Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
It has reached the time of year that sees the end of my supply of home-grown courgettes. The three plants I sowed from seed have been growing happily, side by side, in a grow-bag, in my greenhouse over the past few weeks. The plants have given me a good, steady and tasty crop of yellow and green globe-shaped fruits. I am sad to see their demise.
To use up the last of the crop, this week’s recipe is for a mildly spiced, Indian-style fritter, based on a classic takeaway favourite, the onion bhaji. The flour used is chickpea (or gram/besan) flour which very is earthy and nutty in flavour, and the flavourings used are fragrant rather than over-powering: cumin, fenugreek, black onion seeds and toasted sesame seeds. Add some minced green chilli or chopped fresh coriander for some zesty freshness if you like.
Serve the bhajis as a starter with wedges of lemon to squeeze over, some fresh coriander, and a traditional cucumber and yogurt salad.
190g chickpea (gram or besan) flour
1 tsp salt
200g courgette, trimmed and coarsely grated
1 small leek, trimmed and shredded
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp black onion seeds
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Sunflower oil for deep-frying
Fresh coriander and lemon to serve
For the cucumber salad
150g cucumber, trimmed and chopped
Small bunch fresh chives, chopped
A few sprigs fresh mint, leaves chopped
100g free-from coconut yogurt
Salt to taste
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the courgette, leek, spices and seeds. Mix well. Put to one side. Heat the oil for deep-frying to 180°C, then mix 75ml cold water into the spiced vegetables to make a thick batter. Add the water just before cooking to make sure it stays thick.
Use 2 dessert spoons to form scoops of batter and gently drop into the oil – cook 7-8 scoops at a time for 7-8 minutes, turning in the oil, until golden and crisp. Don’t make the bhajis too big otherwise they won’t cook all the way through. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you prepare the other remaining batter.
For the cucumber salad, mix all the ingredients together and season to taste.
Serve the bhajis while they are warm, sprinkled with fresh coriander and accompanied with lemon wedges and the cucumber salad.
Amazingly, the heat is still on full blast here in the UK. The sky has been gloriously blue, day after day, and the sun is shining down strongly. No rain in the forecast; the water butt has been dry for days!
Plenty of time to enjoy the garden at a more leisurely pace. The thought of preparing and eating hot food is not so appealing at the moment, so salads are featuring heavily on my menu. I picked my first courgettes this week – all the extra watering by hand has been worth it – and made an exception by doing a little bit of cooking. I made them into a tasty cold dish with some canned beans and a rich tomato sauce.
You can adapt the recipe to use other vegetables and pulses – aubergine and chickpeas make a good combination too, especially seasoned with some cumin and fresh coriander. The salad makes a good sauce for pasta when served freshly made, and I have also served it as a filling for a warmed pastry case.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
150ml dry white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato purée
2 teasp caster sugar
1 teasp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
250g cooked cannellini beans
500g courgettes, trimmed and chopped into 2cm dice
Fresh basil, fried pine nuts, gluten-free flat bread and extra virgin olive oil to serve
Heat the oil in a large covered frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and herbs, with the lid on, over a low heat, for 15 minutes, to soften without browning.
Pour in the wine and stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves.
Stir in the beans and courgette, making sure they are well covered in the sauce. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes until the courgette is just tender. Leave to cool completely.
Transfer to a bowl and chill until ready to serve. Best served at room temperature for more flavour. Delicious spooned over warm flat breads, sprinkled with fresh basil, fried pine nuts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bon Appétit 🙂
My supply of courgettes is coming to an end now. For several weeks, I’ve had a plentiful supply of produce from the four plants in grow-bags, in my greenhouse. Not only do home-grown courgettes taste delicious, I love the large, bright yellow, star-shaped flowers that the plants produce; they are a very cheery sight even on the dullest of days.
These muffins are full of golden coloured ingredients and are based on a classic American cornbread recipe. Easy to make, delicious served warm, and perfect for freezing – they will only keep fresh for a couple of days, so freezing is the best option for longer storing. The chives add a mild oniony flavour, and you could try adding a pinch of chilli flakes or some hot smoked paprika for a bit of a kick. They make a good accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew, or just as a tasty snack on their own.
115g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 level teasp gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
150g polenta or fine cornmeal
1 medium egg, beaten, or 50g soft tofu, mashed
225ml dairy-free milk (I used soya)
50g butter or vegan margarine, melted
100g cooked sweetcorn kernels
150g grated courgette (yellow or green)
4 tbsp. freshly chopped chives
50g grated Parmesan cheese or vegan alternative, optional
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Line a 10-cup muffin tin with paper cases. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the polenta or cornmeal. Make a well in the centre.
Put the egg or tofu in the centre and pour in the milk and melted butter or margarine. Gradually mix the ingredients together until well blended, then stir in the remaining ingredients.
Divide between the cases, smooth the tops and bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best served warm.
The mild spring weather and fine, early summer days has brought on my greenhouse vegetables a treat this year. It looks like I’m in for another bumper crop of courgettes. I thought I’d try to grow a new variety, and decided on this round, globe courgette called Tricolour. I only raised 4 plants from seed, so it is completely by chance that I’ve ended up with 2 yellow and 2 dark green vegetable plants. The third colour is pale green, and, I guess, is to be saved for next year.
Providing you give them plenty of water, I think growing courgette plants offers little challenge to the gardener, and for a modicum of effort, you are usually rewarded with plenty of produce. I have mine growing in grow-bags; the roots don’t stretch very deep so it is an ideal way to grow them if space is limited.
Here’s an easy recipe for a courgette starter or vegetable accompaniment. Chives or rosemary work well in the batter instead of thyme, if you prefer. If you’re not dairy-free, add a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the batter for extra flavour. The batter goes with any vegetable that’s suitable for deep-frying such as rings of onion, baby leeks, spring onions, sliced mushrooms, strips of pepper and carrot, sliced aubergine, etc.
Courgette and thyme fritters – serves: 4
65g self-raising gluten-free flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teasp freshly chopped thyme leaves + extra for serving
90ml soda water
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Wash and pat dry the courgettes. Trim away the ends and cut into thin slices, approx. ½ cm thick. Arrange in layers in a wide, shallow dish, sprinkling lightly with 25g of the flour as you go. Make sure both sides of each slice have a light coating of flour.
For the batter, mix the rest of the flour with the cornflour in bowl and season. Stir in the chopped thyme leaves. Using a small whisk, gradually blend in the soda water. Heat the oil for deep-frying to 180°C.
Carefully pour the batter over the courgette slices, lifting them up so that the batter seeps right through to the bottom of the dish – the slices don’t have to be completely covered in batter (this is a very light, crispy batter that cooks better when used sparingly) but make sure there is a little on each slice. Tongs are useful for lifting individual slices.
Cook the slices in the hot oil, in 4 batches, for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and lightly golden. Drain well and keep warm whilst cooking the remaining slices. Serve as soon after cooking as possible, sprinkled with more fresh thyme and some crushed sea salt flakes.
I’ve had a bumper crop of green and yellow courgettes this year, and they are still ripening thick and fast. Apart from enjoying them as a vegetable, they do make a good substitute for grated carrot in a cake. After a successful weekend bake-in, I thought I’d share my recipe for courgette and lemon loaf cake with you. It is moist and tasty, and improves with keeping (if you can leave it alone!). Perfect sliced and eaten on its own with a cup of tea, or served as a dessert with coconut yogurt and blueberry compote. Enjoy!
2 medium eggs
150ml sunflower oil
150g caster sugar
Finely grated rind 1 unwaxed lemon
115g yellow courgette, trimmed and grated
50g ground almonds
150g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
7g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
3 tbsp Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line a 1kg loaf tin with a baking parchment liner and sit the tin on a baking tray.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and lemon rind. Stir in the courgette and ground almonds.
Sift the flour and baking powder on top and carefully mix all the ingredients together. Pour into the tin and sprinkle thickly with Demerara sugar.
Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour until risen, golden and firm to the touch – insert a skewer into the centre of the cake, it should come out clean if the cake is cooked. Cool for 30 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours before serving to allow the flavour and texture to develop. The cake freezes well, leave to cool then wrap and freeze for up to 6 months. Allow to thaw at room temperature, in the freezer wrappings.
Time for a recap on what’s been happening in my fruit and veg garden. It’s been a mixed bag of weather this month, although it doesn’t seem to have affected anything I’ve been growing for the kitchen. In fact, even though the sun hasn’t been shining as often as I’d have liked, I have never had tomatoes ripen so early in the year – it’s usually September before I get my first taste!
Home-grown tomatoes, above all else, are the best produce to grow for flavour and sweetness, and remain unrivalled by any tomatoes you can buy. I grow them in my unheated greenhouse, planted in grow-bags. I never put the picked fruit in the fridge, I store them in a cool part of the kitchen and eat them as soon as possible after picking. Served simply with some fresh pot basil, a little salt and pepper, and drizzle of balsamic vinegar, this is one of my greatest foodie pleasures.
I have been picking runner beans for a couple of weeks now and, with lots of flowers still blooming, I hope to be enjoying them for a few weeks longer. I don’t usually do much with them, other than chop them up, cook them lightly, and enjoy them as a vegetable in their own right. Occasionally, I make a frittata with any leftover cooked veg and combine runner beans with cooked potato, onion – sometimes a little bacon if I have any – some seasoning and chopped fresh thyme. Delicious served warm or cold with salad.
Most of the fruit I grow gets made into jams and jellies, or I freeze it for cooking later in the year. The cherries were made into a compote – I didn’t have enough for jam this year. Rhubarb is cooked in muffins, stewed as a simple dessert, or cooked as pie filling. I have just made rhubarb and custard ice lollies for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.
The yellow courgette plants are growing like triffids in the greenhouse. Thank goodness I only planted 2! They are both producing heavily, so it looks like I will have to get creative with my courgette cookery. I prefer the yellow variety as I find the flesh firmer and there is slightly more of an earthy flavour to them. I also love the colour. I have been chopping them and simply frying them in butter with smoked bacon and black pepper, and then stirring in a little bit of maple syrup before serving. Very tasty with just about anything.
One of the vegetables I have great success in raising is the courgette. This year I have a couple of varieties on the go: Tristar and Jemmer. My single Tristar plant has produced 6 courgettes already and there’s a few more to come. It is in a grow-bag on the floor of my greenhouse. Jemmer is a yellow variety; the first courgettes are just forming.
To enjoy the delicate, slightly earthy, flavour of my “home-grown” courgettes, I cook them very simply: either sliced and gently fried in sunflower oil, or as bigger chunks, lightly seasoned and roasted in the oven. The slices only take a few minutes on each side, just cooked until lightly golden round the edge.
To liven things up a wee bit, I make a herb or spice butter which I allow to melt over the cooked vegetable just before serving. At the moment, the chive bush in the garden is a combination of soft, juicy stems and pretty flower balls, and is the obvious choice for flavoured butter these past couple of weeks.
I make up a small batch at a time which will keep, well wrapped, in the fridge for 2-3 weeks or can be frozen for up to 6 months. Use half a pack of lightly salted, soft butter with 2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped chives – snip the stalks into small pieces using kitchen scissors to avoid bruising the stems.
Beat the butter well to start with and then mix in the chives. Pile onto a small square of baking parchment and chill until firm enough to roll.
Pop the parchment square on a small sheet of cling film, and wrap the paper round the butter to make rough tube. Continue rolling until you have made a cylinder of butter, to the thickness you prefer. Wrap tightly in the cling film and chill until required.
Chive butter is lovely melted over grilled salmon, pan-fried chicken or tossed into freshly cooked seafood and pasta. Don’t forget the flowers: gently pull the flower heads apart and scatter the delicate lilac star-shaped petals over salads, pasta or your finished dish for a subtle oniony flavour.