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
Today I'm sharing an interview with Claire Thomson, cookbook author, food writer and mother of 3. I invited Claire on to the podcast as a way of exploring how we make food a very normal and nurturing thing in the home. I've always been endlessly fascinated by the way families observe meal times and the attitudes we form to food based on our own family values. It’s something we can carry with us for life and for normalising food is at the core of my beliefs. For some of us who have experienced eating disorders, food might even have become the enemy. (If that is you, may I recommend connecting with Mind, B-eat or visiting your family doctor. Know that you are not alone in your struggle and it can stop.)
Claire is on a mission to make food a level playing field, a force to bring together every member of our family, friends and community wherever possible. When she wrote her first book, The 5 O’Clock Apron, she did so as a way of documenting family life and her new-born child’s first year. The food they ate that year is shared with good intent and it’s a cookbook I’ve turned to regularly in recent months.
You can find Claire online:
On the podcast, Claire shares a family favourite, 'Broccoli Pesto Pasta'. This is a really quick dish where you boil pasta and broccoli together in the pan. The broccoli softens so much that it flecks through the pasta, creating a rich dish that you can layer up with more flavourings as your child wishes. Soften garlic in the pan, add some herbs and lemon juice and give it all a good mix. There's more detail in the podcast but it really is that simple! My daughter particularly loves the layering idea Claire describes in this podcast too- bowls of little flavourings to add as she wishes.
Here's a handy graphic if you want to pin this recipe to remember later:
Music is 'Far from Yesterday' by Amy Stroup via Noisetrade.
Podcast creation support by my producer, Chris Muldoon.
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:
"I like to think of my little pots of preserve as little soldiers that I'm sending out into the world"- Kylee Newton
In this episode I’m sharing an interview with Kylee Newton of preserving company Newton and Pott as well as author of the book The Modern Preserver. I fell in love with Kylee's incredible intuition for flavour when someone gifted me a jar of relish a few years ago. Once I bought her book, The Modern Preserver, the deal was sealed. Kylee is a career changer, traveller and food adventurer so she seemed like such a great fit for this exploration of every day adventure on the podcast. I loved chatting with her for this podcast and I’m sure you’ll come away eager to explore new flavours too!
Kylee's tips for getting started with preserving:
1. Start with pickling- Vinegar is already a sterile environment to begin with so this is a good simple starter.
2. Follow simple food hygiene rules- clean hands, clean tools and jars. Warm soapy water works wonders!
3. If you’re worried, pop your preserve in the fridge to make sure it lasts.
4. Don’t be afraid! You know if something has gone off so trust your instincts.
5. If you’re making a jam or chutney put them into the hot jars and steal straight away to create a sterile environment.
One thing I've missed terribly this past year is growing produce for my family. There's a true joy in tending crops, soothing myself by digging hands into soil, learning from fresh challenges brought about by new weather patterns or pests. The best part though was always taking that all back to the table where a curious 3 year old will try something just because she's seen it grow. My daughter's curiousity about the changing flora and fauna in our new rural home is increasing almost daily but the joy of the first harvest of cucumber or potatoes will be much missed this year.
It seemed inevitable therefore, that I made a beeline for local growers when we landed in Dorset back in November. I've been enjoying getting to know whose bees produce honey for our toast, and whose eggs are the best in the honesty box stretch we cruise regularly. When I stumbled over Goldhill Organics though, I had a feeling I was going to become loyal to their efforts very quickly. I'm delighted that my hunch proved correct.
We now enjoy a regular supply of seasonal organic produce thanks to their vegetable box scheme. I tear open the box weekly and snap off stalks of celery to feed Little One who has undoubtedly appeared from nowhere to scrounge as I unpack. The family have been growing at Goldhill Organic Farm for over 25 years and it's a story of true passion that I've been dying to find out more about.
Last Sunday, I packed Little One and I into a hot car and drove across beautiful countryside to visit their property as part of Open Farm Sunday. Open Farm Sunday is a charity event, encouraging visitors to learn about production in farms all over the country. From our first experiences of lambing this year, I knew it was something that would fascinate both my daughter and I so I was excited to attend.
In between fields of cattle grazing, a prehistoric hillfort and meadows, is the farm itself. A family effort that has grown to the productive size it is today, Goldhill Organic Farm represents the word I've come to associate with our new environment: abundant. I stood enchanted as I watched fat bees buzz happily around some of the biggest Chive flowers I've ever seen and Little One helped herself to the coriander bed much like a child in a candy store. It's a magical place.
The cafe and courtyard provided welcome relief after a fascinating, if slightly sweltering, tour of the raised beds and polytunnels. We treated ourselves to delicious ice creams from the retro van, stocked up on a little more produce from the farm shop and visited the studios on site. Local artists demonstrated glass blowing and their stunning paintings for visitors to enjoy and the atmosphere was a refreshing mix of nurturing and enthusiastic.
When I began The Maker's Year, back in January, these were the stories I wanted to sniff out: local producers creating something truly magical that was sustainable and nurturing to both communities and the environment. Standing in the courtyard, I watched my daughter running excitedly in circles (thanks ice cream), families laughing together, farm members chatting about challenges and victories from this year's efforts and I knew I'd taken another step closer. There is something very special indeed about reconnecting with a growing cycle and knowing why this year the asparagus struggled but the beans have grown wild. I appreciate the fresh new crops just that little more and try to elevate my day to day cooking to make the most of it.
It's really added to the pleasure of collaborating with the team for the new monthly recipes I'm developing as part of the Patreon rewards for the podcast. Each month, I'll be treating subscribers to a recipe that is seasonal, easy to achieve and includes tips for family meal times. I knew that these wonderful producers would provide just the inspiration I needed and Sunday's visit confirmed it. I'll be sharing sneak peaks of ingredients and trips to Goldhill Organic regularly on Snapchat, Twitter etc and you can also grab the monthly recipe by joining the A Playful Day community over on Patreon.
Do you love growing produce? I know a lot of you do. Tell me how it's gone this year. I love these stories!
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:
The A Playful Day podcast is powered by listeners. If you like what you hear and would love to be a part of this podcasts growth, please consider pledging support via Patreon where you’ll find me as a creator, A Playful Day.
"Blood Orange- like regular orange, only with a little extra magic"
This week, I'm paying homage to the joy that is good seasonal produce and how to make the most of one of my favourite seasonal fruits, the Blood Orange.
I share details of 3 recipes I've enjoyed making:
Blood Orange Curd (recipe resource, The Modern Preserver via Newton and Pott)
The Maker's Year has 3 Pinterest boards:
I do hope you enjoy this seasonal food inspiration and if you make anything inspired by today's episode, perhaps you will join us in documenting your making using #themakersyear hashtag. To find out more about this seasons creativity prompt, please visit the first episode of season 1, here
If you’ve been enjoying the new feel to APD, please consider leaving your review on itunes- it really does help move the podcast up the charts so others can find us and join the conversation.
Subscribers news: The snail mail cards have arrived and will go in the post next week. If you've signed up to this reward on Patreon, expect your love letter to creativity soon!
Outro music featured is 'Gonna Let my Soul Catch my Body' by Over the Rhine via Noisetrade
Show produced and edited by Chris Muldoon.
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.