actual root itself is rich in fibre. Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of manganese and potassium, with folate (vitamin B9) and iron to prevent anaemia.

A lovely side of chard and smoked tofu.

A lovely side of chard and smoked tofu.

Cooking beetroot could not be easier. Lightly scrub the dirt from the root and trim the stalks (not too harshly). Cook the beet whole, either by boiling or wrapping in foil and baking in a slow oven with a small amount of water. Once cooked beetroot is ideal to roast, chop, bake, grate into salads, add to dips, or juice to enjoy a wonderfully healthy drink full of vitamins.

Beetroot and smoked tofu with pomegranate seeds
 
An ideal sharing plate as a salad or could equally be an individual main dish.
Author:
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: World
Serves: 1-2
Ingredients
  • 1 large beetroot
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small bunch chard
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin oil (flavoured oil such as walnut optional)
  • 4 medium sized pieces of smoked tofu
  • 1 medium sized pomegranate
  • 2 small blood oranges
  • Sprigs of mint, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Wash beetroot bulb, do not peel. Either boil until tender or wrap in foil and bake in a slow oven. Set aside to cool then peel and chop into small cubes.
  2. Wash and chop spring onions
  3. Wash and peel blood oranges – remove pith and slice into rounds.
  4. Place tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a bowl, add spring onions and sliced orange.
  5. Wash chard and remove white stems. Chop leaves into medium sized strips. Heat tablespoon of oil in frying pan and sauté chard strips until soft then drain on kitchen roll.
  6. Heat tablespoon of oil in frying pan and saute smoked tofu for a couple minutes on each side until golden brown.
  7. Peel pomegranate and deseed. Place in the bowl with the spring onions and orange slices. Combine all ingredients.
  8. On a large platter place chard leaves, spoon all the ingredients from the bowl, then dot with beetroot cubes. Last but not least, place slices of smoked tofu and scatter sprigs of fresh mint over the whole platter.

 

Chard

Claudia grows a particular robust variety of chard with white stems and flowery thick dark-green, veined leaves. White stems need to be cooked separately. There is also a red variety. All chards are hardy and are perfectly-suited to grow in the winter months.

Chard is ideal to use in stir fries, used in pies and warm salads. As with all green veggies, full of nutrition with the antioxidant Vitamins A, C and E to eradicate the free radicals that cause ageing.

Stir fried chard with red peppers, orange and soy sauce dressing
 
A quick and easy delicious side dish.
Author:
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Ingredients
Stir fry
  • 1 medium bunch chard
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin oil
  • 1 sweet chilli pepper
Dressing
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • juice from ½ orange
  • 1 tbsp of honey (to taste)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash chard – remove white stalks.
  2. Chop leaves into wide strips
  3. Heat extra-virgin oil in pan – lightly sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add chopped red pepper. Continue cooking for a further few minutes.
  5. Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl.
  6. Remove chard and red pepper from pan.
  7. Place on a serving platter and drizzle over dressing.
  8. Season to taste.

 

Chard growing proud.

Chard growing proud.

This is a recipe recommendation from Claudia Pottier which makes an excellent sharing platter.

Chard and Feta Parcels (from Sara Raven)
 
An ideal sharing platter!
Author:
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 200g chard (greens only), chopped
  • 200g feta cheese, half grated, half in small lumps
  • 100g Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 egg, beaten,
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 packet of filo pastry in sheets of about 45 x 20 cm
  • A little melted butter
  • A few sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Saute the leek in the butter until soft.
  2. Wash and dry the chard so that there is very little water, then sweat it with the leek for a few minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated feta, Parmesan, egg and seasoning, mixing all together.
  3. Take one sheet of filo pastry and cut into 10 cm wide strips. Brush this strip on one side with melted butter. Put one tablespoon of the mixture in the top right hand corner. Fold this over making a triangle, and then keep folding the triangle down the length of the strip, ending up with a triangular parcel, several layers thick. You can freeze at this stage.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. With a pastry brush, brush on a light coating of butter and dip into a plate of sesame seeds.
  5. Cook the parcels in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

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