How I Make Easy Stock from Kitchen Scraps

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! 

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Open Farm Sunday

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. 

produce growing at Goldhill Organics

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. 

OPen Farm Sunday decorations
Open Farm Sunday decorations
Open Farm Sunday details

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. 

retro ice cream van

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. 

Studio open day for Open Farm Sunday

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 Slow Moment

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" 
Baking cookies

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. 

Little One Taste testing cookie recipe

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. 

Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

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. 

Ingredients

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

Method

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:

Chocolate Orange & Hazelnut Cookie recipe Via A Playful Day

Chocolate Orange & Hazelnut Cookie recipe Via A Playful Day

Wild Garlic & Nettle Pesto

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. 

Spring Approaching on the Isle of Purbeck
Sheep on the Isle golden light
Sheep on the Isle of Purbeck golden light 1

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)

Wild garlic growing on the Isle of Purbeck

Wild garlic growing on the Isle of Purbeck

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 Recipe via A Playful Day

Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto Recipe via A Playful Day

Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto:

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.