Brr, back to hats and coats this week, but so far all our veg has survived the drop in temperature. First punnets of strawberries been picked from polytunnels. Our spring greens and lettuces are looking fab – if we say so ourselves! And broad beans are looking good for coming weeks. Lovely to look out the window and see the sunshine and all that green-ness…and the beautiful bluebells and other wildflowers in the hedgerows.

The hens seem to be feeling it though – our own hens have slowed down their laying and the farmer we buy from has less than half the number of eggs he had this time last week from the same number of hens! Our numbers probably won’t go back to quite what they were as they do seem to hit peak laying in early Spring, so if you do normally get eggs from us and receive fewer than you’re expecting it’s not because we’ve made a mistake but because we haven’t go enough to go round. If you do get fewer one week obviously just pay for what you get.

What’s been happening this week at EYG?
Weeding. Pricking out seedlings, planting yet more seeds! We’re constantly moving things from one greenhouse to the next one, and the list is never-ending. We’re getting there though. When we first moved here a few years ago, we asked one of our local (very busy) farmers if he had a to-do list each day and if not how he kept track of what he needed to do….he replied with ‘there’s no list, we’d never be able to write everything down!’ – we’re now very firmly in that camp, we do have lists of day to day things but when it comes to planting and weeding we just know there is always more that can be done.

A couple of recipe ideas for this week…
1) Aubergine and tomato gratin:
I’ve amended the recipe to fit one aubergine – this is probably is ok for 2 people with a salad, or 4 as a side with bread or something else more substantial with it. If you add another aubergine or bulk up with courgette / fennel then just double the amount of sauce.
You can make the sauce ahead of time if you want – put a tin of tomatoes into a pan, and add sliced garlic, olive oil, bay leaves, seasoning. Bring to simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 mins. Hugh F-W also includes cashew nuts, and I would always add cheese but I love melted cheese! I reckon you could also throw in some black olives and anchovies but maybe I’m just getting carried away…
Remove the bay leaves, add pinch of sugar and blitz using blender. Stir in about 25ml water to thin the puree to texture of lightly whipped cream (if making ahead – cool then stick in fridge and reheat before using).
Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and cut aubergine into 5mm thick slices and brush some oil on both sides of each slice. Heat up griddle pan and griddle the slices for 2-3 mins each side, until tender and marked with brown. Season as you go.
Layer aubergine slices over base of a 1 litre oven dish, scatter over some basil and thyme leaves, dollop the tomato sauce on the top and spread it out. Scatter over some flaked almonds and trickle of oil. Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and lightly coloured. Let is stand for 10 mins before serving.  River Cottage Much More Veg

2) Some Riverford Cook Book easy fennel ideas:
Fennel goes well with meat, tomato, cream. Pretty versatile. A few ideas below…
– Slice fennel bulb lengthways, brush with olive oil and cook on ridged grill pan until charred and tender. Dress with finely chopped chilli and mint, plus oil and lemon OR place them in a marinade (heat juice of 2 lemons, 1 tbsp sugar and 100ml water in a wide pan, and place the fennel slices into the marinade as they come out of the griddle pan, leave for 5 mins, then sprinkle with chopped parsley or coriander).
– Grill fennel then mix with tomato sauce and black olives.
– Substitute fennel for some potatoes in a creamy potato gratin.
– Braise fennel by heating olive oil in a pan large enough to hold fennel wedges in a single layer. When hot, add the fennel and brown over a high heat, turning occasionally. Remove the fennel from the pan and set aside. Add chopped garlic to the pan and cook gently for a few minutes, until softened but not browned. Return the fennel to the pan, season and combine with the garlic. Stir in 2 tablespoons of water and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, being careful not to let the fennel ‘catch’ in the pan. When it is done, the fennel should have a darker, mushy appearance. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
– And here is a quick video about cooking fennel.

As always, if you’re stuck as to what to do with anything please let me know and I’ll try to give you some ideas. And if anyone is looking for some inspiration for physical challenges during lockdown – or have younger folk at home who need some energy wearing off – check out this list of ideas and let us know how you go!