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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 21 October 2020
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Gardening: It's spring in the veg patch and we have a recipe for broccoli and cheese risotto

There’s something about this time of the year that just gladdens the heart, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

IT DEFINITELY FEELS like proper spring now in the veg patch, even though as I write there’s a carpet of frost on the grass outside the window.

We’ve been pleasingly busy in the veg patch over the last few weeks and absolutely loving it – there’s something about this time of the year that just gladdens the heart.

In the potting shed, I’ve an array of module trays to baby every day now – covering them with fleece at night time if it’s forecasted to be cold, and watering them in the morning.

Potting shed plants

shutterstock_192024347 Source: Shutterstock/locrifa

On a heated mat, they are inclined to dry out particularly on sunny days. My tomato plants are doing well and almost ready to move on from the module trays.

I am debating whether to move them on into pots or hold them for a few weeks in the module trays so I can put them direct in the soil in the polytunnel. The latter option would be far less work.

The aubergines and peppers are much slower to grow and will be fine where they are for now.

Joining those long season veg that were sown in February, I’ve also sown trays of salad greens (oriental greens, lettuce, coriander and annual spinach), beetroot (early sowing for the polytunnel), baby turnips and little pots of celeriac and celery (see below).

Out in the veg patch we’ve been continuing the clearing and preparing of beds. I prepped the spud bed, removing the plastic cover and turning the soil with a fork before sowing my early spuds (variety Orla) around Paddy’s Day.

Amazingly, that first sowing of the year outside coincided with the fact that we’re still eating leeks, carrots and parsnips of good quality direct from the soil. Alas, the kale in the big polytunnel has now run to seed and has been fed to the hens.

Garlic is growing well, having been planted last October. There’s little to do there, apart from ensuring the bed is hoed regularly to prevent weeds. Like everything else in nature, weeds are about to go mental so this is a good time to get in top of them, so that you enter into the busy spring period with a clean veg patch.

Purple sprouting broccoli plants needed some tending, but are producing well (as always, the more you pick, the more they produce). My rhubarb is ready to eat now, but as it did last year the plants have quickly started to run to seed.

Our Head Grower at GROW HQ, Richard Mee tells me that this is probably due to the plants being a little old, or under stress. His advice is to take them out and plant new ones.

The Basics – Sowing Celeriac

Grow celeriac as you would with celery, but because it stores well, there’s no need for succession sowing.

A single sowing in late March or early April is all that’s required. Broadcast (sprinkle liberally) the seed into a pot filled with seed compost.

As is the case with celery, celeriac seeds need light to germinate so do not cover the seed with compost.

Place the pot somewhere warm (a sunny windowsill or a heating mat) – it’s slow to germinate so don’t expect any action for two to three weeks.

Keep the compost moist. Prick the seedlings out into module trays (one seedling per module) about 2-3 weeks after germination (when about 3cm tall).

Recipe of the Week – Purple sprouting broccoli and goat’s cheese risotto

shutterstock_435508168 Source: Shutterstock/Lucie Peclova

Here’s a lovely Rachel Allen recipe for PSB in a goat’s cheese risotto. For more recipes visit rachelallen.com.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300g (11oz) risotto rice
  • 100ml (3½ fl oz) dry white wine
  • 850ml (1½ pts) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 10 purple sprouting broccoli spears, cut into 2cm (1in) pieces
  • 75g (3oz) peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 50g (2oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 75g (3oz) soft goat’s cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas 4.

Pour the olive oil into a large ovenproof saucepan and place on a medium heat. When it is hot, add the finely chopped onion. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 6-8 minutes until the onion is soft but not browned.

Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium, stir in the risotto rice and cook for 1 minute, then pour in the dry white wine and bring to a simmer.

Cook for 2 minutes, or until the wine has evaporated, then pour in the vegetable or chicken stock, whichever you are using, season again with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to the boil.

Cover and cook in the oven for 7 minutes.

Remove the risotto from the oven and stir in the purple sprouting broccoli pieces, then cover the pan again and cook for a further 7-9 minutes or until the rice is almost tender.

Stir in the fresh or frozen peas, whichever you’re using, and return to the oven for 2 minutes.

Once the rice and peas are cooked, use a wooden spoon to beat in the butter and the finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and freshly ground black pepper if it’s needed, then serve the risotto on warmed plates with the soft goat’s cheese crumbled over the top.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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