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Jessica’s Garden: Getting Back to Our Roots

Stomping around the fields and mud at my Grandparents Farm

Coming from an international family certainly has its perks. While there are downfalls- distance, expense, and necessity for preparedness and fore-thought, having an excuse to jet to England is never a bad situation.

Our son met my grandparents three years ago when he was only seven weeks old. They are no longer able to make the journey to the States at this point, so it was time for me to head over again. Usually, my mother travels a couple times annually. This time she asked Grayson and me to join her as it’s a good time of year with work to travel.

Obviously the difference in Grayson from three years ago has been monumental. Seeing pictures and videos is nothing compared to an actual in-person visit. We were there for close to two weeks and Grayson even picked up a faint English accent; enough to make my heart pitter-patter.

Getting some Good English Fresh Air

My grandmother is an amazing and adventurous cook. Nothing ever turns out quite the same as the time before and recipes and cookbooks are hardly ever used. My mother learned to cook this way also, which is the reason I do the same. And probably enjoy cooking as much as I do.

English food is good for the soul. It’s usually hearty and heavy; lots of meat and potatoes. And parsnips. And carrots. And pastry. And gravy. All the important food groups. But, I can honestly tell you there is nothing more delicious than an English bacon or sausage sandwich. Both of which are completely different than their American equivalents. The bacon is lean and salty; the sausage bready and dense.

Graysons First Legitimate Fish and Chips

Except for fish and chips. It is impossible that a trip can be made across the Atlantic and fish and chips not be consumed. It’s such a simple concept, but it is also quintessentially English. I always knew that Grayson would fit in just fine with his English side, especially when he proclaimed his affinity for cod and chips.

Since we returned, my mother and I have been on an English food kick. The first night back we made Guiness Stew. The second night was homemade Fish and Chips. And the third was Shepherd’s Pie with the leftover stew fixings. My mother has a tried-and-true Fish and Chips recipe that I’ve been given permission to share.

Fish and Chips Batter

6 oz. Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
8 fl. Oz Water
4 Medium Sized Cod Fillets
Vegetable Oil for Frying
One or Two Splashes Guinness Beer (Optional)

Combine flour, baking soda and water; mix until smooth.  Set aside for an hour.  Dredge fish in flour seasoned with salt, then batter.  Fry on medium to medium-high until fish is golden, cooked, tender and flaky.  For a thicker batter, substitute a splash or two of Guinness beer for a portion of the water.  Malt vinegar is a traditional condiment for both the fish and chips.  Some people also enjoy tartar sauce.  Once again, my mother would deem this unconventional.

Because I was feeling guilty, only slightly, about over-indulging in more than my fair share of fried fish and potatoes over only a two week span, I added a non-traditional side to the mix. My mother never came around to the kale salad with supper that evening, claiming it was a travesty to eat anything but the fish and the chips.

Having not experienced kale until just a couple years ago, I am still working on incorporating it into my diet. My first experience with kale certainly turned me in the wrong direction for the consecutive couple of years. But in recent months I have had a couple of killer kale salads. So I started tackling them at home. In Winter, it’s easy to find this green in abundance. After all, it is its time to shine.

I found some tender looking kale at the supermarket this week and doctored it up with clementines (also in season), Kalamata olives, roasted pumpkin seeds, marinated fresh mozzarella, dried cranberries and a fresh homemade citrus dressing. It felt like Summer, even with the snow on the ground.

Winter Kale Salad

Bright Citrus Dressing

Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
Juice of 1 Lime
½ tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Honey
1/3 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ tsp Sriracha sauce

Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle over kale salad. I also use this to marinade the mozzarella a little beforehand. You can also use fresh squeezed grapefruit juice instead of lemon and lime and goat cheese instead of mozzarella. Either way, it’s a great way to brighten a dark winter evening.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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