We’ve been doing a little bit of early gardening. In the pots pictured above are: red chilli seeds bought for 10p last autumn from Asda, coriander seeds from a Thompson and Morgan sale (their special offers are always worth checking out though we also saved the seeds from last year’s coriander and will be doing later plantings with them), rosemary that we grew from cuttings (so easy, just snip healthy looking bits and stick them in pots or the ground), and some thyme that was reduced to 30p in Tesco last year. These herbs have survived the winter well.
Fruit crumble is a wonderfully frugal dish. You can use virtually any fruit (perhaps not banana!) and it’s a good way to use up items that might be passing their best. Summer brings luscious pink rhubarb, perfect for crumble. Autumn delivers apples and blackberries/brambles, also delicious. Here is a basic recipe for a combination of rhubarb and apples, adjust as you require:
2 or 3 apples, peeled and chopped (if you use eating apples you could reduce the sugar slightly)
4 or 5 sticks of rhubarb, chopped into chunks
4 tablespoons of sugar
Surprisingly, rose petals combine with rhubarb to give a beautiful flavour.
100g. flour (for a gluten-free version use Doves Farm gluten-free flour)
75g. vegetable margarine
optional additions: grated lemon rind, sunflower seeds, rolled oats.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Place the fruit in an ovenproof dish and top with the sugar. For the topping: rub the flour into the margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and any other additions and place evenly over the filling. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about half an hour or until everything is bubbling: crispy on top, soft below. Lovely with custard or ice cream.
If you like this, you may also like our recipe for Apple Pie
Underground, overground, brambling free! The brambles of Wimbledon Common are we…
I don’t know if Wimbledon Common is a good source of brambles (blackberries) but many hedgerows are this time of year, and that means: fruity purple cakes. With chocolate chips. Just because.
Bramble Chocolate Chip Cakes
300g Doves Farm Gluten free Self Raising flour
100g caster sugar
a couple of handfuls of freshly picked brambles
about a third of a cup of soya milk
about a third of a cup of sunflower oil
100g of chocolate chips (we used Moo Free)
water to mix to a good thick batter – though you don’t want it too runny
Mix the flour, chocolate chips and sugar together (keep some chips back for sprinkling on top). Blend up the brambles with the soya milk and mix this in along with the oil, adding some water if the batter is too thick. It should be purple!
Divide between 12 cake or muffin cases. Place in a muffin tin if using paper ones; silicone reusable cases are better in many ways, not least of which is that the cakes will not stick to them like glue as gluten-free mixes are prone to do. Top with the remaining chips. Bake at 200C/400F for 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and browning. And slightly purpling!
Very simple, the main ingredient of dandelion fritters is free and surprisingly delicious! The flowers have a slightly bitter juiciness to them that is rather pleasant.
Gather as many freshly opened dandelion heads as you want small fritters. Give good shake outside in case of insects and wash and dry under cold water. Mix a pancake batter up: place a cupful or so of self raising flour into a bowl then gradually add soya milk (probably about half a cup) while whisking with a fork until you have a nice thick batter.
Heat a small amount of of veg oil (really just enough to coat the base of the pan) to a medium heat in a frying pan and then fry the fritters. I found it easiest to throw one flower at a time into the mix, coating it well with batter and then taking it out in a spoonful, and popping it all in the pan. They cook quite fast – once small holes begin to appear on the pancakes flip them over with a fork and cook the other side.
Variants: this basic pancake mix can be used to house many different things – try chopped onion with other finely chopped vegetables (beetroot makes pink ones!) or make herby fritters.
Wild garlic pesto is a much eaten dish in this house in spring. Wild garlic grows wild in woodland areas. It is best harvested in April and May before the flowers are fully out, but still good after then. Easily identifiable by their strong garlic scent, the leaves are good in a variety of dishes. Try them in soups, stews, sauces, anywhere you want a garlic flavour. The flowers are also good to add to cooking or fry into fritters.
For the pesto: gather a couple of bunches of wild garlic leaves, wash, place in blender with small bag of nuts or seeds such as pinenuts, brazils, cashews, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, gradually adding enough olive oil to blend smoothly as you go. Once blended, mix into pasta. Pictured served with salad and some sesame seeds stirred in.
Variations: you can use traditional basil or other herbs instead of or as well as wild garlic adding lemon juice lessens the amount of oil needed other nice inclusions are nettles (yes really) and black pepper pesto is also nice mixed into boiled potatoes, in sandwiches, or diluted with vinegar/lemon juice and made into a salad dressing.
a handful or two of cashew nuts depending how creamy you want it
salt to taste
Place carrots and celery in a pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and turn down to simmer for a few minutes. Add the wild garlic and cook for a few minutes more, until everything is tender. Pour into blender jug with nuts and salt. Blend and enjoy.
Tips: If your blender is not very strong, try soaking the cashews in water overnight to soften them. You can use 3 or 4 cloves of normal garlic in place of the wild garlic. Add a bunch of coriander for a popular classic!
Food for Free by Richard Mabey is a great guide to Britain’s wild
foods. A favourite reference tool of ours, detailing wild herbs,
berries, greens, sea vegetables and fungi.
Growing your own food forest does not have to be hard work, nor do you have to own a massive garden to achieve it. You work with what space is available – you can even make a mini ‘forest’ of herbs and sprouts on a windowsill – and do what you have time for.
We’re gradually changing the grass/food ratio in our own garden. We built some raised beds out of old roofing tiles.
Kale is one tough cookie. It does well here in Northern Scotland and continues to produce leaves for two years.
A cheap packet of lettuce seeds from Lidl was sprinkled all over this (non-raised) new bed this year and two courgette plants were popped in among it. They’re doing really well. We use the lettuce in a ‘cut and come again’ way as you get a higher yield that way. It just keeps going.
Potatoes are a really easy crop to grow. This year we planted mainly shops ones that had sprouted at the back of the fridge so they really didn’t cost anything and they have produced well. Admittedly, the Pentland Javelins we bought as seed potatoes have been somewhat more abundant.
Potatoes can also be grown in containers or even a bag of compost. We know one lady who threw some old sprouted ones into a half used bag of compost and left them all summer to find masses of lovely new tatties in the autumn.
We like to mix things up and plant a few flowers between. They’re good for attracting bees. Nasturtiums are also edible. Pallet bench in background…
Fruit bushes and trees are well worth the initial investment as they go on giving forever more and create shelter and the ‘foresty’ aspect of your food forest. Birds seem quite good at ‘planting’ the blackcurrant seeds; we’ve had some new ones come up in odd corners of the garden. They’re very low maintenance.
‘How to Grow Your Own Food: A Week-by-week Guide to Wild Life Friendly Fruit and Vegetable Gardening’ by Dirty Nails. This fabulous book takes you through the year, detailing what you can be planting, preparing, harvesting etc. each week. Humorously written, lots of information on wildlife is given throughout such as facts about badgers, woodpeckers and cuckoos. The book is very well indexed and has some lovely fruit and vegetable recipes too. A user-friendly title that’s sure to help you maximise your garden’s food production. Buy UK
‘Forest Gardening’ by Robert A de J Hart. Here the author details his garden – a miniature forest filled with an abundance of things to eat. This is low maintenance gardening once established with trees, bushes and perennial plants which provide both shelter and food. Included are recommended plants for different regions of the world – this book is a huge resource of information and inspiration. Buy UK
Creating a Forest Garden: Forest gardening is a novel way of growing edible crops – with nature doing most of the work for you. A forest garden is modelled on young natural woodland, with a wide range of crops growing in different vertical layers. Unlike in a conventional garden, there is little need for digging, weeding or pest control. Buy UK
Nettle soup is a traditional springtime dish, eaten for both its nutrition and taste. Don’t worry – nettles don’t sting when cooked!
Don’t gather nettles or other wild food beside a busy road where it will have been contaminated by traffic fumes. If you keep cutting them you’ll get a regular supply of fresh young leaves, though they can get a bit insect infested during the summer! The older leaves are not good to eat and are hard on the digestive system.
Below are two different recipes for soup.
A ‘cream of’ style nettle soup
2 tablespoons of vegetable margarine or oil
2 tablespoons of white flour
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Freshly picked and washed young nettles (several good handfuls – picked with gloves and caution!)
2 cups soya milk (tesco value is cheap and organic too) OR a handful of soaked cashew nuts
1 cup water or stock
salt and pepper to taste
Fry the onion and garlic in the oil or marg. for a few minutes then stir in the nettles (no need to chop or remove stalks) until they soften. Stir in the flour and gradually add the soya milk and water or stock, stirring all the time. Add seasonings and blend.
Soup with nettles and potatoes
Ingredient quantities are totally adjustable:
Do an onion and 5 garlic cloves in some oil. Add half head of celery and two potatoes, cover with water, bring to boil and simmer till soft. Then add the gathered nettles, some sage and parsley (feel free to experiment with other herbs but sage is great in this), a stock cube and salt to taste. Cook for for a few minutes and blend.
Food for Free by Richard Mabey is a great guide to Britain’s wild foods. A favourite reference tool of ours, detailing wild herbs, berries, greens, sea vegetables and fungi.
Spring has finally arrived, and we couldn’t be happier. The wild garlic is through in the woods, the crocus and snowdrop flowers are beautiful… though we still need the log-burner on of an evening here in Scotland.
Recipes using wild garlic: pesto and creamy carrot soup We’ve also been adding it to sauces and stews.
What strange times we are living through. We very much hope that you are all well and safe and have plenty to eat and plenty of, the now most popular item in Britain, toilet roll!
Our recipe selection this time focuses on two things: immune support and meals from store cupboard ingredients.
First the immune system: Wild Garlic Pesto – can be made with standard garlic too, both being anti-infective and immune boosting. Nettle Soup – eat up those nutrients! And enjoy the anti-inflammatory properties of nettle (just poking through the ground now). Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage – a brand new recipe on the site, this one, super cheap and also rich in nutrients.
And if you want to stock those cupboards up, it’s better to do it somewhere that is set up for the purpose, rather than depleting the stocks that everyone needs. Approved Food is one such bargain place, selling soap and cleaning products too. And sometimes even toilet roll! Their stock changes daily.
Still a bargain for a traditionally published book at £2.99 for the
ebook, our founder’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an
often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations,
in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.