Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lemon thyme cake - using 4 ingredients from the garden

It's thyme to bake a cake!

This cake is delicious and lemony. It is not a light and fluffy cake, but dense and moist.

The first thing you have to do is pop into the garden and pick a handful of lemon thyme and  dry it by leaving it in a basket in the kitchen for a few days. Then, on the day you want to bake your cake, pick one lemon off the tree, collect 4 eggs from your chickens, and honey from your bee hive.


300g of stone ground white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
200g organic sugar
200g butter
4 eggs
2 large, heaped tablespoons lemon thyme (powdered)
Zest of 1 lemon finely grated


I tub marscapone
2 tablespoons honey


Take your dry lemon thyme and grind it in a coffee grinder until it is a fine powder. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs one by one until well mixed in. Sift the flour and the baking powder and add to the creamed mixture with lemon zest and the lemon thyme powder. Mix until it is all well incorporated, and add milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Grease and flour a baking tin and pour the mixture in. Bake at 175deg for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Mix the marscapone and honey until well creamed.
Allow the cake to cool completely and either slice it into two and fill it with the marscapone mixture or use the mixture as a topping.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Pesky stinging nettles - such a valuable weed

This spring I pulled out loads of stinging nettle in my garden. Most people would be cursing at the stuff, as it is extremely prolific - but I can only rejoice. Nettle is such a versatile plant and can be used by the herbalist, gardener and cook.
                                                 A branch of nettle loaded with seed

Every part of the nettle plant is useful. In the garden nettle plants are important hosts for various butterfly larvae, and I'm always happy to have a good environment for insects. It is my belief that a good variety of weeds and herbs creates a balanced ecosystem, and fewer pests.

In phytotherapy (herbalism) nettle is a most valuable plant. The leaves, seeds and roots are used. The leaves are used as a tonic, anti-histamine, liver tonic, kidney tonic, iron tonic, to mention just a few uses. It should however, be used under the supervision of a phytotherapy practitioner, as it can cause an allergic reaction in some sensitive people. The seeds are used for kidney problems and the roots are used in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy. Cutting the roots off hundreds of nettle plants is quite a job. Most people would never realise quite how much work goes on behind the scenes of a phytotherapy practice.

Dried nettle roots

Historically nettle stems have been used to make a cotton-like cloth, but I think I'll give knitting with nettle a skip. But it's an easy job to make a wonderful rich fertilizer with nettle. Once I've removed all the roots, I dunk the entire nettle plants into buckets of water and wait until the resulting brew stinks nicely. I don't dilute it as everyone says you must, but use it neat on tomato plants and other vegetable plants. Nettle is also a great compost activator, and I like to put it in a drum with other weeds to make a rich tea for the garden. One of my clients who has a wine farm, sprays his vines with nettle tea to fertilize them.

As a food, nettle is a wonderful addition to soups, stews and even your dog's food if you cook for your dog. It has a very high protein content and is very rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron and calcium. Some farmers add nettle to their feed for cows, as it encourages milk production.

So next time you feel overwhelmed by nettles, think of all the things you can do with them, even if it is only to put them on the compost heap!