I love Alexanders – smyrnium olusatrum. They are one of my favourite spring foragables. Driving around the countryside here on the Isle of Wight they suddenly pop up, lining the streets of parts of the Island from early March. We use the thin stems for a sautéed snack or side, the thicker stems for candying, make a syrup for drinks and cocktails, eat the florets steamed like you would broccoli, or pickled in vinegar. Later in the year we collect the seeds to use with pepper too. I know people use the roots and leaves too, but we haven’t gone that far yet. Continue reading “Candied Alexander Stems”
Magnolia flowers…. we’ve been eating a lot of them lately, between Magnolia Flower Pickle and Chocolate Dipped Magnolia Flowers and this amazing Magnolia Flower Drizzle. We’re two weeks into official spring and we’ve already finished off two of these beauties!
I’m on a bit of a Magnolia Flower binge at the moment – it’s understandable, they’re only buds for a short time and our weather is so changeable right now, you’ve got to ‘gather your
rosebuds magnolias while you may’! Today’s foodie choice is magnolia flower pickle, which means we can enjoy them well into the year.
There are many different types of magnolia trees, and while all magnolias are considered edible, not all of them have been tested, so people can be a bit weary of trying newer species. The most common edible magnolias are Magnolia coco, grandiflora, enudata, mhypoleuca, kobus, liliflora, mexicana, pterocarpa, and oulangeana. Continue reading “Magnolia Flower Pickle”
In our part of the world, Magnolia flowers are among the first signs of spring. Tightly wrapped in their ‘blankets’ – the sepal – they’re just waiting for the warmer weather to open up and show their cheery faces to the sun.
There are many different types of magnolia trees, and while all magnolias are considered edible, not all of them have been tested, so people can be a bit weary of trying newer species. Some sources say you can’t eat them raw, others say you can… I’ll leave it up to you to make up your mind! Continue reading “Chocolate-Dipped Magnolia Flowers”
We’ve all seen the jokes and heard the warnings about buying kitchen goodies for Christmas presents and yet here I am, suggesting kitchen gadgets for Christmas presents! These aren’t irons and toasters though – we’re talking technology that makes life a little bit easier, while also making cooking fun!
Herb shredder bowl – £25
First on my list is the beautiful stone herb shredder bowl. Not only does it feel beautifully earthen but the multi-purpose herb stripper also has a built-in garlic and ginger grater. You simply thread the herb stems through the holes in the bowl and it pulls off the leaves, ready for cooking and serving. So much easier to clean than herb scissors!
Folio™ Plus 8-Piece Knife & Chopping Board Set – £99
We all have knives in the cupboard, but when’s the last time you sharpened your kitchen knives? Or replaced your chopping boards? Don’t underestimate the difference the right tools can make to a job – and chopping onions or soft fruit or bread with the right knife can make the job that much easier! Never mind slicing that Christmas turkey. The knives in this Joseph Joseph set are spectacular – cut a tomato without squishing out any of the juice! That makes my day! That with the matching chopping boards also makes it really easy to keep your meats and veg dishes separate – really important when you have a life-long veggie in the house!
Stirr – an automatic stirrer – £24.99
I won’t lie – the Stirr is a totally gratuitous gadget, but one that totally tickles my fancy – and will that of anyone who has stood over a pot for ages getting a soup, a sauce or a custard going without burning to the bottom of the pot – which means the dishwasher will thank you too! The three-legged stirrer is an automatic stirrer which can be used for puddings, soups, hollandaise, porridge and gravy.
Collapsible foraging bag – £12.50
This final suggestion is more on the collecting side of kitchen goods than the preparation side, but it’s still a great stocking-filler. While traditional foragers are always depicted with beautiful baskets, the reality of the foraging way of life is that you don’t always have a basket with you when you come across a glut of apples or a spray of wild garlic! I’ve arrived home from dog walks with pockets overflowing with elderflowers, figs or three-cornered leeks. Having a collapsible foraging bag to keep in your pocket never goes amiss!
When buying kitchen gadgets for Christmas presents its certainly a good idea to know that your recipient will actually value it, but any of these gifts should make the job – whether it’s cooking up a feast or a quick midweek meal – a little more pleasant!
Despite being someone who has never been a huge fan of Indian food, I’m a total convert to this biriyani. Just sitting here writing up this recipe, my mouth is watering and I’m wondering where I could pick up more fresh beetroot on my travels today. I’m sure the family won’t mind eating the same thing again either!
Cook time is quite long because the beetroot needs to be roasted first, and then rice has to boil, but the hands’ on time is pretty quick, so you have time to be doing other things in between too. Like prepare the sautéed beet greens to have on the side.
It’s a great ‘everyone tuck in meal’ and it turned out to be one of those where the pots were scraped clean!
This is a brilliant recipe – quite possibly my favourite beetroot or biriyani recipe – but if you need more beetroot recipes, click here!
- 500g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- seeds from 4 cardamom pods
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp garam masala
- 250g basmati rice
- 500ml veg stock
- 100ml plain or Greek yogurt
- small bunch of coriander or parsley
- Mango chutney (to serve) (optional)
- Sautéed beet greens (to serve)
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Drizzle oil over the beetroot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then tip into a roasting dish and cook for 25-30 mins or until tender.
- While the beetroot is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan (or a wok) with a lid.
- Fry the onion over a medium heat until golden.
- Add the ginger and half the garlic, and cook for 1 min.
- Stir through the bay, cardamom seeds, turmeric and garam masala, then cook for 2 mins.
- Stir in the rice and beetroot.
- Pour in the stock and place a fitting lid on the pot
- Boil for 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on to make sure it doesn't dry out or burn to the bottom of the pan.
- Put the remaining garlic in a food processor and whizz, then add the yoghurt till it's well blended. Set aside.
- Remove rice from heat and stir through.
- Season to taste and serve.
Beetroot rosettes are pretty to look at and fantastic to taste. The flavours of goats cheese and red onion blend perfectly to make something that feels like cafe food, but is pretty quick and simple. If you’re doing it as a starter there’s plenty of time to be prepping your main in between. It’s simple, easy food and I love it. Continue reading “Beetroot, Red Onion and Goats Cheese Rosettes”
I’m always really excited when I find a fig tree – like something in me forgets that I live in England now, and I’ve yet to pick a ripe fig from a tree – even here in the very South of England.
Fortunately a South African friend of mine invited me round to her house last year, and out of her cupboard she brought a jar of green fig preserve, reminding me how, back home, we used to deal with the figs before the birds could get to them.
This is one of many recipes – in reading up on it, I realise that it’s also something the Turkish do, so who knows how it made it’s way into the South African diet – to me it’s definitely a South African staple, so here’s the recipe, should you too have access to a big fig tree that never bears fruit. You’ll never look back.
Two things: it’s a bit fiddly to get the figs to the point of ready, but well worth the effort. Also, I don’t tend to add the spices in the boil. I add them to jars when they’re ready to be bottled up – this means I might have a fig and cardamom, a fig and cinnamon or a fig and clove, slightly different flavours, which keeps it fun and exciting.
Sometimes the figs we find are really big – too big to fit into gifting or ‘single portion’ (aka, enough for one meal) jars. If that’s the case, halve or quarter the figs before adding them to the sugar syrup. It doesn’t look as pretty in the jar, but in reality, when you pull them out to eat on your crackers you would rarely eat a whole one on a single cracker anyway.
- 1kg unripe figs
- 1kg sugar
- 1.250 ml (also 1.25kg!) water
- Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Bring a pot of water to boil - just enough to cover the figs. Add the figs and boil for ten minutes. Empty out and refill the pot, bringing the figs to boil and boiling for another ten minutes. This is important, as it's what makes them lose the bitter/unripe taste.
- Drain and leave to cool.
- Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the figs - there may may be some white liquid that drains out. If there's still a lot of white juice, boil again for ten more minutes, then squeeze again. It seems fiddly, but is well worth it!
- In a clean pot, bring the 1.250ml water to boil and add sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the squeezed figs. They will resume their original shape during this process, unless of course, you've cut them.
- Add the spices of choice* and boil figs in the sugar syrup for about 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 5 minutes more.
- Pour into sterilised jars, making sure the syrup covers the figs. *I tend to leave out the spices in the previous step and add different spices into the jars at this point so that I have different spice varieties. Close while hot to create a vacuum seal.
- Keep in a cool dark place, and transfer to the fridge once opened as it's actually best cold, served with goats cheese and parma ham - or just goats cheese if you're veggie.
It sounds a bit odd – making cheese on the campfire. You probably want to manage your expectations on this one – you’re not making a fine camembert, but it’s still a brilliant activity and a tasty spreading cheese to have on crackers or toast.
Campfire cheese uses a basic chemistry concept: irreversable changes. You can read more about making it into a lesson/life lesson/ conversation here. Continue reading “Campfire Cheese with Foraged Herbs”
Nougat is one of my Christmas favourites. I’ll always add it to a gift hamper if I can, and I certainly enjoy having it in the snack box for the festive season. The Thermomix® nougat is different to a shop bought one – it is a bit softer than a commercially made one (because this recipe goes to 100c. If you were using sugar on the stove top you could go as high as 155c and you’d have a firmer nougat.