Eat your spring greens
Posted by the Cake Shop
The sky is still filled with rain and hail, but spring has begun to unfold. February marks the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s a celebration of the goddess Brigid: healer, poet and smith, and protectress of the hearth. ‘Imbolc’ means ‘in the belly’; it’s a time to keep snug and nurtured, to stay inside while we anticipate the arrival of warmer weather, and enjoy the chores and joys of the home.
I love the marking of every little notch of the year, the transitional seasons as well as the full-blown ones. My connection to these markers is ongoing and ever-deepening, a natural progression harnessed over the years – growing herbs in the garden as a kid; attending Solstice gatherings as a teenager. When I was newly arrived on this island, seeking traditions that connected me to the land here, a group of friends and I decided we would celebrate Imbolc.
Every year it’s something different – the celebration might be as simple as a home-made pie, baked in the deep, dark, hot oven, or as extravagant as hiring a private dining room and spending an evening reading poems and singing songs together. This year, on my own, I lit candles and danced in my living room. My love of ritual springs from a desire to honour these nourishing moments of connection with food and the people you care about, and that includes oneself.
I’ve been reading Katherine May’s Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. She talks about the healing power of winter, as a season and as a metaphor, interweaving memoir, mythology and nature writing. Her emphasis on seasonality speaks to me – on the idea of accepting each time of year for what it brings.
At the Cake Shop, we’re equally immersed in the seasonal mood of slow and steady preparation. We’re pickling, making jams, and getting the fruit ready for the Easter Simnel cakes; reinvigorating a tub of soaked fruit that we had left over from Christmas by topping it up with new fruits, spices and liquors. We’ve started using the wine that we had stored for Bookshop events – currently taking place online – to make blackberry jam. We’ve also got a rhubarb, rose and cardamom jam on the boil, making the most of those fresh shoots of rhubarb that are just emerging from the dark soil.
My nan had a little herb bed right next to the back door so you could quickly nip out and trim leaves to flavour a simple meal. In this little plot, she grew parsley, chives, mint, chard and rhubarb, and would always add parsley and grated onion to her mashed potato.
There is a little of her love and inspiration in this recipe: she is the woman who taught me to cook so many things. We’ll be serving this delicious tart as soon as we open.
Vegan Spring Greens Tart
Plan ahead and make your life easier: you could make a couple of batches of this baby and throw them in the freezer for those evenings you get home wet and cold after a good cycle in the rain – halfway to a pie for dinner. The recipe below is super easy, and creates a flaky, buttery pastry for all your savoury tart and quiche needs.
450g plain all-purpose flour
220g butter/veg margarine
110g iced cold water
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Chop the butter/marg into small pieces and rub it into the dry ingredients until it resembles wet sand.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the water, then mix until the pastry comes together into a smooth ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 mins before using.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface and gently spread into greased and lined 26cm tart tin. Prick all over with a fork, then bake for around 20 mins until lightly golden. Leave to cool.
80ml grapeseed oil (or extra virgin olive is good too)
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
Large potato, grated
500g mix of spring greens: garlic shoots, chard, spinach, monks beard, chervil, or a good mix of greens that are easy to come by (kale, dill, parsley, spinach…)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2tsp chilli flakes
1/2tsp ground cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
300g packet firm silken tofu
250g smoked cheddar non-dairy cheese
80ml oat/plant milk
1 big ripe tomato, sliced
Sauté the fennel until tender and translucent. Add the spring onion, gently caramelise, and add spices.
Shred the greens thinly and pop it all into a colander, giving everything a really good rinse, and shake to drain. Meanwhile, add the grated potato to the fennel and spring onion, lightly cooking until tender and turning so it doesn’t stick. After a few minutes, add the mixed greens, increase the heat and cook until a tad reduced – I like mine to be lively, you may prefer it a little more wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Put the tofu, milk, lemon juice and salt in a food processor, and blend until super-smooth and well combined. Add the grated smoked cheddar and blitz again. Scrape down the sides, add the salt and flours, and blend once more to combine.
Combine both mixtures and spread over the cooled pastry case. Arrange the tasty sliced tomato around the edges. Pop in a preheated oven at 170 for 45–50 mins – I like it to have a little ‘giggle’ in the centre.
Enjoy with Terry’s ‘in-between days’ playlist, as we will be doing while we get ready to re-open! Our Easter preparations (look out for news of Simnel cake orders SOON) are keeping us busy while we look forward to welcoming you back as soon as it’s safe and legal to do so.