The other intended mainstays of my winter diet performed little better. The winter lettuce sat limply in the greenhouse, its leaves adopting a winter palor more akin to jaundice than photosynthesis. The swedes grew leaves but nothing below the surface of the soil, not even a slight swelling. The chard and spinach clung, lilliputian, to life but did not start to grow until the first rays of the spring sunshine breathed life into their red and yellow veins. And the radiccio steadfastly staunched the winter cold, covered in a blanket of snow for several weeks. They did not all survive and those that did have only just began to heart up and will not be ready to eat for at least a couple of weeks.
My winter diet was supplemented by pumpkin and squash that I had held back during the summer glut for leaner, colder times but it was too much to expect even the summer garden to yield sufficient summer produce to feed me through the dark, winter months.
And suddenly the broccoli sprouted. 8 weeks late but no less the wonderful for its tardiness. Its breezy yellow heads (white is a misnoma) providing unexpected abundance in my winter garden. I cooked dinner for friends on Saturday and Sunday, excited at last to have something so fresh and green to offer them.
Broccoli with pollack and a poached egg
(This recipe will work equally well with any sustainable white fish)
2 fillets of pollack
2 big handfuls of broccoli
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Season the pollack fillets in the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Gently heat a splash of olive oil in an oven proof frying pan. Add the pollack fillets and their juices to the pan and fry the fillets for one minute (on one side only). Transfer the pan to the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fish).
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a splash of white wine vinegar. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting so the water is calm. Break an egg into a ladle and then holding the ladle just above the surface of the water tip the egg very gently into the water. Repeat with the second egg. Leave the eggs until the white is set. (I do not want to teach my grandmother to suck eggs, or how to poach them. However, I had never managed to poach eggs in water until a friend taught me this simple and failsafe method. The ladle will guarantee you eggs that look like they've come out of a michelin starred kitchen every time).
Steam the broccoli until just tender.
Arrange the broccoli and pollack on the plate with the egg on top (so the yolk runs oozily over the fish and broccoli when broken).
Broccoli, new potato and courgette salad with anchovy, lemon and parsley dressing
2 big handfuls of new potatoes, halved or quarted depending on the size of the potatoes