My husband has a mania for our garden at the moment. It started after we got married, when he decided that in order for him to be a good husband he ought to plunge headlong into actual husbandry and create for me a large herb garden to facilitate my cooking. "You can take pictures of it," he said, hefting his spade into a neglected border, "and post it on your blog."
I have so far resisted putting up pictures of my new herb garden on here because until I had one, I DESPISED anyone who did. Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers made me gibber with fury every time he drifted into his giant garden to pick a huge handful of mint out of a charming terracotta pot or drag some rhubarb out of a raised bed, or pluck an entire roast dinner from his Ottolenghi plant.
"Who has that?" I would scream at the telly. "Who has that in London? Fuck off, fuck off. We all have to go to Waitrose for our chervil you smug bastard." But I would keep watching, because Nigel is God. (Although his piece on making a pork pie in the Guardian Magazine the other week wasn't nearly as excellent or instructive as my post on the matter - see "a pork pie for Giles" for reference and you can email me with questions. Eat that, Nige.)
Anyway what was I saying? Yes, herbs. Okay so I have a herb garden now. I am now one of those insufferable people who says things like "Oh daaaaarling just pick some rosemary, mint, parsley, coriander, sage, bay, thyme (lemon and normal) and chervil from your garden to make a herb rub and it will make your roast chicken simply divviiiiiiiiiiine." Only I don't say things like that because then I'd have to shoot myself.
Or not shoot myself because I don't have a gun. I'd have to do something awful with one of the really excellently sharp Global knives I got as a wedding present from Becky B (one of my occasional readers. She is quite shy but an excellent cook).
Doing up the garden has nearly killed my husband. He jammed his thumb by mistake onto a raggedy nail, which sprung a copious and bloody leak for about two days. The other night he was bitten on the ankle by some unidentified creature and it all swelled up and went gross. (What bites one in an English garden? A spider?) And then, in reaching for a spade he trod backwards onto a pot and then stumbled into another one and thrashed around like that for a while, bellowing like a bull being branded, before collapsing onto the steps, his face a tragedy mask. What with all that and various other incidents, he looks like he's been recently mown down by forty stampeding horses.
I am trying not to bang on about my new herb garden, but I thought I ought to explain why there might be an abundance of multiple herb-bundles of things in recipes in the future. Until the snails get it all, of course, and then the frost finishes off what weedy stumps remain. In which instance I'll be grumbling about the lack of interesting herbs in Sainsbury's Locals once more.
Sweetcorn fritters inspired by The Riverford Farm Cookbook. No picture because my stupid camera is on the blink and I can't tell you how depressed I am about it.
1 can sweetcorn
65g plain flour
1/2 tsp sugar
About 60ml milk
1 handful of coriander
1 large chilli, chopped (seeds in if you're a heat freak)
1/4 red onion OR 1 shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper
1 tbsp creme fraiche - if you have it, don't worry if you went all the way to the shops for sweetcorn and came back without creme fraiche
1 Put the sweetcorn, chilli, a few strips of lime zest, salt and pepper, onion and coriander into a blender and PULSE, rather than whizz, until everything is sort of bashed up a bit, but not pureed. This is because if you leave the sweetcorn kernals whole, they're not as easy to manipulate into a fritter. There are a lot of people who are going to disagree with me about this.
2 Make up the batter by sieving the flour, baking powder, a good pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper and sugar into a bowl. Then crack in the egg and half-mix it into the flour. Add milk splash by splash until you've got a thick batter and then blob in the creme fraiche. Not so thick that a spoon leaves a permanent streak if you pull it through the mixture, but not so it's like soup either.
3 Add the sweetcorn mixture, give it all a stir and then cook as you would a thick pancake - they take about 2-3 minutes either side. My advice is to make one tester pancake and then adjust the seasoning based on that. You may find that you want to chuck in a lot more lime zest, coriander, salt or whatever into the mixture. Sweetcorn is quite an overpowering flavour and you may need to beat it to death with bit of extra chilli.