How I Make Easy Stock from Kitchen Scraps

Here's how to make easy vegetable stock from kitchen scraps. This is my quick way to make sure we always have fresh stock to hand for soups, stews and thinning down sauces while still keeping things flavourful. The best part is you can make this as you go and freeze it in small batches in ziplock bags. Need more stock? Grab a few extra bags from your freezer! 

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A Slow Moment

A few month's ago I was lucky enough to be invited to curate a knitwear collection for Knit Now Magazine. Given a blank canvas, I suggested the concept of 'A Slow Moment'. The collection began from the words "Nest. Be still. Be creative & soak up some mid afternoon sun in sleek, comfortable knits". I gleefully filled a Pinterest board with beautiful blankets, this season's pastels and then a good slathering of rustic/ grey love for the designers to ponder. We then turned it over to the designers to see what they made of it. 

As the pitches started to roll in, Kate, editor in chief at Knit Now, sent me an email "Do you think we should include a cookie recipe?" 

The reply was simple. 

"The answer is always yes to cookie recipes" 
Baking cookies

So I set about reworking my first ever recipe on this blog, Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies. In the interests of thoroughness, Little One and I made quite a few batches. Dutifully, my little girl taste tested each meticulously and I wondered if oatmeal cookies could replace an entire meal. When they're a little chewy and filled with Chocolate Orange, I think cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the only way to go. 

Little One Taste testing cookie recipe

When the time came to generate some suitable images for the publication, my mind drifted to cosy Sunday afternoons with legs curled beneath you and a stack of recipes books and knitting to plod through. I decided to shoot a little tin of the cookies at Deans Court as their recently renovated holiday cottages are the perfect backdrop for slow afternoons like these. I made tea. I nibbled cookies between shots. I pondered whether adding chocolate orange to everything was acceptable. (These are the places your mind goes when you spend time shooting knitwear and cookies.)

The cookies were such a hit that if you're in Wimborne over the next few weeks, you'll find the cookies featured in Squash Court, the wonderful kitchen garden cafe at Deans Court. They've even shared the recipe for these delicious treats on their blog. 

 Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

If you're too weighed down by your knitting to bookmark them via Deans Court or pick up Issue 59 of Knit Now, you can pin this mini version included below. For the full method and all my tips for chewy oaty goodness please do check out Deans Court or Knit Now. If you want to see the amazing job the designers did with the design brief, drop over to the pattern pages on the Pinterest Board, A Slow Moment and pick up the latest issue of the magazine. It's a pretty special feature. 

Ingredients

175g/ 6oz butter
275g/ 9 ½ oz Demerara sugar
1 medium egg
4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
350g/ 13 oz rolled oats (the less processed the better)
140 g/ 5 oz plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g Terry’s Chocolate Orange, chopped
55g Hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180®c/ gas mark 4 and grease large baking sheet.
2. Cream butter and sugar together before beating in the egg, water, and vanilla essence.
3. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda before gradually stirring this into the butter mixture.
4. Once fully combined, fold in the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.
5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins or until cookies are golden brown.
 

And here's a handy pin for you to save for your next baking session:

 Chocolate Orange & Hazelnut Cookie recipe Via A Playful Day

Chocolate Orange & Hazelnut Cookie recipe Via A Playful Day

Wild Garlic & Nettle Pesto

Spring has been trying hard on the Isle and somewhere between flurries of sleet and sudden flooding there's been a few glorious hours of beautiful light most days. It's creeping further into the evenings and breaking a little earlier each morning too. Recently there's been a few afternoons where I've stood basking it in just for the joy of feeling the light making itself at home in our beautiful surroundings. 

Spring Approaching on the Isle of Purbeck
Sheep on the Isle golden light
Sheep on the Isle of Purbeck golden light 1

We popped out for a hike the other weekend with friends. Our children were bundled happily in slings on our backs and we tugged hats low over ears as the wind blasting in from the sea reminded us we've some way to go till Spring warmth yet. While cutting back through the woods on our way home though we spotted a sure sign of the new season tip toeing in: Wild Garlic. There's no mistaking the pungent aroma and my friend and I both dived onto the patch happily, taking enough for our needs while leaving the rest for other foragers to find. (For more information on responsible foraging, please see this great starter via Farm Stay UK)

 Wild garlic growing on the Isle of Purbeck

Wild garlic growing on the Isle of Purbeck

The weather is still a little too cold to truly be Spring and with a weather forecast predicting more snow flurries I declared we needed to make the best use of our bounty. I grabbed some gardening gloves and gathered some of the newest shoots bursting up from the Nettles too. Satisfied with our first meal plucked straight from the earth, we headed for home and rich Chai teas or hot milks depending on the age bracket of forager. 

Nettle is a wonderful plant to cook with. Picking the young leaves from the top adds a sort of sweetness to their taste that elevates it above the earthy green taste of Spinach. My daughter is a pesto (and pasta) addict so I decided to create a wild pesto that would keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge while the next cold front made us wonder if Spring is ever coming. 

Smothering wholemeal pasta with the rich dark pesto and the kitchen filling with wafts of gutsy Wild Garlic and Nettle was so rewarding. We've since slathered it on chicken and even added a spoonful to mash. The taste of either plant is not enormously strong but the aroma is incredible and hints at good things to come once it's warm enough to uncover the BBQ and bring our bounty straight to the waiting grill. 

If you would like to make some wild pesto, I can thoroughly recommend this recipe via the BBC. Due to the impromptu nature of our feast, I was low on pine nuts so here's my twist on ingredients but the method is the same:

 Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto Recipe via A Playful Day

Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto Recipe via A Playful Day

Wild Garlic and Nettle Pesto:

Ingredients:

150g young nettle and wild garlic leaves (I didn't weight, but used about half a carrier bag full)
50g Parmesan, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
zest ½ lemon and a good few squeezes of juice
50g mixture of brazil and pine nuts
150ml rapeseed oil

Method:

Please remember that nettles will continue to sting even once plucked so gloves are advisable. Also, as with all foraged goods, a good thorough clean is essential. 

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then drop in the nettles and cook for 2 mins. Drain and run under cold water, then squeeze out as much water as possible and roughly chop them.

2. Put the nettles and raw wild garlic into a food processor, along with the Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest and nuts. Blitz to a rough paste.

3. Season, and with the motor running slowly, add almost all the oil. Taste, season and add a few good squeezes of lemon juice. Transfer the pesto to a clean jar and top with the remaining oil.

This keeps for about two weeks in the refrigerator if sealed well. 


Homemade Nutella (or how I raided the cupboards and won)

It started with some chives. I was trying to explain to the Tot how delicious chives are as we pottered around the garden this weekend. She remains suspicious of anything green so I wondered how I could cook them in a way she would give them a try and not lead to a long conversation about why she wasn’t going to try them.

 

This is getting to the Nutella, I promise.

 

It was perfect timing then that I opened this month’s copy of The Simple Things Magazine and found a ‘Tea Treats’ feature hosted by the blogger Ms Marmite Lover. Included in the selection of treats were cheese and herb muffins which gave us a great excuse for a little harvesting in the herb patch. The Tot helped create the muffins and only mild carnage followed.

It was while tidying away and idly flipping through other recipes in the magazine that I found the recipe for Homemade Nutella. I did a little happy dance when I recognised at least 3 ingredients that I had there and then which meant I could make chocolate spread! (To be fair, one of the ingredients was sea salt so let’s not be too impressed by my larder).

 Cheese and Herb Muffins are featured in this month's The Simple Things magazine

Cheese and Herb Muffins are featured in this month's The Simple Things magazine

As is often the case when I start baking, half way through the process I realised I only had half of the correct ingredients and even then, not at the correct quantities. So what now follows is my successful solution to this problem so that you too can have homemade Nutella. I kept some quantities the same such as sea salt as I like a little savoury mixed in with sweet and I made sure it was a little crunchier than recommended because that’s how the Tot and I like peanut butter.

It’s a game changer.

 Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

I am an affiliate for The Simple Things because I love gardening, cooking, travel and the comfort to be found in a seasonal look at the gentler things in life. If you’d like to subscribe, please feel free to do so here (affiliate link).

 Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

Emergency Rations Homemade Nutella

Ingredients:

150g whole hazelnuts

200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tbsp. coconut oil

2 tbsp. icing sugar

½ tbsp. hot chocolate powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

¾ tsp sea salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Pop the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to scorch.

3. While those are roasting, melt the chocolate.

4. Once the hazelnuts are ready and cool enough to handle, rub them with a rough paper towel to encourage the skins to flake away. You can peel off whatever is missed as you pop them into a blender.

5. Blend along with all other ingredients and distil into jars trying not to lick your fingers too much. 

Should keep for about a month in the fridge although I’d suggest you need to eat it up sooner because it’s delicious.

The Tot agrees…

Green Soup

I'm fairly sure that my cravings run a little differently to other people. While I'm in no doubt that there are many who understand certain food fixes, mine run deeper and stronger than your average chocolate-bar-on-the-run kind of deal. When it comes to food cravings, I get a little.... obsessive. 

 Blue cheese, the craving culprit

Blue cheese, the craving culprit

It started with blue cheese. I had a sudden thought about blue cheese: its white creamy texture with chalky, flaky blue mould that makes it sour and sharp all at once. I love it. Then I started thinking about its appearance: the colour of the mould and I suddenly had to have green soup. I pondered making some Broccoli and Stilton Soup but I realised I wanted MORE green. I jumped from mould, to sharp, to green to MORE GREEN. My stomach demanded all these thoughts be heard. 

I also can't get behind smooth soups. For example, I find it really hard to muster the same enthusiasm for a parsnip puree over a chunky summer minestrone. Every recipe I found for Broccoli and Stilton called for potatoes to be added to thicken the smoothness. I wasn't ok with that. I rummaged around and settled on my own spin that shall henceforth be known as Green Soup in this house. 

There's lot of greens that make for good soup. I'm a sucker for a good celery base and eyeballed some Kale in my fridge that was intended for smoothies later in the week. Go with your gut. Think Green. Think Cheesy. Let me know if you enjoy this!

Green Soup

You will need-

  • 2 tbsp good oil (I used cld pressed Olive oil)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 1 knob butter
  • 1l low salt vegetable stock
  • 1 head broccoli, roughly chopped
  • 100g approx of Spinach, roughly chopped
  • 150g approx of blue cheese (I used Castello this time), crumbled
  1. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the onions. Cook on a medium heat until soft. 
  2. Add the celery, broccoli stalks and the butter. Stir until melted, then cover with a lid. Allow to sweat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid.
  3. Pour in the stock and cook for 5 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the rest of the broccoli and cook for a further 5 minutes. 
  5. Add in the spinach for another 5 minutes. 
  6. Strain off stock, being careful to reserve this liquid and add about half of the solid vegetables to a blender and pulse till lightly chopped but not smooth. Return all the vegetables to the pan and stir the reserved stock back in too. You should have a medium lumpy soup if you're as finicky as I am. 
  7. Stir in the blue cheese, allowing a few lumps to remain. Season with black pepper and serve.
 Cheap sliced bread for toast optional. 

Cheap sliced bread for toast optional.