Leftover Squash, Sage & Ginger Soup


On Tuesday I tried this squash recipe from BBC GoodFood.  Andy’s out all week for extra drumming practice and the like, so I ended up with half a squash left over and decided I’d make a soup with it.  My aim was to try making a butternut squash soup that was thin.  Usually squash soup is very thick and can be a bit heavy and cloying which is great in winter but not so great when it’s summery outside.  The choice of sage for the main herb, instead of my usual squash favourite accompaniment thyme, was influenced by the fact that the sage plants I grew from seed last year have burst into full growth once again and were looking ripe for plucking!

Leftover Squash & Sage Soup

Ingredients

  • 10g root ginger
  • 10g fresh sage
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 knob butter
  • 350-400g butternut squash (about 1/2 of a medium sized squash)
  • 400ml chicken stock

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Peel and chop the butternut squash into squares and place in an oven tray.
  • Tear half of the sage and add it to the squash, pour over the olive oil and season lightly.
  • Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Whilst the squash cooks, chop the onion, garlic and ginger finely.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté with a lid on until soft.
  • Once softened chop and add the rest of the sage, mix and heat for a few minutes.
  • If the squash is not yet done, take the softened mix off of the heat and set aside.
  • Once the squash is done add it to the saucepan along with the stock.
  • Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Leave to cool, then blend (or alternatively, don’t leave to cool and have spatters of boiling soup launch themselves at your arms =(  Yeah, I’m really dumb sometimes…)

The soup ended up being more subtly flavoured than the main ingredients would suggest – the ginger adds a little bit of spiced flavour and adds to the aromatic flavour. As with most soups, it improves if left overnight =)

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Late Easter Treats

It’s been a while since I posted anything about cooking – I’ve been making plenty and quite a few tasty things too but for some reason I’ve felt really underconfident about posting on the subject – I guess possibly something to do with the fact there are so many amazing food bloggers out there who’re just so high above me I can’t see their feet for the clouds.  I don’t know why I don’t feel the same way about gardening – I’m a complete newbie with it, too, but I feel more of a sense of ‘sharing foibles’ with my gardening than my cooking, where it feels as though I’m sharing my ineptitude.

I’m pushing myself, thus, to post these even if they are now ‘out of season’ just so that I get back into the mode of publishing cooking stuff – I’d love to get back into doing my Saturday/Sunday soup recipes, especially since Mishi gave me the Covent Garden Soup Book – which has a recipe for every day of the year!  It was their soups, with the monthly seasonal changes, which added to my determination to make my own – I really liked them but they are were little  expensive and I figured I could have a go at making my own unusual soups.

Whilst hot cross buns are traditionally an easter recipe there’s no reason not to have them after!   I wish I’d taken more photos of these whilst I was making them but it was really late as I wanted to have them relatively fresh in the morning without actually making them first thing in the morning ;)  I have some pics over here, halfway down, from the last time I blogged about making hot cross buns.  Recipe is based on the bbc one here.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

  • 450g strong white / bread flour plus a few extra tablespoons for decoration.
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 100g mixed fruit and peel
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 150ml milk
  • 50ml of  water
  • 1 egg
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar for decoration

Directions

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl – flour, caster sugar, yeast, fruit & peel, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg – if you will be using unsalted butter you should also add 1 tsp of salt. Melt the butter and warm the milk and water.  Make a hole in the middle of the dry mix, add the milk and water.  Beat an egg then add it to the bowl, quickly mixing so that the warm water and milk don’t start to cook the egg.

Once well mixed, turn out onto a floured work surface.  Knead the dough for around ten minutes by hand – I’m not sure how long it’d take in a mixer – I didn’t want to use mine at 2am.  Put the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a warm damp towel and leave in a warm room for around an hour.  The dough should have doubled in size, if it hasn’t then leave it a little longer.

Preheat the oven to 200C

Turn the dough out onto the work surface, punch it down gently and roll into a vaguely sausage shape.  Cut pieces off about 1/2 the size you want your buns to be.  Take the piece in your hands and flatten it a little by stretching, pull the edges underneath and form a bun shape.  Cut a cross or whatever simple design you’d like into the buns and leave them, again lightly covered by a damp cloth, for around 15 minutes.

Whilst they are rising, mix four tablespoons of flour with water until you have a paste which is thick but still flows.

Once risen, use your flour mixture to make crosses or markings where you made the cuts.  The buns should then go into the oven for 10-15 minutes.  They are ready when they are a deep golden brown colour and sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Add the granulated sugar to a small pot with 1 and 1/2 tbsps of water.  Put the sugar mix over a low heat when you put the buns into the oven and it should be about ready when they come out – if it starts to burn or boil simply turn it off.

Once the buns are out of the oven transfer them to wire racks and use a pastry brush or similar to brush them with the sugar mix whilst they’re still warm.

Extra Notes

If you want to add extra juiciness to your buns then soak the fruit beforehand in fruit juice.  I soaked mine in orange juice for around 12 hours or so and this plumped them up well – making them softer once cooked.

You can use a piping bag to pipe the flour and water mix or you can roll up a piece of greaseproof paper into a cone and use that.

If you heat the sugar mix too fast or don’t let it melt fully before you brush it on the buns it can become very granular.  This isn’t a complete disaster as they’re still rather tasty and it can add a bit of crunch.  Andy apparently actually prefers them that way, too!

I made two batches as I wanted to make sure I had enough to feed ~15 hungry drummers with some spare and I used a cookie cutter to make circles on mine rather than crosses as the symbol the processional drummers (the group Andy is drumming with at Beltane) have on their tabards is a sun.

As well as a pile of hot cross buns I also took in some dyed eggs to roll down Calton Hill:

I used the instructions here and tips for making patterns here.  They didn’t all work out that well, but the mistakes often looked better than the deliberate patterns so I’m not too fussed ;)

Also, since it’s been a while since I posted one, here’s a silly tinfoil hat cat photo:

Sam is incredibly laid back and patient with us or possibly just too lazy to move when we put things on him…

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Garden Palette



A little bit of ‘picture spam’ but I wanted to share with you the colours in my garden at the moment.  This time last year everything was green.  Lush, but a little dull.  This year there are so many colours in the garden already – even if they’re still only dotted around, rather than parading through it.  The forget-me-nots are a particular favourite, as I love those purple-blue flowers with bright yellow centres. The tiny little plants which battled through winter in the plastic greenhouse are now mature flowering plants which are welcoming the early bees and drawing them into my garden!

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Tatties & Squash

The unseasonably good weather has given my little early tattie experiment a good start.  Although only one of the pair of extras I planted sprouted the one which has come up is becoming quite a monster – growing another inch or two every time I look away from it!  I think the one which hasn’t come up might have been a greenhouse casualty – perhaps it had it’s buds knocked off when everything came tumbling down.  Either way, I’m hoping this helps spread the ‘glut’ of new potatoes out a bit – I love them but there’s only so many two people can eat at a time.

The others, planted earlier this month, are just starting to poke their heads up – with the second lot of epicure and the salad blues ahead of the yetholm gypsy which is barely peeking above the soil line.  The salad blue plants are particularly pretty – most of their sprouting leaves are a deep purple-blue but some are green tinged with purple.

Something else I planted early this year was squash.  I didn’t want to leave it until the last minute again as I had very little luck getting any form of squash to sprout last year and the few that did died when quite small.  The germination rate was terrible from the seeds I got – even when I decided to pre-germinate them on wet paper for my last batch – I think I got three tiny plants from ~14 seed!  This year, however, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  I’d picked up a cheap packet of ‘Sweet Dumpling’ from Homebase to practice on and ‘Boston’ with my seeds from the Real Seed Catalogue.

The ‘Sweet Dumpling’, unsurprisingly, gave me only one sprout from two seeds but the addition of bottom heat managed to get that one little plant to come up and it’s being nursed on the living room window.  It has a few leaves now but it’s still very small and not that healthy looking – much like my courgettes and butternut squash last year. The ‘Boston’ squash couldn’t be more different – it had the exact same conditions as the sweet dumpling but both seeds germinated (fast!) and they are very vigorous little monsters:

Even just the seed leaves are almost as long as my thumb!  I’m hoping the difference in size is simply because the ‘Sweet Dumpling’ variety is a smaller fruit and that I get to try some of them as they’re supposed to be a very nice variety.  I have been very impressed in general, though, with the germination rates and vigour of the seeds/seedlings that have come via the Real Seed Catalogue – whatever their methods they seem to work well and I’ve had great luck with all of their plants.  It’s not just learning, either – I’ve still some seed left over from last year and, on the whole, the commercial seed has not impressed me much.  I’m not against hybrid or ‘agricultural’ seed overall – both sides have many good points – but when I get better results from organic, non-hybrid seed growers then that’s where I’ll buy my seed. Hybrid vigour doesn’t go for much if half the seed never germinates in the first place!

The greenhouses are doing a lot better now – we’ve had no accidents since the second one was tied and they’re getting to be quite full.  Eventually a lot of their ‘inhabitants’ will need to move out for the tomatoes, but we’re not quite there yet.  Quite a few of the plants in there will hopefully be going into hanging planters which Andy got me for my birthday back in February – I’m hoping to hang them on  the fences to add yet more colour into the garden.  Veggies are great, and I’ve even got a few colourful varieties this year, but I am looking forward to some flowers in amongst them.  Last year I’d say the marigolds really stole the show in the garden, despite being there mostly to help ward off some pests and add the occasional petals to a salad. They were so bright and cheerful in a sea of green that you couldn’t help but be drawn to looking at them.  Given the number of self-sown ones I don’t think I’ll be lacking for their colour this year either and they should be joined by a mix of fuchsias, begonias, petunias, trailing pelargoniums, cosmos, sunflowers and nasturtiums as well as a few tubs of one of my favourite outdoor flowers – gladioli.

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Ordered Chaos

I like being organised – having lists, charts, diagrams, and plans.  I also have a terrible memory.  Therefore, when it comes to gardening, yes, I really do have a schedule! (and also J to thank for the idea for my blog post this week – thanks! ;D)  I don’t think I’m alone there, either, though I’d suspect more experienced gardeners just ‘know’ or remember many of the things I have to keep track of.  As a beginner gardener there’s a lot to remember and absorb as each plant has personal wants and needs, bedfellows it does not get on with, pests particular to itself or, worse, that it can pass to others, times when it must be repotted, times when the roots must not be disturbed and so forth.  Trying to hold all of this in your mind is not an easy task!

Therefore, I have the Green Folder. What’s in the green folder?  My garden plan, calendar with sowing dates, whatever seed I’m going to sow that day (if any), labels, a marker, a pencil, and “Grow Your Own Vegetables” by Joy Larkcom.  This is my basic tool kit and comes out with me every time I go into the garden – even if I’m weeding – because who knows what might have popped up overnight and which I’ll forget about if I don’t note it down?  Joy Larkcom’s book is a great addition to my kit – it’s not big and flashy, but it is dense, full of quickly absorbable information and tips – much like a manual or almanac for the small-garden and beginner gardener and I thoroughly recommend it.

I did not have the green folder last year and  stupidly made some basic mistakes simply because of the fact I couldn’t be bothered to walk back inside to look something up or didn’t write something down before it frittered out of my mind.  I’m silly like that… but, to be honest, last year was more about eager ‘participation’ in gardening and figuring out the basics so I’ll forgive myself my little mistakes – especially since it’s given me the basis upon which I can build a better system for myself.

The other tool I use is Folia.  This is a social gardening site which allows you to input and track your plants at all stages of their life as well as letting you easily track all the seed, bulbs, etc. you’ve got.  I’ve had a little button on the side of the blog since I started using it, but I don’t know if I’ve really mentioned it before on the blog.  It can be a little overwhelming at first to use but, like most things, once you have a go you quickly get used to its quirks and the gardening community therein is well worth that effort – as is the ever-improving software.  I’ve found fast, friendly advice there from  gardeners around the world – from those who grow a little garden like my own to those who plant and manage acres in self-sufficient farms!  It also has its own journal system, so if you don’t witter on all about your garden on a blog of your own you can do it there ;)

Folia allows you to check back to see which batch of last years seeds didn’t make it because you planted them too early, and which ones seemed to come up fine, it allows you to set tasks and can remind you via email of what you need to do that week.  It has many groups on particular plants or growing styles where you can jump in and get more detailed advice and if you put in your growing zone, can tell you when you can sow many of your seeds.  It has a free and pay-for version, and some of the funkier stuff is behind the pay wall – however it’s relatively cheap and goes towards maintaining the service which is run by a coder-gardener couple who do it all in their spare time.  They’re very good at responding to bugs and suggestions and the last year has seen major revamps to make the site easier to use.

This year, I’ve also taken to labelling things much more.  Last year I figured I could totally remember what I was planting.  Yeah, no idea why I thought that, given my memory, but after a game of ‘is it cauliflower or is it cabbage’ I decided that next time I’d definitely label things much more meticulously (then my greenhouse fell over, knocking all of my carefully placed labels out of their tubs, but I’ll just try to forget that!).

I think having these tools helps me keep a good balance – I have the information at my fingertips if I need it, and it’s not too onerous to jot down little notes about things to do or that I’ve done then transfer them quickly onto Folia when I come indoors, knowing they’re safe there when I need to remember if there was any point in trying to sow peas in March or not to bother!

 

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Potato Day

The frosts seem to have passed, we’re getting fairly nice weather and it’s now a little overcast and rainy after a week of warm sunny weather.  Perfect for potatoes!  I’m still planting them in bags – I don’t really have the space in my wee garden to plant them in the ground – but since I got a fair crop last year even though I dug mine up early (was worried about blight, turned out to be unfounded) I don’t think it’s too big a problem to grow them that way.  Slowly and steadily, the patio is being taken over by various containers…

The green bag closest to the fence was planted a few weeks back and kept in the greenhouse – it’s now outside (post green-house face plant) and has a few shoots breaking the surface!  I’m going to need to go get more compost – I used up all of what I’d bought for planting them and have none left over to earth them up, whoops.  Should have a good few weeks before that’s a problem, though.

Everything has really started coming up in earnest, now and both indoors and outdoors are crowded with seedlings.  I’m growing a much wider range this year and I’ve more than doubled my growing space with the bags and additional non-food-plants in the shady side garden.  It should make for a good challenge, one which I can live up to, I hope!  I told Andy I was aiming to get self-sufficient in salads during summer – it’s a small goal, but I think it should come close to being attainable.  Especially if potato salad counts…

Indoors, one set of plants have made me rather proud:

These are three buddleja that I’ve grown from seed.  They spent all of winter at less than an inch tall – around 4-6 leaves.  As soon as spring has hit they’ve just rocketed up.  They’re putting on 2-4 leaves a week and are now about 6-8 inches high – though they sometimes fall over a wee bit, which is why one has a support, at the moment.   I had such a hard time finding cuttings or small plants for sale or swap that I finally plumped for seed.  The germination rate wasn’t super and they took a long time to pop up, but I’ll be glad when these are large plants and I can think on the fact that I grew them ‘from scratch’.  I have no idea what colour they are as it was seed from a mixed pack.  I’m guessing they’ll all probably be the same ‘standard purple’ rather than some of the more interesting shades of white or lilac from the packet but I don’t really mind as I like purple!

Last night I got around to taking some pictures of my purple Venezuelan chilli.  Despite it being listed as ‘low germination rate so we send extra seed’ by the seed merchant (some big companies could learn a thing or two, there) four out of the five I planted germinated!  This is great, though I’m not sure where I’ll put them as I’ve really only got space to grow one or two in the greenhouses.  A lot of people talk about growing chilli plants on a window but I don’t think we have enough light coming in ours for such sun-loving plants.   These particular plants are really nice to look at – many chilli (and veg) varieties tend to be quite plain but the variegated colours of these leaves are pretty stunning.  They’re a little more purple-red in reality than the photos make them look.

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