sow it, grow it, eat it! by Annette Gibbons


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of real Cumbrian food. She hosts Cumbria’s Fine Dining Club and also enjoys her organic vegetable garden.

Who would have thought that summer this year would have been such a scorcher? The sun shone steadily from May to August and we were about to endure a hosepipe ban, the reprieve came with a generous rainfall.

Runner beans started in July; we’ve eaten them raw in salads or added to pasta dishes at the last minute to keep flavour, colour, texture and more importantly nutrients.

Each year, there are always winners and losers in the kitchen garden, but I feel the heat and sunshine has won in 2018. Here on the coast, the long dry period has been closely followed by a deluge of gentle rain, just right for being absorbed slowly to help with growth and maturity of the vegetables. Mange tout peas, sugar snaps especially Colossus have continued to make good pods. Turk’s Turban Squash are producing big fruits which should store for winter. Raspberries and blueberries offer early morning pickings for vitamin rich breakfasts. Brassicas, although attacked by slugs and snails brought out by the rain, are fattening up nicely. Red cabbage, kale, chard and spinach are all so welcome. I eventually got all my ‘leek-lets’ into the soil last month and are showing a growth spurt like a teenager on peanut butter!

Lettuce has suffered from lack of watering and gone to seed. However, I’m re-sowing and will continue to do so to ensure continuous green leaves into the autumn.

Courgettes have boasted big fat fruits and my recipe list of how to use every last one is ever increasing. My favourite has been a Green Risotto, followed by fritters, the way the Greeks’ do them and grated courgettes with pasta, cream and parmesan. Then there’s raw ribbons with a dill dressing, grilled slices on a barbecue, stuffed, courgette dhal plus chopped small and hidden in a tomato sauce for those who say they don’t like them! I’ve made plenty of courgette and cashew soup too! Green Risotto is a version which uses courgettes and peas in the initial cooking with arborio rice, then making a blitzed sauce of spinach leaves, mint, parsley and garlic to add at the end. We enjoyed fresh cooked prawns on top. Our freezer has containers of the prepared veggies for this dish so that I can make it at a minute’s notice. I love it!

I do hope you’re loving your garden too.

If you enjoy eating out but can’t decide where to go and what to choose, Annette’s popular Dining Club may help. The Club visits Cumbrian eateries where the evening is planned for you. If you’ve just moved to the area and would like to meet new people who also enjoy good food and wine this is a perfect night out. Long-standing locals are welcome too!

Telephone 01900 881356 to request a newsletter by post or email to have one sent directly to you.


Back in the early 2000s, before Churchmouse Cheese was even dreamed of, Jules and I used to visit a fabulous cheese shop in Didsbury, Manchester where we lived before we got married, the Cheese Hamlet still going strong today! I remember once asking the cheesemonger what the smelliest, most robust and pungent blue cheese in his counter was, whilst Jules opted for the mildest, creamiest, smoothest specimen in the cabinet. I came home with a piece of Picos Blue which, over the course of the following week, emitted a pong so powerful it pervaded the refrigerator for weeks. What a wonderful and life changing pong that was! Only a few months after this encounter, two weeks before our wedding, Jules fell over and broke both her legs meaning we had to cancel our honeymoon and come up to Cumbria for a couple of days rest and relaxation. We came to Kirkby Lonsdale on a whim and I decided then and there, that I wanted to open a cheese shop. With memories of our recent mephitic encounter in mind, the first cheese I ever ordered to sell in the shop was that superlative Picos Blue.

Now, we are sixteen years in, fads and fashions and cheeses come and go but Picos Blue always features in my cavalcade of cheeses. However, it is not something you feast on all of the time, it demands the right time and place. My preference would always be for a dark and stormy night by the fireside with a large glass of the heaviest red you can throw at it, a good port or perhaps a succulent desert wine. I was caught off guard the other day during this long hot summer, when I had sliced a piece for a customer. No, I don’t always nibble at the cheesy detritus, heaven forfend I would never be able to

hold on to my sylphlike figure! In the middle of the afternoon, on a day when temperatures were tipping 30°, I had a little taste of the cheese that had fallen onto the board and it took me right back to that day in Didsbury many years ago. The job of an affineur is to ripen cheese, so it reaches your table in a state of perfection. Most pasteurised, factory or creamery-made cheese pretty much tastes the same throughout the year never mind over the course of a week or two. The Picos is a quite different beast - sometimes it can be sharp and almost steely but at other times quite bland, mellow and unsatisfying. This particular cheese captured all I had loved about it in the first place. Deeply rich, intensely creamy, powerful, pungent and lasting, it was possibly the finest piece of cheese I have ever tasted! Made in the Picos de Europa mountain range in Eastern Spain from a mixture of cows and goats’ milk, allowed to curdle with Penicillin Roqueforti mould using a traditional animal rennet and wrapped in maple leaves, it is a thing of beauty! It just goes to show, that you don’t have to wait until you get the fireplace going before you can enjoy it at its best. Enjoy it now whilst we still have the weather (hopefully!) with fresh figs and a glass of Fino.

John Natlacen, Owner

Try this cake... you will be impressed!

Lemon drizzle cake with mint and blueberries Ingredients

115g soft butter, plus extra for greasing the tin 25g freshly picked mint leaves 250g fresh blueberries

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon 250g plain flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder Pinch of salt

225g caster sugar 2 large eggs

120ml whole milk 25g desiccated coconut 100g granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

You will need 3 bowls (1 large) and a loaf tin approx. 11cm x 22cm.

To start, pre-heat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4 and position the shelf in the middle of your oven.

Take approximately a quarter of the mint leaves and chop as finely as you can. Pop into a bowl and add the blueberries along with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.

Sift your flour into another bowl, along with the baking powder and pinch of salt.

In the large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar together. Best done with a electric mixer. When it eventually comes together it will be a pale colour.

Mix in the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a

tablespoon of the flour mix after the second egg... keep beating! Slowly add in the milk along with tablespoons of the rest of the flour, until lovely and smooth. Now fold in the desiccated coconut.

Grease the loaf tin with a little butter and line with baking paper. Once done, spoon approximately one third of the cake mix into the tin and spread evenly across the base. Scatter a third of the blueberry mix on top. Repeat twice more with cake mix and scattering blueberries, ending with blueberry mix on the top.

Bake in your oven for an hour or until the skewer test comes out clean. Whilst the cake is baking you can make the topping. You will need a mortar or small bowl. Take the rest of the mint leaves with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and pound with pestle or the end of a rolling pin until you have a green paste. Stir in approx. three or four tablespoons of lemon juice that is left. Leave to infuse.

When cooked remove the cake and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Strain the minty juice through a tea strainer - extract as much juice as you can! Add the last of the granulated sugar and stir. Once the sugar has dissolved pour over the cake and leave to cool further.

Remove cake from tin and peel off the baking paper and sprinkle a little sugar over to finish... enjoy!

ISSUE 428 | 23 AUGUST 2018 | 42

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