Thursday, 13 August 2015

Singin' the Blues

At work we have a large kitchen garden with bees and chickens and around 45-50 varieties of fruit and veg throughout the year, and a lot of it we try to use in the kitchen: so honey goes in cakes, fruit in jams and puddings etc.  We're expecting a bumper crop of quinces later which'll become jellies for one course of a formal dinner in October.  

Not everything grown in the gardens is used; broad beans for example are too labour intensive for the small catering staff we have - we have three outlets which sometimes only have 4 staff between them, including the kitchen - and recent changes have meant that some produce simply won't fit the menus any more but we try to use the local stuff wherever possible. And by local, I mean maybe hundreds of yards for the end result, and the original stock perhaps might come from 30 miles away tops. 

Occasionally we get something unusual to try on an unsuspecting clientele; last year the garden staff asked us to try Asparagus Lettuce, which you allow to bolt, when it forms a spear of growth which looks vaguely like asparagus, and which purportedly tastes like asparagus too.  I can only say that whoever wrote the rubric in the seed catalogue had either never eaten the lettuce or never tasted asparagus because the result was unbelievably vile. Bitter and acrid it made my lips tingle. 

At the moment we have a crop of heritage potatoes to use - Purple Majesty - which are the most incredible purple colour throughout. Some colourfully-skinned potatoes, such as Rooster or Rudolf are just that - colourfully skinned ( which in no way denigrates the flesh - rooster make fantastic roasts and fondants) but Purple Majesty are something different.

High in antioxidants they were marketed a few years ago in the supermarkets as 'the healthiest potato to eat' 

They certainly make a talking point when brought to the table; they change colour slightly when you cook them, going a deep cerulean blue, and your mind expects something that tastes like beetroot and you expect them to stain your fingers, but they are after all potatoes, and cook and mash and taste like potato. 

Purple Majesty are brilliant, they are available from the shops, and seed potatoes are readily available too.  Let's keep these heritage varieties alive.

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