We’ve just celebrated the end of our third growing season with our annual harvest supper: this year, the menu was onion soup, three leaf-four cheese lasagne, herby cassoulet, spinach-leaf salad, apple and pear crumble, and Irish cheeses complemented by figs, Ditchling Rise grapes and the last Tinsley Quince apple from this year’s harvest.
The harvest had actually come much earlier this year so our tomatoes, beans and courgettes were finished in early September, our lettuces had bolted and the cabbage whites had got to several of our cavalo nero plants. Raspberries were harvested mid-September and made into Angie’s rich chocolate and raspberry brownies for Big Dig Day. Our onions and garlic were lifted back in June to make way for other crops, but they have been stored ready for our onion soup.
Our harvest supper basket 2013
In the LRSP ‘extension garden’, we still had cavalo nero and chard. The challenge, though, was to create something really palatable: some of our number are not completely convinced by these leafy but fibrous vegetables. They are already wary, given my predeliction for bitter frisee lettuces and tough leaves.
Madeleine and I therefore set out to create a really appetising autumn leaf lasagne, along the classic Italian ‘spinach and ricotta’ model, with help from Delia and the BBC and Mad’s sister, who made a flawless béchamel.
Delia reckons the secret to this veggie recipie is the four Italian cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, gorgonzola and parmesan. We reckon the star ingredient in our version was our carefully steamed mix of cavalo nero, chard and rocket, together with onion, chopped chard stalks, raisins and walnut pieces tossed in olive oil, and enhanced by some freshly grated nutmeg … It worked.
We also really enjoyed Diane’s red onion soup (red wine and red onions), Mark’s hearty pig n’beans cassoulet, featuring LRSP oregano, onions and garlic (OK – a key ingredient was really the deliciously spicy chorizo, but it was definitely complemented by the local herbs) and Sue’s crumble made from our Tinsley Quince and Mannington’s Pearmain apples and a Beurre Hardy pear. The fruit was perfumed, rather than sharp – a lovely English autumn smell/taste. Then tasty Irish cheeses (hard, soft and blue) and local bread, complemented by the rather tart grapes from my garden and our last apple. Oh yes, and some red wine.
We toasted our unexpected successes this year: a good RHS inspection score, the Southern Tsars and Stars (try saying that after a glass or two of red) ‘Best Community Station’ award, and the Ed Furey Community Spirit cup. Maire told us a bit more about Ed Furey – who had been a Labour councillor and very active in promoting community activities in Kemptown, including Kemptown in Bloom. We drank to his memory.