Rhubarb & Baobab Jelly

Rhubarb picking

I had what seemed like a forest of rhubarb. I also have a bag of the superfruit baobab. You can almost see the halo above this guy. Baobab has six times more vitamin C than an orange, more antioxidants than blueberries and more calcium than milk.

Baobab originates in Africa where its tree, aka the ‘tree of life’, can single-handedly keep a community alive. The trunk stores thousands of litres of water and they’re so large that people can live in them. The pulp from the fruit husks can be used to make lemonade – and even gin! What more do you need?


I picked a bargain bag of this up while on holiday in Cape Verde. You can buy it in powdered form in the UK from Eden Project.

Who says jelly’s for kids.. A wobble of baobab and rhubarb will be tangy and refreshing – with ice cream,  cheese, or on its own. So we start by simmering 400g rhubarb with 60g caster sugar, juice of an orange, a handful of baobab and 200 ml of water.


Once the rhubarb has softened, take off the heat and strain through a muslin cloth and pour into a clean pan. Soak four gelatine leaves in some cold water to soften and then squeeze out the excess water before adding to to the rhubarb and baobab mixture.

Gelatine2Pour into dishes of your choice, mine are mini tea cups..Jelly cups

.. and pop in the fridge for two to three hours to set. Here’s the test…Upsidedown cup

Refreshing rhubarb with a nutritional baobab blast.


Gooseberry & Elderflower Martini


The pain of picking gooseberries seems worth it when you consider they’re rammed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Mine were ripe for the picking, the green fruits swollen and tinged with red. They team well with elderflower and I managed to get hold of some new J. J. Whitley Elderflower Gin, subtle in flavour with real elderflower extract.ingredients

Making a syrup first, the simmering of two parts gooseberries to one part caster sugar – with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan – only takes 15 minutes. The softened fruit in its juice is then thrice sieved to make a smooth syrup.


After cooling, add two parts syrup, two parts J.J. Whitley Elderflower Gin and one part Vermouth into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with freshly picked gooseberries.

gooseberry martini serve

Definitely worth the pain of the picking.


The Chicken Mushroom

I’d never heard of it, but when I was almost blinded by its brightness I have to say it scared me.

Mushrooms mean danger – at least in the countryside where I grew up they do. If they’re not magic they’re downright poisonous and you shouldn’t go near them, and certainly not eat them.


This Chicken Mushroom – also known as Chicken of the Woods or Sulphur Shelf (definitely not appetising) – is residing on the bottom of an oak tree in the garden and is apparently edible and has a chicken-like taste.

As tempting as it was to cook it up for a family tea, the protests far outweighed my excitement for getting it into a pan.

So there it stays.

For now. Apparently if left, this rubbery fungus can infiltrate and rot the tree it’s living on.

The Chicken (Mushroom) Risotto is still on the cards.



Himalayan Margarita

Birds eye

I probably should have written this before drinking the margarita.

A couple of hundred million years ago in the pristine snowy environment of the Himalayan Mountains, beds of crystallised sea salt were covered by lava, which was thought to have protected this special salt from pollution, leading to the belief that Himalayan pink salt is the purest salt on the planet.

Now it is mined by hand, from those actual mountains and its pink and reddy bits are a clue to the salt’s mineral and iron rich content.

And what better way to celebrate the amazing benefits of this special salt, than with a margarita.

Two parts tequila, one part triple sec and one part lime juice – shake with ice and strain into a chilled Himalayan salt-rimmed glass with a chunky wedge of lime.

This super salt can apparently reduce signs of ageing, boost metabolism, lower blood pressure, boost libido and remove toxins. Really.

The tequila may counteract that though.


I got my Himalayan Salt from Lisa Anna.

Riverside Wild Garlic Pesto


Some may call it child labour, I call it Free Easter Holidays Foraging Fun in the Fresh Air. Agreed, it needs a catchier title.

Our local banks of the River Etherow are covered with a carpet of wild garlic, the smell is enough to speed up your metabolism as you walk past. A relative of chives, wild garlic is also known as bear’s garlic, due to the mammal’s fondness of the bulb, thankfully we don’t have many bears in Broadbottom, at least I don’t think so.

But we do have a big feline community and wild garlic is a cat repellant, no wonder the ducks were happy to join in.

We’re big pasta fans so opted for a pesto – although wild garlic is also a fantastic flavour enhancer in soups, salads and sandwiches.

We picked around 60g of the young leaves and washed them with around 25g chives and a handful of flat leaf parsley.


Whizzed it up in the mixer along with a large handful of unsalted cashews, around 30g grated parmesan, a big pinch of sea salt flakes and a quick glug of rice bran oil.


And stirred a tablespoon of the pesto into some hot, cooked pasta. My son, despite saying it was spicy (I think he meant garlicky), woofed this in one go. I think it helped that he picked it himself.

Saturday Night TV Dumplings

dumpling 6

I just love Wing Yip. I can spend a good couple of hours admiring and deciphering the myriad of colourful Chinese ingredients. I can spend another couple doing mental calculations of the spice prices in comparison to my local supermarket. Seriously the margins the mainstream supermarkets must be making… for less authentic, lower quality products.

Tonight I’m making School of Wok founder Jeremy Pang’s Shiitake and Chive Dumplings so my main shopping list was the mushrooms, much more flavoursome than button mushrooms and packed with protein and B vitamins; rice vermicelli and garlic shoots – these are young shoots before they begin to grow a garlic bulb with a delicate aromatic flavour.

dumpling 10

The mushrooms needed to be covered in hot water for at least an hour to rehydrate. While they were coming back to life I amazed myself by making my own pastry.

Usually I buy the ready made frozen dumpling wrappers but as Jeremy’s recipe made it seem so quick and easy I decided to have a go at making my own – and he was right I only needed flour and water and it was super simple.

dumpling 9

For the filling, the vermicelli was soaked for a few minutes to soften, then drained, dried and chopped with the garlic root, mushrooms, some fresh coriander, fresh ginger, garlic, pak choi and a Chinese cabbage leaf. Then a marinade of light soy sauce, black pepper, a pinch of sugar and some sesame oil  and cornflour was stirred into the chopped mixture.

And here begins the tricky bit which took me double the amount of time Jeremy suggests.

Each round was given a teaspoon of the filling mixture then folded over, pinched in at each end and crimped around the join. It took me almost two hours to make 25 dumplings and I seemed to have loads of filling left over, maybe my rounds weren’t large enough?


Anyway, I was pleased with the end result, the dumplings looked uniform and tasted delicious with a dipping sauce of light soy, black rice vinegar and sliced ginger.

I steamed the dumplings, rather than fry as Jeremy suggests and I’m afraid there’s no after photo as they were pilfered from the bamboo basket before I had chance to grab the camera. Great TV fodder.








Lotus Root Crisps


An Asian aquatic plant, this is not something I’ve grown in the garden but something visually appealing and which also plays a tune as it’s sliced, akin to a diminutive church organ.

An intriguing vegetable.

I bought mine from Wing Yip, it was in four attached sections. I used some for Chinese dumplings and the rest for these low GI, vitamin C and B6-rich crisps – an ideal Friday evening snack.


It’s a bit like peeling a butternut squash but then the flesh is firmer and easy to slice into thin rounds. These pretty rounds will crisp like a dream.

On the baking tray

I simply tossed in olive oil with sea salt and pepper and baked in the oven for 20 minutes. My Monster Munch-loving son approved but wanted more flavour – next time, a dusting of Paprika or Cayenne.

the crisps