Well hello again everyone!

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


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of real Cumbrian food and enjoys her organic vegetable garden...

It’s about this time of year that I start to panic! The growing season is in full swing and I’m concerned that the weeds will overpower me! I’m thankful that the seeds I’ve planted in the greenhouse, or on window ledges are mostly surviving but the plot they have been destined for is surprisingly green, with weeds. Weeds are just plants in the wrong place but they will fight for nutrients in the soil and must be gone.

Lots of brassicas, kale, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage seedlings are waiting to go in the soil. I’ve layered on a good covering of home-grown compost and am hoping for some heavy rain as the seedlings go into the bed. Hoping for rain may sound surprising but our average rainfall is very low so far this year at the coast. Gardening on light sandy soil means I need to enrich the soil and incorporate lots of moisture retentive compost. Rotating the crops in each of the vegetable beds, lessens the chance of a build-up of disease and the soil stays fresh. However, at the back end of last year, I did notice some spring cabbages showing signs of club root (knarly bulbous roots) which is a fungal disease and means that I should not grow brassicas again on this area for a number of years.

Having had a fairly mild winter, the vegetable garden has continued to give us a range of goodies to eat. The ruby kale has gone to flower, gorgeous yellow flowers which spread the seeds around the garden. My hens love these flowers and I delight in throwing the plants into the hen pen and watching them gorge.

I find the tiny kale plants where the wind has taken them, I transplant these and hey presto free kale plants! Every so often, I do buy fresh seeds which helps with controlling disease such as club root.

Last night’s supper was a lovely fresh spring mix

of wild garlic leaves, sprouting broccoli (now sold in shops as ‘tender stem broccoli’) spring onions, coriander leaves and pak choi. You may imagine that the dish was Asian inspired, and I was lucky to have locally reared, home-cooked crispy duck to set off the delicious greens. Not bad for a Monday evening!

Another favourite way to use the last of the winter crops with the first of this year’s crops is a light but very tasty and nutritious soup. Garlic Family soup. I sweat down chopped onion, garlic and leek in melted butter with a lid on the pan. After at least 15 minutes having stirred from time to time I add stock, bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes. I blitz it and add a little cream and lashings of finely chopped spring onions and chives to serve. Occasionally, I’ll add a potato to the first cooking, which gives a thicker consistency. I love the crunch and colour of the fresh green garnish too. • 01900 881356 INFO@THECOCKERMOUTHPOST.CO.UK

It has been simply ages since we’ve talked cheese in this venerable publication and it’s nice to be back! I feel like I have been in cold storage these past few months and speaking of cold storage, that is what I am going to turn my attention to this issue. The number one question I am usually asked when hosting a cheese talk for Womens Institutes and other groups the length and breadth of Cumbria and further afield, pertains to the storing of cheese. Of course, fridges are a relatively recent innovation in the whole scheme of things and obviously mankind has been making cheese for millennia. There is the occasional opinion voiced that cheese should never be kept in the fridge and of course, in ideal circumstances this would probably be the case, but we don’t all live in thick-walled farmhouses with marvellous cellars. So, fridges do have their place, especially when we have a summer like the one we experienced last year. Now, cheese doesn’t actually mind being kept at a stable temperature but it doesn’t really like coming in and out of a fridge perpetually, best kept coolish and constant.

If you are going to refrigerate it, try storing the cheese in an airtight container wrapped in a good quality cheese wrap such as the one you get the cheese handed to you in a deli, or cheese shop (wax paper or parchment paper are perfect). Directly wrapping in clingfilm should be avoided, although it is a good idea to cover the wrapped cheese in clingfilm so that

it doesn't absorb the flavours of the fridge. Blue cheese doesn't mind being tightly wrapped in tin foil, the naughty old thing! Try to separate the cheeses in the container to allow air flow, don't pack

them in too tightly side-by-side, as you may

experience some flavour ‘transference’ and this happens very easily with strong flavoured or smoked cheeses. Drawers in your fridge are slightly warmer, with higher humidity, so store them there, not on a shelf, closest drawer to the bottom if possible. With regards to allowing your cheese to breath before serving, use your noggin - if it's a small piece and the ambient temperature is high, half an hour should do, a large piece of hard cheese will take longer, perhaps two hours or even more. If you are blessed with a cool and constant space, consider a cheese safe such as the one pictured, they are perfect and who can deny the brownie points you score amongst aficionados when you bring this to your dinner table and present your delectable cheesy wares thus! Some brand-new Cumbrian cheese coming next month - ewe’ ll love it!

John Natlacen, Owner

A warm welcome back to Helen and Mike and the good old Cockermouth Post! You have all been missed! Let’s celebrate with a...

Sticky Chocolate Sponge

Ingredients 100g dark chocolate - have you tried Cadbury’s Darkmilk chocolate bar - delicious! 125g butter 150g caster sugar 2 eggs 150g self-raising flour 340g marmalade or jam - any will do, even a mix to use up old jars!

Heat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas 4 and line a 20cm, loose-based cake tin with baking parchment.

Place the butter and chocolate (best to break it up first) in a medium sized saucepan and gently heat - make sure you stir all the time until melted.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of jam in a small bowl and set aside. Take your melted chocolate saucepan off the heat. Add the rest of the jam and sugar and mix well. Crack and add the 2

eggs and mix again. Now, add the flour in three batches. Fold in lightly until combined.

Scoop out the mixture into your lined cake tin and smooth down the top. Pop into the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. It is best to rotate the tin half way through, to guarantee it bakes evenly.

Towards the end of the bake keep an eye on the top of the cake as it can burn. Best to cover loosely with tin foil at about 30 minutes.

As always, the cake is cooked if firm to touch on the top and the skewer test comes out clean - may have a few little crumbs.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack - the right way up, not top down.

Heat your 2 to 3 tablespoons of jam you saved in the microwave until runny, then you can brush over the sponge to glaze. Leave to cool fully before serving.

Nice with a cuppa, but it’s still cool enough for custard on the top, as a pudding!

ISSUE 431 | 23 MAY 2019 | 26

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