May 2019

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Chocolate Chunk Cherry Cake

It is a little early to be talking about cherries in the UK… a few months early… but it is exciting to see cherries ready on the trees. We might even get some this year instead of the birds. They have already done an excellent job of eating the cherry and plum tree leaves – I had no idea they were that tasty… :/

We were given a bag of cherries from a friend who takes the left overs from a market for her chickens and gives us a huge portion of it to feed little piggy and chooks. Some were on the turn, queue cherry baking time.

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I’ve got a favourite cherry cake recipe (find it here Cherries) but I was lacking in some ingredients and, to be honest, I wanted chocolate cake ūüėõ

So I trawled the internet to find a chocolate one that had the ingredients we had in the house. I had just enough to make one from https://www.kitchensanctuary.com

It is most definitely not my own creation even though I would love to take credit for it, but it is so delicious that I think the word should be spread. It is a new favourite chocolate cake.

Flourless with ground almonds, fresh cherries, chocolate chunks in a chocolate cake, lovely gooey texture Рwhat is not to like?!

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Chocolate Chunk Cherry Cake

(Serves 10)

-225g butter, softened -200g granulated sugar -1tsp vanilla extract -4 eggs -200g ground almonds -50g cocoa powder -1tsp baking powder -100g dark chocolate -100g dark or milk chocolate cut into chunks -200g fresh cherries

  1. Preheat oven to 170C. Line a 20cm/9inch deep cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time until well incorporated into the mixture.
  4. Stir in the ground almonds, cocoa powder and baking powder, mixing well to combine.
  5. Melt 100g of dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over the hob or in a microwave. Mix into the cake mixture followed by the chunks of unmelted chocolate.
  6. Scrape the contents of the bowl into the prepared baking tin.
  7. Remove the stems from the cherries and cut them open, removing the stones from the centre. Scatter the cherries over the top of the cake’s surface.
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before transferring to the wire rack to cool completely. It is also delicious served warm.
  9. When completely cold, store in an airtight container for up to three days.

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Recipe: Celeriac Mash

I’ll confess – I was originally making celeriac soup, but it ended up as a sort of mashed potato like variation.

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With just the addition of some fried onion, salt and pepper, this versatile dish makes an excellent addition to any dinner with lots of veg sides or as a different replacement for mashed potato.

To learn about Celeriac, click here.

Celeriac Mash

(Serves 6-8) 

-2 large celeriacs -one large onion -olive oil -200-400ml boiled water -dash of salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the celeriacs and cut them into think pieces. Place them on a non-stick roasting tray, dribble olive oil over the top, and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until just starting to turn crisp. Leave to cool.
  2. Slice the onion and fry in olive oil until golden brown.
  3. In a food processor, add the celeriac and the fried onion. Blitz.
  4. Add a little of the boiling water and blitz again. Continue to add boiling water until you get a mashed potato looking consistency. Add the salt and pepper and blitz again.
  5. Tip the contents of the food processor into a non-stick deep based pan and bring to the boil.
  6. Serve hot or cold.

Tip: why not add some freshly picked herbs? Thyme, oregano, rosemary, coriander, parsley, sage, lemongrass…

Ps. roasted celeriac sliced thinly can make great chips. 

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Mushroom Quinoa Pot

SO… I never did get quite round to growing my quinoa this year.

I’ve finished uni and am now off to the next training course so the veg patch and blog have been neglected this year. But that does not mean that we can’t dream for the future! Fancy growing your own quinoa? Take a look at one of my oldest blog posts here:¬†Quinoa

Despite not growing it this year, how about a little veggie recipe to inspire you?

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Mushroom Quinoa Pot

(Serves 2)

-1 large onion, sliced -Olive oil, for frying -450g tomato passata/ sauce -100g quinoa -8 button mushrooms -4 oregano leaves -Sprig of thyme -1tbsp soy sauce -1 1/2tbsp Worcester sauce -Rocket, to serve

  1. Slice the onion and place in a non-stick pan with the olive oil. Fry until golden brown and then add the tomato passata or sauce.
  2. Add the quinoa and bring to the boil.
  3. Cut the mushrooms into fine slices and add, stirring in. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover with a lid. Leave for approximately ten minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the quinoa has cooked and absorbed some of the tomato sauce.
  4. Tear up the oregano and thyme and stir in followed by the soy sauce and Worcester sauce. Leave to simmer for another few minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and serve along with fresh rocket.

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First salad of 2019 harvested & recipe

Picked our first spinach, rocket and crinkled cress yesterday.

Yummy and fresh.

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Now they may look like they are on top of a pile of goo – and it is a pile of goo – but it is very good goo which is meant to look prettier but I cooked it for too long. It is meant to look like this:

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(From Banyan Botanicals Website — thank you)

It is kitchari Рa traditional Ayurvedic recipe which is meant to be gentle and nourishing for the digestive system. Kitchari, which literally means mixture, is a blend of rice and usually spilt lentils with spices and an assortment of vegetables of choice. A one-pot dish, kitchari originates from Asia and has references dating back thousands of years. The use of spices and vegetables can produce balancing effects for the three bodily dosas in Ayurvedic medicine. Rice and mung dal together create a balanced food that is a good protein combination and is tridoshic. This complete food is easy to digest and gives strength and vitality and nourishes all the tissues of the body.

There are many different recipes with variations and this is just one recipe that I have tried from Banyan Botanicals. It is surprisingly quick and easy to prepare. It can be frozen if needed but best eaten fresh.

Kitchari 

(Serves 4)

  • 1/2cup yellow mung dal
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2tbsp ghee/ coconut oil
  • 1tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small pinch of asafoetida (hing) powder
  • 1tsp turmeric powder
  • 1tsp coriander powder
  • 4 thin slices fresh root ginger
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1-2 cups of vegetables (e.g. sweet potato, courgettes (zucchini), squash, celery, carrot, beetroot etc.) cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • Fresh herbs to top, optional
  1. Soak the dal overnight in water. Drain.
  2. In a non-stick pan, warm the ghee/coconut oil. Add all of the spices an sauté for a minute or two. Add the rice and dal and sauté like a pilau for a couple more minutes. Add 6 cups of water and bring to the boil.
  3. Cover and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until the rice and dal is cooked.
  4. Add the vegetables half way through the cooking process, stir and allow to slowly cook for the remaining time.
  5. Add more water if needed. From Banyan Botanicals: Typically, kitchari is the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth. A thinner consistency is preferable if your digestion is weak. You will notice that kitchari will thicken when it cools and you may need more water than you originally thought.

A good vegetable stew that can us homegrown produce. Enjoy!

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https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/how-to-make-kitchari/

https://www.ayurveda.com/recipes/kitchari

 

Update – 28th May 2018

Hello Blog, it has been a while.

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Honestly, I’ve been really busy. Uni exam revision, foot injury and then a lot of catching up of work in the veg garden. Also… I’ve been writing a cooking book specially for gardeners who need a variety of recipes for homegrown surplus or gluts, and some fiction.

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So… this week we have harvested our first baby broadbean pods, kale, parsley, radishes, oregano, chives, tree cabbage, swiss chard, lettuce, rocket, rhubarb… it is getting exciting! The harvesting has begun!

The potatoes are doing really well, so are the broadbeans. The runner beans and peas are hanging in there, the fruit trees are all starting to produce, some gorgeous roses are flowering and nearly everything is planted out except the pumpkins. Oh, and a lot of tomatoes and sweet potatoes for the greenhouse.

I found it really hard to get things to grow this year. The cold weather, the hot weather – so unpredictable. I’ve had a lot of failed germinations and then death by stress. Poor plants. Out of the billions of chickpeas I planted, two germinated, one died a week ago. I’m still heartbroken. Taking special care of the last one… Two spinaches germinated, and immediately bolted. My neighbours onions have bolted, one cucumber died in the greenhouse when we suddenly had a -2C. Crazy England.

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Pumpkin

A pumpkin is a cultivar of a squash plant, most commonly of Cucurbita pep, that is round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin, and deep yellow to orange colouration. The thick shell contains seeds and pulp. Some exceptionally large ones are derived from Cucurbita maxima. In NZ and Australia, the term pumpkin generally refers to the broader category called winter squash elsewhere.

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Native to North America¬†pumpkins are widely grown for commercial use and are used both in food and recreation. Pumpkin pie¬†is a traditional part of Thanksgiving¬†meals in the US although commercially canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved as¬†for decoration at Halloween.¬†Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence of pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500¬†BC was found in Mexico.¬†Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. One often-used botanical classification relies on the characteristics of the stems: pumpkin stems are more rigid, prickly, and angular (with an approximate five-degree angle) than squash stems, which are generally softer, more rounded and more flared where joined to the fruit.¬†Pumpkin fruits are a type of botanical berry known as a pepo. The word¬†pumpkin¬†originates from the word¬†pepon¬†which is Greek for “large melon”, something round and large.¬†The French¬†adapted this word to¬†pompon, which the British¬†changed to¬†pumpion¬†and to the later American colonists became known as¬†pumpkin. Traditional¬†C. pepo¬†pumpkins generally weigh between 3 and 8kg (6 and 18¬†lb), though the largest cultivars,¬†C. maxima,¬†regularly reach weights of over 34¬†kg (75¬†lb). The color of pumpkins derives from orange carotenoid¬†pigments, including beta-carotene found in carrots, provitamin B¬†compounds converted to vitamin A¬†in the body.

Pumpkins are a warm-weather crop that are usually planted in early July. The specific conditions necessary for growing pumpkins require that soil temperatures 8cm (3¬†in) deep are at least 15.5C (60F) and soil that holds water well. Pumpkin crops suffer if there is a lack of water or because of cold temperatures¬†and sandy soil with poor water retention or poorly drained soils that become waterlogged after heavy rain. Pumpkins are, however, rather hardy, and even if many leaves and portions of the vine are removed or damaged, the plant can very quickly re-grow secondary vines to replace what was removed. The thing I most fear for our pumpkins is powdery mildew –¬†Powdery Mildew.¬†

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A courgette with powdery mildew – the white spots that grow on the leaves before the plant shrivels and dies.

Pumpkins produce both a male and female flower. Bees¬†play a significant role in the fertilisation of the flowers.¬†Pumpkins have historically been pollinated by the native squash bee,¬†Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably at least in part to pesticide¬†sensitivity. Today most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees. One hive per acre (4,000¬†m2¬†per hive, or 5 hives per 2 hectares) is recommended by the US Dept. of Agriculture. If there are inadequate bees for pollination, gardeners often have to hand pollinate –¬†inadequately pollinated pumpkins usually start growing but abort before full development.

To grow pumpkins, plant one seed in a tall yoghurt container filled with good compost, puncture a hole in the bottom of the pot to allow water to drain through, in April. Plant 1.5cm, 1/2 inch, deep (deep as your thumb) and firm the soil over the top. Keep well watered and put on a warm, sunny windowsill in your house. Take it off the windowsill at night to keep it warm. Transplant outdoors in May or when the frosts are over, spacing 1.2m (4’) apart. Keep moist and well fed РI feed mine lots of manure throughout the season because of my sandy soil that leaks away the nutrients Рpumpkins are hungry plants. To prevent the fruit from rotting, gently lift from the ground and place a brick or large stone underneath them. Careful not to damage the stem. Harvest once they are turning orange all over, September РNovember and before the first frosts. The most obvious clue is to look at the stem as if it has died off and turned hard you know that the fruits are ready. Other ways of telling that the moment of truth has arrived is to slap the fruit (it should sound hollow) and to push your thumbnail into the skin, which should dent but not puncture. Cut the stalks a good 4 inches from where it joins the fruit. Wash the fruit with soapy water containing one part of chlorine bleach to ten parts of water to remove the soil and kill the pathogens on the surface of the fruit. Make sure the fruits are well dried. Then you need to cure it. Curing involves the hardening the skins to protect the flesh inside from deterioration. Do it properly and you can expect fruits to stay in top form for at least three months, comfortably taking you to the first harvests of next spring.  Remove the fruits to a greenhouse or as sunny a windowsill as you can find having first brushed off any dirt. Allow your fruits to sunbathe and develop a tan! This should take about two weeks for the top of the fruit then once carefully flipped over, another two weeks for the bottom. Pumpkins and winter squash prefer a well-ventilated, dry place. Keep the fruits raised up off hard surfaces on racks or wire mesh with a thick layer of newspaper or straw. Keeping them off the ground will allow air to circulate around the fruits while the extra padding will prevent the skin softening and becoming vulnerable to infection.

The best pumpkin variety I’ve tried so far are ‘Racer’.

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The practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween originated from an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack.¬†The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween,¬†but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips.¬†Not until 1837, does¬†jack-o’-lantern¬†appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern¬†and the carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is first recorded in 1866.¬†In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween.¬†In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o’-lantern as part of the festivities to encourage families to join together to make their own jack-o’-lanterns.¬†Association of pumpkins with harvest time and pumpkin pie¬†at Thanksgiving¬†reinforce its iconic role. Pumpkin chunking¬†is a competitive activity in which teams build various mechanical devices designed to throw a pumpkin as far as possible. Catapults and air cannons¬†are some of the common mechanisms. Some pumpkin chunkers breed and grow special varieties of pumpkin under specialized conditions to improve the pumpkin’s chances of surviving a throw.

Pumpkin seeds, leaves, and juices all pack a nutritional punch. Pumpkin has a range of health benefits, including being one of the best-known sources of beta-carotene and are a good source of fibre -one cup of cooked pumpkin is 2.7kg of fibre. Pumpkins have been found to reduce blood pressure, reduce risk of cancer, combats diabetes and supports your immune system.

Here are some yummy pumpkin recipes and ideas to get you started:

You can simply roast them at 180C in the oven covered in olive oil for 45 minutes. You can use them in soups, stews. Grate them up and add them to any casserole or bolognese, stir fry etc. Make pumpkin pie, try inventing a new dip…

Pumpkin Coconut Curry

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What to do with left over pumpkin? Рmake pumpkin seeds taste like popcorn

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Happy Halloween! Recipe Flashbacks Рpumpkin cake anyone?!