Category Archives: Uncategorized

Farewell

And so we come to the end of the road on my year long account of my allotment cooking and baking. Thank you very much to everyone who has followed me along the way. It has been a useful, rewarding experience, but not without its trials. There are many recipes I didn’t get to post. Either I didn’t find the time to make the recipe despite planning it, or I made it but never got around to posting it. There were a few times when I forgot to photograph what I made until the final scraping of the plate, doh! Times when the light was so poor that the photos came out terrible, making what was a lovely dish look very unappetising. I take my hat off to all those food bloggers out there who make a far better job of it than me and make it look so easy. Trust me, it isn’t.

Before I go, I have created a new page (in the top red band) for glut recipes. This is a series of links to external websites and blogs, along with links to some recipes on this blog, in order to help with those inevitable gluts that we all get for time to time. The site will remain here for you to use – I’ll be referring back to it myself – so do come back and use it whenever you want. I might come back and add to that list if I find some more recipes to share. And you can continue to follow my allotment activities over on This Blessed Plot.

I hope you have found something useful here, some inspiration if nothing else, because that’s what I look for in recipe books and websites. Just a spark of inspiration for something new.

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plant based.”
Michael Pollan.

Jam cookies

jam cookies 1

I wasn’t entirely sure what to call these. The recipe came from a book of my mums which is all biscuit recipes, and because the recipe used lemon curd rather than jam, the recipe was called ‘lemon biscuits’. Now, I don’t want to pick flies, but these really aren’t biscuit like, they’re more cake like if anything. On the Great British Bake Off, they define a cookie as soft and crumbly and a biscuit as hard with a good snap, so on that description, they are definitely cookies. They’re somewhere between a jam tart and a jammy dodger. Two of my favourite things as a child, and by the way this would be a great recipe to make with children.

No matter the name, they are delicious and very moorish, and a great way to use some of my homemade allotment jam. I used raspberry fridge jam in some, and marrow and ginger jam in the others. You can use whatever you like, jam, marmalade, jelly, curd, chocolate spread even, and it doesn’t need to be homemade from fruit you’ve grown yourself, I’m just showing off.

Just be careful to allow the molten jam to cool before you scoff them!

The recipe very helpfully said this made 1 batch. I think that’s the same amount as the length of a piece of string. I can tell you, I managed to get 19 cookies from this mix, but it might depend on how big you make them, it might be slightly more or less. Because I didn’t want that many in one go, I froze some of the dough balls so I could make some more later, which worked out really well.

Ingredients:

  • 110g caster sugar
  • 220g butter
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1tsp of almond extract (or vanilla which I used and tasted great)
  • finely grated zest and juice from 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • jam/curd/marmalade of your choice
  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºc and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
  2. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg yolk, icing sugar, ground almonds, extract, lemon zest and 2 tsp lemon juice. Give it all a good mix.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and stir until combined into a dough.
  5. Take a dessert spoon of the dough and form into a ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball in size and place on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough mixture. (At this point you can freeze any excess balls for a later date).
  6. With your thumb, press down to form a small well and slightly flatten the ball. Fill the well with a little blob of jam, about half a teaspoon, but be careful not to overfill.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden at the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  8. Get the kettle on for a cuppa tea to go with them!

jam cookies 2 jam cookies pre-cooked

Butternut squash, spinach and ricotta lasagne

lasagne1

The spinach typically bolted in the dry heat of the summer (which now happens around May – June time). But we decided to sow another row around late July – August, just in time for the torrential downpours that signal that period of the year that the schools still oddly call the ‘summer holidays’.

Spinach is very happy in wet weather, so it grew much better this time. Annoyingly though, it was growing right in the middle of a bed I wanted to use for next years garlic. So just at the point it was growing lush and strong, I pulled it all out. The carrier bag I fished out of the shed was too small to hold it all and I had to go back and find a bigger bag.

I made a potato and spinach curry with the first bunch, and then I stripped off the best leaves from the rest, washed it thoroughly and squashed it all into a bag for the freezer. This seems to have worked well. I wasn’t sure whether to lightly cook it first, but in the end I decided to freeze it fresh, and then I just had to slice a chunk off with a knife and cook in down in a pan in a matter of minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • a handful of spinach
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tub of ricotta cheese (250g)
  • parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten.
  • lasagne sheets
  • creme fraiche or cream (might not be needed).
  1. Firstly puree the squash by peeling, de-seeding and chopping the squash, placing it all in a roasting pan with the garlic cloves, drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper, then roast in the oven for around 30 mins. Take out the garlic cloves and squeeze out the garlic, then tip it all into a food processor with a splash of milk and a pinch of nutmeg, half the ricotta cheese and whizz until smooth.
  2. Cook the spinach lightly until wilted, allow to cool and then chop. Mix with the remaining ricotta cheese, the egg and a little more nutmeg.
  3. Take a baking dish and cover the bottom with a layer of the squash puree. Add a grating of parmesan cheese, then a layer of lasagne sheets and finally a covering of the spinach and ricotta mixture. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a spinach and ricotta layer. If there isn’t enough of this for the final topping, mix in a spoonful of creme fraiche or cream to make it go further. Finish with another grating of parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake in a moderate oven for around 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

lasagne2

Beetroot, red onion and cranberry relish

beet relish1

The beetroot has grown pretty well as usual this year. There isn’t a single crop that I grow without some sort of pest or disease to challenge it (or me) along the way, but some are definitely easier than others, needing little attention, and beetroot is one of those. It always germinates okay, grows whether it’s cold and damp or hot and dry, and apart from needing a little thinning in late spring/early summer, it looks after itself. Some grow big, some stay quite small, but that’s okay with me.

The leaves sometimes get a bit nibbled and then rusty towards the end of summer, and the bulbs also get eaten slightly, but whatever it is that attacks them only ever gets as far as a small hole in the side and then gives up. They don’t burrow all the way in and eat the entire build from the inside out like the eelworms in potatoes. So it’s quite easy to chop these holey sections off when trimming and peeling them. And less than perfect veg is always fine for chutney and relish making, nobody will ever know.

I came across a recipe in Alys Fowlers book Abundance (which I can highly recommend) for beetroot marmalade, and decided to adapt it ever so slightly to make this, which I’m controversially calling a relish. To be honest I don’t really get the difference between a pickle, chutney, relish or marmalade. The definition of marmalade seems to universally be a preserve made with the juice and peel of citrus fruit, so where does that leave caramelised onion marmalade? I think (personal opinion alert) it can be anything sweet made with slithers of fruit, veg or peel, suspended in a syrupy juice. Relish perhaps suggests something more savoury, whereas this is sweet, although you eat it with savoury dishes! Confused? Me too.

Anyway, call it what you like, it tastes lovely with a chunk of tangy cheese or cold meat. Anywhere you might use onion marmalade in fact, or cranberry relish, which lets face it, is really a jam! I’ll say no more.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg beetroot (trimmed and peeled)
  • 100ml balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt, to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 large red onions, or a handful of smaller ones
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 400ml red wine vinegar
  • 100g dried cranberries, or feel free to use fresh.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºc. Cut the beetroot and the red onions into quarters and place in a roasting tin with a good dowsing of the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle over some sea salt and the orange zest. Mix everything together and roast for 40 mins, or until you can pierce the beetroot with a knife. Set aside to cool – you can do this one evening and leave them overnight to make up the relish the next day.
  2. Grate the beetroot into a bowl, and set aside.
  3. Take out the onions and roughly chop them. Put them into a large pan with any balsamic juices from the pan, and the brown sugar and set over a low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan (including the beetroot) and cook on a gentle simmer for 30 mins until the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. It might take a bit longer. Stir from time to time to avoid anything sticking.
  5. You know when the relish is ready when you draw a spoon across the bottom of the pan and it stays clear for a few seconds before the syrupy juices fill back in. If there are no juices you may have overcooked it, in which case, add a little more vinegar and sugar and cook briefly.
  6. Spoon the relish into warm sterilised jars – I do this by washing the jars in hot water and then placing them into a cool oven to dry. Or you can just run them through a dishwasher.
  7. Place the lids on and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

beetroots beets and onions pre roast beet relish 2

Courgette parmesan crisps

courgette parmesan crisps2

 

It’s that time of year when I’m finding ways to incorporate courgettes into every dish possible. We’re getting around 5 or 6 courgettes (or zucchinis) per week from 2 plants, and as ever, they’re a delight to start with, but once you’ve had your fill of them, and then the glut really gets going, they start to become a bit overwhelming. Having said that, last year I lost my courgette plants to the slugs, and I missed them so much. I got given some by my allotment neighbours, and I could have easily bought some, but it’s just not the same. I hadn’t realised until then, how much a part of my summer tradition they had become. Who’d have thought it of a little green vegetable that frankly doesn’t even taste of an awful lot. So I vouched never to complain about a courgette glut ever again, so I’m honestly not complaining.

I came across a recipe for courgette parmesan crisps in a gardening book I bought a few months ago, and I decided I really had to try it out. However, it wasn’t the greatest success. The recipe involved baking the courgettes at a very low temperature for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours! After the first hour they still looked pretty uncrisp like, so out of a little impatience I turned the oven up high and pretty soon they crisped up. The only trouble was, I had sliced them very, very thinly, so some went from green to black in seconds. They were tasty, but the cooking time was slightly off putting, and I decided to look for an alternative recipe.

So I went onto the internet, good old Pinterest, and searched for courgette and zucchini crisps, and quickly found this recipe from the blog Five Heart Home, which sounded like a much better solution. These ones turned out perfectly and were delicious, devoured in seconds. Today I did them again but with normal cheddar cheese which worked just as well, it’s just a bit more tricky to spoon evenly onto the slices, but that doesn’t matter too much. I happened to have a bit of lemon zest going spare so threw that on too, and it really worked well, gave them a lovely lemony zing (think lemon cheesecake) so I’ll try that again next time.

I don’t think we’ll have too many glut problems this year, the only problem is getting your share of these once they’re out of the oven!

Slice the courgettes into rounds, around 4 or 5mm thick, and lay them out onto a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper. Press a piece of kitchen paper over them to remove any excess moisture. Sprinkle over some garlic salt, or as I used, garlic granules and a little sea salt, a grinding of black pepper, and then top each slice with a little mound of grated parmesan cheese (easier to do with a teaspoon). Obviously the bigger slices will take more than the smaller ones, so use your judgement, but don’t worry too much, the cheese spreads out as it melts.

Bake in a hot oven (around 220ºc) for 15-20 minutes. I find mine need the full 20 mins, but it might depend on your oven. Eat them while they’re still warm.

courgette crisps raw1 courgette parmesan crisps

Mini rhubarb crumbles and steam puddings

rhubarb crumbles

I do love rhubarb. I know there is always the off chance that you get a slightly under-ripe, under-cooked and/or under-sweetened piece that makes your face pucker with it’s tartness, but to me that’s the same risk-thrill as when you get a slightly eye-watering chilli hit.

However, the other half in my life firmly believes it to be inedible, due to the texture more than the taste (I think he must have had a bad rhubarb experience) and so I must eat our supplies to myself. Poor me! As much as I would love to make Sarah Raven’s up-side-down cake, I’d never get through it alone before it went off, so I’ll save that one for when I have company.

For now, I have made individual crumbles and steam puddings that I can pop into the freezer and take out when the pudding cravings hit. You know how much us Brits love our puds, the weather only has to drop by a few degrees, heck, fractions of degrees, and it’s pudding comfort time!

Rhubarb crumble

Makes 4 individual ramekins or 1 larger crumble. Preheat the oven to a moderate temp, unless freezing/chilling for future eating (that’s why mine look a little pale, they went into the freezer uncooked).

  • 3 fat stalks of rhubarb, 4 if they’re quite thin.
  • splash of orange juice or sweet fruit cordial (such as strawberry or blackberry)
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter, cubed
  • 100g sugar, granulated or caster, white or golden
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Trim and chop the rhubarb and put into a saucepan with a little of the juice or cordial. Put on a low heat for 5 minutes while you make the crumble topping.
  2. Measure the flour and butter into a bowl and with light (preferably cold) hands, rub the butter into the flour, lifting it up as you go to keep it light and airy. Once it resembles breadcrumbs, add the sugar and ground ginger and briefly stir together.
  3. Divide the slightly stewed rhubarb between the ramekins (or place in the bottom of your dish if making a larger version) and top with the crumble mix. Be careful not to press it down or compact it. I usually use a fork to gently rake it evenly across the top, which is a very satisfying thing, like raking mini soft gravel.
  4. At this stage mine were covered in foil and placed in the freezer so that I can bake them afresh when I want one.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, just pop them in the hot oven for 20-30 mins depending on size. Don’t worry if some of the juices leak to the top, that’s what a proper crumble should do in my view.

rhubarb sponge pud

Rhubarb steam puddings

Makes 4 individual puddings. You could also make a larger version, but I’m not sure of the cooking time. Preheat oven to a moderate temp, unless freezing/chilling for future eating.

  • 1 largish stalk of rhubarb should do here (you want about 4-5 pieces in the bottom of each pudding mould)
  • splash of orange juice or sweet fruit cordial (such as strawberry or blackberry)
  • 2 tablespoons maple or golden syrup (optional)
  • 100g butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)
  • 100g sugar (I prefer to use brown sugar here)
  • a few drops of vanilla extract (optional)
  • 100g self-raising flour (or use plain and 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • splash of milk (may be necessary)
  1. Grease the pudding moulds with butter and then sprinkle in some of the sugar to coat the inside and add a half spoon of syrup to the bottom of each.
  2. Prepare and lightly stew the rhubarb as in step 1 of previous recipe (I made these all together).
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together, in a food mixer preferably.
  4. Add the vanilla, add a spoonful of flour and then a little egg, mix to combine, and keep going until the egg is all mixed in, then add the rest of the flour.
  5. Mix well, and if the batter seems a little stiff, add a little splash of milk.
  6. Divide the rhubarb between the moulds and then dollop the cake batter on top.
  7. Cut 4 pieces of foil and grease one side. Cover each mould tightly with the foil, greased side down (I add a little folded crease for expansion).
  8. Place them into a roasting tin and pour water in so that it comes about 2cm up the sides of the moulds.
  9. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for around 25 mins. Check them very carefully after this time, mine took a little longer (around 30-35 mins).
  10. Once the sponge has a nice bouncy spring to it on top, they’re done. Wait to cool slightly before running a knife around the edge and carefully tipping out onto a plate. As you can see, mine refused to come out cleanly for its photo shoot, typical.
  11. Serve with cream/ice-cream/custard. Enjoy.

Credits: they are both my own recipes, but I did refer to this recipe for method and cooking times of the steam puddings.

Allotment rhubarb 1-2 Allotment rhubarb 3-4

Spicy Lentil Soup

lentil soup
Another soup recipe from John:
I love the earthy, rich taste of lentils but I’m not overly confident about how to prepare and use them, so this was something of an experiment. I had a handful of slightly tired-looking vegetables at the bottom of the veg basket: some very small Romano potatoes from the plot, a couple of little carrots, an onion and some garlic. There’s a light dusting of snow on the ground outside today and I thought that a spicy lentil soup might be just the thing to keep the chill at bay.
Ingredients
  • 200g brown lentils
  • 200g potatoes
  • 50g carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small red chilli (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Olive oil (1tbs)
  • Vegetable stock 800ml
Put the lentils on to boil for around 35 minutes in plenty of water. While they are cooking, dice the onion, garlic and chilli and fry them in a little oil in a separate pan for a few minutes before adding the carrots and potatoes, also chopped fairly small. Once all the vegetables have been fried lightly in the oil for a few minutes, add the drained, cooked lentils, mix everything together and then transfer to a single pan. Add the stock and seasoning and simmer gently for a further 20 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Then use a hand blender, or a potato masher, to reduce the soup to a smooth texture. Finally, add any additional seasoning to your own personal taste – I used a pinch of hot cayenne pepper – and serve. This makes four good portions.
It tasted really warming, hearty and wholesome – great for a cold January day!
lentil soup ingredients
%d bloggers like this: