Brilliant Beetroot Biriyani

Beetroot Biriyani

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!Beetroot Biriyani

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.Beetroot Biriyani

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!

Brilliant Beetroot Biriyani
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dinner, Mains
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 5
  • 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)
  1. 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.
  2. While the beetroot is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan (or a wok) with a lid.
  3. Fry the onion over a medium heat until golden.
  4. Add the ginger and half the garlic, and cook for 1 min.
  5. Stir through the bay, cardamom seeds, turmeric and garam masala, then cook for 2 mins.
  6. Stir in the rice and beetroot.
  7. Pour in the stock and place a fitting lid on the pot
  8. 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.
  9. Put the remaining garlic in a food processor and whizz, then add the yoghurt till it's well blended. Set aside.
  10. Remove rice from heat and stir through.
  11. Season to taste and serve.


How To Make Fruit Vinegar

Foraging is a fantastic activity, but it’s hard work, so you want to utilise every scrap to best effect in whichever way you can.

Once I’ve made a syrup  from the berries I’ve harvested, I’m loathed to throw them out. Some say you can put them in an ‘adult pie’ or ice cream, but that doesn’t always work – blackberries, for example, are white as snow by the time the flavour’s been sucked out of them, or there’s simply nothing left of them.  Other fruits, however, like rose hips, hawthorns and elderberries, have enough left in them to make something else out of. Like second-use tea bags, they’re not the ultimate flavour, but they may just work out okay.

balsamic vinegar

I have a bundle of 100ml jars specifically for this purpose – when I’ve made a syrup, I pop the pulp into the jar and top it with vinegar – if it doesn’t work out, I’ve lost about 50ml vinegar. If it does work out… I have a delicious new fruit vinegar to enjoy.

Some fruits – like elderberries or fresh blackberries – will pretty immediately change the colour of the vinegar, but I’d still suggest leaving it for a few days – although I have also done it about a year down the line, having forgotten about it! Others – like hawthorn – may take about a day to change the colour of the vinegar, but it’ll come.

To start, you’ll need equal parts fruit to vinegar, so lets say 600g fruit to 600ml apple cider vinegar. Now, I don’t normally set out to make vinegar, but rather use leftover bits of fruit or used pulp to make the vinegar, so you can be flexible with the amounts. I tend to use what I have, cover it with vinegar, and hope for the best!

That makes the next bit a little more tricky – or a good opportunity to practice maths and fractions!

After  at least four days of soaking in the vinegar, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into a pot on a medium heat.  For every 600ml liquid you need about 300g sugar – add less or more, depending on how sweet or how thick you want the vinegar. Add the sugar and stir till it is all dissolved. Leave to simmer for 15-25 minutes (adjusting depending on how much you’ve started with – the longer it boils the thicker it will be) without a lid on, which will reduce the liquid into a thick and delicious vinegar for dressings or dipping. If it’s not thick enough, simmer a little longer, but do bear in mind that as the vinegar cools, it’ll thicken too.

True balsamic improves with age. If you’re disciplined and have the space, use 3/4 of your vinegar now, but put aside a small jar of each batch in the back of the cupboard somewhere. I discovered a forgotten blackberry balsamic in the back of a cupboard when we moved house – it was about five years old, thick, sweet and incredible!

How To Make Fruit Vinegar
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • 600g fruit
  • 600ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 300g sugar
  1. In a glass jar, add fruit and cover with vinegar. Leave for at least four days, shaking whenever you pass by it.
  2. When it's taken on good colour, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into a pot on a medium heat.
  3. Add the sugar and stir till it is all dissolved.
  4. Leave to simmer for 20 - 25 minutes without a lid on, which will reduce the liquid into a thick and delicious vinegar for dressings or dipping.
Thermomix® Instructions
  1. In a glass jar, add fruit and cover with vinegar. Leave for four days, shaking whenever you pass by it.
  2. After four days, strain out the fruit and pour the vinegar into the Thermomix®.
  3. Add the sugar 15 mins/ Varoma/speed 1/ NO MC


Slowcooked Chicken & Tomato Stuffed Pepper

Stuffed Pepper

Temperatures are dropping and the days are becoming shorter, so for us, it means the slow cooker has come out of the dark depths of the cupboard. We’re trying out a variety of savoury dishes for Halloween, a season not normally known for its savoury foods, but I want to have some options available, at least! Stuffed Pepper

For this recipe, I’ve used yellow peppers. I didn’t realise until I was cleaning them out that one of the peppers only had two humps on the apex, rather than three, which meant it couldn’t stand on its own. Undeterred, I just cut a small layer off, not so much that the bottom of the pepper was opened up – just enough to make it stand up straight.
Stuffed Pepper

Cutting faces in a pepper is a whole lot easier than it is on a pumpkin. Simply use a sharp knife and carefully pop the cutout parts out. Stuffed Pepper

You can use any filling you like, really. I’ve used a chicken and tomato one. If you want to stretch this meal, add some rice or couscous to the pepper. Alternatively, serve each pepper on a bed of rice. I didn’t bother in this particular meal. Stuffed Pepper

Once stuffed, I felt the peppers could use a bit of help to stand out a little, so I used a finger to pop some homemade tomato sauce into the eyes and mouths of the peppers.

Stuffed Pepper

I love the way the chicken and tomato looks a bit like brains, topping off the Halloween face. It’s simple, and quite effortless and very tasty!

Slow Cooked Chicken and Tomato Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Slow cooked Chicken & Tomato Stuffed Pepper
Serves: 4
  • 500g skinless, boneless chicken
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 30ml (2tbs) dark soy sauce
  • 15ml (1tbs) balsamic vinegar
  • 5ml (1tsp) dried or fresh chopped rosemary
  • 5ml (1tsp) salt
  • 5 fresh tomatoes
  • 4 yellow peppers
  • For Halloween Faces, you'll also need a little tomato sauce
  • Serve with rice or other grain if you are so inclined.
  1. Turn a slow cooker on low for 6 hours
  2. Add chicken, canned tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar, rosemary and salt , put the lid in place.
  3. With an hour to go, add the fresh tomatoes
  4. With 30 minutes to go, remove the lid so the sauce can thicken a little
  5. After six hours, cut the top off the peppers and remove the seeds. (If you're making Halloween faces, do that now too)
  6. Stuff the pepper, and using a clean spoon or finger, fill the eyes and mouth with tomato sauce.

Find more Halloween recipes here

Amazing Pumpkin Parmesan Dip

Pumpkin Parmesan Dip

Another fantastic centrepiece for a party, a pumpkin filled with Pumpkin Parmesan Dip looks great and is versatile for crackers and veggies alike. You can adjust the amount of parmesan, or even substitute for a cheese you prefer – I can’t imagine there’ll be too much difference to the end result.

Pumpkin Parmesan Dip

My kids are particularly antsy about raw garlic – they can pick it out of anything – so if you prefer, you can saute the garlic for three minutes at 100C. I only do that if I’m making it, especially for my children.

Pumpkin Parmesan DipI decided to put the dip into a bowl and hover the bowl inside the mouth of the pumpkin. I don’t know if that’s necessary or if you can just put it in the pumpkin, but I decided it would be easier in this instance to keep cool, and that the pumpkin itself was reusable for a number of days and other recipes if not. Also, if you’re particularly skilled at carving (I’m not!) a fake candle inside, under the dip could look very pretty too.

Pumpkin Parmesan Dip Recipe:

Amazing Pumpkin Parmesan Dip
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
To cook the pumpkin, add 400 - 500 g chopped raw pumpkin to the internal steamer. Fill water to the 1-litre mark. Thermomix® 15 minutes/Varoma/speed 4. Once finished, leave to drain and cool for a while before making the dip
Serves: 600g
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50g parmesan
  • 100g cream cheese (I use full fat)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400 - 500g cooked pumpkin
Thermomix® Instructions
  1. Add 1 clove garlic 5 seconds/ speed 5
  2. Add parmesan 10 seconds/speed 10
  3. Add cream cheese, paprika, salt and cooked pumpkin 30 seconds/ speed 4
  4. Scrape down sides 1 minute/ speed 10
  5. Set aside to firm up again, and serve
Regular Instructions
  1. Finely chop the garlic, or crush it and add to a food processor
  2. Grate parmesan and add to the garlic.
  3. Add cream cheese, paprika,salt and cooked pumpkin
  4. Mix following your food processors instructions till it's all well blended and smooth.
  5. Set aside to firm up again, and serve.

Try these Halloween recipes too!

The cheese biscuits in the images are round versions of these cheese straws.


Cheesy Straws

Cheesy Straws

These cheesy straws are a lovely snack for lunch boxes and last minute visitors. They can be prepared whenever you have time, and the pastry frozen – then just pop out a handful and bake when you need them.  I was setting an Autumn scene for some photos I had to do, so we broke up the straws to make a ‘woodpile’. I was glad when the kids walked in and said ‘Oh, look at the brooms!’  Always useful when people can tell what you’re going for!
Cheesy Straws

These cheesy straws can be made as straws, though simply baking them in rounds is okay too – I tend to freeze them as round biscuits, making them easier to use with dips. If you’re going to make brooms, I recommend that you use the stringy type of kids cheese, rather than regular blocks of cheese which crack rather than pull apart. And have more chives than you think you need as they break really easily too. Cheesy Straws

I also like to add paprika or rosemary to cheese strings – it just depends on what flavour you like, or whether you like something different from time to time! Also, you don’t have to add parmesan, it just heightens the cheese flavour. If you decide not to, just make another 50g cheddar cheese.

Cheesy Straws Recipe:

Cheesy Straws
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 60 sticks
  • 375g plain flour
  • 225g butter
  • 150g cheddar cheese
  • 50g parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp mustard (I use a grainy mustard, but powder will work too)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper to taste
Thermomix® Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to the Thermomix® bowl
  2. Mix speed 5/30 seconds
  3. Remove and shape into a log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  4. Heat the oven to 180C
  5. Break off pieces and roll into sticks using your hands
  6. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before moving but be gentle as they are fragile
Regularly Instructions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor
  2. Mix until everything is combined and the dough forms a ball
  3. Remove and shape into a log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  4. Heat the oven to 180C
  5. Break off pieces and roll into sticks using your hands
  6. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before moving but be gentle as they are fragile



Making Salves And Moisturiser From Garden Weeds

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While I’ll be the first to agree that we’ve made wonderful advances in medicine in the last century, I do think that we’ve lost a lot too, and that being able to harness some of nature’s ‘freebies’ – or at least having the knowledge on how to – is an essential skill (you know, in case of zombie apocalypse, or something 😉 )

I’ve recently read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, where the main protagonist, Claire is a World War 2 nurse who falls through a circle of standing stones in Scotland of 1948 and lands in Scotland of 1739, just before the doomed Stuart Rising. The series is fantastic in its own right, but one of the things in that I’m fascinated by is Claire’s knowledge of herbs and how she puts it to use in a world pre-penicillin and medicines in pill form.  There have been some things that I’ve felt a thrilled jolt of ‘hey, I do that!’ such as the use of lavender for pain relief, but there have been other things new to me, like the use of Comfrey, good for haemorrhoids, broken bones and heavy periods alike.

If you can’t pick fresh comfrey, you can find it dried online.

Garden Weed: Comfrey

Now, while Claire often brews comfrey as a tea, there have been concerns raised in real time, in the real world about toxic properties that can cause liver cancer. And if you’ve ever made Comfrey as a fertiliser for your growing plants, you may have concerns about drinking it too! (It smells. Really bad.)

Before making use of plants as medicinals, it’s REALLY IMPORTANT to know what you’re doing. Comfrey, can be used topically, according to my big book of Nature’s Medicines (and other sources, but check for yourself anyway!) Start here: there’s a whole page, but the short is that comfrey topically has been shown to act as an analgesic in muscle and bone pain, but orally can make you very sick, quite quickly. By very sick I mean liver disease.

As it happens, on my allotment plot I have two large comfrey bushes, so I decided I wanted to make a comfrey ointment to rub on my wrists, which often ache from too many hours spent at the computer – comfrey is also known as Bone-Knit in the books, and is used for arthritis and muscle and joint pain. If it doesn’t work, at least the coconut oil makes my skin nice and soft!

While I was ‘harvesting’ (aka picking!) my comfrey, I realised that my plot really needed weeding as it was covered in plantain – the weed, not the small banana – and a memory tweaked somewhere in the back of my mind that plantain is also really very good for the skin, everything from rashes to insect bites, so I grabbed some of that for my ointment too.weeds-salve

Garden Weed: Plantain

According to my big book of Nature’s Medicines, plantain leaves contain iridoids called aucubin, and flavonoids – antioxidants that strengthen blood vessels and are often anti-inflammatory.

Plantain is a fascinating herb, actually. It has been shown to work in wound healing activity, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, weak antibiotic, immuno modulating and antiulcerogenic activity [ref]1. Samuelsen, Anne Berit (July 2000). “The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review”.Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 77 (1-2): 1. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00212-9. ISSN 0378-8741[/ref]. It has been used traditionally to treat  to treat wounds[ref]Duke, James (2001). Handbook of Edible Weeds. CRC Press. p. 151. ISBN 9780849329463.[/ref], as well as to treat fever and respiratory infections[ref]Duke, James (2001). Handbook of Edible Weeds. CRC Press. p. 151. ISBN 9780849329463.[/ref].  A tea of plantain leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhoea or dysentery. Due to the high vitamin and mineral content, plantain tea simultaneously replenishes the nutrients lost as a result of diarrhea[ref]Duke, James (2001). Handbook of Edible Weeds. CRC Press. p. 151. ISBN 9780849329463.[/ref].  Adding fresh plantain seeds or flower heads to a tea will act as an effective lubricating and bulking laxative and soothe raw, sore throats[ref]Tilford, Gregory L. & Gladstar, Rosemary (1998). From Earth to Herbalist: An Earth-Conscious Guide to Medicinal Plants. Mountain Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780878423729[/ref]. And the amazing thing about plantain? It’s everywhere! I see it in the park, in the fields, on sidewalks… everywhere you find lawns!

If you can’t pick fresh plantain, you can buy the dried leaves online.

Garden Weed: Marigold / Calendula

I also had a surplus of Marigold or Calendula in my plot this year, thanks to some heavy-handed sowing. Marigolds have a huge array of medicinal uses from circulatory problems to oral hygiene and eczema and more – again, according to the book. I’ve also used it in the past in herbal sitz baths, post birth and when my daughter had a nappy rash no cream seemed to touch, a calendula balm healed her quite literally overnight, so I am a big believer in its healing abilities.

If you can’t pick fresh calendula, you can buy the dried leaves online

Drying Your Garden Weeds

Once picked, I had to decide how I intended on utilising these leaves since I have tried infusing leaves in oil before, only to end up with mold due to the water in the leaves, so the first job was dehydrating the leaves. I have a lovely shiny new dehydrator, so I put it to use immediately, drying out the leaves. Now, in some herbs, the potency will increase due to drying, but since we’re not eating or drinking this ointment, I’m okay with that.

I’ve made these ointments with olive oil, but it has a filmy consistency and an odd smell, and it seems less adaptable to temperature changes. Coconut oil might go to a clear liquid on a hot day, take a few days as a lumpy looking mess, but it will return to its solid state, eventually. weeds-infused

The ointment can also be made and kept for a really long time in that ‘ointment’ state. I keep it in the jars (pictured above) and transfer it to smaller jars as required so that I’m not always dipping my finger into the main jar. This can then also be decanted out to make a moisturiser, lip balm, or whatever.

Quantities are very loosely defined here. I don’t think you can really get it ‘wrong’ and when I say ‘a cup’, I don’t necessarily mean a 250ml measure, though if that’s what you want to use, go for it. It’s more about keeping the quantities relative to each other.

There are three ‘steps’ here, each with a different result. I have made it the following way.

For the dried herbs: 

  • 1 loosely packed cup each of comfrey, calendula and plantain

In a dehydrator, or in a low oven, dehydrate at 70C for 12 hours – or follow the settings for your machine. The main point is for them to be free of moisture.

For the basic coconut oil infusion:

  • Place each herb type in its own jar. I use these, with a layer of brown paper inside the lid to cover the hole. You can use regular jars, Kilner jars, or whatever fits conveniently into your slow cooker or crockpot.
  • Bring the coconut oil to a liquid state – in a sink of warm water if your kitchen isn’t warm enough.
  • Pour the coconut oil over the leaves to cover them and put the slow cooker on it’s lowest setting. You DON’T want to cook this mixture, you just want to keep the coconut oil liquid enough to extract the oils from the plants, and keeping the leaves warm enough to help release them.
  • Add a cup of water to the slow cooker, put the sealed jars inside and place the lid on. Leave it on the lowest setting for at least 24 hours, 48 if you can.
  • You’ll see the colour of the oil starting to change before too long, and the colour will deepen as the natural oils are extracted from the leaves.
  • After 24 – 48 hours, discard the hot water and use coffee filters or a fine mesh bag to filter the leaves out of the oil. You should now be left with beautifully coloured liquid coconut oil. Put this aside to cool and harden, or pour some into smaller jars for regular use, to keep in your handbag (really useful for insect stings or nettle stings!)


To make a moisturiser

The reason I make the infusion in bulk is partly because I like using a home made moisturiser, but as it is water-based, it doesn’t have the shelf life of a chemical moisturiser. That said, I still use a jar in about 1 – 3 months, so it doesn’t have to be made up weekly or anything.

For this moisturiser, I use a mixture of the coconut oil infusion, a couple of tablespoons of grated beeswax and about 1/2 – 1 cup of water. Remember, the size of the cup isn’t as relevant as the quantities in relation to each other, but I use a 250ml cup.  The more water you use, the thinner it will be.  I quite like it hardening to its coconut oil state and turning almost to liquid in my hand, so I use:

  • 1 cup coconut oil infusion (I tend to use a mixture for general body moisturising, otherwise a calendula and plantain mix for my face and comfrey for my hands/wrists.)
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax
  • 1/2 – 1 cup water

Bring a pot of water to boil and fit a mixing bowl over it so that you can place the beeswax in the mixing bowl to melt it without boiling it. Once it’s melted, add the oil infusion.

Remove from heat and using an electric mixer, beat it to combine. Slowly, in a trickle, add the water while mixing all the time and it will start turning into a fluffy white emulsion, (a bit like making mayonnaise!)

Keep adding water till the cream reaches the consistency you like, move to a sterile jar, cover and use as required.

For the Thermomix®:

  • Add the beeswax to the Thermomix® bowl 50C/2 minutes/speed 2 (if it’s not thoroughly melted, leave for longer. Ambient temperature can affect melting speed).
  • Add the coconut oil and mix 50C/30 seconds/speed 4
  • Turn the Thermomix® on to 2 minutes/speed 4 and add the water in a thin stream. After adding 1/2 cup of water, check consistency and see if you’d like it thinner. If so, add more water. Transfer to jar.

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