Ok, I admit it, I’ve gone full on “The Good Life” recently. Following on from learning all about Beekeeping I volunteered to help clear ground for an apiary allotment site near my house and found out that there was a small starter plot up for grabs. Well, grab it I did!
This is what I started with. About 5m x 16m of weed suppressed ground. I have spent the last few weeks digging and fencing and working away.
There was an awful lot of digging. The ground didn’t have any weeds, which was a blessing, but it did have a load of crushed plastic pots, a shovel, a rake, a fork, a pickaxe and a hammer all rotting away, along with what might once have been a green house base? Anyway, it all needed clearing and levelling and the clay soil enriching.
I’ve also developed a naughty habit of buying the Amazon 1p plus postage books on gardening. In fact I’m awaiting delivery of a few more that caught my eye this week!
This is where I’m up to: fences built, beds marked out and paths laid. I’ve crops in the ground and I’m preparing to build a chicken run at the far end so I can have fresh eggs too! More on that and the epic shed move soon!
It’s a familiar refrain at this time of year among those who like to grow their own veg… “Would you like some courgettes?” I have been lucky this year and I too can join this ritual with a bumper crop! So what to do with this glut of courgettes? Well, courgettes are one of my favourite vegetables. So it was only natural that eventually I would put them in a cake! This Spiced Chocolate Courgette Cake is deliciously, deeply chocolaty and ever so moist!
The spices add a different dimension to this chocolate cake. They’re not overpowering but instead add a warmth and depth to this rich chocolate cake. I was inspired by Green & Black’s Maya Gold Chocolate, one of my favourites as the spices are just so good there!
The icing is beautifully smooth and silky and the hint of orange complements with spiced wonderfully. I cut back on the amount of sugar in this recipe too as I just don’t think you need as much sugar as we’re used to putting in cakes. Overall I feel happy calling this cake almost healthy! It’s probably one of your five a day anyway!
While you can definitely see the courgette in the uncooked mixture by the time it is cooked it has vanished like magic! I honestly don’t think that anyone would know it was there if you didn’t tell them. The crumb isn’t too dense either even though the cake is gloriously moist but without ever approaching brownie territory.
Makes 1 x 23cm cake
2 medium sized courgettes, grated (500ml in a jug is what you need YMMV on the courgettes required!)
175ml sunflower oil
300g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
350g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice
250g dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 50-80% as that’s what I had in the cupboard!)
125ml orange juice
- Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
- Grate your courgettes (if you have a food processor attachment then use this, its much easier and quicker!)
- Put your courgettes in a sieve or colander and gently press to squeeze out some excess moisture.
- Place the courgettes in a large jug, you need to have about 500ml of them.
- If your jug is big enough (I use a 1l pyrex jug) then add the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla straight to this. Give it all a good mix.
- In a large mixing bowl add your flour, cocoa powder and mixed spice and mix it all together.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir thoroughly until all the pockets of flour have disappeared.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 45-60 minutes. This cooking time will depend very much on the moisture content of your courgettes. Check it at intervals, it’s done when there is no wobble left and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin.
- To make the icing melt your chocolate and butter together in a bowl. I use a microwave but you could do it in a bowl over a pan of boiling water if you prefer.
- Add the orange juice and give it all a really good beating to combine everything together into a smooth icing.
- When the cake is cool remove it from the tin and unpeel the paper.
- Spread the icing evenly over the surface of your cake and enjoy!
A simple dish to throw together these salmon and veggies in foil packets are an easy, tasty and very low mess way of prepping a nice fillet of salmon and some beautiful fresh veggies. Use whatever veggies float your boat. Here I’ve used baby courgettes, sweet red peppers and asparagus but you could use bok choi, tomatoes, aubergine. Lemon slices are a really nice addition too but sadly I didn’t have any in! You can prep them in advance and then store them in the fridge so they’re great for a weeknight supper.
2 salmon fillets
1 baby courgette, split lengthways
1 sweet red pepper, split lengthways and deseeded
a handful of asparagus spears
– Heat the oven to gas mark 5.
– Lay all of your veggies out on a large sheet of foil.
– Place the salmon on top.
– Fold in the edges of your foil to make a sealed parcel.
– Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes until the veggies are tender and the salmon cooked through.
I know, it’s a long name but I felt it summed up this dish perfectly! Basically a whole heap of veggies, some nice thai green curry and a whole lot of SLURP! I got a spiraliser and it is so much fun! I like to prep a few veggies at the same time, box them up and refrigerate them for use over the next couple of days. Here I used carrot and courgette as my noodles. You could also serve this dish with rice if you wanted but don’t worry, this dish is plenty filling on its own without the carb!
1 large chicken breast, thinly sliced
1/2 jar thai green curry paste (I just use Tesco’s, it’s got a nice kick to it!)
2 tbsp coconut milk powder+~400ml boiling water/400g tin of coconut milk
1 courgette, spiralised (or julienned)
1 large carrot, spiralised (or julienned)
1 long red sweet pepper, sliced
2 handfuls spinach
100g mange tout peas, sliced
3 spring onions, sliced
– Heat a spray of oil in a large, deep frying pan.
– Add the chicken and the curry paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until the chicken is white all over.
– Add the coconut milk powder and water (or the tin of coconut milk).
– Bring to a simmer.
– Add the vegetables.
– Give a good stir around to coat in the sauce.
– Add more boiling water to bring the liquid level up (we didn’t do this before because the amount of space your veggies take up can vary!)
– Serve in bowls!
There is something innately comforting about a simple chicken pot pie. The combination of simple ingredients adds up to make a dish that just hits all my comfort spots! Flaky pastry, creamy filling (without any actual cream!) chicken and vegetables, it’s pure comfort in a dish and the perfect way to warm up at this time of year.
The great thing about these individual pies is that I can make up a batch of 4 and then freeze 3 of them, leaving me with an easy dish to grab and shove in the oven on days when I need something quick, tasty and nutritious! It’s always a great feeling knowing I have some of these stashed away in the freezer, and they’re equally good for whipping out for an unexpected dinner guest!
1/2 quantity Rough Puff Pastry / bought block of puff or shortcrust pastry
2 chicken breasts, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 stick celery, sliced finely
1 cup frozen peas
1 chicken stock cube
1 litre boiling water
40g butter (can use oil)
3 tbsp corn flour
salt and pepper to taste
milk to glaze (beaten egg if you want it shiny!)
– Heat a little oil in a large, deep frying pan.
– Add the chicken, onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just catching colour.
– Dissolve your stock cube in the boiling water and set aside.
– In a small saucepan melt the butter then add the corn flour and stir together to make roux.
– Add the hot chicken stock and keep stirring until it thickens.
– Add the peas to your large frying pan.
– Pour over the thickened stock.
– Season to your taste.
– Allow to cook for a further 5 minutes. Check you are happy with the seasoning.
– Roll out the pastry on a floured worksurface to about 5mm thick.
– Cut around at least 1cm larger than your chosen pie dish.
– Divide the mixture equally between your pie dishes.
– Use a pastry brush (silicone, always silicone!) to brush the edge of your pie dish with milk.
– Place the pastry top gently over the pie dish and press evenly to seal.
– Make a little hole on the centre for steam to escape. You can also decorate your pies with the spare pastry if you wish. (Add guest’s names for a dinner party, I love that!)
– At this point you can wrap in cling film and freeze any pies you don’t want right away.
– When you are ready to cook them brush the top with milk and cook in the oven for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C.