Here's how to make easy vegetable stock from kitchen scraps. This is my quick way to make sure we always have fresh stock to hand for soups, stews and thinning down sauces while still keeping things flavourful. The best part is you can make this as you go and freeze it in small batches in ziplock bags. Need more stock? Grab a few extra bags from your freezer!Read More
So one day you find yourself standing in your kitchen with a lot of stolen autumnal produce and you decide you need to make a cocktail.
Ok that's not strictly true.
We've been scoring a lot of windfall produce lately thanks to our neighbours. Whenever we're out for a walk around the village we can't seem to stop ourselves from leaning over the fence to scoop up a couple of apples or pears. Occasionally we can even be spotted guilty loading our pockets to bursting point. Some might call this scrumping; I would call this resourcefulness and a commitment to zero waste but let's not split hairs when produce tastes this good. I should say that my neighbours are fully aware of what we're doing. Rather thoughtfully, they've taken to smiling and turning away as they see us coming, as if they understand that the bounty tastes better somehow when we scoop it from right under their noses. Elicit fruit scored by scrumping makes me feel very nostalgic and homely somehow.
I'm fairly sure that's how I came to crave something mulled to drink. I was having a wistful moment where I pictured hopping across a dry stone wall to a forbidden orchard and discovered boughs heavy with produce. I started thinking about pies, pressing apples for cider and suddenly I felt very cosy indeed. This homely affection seems ever so slightly at odds with the fact I appear to be turning into a petty thief.
All things mulled are brilliant and at some point I will share my ultimate mulled wine guide (SPOILER: it's rocket fuel) but for now let's talk about apples and pears and what happens when you add ginger and rum. Oh yes.
With our glut of pears, I'd decided to make some purée. Pear purée is my daughters favourite thing since she was a wee one so while making up this recipe I thought I'd pop some in and was so pleased with the results. It takes this winter cocktail somewhere a little more substantial and comforting. What better way to warm hands cold from stealing fruit than a warming mug of mulled pear and ginger?
So if you're ready...
3-4 tbsp pear puree
5 cardamon pods, gently bruised
2 tbsp of syrup from stem ginger
1 nugget of stem ginger, finely grated
Juice of 1 lime
1 litre cloudy apple juice
2-3 shots of Spiced Rum (I'm a big fan of Captain Morgan's or Kraken)
To make the puree, I simply chopped several pears, covered them with about a centimetre of water and simmered for 15-20 minutes on a low heat. Once nice and mushy, I usually blitz them in the food processor.
1. Add the puree, cardamon pods and ginger syrup to a saucepan and gently warm enough to infuse.
2. Stir in the grated ginger and lime juice before adding the apple juice and cinnamon sticks. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. (I tend to use the lime to cut through the sweetness of this recipe so do fiddle here for your own preference)
3. Add the rum and serve immediately into glasses or tip into a flask, grab some enamel mugs and enjoy an autumnal picnic with a truly warming beverage.
If you like seasonal cocktails, you might enjoy my Pinterest Board, Cocktail Love which is kind of my happy place to cruise for new drink ideas. You can also pin this post thanks to the handy image below:
A few month's ago I was lucky enough to be invited to curate a knitwear collection for Knit Now Magazine. Given a blank canvas, I suggested the concept of 'A Slow Moment'. The collection began from the words "Nest. Be still. Be creative & soak up some mid afternoon sun in sleek, comfortable knits". I gleefully filled a Pinterest board with beautiful blankets, this season's pastels and then a good slathering of rustic/ grey love for the designers to ponder. We then turned it over to the designers to see what they made of it.
As the pitches started to roll in, Kate, editor in chief at Knit Now, sent me an email "Do you think we should include a cookie recipe?"
The reply was simple.
"The answer is always yes to cookie recipes"
So I set about reworking my first ever recipe on this blog, Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies. In the interests of thoroughness, Little One and I made quite a few batches. Dutifully, my little girl taste tested each meticulously and I wondered if oatmeal cookies could replace an entire meal. When they're a little chewy and filled with Chocolate Orange, I think cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the only way to go.
When the time came to generate some suitable images for the publication, my mind drifted to cosy Sunday afternoons with legs curled beneath you and a stack of recipes books and knitting to plod through. I decided to shoot a little tin of the cookies at Deans Court as their recently renovated holiday cottages are the perfect backdrop for slow afternoons like these. I made tea. I nibbled cookies between shots. I pondered whether adding chocolate orange to everything was acceptable. (These are the places your mind goes when you spend time shooting knitwear and cookies.)
The cookies were such a hit that if you're in Wimborne over the next few weeks, you'll find the cookies featured in Squash Court, the wonderful kitchen garden cafe at Deans Court. They've even shared the recipe for these delicious treats on their blog.
If you're too weighed down by your knitting to bookmark them via Deans Court or pick up Issue 59 of Knit Now, you can pin this mini version included below. For the full method and all my tips for chewy oaty goodness please do check out Deans Court or Knit Now. If you want to see the amazing job the designers did with the design brief, drop over to the pattern pages on the Pinterest Board, A Slow Moment and pick up the latest issue of the magazine. It's a pretty special feature.
175g/ 6oz butter
275g/ 9 ½ oz Demerara sugar
1 medium egg
4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
350g/ 13 oz rolled oats (the less processed the better)
140 g/ 5 oz plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g Terry’s Chocolate Orange, chopped
55g Hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 180®c/ gas mark 4 and grease large baking sheet.
2. Cream butter and sugar together before beating in the egg, water, and vanilla essence.
3. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda before gradually stirring this into the butter mixture.
4. Once fully combined, fold in the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.
5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins or until cookies are golden brown.
And here's a handy pin for you to save for your next baking session:
Spring has been trying hard on the Isle and somewhere between flurries of sleet and sudden flooding there's been a few glorious hours of beautiful light most days. It's creeping further into the evenings and breaking a little earlier each morning too. Recently there's been a few afternoons where I've stood basking it in just for the joy of feeling the light making itself at home in our beautiful surroundings.
We popped out for a hike the other weekend with friends. Our children were bundled happily in slings on our backs and we tugged hats low over ears as the wind blasting in from the sea reminded us we've some way to go till Spring warmth yet. While cutting back through the woods on our way home though we spotted a sure sign of the new season tip toeing in: Wild Garlic. There's no mistaking the pungent aroma and my friend and I both dived onto the patch happily, taking enough for our needs while leaving the rest for other foragers to find. (For more information on responsible foraging, please see this great starter via Farm Stay UK)
The weather is still a little too cold to truly be Spring and with a weather forecast predicting more snow flurries I declared we needed to make the best use of our bounty. I grabbed some gardening gloves and gathered some of the newest shoots bursting up from the Nettles too. Satisfied with our first meal plucked straight from the earth, we headed for home and rich Chai teas or hot milks depending on the age bracket of forager.
Nettle is a wonderful plant to cook with. Picking the young leaves from the top adds a sort of sweetness to their taste that elevates it above the earthy green taste of Spinach. My daughter is a pesto (and pasta) addict so I decided to create a wild pesto that would keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge while the next cold front made us wonder if Spring is ever coming.
Smothering wholemeal pasta with the rich dark pesto and the kitchen filling with wafts of gutsy Wild Garlic and Nettle was so rewarding. We've since slathered it on chicken and even added a spoonful to mash. The taste of either plant is not enormously strong but the aroma is incredible and hints at good things to come once it's warm enough to uncover the BBQ and bring our bounty straight to the waiting grill.
If you would like to make some wild pesto, I can thoroughly recommend this recipe via the BBC. Due to the impromptu nature of our feast, I was low on pine nuts so here's my twist on ingredients but the method is the same:
Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto:
150g young nettle and wild garlic leaves (I didn't weight, but used about half a carrier bag full)
50g Parmesan, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
zest ½ lemon and a good few squeezes of juice
50g mixture of brazil and pine nuts
150ml rapeseed oil
Please remember that nettles will continue to sting even once plucked so gloves are advisable. Also, as with all foraged goods, a good thorough clean is essential.
1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then drop in the nettles and cook for 2 mins. Drain and run under cold water, then squeeze out as much water as possible and roughly chop them.
2. Put the nettles and raw wild garlic into a food processor, along with the Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest and nuts. Blitz to a rough paste.
3. Season, and with the motor running slowly, add almost all the oil. Taste, season and add a few good squeezes of lemon juice. Transfer the pesto to a clean jar and top with the remaining oil.
This keeps for about two weeks in the refrigerator if sealed well.
Another day, another gin cocktail. Let's all be grateful for good online friends who encourage a beautiful relationship with this refreshing beverage!
If you tuned in on Tuesday you will know that Thea Coleman (of Baby Cocktails) and I are taking part in a gin recipe swap to celebrate her new pattern releases, knit along and forthcoming trip to the UK. Yesterday, Thea served up a Strawberry Smash and wow is it summer in a glass! Today I'm taste testing Limoncello Gin with grilled Thyme thanks to the recipe I found here. Yes indeedy, grilled thyme.
So to recap why we are 'gin-ing':
There is KAL for all the new patterns Thea has just launched. They're all named with her forthcoming trip to the UK in mind. Details of the KAL can be found here on her blog, BabyCocktails. (This week's prize is vintage cocktail glasses- swoon!)
Thea and I have joined forces to create a cocktail recipe Swap on Ravelry and there's so many yummy drinks in there already! Post any of your favourite gin recipes in the thread for a chance to win random PDF giveaways of Thea's gin-based drinks all week. (If you are planning to join us at YAK on the 11th of July, bring a recipe on an index card for a fun activity on the day of the trunk show which you can find details of here).
Blog Recipe Swap - My post is the last of our part in the recipe swap but you can find them all pinned on my Pinterest board here: ZING! That's Refreshing.
Now for the limoncello and gin verdict....
Well I was a little unsure about the lemons, limes on top of gin AND grilled thyme. Gin is a complex beast with juniper being the main flavour but up to 10 other botanicals that create a unique character for each gin when it's distilled. However, this does mean that you can tailor your gin to suit your mixer, making it a good friend to bring to any party. I know you're not judging me for bringing my friend gin to a party. Thank you.
For this blend I chose Bombay Sapphire as lemon peel is one of it's main botanicals after junpier. It worked well and grilling the thyme gets a big thumbs up in this camp.
Limoncello Gin Cocktail with Grilled Thyme
You will need:
2 large sprigs fresh thyme; more for garnish
1/2 fl. oz. (1 Tbs.) fresh lime juice
1-1/2 fl. oz. (3 Tbs.) gin,
1/2 fl. oz. (1 Tbs.) limoncello
- Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for direct cooking over medium-high (500°F) heat. Grill the thyme sprigs until fragrant and lightly charred, (about 15 seconds).
- In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, gently muddle the grilled thyme with the lime juice.
- Add the gin and limoncello and fill the shaker with ice. Stir well.
- Strain into a chilled glass filled with fresh ice, garnish with thyme, and serve.
An Update: Since writing this recipe, it's been featured all over the internets and Pinterest fans have flooded in- thank you! I have other cocktail recipes on the blog which I add to each season and if you're a real cocktail addict, you might like my Pinterest board:
Sometimes you get asked to collaborate and amazing things happen. In this case, Thea of Baby Cocktails, was excited about her upcoming trip to the UK and we hatched a plan to celebrate that. It involved gin and the world was a happy place. I've always liked Thea, gin has only confirmed we were meant to be online friends.
So what's going on?
Firstly there is KAL for all the new patterns Thea has just launched. They're all named with her forthcoming trip to the UK in mind. Details of the KAL can be found here on her blog.
Secondly, Thea and I have joined forces to create a cocktail recipe Swap on Ravelry and there's so many yummy drinks in there already! Post any of your favourite gin recipes in the thread for a chance to win random PDF giveaways of Thea's gin-based drinks all week. (If you are planning to join us at YAK on the 11th of July, bring a recipe on an index card for a fun activity on the day of the trunk show which you can find details of here).
Blog Recipe Swap - read along as Thea and I trade gin recipes on our blogs this week. Thea kicked things off with her Greyhound cocktail yesterday and I'm adding to the Great Gin Off with today's goodie, Cucumber Basil G&T.
Now for the recipe part from me today. Cheers!
Cucumber Basil G&T
3 oz gin (I chose Hendricks as it goes so well with cucumber)
2 oz Elderflower cordial
Juice of 1 lime
3 sprigs basil, plus more to garnish
Tonic (I love Fevertree)
1. Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin ribbons of cucumber and place in your cocktail glasses. 2. Take 5-6 chunks of cucumber, squeeze the lime juice into a cocktail shaker and add the gin, elderflower cordial and basil.
3. Muddle the ingredients well, and then add ice.
4. Shake well, then pour to divide between 2 glasses. Top up with tonic and garnish with basil.
It started with some chives. I was trying to explain to the Tot how delicious chives are as we pottered around the garden this weekend. She remains suspicious of anything green so I wondered how I could cook them in a way she would give them a try and not lead to a long conversation about why she wasn’t going to try them.
This is getting to the Nutella, I promise.
It was perfect timing then that I opened this month’s copy of The Simple Things Magazine and found a ‘Tea Treats’ feature hosted by the blogger Ms Marmite Lover. Included in the selection of treats were cheese and herb muffins which gave us a great excuse for a little harvesting in the herb patch. The Tot helped create the muffins and only mild carnage followed.
It was while tidying away and idly flipping through other recipes in the magazine that I found the recipe for Homemade Nutella. I did a little happy dance when I recognised at least 3 ingredients that I had there and then which meant I could make chocolate spread! (To be fair, one of the ingredients was sea salt so let’s not be too impressed by my larder).
As is often the case when I start baking, half way through the process I realised I only had half of the correct ingredients and even then, not at the correct quantities. So what now follows is my successful solution to this problem so that you too can have homemade Nutella. I kept some quantities the same such as sea salt as I like a little savoury mixed in with sweet and I made sure it was a little crunchier than recommended because that’s how the Tot and I like peanut butter.
It’s a game changer.
I am an affiliate for The Simple Things because I love gardening, cooking, travel and the comfort to be found in a seasonal look at the gentler things in life. If you’d like to subscribe, please feel free to do so here (affiliate link).
Emergency Rations Homemade Nutella
150g whole hazelnuts
200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. icing sugar
½ tbsp. hot chocolate powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Pop the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to scorch.
3. While those are roasting, melt the chocolate.
4. Once the hazelnuts are ready and cool enough to handle, rub them with a rough paper towel to encourage the skins to flake away. You can peel off whatever is missed as you pop them into a blender.
5. Blend along with all other ingredients and distil into jars trying not to lick your fingers too much.
Should keep for about a month in the fridge although I’d suggest you need to eat it up sooner because it’s delicious.
The Tot agrees…
I'm fairly sure that my cravings run a little differently to other people. While I'm in no doubt that there are many who understand certain food fixes, mine run deeper and stronger than your average chocolate-bar-on-the-run kind of deal. When it comes to food cravings, I get a little.... obsessive.
It started with blue cheese. I had a sudden thought about blue cheese: its white creamy texture with chalky, flaky blue mould that makes it sour and sharp all at once. I love it. Then I started thinking about its appearance: the colour of the mould and I suddenly had to have green soup. I pondered making some Broccoli and Stilton Soup but I realised I wanted MORE green. I jumped from mould, to sharp, to green to MORE GREEN. My stomach demanded all these thoughts be heard.
I also can't get behind smooth soups. For example, I find it really hard to muster the same enthusiasm for a parsnip puree over a chunky summer minestrone. Every recipe I found for Broccoli and Stilton called for potatoes to be added to thicken the smoothness. I wasn't ok with that. I rummaged around and settled on my own spin that shall henceforth be known as Green Soup in this house.
There's lot of greens that make for good soup. I'm a sucker for a good celery base and eyeballed some Kale in my fridge that was intended for smoothies later in the week. Go with your gut. Think Green. Think Cheesy. Let me know if you enjoy this!
You will need-
- 2 tbsp good oil (I used cld pressed Olive oil)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, sliced
- 1 knob butter
- 1l low salt vegetable stock
- 1 head broccoli, roughly chopped
- 100g approx of Spinach, roughly chopped
- 150g approx of blue cheese (I used Castello this time), crumbled
- Heat the oil in a pan and then add the onions. Cook on a medium heat until soft.
- Add the celery, broccoli stalks and the butter. Stir until melted, then cover with a lid. Allow to sweat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid.
- Pour in the stock and cook for 5 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.
- Add the rest of the broccoli and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add in the spinach for another 5 minutes.
- Strain off stock, being careful to reserve this liquid and add about half of the solid vegetables to a blender and pulse till lightly chopped but not smooth. Return all the vegetables to the pan and stir the reserved stock back in too. You should have a medium lumpy soup if you're as finicky as I am.
- Stir in the blue cheese, allowing a few lumps to remain. Season with black pepper and serve.