We’re lucky enough to have lots of wild garlic growing in parts of our garden. Before moving, we used to carefully forage in the wild for a few leaves to make pesto and garlic butter. Now that we have so much of it, we’ll be using it to make so much more… starting with this wild garlic & goats cheese soda bread.
This year, for some reason, we’ve left it a little late to harvest. Leaves should be picked before the flowers come into bloom; which generally happens in early May. If you’re picking in the wild, try to pick only a couple of leaves from each plant. Don’t exhaust the plant or leave massive bald patches in the woodland floor; don’t pick more than you need. For this recipe you only need a handful… only about a dozen or so leaves.
The goats cheese I used was quite a wet, gooey one but you could always use a more crumbly-textured kind. The flavours of the wild garlic and goats cheese really complement each other. While it was cooking, the cheesy, garlicky smell engulfing the kitchen was mouth-watering!
I like it still warm from the oven, with just a bit of butter spread over – melting into the crumb. Justin thinks it’s delicious with poached eggs, bacon or cooked ham.
Click here or on the image below to save my wild garlic & goats cheese soda bread recipe to Pinterest
Wild garlic & goats cheese soda bread
350ml/12fl oz buttermilk (or 330ml/11½fl oz full cream milk with the juice of a lemon stirred in)
200g/7oz wholemeal flour
200g/7 oz plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g/3½oz goats cheese, cubed
handful of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
If you don't have buttermilk, make something similar by stirring the juice of a lemon into full fat milk and allowing it to sit for about ½ an hour before use
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 5
Grease & line a baking sheet with parchment paper
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, bicarb and salt
Add the cubed goats cheese and chopped wild garlic leaves and toss to combine. Make a well in the middle
Pour in the buttermilk and bring the dough together. Don't overwork
Empty the dough out on to a well-floured work surface and form into a ball. Again don't overwork
Put the dough ball on to the prepared baking sheet. Score with a deep cross on top
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is a lovely golden brown
Take off the baking sheet on to a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes
Slice and serve warm
H is for Home Harbinger https://hisforhomeblog.com/
Growing your own veggies completely changes your relationship to health. It takes a lot of work to start a vegetable garden in your backyard. The typical household with a vegetable garden tends to have young children, as it’s a happy and exciting hobby for the whole family. Kids, especially, love to get involved with the gardening side of things. Even picky eaters are more likely to eat their greens when they’ve personally watched them grow. Even if you don’t have children, you’ll still notice positive transformations.
For a start, you’re more likely to pile more vegetables on your plate. There’s something joyful about preparing and cooking the produce that you’ve grown yourself. Comparatively, home-growers consume a lot more veggies than grocery shoppers. Additionally, you’ll save money on your food shopping bill. Small vegetable gardens may not make a big difference budget-wise, but you only need to grow a handful of vegetables to cut down on your supermarket spending.
However, the changes can also completely transform your household. There’s more to those tomato plants and beans than meets the eye.
You reshape the garden
Don’t assume that planting a few seeds in a row is going to be the beginning & end of your gardening journey. On the contrary, growing your own veggies encourages you to transform and redesign the garden to make the most of your plants. Depending on where you live, it might be a good idea to add protective barriers and layers to keep your vegetables safe from pests and bad weather. A greenhouse can be a fantastic addition to your garden. Greenhouses are especially useful if you live in a temperate climate that lacks sunshine, as they can help tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and other summer harvests to ripen. You also want a greenhouse to protect your plants throughout the colder months of the year, ensuring continuous access to fresh salad and vegetables. In climates prone to storms, heavy rain or strong winds, plantation shutters will keep your garden in tip-top condition.
If you’re concerned about insects eating your vegetables, planting some of your most vulnerable crops in raised beds can keep slugs, snails, caterpillars and other similar pests at bay.
You become plant smart
Growing vegetables teaches you a lot about Mother Nature’s goodness. For a start, amateur gardeners learn rapidly about companion planting, which leverages the deterring properties of one specific plant to protect the harvest of another. For instance, growing basil amongst your tomato crop will help ward off whitefly. Stinging nettle is a surprisingly popular choice among gardeners as it attracts butterflies, keeping them away from your precious lettuces! Nasturtiums are a favourite companion plant to beans as they attract aphids away from the food crop.
As you gain experience about gardening, you learn how to harness and utilise natural plant properties in your home. Lemon, for instance, can be juiced and used to clean your stainless steel appliances. Lemon also makes a delicious tea that can be fantastic against indigestion. You can pair it with grated ginger for best effects. The plants in your garden are full of surprises. Coriander, for example, can help aid digestion and even remove toxins from the body. For severe indigestion, peppermint helps relieve the discomfort from vomiting and stomach bloating. The more you learn about plants, the more you learn about ways of treating common complaints naturally.
You could even lose weight
How can growing your own vegetables help you lose weight? Eating fresh food that hasn’t been over-processed will help you get healthier. Indeed, as you eat more vegetables and home-cooked dinners, you’ll gradually consume fewer refined meals. Processed food is often high in additives and preservatives and may have lost many of its nutrients during preparation. Often, the more processed and junk food we eat, the more we crave it; it can be hard to break out of this unhealthy, vicious cycle. Natural, home-grown vegetables can be your saviour. Besides, it’s fair to say that the more you cook and eat home-grown, fresh vegetables, the less likely you are to want to snack between meals. In addition, vegetables can keep you feeling full for longer, compared to junk food!
You have more energy
Approximately 10% of Americans have a severe nutritional deficiency. Many more can experience mild symptoms of deficiency, which can be addressed with vitamin supplements. However, they don’t quite match the goodness of natural ingredients. The most common deficiencies in the US concern vitamin B6 which can be found in chickpeas and bananas. Iron deficiency is surprisingly prevalent among young children and women. However, eating home-grown spinach and broccoli can be enough to tackle it. Vitamin C can be found in many home-grown crops, from peppers to strawberries. Kale can be a fantastic substitute for people with lactose intolerance who also have a calcium deficiency. As you address the deficiency naturally, your body begins to feel healthier and more energetic.
You consider becoming self-sufficient
Growing your own vegetables is only the start of a long journey to self-sufficiency. For instance, you could choose to keep hens as well for the daily fresh eggs.
If you want to reduce your home & garden costs, install water butts to harvest rainwater and keep your mains water bills and consumption down. Be advised, you’ll need a specialist filter solution to be able to use rainwater inside your home.
Ultimately, the garden can convince you to take the first step toward a greener lifestyle. There are so many options available from this point onward. It’s up to you to decide whether you should install solar panels to produce your own energy, attempt to go plastic-free or endeavour to prepare all your own food from scratch.
As surprising as it sounds, growing your own veggies can completely transform your home, your lifestyle and your health. But one thing’s for sure; it will always be for the best!
Mushrooms are one of my favourite foods. There are so many varieties and they’re very versatile. They’re used in so many cuisines English, French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and so many others.
I love wild mushrooms, but am not confident enough in my fungi knowledge to forage and cook what I find. There are too many deadly lookie-likies!
White, button and chestnut mushrooms are very easy to get hold of, but more specialist ones such as ceps, multi-coloured oysters and are more tricky to find. The solution? Homegrown mushroom kits!
I recently bought some of the dowels mentioned below; 30 dowels each of Enoki, Indian Oyster and Pearl Oyster mushrooms. A neighbour recently felled a hardwood tree, which was perfect timing; dowels need to be inserted into freshly cut wood. We cut 3, metre-long logs which Justin then drilled holes into for the dowels. The logs now live in our greenhouse, which we’ve turned into something of a stumpery with ferns, hostas and other warmth & shade-loving plants.
The only problem (if I can call it that) with the logs is that the mushrooms won’t begin ‘fruiting’ for at least a year – so I’ll have to be very, very patient! With the other two homegrown mushroom kits that we’ve featured, you’re sent mushroom spawn and substrate and growing container (box or bag). All you need to do with these is mist with a spray bottle of water and you’ll be harvesting mushrooms in a matter of weeks! In addition, these other kits can be positioned indoors – so you don’t even need a garden or outside space.
I bought a selection of vegetable seeds recently. I planted out the peas and the Brussels sprouts straight away but it’s a little too early for the squashes and courgettes. Like tomatoes, these seeds need a bit of warmth to germinate; heated propagators would be very helpful in getting them off to a good start. We have a lean-to greenhouse, but it’s north facing so doesn’t get sufficient heat or light until quite late in the growing year.
When it comes to propagators, to me, size matters. The peas that I sowed in my (unheated) propagator quickly outgrew it. The tips are already touching the lid, but the seedlings aren’t yet ready to plant on. #3 is extra tall – almost twice as high as the shortest one. It means that the roots and first true leaves have a longer period to develop before the upheaval of replanting.
One of the best things about our little cottage is the garden. There’s a micro-orchard and a mini-veg patch and we’ve been excited about producing our own food. When we moved in 18 months ago, there was already a rhubarb plant in one corner of the veg patch. We both love rhubarb and cook with it when it’s in season. The plan is to get another 2 or 3 crowns and a couple of rhubarb forcers.
Forcing rhubarb is keeping it in the dark so that it reaches up in search of sunlight. This causes the stalks to be thin, pale and ready to harvest weeks earlier than usual. Only 2-year-old crows should be forced, and once done, you should skip a year before forcing again. So, if we have 4 rhubarb crowns we need two forcers which can be used on rotation.
I’ve been on the look-out for antique ones that are beautiful and weathered but they’re tough to find. Because they’re large and generally made of terracotta, they’re heavy and not many sellers are prepared to ship them. Most of the ones I’ve seen listed on eBay are ‘buyer to collect’, and are located hundreds of miles away.
Because of this, I’ve been checking out new ones. I’d prefer a tall, wide forcer that can cover a large crown and encourages long, tender stalks. For this reason, and despite not liking the name, the Gutter Mate example would be the best option, I think. In addition, a frost-proof – or at least, frost-resistant – one would be best. Terracotta pots are prone to shattering in the sub-zero temperatures we get every winter.
After using up some of our home-grown courgettes in a loaf cake, the plants are still producing more. Pickled courgettes are a good thing to make so we can enjoy the mid-summer bonanza all year round.
I found a simple ‘pickled zucchini’ recipe on the Bon Appetit website to which I made just a couple of little tweaks. I couldn’t find any dill seeds or saffron threads in the supermarket, so I used fennel seeds in place of the former, and omitted the latter completely.
Instead of simply slicing the courgettes with a knife, I used our mandoline which gave the slices attractive grooves.
We’re really looking forward to trying the pickle – served on the side or incorporated into the dishes themselves. We’re thinking burgers, sandwiches, salads and stir fries.
They need to steep for at least a week, but we’ll probably wait till the autumn before tasting ours.
We’ve begun to harvest some nice crops from our little veg patch now (apart from the strawberries which provided a running fruit buffet for the local mice). We had some lovely new potatoes this week, and the courgettes are doing very well indeed.
So, what to do with them? They’ll be perfect in all manner of stir-fries and other savoury dishes, but we decided to start with a courgette loaf cake.
They’re incorporated into the batter as you would with carrots in the better known carrot cake. In this recipe they’re combined with walnuts, sultanas, nutmeg and cinnamon.
The resulting cake was a great success and has proved very popular here at H is for Home headquarters. We’ve had it for the past few days with our afternoon brew. It’s very moist as it is, but we’ve found that a scrape of butter works fantastically well. There’s not a huge amount of sugar in the recipe – but I think it works. It’s well worth giving this cake a try… with either shop-bought or home-grown courgettes.
Gardeners and allotment-holders often say that they have a glut of courgettes, so this is a perfect use for some of them. Also, if you have trouble getting vegetables into your kids, they’re wonderfully well hidden – they’ll never know!
You can be very versatile with this recipe. Substitute pecans for the walnuts. Swap raisins and/or prunes for the sultanas. Add a couple tablespoons of orange juice instead of the vanilla extract. Use honey or maple syrup as an alternative the brown sugar… or you can sprinkle golden granulated over the top just before it goes into the oven, if you’d like it sweeter. Similarly, for additional sweetness you could top it with a cream cheese frosting.
Click here or on the image below to save it to Pinterest
Courgette loaf cake
2 large eggs
125ml/4fl oz vegetable oil
85g/3oz soft brown sugar
350g/12oz courgette, coarsely grated
1tsp vanilla extract
300g/10½oz plain flour
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
½tsp baking powder
85g/3oz walnuts, roughly chopped
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Heat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
Butter and line a 1kg/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or paper liner
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and sugar
Add the grated courgette and vanilla extract
In another bowl, combine the remaining (dry) ingredients with a pinch of salt
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then pour into the loaf tin.
Bake for an hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes away clean
Allow to cool in its tin for a few minutes before removing it and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack
The cooked cake can be frozen for up to 1 month
It's delicious sliced and spread with a little butter