My Mum, Ali, started Operation Farm with some friends 7 years ago; there is a community allotment and orchard and they have lots of outdoor events and workshops. Anna runs the allotment with volunteers and my mum teaches people how to cook the produce.
In this blog my Mum talks about the allotment ‘cook off’ she did this week with the volunteers, who had worked hard all year.
Guest post by Ali – This is my fourth ‘Annual Allotment Cook Off’. Our allotment gardener, Anna, sends me a list of the veg that is ready to harvest and I write a menu around that. I usually prepare and cook the food outside in Hyde Park Community Orchard, but this year I cooked in a local community centre.
I take along a store cupboard of ingredients which includes oils, vinegars, seasoning, seeds & nuts and some cheese, like feta. I then take pots, pans, cutlery, crockery – basically everything but ‘the kitchen sink!’
When I arrived at the allotment I was greeted with this bounty – cartons of broad beans, herbs – sage, rosemary, chives & mint, kale, pea shoots, lettuce, radish, beetroot, edible flowers and strawberries. What a treat.
Caroline works with me as a volunteer in the community kitchen I run at People First Tameside – she’s a right grafter. She would really like to get involved in regular gardening so Anna spent some time with her showing her how to harvest edible flowers, radish, red onions and spring onions.
I find fruit and veg naturally beautiful – like a work of art, with vivid colours, symmetrical lines and complex patterns. Allotments are like paradise, they are very calming places to be, the only busy stuff going on is the bees buzzin’ from flower to flower!
We transported all the fruit and veg to the kitchen, where the first and most important job is to wash everything thoroughly – them pesky bugs certainly like to hide. We then peeled, chopped, grated, boiled, stir fried and mixed everything to produce a very speedy spread of super salads!
Here’s my Mum, Barbara – she is the ‘chief inspector of veg washing’ – a very important job! And not forgetting Terry; he has volunteered with me for the past 8 years – he’s had many titles – DJ Terry, The Caretaker, The Landlord, he’s my main man!
I sometimes follow recipes, but I also make a lot of things up, anyway here’s what I made:
- Camague rice with feta & spring onions – this is a Delia Smith recipe; the rice is really nutty and has a great texture. The tangy feta really compliments the balsamic dressing and the spring onions add a nice finishing touch
- Potato & chive salad – I mix chopped red onion and chives into mayonnaise and add the cubed cooked potatoes, still slightly warm, as they absorb the dressing quicker
- Warm buttered new potatoes with mint – simply cooked, but delicious. A tip here is to closely watch freshly harvested potatoes – you turn your back and they’ve turned to mush!
- Radish raita with goat’s cheese & pea shoots – this is loosely based on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe and is a great way to use up surplus radish. We didn’t quite have enough radish so I added some chopped cucumber. Hugh F-W serves it with spring onion bhajis, which sounds delish
- Green salad with edible flowers – there was about 5 different varieties of lettuce and how beautiful does the salad look with those edible flowers
- Roasted tomato & broad bean salad – this was from a recipe in a Waitrose magazine – it’s great for gluts of broad beans – and it’s defo double pod all the way for me, worth every bit of effort! The flavours are almost Moroccan with juicy sultanas, red onion and parsley. I have this recipe typed up – contact me and I can send you a copy
- Beetroot & carrot salad – this is raw, grated beetroot with half the amount of grated carrot. I mix this with fruit vinegar (raspberry vinegar is great – I’ve made this a few times too) and then add seeds, such as sunflower. It’s a really earthy salad, delicious and healthy.
- ‘Greens’ stir fry – I stir fried kale, beet, mange tout, red & spring onions in garlic and ginger and added soy sauce – it was a tangy, spicy delight
- Stewed rhubarb with with stem ginger, strawberries and yogurt – I’d harvested the rhubarb from Sarah’s garden on Saturday and prepared it the day before the event. I stewed it in orange juice, stem ginger and a little sugar. On the day I served it with yogurt and toasted flaked almonds – a lovely little fruity pot
I always ensure I cater for any special diets; all of the dishes were gluten free and vegetarian, most of which were also vegan.
The volunteers arrived and I explained what produce was in each dish and the different cooking methods – it was demolished in seconds – all that was left was the washing up!
I’d recommend any veg grower/allotment holder to cook up their produce, with friends, as part of celebrating the harvest. A gas hob, plenty of fresh water, basic kitchen equipment, some cutlery & crockery and your mates and you’re away.
For more information about Operation Farm, recipes, tips and advice email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message here.
Good luck it’s great fun!