Archives for posts with tag: seasonal foods


Would you call this performance a kind of Housewife Burlesque? I don’t know but I think she’s fabulous! Watch and tell us what you think.

“Everybody’s good at cooking something, I’m good at cooking Crumble.” Since May when Lorraine Bowen was on Britain’s Got Talent, my kids go around singing this song, so I sing it too now.  We all sing it–it’s catchy!

Here we have a large forage of end-of-September blackberries picked by husband and son.


And despite that it’s now October, there are still perhaps some bramble bushes fruiting in abundance. Read the rest of this entry »



Several years ago I began to ponder the internet recipe site of Abel and Cole, the major organic vegetable subscription service in the south of England.  There was was something so incredibly interesting, and original, light-handed yet educational and resourceful there, a joyful and free competence around food that felt rare and precious and kept pouring forth, anew.  Visit that site; it’s such a great resource for recipes (even though I’m more drawn these days to the idea of “freecipes,” there’s still lots to learn from reading them).

For people who cook, who take their cooking “practice” seriously, learning from others is enriching and serious business, and I make it a task to learn as part of my love of cookbooks, and prefer most of all writers with style and a unique way of going about the kitchen.

Recently I met the Abel and Cole food editor Rachel de Thample. She is in person everything her food seems to be: warm, fun, intelligent, committed to a better food system, creative, interesting…  So as a cookbook aficionado I was really excited to read her new book Five: 150 Effortless Ways to Eat 5+ Fruit and Veg a Day.   On the one hand this book is what the subtitle says, an effort to get us all eating the way we should.  On the other hand, and more excitingly, it’s a wonderful insight into an original cooking voice with lots to teach, inspire and entertain.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ah, the marrow.  Kind of seemed like a monstrosity of a vegetable to me when I first encountered it.  So huge, so flavourless, so… perverse? lazy? wasteful? to grow your courgettes so big that they became unappealing. And yes, you can stuff them (as I’ve done) and yes you can make jams and chutneys (as I’ve done) and yes you can grate the flesh into sauces and stews (as I’ve often done) and yes, you can even lacto-ferment them (as I’ve often done and am about to blog on).  But marrows have nonetheless remained “other” to me.

At the same time, I’ve been moved by how some friends genuinely LOVE marrows, and by the way you can hold a huge one like a baby, rocking it in your arms, and by the way people who grow them in their gardens and allotments always go around asking you if you would like one?  And of course you say, “Yes please!”

Apple is for size comparison only.


This time I was thrilled to have happened upon an old recipe recorded in the 70s on Bardsey Island for a Marrow Tart in my treasured copy of S Minwel Tibbot’s 1976 Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes.  To my mind this is the most beautiful record of “traditional” food of Wales, because as a historian and ethnographer, Tibbot’s work reflects respect and affection for the women sharing their old recipes in their old kitchens.  She worked for the National Museum of Wales’ Welsh Folk Museum, who published the book.

Like the Plum Tart in the Wales Gas Board pamphlet, this is a recipe that illustrates a kind of culinary simplicity in the sense that its guided by austerity (basic staples, seasonal eating) which is the beauty in much traditional Welsh food.  It’s so different from the world enabled by supermarkets in which everything is available year round, without any references to a seasonal calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rhubarb– an avatar of springtime, tart, glorious, friendly.

I happened upon this recipe for a wonderful Rhubarb Compote  with it’s suggestion to roast the rhubarb for better shape retention, and the inclusion of a link to a Rhubarb – Rose Petal Jam. Heavenly.

But on my countertop — me whose husband did once affectionately suggest I name this blog Kitchen Counter Clutter for all my space-occupying experiments– sat a jar of Rosehip Syrup, the hips suspended since September in a sugar syrup.   It needed using up.   The syrup had never developed the intensity I’d wished for, and next autumn I will wait until frost softens the hard shells and perhaps do some simmering– the old fashioned way. But, there was a nevertheless a lovely perfume to it, and a slight bite despite its sweetness.


So I strained out the hips, added a little wild Blackberry Apple Vinegar (I’d read Jamie Oliver somewhere adding a dash of balsamic vinegar to his rhubarb) to dilute the sugar crystals on the bottom, and poured the syrup over the stalks. And into a medium oven it all went, maybe for 20 minutes.

Indeed they did stay stalkier, less mushed. And were wonderful with the homemade, vanilla-flecked custard and crumbled shortbread biscuits.  Really good. And the juice on the bottom of the roasting pan— mmmmm— rhubarb infused rosehip syrup.  Just decadent with the last of the custard clinging to the bottom of the pan.


In past years I’ve made jams I call Tutti-Frutti for their mix of rhubarb with orange, apple, strawberries (classic), raspberries– whatever is around.  And I love Deborah Madisons use of orange juice and cloves in her stewed rhubarb in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and that’s become a fall-back combo for me.  Lots of people love ginger, fresh and powdered, paired with rhubarb (perhaps oddly, I don’t).  Maybe it’s wonderful with all bright and spicy flavours.   Now I’m thinking…. hibiscus tea! Also everyone’s hedgerow jams that linger in the cupboard– maybe my friend’s Crabapple Jelly, maybe black currant preserves…  Would all be wonderful in compotes and tarts.  Want to explore.




Spring feels kind of possible even if the winter wasn’t quite winter with its climate-weirding mildness and perpetual rain. Looking at the raised beds –an accomplishment of last summer and purchased as affordable flat-pack type kits from Cwm Harry in Newtown–  I  noticed, on this seasonal cusp,  all that Perpetual Spinach I sowed last spring.   These leaves had somehow never happened last year but had arisen, however scraggly and slug-eaten, and constituted before my eyes a Bed Of Chard.   (That’s what “perpetual spinach” really is, she says with disappointment).

Chard is my least favourite green, I admit.  I just don’t have enthusiasm for it, though Rainbow Chard is so prismatically beautiful and the smaller leaves in the raised bed will be nice in a salad.  And yet, chard is something I’ve managed, as a lazy gardener, to grow prolifically.

I did remember, maybe a decade ago, making a traditional tart from the south of France, recipe for which I found in Jane Sigal’s wonderful book Backroad Bistros: Farmhouse Fare: A French Country Cookbook from 1994.  This is a book that maybe somehow has gotten lost among a fray of great books, but I love it, and could cook and bake my way through relaxed French food with it– wonderful stories, impeccable recipes — a classic in its way.  I recommend it.  And would put it beside the also wonderful When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman in a library of my favourite cookery books.

(Backroad Bistros also has a few really enchanting pages on snail farming in Burgundy — this inspired me years back to giving a go to growing snails as a kind of Permaculture operation, since there in Oxford where we lived there were so many, a pestilence really.   I wouldn’t say I succeeded, though was a comical episode– maybe more on this another time.  But if this is something you are interested in, there’s lots of information one could usefully cull from this small chapter.)

I’ve also set myself the challenge to explore the use of vegetables in sweet situations, as I wrote about here in Three Sisters last autumn.  Since then I’ve discovered a wonderful and inspiring blog Veggie Desserts full of creative and beautiful recipes to enjoy.

Here is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls recipe for Tourte de Blettes.  It’s not dissimilar from the one Jane Sigal collected from a market woman in Provence, though it includes lemon zest and has slightly different proportions– and Sigal’s recipe encouraged me to fold the excess dough of the bottom layer up over the top layer, so I got to have something that looked different from my usual style, which I liked.


And forgive below what is an unappealing photo (food photography is hard!!!!) of a very nice Apple Pie with a layer of chard, removed behind my back by my children off their plates, but hey-ho!  In a few weeks time, they’ll be questioning the nettle tops  and goosegrass I am going to be picking all around the Waysides of Spring and putting in all sorts of imaginings– including, I say, a pastry like this one.

Oh– I saved the apple peelings and cores, added honey and water, and have a new, small batch of wild apple vinegar on the go!


New Lives for Your Christmas Tree, and Pine and Juniper Needles in General

The link above is a wonderful resource– great ideas for infusing oils, vinegars, fats, booze, spices, teas, syrups, and more.   Our Christmas tree happens to be plastic, something my husband found in a skip and eagerly rescued, and we’re all attached to setting it up and taking it down every year.   But we miss the scent and the naturalness and sacredness of a real tree.  So many things to do with conifer needles.  Looking forward to exploring the writings on this link in general.

Here’s another, if you are a high-end meat-eater, roast your lamb on a Christmas tree branch:

Neither Snow-White Nor Eve Nor I Could Resist

What gorgeous, sweetly tart, nicely textured apples these are, though I don’t know their story at all. I gathered these as wind-falls from the ground under the tree in a park area adjacent to a town car-park, and just gasped with awe for their beauty when I got home and cut one open. Here’s a link to a US site, but I think there are additional elements to be learned for the British part of the story…

Or, here’s a link to growers in Wales who grow and sell I might guess the same variety called Severn Black:

Three Sisters

Last night I stayed up late baking for this morning, three cakes for the launch of a community kitchen venture I will write about soon. I’d been inspired by the idea of the Three Sisters of Native American growing– corn and beans and squash.

A cornmeal (or polenta) cake with blackberries my family picked; Vegan Black Bean Brownies that were equally delicious and weird– hard to get a grasp on; and a moist, dense Pumpkin and Apple Cake, that I made with gluten-free flour and roasted, very orange and dense squash that I pureed through a food mill. The internet is so vastly full of ideas when you need them. Ask me and I can give you any particulars…

I am entranced by the idea of cakes with vegetables– of course carrots and courgettes and marrows, and all the chocolate beetroot cakes — though I want to try the squash cake above with that rosy beet instead, to play and shine the earth of beet rather than hide it behind the dusky sweet chocolate. Parsnips too intrigue, and there’s that world of sweet pies and tarts that have spinach or swiss chard with raisins and custard, or not… and would love to try these with nettle leaves some day. You could imagine savoury cakes and loaves too, playing with the sweet form with usually salty ingredients, but what I feel like exploring first is just how far you can take veg into a sweet cake. Going to do a little research– I’m sure there’s loads to be discovered.

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