Secret Herb Garden

Last weekend, we visited the Secret Herb Garden which sits at the foothills of the Pentland Hills. If you happen to be planning a trip to Ikea Edinburgh, then do yourself a favour and detour for a few minutes to this great place. I first came across the SHG at the Scottish Gardening Show last year where I bought a carraway thyme from them.

The Garden is run by Hamish and Lizzie. We didn’t have the pleasure of meeting them but think they have created a very special place where each plant has a medicinal purpose.  There is a cafe onsite too but sadly was a bit lacking in lunch options. However, seem to do a decent amount of homebakes, teas and coffees.

Secret Herb Garden
32A Old Pentland Road,
Edinburgh
EH10 7EA

Tel: 07525069773 or 07768530044

On parking, you first enter greenhouses where we found apples, peaches, grapes and sweat pea. IMG_2270 IMG_2271 IMG_2273 IMG_2274 IMG_2275 IMG_2277 IMG_2280 IMG_2281

The views around the gardens and of the Pentland Hills is impressive even on an overcast day.

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I didn’t recognise the crop below but there was plenty of kale, cavolo nero, rhubarb (we think but not sure!!!).

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There was another garden area where roses were growing together with herbs such as rosemary and lavendar. I was relieved to see their fennel as it looked like the single plant in my garden. I was convinced mine wasn’t doing well.

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The flowers were interesting too. Every plant in the garden has a medicinal use and I wondered what aquilegia cure. They are out of this world plants.

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These flowers were amazing as there were white and blue flowers growing on the same plant. IMG_2289 IMG_2290 IMG_2294  IMG_2299

The site also has a yurt, and a bee station which had interesting info about bees plus a window to look out at a wildlife garden set up for them. There is also the beginnings of a maze which will be fun when it matures (unless you have grass hayfever like what I have, in which case keep away, keep far, far away).

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I bought some herbs which admittedly were not cheap but as the only thing I’ve managed to grow so far is basil and I haven’t yet killed the carraway thyme that I had bought from them last year. So, I was happy to shell out for a little bay leaf plant, a winter savory and an echinacea plant. I also spotted the plant below which I didn’t buy as I’m pretty sure we have it growing in the cracks in our driveway.

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Pomegranate Molasses

Again, inspired by a meal in London. I met one of my lovely friends, SMW,  who is like a brother to me for an evening near London Bridge. While waiting, I sat at the Thames looking at H.M.S. Belfast with the Tower of London and Tower Bridge in the background. God I love the views you see on the Thames and I was very happy to sit there and watch tourists trying to take selfies with these in the background. Some struggled and I offered to help. Must admit, I don’t like how I look in photos but if that’s your thing, then I’m happy to help you out.

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Once SMW turned up, we had a wonder through Borough Market looking for a bite to eat and eventually settled for Meze at Tas Restaurant. Wow the food was amazing. Turkish food is heaven for vegetarians and I enjoyed aubergine, hummus, kisir, chickpeas and lots of bread. Washed down with Turkish beer.

Back home, I wanted to try to make the zeytinyağlı patlican which is an aubergine, tomato, dish. And kisir which contains a lot of goodness including cracked wheat, crushed walnuts, onions, pomegranate molasses, fresh herbs, peppars.

This meant making the molasses as there isn’t any available around in Livingston.

Ingredients:

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1 pomegranate (sadly not from Turkey, but from Peru. Out of season and costing too many airmiles).

1 tablespoon sugar (I didn’t want it to be too sweet as it was going into a savoury dish. To use for desserts, use more sugar)

2 teaspoons  lemon juice. (recipes online don’t always have this. But the molasses in Turkey are made from sour pomegranates, so I needed to add that kick in. The lemon juice also acts as a preservative)

Method:

Chop the pomegranate in half and remove the seeds. As I didn’t know about the bash method, I picked the seeds out singly, by hand whilst smacking kiddos hand as she tried to nick them. I had to be careful to make sure I didn’t get any arials in (the white fleshy bits around the seeds).

The bash method: cut in half, turn over and hold over a bowl. Bash the outer skin and watch the seeds just fall out.

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I placed seeds into my mini mixer and whizzed up. If you don’t have a mixer, just skip and go to the sieving stage. IMG_2204 IMG_2205

I strained to extract the juice. The seeds and pulp was discarded. (as an aside,there is a spice made from the hard seed called anardhana, used as a souring agent. It had a similar consistency to sumac and amchoor and used for tenderising meat as far as I’m aware).

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I put the jucie into a heavy based pan, added the sugar and the lemon. And then cooked to reduce. Now here is confession time, I took my eyes off the mix which seemed to take ages to reduce and BANG it burnt. So had to go out, get another pomegranate and start again. Morale of this story is DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OF THE REDUCTION.

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And voila, here is the end result:  (apologies the picture is a bit out of focus)

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Gloopy, lovely and still quite sweet. It is absolutely gorgeous onto top of ice-cream. In the end, I used this in another traditional dish called Baba Ghanoush – or Burnt Aubergine with Tahini. The pomegranate molasses was a little bit lost among the garlic and tahini which was a bit of a shame. Luckily, I have enough left so will use it to make the red onion condiment in the Spice Men’s cookbook.

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Ready made dosas mix

This post is thanks to my young cousin M. At the start of the summer hols, we visited her in London where she served us a lovely lunch of dosas with a potato filling and dhal.

I’ve never made them before as they are more a South Indian specialty. The mix consists of lentils that are soaked, ground, mixed with yoghurt and left to ferment.

However, she used a ready made mix and it was super easy. I did have to giggle when she flattened out the mix on the tava using an old debit card. The wonderful thing is that these dosas are not spicy, and she made separate fillings that were spicy for the adults, and one less spicy for the kids. I was amazed when my daughter gobbled them up.

Back home in Scotland,  I managed to get two different mixes from Amma Spices. Though Shiyam had the make my cousin had used, he suggested the following make instead which is found in the chilled section.  These mixes cost 2.99 and all you need to do is add water. I also bought a dry mix which had a longer shelf life and was cheaper as it needs yoghurt to be added before use.

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The great thing about the dosa mix is that I could just use what I needed and put the rest back in the fridge. I would love to try to make the idlis too but don’t currently  have an idli pan for the steamer.

To make the dosas, I added enough water to make it a wee bit runnier and then poured a cup onto a hot tava. If  your have a teflon coated one, no oil is needed. As the picture shows, I wasn’t that good at pouring out a perfect circle and we didn’t have any used debit cards to hand so I did my best to flatten the mix out using a spoon. The idea is that you leave the side to cook for a minute or so, put a bit of oil on the surface, then flip to cook the other side. I served then to hubby and the kiddo with a spiced potato filling, some homemade spicy coconut chutney and a thin toor dhal. It was very easy. And you could fill the dosas with any dry filling so I encourage you to have a go. And a huge thanks to my young cousin for introducing this to me.

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P.S.Cocunut chutney: 1 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut, 4 fresh green chillies, a handful of fresh curry leaves, lime juice, salt and sugar. Whizz up in a little food processor and gobble up.

A bit Pott(er)y

OOOOhhhh weeeee this post is so very late but this is my blog so there you go.

Earlier this year Mr Plummy and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. As we spend a lot of time eating and watching TV, I was not at all interested in going out for dinner or to see a film. I wanted to do something. According to all those anniversary sites the 8th anniversary is traditionally bronze and pottery. As there isn’t a bronze works near here we went a for the pottery option at our local Potter Around and had a one-to-two session with the in-house potter. Let me tell you that this was less Ghost and more mudslinging, competitive throwing.

It was fabulous. Handling the clay was messy and really hard work trying to control as it seems to have a will of its own – one that just wanted to go whoooooosh all over us and the pottery walls.

The potter was a lovely lady who was very patient with us and showed us quickly how to throw the clay onto the wheels and to makes some simple shapes. As we had her to ourselves we were able to chat and found out that she is learning the craft. In the past she was a sheep farmer so was used to the rural setting of the barn (and ahem the handling of mindless bleating creatures luckily!).

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Mr P looking very commanding

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This flat plate was really hard to get off the wheel but eventually they both managed and later it would become our house number sign.

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Some advice on how to control the clay:

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In the end I think we made about 10 shapes between us. These were left to be fired and then a few weeks later we went back to paint all the pieces. This started off OK but as we had kiddo with us, she got restless and so we had to rush a few pieces (yes, my tone shows I wasn’t happy). Again, once painted we left the pieces to be fired into glossy loveliness. It’s always interesting how the colours look after they have been fired and my absolute favourite is the starry bowl holding my Dr Strange. 8 stars of course for 8 years. I cannot wait for next year which is Willow.

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