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When the winter finally settled in properly, and we had one of those bright crisp days with ice lingering in the shadows, I managed a walk along the Thames Path between Twickenham and Richmond. It’s one of my favourite walks to do anytime with no special planning, and there’s always a fine hearty lunch waiting somewhere at the end of it!
On this day, the path was almost empty with the occasional dog walker and a robin who followed me a little of the way. And in the top left picture you can see the old Star and Garter home for ex-service personnel, now being converted to luxury flats – I would certainly be tempted by that view if I had the odd couple of million to spare!
What does the gardener do during the long winter evenings when pottering in the garden simply isn’t an option? Well, at the moment, I’m dipping into a memoir by Joy Larkcom. Aside from having a glorious name, Joy is a gardening writer, who, during the 70’s, toured Europe to find out how people grew vegetables in different parts of the continent and to bring back rare varieties to the UK. Her work changed how we grow our veg today, as well as recording, in some cases, practices that were disappearing from the landscape. This memoir includes Joy’s writing from that trip, as well as her later discoveries in China and her own gardens back in the UK and later in Ireland. A wonderful companion for those winter evenings.
In the last week or so, we’ve finally had a proper winter with several days of snow. Thoughts turn inevitably to log fires and staying inside to huddle by them!
On the food front, nothing beats the winter blues like a big bowl of stew, especially one that can take whatever ingredients you have in, so you don’t have to venture to the shops if you really don’t want to! That’s why I’ve called this dish Hotch Potch. I first came across a Hotch Potch recipe researching Early Vegetarian Recipes from 1865 by Job Caudwell. That was a simple vegetable stew of onions, carrots, turnip, lettuce and parsley thickened by grating half of the vegetables. My version provides protein with beans and is thickened with lentils, but sticks to the principle of adding nutrition by using green leafy veg. It’s such great name for a dish though, that I thought I just had to use it for this toss-it-all-in-the-pot recipe! Excuse the lack of precise measurements, but the idea is to use as much or as little as you have.
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Greens, chopped (try cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuce, parsley)
1 cup red lentils, washed
1/2 tin red kidney beans
1 tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 pints of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion, celery and garlic until soft. Add the carrot and potato and stir well until coated in oil. Cook for two minutes. Add the green veg and stir well.
Add the lentils and beans, stir, and then add the stock. Add the bay leaf. Cook for 30 minutes until the lentils have thickened the stew and the vegetables have softened. Season with salt and pepper.