Dig for victory!

Renowned chef Raymond Blanc and pop star-turned-gardener Kim Wilde ish up seasonal fare using home-grown organic produce and ask you to help in the battle to save endangered British vegetables.

Kim’s beetroot and orange soup

The orange juice cuts through the earthy taste of the beetroot and enhances its distinctive flavour. Serves 4.

450 g / 1lb fresh raw beetroot
Olive oil for frying
225g / 8oz onion, peeled and finely chopped
1.2 ltr / 2 pt vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp orange juice, or to taste
1 tbsp natural yoghurt or creme fraiche

Remove the leaves and stalks from the beetroot but don’t cut off the crown and base as this will cause flavour to be lost. Wash under cold water, being careful not to pierce the skins, then boil for about 20 minutes. Take care not to overcook the beetroot – it should be easy to pierce with the point of a sharp knife when done. Drain, leave to cool slightly, then rub off the skins. Chop into small pieces and set aside.
Heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the beetroot, cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the stock so it covers the vegetables by an inch, season and slowly cook for 30 minutes.
Transfer to a blender and blitz, gradually adding the orange juice at intervals and tasting frequently until the flavour and consistency is to your liking. Season, then spoon into serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of natural yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Raymond’s asparagus and peas in chervil jus

Perfect for late spring to early summer when English asparagus is at its best. For the optimum retention of flavour, texture and nutrients, the secret of this dish is in the speed of its cooking. Serves 4 as a starter.

200 ml / 7fl oz cold water
25 g / 1 oz unsalted butter
Pinch of sea salt
200 g / 7 oz (about 12 medium-sized spears) English asparagus, woody stalks removed and each cut into 3 even-sized batons
12 talks purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed
60 g / 2,5 oz fresh peas
60 g / 2,5 oz baby spinach leaves with stalks on, washed
1 tbsp fresh chervil, chopped
Juisce of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the water, butter and salt in a large sauté pan on a high heat and bring to the boil. Add the asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 3 minutes on a medium boil. Next, add the fresh peas and cook for 30 more seconds, followed by the spinach for a further 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the chopped chervil, the lemon juice nad the freshly ground black pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust if required. Serve the vegetables and the juices on their own straight from the pan, or divide between four warm plates.

Raymond’s tagliatelle, pesto and pine nuts

Fresh or dried pasta works equally well here but remember to adjust the cooking times – dried will take 8-10 minutes whereas fresh takes 1-3, depending on its quality. Serves 4.

400 g / 14 oz tagliatelle
4 sachets (120 g / 4,5 oz in total) Seeds of Change Organic Classic Green Pesto
50 g / 2 oz fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
25 g / 1 oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
4 tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the pesto to the bowl and toss until it is evenly distributed, then divide the pasta and sauce between four serving bowls.
Sprinkle over the basil, Parmesan and pine nuts, season with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with a splash of olive oil to serve.

Kim’s rhubarb crumble

Crumble is often regarded as a winter dish, but this one, made with the new season’s outdoor rhubarb, is sublime. Serves 4.

Ingredients (for the crumble):
100 g / 4 oz butter
100 g / 4 oz plain flour
100 g / 4 oz rolled oats
50 g  / 2 oz Demerara sugar

Ingredients (for the filling):
900 g / 2 lb rhubarb, rinsed, trimmed and cut into small chunks
175 g / 6 oz caster sugar
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
1 ball stem ginger in syrup, chopped
Handful of sultanas
Handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6. Start by making the filling. Put the rhubarb in a pan with the sgar and orange juice and rind and cook gently until the rhubarb starts to soften. Add the chopped stem ginger to taste, the sultanas and some chopped mint, mix together and spoon into a dish, approximately 20 cm / 8  in in diameter with good height.
To make the crumble, rub the butter into the flour until resembling fine breadcrumbs, stir in the oats and then the sugar. Pour the topping over the prepared rhubarb and bake in the preheated over for 25 minutes or until the fruit bubbles on the surface. Serve with custard, of course!

Planting a seed of hope

Raymond Blanc and Kim Wilde – both great advocates of organic and home-grown produce – are backing organic food company Seeds of Change’s campaign, Dig Your Dinner, which hopes to encourage people to grow their own organic produce.
In conjunction with the charity Garden Organic, Seeds of Change is asking you to help save ten great-tasting, endangered British vegetables, including Mrs Fortune’s Climbing French Bean and the Gravedigger Pea, for future generations to enjoy. You can participate by choosing to plant organic seeds from the varieties that may become forgotten over time.
For more information on the Seeds of Change Dig Your Dinner campaign, visit gardenorganic.org.