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!
Hello everyone 🙂 Hope you’ve had a good week. The sun’s been shining a lot with me and everything in the garden has taken off, especially in the herb garden. Lots of fresh new growth and lush looking bright green leaves. Delicious.
I can find everyday uses for all of the herbs I grow, but the clump of sorrel often remains untouched. I pick off any little leaves to throw into a salad, but the larger leaves I admit, I seldom use. However, this week, as I was cooking up some spinach for my planned bake, I remembered to mix in a few of the larger leaves to add a slightly sharp and acidic tang to the filling.
I’ve turned to spelt flour to make the suet-crust pastry for my bake this week, although I have mixed it with some gram flour. I haven’t tried the recipe with all gluten-free flour; I can image it would work ok, but it would be more challenging to roll up. I have fond memories of sweet and savoury roly-poly puddings from my childhood and school cookery classes. Suet-crust is one of the easiest pastries to make, and it takes next to no time to put together. It is light and fluffy in textue, and when baked, has a crispy, crunchy outer shell.
The key to this recipe’s success is to make sure you dry the cooked spinach as much as possible. Cook it in only a minimum amount of water and then squeeze out the excess by pressing it against the side of the strainer as it drains, and then blot with kitchen paper. This will help keep the bake as crisp as possible. If you don’t have fresh sorrel, then just cook up a little bit more spinach. I hope you enjoy it.
For the filling:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 teasp ground cumin
1 teasp each of ground coriander and ground cinnamon
25g fresh garden sorrel leaves, well washed and stems removed
250g fresh spinach
100g cooked chickpeas
40g toasted pine nuts
1 teasp salt
1 – 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (optional)
For the pastry:
150g spelt flour
50g gram flour
12g baking powder
100g vegetable suet
Approx. 150ml cold chickpea cooking water, canning water or plain water
First make the filling. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion, garlic and spices over a gentle heat, with a lid on, for 15 minutes until softened but not browned. If you’re using sorrel, rip up the leaves and once the onion is cooked, add to the mixture, cover and leave to wilt in the steam. Leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, rinse the spinach, shake off the excess water and pack into a saucepan whilst still wet. Heat until steaming, cover, and cook over a medium heat, for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Drain well, pressing out the excess water, and leave to cool. Chop and blot away the excess water using kitchen roll.
Put the cold onion mixture in a bowl, mix in the cooked spinach, chickpeas, pine nuts and sultanas. Season with salt. Cover and chill until required.
When ready to assemble, the roll, preheat the oven to 190°C/ 170°C fan oven/ gas 5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the flours in a bowl with the baking powder and suet. Pour in sufficient water to make a soft, scone-like dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to make a rectangle approx. 30 x 25cm.
Spread over the filling, right to the edge, and the roll up from one of the shorter sides. Carefully transfer to the prepared baking tray, seam-side down, and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown.
The pastry will probably crack during baking – I have rarely made one that hasn’t split slightly on one side. For extra richness, brush generously with extra virgin olive oil as soon as it comes out of the oven. Best served hot or warm.
I have more books on the subject of herbs and spices than on any other. I love growing my own herbs and experimenting with new flavours. It’s lovely to see that my herb garden is coming back to life again, now that the days are getting lighter and the sun is slowly warming up.
One of the best culinary friends from the herb garden is garden sorrel. A hardy perennial – I’ve noticed that even in the depths of a Scottish winter, there are always a few leaves poking their way through the earth – it is easy to grow and is very versatile. Related to spinach and the wild, leafy plant, Dock, garden sorrel is a real favourite with cooks and chefs alike.
Spring is the time to start picking a few leaves here and there – the more you pick, the more the plant will regenerate, and you’ll have a succession of young leaves right through until autumn. At this time of year, the new leaves are juicy and fresh tasting. Larger leaves have more of the classic, astringent lemony flavour associated with the herb. As the season progresses, tougher, red flowering stems will form with clusters of tiny red flowers at the end, and a few of the leaves will become very large. Whilst the flowering stem should be cut down, the large leaves, which are too coarse to eat, make perfect wrappings for tenderising meat and flavouring fish during cooking.
If you fancy growing your own, buy some seed now and get sowing. You may also find potted clumps at the garden centre. Garden sorrel likes rich, moist soil, and the sun or semi-shade. And that’s about it; it will look after itself. If you want a supply for winter, either cover the clump with a cloche, or split the roots in autumn and pot some up – I usually keep a pot in my unheated greenhouse over the winter months to tide me over until the next spring.
Garden sorrel serving suggestions and tips
Sorrel is best picked as required. Treat like spinach if you do need to store it: place in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge for a couple of days maximum. It can be frozen successfully, but loses its flavour if dried.
Because of the acid content, sorrel is affected by cast iron cookware and will discolour. Use a stainless steel knife blade for cutting, and only shred just before using to avoid discolouration and flavour loss.
Young garden sorrel leaves are delicious mixed with other green salad leaves and soft-leaved herbs; they add a tangy lemony flavour to the plate, and reduce the need for vinegar or lemon juice in a salad dressing.
Used by the Greeks and Romans as an aid to digestion, garden sorrel is the perfect accompaniment to rich foods such as soft cheese (especially goat’s and sheep’s cheeses), oily fish, lamb and pork.
Garden sorrel is commonly used in egg dishes. Try adding to pancake batter, or a quiche filling; stir into scrambled eggs, or add as an ingredient to an omelette fines herbes. Pep up an egg mayonnaise sandwich filling by adding a few fresh leaves – much zingier than mustard and cress!
Add some chopped leaves to soft butter or margarine along with some black pepper and a little salt. Melt over hot grilled fish, barbecued chicken or steaks. See my recipe for chive butter if you fancy making some Homegrown courgettes with chive butter (gluten-free)
As well as all the culinary uses, sorrel leaves are rich in potassium and the vitamins A, B1 and C.