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  • Writer's pictureAmy

The sage is flourishing in my garden right now. What started off as a reduced section potted herb for about 50p in 2018 has turned into this huge shrub that tumbles over the border and onto the patio. I love it.


I use it so often too, and this constant picking and nipping out the tips is probably why it's so massive. My favourite, and almost daily use at this time of year is as a tea. I find it helps me relax, eases painful perimenopausal menstruation, and keeps me emotionally balanced. I'm sure it has a hundred or more medicinal uses, it really does feel like a magical plant.


Today I fancied a sage sauce to go with some nice pork sausage and pasta for tea. This sage pesto recipe is adapted from a few I've found on the internet using what I have in my fridge and cupboards.



SAGE AND PUMPKIN SEED PESTO


  • Fresh sage leaves - a good handful

  • The juice and zest of a small lemon

  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds dry roasted in a heavy based frying pan til the skins pop

  • 1 tbsp parmesan (or nutritional yeast)

  • Salt to taste

  • A glug of olive oil

  • The same of water

  • 1 fat clove of garlic


METHOD

Roughly chop everything and then place in a blender or blend in a pestle and mortar and blend til fairly smooth.




I'll be stirring this through some tagliatelle with a little cream, grilled sausages and broad beans for our dinner.

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  • Writer's pictureAmy

For the past five years or so it's been a tradition in our home to feast on cheese and biscuits on Christmas Eve, with a glass of port or damson gin and a good dollop of this year's chutney. Last year it was a lovely green tomato chutney made with the glut from my neighbour's garden, but this year I spied a great big tub of baking apples on the walk to school with a sign saying "free apples". I can't resist free food and I hate to see anything go to waste, so I filled a carrier and planned this year's Christmas preserve.


I'm not one for exact recipes, but I've never made a bad chutney, it really isn't difficult. You do need a big pan, a few hours, and a lot of patience though. And jars! The main rule is to make sure that all the vinegar is reduced and doesn't pool when you draw a spoon through your pan. The amount of sugar, type of vinegar, and spices are really a matter of taste but you must ensure that the vinegar you use has an acidity of no less than 5% in order for your preserve to last. I find the cheap malt vinegar from any supermarket is as good as anything.


Before you start, thoroughly wash your jars and put them on a baking tray ready to go into the oven at 100c or Gas mark 2 or simply a low setting for 20 minutes to sterilise. Do this one your chutney has started to cook down so you can pour hot chutney into hot jars.



Spiced Apple Chutney (makes about 5lbs)


3lbs baking apples, cored, peeled, and chopped chunkily.

350g of dried figs roughly chopped (you could substitute dates or raisins)

3 - 4 medium-sized onions chopped fairly finely

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch of fresh root ginger, peeled and minced

3 chilis chopped finely (depending on how hot you like things you can leave in the seeds or take them out, I like things spicy so I used 3 birds eye chilis and left the seeds in)

500g soft brown sugar

750ml malt vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg


Combine everything in a preserving pan, or the largest pan you have, and cook on the hob on low until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently, then raise the temperature to medium and simmer for an hour and a half or until the vinegar has reduced and you can draw a spoon through the mixture without vinegar pooling, stir often so it doesn't stick. Ladle into hot sterilised jars and seal with a wax disc and a cellophane lid. You can use the lids from your jars but only if they aren't damaged and are coated with plastic on the underside so they don't react to the vinegar.


The chutney needs time to develop and mellow out, I like to leave it until December. This chutney goes particularly well with a mature cheddar or a creamy Lancashire cheese.














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  • Writer's pictureAmy

Creating natural dyes for eggsellent fun this Easter.


My kitchen currently smells of cabbage. I'm not used to boiling cabbage, I prefer it raw or steamed lightly or sliced and added to hot bacon fat and fried, but this smell reminds me of Sundays with Grandma, not that that was ever a bad thing, but pressure cooked cabbage was never something I enjoyed. I'm not sure what she'd have made of me boiling red cabbage for half an hour simply to make dye, but I'm hoping the results would have pleased her.


The last time I played around with natural dyes was when I was around 12 or 13. My school friend Lizzy and I gathered up berries and sticks and lichen from the garden to try and tie dye some fabric remnants back in the early 90s, when tie dye was in. The results weren't great and it put me off trying again. Since then, when it's come to Easter crafts, I've used food colourings and specific egg dyes to make beautifully bright and garish decorations, and one year I experimented successfully with silk scarves wound tightly around the eggs then boiled in water and vinegar, but this year I wanted something far more muted and natural looking, reminiscent of the traditional pasche eggs my mum would make using onions skins, but a little different, a little more 'eggsperimental'. *cringesatownrubbishjoke*


silk scarf dyeing egg blown easter craft
Blown duck egg dyed using a silk scarf

I've chosen to make a few different colour dyes - red (or pink), green, yellow, purple, blue, teal and orange, using as few ingredients as possible. Red cabbage can be purple, blue and teal ,all dependent upon the acidity of the dye. The more bicarbonate of soda you add the less red is apparent.


PURPLE - red cabbage


BLUE - red cabbage with a pinch of bicarb


TEAL - red cabbage with a fair amount of bicarb. Add it slowly until you get the colour you're looking for.


MAGENTA PINK/RED - boiled beetroot with a dash of white vinegar


YELLOW - turmeric


GREEN - red cabbage, turmeric and bicarb


ORANGE - beetroot and turmeric



natural dyes using food
A rainbow of natural dyes

On paper, things were going well. But my purple? It was blue. My blue was teal, my teal was green. This tells me that the PH of the water I cooked the beetroot in wasn't neutral, but slightly alkaline. Either that or the paper I used was alkaline and so were my eggs? It doesn't really matter, the colours were still beautiful and I do like a surprise.


Four of these eggs were blown before dyeing, three weren't. It's much, much easier to immerse your egg into dye and simply leave it there if you hard boil or don't boil (with a view to blowing later).



The blown eggs were 'threaded' onto bamboo barbecue skewers and simply dipped and turned with their sides immersed and the skewers resting on the edge of the ramekins. The effect is beautiful.


And here are the end products.


Natural Dyed Duck Eggs
Orange : Turmeric & Beetroot | Green : Turmeric & Red Cabbage | Indigo : Red Cabbage | Pink : Beetroot | Turquoise : Red Cabbage & Bicarbonate of Soda | Green : Red Cabbage & Bicarbonate of Soda (more) | Yellow : Turmeric

If you would like to know how to blow eggs, I'll be posting a How To later this week. Subscribe to be informed of new blog posts.

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