A little seedy…

When we moved into the castle we inherited a mostly neglected and weed-infested vegetable patch, which included a clump of thyme and a spindly coriander plant. The thyme is now the size of a small shrub and the coriander has gone to seed in spectacular fashion. I pulled it out yesterday and planted some spring onions in its place, but not before I cut off all the seed heads. Offering them to visitors is my new party trick – they are SO insanely coriander-y and fresh. Or, as Jeremy put it yesterday, “Bugger the leaves, let’s just eat the seeds!”

If you’ve never eaten a fresh coriander seed then you need to get out into your garden right now (or make a mental note to do so if your garden is currently covered in slush). They’re also good scattered in salads or over olives, but nothing beats eating them straight off the stalk.

The green green grass of home

I don’t know about you but at this time of year I seem to exist on a diet of sugar and toast. In times of old this was supplemented by canapes and champagne (sigh) but those days are long gone. There is plenty of early summer produce about and our miniscule garden is beginning to earn its keep, but there’s no escaping the, err, sweeter side of pre-Christmas.

Alfalfa, flax and fennel sprouts, looking like they’re about to do the dance of the seven veils

Luckily, I’ve rediscovered one of my favourite kitchen magic tricks, sprouting. It took me ages to hunt out some sprout-able beans and seeds (not because it was difficult but because it was way down on the list of Important Things To Do). Then I scoured our local charity shops for the right sort of jar, which took another few outings.

Sprouting the seeds themselves was too easy. It’s a brilliant way to get nutrient-rich greens in an instant – to scatter over a salad or tuck into a peanut butter sandwich – no matter what the weather’s doing.
Here’s how:

1.Put 2-3Tbsp of seeds of your choice in a large glass jar.
2. Half fill the jar with water and cover it with a piece of muslin (or tulle, or other thin fabric that water can drain through easily) and a rubber band.
3. Soak for 10 minutes (for small seeds like alfalfa or fennel). Medium-sized ones such as mung beans will need to soak for four hours and larger ones such as chickpeas should be soaked overnight.
4. Drain the water and leave in a cool, airy place out of direct sunlight. Rinse the seeds twice a day.
Your sprouts will be ready to eat within four to seven days. When they’ve grown enough for your tastes, store them in the fridge where they will keep for a week.

Soothing balm

Is it just me or is everyone in need of a little bit of time out at the moment? I mean, it’s not even December yet and most people seem to be hitting their pre-Christmas meltdown already.

Before you reach for the gin, sit down and take a deep breath (remember to let it go afterwards). Then put the kettle on and brew yourself a cup of soothing lemon balm tea.

The calming properties of lemon balm (melissa officinalis) have been recognised since the Middle Ages. Lemon balm is a member of the mint family (and grows just as voraciously). Its leaves have an intense lemony scent that is both reviving and soothing. Our new house has a tiny bush of it growing in the tangled weeds edging the vegetable patch, but I know it won’t be long before it becomes a thriving monster.

To make lemon balm tea, I just shove a few handfuls of leaves and stems in a teapot and add freshly boiled water, then let it steep for a while. If that sounds too wholesome, Choclette has a recipe for lemon balm ganache which sounds like heaven. After all, lemon balm may help you calm down, but nothing is quite as soothing as chocolate.

My creative space…

Occasionally the KitchenMaid steps out of her usual realm and into other domains. This week I’ve gone back to working in an office with other, real life people, for two days a week. This has had its ups and its downs, as I’m sure you can imagine. The ups – leaving the house alone, wearing nice(ish) clothes, having uninterrupted conversations with adults who see me as something other than a mother. The downs – having a bit of separation anxiety, worrying if I have done the right thing, being suddenly answerable to a real life boss. The even further downs of this week – getting home last night to find the gas company had cut the supply, thus no hot water and no way of cooking the Small Girl’s dinner (hello, Marmite sandwiches!), realising that those bites we are all studded with are, in fact, fleas (thank you, landlord’s cat!)

On a brighter note, the weekends we spent digging up a strip of our tiny backyard are paying off, with little lettuces and basil beginning to sprout.

The garden has been a bit of a joint creative space in recent weeks – now we just need some good weather to enjoy it. What’s happening at your place this week? You can see more creative spaces here. In the meantime, anyone know a child-friendly way to kill fleas?