Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Grow It, Cook It, Eat It – Growing In Containers

Grow It, Cook It, Eat It – Confined Spaces

Even if you only have a tiny garden, you can grow things to eat in all types of interesting containers. Leeks thrived in a zinc baby bath, but I also grew chives in an old shopping basket, onions in a tin drawer from a filing cabinet and even some fabulous early new potatoes in an old plastic dustbin.

And once you have grown it there’s nothing more satisfying than turning your fresh ingredients into something nutritious and delicious! Try some of these lovely recipes yourself.

Leeks In Red Wine

This makes a great first course for 6 or a light meal for 4. You can eat it hot or cold but my favourite is the way my wife Sally serves it – just a bit warmer than room temperature. All the protection of leeks and the heart benefits of red wine – what more could you want.

8 smallish leeks, well washed and cut diagonally into 1 inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, not chopped
125 ml / 4 fl oz red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
a small knob of butter
a handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan, add garlic and leeks. Cook gently until the leeks begin to soften. Add the wine, cover and simmer gently till cooked through. Remove leeks with a slotted spoon, pile into serving bowls. Ladle cooking juices onto each portion and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Leek And Sorrel Tarts

Here are all the heart and circulation benefits of leeks with the beta carotene and iron from the sorrel; but keep off the sorrel if you have gout or kidney stones as it contains a lot of oxalic acid that can aggravate these conditions, use spinach instead.

Serves 4
1 packet short-crust pastry
350g/12oz young leeks, washed and finely chopped
6 sorrel leaves – spinach will do, but it is really worth growing your own sorrel, even in a largish pot.
Organic rape seed oil
1 pinch quatre épices (four spice) powder
White sauce
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas 7

Bake the pastry blind in four small, non stick tart dishes for 10 mins. (use baking beads or dried chick peas to line the pastry base) Leave to cool slightly.

While you’re doing this, gently sauté the leeks in the oil and season with pepper. Stir in the sorrel leaves and spice powder

Put the leeks and sorrel into the pastry tarts Pour over the white sauce

Put back in the oven for 15 mins

Lettuce Braised With Peas

This is one of my favourite recipes for garden fresh food when there is a surplus of produce. Here we have a classic of French cooking, but a dish that is a stranger to most British kitchens. Quick and easy, it also provides more than a day’s dose of vitamin C that helps the absorption of the valuable quantity of iron in the peas. There is an additional important supply of B vitamins, other minerals and fibre.

50g/2oz unsalted butter
45g/3tbs chopped, lean back bacon
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
450g/1lb (shelled weight) fresh peas – or frozen but not canned
300ml/10fl oz vegetable stock
1 medium green lettuce, washed and shredded
1 small oak leaf lettuce, washed and shredded
1 handful of mint, stripped from any coarse stems and finely shredded

Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat and add the butter and bacon
Fry for two minutes
Add the onion and fry for 4-5 minutes until the onion is soft but not brown
Add the peas, stir to combine and pour in the stock.
Bring to a simmer before adding the shredded lettuce.
Stir well and cover with a tight fitting lid.
Simmer for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle in the mint and serve straight away

Serve with chicken, lamb or other meat dishes, or omit the bacon and use with any vegetarian bean recipes

Curried Pumpkin Soup

This is the perfect dish for a winter party. It can all be made in advance and reheated just before serving with great chunks of warm, crusty, coarse wholemeal bread. As the chill winds herald the cold and flu season, this soup will help boost the resistance of the whole family.

Serves four to six
1 medium pumpkin
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 tbspns rapeseed (canola) oil
1 or more teaspoons of curry powder to taste
1.2 litres / 2 pints vegetable stock, preferably home-made
1 x 410g can haricot beans, drained and rinsed
4 large sage leaves

Cut off the top quarter of the pumpkin – if really large you will find this much easier with a saw, but do clean it well first! Remove and save the seeds; scoop out the pumpkin flesh, keeping the pumpkin shell intact. Sauté the onions and garlic with the oil and curry powder, in a large saucepan until soft but not browned. Add the pumpkin flesh and stir until golden – about two minutes. Pour in the stock; add the haricot beans and sage leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer until soft – about 20 minutes. Pour in the yoghurt.

Liquidise in a food processor or blender until smooth. Serve in the reserved pumpkin shell with the lid replaced to keep in the heat.

Michael’s Tip

Wash the pumpkin seeds thoroughly in a sieve, making sure you remove all the stringy bits of the flesh. Dry on sheets of kitchen paper, then spread thinly on a baking sheet and put into a low oven for an hour or two – until they are completely dry. Store in an air-tight container. Eat as they are or dry fry in a pan to toast a golden brown. Lots of zinc and excellent for any man with a prostate problem.


Some of my books...

Sign up for my e-mail newsletter:


10 Day Detox With Kim WildeMichael Van Straten's 10 Day Detox With Kim Wilde

"In this video, we will take you through a series of easy to follow and achievable steps. You too can safely and effectively lose weight as well as significantly increase energy levels".

Migraine Misery?


MigraHerb® Feverfew capsules.

MigraHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the prevention of migraine headaches exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickLessens frequency and severity of migraine attacks

tickFor people who have a doctor's diagnosis for this condition

MigraHerb® 30 one-a-day capsules.
Normally £8.16
NOW £6.90
Save £1.26.

» For more information visit www.migraherb.co.uk

De-stress and Energise!


Vitano® Rhodiola rosea tablets.

Vitano® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. Always read the label.

tickHelps revive both mental and physical performance

tickBalances a hectic lifestyle... naturally!

Vitano® 30 tablets normally £13.27
NOW £9.90 - Save £3.37.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.vitano.co.uk

Not Sleeping?


NiteHerb® Valerian tablets.

NiteHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickA natural solution to a good night's sleep

tickWake up revived - not groggy!

NiteHerb® 30 tablets normally £6.12
NOW £5.20 - Save £0.92.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.niteherb.co.uk