September reflections

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Acer leaves in the Autumn sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a busy month for me which has meant that I haven’t had much spare time to put a post together. Now as the season feels like it is shifting, I thought I would take a look back on what’s been happening out of doors this past month.

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A cascade of Autumn crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is showing signs of Autumn now with leaves changing colour and a crop of pale lilac crocus appearing in a shady border. Earlier in the month I went to visit my family in Sussex. The weather was very warm and we spent most of our time together out of doors. On one walk, I was delighted to find some blackberries untouched in a hedgerow and was able to carry my precious cargo of black jewels all the way back home to Scotland to make into a compote with apples from my tree. Delicious.

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Wild hedgerow blackberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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My apple tree laden with fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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First pickings. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can see, it’s another good year for apples. I’ve only picked a few so far, but I think with the weather turning cooler this weekend and a predicted frost,, I will be picking the remainder in the next few days. I’ve also harvested a lot of potatoes, and put many more in storage. I’m feeling pleased with myself, after years of giving up on carrot growing, I’ve had a fair crop this year. The variety was called “Rainbow” and I had high hopes of a multi-coloured batch, but in the end, they were mostly yellow. No matter, they tasted fresh and spicy, just as homegrown carrots should do.

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Freshly dug carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Box of tatties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m over-run with tomatoes too. Dehydration for the small ones, and tomato sauce for the larger ones. I haven’t started my annual chutney making ritual, but once the apples are picked, the preserving with begin.

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First major haul of tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in the garden, my lovely scented rose bush is back in flower, and the orange lupin is flowering for the third time – I didn’t know this was possible! Another splash of orange in the garden comes from the carnations I planted a few years ago. Back in the spring, I moved them to a different spot, in a raised bed by a sunny wall, and they are thriving.

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Second-time-around rose, and lupin in third flowering. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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September carnations. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned the Japanese anemones in my last garden post back in August. They have gone from strength to strength, and I think this year is the first time they have grown en masse to create such an impactful display under the apple tree.

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Japanese Anemones under apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another month. I wish you well over the coming days, and look forward to sharing a recipe with you next time around. Until then, my best wishes to you.

Springtime isolation and a spot of wild garlic foraging

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A peaceful place for wild garlic foraging, River Lednock, Perthshire. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. What a weird and surreal spring this is turning out to be. In many ways life goes on as usual: the spring flowers are blossoming; the birds are chirping and calling to each other; the days are drawing out, and the weather is brightening up. Yet, we humans are having to behave very differently.

I hope you are all getting along ok. It seems we’re affected by the spread of the virus throughout the world, and we’re all having to do our bit to keep it at bay. In the UK, we have been asked to keep our distance from each other, to stay at home as much as possible, and to only go out for exercise and essential shopping. At the weekend, I was able to find a quiet spot and combine a spot of foraging along with a walk along a nearby riverbank and woodland.

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River bank lush with wild garlic. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The air was warm and heavy with the scent of the garlic leaves. It was a joy to be out of doors and away from the troubles of the world, hearing only the water bubbling and the birds singing. I picked a few leaves here and there from the river bank. The garlic seems to be very abundant this year.

If you are able to go foraging, always forage responsibly by taking one or two leaves from a plant rather than stripping a whole one bare. And, wash the leaves thoroughly before cooking.

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Freshly picked and washed my harvest of wild garlic leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Back at home, I used some of the leaves to make a version of  my favourite mash recipe using seasoned 500g mashed potato, 50g chopped wild garlic leaves and 50ml olive oil. I spread this on top of a creamy vegetable sauce and drizzled with more olive oil before baking.

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Wild garlic and olive oil mash. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The next day, I cooked up more leaves with spring greens and leeks – deliciously tasty with pasta or over rice. A version of this recipe can be found here.

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Wild garlic, leeks and spring greens. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This time I used 100g shredded cabbage with 75g each wild garlic and leek. Season and stir fry in 20ml olive oil for 2-3 minutes, then lower the heat, put the lid on and cook gently for about 10 minutes until wilted down. Simple but delicious.

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Wild garlic and spring greens. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I wish you well over the next few days. Until next time, keep safe, and enjoy spring as best you can ūüôā

A springtime woodland walk

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End of March, Bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For this week’s post, I have made a slight departure from my usual offerings.¬†I have just returned from¬†a few days down in the south of England celebrating Mothering Sunday with my family.

The county of Sussex is where I grew up and I remember the bluebell woods especially well. Carpets of fragrant blue flowers lined these particular woods in Slindon, most usually from mid to late April onwards. With the early onset of spring this year, I had a feeling that there might be some out in flower and I wasn’t disappointed.¬†There were quite a few of the delicate, sweet-selling¬†blue¬†blooms¬†alongside many other wild flowers.

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Wood anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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Wild primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It was a glorious day in these woods. The sun was warm and the sky was blue. The flowers seemed to almost glow in the bright light, and with the combination of good weather and the untimely blooming of these wild flowers, it was hard to remember exactly  what month it actually was.

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Lady’s Smock (Cuckoo flower), Celandine and Herb Robert. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Not only were there flowers to enjoy in the woods, but the hedgerows and trees around and about were full of life too. Several species of butterfly were darting around from flower to flower (too quick for me to capture), and the bees¬†buzzing¬†and busy¬†collecting pollen. It’s going to be a bumper year for hedgerow fruits if these blossom-laden Blackthorn trees are anything to go by.

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Blackthorn against a blue sky. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image this week is of a Sussex pastoral scene and a tree that encompasses this time of year so well, the Salix Discolor, or Pussy Willow, with its fuzzy pollen-laden stamens so tempting to the bees and flying insects.

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Pussy Willow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have enjoyed the visit to Sussex this week.¬† I will¬†be back with¬†you next week¬†with something equally seasonal. Until then, have a good week and enjoy Spring ūüôā

 

Spring green risotto with wild garlic (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring green risotto. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Every year at this time my local river bank becomes swathed in lush greenery and develops a distinctive oniony aroma. A walk on a sunny afternoon can make you feel very hungry indeed.

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River-side wild garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On a bright afternoon at the end of last week, I went on a foraging expedition and picked a small bag of the fresh, lush wild garlic leaves, also known as Ramsons (Allium ursinum). As with any wild food, only ever pick if in abundance. Take leaves from several plants rather than stripping leaves from just one or two. Pick the vibrant green, broad leaves (shaped rather like those of the tulip) when young and before the delicate white star-shaped flowers bloom to enjoy them at their sweetest.

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Fresh Ramsons leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For safetys sake, take extra care to make that sure you are only picking the leaves of wild garlic. Wash very well before using. I usually put the leaves in a colander and dunk several times in a bowl of cold water before shaking dry.

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Washing wild garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As with most soft herbs, wild garlic is best used within 24 hours of picking, but once rinsed and shaken dry, I find it well for a few days sealed in a plastic bag in the fridge.

My recipe this week combines the wild garlic leaves with baby kale leaves (or kalettes) and leek in a stir fry. It is delicious served as a vegetable dish in its own right, but is also makes a delicious stirred to a mushroom risotto.

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Spring greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the stir fry:

  • 1 medium leek
  • 30g wild garlic, washed
  • 175g baby kale (or kalettes)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the risotto:

  • 1l vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and chopped
  • 400g Arborio rice
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 25g wild garlic, washed and finely shredded
  1. Trim the leek. Split lengthways and rinse well to remove any trapped earth. Shake well to remove excess water, then shred finely.
  2. Shred the wild garlic leaves. Strip the leaves of baby kale from the central stalks. Mix all the vegetables together.

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    Preparing spring greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Heat the oil in a  large frying pan or wok, add the greens and stir fry for 2 minutes. Season well, reduce the heat to low, and cover and cook gently for 4-5 minutes until tender. Serve immediately as a vegetable accompaniment, or put to one side whilst preparing the risotto.
  4. For the risotto, pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until everything is well mixed.
  5. Pour in half the wine and cook gently, stirring, until absorbed. Add the remaining wine along with a ladleful of stock. Cook gently until absorbed.
  6. Continue adding the stock in this way, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is thick, creamy and tender. This will take about 25 minutes and should not be hurried. Keep the heat moderate throughout the cooking.

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    Making risotto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Season the risotto to taste, stir in all but a few shreds of wild garlic, and cook for a further minute until the garlic has wilted. To serve, reheat the spring greens and gently mix into the risotto, then serve sprinkled with the remaining wild garlic.

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    Variegated wild garlic leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

My beach-side harvest – Sea Kale (cooking tips and gluten-free/dairy-free/vegan serving suggestions)

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Sea kale growing on chalky cliff face. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A bit of a departure from my usual blog posts this week. I’ve had some time away from my home in Scotland, and spent¬†a¬†few days in¬†Sussex, where I grew up, visiting friends and family, and enjoying some fine late spring weather.

On a walk along the South Downs, I climbed down to a secluded cove, only accessible when the tide is low, to discover sea kale growing on the sand and shingle beach and out of the chalky cliffs. The afternoon was still and warm, and the frilly edged, grey/blue-green leaves of the kale appeared silvery in the bright sunlight; the sweet smell of honey hung in the air from its many flowers which grow in clusters above the leaves.

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Secluded Sussex beach cove. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve never¬†discovered sea kale growing wild before, and have never cooked nor eaten¬†it. The¬†opportunity and temptation¬†was too great and I picked¬†2 or 3¬†of the smaller leaves from¬†a few¬†established plants. I knew that sea kale kept¬†well – sailors used to take it on voyages¬†as a source of vitamin C – so I¬†put¬†the leaves¬†in a jug of¬†water, in the fridge for a couple of days,¬†before taking them¬†back to Scotland¬†to experiment¬†in the kitchen.

As with most leafy vegetables, I guessed that the smaller leaves would be¬†the most¬†edible. Apparently,¬†sea kale (Crombe maritima) is¬†not actually kale, it’s a type of chard and¬†belongs to the¬†cabbage family. All parts are edible, raw and cooked. but in the interests of conservation, I¬†picked¬†just¬†a few¬†leaves.

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Small sea kale leaf. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

And so, to the kitchen. I treated the sea kale as if it were a leafy cabbage or curly kale. I gave it a good soak to remove any sand, etc, and then sliced out the stems. I shredded some of the leaves, and decided to roast the rest whole as I do with kale.

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Preparing sea kale. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Stems with balsamic vinegar Рtrim the ends and then slice the stems down the centre, lengthways. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat a frying pan until hot, drizzled with a little olive oil and stir fry the stems for 2-3 minutes until softened and browned a little. Turn off the heat, season with balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper. Cover with a lid and stand for 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped chive stems and flowers.

Leaves with garlic, chilli and soy Рshred the leaves as you would Savoy cabbage and cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain well. Stir fry chopped leek and garlic in a little oil until softened and then add the boiled sea kale and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until tender. Season with dark soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.

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Cooked sea kale stems and leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To bake sea kale, choose the thinnest leaves, remove the stems if coarse, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a bowl and toss in a little olive oil, and massage it through the leaves to coat them lightly. Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and season well with smoked salt, pepper and caster sugar. Bake at 200¬įC (180¬įC fan oven, gas 6) for 10 minutes, turn the leaves and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until dark and crispy. Season with chilli flakes and serve with extra sugar and smoked¬†salt for dipping.

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Roast sea kale leaves with smoked salt, chilli and sugar. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The verdict: if you like strong-tasting cabbage and seaweed¬†( which I do), then¬†you’ll like sea kale. It’s not a flavour for the faint-hearted that’s for sure. It can¬†be also be seasoned with¬†other strong flavoured ingredients. I was surprised that it is not salty at all. Some of the slightly larger leaves had a slight medicinal bitterness to them, which makes me think that the much larger leaves would be inedible.

If you’re lucky enough to find some, it’s definitely worth trying. I feel fortunate to have stumbled across such a fabulous freebie courtesy of Mother Nature ūüôā

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Also growing out of the chalky cliffs, a beautiful sea poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins