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Food & Drink

In Season: Easy, No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe

July 10, 2015

Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe  Greenside UpAre you a fan of strawberries? We were given a dozen or so plants a few years ago and ever since, we’ve been carefully minding our strawberry patch. As a result, we’ve been picking ripe berries in the polytunnel for the past month or so, enjoying the deliciously sweet berries on our breakfast cereal. Following some sunshine and rain the berries outside are finally ripening and it’s a race between us and the slugs.

Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe | greensideup.ieStrawberries are so easy to grow in the ground or in containers. If, like us, you’re a fan of this sweet, summer fruit it’s madness not to give them a go.

Once you begin to harvest strawberries, apart from eating them au natural, it can be a treat to try out a few naughty but nice recipes. The following strawberry cheesecake recipe ricochets to the top of the naughty scale but is very easy to make and a perfect, in season desert to impress friends or family.

If you’d like to find out more about growing strawberries, you might find this archive post helpful.

Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe by Greenside UpStrawberry Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

225g (8oz) digestive biscuits
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, melted
3 leaves gelatine
150ml (5 fl oz) single cream
300g (10½ oz) cream cheese
125g (4½ oz) caster sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes (or lemons, or one of each)
300g (10½ oz) ripe strawberries, hulled & chopped (or roughly whizzed in food processor)
150 ml (5 fl oz) whipped cream
1 egg white

Method

1. Crush the biscuits finely (a food processor’s great for this) and stir in the melted butter. Mix together so the crumbs are soaked in butter then press into a loose-bottomed flan tin. (I made the mistake of putting mine into a pretty, china flan dish once and it stuck solid, despite greasing it well with butter).

2. Pour some cold water into a dish and place the gelatine leaves into it, submerging them completely. Leave them to soak and soften for 5 minutes or so.

3. Bring the single cream to the boil and remove from the heat. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine and add one by one to the warm cream. They dissolve straight away. Leave to cool while you’re preparing the topping.

4. Put the cream cheese into a bowl with the sugar, half the lime (or lemon) zest and all the juice. Beat together until smooth and creamy.

5. Mix in the cream and gelatine mixture and then the chopped strawberries, then fold in the whipped cream.

6. Whisk the egg white in a scrupulously clean bowl until it forms stiff peaks (you should be able to hold the bowl above your head without getting covered). Fold the egg white into the cheesecake mixture.

7. Pour the mixture into the tart tin and smooth down. Chill until set and decorate with the remaining zest and extra strawberries if you have them.

Tip: It’s worth buying good quality ingredients and don’t be tempted to swap the cheese or cream for low-fat versions. Every time I’ve tried to make this and cut corners, the cheesecake has failed to set. This strawberry cheesecake recipe needs to be a full on calorific, once in a while treat, with every mouthful slowly savoured.

Are you growing your own strawberries yet? How do you like to eat them?

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Food & Drink

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

June 27, 2015

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

This Elderflower cordial recipe was first published in 2010 and I’ve tried to find good recipes that cut the sugar content ever since as the original was quite heavy on it. Thanks to the River Cottage Preserves book I’ve finally found one that halves the sugar and have used it as detailed below.

elderflowers on the stone wallIn a good year Elderflowers start to appear in hedgerows across the country during May, however in 2010 it was early June and in 2015 ours were only just coming into bud towards the very end of June.

Wait until the blooms are full, creamy coloured and full of scent (they’re especially heady when picked in the evening).  As with any type of foraging, avoid collecting the flowers if they’re growing close to a busy road as they’re more likely to pick up pollution and don’t pick all the flowers. Take a few from different branches, leaving the rest to develop into berries that can be made into a winter tonic in the form of Elderberry syrup.

Elderflower Cordial Recipe, Revised | Greenside UpIf you spot the blossom but don’t have time to make the cordial (or jam, or whatever you’d like them for), you can freeze the heads.

I stored my cordial in sterilised screw topped wine bottles and it’s an ingredient that’s handy to have in the cupboard as summer recipes often call for it.

This recipe makes around 2 litres and it will be 24 hours before it’s ready.

25 heads of Elderflower
1 kg granulated sugar
1.5 litres boiling water
3 lemons & 1 orange, unwaxed. Finely grate the zest, save the juice (around 150 ml) then thinly slice
1 heaped teaspoon of citric acid (available from Chemists, optional but I’ve always added it)

Method

Shake the Elderflowers in case there are any insects lurking and put the blossoms in a large bowl.  Add the lemon and orange zest and the sliced lemons. Pour over the boiling water, cover and leave for 24 hours to infuse.

The next day, strain the infuse liquid into a saucepan through a coffee filter or clean muslin cloth then add the citric acid, lemon and orange juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved, then pour the syrup into sterilised bottles and seal.

We leave a bottle in the fridge and just add tap water but for a change it’s lovely when it’s diluted with sparkling water, or even better for the adults, with topic water and added to our favourite gin!

Have you used elder flowers in recipes before? Do you love or loathe them?

Food & Drink

In Season: Apple Cake Recipe

September 24, 2014

In Season: Apple Cake Recipe

Choosing apple trees

We planted fruit trees almost ten years ago high up on our homestead and they’ve never fruited. Then, around three years ago, I bought Mr G a self pollinating variety on the advice of Arboretum garden centre manager Eamon Wall, an expert in the field of fruit growing. For the first time this year we’re seeing apples growing in our garden, branches bending, heavy with fruit, and we’re thrilled.

Lack of pollination

Apple trees can struggle above 600ft for various reasons including lack of pollinators, harsh winds and early frosts that damage the buds and at over 1,000ft we’ve not had much success with them. To be honest, we’d bought popular, cheap varieties (whispers not from a garden centre) when we should have looked for heirlooms or those more suited to our conditions, perhaps from Irish Seedsavers who have a fantastic collection. We have however, spotted some plums and pears growing on the older trees this year so we’re glad we haven’t given up on them. Perhaps it was thanks to our new bees, or simply that we had a mild winter followed by a dreamy summer here in Ireland, but this year we’re appreciating our new fruity treat.

apple treeAs the leaves turn golden our my mind turns to fruity puddings and cake. I was given this recipe for apple cake a few years ago by a friend and have mentioned it before but we enjoy it so much thought you might like to be reminded again. It’s delicious hot or cold, on its own or with cream. If you prefer a crumble topping with your apples, here’s a plum crumble recipe that’s topped with oats, nuts and syrup, just swap the plums for the new season apples.

If you don’t have apple trees in your garden, perhaps you could ask friends and neighbours who might have them and exchange them for a cake, a great way to open up a conversation. This isn’t the best photo I could have taken of it, but the cake was gone before I had time to snap a better photo!

https://greensideup.ie/greenside-up-garden-june-2014/Ingredients for Apple Cake Recipe:

190 g self-raising flour
pinch salt
150g butter or half margarine
1 free range egg
75g caster sugar
325g apples
lemon juice
2 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp granulated or Demerara sugar

Method

Heat oven to 160°C then grease and line a 20 cm cake tin which should be at least 7.5 cm deep.

Cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sieve the flour and salt then fold in to the creamed mixture.

Using a lightly floured board, gently pat or roll out three-quarters of the mixture and fit into the prepared tin (warning – very sticky. Cover hands in flour and ensure hands are very clean first and take off any rings!)

Peel, core and slice the apples and squeeze lemon over the top to keep their colour. Arrange the apples on top of the cake mixture. Heat the jam and brush or pour over the apples. Take the remaining cake mixture, roll out and either cut into strips and make place over the apples in a lattice fashion or roll flat and place over whole. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. Cool on a rack and dust with icing sugar.

Hope you enjoy the cake as much as we do. Do you have a favourite seasonal apple recipe? I baked another cake recently that was just a simple sponge recipe with chopped apples added to the batter, delicious!

Food & Drink

Calendula officinalis: Edible flowers aren’t just for salads

September 10, 2014

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleToday I was showing the autumn group of community gardeners at Freshford one of my favourite flowers in the vegetable garden, Calendula officinalis. Arguably one of the best companion plants around, Calendula, more commonly known as Pot Marigold, has an uplifting range of colours on the yellow to orange scale, continuously flowers throughout the summer months and has the ability to attract slugs as well as white and blackfly. This unfortunate trait makes it a handy sacrificial plant, or an indicator that there’s a problem pest in the garden but to be honest, apart from one white fly incident in a polytunnel, that’s not something I’ve really noticed in the years I’ve grown it.

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleCalendula will always find a way into gardens I work with for its ability to attract pollinators, its vibrancy, and knowing that if I look at it often enough, one day I’ll finally get around to making the soft, healing hand and body lotions that Calendula is often associated with.

Calendula Seed Head

Calendula Seed Head – ready to harvest

At this time of year you might notice the petals falling off the plants and the seeds beginning to show themselves. As we’ve had such a dry spell recently, the seeds are setting naturally on the plants without rotting, something that often occurs during wet autumn days. The seeds can be gently removed and placed in brown envelopes, ready to sow again either in the springtime or undercover now for early flowering next year.

For centuries however, Calendula officinalis has been used medicinally in cultures around the world. According to Jekka McVicar’s Complete Herb Book, the inspiration behind the cupcake recipe below, there are some wonderful and ancient stories surrounding this herb. Among other tales, wreaths of Calendula were used to crown the gods and goddesses, the flowers added as an ingredient in love potions in medieval times and the leaves used in the American Civil War by doctors rushing around the battlefields treating open wounds.

For now however, I’ve been wearing a domestic hat and made the buns using the following recipe:

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleCalendula Cup Cake Recipe

Makes 16

100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 tbls fresh Calendula petals

Preheat oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs and flower into a bowl or food processor and mix together until fully combined. Add the milk gradually (pulse if using a processor). Fold in 1½ tablespoons of the petals then spoon the mixture into paper bun cases. Sprinkle the remaining petals onto the top of each bun mixture and add a small sprinkling of sugar on top. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and place the buns on a wire tray to cool.

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleThis is a handy little cupcake recipe regardless whether you add the petals or not. The buns are light and fluffy and given the history of calendula, with each small bite I felt like I was connecting with our past, and of course, they must be good for us if they contain a medicinal herb 😉

 

Are you a Calendula fan? Have you noticed it’s abilities as a companion plant or used it medicinally or in the kitchen?

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Food & Drink

In Season Recipe: Easy and Healthy (ish) Plum Crumble

September 5, 2014

Plum Crumble RecipePlums are now in season and since I was given a large bag of them by Margaret on the Carlow Bloggers Tour, I’ve been busy looking for recipes. Thanks to twitter I’m now in possession of a bottle of vodka and will be adapting our sloe gin recipe later this evening (you can find the recipe here), making I’m told, a very delicious plum liqueur:

Food & Drink, Vegetable Garden

5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes & a Seasonal Salsa Receipe

August 21, 2014

5 Ideas for Green TomatoesGreen tomatoes? Here’s a few ideas that might help them to ripen

There’s been a sudden change of temperature over the past couple of weeks with a cool breeze and low night-time temperatures and it somehow seems too soon for autumn to be settling in. Surely the month of August is still summertime or is my memory of lazy, long school holidays as a teenager deceiving me? Is autumn on its way early this year or is it just a blip? We’ll have to wait and see but if, as a result of this cooler weather, you’ve started to look at your green tomatoes and wonder if they’ll ever ripen, there’s a few things you can try to speed them along.

1. Stop the tomato plants growth. Tomatoes need warmth to ripen and whether they’re growing inside or out, if you haven’t already, nip out the growing tips at the top of the stems to stop the plants growing any taller; remove any stray side shoots and remove any flowers or small fruit that are trying to develop.  At this time of year it’s wasted growth, there simply wont be enough heat in the sun to develop and form more fruit. Remove the leaves that are shading the tomatoes and if the cool weather continues, in a couple of weeks time you might want to consider removing all the leaves from the plants which will allow the remaining fruits to bathe in the last heat of the autumn sunshine and not nestle behind cold, dark foliage.

5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes2. Untie the plants and warm them up on a dark surface. If your plants are strung up, you could try untieing them and laying them down on black plastic or weed membrane (not something I’ve tried but have heard it’s very effective). The tomatoes will pick up the warmth from their dark underblanket.

3. Place the tomatoes next to ripe bananas. Placing green tomatoes next to ripe bananas (that emit ethylene, a ripening chemical) works to a certain degree but personally we’ve found that the skins toughen and turn blotchy and unattractive. 5 Ideas for Green Tomatoes

4. Ripen on a sunny windowsill. Pick the fruit and place on a paper towel on a warm, sunny windowsill to ripen. We’ve found this more effective than laying next to ripe bananas.

5. Don’t panic. Don’t try to ripen them, but use the tomatoes green. Our favourite chutney is the green tomato and chilli recipe linked here and nobody will ever know you’ve added them to your iced buns! And fried green tomatoes isn’t just the title of a film, they are a tasty accompaniment to a dish. I’ve successfully frozen small bags of green tomatoes too that I didn’t have time to do anything with.

Do you have any tips for speeding along the ripening process for your green tomatoes or do you take the laid back approach and let them be?

If you’re lucky and your tomatoes are ripening beautifully, here’s a very quick and easy salsa recipe. You may find you’ll never buy a jar again once you’ve tried it.

5 Ideas for Green TomatoesSalsa Recipe

Ingredients

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 large red onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
1-2 hot green chillies or to taste
450g/1lb ripe tomatoes
4 tsp chopped coriander
Seasoning

Method

Dry fry the seeds in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes, then crush using a pestle and mortar. Mix together all the ingredients, cover and stand for at least 30 mins or overnight to allow the flavours to develop

Food & Drink

5 Uses for Nasturtiums & A Simple Cookie Recipe

July 20, 2014

5 Uses for NasturtiumsI’ve been a fan of nasturtiums (Tropaeolum minor) ever since we began growing our own food. They make such a colourful addition to the vegetable patch, plus they’re edible and importantly for us as gardeners who choose not to use artificial chemicals, they make great companion plants.

Nasturtium cookie recipeThis year we have more than ever growing in a small area of the polytunnel. When I was sowing seeds this springtime I ran out of compost so rather than wait, I popped several nasturtium seed pods directly into the soil with the intention of replanting them outside once they’d germinated and the risk of frost had passed. I never got around to it and we are now blessed with a glorious display of flowers that are attracting all kinds of pollinating insects inside.

As a result of this unexpected crop, I’ve being doing a bit of research and have not only found several uses for nasturtiums, I also managed to create a quick and simple cookie recipe using their petals as a flavouring. First up, here’s a few uses for nasturtiums if you have them growing in your garden:

5 Uses for NasturtiumsFive Uses for Nasturtiums:

1. Companion planting

Our number one reason for growing them in the vegetable garden, nasturtiums make fantastic companion plants. They’re often referred to as sacrificial plants as insects are so attracted to them. Cabbage white butterflies will often lay their eggs on the leaves and the baby caterpillars hatch, eating the nasturtiums and not your kale or broccoli. Nasturtiums also attract blackfly (that like to feed upon broad bean flowers) but thankfully hoverfly like the nasturtiums colourful petals too and their larvae will feed on the little black aphids.

2. A Source of Vitamins

The fresh leaves of nasturtiums are a good source of iron and vitamin C and because they’re edible can be added to salads, though as in the case of many herbs, should be treated with slight caution – guidelines suggest you should never eat more than 15g of leaves at a time or no more than 30g per day.

3. Beauty Benefits

Folklore suggests that nasturtiums are good for treating hair loss. A ‘tea’ can be made by soaking a cup full of flowers in a jug (litre) of hot water which is allowed to cool, before straining and the ‘tea’ massaged into the scalp before rinsing. It acts as a stimulant which is said to encourage new hair growth.

5 Uses for Nasturtiums4. Floral Gifts

The nasturtium flower carries a significant meaning and according to the anniversary flower list, they are associated with the 40th Wedding Anniversary and carry the meaning conquest, patriotism, victory and impetuous love!

5. Culinary Uses. There are several recipes available using nasturtiums. From a cream cheese dip (100g cream cheese, 2 tblsp chopped nasturtium leaves and three flowers mixed together) to pesto and substitute capers. We made some jars of ‘capers’ last year using the seed pods during the community garden project, selling them at the community garden stall at Savour Kilkenny Food Festival and I can confirm, they were very firey indeed!

If you’d like to try cooking with nasturtiums, here’s a very quick and simple chewable cookie recipe that uses the flowers to spice up the biscuits as opposed to the usual biscuit flavourings of cinnamon or ginger.

Nasturtium Cookie RecipeNasturtium Cookie Recipe

Makes about 25 (more if you make the cookie balls smaller)

Preheat oven to 160ºC, Gas 3, 325°F

125g/4oz golden syrup
75g/3oz butter
50g/2oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon chopped nasturtium flowers
Half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g/8oz self-raising flour

Place all the ingredients except the flour into a saucepan, heat gently and stir until melted and combined.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the flour into the mixture.

Roll the cookie dough into balls about half the size of golf balls and place onto lined and greased baking trays, leaving a space of about five centimeters between each one (if you want perfect cookies or closer if you don’t mind them all joining up as in the photo above) Cook for ten minutes in the pre-heated oven.

Leave on the baking trays for a few minutes to firm up, sprinkling a few shredded nasturtium petals on top. Remove from the trays and leave on wire trays to cool.

Nasturtium Cookie Recipe

If you try making them, I’d love to hear how the cookies went down with everyone. My family tried them with faces full of suspicion which quickly changed to smiles of pleasure!

Do you grow nasturtiums in your garden and use them in the kitchen or had any success with them as companion plants?

 

 

Food & Drink, Green

5 reasons why we should eat ‘in season’ (& eat rhubarb cake too)

April 17, 2014

Rhubarb PatchWe often hear the term ‘in season’ bandied about but I was asked recently why it was so important when food is readily available all year round – a good question in the age of convenience. The following post therefore gives five reasons why we should be thinking more carefully about the foods we buy and cook throughout the year. It’s followed by a few suggestions for rhubarb recipes as well as a very seasonal rhubarb crumble cake that I discovered this week after we found ourselves with a glut of duck eggs and ‘in season’ rhubarb stalks.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake CrumbsNumber 1. In season food that’s been freshly harvested has more nutrients and flavour than food that’s travelled hundreds of miles and/or has been stored before it reaches you.

After we pick fruit and vegetables they continue to breathe (known as respiration) which breaks down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Warm air can speed this process up, as in the case of apples for instance. For the commercial market apples are generally stored at cold temperatures for long periods of time (for a year or more in some cases), with low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide added to them. After a few months under these conditions, their nutrient levels begin to diminish.  Even without long-term storage, it might take a week or two between a fruit or vegetable being picked, to when it’s delivered to the shop we buy it from. It may then be another week before we eat it.

When we buy ‘in season’ and locally, the food is generally sold within 48 hours of being picked and we’re more likely to use it quickly, perhaps excited and mindful that it’s so fresh.

Number 2. Buying seasonal food usually means we’re supporting local producers, farmers, farmers markets, CSAs and co-ops which is great for local economies. I wrote a post recently about the various schemes and projects we can support here if you’d like to find out more about them.

Number 3. Buying seasonal food means it’s usually cheaper. Buying a punnet of strawberries in June should be much cheaper than buying a punnet at Christmas. If it’s not, we should ask ourselves (or the shopkeeper) why not. Are the farmers getting a good deal?

winter squashNumber 4. Some societies believe that ‘in season’ food provides nutrients and ingredients that our bodies crave or need at certain times of the year. Somehow juicy soft fruits such as red currents and raspberries seem much more appealing when the sun is warm on our skins than in the cold winter months. Likewise we enjoy eating warming vegetable stews and soups loaded with root vegetables, pulses and winter squashes in the autumn months when we’re tucked up in front of cozy fires.

Number 5. Eating in season is good for the environment. At a time when climate change and fossil fuels are uppermost in many of our minds thanks to the recent IPCC report, there are less air and road miles used when we shop for and eat ‘in season’ local produce.

Buying more local and ‘in season’ produce doesn’t mean that we have to give up buying imported produce altogether, but that we become more aware of what’s growing or on offer at any particular time and choose it as often as we can over imported fruit and vegetables.

rhubarb plantsRhubarb Recipes

As a result of a sudden rhubarb glut in the Greenside Up household, I learnt this week that if we don’t have time to cook it all, it freezes very well. Just wash, trim and cut the stalks into 25mm pieces then blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 mins. Drain them, dry them then pack them into containers on their own. They can then be used for stewed fruits, pies and cakes when you have more time.

However, it seemed a shame to be in possession of so much rhubarb and not make something with it! I therefore chose this particular rhubarb crumble cake recipe because it uses lots of eggs and now that our duck is laying, we have an abundance.

Not used to baking with duck eggs, I googled and found that we can just straight-swap duck eggs with hen eggs. So I did. The resulting cake was light, fluffy and went down a treat but it did take longer to bake than the original Good Food recipe suggested, probably as a result of the slightly larger duck eggs.

Ducky & Bob, best pals since the fox attack

Ducky & Bob, best pals since the fox attack

If you’re searching for other rhubarb recipes, I’ve one here that the lovely Mona Wise published in her newspaper column last year for rhubarb cheesecake and another from Sarah of Cake in the Country for rhubarb lemonade that’s very refreshing at this time of year. There are instructions on the latter post too for growing and caring for rhubarb if you have any questions about it.

duck eggsRecipe for Rhubarb Crumble Cake

250g butter
250g caster sugar plus 1 tbsp
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs (I used duck)
300g plain flour, plus 7 tbsp
2 tsp baking powder
300g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced thinly
Preheat the over to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3 and grease and line a 20cm deep cake tin.

Please note that since my old food mixer broke, I’ve been using a food processor for all my mixing and baking… 

Put the butter, 250g sugar and vanilla into a food processor and mix until the mixture is combined, light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time (I always break them into a cup first to check they’re fresh), and mix together before tipping the mixture into a large bowl. You wont need to do this if you use a food mixer. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.

For the crumble topping, remove about 85g of the mixture with a spoon and put onto a plate then stir in the extra 7 tablespoons of flour mentioned in the ingredients list. Use a knife and fork to mix and chop this up until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the chopped rhubarb into the large bowl of flour and eggs and fold in until combined. Empty the mixture into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle the crumble topping over the top before finally sprinkling the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the top.

Place the tin onto the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hr 35 mins if using duck eggs (the Good Food recipe recommends 1 hr 15 mins for hen eggs). If the cake begins to brown or burn but is still runny in the middle when checked with a skewer, cover the top with a piece of tin foil.

When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a while before turning out of the tin and cooling fully on a wire cooling rack.

rhubarb crumble cake

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I’ve plans to make a rhubarb and honey compote this weekend with honey from a neighbours hives, making it a truly homegrown dessert. Do you have any favourite rhubarb recipes? What are your thoughts on ‘in season’ shopping? Do you think we’ve forgotten what ‘in season’ really means?