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.

IWD : Big up the girls!

I always get a bit excited when watching Saturday Kitchen. James Martin is just gorgeous.

Half way through the show,  I tend to start doing other stuff as it’s predominately a meat fest that doesn’t do much for me as a veggie. But I like to know what different things the chefy types are coming up with these days. I will always perk up when they show clips from Keith Floyd who was enormously entertaining.

We aren’t hear to talk about the men though cos today is International Women’s Day so I want to big up the women. I love an infographic and this page is a great one for dissecting the Michelin Guide. Bit shocking to see that only 8 out of 169 head chefs in the UK are female. I bet that ratio is even lower in other parts of the world. In the UK I was only aware of Angela Hartnett (as she’s on Great British Menu quite a bit).

Growing up I used to love watching Delia, Madhur and early days Nigella (she became very odd as she got more and more famous!). And now I enjoy watching Ching He-Huang as she’s always so passionate about what she’s cooking. And I live in awe of Monica Galetti who is frankly just scary. The Michelin guide celebrates restaurants chefs. However, worldwide more women than men learn to cook and are absolutely brilliant at their art. And there are as many passionate women writing about food as men. So I hope that the male bloggers chefs that I follow will forgive me but here is a short list of International women who I would like to point you all to:

Mamta’s Kitchen: This site is a treasure trove of recipes. Defo one to bookmark.

The Spice is Right: I am not sure who writes the blog and am assuming it’s a female blogger. I dip into this veggie blog as it contains some Guju recipes.

Tarla Dalal: The goddess of Indian cookbooks. Her site is another treasure

Allotment to Kitchen: Shaheen has a wonderful vegetarian blog full of inventiveness. I learnt of her when she lived in Scotland and she was very helpful at pointing me to shops where I could get supplies. She’s now back in her native Wales. Always full of the most curious ingredients. And she even mentions Elvis once in a while so she’s alright in my book.

Gujarati Girl: Urvashi is Gujarati girl with daughters. I follower her blog the Botanical Baker and you may know her as she appeared in a series of the Great British bake off. I do hope that she doesn’t give up the Gujarati blog as I love to see the traditional recipes she posts up.

Bindiya Kanani: I’m absolutely gutted that I didn’t visit the Gujarati restaurant Bindi’s while it was open. The menu is Asian via East Africa (yep like me) and there were many things on there I was really wanting to try.  She teaches classes in Edinburgh if you are looking for some one to one Guju girl lessons.

Monisha Bharadwaj: I turn to her cookbook at lot as I like the easy recipes she has. Am amazed to learn that she’s in fact a professional Indian dancer as well as a cook / tutor. Monisha come here from India and her cookbook covers all regions of India.

Meera Sodha: I haven’t quite made up my mind about Meera as her food videos are a bit too Rachel Khoo for me (OK I admit it…I’m jealous of her as she’s got a residency at the Guardian ). She’s also got an East African connection as her Asian parents came here from Uganda.

Gujarat to Great Britain: a new blog that’s just started by another Gujarati via East Africa. I think she lives in Edinburgh and I’m looking forward to reading the traditional recipes she posts up.  She’s lucky her mum is still around for her to ask questions. I’m hoping that more people will want to try out Indian vegetarian cooking so the shops ar0und here will stock more of the supplies we need 🙂

Ellie Kreiger: a celebrity chef who is a registered dietitian. I enjoyed watching her cookery shows whilst I was studying for my certificate in community food and nutrition skills as she showed me that healthy food doesn’t need to be boring. The woman also happens to be gorgeous (hate her!) There are so so many more but I don’t want to bore you so I will finish off now with ….

Duke of Dehli: one of Defra’s 50 Food Stars who is not strictly just a woman but a brother and sister and the site refers to their Granny awwww. Mr Plummy Mummy if you are reading this – I want one of their choccie bars for Mother’s Day, our anniversary or just because (and don’t confuse them for Green and Black’s bars even though the packaging is suspiciously similar).

Leek and potato pie with suet pastry

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Everyday I go to work through Edinburgh Waverly station I pass by the Cornish Pasty shop. I love their vegetable pasty. It’s the same one I used to get in Maidenhead when I worked there, and at London Bridge on the way to see the then boyfriend-now-Mr-Plummy-Mummy.

So I wanted to have a go and ended up mashing (probably in inappropriate term in this context….synergizing?) two recipes – the pastry from Louise Pickfords Mediterranean Suet Parcels from her Vegetarian Cookbook and the filling from a good food recipe.

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 500g Self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 175g shredded vegetable suet
  • 150ml yoghurt
  • 200ml milk

For the filling

  • 2 leeks (500g)
  • 2 potatoes (500g) – used Greenvales potatoes. They are just gorgeous for everything.
  • Knob of butter (about 10g)
  • Pinch of dried thyme or rosemary
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 150g cathedral city mature cheddar
  • Salt and pepper
  • I small egg for the glaze

Method

For the pastry

  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl
  • Stir in the suet (I found the consistency a bit odd as the bits were like little pellets)
  • Mix the milk and yoghurt together and then slowly pour into flour a little at a time. Form in to a dough and kneed lightly until smooth. I had a little trouble at this stage due the consistency of the suet. I wasn’t sure how much to knead it as short pastry shouldn’t be worked too much.
  • I kneaded until it was somewhat smooth then covered the bowl with cling film to rest whilst I made the filling

For the filling

  • Turn the oven on to 200 degrees (400f, gas mark 6)
  • Wash the ginger, potatoes and leeks thoroughly
  • Chop the leeks into small pieces – I did this by quartering the leeks along their length then slicing these finely. A serrated edge knife makes this a doddle. For good measure, I always rinse leeks again to get out dirt that is caught between layers
  • Peel the potatoes then slice in thick slices.
  • Peel the ginger then grate it finely
  • Heat the butter in a large frying pan then add the sliced leeks, herbs and ginger and cook over a low heat until very soft
  • Meanwhile, place the potatoe in a pan with cold water and bring to the boil. Then simmer for a few minutes until the potatotes are slightly softened (i.e. parboil them). I wish I had cooked mine a little longer as they stayed quite firm in the pie.
  • Once the leeks are cooked, drain off the potatoes and stir in. Let the mixture cool
  • Cut the cheese into small 1cm cubes and stir into the mixture
  • Season with salt and pepper

The construction and cooking

  • Get a baking sheet ready. Dust it with a bit of flour.
  • Roll out the pastry until it forms a 14inc wide square. That’s what the recipe says. What it doesn’t mention is how hard that dough is to roll. My arms were aching. But after a bit of stubbornness, I got a sort of square (ok it was a rectangle but hey ho)
  • Place the cooled mixture in the middle.
  • Then, I was meant to water the edges of the pastry and bring up the corners up to form a parcel. Things did not go to plan!  I think I had too much filling and the edges would not stick together. I should have rolled the pastry out a little larger or just done what the good food recipe said and made two circles. Anyhoooo, I got very frustrated so kind of rolled it into a cylinder shape, picked it up and plonked it onto a floured baking tray. The pie had a bit of leakage – in future, I will add one teaspoon of flour to the mixture to thicken it up
  • Glaze it with egg wash (I used a silicon brush, think you could also glaze with milk if you prefer to keep the thing egg free)
  • Put into the oven and cook for 30 minutes until lovely and golden
  • Take out and let it cool for 10 minutes. Marvel in the glory of a home baked pie. Slice it up and marvel again as the wonderful feeling oozes out a bit
  • Serve with greens, salad or as we did GRAVY

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The review

Not bad for my first pie. But I think in future I will use shortcrust as I prefer the crust. I’m going to try to make a pie with traditional samosa filling made out of carrots, peas and potatoes…bound to be healthier than the fried version right?

BTW check out my new bin from the council – it collects food waste. How wonderful!

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Courgette, ricotta and onion stuff

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Ok I don’t really like Nigel Slater but he happened to be on the other day and made this deconstructed pesto thingy with courgette. As I wasn’t paying attention, I had to turn to Google for recipe help and came across this lovely Courgette and Ricotta pasta recipe. Luckily for me I had some of the ingredients in the house…by which I mean I had bought both courgette and ricotta and then completely forgot why!

I had mine with some couscous rather than pasta. I was delicious – even Mr-Plummy-Mummy-I-don’t-eat-courgettes agreed so we will be making this again I’m sure and I’ll try to remember the parmesan and lemon zest.

I’ve paraphrased the method below but all credit goes for this yummy dish to the Good Food food writer.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil (I used extra virgin, but plain OO would be fine I’m sure
  • 1 large courgette – sliced with a veg peeler. I discard most of the skin as kiddo wouldn’t eat it
  • 1 escallion – very finely sliced lengthwise.
  • 3 cloves garlic – very finely sliced
  • half a tub ricotta –
  • about 10 leaves of basil (was a bit strong, will use less next time)]
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method:

  • In a dry large frying pan, dry roast the pinenuts. Once browned, take out and leave to cool on a plate
  • Return pan to heat, add oil and fry the escallions and courgettes in the oil over a medium heat until softened
  • add garlic and cook for 2 mins more
  • turn off heat and fold in the basil and pinenuts.
  • Dot in the ricotta – I only used half the tub as felt a full tub would have been too much with couscous. Do it by eye I say

Serve with couscous with roasted red peppers and spring onions

 

Stovies

There are so many ways of making stovies that I wouldn’t dare give a definitive recipe. Each region, nay each household has their way of doing it. From what I can gather, stovies started out as  a peasant’s meal using whatever bits of meat that could be found and eked out with a lot of root veg.

In the last few weeks I’ve been busy teaching a healthy eating cookery course. As some of the recipes are meat based, I’ve been getting Mr Plummy Mummy to try them out as I “teach” him how to cook them. And I’m trying out vegetarian versions by replacing meat with quorn.

Here is the amended ingredients list:

Serves 2
Ingredients

  • 200g frozen lamb mince for meat version / 200g quorn mince for the veggie one
  • 1 vegetable stock cube, made up with 1 pint of water
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ small turnip, peeled and thinly sliced (that’s a swede to the English, a turnip to the Cornish and I think a rutabaga in America)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • pepper to taste

 

So here is are some pictures of  our efforts.

The meat was browned off without any oil. Then the veggies were put on top, the gravy added and the lid popped back on the pot. For my quorn version, there was no browning needed so I just added quorn to the pan, layered on the veggies and then added some vegetable stock. I had some minced garlic left over from another meal so I chucked that on top too. It didn’t take long to cook. I must admit that I had to have gravy with mine for a bit more flavour. I was very surprised that that I really enjoyed this dish as it’s a lot less spiced than my usual fare, but for a cold Spring day, it hit the right spot. It’s a pretty cheap meal too which is a huge bonus in my books.

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