If your window boxes are looking a bit sketchy and you are wondering what should I do next, how about getting in some hardy herbs that will keep on going throughout winter and will inspire you to get in the kitchen cooking up some winter warmers as the evenings draw in and cosying up seems like an attractive alternative to a night on the tiles. As I plant up the window boxes I am dreaming of casseroles, stews, soups, roasts and all those lovely dishes that warm our cockles on a cold winters day. Rosemary, thyme, bay and sage are all strong on flavour, taste and aroma. Best of all they are hardy so will last throughout the UK winter. So why not get planting and get cooking – aaahhhh the smell of it!
and now just a little something to help get your creative juices flowing – happy planting, happy cooking and happy eating
Smoked ham hock with white beans
1 large smoked ham hock
250g white beans, soaked
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut in three
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 bouquet garni
1 bunch fresh thyme
A couple of bay leaves
1 litre chicken stock
A day ahead, soak the ham in cold water for 24 hours to reduce its saltiness, changing the water a few times. Soak the beans in cold water overnight, or for at least 12 hours.
Next day, heat the oil in a pot big enough to hold the ham. Fry the carrots until caramelised, then add the onion and garlic, and cook for six or seven minutes until translucent. Add the herbs, ham and drained beans, pour in the stock, cover and cook on a medium heat until the beans have absorbed most of the stock and are very soft, and the ham is tender. Remove the bouquet garni.
This is a rustic dish, so serve it as it comes in deep bowls with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.