National Curry Week

As it is National Curry Week I thought it only right to share a few of my favourite curry recipes with you so over the next few days I’ll post them. A bit of a cheat with this first one as I have posted it before but it does deserve to be repeated.

One of the recipes that stood out for me while I was choosing recipes for my book, Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen, was a recipe for a curry powder mix. This came from a hand written notebook from William Sayer started in 1821 and the reason it caught my eye was the inclusion of a spice called Grains of Paradise which I had never heard of before.

So I had to look this up. Grains of paradise are peppery seeds from the Aframomum melegueta plant. They have been used in their native West Africa for centuries, and in Europe since at least the 800s. Today, they are commonly in use in Northern Africa as well, and less abundant in Europe. This spice is also known as alligator pepper, Guinea grains, or melegueta pepper. You can use Fresh ground pepper, sansho powder (prickly ash powder) or cardamom as a substitute. Grains of Paradise come from West Africa, where they grow on a leafy plant and are easily harvested. The name comes from Medieval spice traders looking for a way to inflate the price – it was claimed that these peppery seeds grew only in Eden, and had to be collected as they floated down the rivers out of paradise. Although Grains of Paradise are now fairly rare and expensive, they used to be used as a cheaper substitute for black pepper. They have a zesty flavor reminiscent of pepper, with hints of flowers, coriander and cardamom.

I have recently also come across a book called The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, a marvellous book subtitled ‘The Plants That Create The World’s Great Drinks’ and lo and behold Grains of Paradise are included:

Amy goes into some detail about the plant but the bit that interested me was how the spice has hopefully solved a problem posed in zoos. Apparently captive western lowland gorillas often suffer from heart disease; in fact it is the cause of death for 40% of them. In the wild, grains of paradise make up 80-90% of their diet. A gorilla health project is now underway to improve the well-being of captive gorillas with grains of paradise.

How fascinating is that?

Meanwhile here is the recipes for the Currie Powder from Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen. The Grains of Paradise are the little balls on the right in the picture.

As the original quantities are large I have provided the quantities here to produce just over 400g.


260g Turmeric


6g Cloves

12g Cinnamon

10g Grains of Paradise

95g Coriander Seeds

6g Ground Ginger

10g Cummin Seed

6g Fennel Seed


You can either use pre-ground or whole spices. Grind the whole seeds and spices then add the ready ground spices. Give them a short pulse on the electric grinder or pound carefully in a pestle. Can’t you just smell it now?

Store in air tight containers. As William comments ‘This is the best currie powder I ever used’ It is a medium heat and is used just like any other curry powder. As a marinade and paste for chicken I used 2 tablespoons mixed with 2 crushed cloves of garlic and lemon juice and for a vegetable curry used 1 tablespoon.

Apples Galore – Apple Snow

What to do with all the apples? I have a few favourite recipes that I haul out every year and then I’m looking for new ideas. This is a lovely recipe I found while I was writing Recipes for an Unknown Kitchen and is now on the regular apple recipe list, it is instant comfort food.

Apple Snow (G. R. Moores)

This recipe came from a time when people weren’t worried about eating raw egg white as the topping isn’t cooked. If you are concerned about this you can either make Italian meringue or used cooked meringue to top the dish. As with most home dishes there are a lot of versions of Apple Snow most of which add the meringue to the apple pulp. This is rather like an apple trifle.



3 – 4 trifle sponges or left over cake, 200g cooking apples cored and peeled, Juice of a lemon, 30 g sugar, 100ml water


2 egg yolks, 30g sugar, 300ml milk


2 egg whites, 1 tablespoon sugar


The amount of sponge will depend on the size and shape of the dish you use. Put the sponge in the bottom as for a trifle. Cook the apple with the sugar, lemon juice and water until pulpy. This needs to be fairly liquid to soak the sponge. Cover the sponge with the cooked apple. Make the custard by mixing the egg yolks and sugar, heat the milk and add to the mix. Return to the pan and heat stirring constantly until thickened. Do not boil as the mix might curdle. Pour the custard over the apple. Cool in the fridge for 15 – 30mins. Whisk the egg whites, adding the sugar when the mix has thickened. Continue whisking until it forms small peaks.

Store in the fridge to cool

Alternatively, you can use the easy cook version by using tinned custard and crumble bought meringue over the top, much quicker.

Want a copy of the book? click here

This weekend is Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens a great weekend don’t miss it.

Tomato Day – an obsessive’s day in the kitchen

I am a bit of a tomato freak and grow quite a few varieties all over the place every year, so I set aside one day in September to make the most of the end of harvest tomatoes. Friday was Tomato Day in my house. Turn off the phone, turn up the music, strip the tomato plants, get out the recipes and get cooking. Each year is a mix of old favourites and new recipes. This year thanks to a bloomin’ bountiful crop I came up with some lovely food and had a great day at the same time. And I still have lots of fresh tomatoes to enjoy.

Tomato Ketchup from Thane Prince’s Book Jams and Chutneys – Preserving the Harvest. This is THE BEST ketchup recipe I have found, especially as I use Elderflower Vinegar instead of cider vinegar. The mixture of spices really set it ahead of others and I have made it for the last three years since I discovered Thane’s book.

Tomato Soup, a great staple recipe I found whilst researching Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen, sounds fairly ordinary but it is hearty and warming and it freezes well. (page 112 if you want to make it).


Cherry Tomato Focaccia with Basil from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister – all the better to dip into your Tomato Soup.

Tomato, Red Pepper and Red Onion pasta sauce with basil, an old favourite recipe to stock the freezer




Celery, Lentil and Green Tomato Warmer is new recipe from Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel. I won this book earlier in the year and what a fab book it turned out to be. A bowl of this was rushed round to a friend with a cold who needed a bit of nourishment the rest disappeared on Friday night!with for winter.







Lastly, but certainly not least, Green Tomato End of Harvest Soup from In Praise of Tomatoes by Ronni Lundi. I love this book and although I have copies in my shop I have my own copy, never to leave the kitchen. This soup is absolutely great and I will be making it again – a lot –  with green tomatoes, onions, celery, squash, beans, courgette, corn kernels, carrots, greens (kale or collard), potatoes, thyme. Everything I have on the allotment – hurrah. I used runner beans, everything I cook has runner beans in at the moment.  I can’t tell you how delicious this is – so try it. Buy the book!







For In Praise of Tomatoes by Ronni Lundy Click Here

For Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen Click Here

Seasonal Blackberry Chutney


Blackberry Chutney

The season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us so this month’s recipe looks at preserving for the winter. The recipe this month comes from Soups, Savouries and Sweets by A Practical Housewife (Mrs Taylor) Published in 1889.


1 kg of blackberries, 2 large onions (finely chopped), 1 ½ cups of brown sugar, 2 cups of red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.


Place all the ingredients in a preserving pan. Stir over a medium heat without boiling until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 – 1 ½ hours until it thickens
. Pour into sterilize jars.

Beautiful dark red chutney to go with cold meats and cheese.

My Favourite Bean Dish

A great dish for the summer with the fresh baby broad beans coming through.This comes from In One Pot by Blanche Vaughan, a great book with dish after dish that I want to try.

Broad Bean and Dill Pilaf 

250g basmati rice

20 unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves. sliced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

250g broad beans, podded

20g bunch of dill, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Soak the rice in plenty of water with a pinch of salt while you are preparing the other ingredients.

In a heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and fry gently for at least 5 minutes. Once the onions are soft and sweet, add the garlic.

Drain the rice.

Turn up the heat and add the allspice and rice the the onion mixture. Fry for a minute, stirring so that the rice is coated with butter. Season well and add the broad beans and dill.

Pour over enough cold water to just about 1cm over the surface and cover with a piece of baking parchment and then the lid.

Turn the heat under the pan to medium and cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until the rice is soft and the water absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

This isexpecially good served with tahini yoghurt or cucumber raita. I have also used fennel when I can’t get dill.

Yummy Green Soup for Meat Free Day … and beyond

Asparagus and Sorrel Soup

The recipe this month comes from Eat Your Greens by Sophie Grigson, published in 1993 (that’s over 20 yrs ago!). While the asparagus and the sorrel are still in season, this is a delight.  You can use asparagus trimmings for this recipe. This lovely light fresh soup and can be served hot or cold.

Serves 2 – 3


175 g (6oz) chopped asparagus or asparagus trimmings, 40g (1 1/2oz) butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 large handful of shredded sorrel, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 600ml (1 pint) water from cooking the asparagus or stock, salt and pepper, 50ml (2 fl oz) double cream, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chervil or chives.


Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions and garlic without browning. Add the sorrel and stir until it collapses to a mush. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a few seconds then a little ata time add the asparagus water or stock. Add the asparagus and season. Simmer for 20 mins.

Process or puree until smooth and if you want, sieve to remove any stringy fibres. Just before serving stir in the cream and chervil or chives.

Rose Petal Sorbet – It doesn’t get more summery than this

Well summer is definitely here. The roses in my garden are coming into their own, the scent is outrageous and I need to make that edible treat that is Rose Petal Sorbet. This recipe comes from 100 Great Desserts, Sweet Indulgence… by Mandy Wagstaff. This book stays firmly on my kitchen shelf. The book recommends roses with a sweet scent and a vibrant colour, I made this with the petals from Gertrude Jekyll roses from Terry’s garden, which are not so deep pink but are so perfumed it is heady. If you prefer your sorbet to have a lighter texture add the egg whites, otherwise just use the syrup.

Rose Petal Sorbet with Summer Fruits in Rose Syrup

110g (4oz) fragrant rose petals

570ml (1 pint) water

200g (7oz) granulated sugar

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 egg white (optional)

225g (8oz) mixed summer fruit


Trim and discard the white tips of the petals. Place the water and sugar in a pan and bring slowly to the boil, dissolving the sugar before the boiling point is reached. Boil for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and add the rose petals along with the lemon zest and juice. Stir well and leave to cool. Refridgerate overnight.

The following day, pour the syrup through a sieve lined with muslin. Reserve 6 dessert spoons of the syrup and set aside. Transfer the remainder to the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. If using the egg white, whisk to a firm peak then add to the syrup when semi frozen. When frozen spoon into a chilled container and freeze until needed.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker put the syrup into a plastic container and into the freezer, then stir briskly with a fork every hour or so until it is frozen.

Prepare the fruit according to their type. divide them into six glasses, add a spoonful of syrup to each glass then add a scoop of sorbet.

This truly is food of the gods. Thank you Mandy.

want to see the book? click here

And one more for luck

It’s almost the end of National Asparagus Month and here is the easiest Asparagus recipe (apart from just just adding lovely salty butter and fresh cracked pepper) from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen (a great book). The recipe does call for elegantly thin asparagus but it doesn’t grow that way on my plot.

Although is is the end of Asparagus month the season goes on through June so enjoy it for another month, make the most of this lovely vegetable. This is what seasonal eating is all about, enjoying food at it freshest and looking forward to it each year.







Chilled Asparagus in Dilled Mustard Sauce


1 lb asparagus

1 cup of firm yoghurt

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional)

2 tablespoons minced dill

2 tablespoons of minced chives

salt & black pepper to taste


Snap off and discard the tough bottoms of the asparagus. Steam the spears until just tender. Remove them immediately from the heat, rinse under cold water and drain well.

In a small bowl combine the yoghurt, mayonnaise (if you are using) mustard and whisk until smooth. Season to taste.

Arrange the asparagus and drizzle over the sauce. Although the recipe calls for minced herbs I have used finely chopped as I prefer the flavour, as always it is up to you.


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Chargrilled Asparagus and Halloumi with Citrus Dressing

Keeping on the asparagus theme for National Asparagus Month I found this delicious recipes from The Abel & Cole Cookbook by Keith Abel a great book.  Isn’t it great when you find a new recipe that you absolutely love, this is so easy and tasty I think I am going to to be eating it a lot in future. Serves 4 as a starter (or two as a light lunch)








1 bunch of asparagus

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/3 mug of pine nuts

1 pack of halloumi cheese

For the dressing

Jiuce of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons of choppped flat leaf parsley

salt & fresh ground black pepper


Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Toast the pine nuts by tossing them in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until golden brown. Watch them carefully to make sure they don’t bur. Put them to one side.

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain in cold water and pat dry, then coat in olive oil. Cook for a few minutes on each side on a hot griddle. I haven’t got a griddle so I just used a dry frying pan.

Slice the halloumi into eight slices, brush with a little oil and cook in the griddle pan for a few minutes on each side until the slices have good dark char marks.

Make a loose stack of asparagus on each plate, top this with the halloumi and pine nuts and drizzle of with the the dressing. OK so I stacked it the wrong way round for the photograph It still tasted great.

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It’s National Asparagus Month

Did you know there was a National Asparagus Month? No nor did I. I love, love, love asparagus, it is the first crop on the allotment and the thought of those fresh little shoots just makes my mouth water. This is what seasonal food is all about. Fresh from the ground it is unbeatable, lightly steamed with lashings of butter and a little pepper and salt, eaten with soft boiled eggs or as fresh asparagus soup and because it is one of those crops that has to be constantly picked I can share it with friends and family.

Anyway throughout May it’s National Asparagus Month – the perfect time to try out this delicious vegetable! The UK asparagus season lasts through May and June, so make the most of it.

Native to Europe, asparagus is a great source of fibre and is rich in vitamins A, B and C as well as folic acid – perfect for getting you fit and ready for summer.

If you are not lucky enough to grow asparagus buy as much as you can now while it is in season, choose firm but tender stalks with good colour and closed tips.  Asparagus soon looses its flavour and tenderness, so it is best eaten on the day you buy it

For more information, and all you need to know about asparagus, including events around the UK and great recipes go to the National Asparagus Month website.

So get ready for National Asparagus Month and start eating your greens this May!