Monday, 30 April 2012

Disappearing Greenhouse

Gosh this could be a comedy sketch. 

I looked out of the bedroom window yesterday morning, to note scattered pots, then I looked far right, to note the garden gate had been pushed open by the strong winds and the compost bin my father had only just given me was rolling in the drive-away, but that was not the part that made my mouth drop - our new greenhouse was gone.   It wasn't an expensive one made from glass or plastic sheeting, but one of those cost effective walk in greenhouses.  We thought it would serve us well until of course we could afford a real one.  We even staked it into the ground and put some happy growing seedlings into it.  Still the strong winds got it and uplifted it to who knows where.   

I went out, still in my PJs to recover some of these things, only to discover that the compost bin that had been rolling about had escaped out of the garden gate.  I looked outside to see if I could rescue it, but it was nowhere to be seen.  I went to take a look closer at the seedling pots.   I was disappointed to see my little tomato seedlings, courgette plants, broad beans, sunflowers - mostly gone...My growing antics are certainly being delayed by mother nature. 

D shook his head in disbelief and asked a rhetorical question 'So how many times have we had our greenhouse damaged?'.  'Yes, more than five times'.  See here of one example.  

My mother has been teasing me all month, saying that I have brought the poor weather with me all the way from Scotland, I think there may be some truth in that now.  One thing we were thankful for though, was that the weather in Scotland was a bit better at the weekend, as we would be worrying our heads about our unsold flat there and the roof tiles.   

Oh and our phone line and Internet was down at the weekend too. Its fixed now.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lemon and Rosemary Sorbet

I think I may have mentioned before that there was once a time, when the needle like herb known as rosemary would be ignored by myself in culinary challenges.  It was one of those herbs that hardly featured in any o f my home cooking.  Of course, this has all changed.  I now view rosemary as a wonderful woody herb with a heady fragrance.  I can't get enough of the stuff, not only do I use it in savoury dishes, popcorn, in hot 'fruity' drinks, but puddings and sweet bakes too.  As my regular readers will know, to great success I recently used it in my Rhubarb and Rosemary Scones.  I will only ever use it in its fresh form though, dry...well its just a twig.   But even when fresh, you have to be careful, too much and yes it could be medicinal. 

I don't make sorbets much, the truth is sorbet for me is just an adults slush puppy and ice cold zingy lemon does not always appeal to me, but my husband loves the stuff so its for him I oblige, even when it is raining and ice cold outside. 
This Lemon and Rosemary Sorbet is also my first entry for Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream which was started by Kavey.
Lemon and Rosemary Sorbet
You will need a food processor for this recipe.
Juice and zest of 5 unwaxed lemons
300g sugar
1 3/4 pints of water

Sprig of fresh rosemary
Gently bring everything to a boil, stirring frequently until all the sugar has melted. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and leave it to cool. when cool, strain and discard the zest and rosemary sprig.
When cool enough, pour into a suitable plastic container and freeze. Freeze, then after an hour take out of freezer and blend in food processor, pour back into container and freeze for another hour or so, then remove from freeze and blend again. This is to ensure that there are no mass of ice, but soft crystals. Then freeze. Twice should be enough, but you may want to do it a third time if you want softer crystals.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Carrot and Raisin Flapjacks

I still haven't got round to sowing the carrots seeds in the recycled bath tub in my garden.  My excuse is genuine, the persistent rainfall has marred any progress in the garden.  Plus we need some soil to fill it up.  We also need to purchase some compost and us gardeners know, the stuff ain't cheap, so its been delayed yet again. We do have some sand in the garden courtesy of the landlord that we will be using whenever we get round to sowing the carrot seeds. 

Anyway, I picked up some yellow and orange carrots from the grocers about a week ago, I have to admit as I haven't been cooking much, they were beginning to look a bit on the limp side, hence no photograph of it.  However, if you click on the images below, you will be able to see some yellow amongst the orange flecks in the flapjacks.  
My niece loved these flapjacks, in fact she ate two n one go.  I wasn't quite convinced.  They were okay, but not great.  They lacked something.  I think it needs more spices, to bring it closer to carrot cake flavours.  So next time, I may add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger to it. I may also soak the raisins in some orange juice, to give it a bit more zing too.
Carrot and Raisin Flapjacks
Makes about 10 - 12
120g butter
4 tablespoons runny honey
75g golden caster sugar
240g rolled oats
1 large carrot, grated (or two medium)
Handful of raisins
A good pinch of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
Preheat oven to gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.  My tray measured 7
½ inch by 11 inch. In a large saucepan, melt the butter, honey and sugar until it all melts. Take of the heat, then stir in the oats, grated carrot, raisins and spices. Using a spatula, carefully turn out into a non-stick baking tray and press down. Place the tray in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the sides are golden. Remove from the oven and slice immediately. Leave them in the tin, when completely cold and remove from the baking tray and slice again. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Smoky Butter Bean Couscous Salad

I admit this is not the most appealing looking recipe you'll see on my blog.  In fact, even my nephews and nieces snugged at its lack of spices, but they ate some out of sheer politeness.  The original recipe comes from Tessa Kiros Baked Butter Beans with Tomatoes.  I have to admit, even for my educated palette it was too bland. 

To perk it up, I decided to sprinkle some smoked paprika to it and towards the end, stir some couscous to it to make more of a meal of it.  It made a world of difference uplifting the flavours and the smell.  It was even good the following day as a light lunch topped with some crumbled feta cheese.
Some of you may be wondering what am I doing with fresh tomatoes in April. I managed to find some grown in the U.K, greenhouses undoubtedly.  
Smoky Butter Bean Couscous Salad
Serves 4 - 6
250g dried butter beans soaked overnight
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions finely sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
600g fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped

350ml vegetable stock
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1-2 teaspoon of smoked paprika or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked couscous or Bulgar wheat, enough for 4 - 6 people
Optional: feta cheese for topping

Drain the beans, put them in a large pot with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 45 minutes or until they are tender.  Drain the beans and put them in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/180oc.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a wide frying pan. Gently saute the onions until they are soft, stirring often so that they don’t stick. Then stir in the celery, garlic, tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the vegetables are tender.  Stir in the stock, parsley and paprika.  Simemr for a few minutes before removing from the heat. Stir in the butter beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly pour over the remaining olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for about 35-45 minutes, if it is still heavy in liquid, remove the foil and cook for a fruther 15 minutes.  Then remove the oven.  Either stir into cooked couscous or Bulgar wheat. Scatter over the optional feta cheese.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Adapted from Tessa Kiros Falling Cloudberries.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Rhubarb and Hibiscus Butter

As promised in my  previous post, here is the Rhubarb Hibiscus Butter that was made around the same time as the Rhubarb and Rose Petal Flower Butter

I've only every had dried hibiscs flowers in herbal drinks, so I was curious to taste it as a spread.  The hibiscus certainly intensifies the zingy sourness of the rhubarb furthermore. And the colour, well its stunning.
I've had this recipe bookmarked from Andrea's blog Jammin Jelly for a couple of years and I am so glad that I have finally got round to making it.  I think its such a easy and lovely recipe that will appeal to many people, so it is for that reason that I am sharing Andrea's recipe with Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes.   Jacqueline is hosting Aprils edition #11 of Bookmarked Recipes: a monthly blog event initiated by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.
Rhubarb and Hibiscus Butter
Makes 1 x 260g
300g rhubarb, sliced
100g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 - 3 teaspoons dried hibiscus flower, minced
Macerate the rhubarb slices in the sugar for a minimum of 6 hours, or overnight until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the rhubarb and its sugary juices into a medium pan. Add the lemon juice and the hibiscus flowers. Heat over medium heat, stirring now and again for 10 - 15 minutes, or until it has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, before pouring into a sterilized jar. The original recipe can be found here. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Rhubarb and Rose Petal Butter

Woaw I can't believe that it has been a whole week since I last posted?!  A couple of things are keeping me a bit distracted mostly in a positive way.  I hope to give you all more insight in the next couple of weeks.  Back onto the concept of this seasonal blog: growing and cooking.  Well I have to admit, I've had foraging on my mind the past week or so, but the wet dreary weather has kept me very much indoors.  We have already had hailstones three times this week too.  When the sun did pop out, I went over to my Dads 'new allotment' to help. 

As for cooking and baking, much of what I have eaten in the past couple of weeks has come from my mothers kitchen.  However, I was given some more rhubarb at the weekend, so have got to spend a little time in the kitchen. 
So what did I do with the rhubarb sticks?  Well I did have plans of making Rhubarb Jam, but then remembered a Rhubarb Hibiscus Butter recipe that I had bookmarked a couple of years ago. The original Rhubarb Butter was made with hibiscus flowers.  I had picked up a packet of hibiscus flowers a little while ago especially to make this recipe, it took me a long while to find locate some at a reasonable price.  But guess what in the home moving from Scotland to Wales, I could not remember where I had stored the packet.  When I had finished pouring my rose petal variation into the jar, I remembered one jar I had not peeked into and of course, there it was.  So yes, I have also made a 'Rhubarb and Hibiscus Butter' version too (see at the bottom of blog post).  The colour is much deeper too.  Promise to write more about that in the next few days. 
This is not jammy at all, hence the reason its described as a butter as it spreads well. Its zap zingy in the mouth and the rose petals are quite subtle. My mother will love this. I think this would be wonderful spread on my Rhubarb Scones too or even in between a sponge cake.  I am sharing this recipe with Tastetastic Thursday hosted by A Little Nosh.
Rhubarb and Rose Petal Butter
Makes 1 x 260g
300g rhubarb, sliced
100g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 - 3 teaspoons dried rose petals
Macerate the rhubarb slices in the sugar for a minimum of 6 hours, or overnight until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour the rhubarb and its sugary juices into a medium pan.  Add the lemon juice and the rose petals. Heat over medium heat, stirring now and again for 10 - 15 minutes, or until it has thickened.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool, before pouring into a sterilized jar. Adapted original recipe can be found here. 
Here is the jar with the Rhubarb and Hibiscus Butter. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Rhubarb and Rosemary Scones

Rhubarb and rosemary combination is not new to me.  I experimented with these two flavours a couple of years ago when I made Rhubarb and Rosemary Cookies and thought they would make nice scones too. 

I will certainly be making these again, as they really disappeared from my kitchen in a blink of an eye.  The mitts not only belonged to D, but my mother, nephews and nieces and it is upon their request I will be making some more.  I will be making slightly smaller ones this time though.
I've just filled the warm scones here with whipped double cream, but to go that little bit more decadent, you can also make Rosemary infused cream.  Simple really, the way you would make lavender sugar by infusing a sprig or two of lavender in caster sugar, make rosemary sugar.  Then add a teaspoon or two to the whipping cream or even to the scone mixture.  Also had I more rhubarb, I would have made Rhubarb Jam - its on my list this year to make, as my mother loves it!  My mother feeds me loads, I think its time to repay the compliment.
I am sharing some of these lovely Rhubarb and Rosemary Scones with Simona of Briciole. She has the honour of hosting this week's Weekend Herb Blogging #329. This food blogging event now in its 6th year was started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and is now co-ordinated by Haalo of Cook (almost)Anything Once
Rhubarb and Rosemary Scones
Makes about 14 depending on size of cutter you use.
450g self-raising flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
100g butter, chopped into little cubes
100g golden caster sugar
160g rhubarb, about a stick chopped into small pieces
1½ teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
280ml milk
In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the butter to the flour and rub it with your fingertips until it begins to resemble breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar, the rhubarb pieces and rosemary, then gently pour in the milk – be careful as you may not require it all – and knead until the dough comes together. 
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out the dough to about 1½ inch thick.
Cut out the shapes, re-roll the dough and cut out more circles,until all of the dough has been used.

Lay the scones on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled lightly with plain flour. Bake in oven at gas mark 8/230oc for 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
Can you smell them?!
Here is the rhubarb growing in my garden , a long way from being edible, but at least its thriving. Up-dated: June 2012: Please follow this link to see Blissfully Scrumptious recipes for Rhubarb and Rosemary Cupcakes and Rhubarb and Rosemary Jelly. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Caramelised Red Onion Tarts in a Mustard Cheese Pastry

I have been given about a dozen small red onions by my mother and as much as I like red onion sliced in my green salads, I don't often cook with them, so the question was 'what to do with so many?'.  It was either going to be a 'red onion marmalade' or 'caramelised red onion tarts'.

I was a bit surprised at the choice I made, as its not something I would ordinary choose to eat.  I tend to snug my nose at Caramelised Red Onion tarts when I see them appearing on the menu as a veggie option at reputable restaurants (not that I eat out much), but I do think its a rather lazy veggie option to be offering adventurous veg heads.  But today, I have to admit its been a while since I have enjoyed a good deep crimson tarts topped with a white cheese. 
Visually it reminded me of a Balsamic Roasted Beetroot Tarts I've made in the past. It was when I was still learning to appreciate and acquire a taste for beetroots.  Well no beetroot here today, just red onions slowly caramelised in Balsamic vinegar.
The cheesy mustard seed pastry cases are lovely.  If you don't fancy filling them with caramelised red onions, fill them with a vegetable of your choice: asparagus and wild garlic are in season. 
Close up of the grainy mustard seeds in the cheddar cheese pastry
and caramelised red onions cooling down.  I am entering these Tarts into this months Family Friendly Fridays hosted by Ren over at Fabulicious Food.
Caramelised Red Onion Tarts with in a Mustard Cheese Pastry
Makes 7 - 8
Ingredients for the Mustard Cheese Pastry
75g butter
175g plain flour
40g mature cheddar cheese, grated
1 generous teaspoon grainy mustard
Cold water to bind
Ingredients for the red onion filling
1 tablespoon olive oil

860g or thereabout of red onions, finely sliced
6 – 8 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, depending on taste
Salt and pepper to taste
200g feta cheese, or goats cheese
Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180oc
Method for the Mustard Cheese Pastry
Put the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz until it begins to resemble breadcrumbs, then add in thee cheese and mustard and enough cold water to bind.  Tip onto a floured surface and bring together to make a smooth dough.  Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.  You can also do this by hand, but now that I have my food processor out I am making the most of it now that i have easy access to it.
Method for the red onion filling
Heat the oil in a wide pan, then add the onions, balsamic vinegar and season to taste.  Allow the onions to cook slowly without a lid, stirring every often for about 30 minutes or until the onions have softened, thickened and taken on a glossy appearance.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Whilst the filling is being cooked, roll out the pastry to line 8 round tartlet tins.  Mine measured around 4 inches.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pasty is cooked.  Remove and allow to cool.

When ready to make your tarts, generously spoon the caramelised onion mixture evenly into the pastry cases.  Top each tart with feta cheese or goats cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Enjoy warm. 

There are a number of 'Caramelised Red Onion Tart' recipes on blogosphere and in cookbooks, I decided to adapt a recipe from Delia Smiths How To Cook: Book 2, of which I own a hard copy of too.  Original recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lemon Spiced Purple Sprouting Broccoli

As I am a little skint these days, I did not think I was going to be enjoying purple sprouting broccoli this year, as its deemed a specialist veg. and a little bit pricey (that is if you don't grow your own), but I was fortunate to have stumbled upon a  greengrocers today who was selling them at an reasonable price, so I decided to treat ourselves to this seasonal delight for a light lunch.

The purple sprouting broccoli is simply steamed and then coated in a garlicky, spiced lemony oil.  
It is wonderful enjoyed just as it is, but if you wish to make more of a meal of it , then stir it either into some cooked couscous or bulgur wheat, failing that even pasta would work.  If purple sprouting broccoli is out of season, this would work just as well with ordinary broccoli too.
I am linking this to April's edition of Simple and in Season, a monthly event hosted by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food

Purple Sprouting Broccoli infused in Lemony Spices
Serves 4
400g purple sprouting broccoli
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes or to taste
Thumb size piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
Juice from half lemon
Steam the broccoli until tender. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a wide pan, add the garlic, chilli flakes and coriander and fry over low heat for a few minutes until the garlic is tender and the oil infused with the spices.  Then stir in the ginger and lemon and cook for a couple of minutes, before stirring in the broccoli.  Heat for a few minutes until the broccoli is coated in the spicy oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve immediately. Or toss it through some couscous, bulgar wheat or pasta and enjoy.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Germinate, Germinate

Some of the seeds are beginning to germinate, others have failed miserably and need replacing.  Here are the ones poking out this morning.
Broad beans Green Longpod
Garden peas Meteor growing well in toilet rolls.  I've been using toilet rolls for peas fro a long while.  I recently asked my family to save their loo rolls for me, each one of my family member raised their eyebrows and wondered what on earth for?  When I explained, especially to my mother who listened with keenness, she thought it was a really thrifty and clever idea and wished she had known about it before. 
Golden Sunrise Tomato seedlings are leading the way. 
Beetroot Baraietola di Chioggia seedlings are doing well,
So are the White Chard seedlings.  The courgettes, squashes, fennel and black kale have been a little slow.  I wait patiently.
I mentioned that I also planted some strawberries.  Its El Santa.  I don't particularly like these, but it was all I could find.  I am still hoping to find another variety.  Other than the herb section, its the first thing gone into this ground.  If you click on the image, you will see that we have to work around the tree trunks that were removed by the landlord about a year ago. 
So how are your seedlings doing?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The bucket of crabs

Do you know the story of the Bucket of Crabs?!  I've been told its from Terry Pratchett book.  Rather than go through it, here is a succinct explanation from another fellow blogger.  

There is a very intriguing trait of crabs. When placed in a bucket, a single crab easily climbs out. Adding two or more crabs to the bucket, however, none will ever escape. The lower crabs will grab onto the higher climbers and yank them down. This phenomenon is analogous to anyone striving for a better life. Your current scenario is the bucket and your critics are the fellow crabs. And the world is not short of crabs who love to pull you down.  Extract borrowed from here. Also see here.

I have always been able to associate with it.   I was one of those crabs being dragged down.  It is one of the reasons I left my hometown many, many years ago.  My issue has never been people I went to High school with, as many followed different paths.  Its the gossipping community I grew up around and it still sadly exists.  No one else could do better, unless it was them or a member of their family.  My family were not happy with me at the time, but I knew I had to leave home (for University) if I wanted a real life from prying eyes.  I never returned.  Until now that is, as circumstances have brought me back here many years later.  Now I am back, as much as I am enjoying being close to my family.  I am not enjoying being back near this so called community of nosey busy bodies.  But it would be totally unfair to say that its limited to the close-knit community, when I graduated and found employment.  I saw the Bucket of Crab story being played out in different ways. Where people in positions of power manipulate those privileges and keep you down - stop you from progressing.  As soon as I showed an ounce of ambition, those ambitions were quashed.  In my previous roles, where women have been my line managers, I am sorry to say I have never progressed in that organisation.  It even happened in my last place of employment.  

Anyway, all this is way of saying I have been giving some serious consideration to making a career change in the food industry, especially as I now have been unemployed for a year.  I may not have the hands on experience, but I know I am a competent creative cook.   I have been doing some research and wading my way around here to see where I may be able to develop my skills.  The question is who is going to curb my enthusiasm now?  Noone, as I am determined.  But I do believe there will be a few crabs coming out from the sandy waters to grab and snatch me back down, especially if there is some sign of promise.