Born in America but lived in England most of my life. Recently moved to New Hampshire. I love cooking, especially baking and canning. I have a very split cooking personality, sometimes very healthy and sometimes not!
Like it or not in these parts of the world summer seems to have given over to autumn. There is a distinct chill to that breeze and the sun is sitting a little lower, not to mention those darker mornings! I’m not too sad though as autumn brings its own treats, one of which is blackberries! There are lots of blackberries around at the moment, certainly you can buy them but the ones I find a real treat are the free ones found in so many hedgerows! It’s so lovely to pick your own blackberries if you can find them. This is something I did very recently, I ended up with quite a few blackberries and I cooked some with apples but the rest made it into these muffins.
I have been trying to focus more on salad than cake recently but these blackberries needed using so combining together a couple of recipes I tried to make these a little healthier, I used the most unrefined sugar I could, they only have 1 egg and use a small amount of olive oil rather than butter. I know, who am I kidding? Muffins are not a health food but I like to think this recipe is slightly healthier than some muffin recipes! I will update here as next time I’m making these I will try wholemeal flour and less sugar.
I like making muffins as they are so easy, not too much mixing is required so a good old bowl and wooden spoon will do here, just mix together the dry ingredients, then the wet and add together. It’s as easy as that! These muffins were lovely and light, nice and cinnamony with little bursts of delicious blackberries. In 30 minutes you have a lovely autumn treat!
Blackberry Oat Muffins
- 175 grams self-raising flour
- 50 grams porridge oats (I used old-fashioned, larger oats)
- 140 light muscodavo sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg
- 150 ml buttermilk
- 90 ml olive oil plus a little for greasing tin
- 150 grams blackberries, rinsed
- Preheat your oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6. Grease a muffin tin with a little olive oil and place a muffin case in each one.
- Put the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon and baking soda into a bowl and mix together.
- In a separate bowl beat together the egg, buttermilk and oil.
- Lightly mix the wet mixture into the flour mixture.
- Gently fold in the blackberries.
- Divide between the prepared muffin cases and bake for 20 -25 minutes.
This has to be the ultimate free food find! If you have ever grown nasturtiums you will know how rampant they are. Well they produce a lot of seeds as well and those seeds can be put to good use by pickling them! They are very similar to capers. I used to be very suspicious of capers, they resemble little critters but are actually the flower buds of the caper plant. I will admit I didn’t use capers very often until recently when I developed a taste for them scattered over salads, they add little bites of pickled crunch that I just love. With last years farm challenge, particularly the foraging, still fresh in my mind I decided to try my hand at pickling the many seeds from a friends nasturtium plants.
Once acquiring my nasturtium seeds I turned to the internet, typically it appears everyone but me had tried this! I got the inspiration for my pickled nasturtium seeds from a blog I love called Hitchhiking To Heaven, Shae even calls them “California Capers” I just love that!
I didn’t make very many, I figured small batches were probably better for my needs. I will of course be eating these alone as there is no way I am ever going to get my green food fearing husband to try these! I was happy with the result, they are a little more crunchy than capers. Salty and tangy with a peppery flavour they have been a welcome addition to my salads this summer.
ingredients (to make one small jar) recipe barely adapted from here
- nasturtium seeds (a good handful)
- 15 grams salt
- 200 mls water
- 75 mls cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- Rinse the nasturtium seeds and put into a jar.
- Make a brine by dissolving the salt in the water and pour this over the nasturtium seeds. Leave covered at room temperature for 2 days.
- After the 2 day soak drain and rinse the seed pods. Place into a sterile jar.
- Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil and pour the hot vinegar into the jar, covering the nasturtium seeds. Add the bay leaf and put the lid on the jar.
- Cool and store in the refrigerator.
It’s that glorious time of summer gluts from keen vegetable growers, everything arrives at once at the moment and in large quantities! This is less of a recipe and more of an idea. I was given a large bag of runner beans, I like runner beans but have never done anything with them other than boil or steam them. I dutifully blanched and froze some but still had a lot left so I steamed a few and dressed them simply with olive oil salt and pepper, they were delicious served immediately but I found I enjoyed them even more cold as a salad the next day, they are seriously good! I ate nothing but a bowl of these for lunch!
You will see there are no quantities, just use however many beans you have and dress to taste. This really is just an idea that worked so well I wanted to share it here. This keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, I prefer it a room temperature.
Runner Bean Salad
- runner beans, topped ,tailed and washed
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh ground pepper and sea salt
- Cut the runner beans to bite size pieces then steam until tender.
- Drizzle with olive oil, enough so that all the beans get a good coating.
- Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.
- Eat right away or serve as a salad at room temperature.
One recent Sunday saw my husband using a wheelbarrow as a step up to reach for branches to bend towards me to pick lots of cherries! What a find, a tree full of tiny cherries! When I first noticed the cherries they were tiny and bright red and there were so many of them that I assumed they must not be edible, Id heard somewhere that if the birds aren’t eating them they are poison. I don’t know if that tale is true but it makes sense to me so we ignored the cherries. Well those cherries got darker as they ripened and one day I popped one into my mouth “just to see” it was fine so we picked them! I think the birds couldn’t really see them and judging by pits all over the place the birds had found and eaten those cherries, there were just so many of them there were still enough for us!
As I mentioned those cherries were tiny, more pit than fruit so I decided that pitting them would be to awful of a job. I have a friend that has spent many a summer in Italy and she told me of tiny wild cherries in Italy that are made into liqueur so I used some for that, more of that another time. I used the rest for jelly rather than jam so I could avoid pitting! There are not many recipes for cherry jelly so I applied the general rule of adding a pound of sugar per pint of juice for jelly making.
I did not get very much juice from my cherries considering the amount of cherries I used, and it was a little stubborn about setting. Maybe this is why there aren’t many cherry jelly recipes! However if you come across some cheap cherries or as I did some free ones and don’t mind a small batch of jelly this is well worth making, it tastes wonderful!
The amounts will vary according to how many cherries you have. I had 4 lbs when making this jelly which in the end only resulted in 1 and a half jars of delicious cherry jelly.
The general rule for jelly making is to measure the juice obtained from your fruit, in this case cherries. For every 550 mls/20 oz of juice you get you will need to use 1 pound of sugar
- cherries, rinsed and removed from stalks (I had 4 lbs)
- water (6 oz/175 mls)
- sugar (the amount will vary according to how much juice is obtained from the fruit)
- lemon juice (the amount will vary, I used the juice from a small lemon)
- Put the cherries in a large saucepan and add the water. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the cherries are soft, some may have even escaped from their pits. Using a potato masher crush all the cherries to release as much juice as possible.
- Carefully pour the cherries and all the liquid into a jelly strainer which has been set up in a bowl or pan to catch all the juice. Leave for a few hours or overnight to let all the juice drip from the cherries.
- When the jelly bag is no longer dripping measure the juice.
- Add 1 lb/450 grams of sugar for each pint of juice obtained. I got exactly 550 mls of juice so used 1 lb of sugar.
- Put the juice and sugar into your jam pan.
- Add the lemon juice (again this will vary, I added the juice of 1 small lemon to my 550 mls of juice). Stir well until the sugar has dissolved then bring up to a full boil.
- Boil rapidly for 5 minutes and check for the setting point,my jelly took around 15 minutes boiling before it would set. See here for setting tips
- Pour into your prepared sterilised jars.
I did not process my jelly in a water bath as I had such a small amount and its so good it wont be around for very long!
It’s that time of the year again, the sun is shining and the courgettes/zucchini just keep on coming! This relish has become one of my yearly summer recipes to
get rid of use up a few of the many courgettes that come my way! I’ve tried various recipes over the last few summers and this is a combination of those.
It makes a sweet relish that goes well in any sandwich containing meat or cheese, it would be perfect with hotdogs if you eat them. These days I don’t eat hotdogs but loved them growing up in America and even more so I loved the (bright green!) relish that we had with them. I believe we used to have Heinz sweet relish, something I’ve only found once in the UK. My label reading habit would now have me leaving it on the shelf if I did find it again and anyhow this version of relish is just as sweet but a whole lot more natural! When the last jar gets finished, usually at the beginning of Spring I find myself feeling a little sad and believe it or not I momentarily begin to look forward to the courgette glut again just to make more of this relish!
- 3 lb grated courgettes
- 1.5 lbs peeled and finely chopped onion
- 3 oz salt
- 2 red peppers (or 1 red, 1 green)
- 590 mls white vinegar
- 2.5 lbs sugar (I use unrefined)
- 1.5 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Grate the courgettes and finely chop the onions ( I use a food processor for this, much easier if you have one). Put both the courgettes and the onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt, mix the salt evenly throughout, its easiest to just use your hands here! Cover and leave for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight in the fridge although beware of leaving it in the fridge as the onions smell very strongly.
- Drain the courgettes and onion in a colander, rinse well with cold water then squeeze out the excess water, again hands are best for this!
- Put the chopped peppers, vinegar,sugar and spices into a large pan, stir well.
- Add the drained courgettes and onion. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Carefully fill your sterilised jars with the relish. Screw on the lids and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. If unsure of canning procedures see here
You will get 5-7 jars of relish depending on your jar size.
It rare for me to want to make or even eat soup in the summer. Rarer still we are actually having some summer like weather here which makes soup an even less likely meal! However I got to thinking of recipes for all the tomatoes I’m hoping for from the allotment and a request for tomato soup from my favourite 10-year-old resulted in this unseasonable recipe.
This is a one pan and blend recipe, really quick and easy to make. It actually makes a great summer meal as there is little effort involved. Paired with a salad you can have a light, nutritious meal in no time.
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup (makes 2-3 servings)
- 550 grams (approx 5-6 largish) tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 500 mls chicken stock (vegetable stock works fine too, whatever you prefer)
- Preheat the oven to 200 c, 400 f, gas 6.
- Place the cut tomatoes, garlic and onion on a baking tray and drizzle over the olive oil. season with salt and pepper and scatter over the thyme.
- Roast for 30- 45 minutes until it’s all beginning to get a little charred.
- Tip the contents of the baking tray into a blender along with the stock and blend for a couple of minutes until smooth. If you don’t have a blender an immersion blender would also work.
- Season more to taste if necessary and serve.
A swirl of cream added to the soup in the serving bowl makes a decadent finish.
I prefer to use large vine tomatoes but any will do, the roasting really brings out the flavour.
I’ve joined the kale wagon here, forgive me. Kale is very “in” right now. Being low-calorie, high fibre, rich in vitamins and minerals makes kale one of the latest “superfoods” and kale salads have been popular for a while now, I even posted one here.
One of the first things to grow at my allotment this year has been kale, I hadn’t realised quite how prolific it would be and its only been big enough to pick for 2 weeks! Dont be surprised if there are a few kale recipes on here as it looks as if I’m in for a glut!
I really like kale and quite like the heartiness it provides in a salad. I am aware though that raw kale may not be to everyone’s liking as it can be a little chewy! So recently when I began reading about people “massaging” salad dressing into kale, (that does sound a little crazy, I know!) I was intrigued. You only have to look at kale after its been watered to see how those leaves repel any moisture, it’s actually quite beautiful with the water droplets making little silvery balls all over it. So its easy to see that any dressing in a kale salad wouldn’t really be absorbed without a little help. All you do is mix your dressing and rub it into the kale leaves, the kale darkens as it absorbs the dressing. I think a quick rub is all the kale needs as my intention is not to lose all of the texture of the kale but just to soften it a little so one’s jaw isnt aching by the end of the meal!
This is a really quick salad to prepare and provides a good healthy base for many accompaniments. I enjoy this salad with boiled egg or smoked mackerel, black olives also make a good addition.
In preparation for my kale glut please do leave any kale recipe ideas in the comments section!
Kale Salad (for 2 servings)
- 200 grams fresh kale leaves, washed
- 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 small onion or 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, grated
- Strip the kale from its stems and roughly chop, place in your salad bowl.
- Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper until its well blended. Pour the dressing over the kale and rub it into the leaves, be quite firm using your thumbs and fingertips to “massage” the dressing in, stop after a couple of minutes or when the kale begins to darken.
- Add the onion and carrot to the kale, toss together. If not serving immediately chill until needed.
Posted in Baking on July 8, 2013
I was invited to take part in Titan Travel’s June supper club. The recipe for the month was Basel Tart, a cheese and onion tart originating in Basel, one of the many destinations that Titan Travel go to. Basel is on the banks of the Rhine in North West Switzerland. I’ve not been to Basel but it looks lovely, with lovely river scenes and many museums and theatres.
Basel tart is a big, satisfying tart. Its made with onions and bacon that are caramelised before adding Gruyère cheese. I thought that I didn’t like Gruyère but actually I really enjoyed this! Rosemary and coriander are the herbal additions to Basel tart, not herbs that I would usually put together but they flavour this tart perfectly. This is a great tart for a crowd or maybe for a picnic.
- 470 grams plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 120 grams butter
- 100 ml cold water
- 60 grams butter
- 6 onions, sliced
- pinch salt
- 80 grams bacon, smoked preferably
- 470 ml milk
- 75 grams plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 450 grams Gruyère cheese (I used just under 400 grams which worked fine)
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander
For the directions to make Basel tart see this link at Titan Travel
I had a lot of left over pastry from this recipe, handy for another time! I used less cheese than suggested as the supermarket I used sold Gruyère in 200 gram packs and strangely only had 2 left the day I shopped! I needed to cook my tart for a further 40 minutes than the suggested cooking time.
Another day, another salad! I admit to feeling a little lost once my Whole30 ended and after a weekend break from it I did another 20 days as my all or nothing personality can follow the rules of something as strict as the Whole30 but once off it goes completely the other way! I clearly did not get rid of my sugar demon in 30 days! I have found that Paleo food suits me and the rules keep me on the right track, maybe one day I will kick that sweet tooth! So its back to salads for lunch but I will admit that one can have their fill of leaves!
When doing the Whole30 avocado was on the list of foods to eat, such a treat! Wanting to make a leaf free salad for a change and finding a lonesome lime in the fridge led to this salsa-ish type of salad. Very un-salsa like I added a few mushrooms just to add a little meatiness, also just because I had them. I will admit it may have been a strange combination but I really enjoyed this salad, it was quick and easy to prepare and travels well to work in a Tupperware. It goes well with an omelette, prawns or chicken.
Avocado Salsa Salad
ingredients (makes 2 servings)
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
- 2 medium tomatoes cut into bite size pieces
- 1/2 red onion, diced fairly small
- 1/2 chilli (add less if you don’t like too much heat), diced finely
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped
- cucumber about 4-5 inches, chopped
- 3 mushrooms (optional), chopped
- coriander leaves, just a few roughly chopped.
- juice of half a lime
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Chop all of the vegetables and add to a bowl.
- Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables stirring to coat.
- Leave to sit for a little while before serving.
Posted in Baking on June 14, 2013
I know some may be rolling their eyes and thinking not another brownie recipe! True, there are a million and despite the fact that there is probably a brownie recipe in half of the cook books I own I still find myself searching for “the” brownie recipe. You know the one. I like my brownie really dark and “chocolatey”, squidgy in the middle, it mustn’t be too dry, I like a crackly top and I prefer no nuts in mine but to each their own. So you can see I’m as particular about my brownie as Goldilocks was about her porridge! A lackluster brownie is such a disappointment!
I could go on and on trying out new brownie recipes just in case its “the one” but a couple of years ago I found a recipe in one of my favourite cake books, The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Those brownies were really good, ticking all the right boxes! So that’s the recipe I’ve gone back to, Ive tweaked it a bit over time, adding less sugar than the vast amount in the original recipe. I always use dark chocolate that’s good for eating such as Lindt or Green and Blacks, I’m not a fan of the taste of cooking chocolate. Like the advice to only use wine in cooking that you would drink I believe the same applies to chocolate.
In the picture you will notice that my brownies are quite flat, this is not how I prefer them but I used the pan I bought that calls itself a “brownie” pan, which is rectangular. I would recommend using a square pan so the brownies are deeper thus more squidgy in the middle!
The inspiration for this post comes from my friend, Lorrie, who has asked me more than once for my brownie recipe! (finally, the recipe Lorrie!) I made her some a long time ago and she remembered them! In fact this is my most asked for recipe!
Do you have a favourite brownie recipe? Do let me know, I am quite addicted to brownie recipes!
Brownies (adapted from this recipe)
- 170 grams (6 oz) butter, (if watching your salt intake use unsalted but for an added flavour dimension use salted butter)
- 170 grams (6 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- 225 grams (8 oz) caster sugar, I use unrefined
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp espresso coffee powder
- 130(4.5 oz) grams plain flour
- 3 large eggs
- A little icing sugar to decorate (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 170 c, 325 f, Gas 3. Grease and line with baking paper a brownie pan.
- Place the butter and chopped chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water to melt. Stir until combined. Remove from the heat.
- Add the sugar, vanilla and coffee, stir until combined. Mixture will appear grainy.
- Mix together the eggs and add to the chocolate mixture in 3 stages stirring well between additions.
- Add the flour and mix until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes. The brownies are cooked when they look cooked on the surface but are still a little soft in the middle.
- Leave to cool in pan and when completely cooled remove from pan and cut into portions.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar.