Monday, 26 April 2010

The Garden 2010 – At the beginning…

Nothing can beat going out into your garden to pick, dug up or collect fruit and vegetables that you have grown with your own fair hands.  Or going into the garden and snipping some fresh home grown herbs.  Then taking all this fabulous produce into your kitchen, and creating something tasty, delicious and very fresh.  Well, to be honest, I don’t actually know if this is the case as I have never had the opportunity to do this before.

Back in March, driving back from a trip up on the Yorkshire Moors, we stopped at Castle Howard.  This is a stunning 18th-Century residence, with luxurious interiors and over 1,000 acres of stunning landscapes.  It also has a fantastic farm shop, selling produce and meat from the Estate.  On the Estate grounds is a plant centre, and it was there while looking through the centre, I picked up a seed catalogue.  The intention was just to find a few herb seeds, as I wanted to grow herbs that I use on a regular basis (Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley and Coriander).  As I said, that was the intention.  While flicking though this catalogue, I come across a range of seeds that immediately grabbed my attention.

My Garden (4)

You see, we have a very small garden.  One that is not any good for growing any type of vegetables.  The vast majority of the garden is patio or brick paved.  So there lied the problem of wanting to grow your own vegetables.  That was until I found this particular range of seeds – Kew Urban Garden Collection.  These are designed by Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, so that they can be grown in small pots, containers or windowsills.  Happy days!!

Seeds in Pot

I also purchased a selection of herb seeds from Duchy Originals.  Once ordered on-line, I waited in anticipation for them to arrive, as I know some of these really should have already been planted.  So that was it, once they arrived, I was away in the garden with pots, seeds and compost.  So which seeds do I currently have growing?  This is what I have planted:


Fruit & Vegetables


Beetroot (Cardinal F1 Hybrid) Rosemary
Carrot (Atlas) Basil
Leek (Lancelot) Coriander
Lettuce (Dazzle) Flat-Leaf Parsley
Spring Onion (Pompeii) Chives
Parsnip (Arrow) Thyme
Mangetout (Sugar Snow Green) Sage
Spinach (Picasso F1 Hybrid)  
Tomato (Sweet ‘n’ Neat)  
Turnip (Atlantic)  
Pepper (Sweet Ingrid)  
Radish (Amethyst)  
Salad Leaves (Cut ‘n’ Come Again)  


Actually I haven’t yet planted the Spinach or Lettuce – will get onto those two this weekend.  I need to get a few more pots to grow those in, I have used up all the ones I’ve got.  As I had so many seeds, I thought I would plant some of them for friends.

Seeds for friends

Some of the seeds are unable to be planted directly outside straight away.  The windowsill in my bedroom has now become a make-shift greenhouse, which hasn’t gone down to well!

Pots on the windowill

We also have a furry little visitor that likes to come into the garden on a regular basis, who likes to dig up any pots that don’t appear to have anything in them.  So needed to do a little bit of squirrel proofing on the pots.

Squirrel Proofing

Now it’s a waiting game.  Waiting to see those first shoots appear, waiting to see if anything will actually grow and then waiting for everything to be ready.  I will post updates on how they are all growing.  Then, once they are ready to be harvested, tasty recipes using these vegetables and herbs.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Chocolate Fudge Easter Cakes

Some things you make for the first time, and you know that every year they will become a tradition – and these will be one of them. I first made these last year – in fact I had to make them 4 times at Easter. They are that good!!

One thing I will insist if you make these…..use the best chocolate and cocoa you can get. I used Green & Blacks Cocoa and Green & Blacks Milk Chocolate – I suggest you do to, the difference is remarkable.

These I also made for A Slice of Cherry Pie’s annual Easter Cake Bake.

Chocolate Fudge Easter Cakes

Makes 16

For the Cakes

280g Butter, soft

280g Golden Caster Sugar

6 Eggs, medium

200g Self-Raising Flour

50g Green & Blacks Cocoa, sifted

For the frosting

170g Green & Blacks Milk Chocolate

170g Butter, soft

280g Icing Sugar, sifted

Mini Eggs to decorate

:: Preheat your oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5. Place the butter and golden caster sugar in a mixing bowl, and cream together.

:: Mix in the 6 eggs, and beat in well.

:: Mix in the self-raising flour, then mix in the cocoa.

:: Line muffin tins with 16 muffin cases, and fill each case to just two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for 15-18 mins until risen. Test with a skewer, if when inserted it comes out clean, they are ready. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

:: While the cakes are cooling, time to make the frosting. Cream together the butter and the icing sugar.

:: Melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a small amount of watering simmering in a saucepan. Once melted, leave to cool for a couple of minutes.

:: Add the melted chocolate into the creamed butter and icing sugar, and mix in well.

:: Place the frosting into a piping bag, and pipe onto the cooled cakes. (Please excuse my poor piping skills – need lots of practice on this!)

:: Decorate your cakes with a selection of different treats – malteasers, foil wrapped chocolate eggs etc. I used Mini Eggs, and Teeny Weeny Mini Eggs.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Hot Cross Buns and an apology

OK, I need to first say sorry for not being around recently. I have had several things that have kept me away, including a very busy time at work. Pants I know, so I am determined to make and find time. Having already failed on my New Years Resolutions (bad person!), I will try and pick these back up.

During Easter, there are two traditions when it comes to baking in my kitchen, and one of those is Hot Cross Buns. These are in Britain traditionally eaten hot or toasted for breakfast on Good Friday. In Christian countries, the cross on the top of the bun stands as a symbol of The Crucifiction. I am not a religious person – and in fact there are some suggestions now that Hot Cross Buns actually pre-date Christianity, I do like the tradition of making and eating these on Good Friday, and what they symbolise for many people.

Eat these just simply toasted, with really good butter and a cup of tea!

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 16

500g Strong White Bread Flour

½ tsp Salt

85g Light Muscovado Sugar

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp Mixed Spice

½ tsp Grated Nutmeg

50g Butter, cut into small pieces

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

7g sachet Easy-Blend Yeast

45g Currants

45g Sultanas

45g Raisins

300ml Half Milk, Half Water

3 tbsp Plain Flour

3 tbsp Golden Syrup

:: Place the flour, sugar, salt and spices into a large bowl and mix.

:: Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips. Stir in the dried fruit, yeast and lemon zest.

:: Warm the milk and water mixture until it is body temperature, and stir into the flour to make a soft dough.

:: Turn the dough out onto a surface that has been lightly floured, and knead for 5 mins. The dough is ready when it is smooth and no longer sticky.

:: Divide into 16 equal size pieces and shape into a ball. Easiest way is to cut the dough in half, then each half in half again, then each of those into half again, and finally each of those into half.

:: Place in rows on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of oiled cling film, and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 hours

Before rising:

After rising:

:: Heat an oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6. Now make the mixture for the cross by blending the flour together with cold water in a bowl to create a smooth paste. Place into a piping bag, and pipe a cross on each of the buns (alternatively use a small food bag, fill with the paste and snip off the corner). Back in the oven for 15-18 mins until they are nicely browned.

:: Once cooked, place the Hot Cross Buns on a wire rack to cool, and gently heat the syrup. Once gently warmed, brush over the buns and serve.