Jan 302012

Vinaigrette salad dressing, shaken to emulsify the ingredients
Writer and permaculture enthusiast Emma Cooper & her husband Pete came to us for a very enjoyable visit last year. We had lunch which included roast chicken, roasted pumpkin sourdough bread and a foraged salad.

Emma asked me afterwards for the method for making the dressing. It’s taken me a while, but here’s the recipe for the basic vinaigrette I made.

If there’52 week salad challenge banners interest, I’ll blog some more salad dressing recipes for the 52 Week Salad Challenge I’m taking part in.

The aim is to have home-grown or foraged salad every week of the year.

A good choice of dressings help to make the most of the harvest.

The word comes from the French for ‘sour-wine’ – ‘vin-aigre’. The essence of the dressing is the vinegar or citrus juice flavours the leaves. You combine the vinegarwith oil to help it ‘stick’ to the salad ingredients.

If you’re interested to know how to make this, read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 21:26
Jan 292012

Pasty served with home-made canned baked beans

This week’s Short and Tweet Challenge was a dream recipe for me. That’s because it gave me the chance to use so much home produced or foraged ingredients.

The recipe was for Dan’s Spinach and Ricotta Pasties. A gorgeous ricotta/mushroom/spinach/garlic/chilli/oregano filling is encased in a tomato & cheese dough.

I changed the dough recipe slightly by using all wholemeal spelt flour. This was to intensify the colour and because I love the nutty/wholemeal taste of spelt. The dough was very easy to handle and Dan’s quick 10 second kneads make light work of it.

I had great fun with the filling. I was able to use my own dried chillies and oregano both preserved from the 2011 harvest. Instead of ricotta I used brocciu I made from goat’s milk that I first used in this chestnut ravioli. Instead of the spinach, I used foraged nettles that I’d frozen from last year.

Pasty ingredients: brocciu, lemon zest, mushroom mix, hazelnuts, nettles
In addition to those ingredients, I added 75g of toasted and chopped hazelnuts for taste & to give some crunch to the filling. Finally, I thought the mix could do with a little lift and so added the finely grated rind of an unwaxed lemon.

I was delighted with the combination of flavours. The pastry was thin and crisp and with a lovely cheesy edge from the parmesan. The filling had complex flavours, which blended together beautifully. The nuts and lemon really lifted the filling from good to excellent.

The pasties are incredibly filling. This may be partly because I used a wholemeal flour for the dough. I think you could easily make these pasties into smaller buffet size ones and make double the number of pasties. This will be a firm favourite in our house from now on.

All I needed to serve with it was some home-made (and home canned) baked beans. Make these, they are delicious.

Cut open nettle & brocciu pasty


 Posted by at 19:53
Jan 202012

Vegetarian haggis, with flower sprouts and whiskey

When I tweeted the meat version haggis recipe, I was asked on twitter whether I had a recipe for a vegetarian haggis. I did not and said that I would develop one. I’ve now done this and it’s below. Modesty isn’t going to prevent me tooting my own horn: I think it’s really good. I blind tested it on my 16 year old son, who wolfed down a big portion eagerly before asking “Ok, what is it? It’s lovely!”

While researching ideas I checked online. Most of the recipes appear to be the same or similar to the Vegetarian Society recipe. To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed. It reminded me of the plethora of 70s & 80s standard ‘veggy’ recipes that tried to mimic meat meals and that all seemed to taste & feel the same. When I started cooking veggy in the 80s I got tired of seeing and tasting under-flavoured, under-seasoned ‘veg-mush’.

My blogging friend Monica Shaw tasted one the leading brands of commercial vegetarian Haggis, McSweens and blogged about it on the Great British Chefs site. And it started a bit of a debate on Facebook about whether such stuff could legitimately be called ‘haggis’. I have strong feelings about this sort of “authenticism”. To avoid boring the folk just here for the recipe, I’ll return to this in another post later this month.

Some of the comments in the GBC Facebook discussion also commented on ‘veg-mush’ state of veggy haggis offerings. I tried hard to match the texture/feel of the meat version in the veggy version. The choice of the grain and pulses and their cooking is important to get this right.  Most of the veggy recipes I’ve seen online don’t get this. In addition the oats and nuts are roasted for added flavour. The nuts are only coarsely chopped for the texture they give.

Apart from the olive oil, there’s no added fat, unlike some of the commercial versions. I don’t think there’s a mouthfeel need for the fat, so I didn’t add any veg suet although I’d bought some in case.

This makes a fair old quantity – about 2.7kg. I did this because there’s a deal of prep and the haggis will freeze well, so I’ll have some ‘free’ meals to hand. It’s probably not worth making much less than half the recipe.

Another bonus of this recipe is that it is very economical indeed to make. The total cost of the 2.7kg is about £6 which means a 150g portion comes out at £0.33.

If you’d like to know how to make this delicious dish, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 07:00
Jan 152012

Cider vinegar muffins, with poached eggs and chickweed salad
I was very keen to have a go at this week’s ShortandTweet Challenge as one of the recipes was for these muffins. And that meant I could use our hens’ eggs in the recipe and the cider vinegar I had made earlier in the year. A bonus was the chance to incorporate some foraged salad garnish for the 52 Week Salad Challenge as well.

The recipe for the muffins was a doddle. Mix the dough the night before and keep in the fridge. Then take the dough out in the morning, allow it to warm up and cook away.

I was short of time (and hungry) so I abbreviated the process that Dan had written in the recipe. I took the dough out of the fridge and folded it. I then scaled and shaped the dough straight away into 9 muffins which I allowed to prove in a very low oven for a couple of hours.

Cooking the muffins in a frying pan was a first for me. It was a bit fiddly to do, so the first muffins were a little misshapen. Batch 2 and 3 went much better.

Cider vinegar muffin, crumb shot

The colour of the muffins is striking. In Dan’s book the muffins are pearly white. Mine have this glorious saffron hue. I think this is due to the eggs from our free-ranging chickens. As you can see from the picture at the top, they have striking yellow yolks.

Cider vinegar muffins close up

The muffins taste just great. They have a nice crisp exterior and a soft interior which is just ideal for soaking up egg. I’m looking forward to some toasted for breakfast tomorrow with some cranberry and orange jam I made the other day.

The chickweed salad came from some chickweed that we had picked 2 days ago. It was washed and keeps very well in the fridge. It’s a great foraged vegetable with a really good taste. To see what other stuff I have in the garden available to me see this earlier post on January pickings.

All-in-all a very satisfying lunch indeed.


 Posted by at 15:10
Jan 082012

Chickweed and teapot

I picked a load of chickweed (stellaria media) after I took all the pictures for this post on the 52 Week Salad Challenge.

It’s a very versatile ingredient. When at its peak like this it can be easily eaten raw and is also great cooked. As the plant gets older it can get a bit tougher, so strip off the leaves and steam them or sauté in some butter or oil.

I used my bounty in two ways. First, it was an ingredient for some deliciously moreish and spicy pakora. Second, I used it in a simple carrot salad dressed with hot kalonji seeds in oil. I served these with some fried, spiced mackerel for a simple curry feast.

Do you fancy having a go at this? Read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:52

Haggis Lasagne Recipe

 Beef, Dairy, Lamb, Pork, Recipes, Seasons, Vegetable, Winter  Comments Off on Haggis Lasagne Recipe
Dec 242011

Haggis Lasagna in construction

I made a huge pile of haggis yesterday that we had with pearl barley risotto.

To continue the Hibernian/Italian theme, I ‘ve paired it with home-made pasta today. The roasted tomato passata, dried tomatoes and preserved courgettes are all bounty from the summer: saved for a winter treat.

I’ll add the recipe for all this very soon.

Nadolig Llawen i pawb…

Update: 9th January 2012 – I published a recipe for how to make the haggis element of this dish. I’ll do this recipe to completion nex.

 Posted by at 17:12
Nov 102011

Like many English people, I have a love affair with Corsica. It’s partly because of this:

Corsica Mare et Monte

Corsica has a fantastic blend of  Mare et Monte: sea and mountains. It’s why I live  in North Wales, to be with môr a mynydd. But Corsica smells different too: it has the maquis. The maquis is a mixture of fragrant shrubs and herbs that lead Corsica to be called The Scented Isle.

Corsica is also famous for growing and using the fruit of the sweet chestnut tree. Some of the nuts are converted into flour and Corsican cuisine is famous for how it uses this: in a type of ‘polenta’, pancakes, flans, muffins, cakes and pasta.

I loved eating in Corsica and resolved to get a cookery book. It just so happens that the Corsican cookery book is written by an Englishwoman, Rolli Lucarotti. She sailed to Corsica in the 1970s with her husband and baby daughter. She fell in love with Corsica and, like many English people, now lives there. Her book is called Recipes from Corsica. It’s a great read and insight into a unique cuisine that has developed separately from that of it’s French & Italian invaders.

This recipe Rolli calls Panzarotti incu brocciu: cheese ravioli. The pasta is Pasta di castagna: chestnut flour pasta. Brocciu is called The Prince of Cheeses and is the Corsican national cheese. It’s like an Italian ricotta but made with sheep or goat’s milk, so it’s good for the lactose intolerant. Since I had a method for making ricotta, I thought I could make a close replica of brocciu. And I have now found a source of organic chestnut flour.  The recipe calls for calamint (calamentha nepeta) which my friend Carla Tomasi had recently sent to me from Rome where she calls it mentuccia. The recipe also needs eggs & chard. Our chickens produce eggs and we grow chard, so I was in business to make this wonderful dish. Want to know how? Read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 13:30
Nov 012011

Ethiopian honey wine, T'ej in a bottle

I’ve just racked this heady concoction into a wine box and some bottles and had my first taste. It’s just gorgeous: fragrant, rich, heady and aromatic. It’s such a simple and quick wine, I’m quite shocked we all don’t make more of it.

It’s another of the delights I found in Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to my own ends and to fit my own incompetence. It’s still substantially the same wine that’s been made for centuries.

I wonder who was the first person to find wild honey fermenting in a tree? Did they get a surprise when they tasted it and it was alcoholic? Did they remember what happened? And who eventually worked out how to reproduce the effect?

So if you have a go at this, you’ll be continuing a line of tradition going back millennia. Interested? Read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 15:59
Oct 242011

Pizzoccheri layered up

I just love pizzoccheri. The dish is robust & earthy in taste & feel: a true peasant meal. It’s made with buckwheat pasta which is very easy to make or you can buy dried from Italian food stockists.

It’s a traditional recipe of the Valtellina in Lombardy, Northern Italy. Classically it’s made with the buckwheat pasta layered with chard or savoy cabbage, potatoes and cheese all dressed with a garlic & sage butter.

One of the joys of the dish is its flexibility. You can make it all year round with whatever veg is to hand. It’s ideal for using the bits and bobs you might pick from the garden or have in a veg box. This is my interpretation of this classic using a mix of seasonal vegetables from my garden. and I show you how easy it is to make the buckwheat pasta.

Fancy having a go? Read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:40
Sep 142011

Kimchi in jar

Kimchi Recipe

Kimchi is a traditional Korean spicy vegetable pickle. The veg starts off being brined and then it’s rinsed and allowed to ferment in a paste of onion, garlic, ginger and chillies.

It’s normally made with shredded chinese style cabbage as the base with other vegetables included. Basically, you can make it with anything, even fruit. Interestingly, the cabbages and the chillies were not indigenous to Korea and are relatively modern imports in the history of kimchi making.

The kimchi can be widely used in soups, stews, dumplings and even grilled cheese sandwiches and mashed potato.

I made enough for a 1 litre kilner jar as I was experimenting. The beauty of this method and recipe is that you can make as little or as much as you like. So it’s a great way of using up excess vegetables that you can’t use immediately they are harvested.

Interested to have a go and taste this fragrant food? Read on… Continue reading »

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