Potatoes comes in many, many varieties – much more than a glance of a British supermarket would have you believe. But none could be more distinct than the Vitelotte. With it’s deep purple-black skin and bright blue-violet flesh, this potato has a stunning vivid colour, and distinctive, chestnutty taste.
What makes them purple?
Purple potatoes are packed full of anti-oxidants – and, primarily, the anti-oxidant ‘anthocyanin’, the flavinoid that gives red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables their distinctive colour. Revered for both it’s use as a dye and for it’s health promoting benefits, purple-hued plants have been cultivated for thousands of years for this wonderful antioxidant.
Did you know that purple produce was one of the predicted trends for 2017? With the health and wellness movement taking the world by storm – we’re not surprised! (Plus, purple foods are delicious…)
Why is this so good?
Antioxidants are essential to counter the effects of oxidants (i.e. ‘free-radicals’) in the body. In an antioxidant scarce diet, oxidants are free to cause cell damage, increase inflammation and contributing to disease progression. Purple potatoes, fortunately, have much more than antioxidants than their paler potato cousins – hence the vivid hue.
Anthocyanins are, in fact, antioxidant superheroes and are a potent force of health in the body, as demonstrated by a plethora of in-vitro and participant studies. For example, one study found that adding purple potatoes to the diets of overweight, middle aged subjects reduced their blood pressure by five points within a month. Just by adding potatoes! (And who doesn’t love the idea of eating more potatoes for health?) And, the purple cherry on top: despite the calorie increase, none of the subjects gained any weight. Purple potatoes truly are superior…
What to do with them?
Purple potatoes definitely taste different to your usual supermarket yellow and white varieties – and that’s a good thing! With their nutty taste and magnificent colour (even when cooked), you can use these delicious potatoes in any potato recipe you desire for a twist. Whip up a salad and add vitelottes for a striking visual element; slice, drizzle with olive oil and herbs and roast for some truly spectacular and flavoursome french fries, or how about this recipe for a striking autumn gratin?
Preheat the oven to 180c. In a baking dish, layer the leeks, spinach, squash and potatoes, finishing with a layer of purple potatoes for the top layer. Sprinkle each layer with garlic, herbs and pepper. When layered, pour over the cream and top with the Sister Sarah cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for about an hour and half – or until the potatoes and squash are cooked.
August and September have been plentiful, busy months. The weather this summer has been kind to us (despite what many cynics may say) and this has reflected in the quality and the abundance of produce. Trying to make the most of every seasonal miracle is near enough impossible for this very reason: there’s too much of it and too many varieties to try and squeeze onto the menu! By the time we find space, it can already be too late and you have to wait until next year – but that’s all part of the fun!
We said at the beginning of the #EatSussex campaign that the real challenge would be using all of the available produce, not struggling with what to cook. So we gave it our best shot, and here are some of our favourites…
One of our earliest and fondest dishes. So simple but only excels when the highest produce is used. There is little to hide behind.
Slice the tomatoes as you wish. Coeur de boeuf tomatoes a better sliced but the mixed varieties are best chopped randomly. Season lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Arrange in layers slices of mozzarella, basil leaves and tomato onto on a base of homemade pesto. Garnish with crushed nuts, more olive oil and smaller tips of basil leaves.
Arundel Basil Pesto
This pesto is a staple at the café. It varies slightly every time depending on the time or who is making it so is always unique.
· Large bunch of Arundel basil leaves
· 2 cloves garlic
· Extra virgin olive oil 50ml
· 50g Nuts (Hazel, walnut or pine depending on season)
· Pinch of salt
· 5 drips of lemon
In pestle and mortar, start by crushing the garlic with the salt. Followed by crushing in the basil and nuts, and gradually pouring in the olive oil to create your desired pesto texture. Season to taste.
If you have ever been to Greece you will be familiar with these ingenious lunchtime staples. Batch cooked and kept warm, they sell out fast as a wholesome, delicious and seasonal lunch. They’re also dead simple to cook. We made pork stuffed tomatoes using our recipe below. However, we’ve also made veggie ones using pearl barley and cranberry risotto with Grana Padano – but I have no measurements or quantities for that one. We made it up as we went along!
Carefully slice off to tops of the tomatoes with the stalks on, about an 8th of the way down. They will be lids. Using a spoon and a small knife if necessary, scoop out the inner membrane and seeds of the tomatoes doing your best to retain the structure of the tomato. Cook the innards of the tomatoes with 50ml of olive out and a clove of garlic, nice and slowly. Meanwhile we can mix the pork mince with the remaining oil, garlic and oregano, a good pinch of salt and pepper then roll it into six 150g balls to stuff into the tomatoes. Place the lids back on and bake for 1 hour at 180 degrees Celsius.
To serve, blitz the tomato innards in a food processor to form a rich sauce and sit the baked tomato on top, serve warm, not hot.
Tibbs Farm Raspberry Ripple Yoghurt & Granola.
I didn’t know the real taste of a raspberry until the punnets arrived with Nick, just picked from Tibbs farm that day. We had to immediately reorder them. Such was my excitement about these dark, blood red, sweet, juicy flavour-bombs, that I shared them out to every customer and member of staff we had. Do yourself a favour: eat raspberries that are LOCAL and IN SEASON and NOTHING ELSE! The kind you buy in the supermarket are not even from the same planet as far as I’m concerned…
Granola is great, you can keep it in the dry store to be sprinkled on all sorts.
· 500g jumbo oats
· 150g South Downs honey
· 70g soft dark brown sugar
· 250g mixed Sussex nuts (cobnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, sweet chestnuts)
· 50ml Mesto olive oil
· 1 tbsp cinamon
· 1 tbsp sea salt
· Dried fruit (optional depending on season)
Making the granola is simple. Combine all of the above granola ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and, when combined, spread onto a large baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes crudely break up the granola to form large nuggets. Leave out to dry out, turning every 5 minutes or so. If it’s still a bit moist afterwards either bake it again for another 5 minutes or leave in a warm dry place such as the airing cupboard!
The raspberry ripple component is make by a simple maceration process. In a mixing bowl place your fruit with the sugar and a few drops of lemon. Toss gently just using the bowl and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will intensify the flavour and create a wonderful natural syrup.
To put the dish together, combine a spoonful of the macerated raspberries with a portion of yoghurt and loosely marble. Top with as much granola as you like, some fresh raspberries and extra honey if you wish. (We also love sprinkling on some bee pollen!)
Butterhead Lettuce & Smoked Chicken Salad.
We love butterhead lettuce. Big leafy multi-textured ears of crunchiness, bitterness and sweetness. It’s also beautiful to look at. We tend to keep them whole, retaining the natural structure and contours. They’re so perfect.
As for smoked chicken, it’s a wonderful ready-to-go ingredient with so many uses and is an interesting alternative to regular chicken. Ensure it’s a naturally smoked free-range bird. We buy ours from Springs Smokery, Edburton. You can put all sorts with salad – so go wild!
For the dressing, combine the oil, mustard, vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper using a whisk or in a food processor and taste. Using a minute splash of boiling water will help to emulsify the mixture. Add more acidity, salt or sweetness depending on personal taste. Throw in an inch or so of finely chopped chive stems from your bunch.
The rest is self explanitory really! Tear the chicken, half the butterhead (washing and drying gently), thinly sliced radishes the remaining chives and scooped teaspoonfuls of the avocado all together and dress with the dressing.
Thinly slice the shallots and caramelise in a pan without busting them up too much. Toast the walnuts. Add to the salad with any spare chives.
Making you hungry? Check out the award winning cafe on Holland Road for delicious and seasonal eating. Visit their website, instagram and facebook for more mouth-watering and inspiring seasonal dishes.
Fancy contributing to our blog? Let us know! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #EatSussex in your seasonal, locally sourced and delicious creations this autumn…
A freshly grown, naturally matured pepper is a joy to eat with a sweet richness that time and forced growing hasn’t completely been bred out to leave just a crisp watery shell.
Tangmere Airfield Nurseries are sited on the historical ‘Battle of Britain’ airfield near Chichester just ahead of the Sussex South Downs. Following the airfield closure in 1970, the land fell into decline until it was regenerated as farmland. Tangmere have been growing peppers there since 1988.
In 2001 they bought a farm in Spain so they could supply peppers all year round – which for us as consumers is great as we have complete traceability from responsible growers; Tangmere are a LEAF demonstration farm (Linking Environment and Farming) which aims to combine traditional farming with environmental awareness.
We buy their peppers because they are hands down, the sweetest most delicious and fresh peppers we’ve tasted. Even green peppers, which are usually mildly bitter, have a softer sweeter flavour as they’ve had time to develop their flavour naturally.
Ways to use Bell Peppers
The edible capsicum family are all rich in nutrients, particularly Vitamin C and has fantastic antioxidant properties when eaten raw or lightly cooked.
Cooking can really highlight the sweet, almost fruity flavour and peppers can as easily stand up for themselves with strong meaty textures as well as light, fragrant salads.
We had never really thought about a curried gravy to add to a Biriyani or dry curry before, but this blogger Swathi’s recipes has opened our eyes to a number of possibilities to create a sauce which can be used alongside various main courses for all our vegetarian/meat eating guests…genius.
A more earthy take from these Great British Chefs borrows flavours from Greek cooking to take a quintessentially British lamb stew up a notch with their Lamb and Red Pepper Ragout.
Finally, peppers are so sweet but we haven’t come across them as an actual sweet before and not sure why. We love this Great British Chef site so much for their unusual and creative spin on old favourites. However, these red pepper tuile biscuits are extremely impressive and we think would work equally well alongside a sorbet as a canape.
Our organic spinach from Fletching Glasshouses is brilliant to have in the kitchen for more than just taste reasons. The leaves are larger than baby spinach but not as large as the huge mature broad leaf. This is a godsend in that it’s pretty versatile as it’s mild enough to shred in a salad but also robust enough to wilt – which is pretty hard to do with baby leaves.
Anyway you care to use it…it’s freshly picked when we deliver so we couldn’t possibly waste such a lovely bag of nutritious goodness!
How to cook spinach
The best way to cook spinach is to wilt it gently. Just be careful not to overcook and lose the vibrant green colour and rich flavour.
1. Clean the spinach thoroughly to remove any grit from the leaves. Heat a large pan with a knob of butter
2. Add the spinach – the leaves touching the base of the pan will wilt very quickly, so stir occasionally to ensure all of the raw leaves make contact with the base. Season with salt
3. Once the spinach has just about wilted, remove the pan from the heat and strain off any excess liquid. Serve immediately.
How to store
A bag of slimy wilted leaves is pretty offputting. Obviously, the best thing in the kitchen is to use up greens as quickly as possible to make the most of their nutritious benefits – but given that it isn’t always possible, you can extend the life with careful storage.
Here is a link to storing spinach with The Kitchn which gives you tried and tested resultsusing different storage methods. We love these blogs where people give really useful tips! NB – this is why our leaves are always sold in plastic bags. Not because we don’t have environmental concerns but but because even freshly picked leaves can dry and wilt while we are driving around the Sussex roads in the few hours from picking if they are put into brown paper bags.
Alternative Ways to Use Spinach
There are loads of regular ways to use spinach…sauteed, soups dah di dah… But here are some more ways that may well be useful if you’re looking to add more greens to your diet…
Torta Pasqualina – OK this is a little late for Easter, but a delicious spinach, artichoke, parsley and egg pie is a perfect dish for either a vegetarian main course or even picnic slices (if the rain stays away).
Quick Quesadillas – these are our daughter’s favourite snack from school and she can cook a pile of them in minutes. Keep them healthy by using feta cheese and avoiding the sour cream. Combine with a strawberry salsa for full antioxidant benefits.
Puree spinach and add to pancake batter for super-healthy pancakes. They genuinely go with sweet fillings like banana and blueberry so if your kids are up for green pancakes, these really do work.
Spinach and aromatic herbs are perfect partners. Combining with sage and parmesan makes this a perfect quick supper dish as Spaghetti Piemontesi
When our daughter was small, we kept pureed spinach in ice cube trays in the freezer and added it to just about everything. We lost the habit as she got older and ate adult food but it’s a great way to add extra iron, vitamins and minerals to a dish quickly and without any hassle…whatever you’re cooking…pasta sauce, soups, stews etc.
Add to scrambled egg or scrambled tofu. The flecks are pretty and it adds earthiness to any breakfast dish…and a bit less washing up than making a traditional Eggs Florentine.
Use pureed spinach as a pizza topping instead of tomato. Just as delicious and a perfect partner for rich cheese melted on top. Try this spinach garlic puree or even a spinach pizza base…(just don’t let anyone see the raw dough…it looks amazing cooked, but raw…really not a good advertisement for a delicious dough.
After chatting with our aunt, she made a very good point that a meal without potato is missing a limb. That sums up how important potatoes are in all their gorgeous versatility. Plus a good reason why we are excited that fingerlings are the potato of the month. We can happily enjoy their sweet nutty flavour for the next four weeks…
Fingerlings appeared relatively late in potato history – both are Victorian varieties and specifically cultivated to create their unique texture and flavour. La Rattes were Danish and Pink Fir Apples, British, but they rapidly emigrated across the channel to France where they became the chef’s darling.
Anyway, our potatoes, as you will have seen from previous blogs, come from the beautiful Morghew Park in Tenterden, the specialist potato farm which sits on the Kent and Sussex border, who manage to produce such a stunning collection of heritage potatoes.
Mixed Bags or Available Singly
The special offer potatoes this month are available as either single kilo bags, mixed 2kg bags if you like a selection or single 5kg boxes.
La Ratte Potatoes
La Ratte, also known as Asparge potato or La Reine du Touquet. Even though they’re Danish, their legacy is definitely French as Rattes are the chef’s choice for famous French dishes and rich potato purees. Equally they are delicious as salad potatoes or in casseroles and stews, as they keep their shape in cooking. They have a pale cream skin and flesh and a slightly hazelnutty flavour.
Pink Fir Apple Potatoes
Pink Fir Apple potatoes are long and knobbly with a wonderful nutty, earthy flavour. They boil and steam well, keeping their shape and are extremely delicious roasted. They have a pinkish skin and creamy yellow flesh, which after cooking is satisfyingly waxy, soft and buttery.
How to store
Fingerling potatoes are less tough than other varieties as their skins are more delicate, so keeping them in the fridge can actually encourage them to absorb the damp and go off more quickly. Ideally, keep them in a brown paper bag in a dark cool cupboard and they should stay fresher for a bit longer.
How to cook
These are absolutely perfect boiled or steamed as they hold their shape well. Their nuttiness pairs smoothly with a smoked salt or in a salad. Equally, they are delicious roasted. Either way, no need to peel as they are delicious in their skins.
Fingerlings are firm and waxy, which is why they have been so popular in French dishes where they are slow roasted with cream or butter and still keep their shape well.
Here are some more ways to use – plus a really interesting chocolate pastry recipe. Some call for a Jersey Royal but La Ratte would work just as well.
Some ways to use Fingerling Potatoes
Don’t know about you but we can’t resist a roast potato. Fingerlings are sublime roasted and this recipe with chive pesto is a glorious combination of colours. However, til local chives are through we would probably use a delicious spicy rocket or wild garlic, shoudl that still be available.
As a side dish to a roast, fingerlings can cope with some robust flavours so don’t be put off by combining with strong flavours such as mustard, paprika, pancetta, bacon or other cured meats. Roasted with a mustard crust here.
Or, there are a couple of stunning Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipes here which take the flavours one step further with the spicy Italian Devil potatoes and a rich Pan Haggerty, which is a Northumbrian dish of pan-fried potatoes, onion and cheese (we love this version!).
Or, and this one is intriguing and will be on our cooking list next weekend are waxy potato and chocolate pastries – we will keep you updated on that one. This calls for Jersey Royals but La Ratte are perfect (and local) and our feeling is that the potato will be a creamy moist base for buttery pastry.
Wild garlic is prolific at this time of year, if you know what you are looking for and have time to don your wellies and head out into the countryside for the few weeks it is around.
The first bit is the easy bit – it’s easy to find as you can smell the gentle whiff of garlic in the air – but if time is not your friend, then heading out to shady woods before everyone else has got there first, might not work for you.
Our garlic is foraged on the private Morghew estate by the owners, so there is no risk to the environment by stripping the woodland. Morghew Estate is set in the most stunning woodland and arable land (where our potatoes are grown, by the way) and is managed sensitively and responsibly.