Squash – Squashkin

What do you get if you cross a Butternut and a Crown Prince………?

A squashkin.

Pear Conference

Let’s have a conference about pears…..conference pears that is. Conference is the most widely grown pear in the UK, probably not because it is the finest tasting although it does have good flavour, but because it is easy to grow and easy to store. It is a true heritage pear though, being bred by one of the most famous Victoria fruit tree breeders, the Rivers nursery.

Apple Scrumptious

I have a confession to make. I am a bit of an apple traitor. Normally I would always say, buy local, buy British, support UK farmers. I should, as a Brit and the friend of an English apple farmer, be championing the cox or other apples grown here. However my favourite apple is Pink Lady an apple that is impossible to grow legally in the UK. The reason it is impossible is that it is still under plant breeders rights and the breeder will not allow it to be grown here as conditions are not ideal and they wish to maintain its premier image. So what to do?

Potato – Arran pilot

Growing your own has certain advantages, the sweetness of sweetcorn taken straight from the plant and plunged in to boiling water, peas eaten straight from the pod. A third is choosing plant varieties, many of which have superior eating qualities but do not store well so are not stocked by supermarkets.
Arran pilot is one of those. First developed in the 1930’s it was never commercially a success but is a favourite among allotmenteers. It is a first early potato so one of the earliest to be harvested, from about mid June but starts to deteriorate in flavour and texture within about 2 weeks of harvesting so the only way you will try it is if you grow your own.

Potato – Lady Christl

I’ve just dug up the last of my first early potatoes and will soon be moving on to the second earlies. This year my most successful first earlies were Lady Christl.   Slice Lady Christl open and you will see a buttery yellow interior. This butteriness is carried on in to the flavour. It’s reminiscent of the nations favourite Charlotte but not as sweet, instead there are slight parsley notes.

Potato – Rocket

There is something very satisfying about scraping back the soil to reveal your first potato harvest. If you just can’t wait to try your homegrown potatoes then a small sowing of Rocket may be for you. Rocket is a first early and is one of the earliest potato crops in the UK. It probably just pips Swift to the crown of earliest potatoes. Rock can be lifted, in warmer parts of the UK where frost protection has been given as early as late May, for most it will be about 10-12 weeks after planting.

Blueberry Herbert

If I were to ask you what the top ten selling items in a supermarket in the UK by value were many of you would guess milk, some chicken and you would be right but I wonder how many of you would guess blueberries? If you did, you would be correct. These little berries reputation as a “superfood” means these little bad boys fly off the shelves even though they are not cheap to buy fresh.

Tayberry Buckingham

One of the joys of this time of year is finding the little maroon gems of Tayberry Buckingham hiding in a secluded part of my garden. A cross between a raspberry and blackberry the Tayberry was developed in 1979 by Derek Jennings of the famous Scottish Research Institute and is named after the Scottish River Tay. Buckingham is the thornless variety.  Tayberries get the colour and a lot of the flavour from raspberry but the size and bite from the blackberry. You will not often see them in supermarkets due to their softness which makes them difficult to pick and store commercially so if you want to try them you will need to grow your own.

Wild Strawberry – White Soul

On writing this I am a little puzzled. I’ve had a little patch of white alpine strawberries for several years which I believed to be White Soul and if you google the variety a lot will be a small white alpine strawberry with yellow seeds. However when checking for UK suppliers I came across one with the same name but with pink seeds which look very pretty. The yellow seeded variety, possibly because of the very dry weather we have had doesn’t quite match up in the looks department, in fact they look decidedly second class however flavour wise they are a little bombshell.  I will buy some of the pink variety and let you know if there is a difference taste wise!

Patty Pan Sunburst F1

Back in the 1980.s a vegetable hit the local supermarkets and was super trendy for a while but now has largely vanished from the shelves, maybe because it doesn’t pack as well as baby courgettes or people found the yellow colour a little strange but the patty pan lives on in allotments and farmers markets.

Tomato – Sweet Aperitif

For many the choice of cherry tomatoes is either Sungold or gardeners delight but now there are a few red varieties of tomato that are rivalling gardeners delight for its crown which has lost the RHS award of garden merit. One of the new kids on the block which has been awarded the hotly contested award is Sweet Aperitif.

Chilli Lemon Drop

It is starting to heat up now in the UK with temperatures in the 20’s for the first time. It’s still far too cold for chillies to go outside but if you are anything like me your windowsills  will be groaning with chillies, peppers and tomatoes. I’m always on the look out for something a little unusual in the chilli department and I first picked up these lemon drop  (or Aji Limon) chillies a few years ago after seeing them recommended by  James Wong in his Grow for Flavour book so thought I would give it a go.

Chilli Padron

I had probably the last online delivery that us under 70 will get from a supermarket quite rightly a couple of weeks ago. As I’d been self isolating for two weeks I was incredibly lucky to get it. Part of the order was a packet of pardon peppers which I an my family adore. We…

Scorzonera

It’s not often that you would call a daisy ugly but Scorzonera, a member of the daisy family is a vegetable with a root that only a mother could love. Very popular in Victorian times when it was prized for its delicate flavour it has all but been replaced by the sweeter and more attractive…

Tomato – Roma

There are very few seed varieties that are 70 years old still in commercial production today but Roma tomatoes are one of them. First developed in the USA in the 1950’s, if you buy canned tomatoes for cooking then chances are it is Roma or one of its offspring like Roma VF, unless stated otherwise.

Potato Anya

Those of you who are not Sainsbury’s customers might never have heard of the potato Anya.

Anya was bred in 1996 by a collaboration between the Scottish Crop Research Institute and the Sainsbury’s family and was named after the former ballerina Lady Sainsbury. I’m not too sure how I would feel about having a potato named after me but she must have loved it as Sainsbury’s have been selling it ever since.

Potato Red Duke of York

The potato growing aficionados among you will probably already have scores of egg boxes sitting on your windowsills with potatoes “chitting” in the sunlight in preparation for this years planting.

Now is the time, if you haven’t already to buy potatoes. Leave them much longer and they will begin to sprout in the store bags and it then becomes a complicated entanglement to get them out of the netting that most are packaged in.

One of the more traditional varieties you can pick up still is Red Duke of York which was bred in the 1940’s as a sport from it’s older parent Duke of York. Red Duke of York is a first early and should start to be ready from mid to late July although they can be left longer to get to a baking size..  

Grow your own watercress

People have recognised the health benefits of watercress for centuries. Although the story that Hippocrates set up his first hospital by a spring in 400BC so armfuls could be grown to feed patients is probably false, it’s taken modern medicine a little while to catch up to the benefits of watercress. Eaten raw it releases mustard oils which cause it’s peppiness. These oils, similar to brassicas are antioxidant and may slow the growth of certain cancers. It is also high in vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.

Kale Afro

For those of you that grow your own you quite often find a packet of seeds at the bottom of your seed box that you don’t remember buying. I don’t know how I ended up with a packet of Afro seeds, possibly it was a free trial seed, certainly none of my usual seed merchants are selling it but I have found one supplier if you want to give it a go and I do think it is worth it.

Kale Cavolo Nero

Kale used to be one of the only fresh green vegetables that could be grown in the UK over winter and tough little numbers like Hungry Gap would brave out the winter frosts, snow and wind. The trouble is that toughness to survive a winter storm lead to toughness on the plate and once supermarkets started flying in vegetables from around the world people turned away from their less palatable staples. Kale was gradually abandoned and started to sink out of peoples memory.

It took  The River Cafe  which opened in the late 1908’s to bring kale back in to the spotlight but not any kale……..This was a kale of which we’d never seen in the UK before or if we had it had long gone out of production. The kale was Cavolo Nero

Beetroot – Boltardy

Christmas is over and there are only a few things still on the plot; kale, parsnips and beetroot. In the autumn you can lift beetroot to store in sand to see you over the winter but as our winters are getting milder and milder I generally take the risk and let them stand, only taking what I can eat in a week at a time.

It’s Christmas!

Today is Christmas Day. It’s definitely too late to be shopping so no Christmas Advent Calendar from me today. Instead a few photographs of Christmas past My local church in the snow. This is a 16th century grade 2 listed building built by the local landowner so his tenants didn’t have to cross a dangerous…

Mincepuffs

In the run up to Christmas things can be a bit challenging. This recipe didn’t quite go to plan as the puff pasty was a little more puffy than I was expected so instead of getting mini mince pies, I got mince puffs…but I didn’t have enough ingredients or time to remake them. But they still tasted good and so the mincepuff was born

Camembert and Cranberry Toasts

Do you want a tasty canapé that you can make in 15 minutes using items which at Christmas you probably have tucked away in your fridge? If so this is a great little canapé to use

Shallot Tart Tatin Roses

These look desperately impressive and taste fantastic but are actually very easy to do if you are buying your own pastry.

Southern Fried Cauliflower bites

I’ve covered these cauliflower florets in a southern spiced mix. The cauliflower is marinade overnight to extract some of the moisture from the cauliflower and add flavour. The marinade then helps to make the spice mix stick and I’ve added panko  (a very light dry breadcrumb) to ensure it is crispy.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Chilli Mayo

  This year I have bought some purple sweet potatoes to grow in the allotment.  I will probably grow them in the poly tunnel as they need a slightly better climate than the UK can offer, originally coming from central/South America. The purple sweet potato is one of the staples of the Okinawan diet in…

Quesadillas with refried beans

I found out today that quesadilla means little cheesy thing which I rather like. I like these too! Serves: 6-8 as an appetiser, 4 as a light lunch, 32 canapé 5 a day: 1 per quesadilla Time: 20 minutes Ingredients 8 medium corn tortilla Olive oil 1/2 onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 400g…

Not quite a Nacho Canapé

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Nacho cheese!

In this case though this a cheese-less nacho (except for the joke)!  Just one week until the big day! To celebrate we are swapping continents again and this time over to the America’s and specifically in this case to Mexico.

Kale Bhajias

I’m turning to another staple of the UK Indian restaurant for this canape/appetiser. We consume vast quantities of Bhaji in the UK but did you know that we’ve been spelling them wrong. The closest snack that they resemble is the bajji from the South West of India or the pakoda/pakora (still with me??)  from the North where apparently it is eaten during monsoon so what better way to cheer you up in the drizzly autumn and winter here.

Chilli Paneer

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that one of my favourite Indian dishes was actually Indochinese, an Indian homage to China, found in many Chinese restaurants in India. The Chinese equivalent I suppose or chips with curry sauce, the chow mien or the UK’s favourite dish, chicken tikka masala.

Papadam Bites

I bought a pot of  Coconut Collaborative natural yogurt the other day and loved it’s coconut flavour so was looking out for a recipe to use it in. This non cook canapé idea, inspired by the papadam you are served in nearly every Indian restaurant in the UK is perfect. If you don’t like coconut you could use normal yogurt or Oatly Oat Fraiche.

Polenta and Rosemary Fries

Polenta is one of those things that has definitely fallen out of fashion but I love it, not as a mashed potato style side but made firm and then fried and served with a variety of sauced from tomatoes to creamed fungi…..and maybe a shaving of truffles. Yum!

The secret to cook polenta is plenty of seasoning. Parmesan helps but if you are vegan you can substitute this for nutritional yeast which has a cheese flavour but is totally vegan.

Brave Potatoes

Having been a bit sniffy about deconstruct foods like deconstructed apple pie being blobs of apple, crumble and custard on a plate I’m going to give you today a deconstructed patatas bravas only so that you can use it as a canape. Pop a cocktail stick in to the potato to save your guests sticky fingers and use the tomato sauce as a relish, for this reason I’ve made it a bit more chunky than the traditional Madrid recipe which is more like a pouring sauce. For that reason I don’t think you can really call this Patatas Bravas but it’s really good,  trust me! 

Pea and Mint Bruschetta

oday I’m continuing on with the bruschetta theme, this time topped with peas and mint. The bonus of this is as long as you have some good quality bread, some frozen peas in the freezer and some sprigs of mint in the garden or in a pot then you can make this. Very useful if some unexpected guest turn up. If you are not needing to keep this vegan then you can include some Parmesan in the mix for added flavour and if you are not a big fan of mint then do not include it and top with some lightly toasted pine nuts instead.

Tomato Bruschetta

The origins of bruschetta are ancient, dating back probably to Roman times if not before and was either a way to revitalise stale bread or in it’s most basic form, bread, fire toasted with olive oil, a method to test the quality of olive oil. In London it, along with sun-dried tomatoes became super fashionable in the late 1980’s and early 90’s soon after the River Cafe (a famous Italian restaurant in London) shot to fame.

Pepper, Red Onion & Halloumi Skewers

  I’m cheating with this canapé a bit as it isn’t 100% vegan so doesn’t quite fit in with the advent plant based canapé theme for but you could swap the halloumi for firm tofu if you prefer. Again this is really simple to make and most can be prepared well in advance so all…

Falafel and Hummus Canapé

Normally at Christmas people would be cutting biscuits in to stars but I wondered whether you could do it to flat breads to give these canapés a bit more of a festive feel. I certainly had fun making them and they tasted great if I do say so myself. You can use pre bought hummus and falafel in which case this recipe should only take about 15 minutes to knock up.

Cucumber Hummus & Olive Canapé

This canapé is a twist on the hummus dip with crudités you often see at parties. It is probably one of the fastest and easiest canapé to put together and many will have all the ingredients in the fridge already. Buy the best quality olives you can and a good quality olive oil based hummus…

Vegetable Spring rolls

Today is my final day of asian inspired plant based canapé for the run up to Christmas. Vegetable spring rolls are often seen at parties and you can buy them in bulk from oriental supermarkets and many supermarkets party party selection. If you are serving vegan guests make sure that you check the packaging as they may sometimes contain egg. To make them stand out from the crowd, serve with a homemade dipping sauce and cut them with a pair of scissors on the diagonal. If you do want to have a go at making them yourself then follow the recipe below.