Let them eat cake

Hungry-gapWe are now well into the hungry gap. The last knobbly celeriac helped stretch some frozen cauliflower purée into soup, the final half bucket of potatoes are beginning to sprout  and I am left with a few small bags of broad beans lurking in the bottom of the freezer. In the absence of anything green the pots of herbs on the windowsill cringe every time I pick up a pair of scissors.
Northern springs are notoriously fickle and the impatient gardener can be tempted into rashness by a glimpse of sunshine and the exultation of the skylarks. The days may be lengthening but we are still beset by cold winds and squalls of hail,  and cling to the optimistic delusion that “April can be nice”. So we wait, plot and plan, nurture the delicate seedlings, that desperately need some sunshine, and plant some more seeds “just in case”. With the dedication of the anxious the seed trays are watered and checked for germination and the row of young salad leaves is eyed greedily as we wait for the next cut.
Ignoring the siren calls of the phoney spring, the vegetable beds slumber on undisturbed, and we wait for the soil to warm.  In one sheltered bed there is an explosion of life, buttery green, crinkly leaves, the size of elephants ears, and stems which glow like ruby wine in the sunlight. The rhubarb has stirred and is producing enough for the weekly breakfast crumble.
It will be a few more weeks before we can start to eat our own vegetables again, so for a brief spell we have to rely on the imported vegetables in our small local supermarkets. On principle I refuse to buy imported non-seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus or runner beans, and I’m irritated by the absence of UK grown root vegetables and greens. So I insist that we operate in extreme austerity mode, nothing (not even the most shriveled Dutch carrot) is to be wasted, the soup dragon has to be fed.
Hungry gap soup comes in more than 57 varieties and is based on lentil stock and imagination. Stir in the leftover vegetables that lurk in the fridge or a mix of stir fried vegetables, add some chilli, smoked paprika or a good slug of sherry. It can be dressed-up with croutons, toasted seeds and nuts, chopped herbs or even a swirl of sour cream. Cherish the soup dragon and austerity soup becomes a lunchtime luxury.
So while I’m pondering over tomorrows soup recipe and wondering just how bad the predicted equinox gale will be, there is just time to make some muffins. The vegetable store may be empty but there is always cake!

Cinnamon oat and raisin muffin

Cinnamon, oat and raisin muffin

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14 thoughts on “Let them eat cake

  1. It’s a challenge! But it sounds as if you’ve done really well. A gap of a month or so is normal even down South, so to have achieved this where you are is pretty brilliant.

  2. Just say the word, and last year’s food parcel will be on it’s way….. But hey – you have 57 varieties of soup AND rhubarb crumble to keep you going so you won’t need it! isn’t your rhubarb just a little bit early? Ours is only just showing and it has a forcer over it.

    • I think there are more deserving cases as my waistline hardly shouts starvation and malnutrition. we always have rhubarb (unforced) by the beginning of March. It isn’t an early variety so it is either all the muck and tlc we lavish it on it, or the well drained soil or our frost free winters, or all three!

  3. Do you force your rhubarb? Mine is nowhere near ready. Lunchtime soups are wonderful but I have to admit I’m buying veg for mine at the moment, otherwise we would be very hungry.
    Equinox gale? Oh dear I hope not.

    • The rhubarb is unforced. We obviously have the right conditions as it produces from March to late September. We adore it and any surplus goes into jam or chutney.
      As for the gales – well its blowing a Force 8 today and raining and predicted to last for another day at least. I don’t think it will be too bad further south, but you might need a waterproof and some wellies!

    • It’s a hard working life for the herbs in my kitchen as the pickings are thin in the herb garden.
      Himself is the bread maker and he’s in an experimental phase at present, so this offering included sun-dried tomatoes – yummy!

  4. Still frozen here in VA with snow again today…the end of March! Daffs are hard pressed to bloom and Tete a Tetes are the only little brave ones to show among the crocus. Seeds on the counter awaiting what will be a tricky spring planting time. Rhubarb, oh how divine!

    • We’re drying out and occasionally get treated to some sunshine, but it’s not very warm and growth is still very slow. However the rhubarb is growing and growing and growing………..

  5. It is one of the toughest times in the vegetable garden isn’t it. I’ve just eaten the last of the leeks, the chard is putting on new growth but won’t last long now and there are still a few bits in the freezer. Roll on april-may when I can start picking again!

    • At this time of year it seems like all work and very little reward – just promises. We’re still rationing the salad leaves and there may be some radishes in a week or two – but there is always rhubarb!

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