Spring is truly here. Everything is in flower and growing. The fruit trees are flowering and lovely to see walking through Rathmines. The magnolias are in full bloom. The streets are carpeted in pink blossom.

magnolia blossom

magnolia blossom

And under the trees is lots and lots of wild garlic… Lovely white star shaped flowers. I will be making pesto with it today. I hope Sarah is having Springtime on her hols….

In the garden the broad beans are flowering. This is a transition time. Winter veg like spinach are about to finish in the next few weeks; it is a little early yet for the new veg of spring. Scallions (spring onions are up) having overwintered. Parsnip is still in season from winter. The new season wet garlic is in. This week we span two seasons, that ending and that starting with parsnip, celery and scallions….

I took some time off in my thirties and travelled. I loved New Zealand.. the spectacular scenery.. The mountains.. the fields of lupins . I loved, loved the seasonal food and the wines. In every small town was a bakery and in that bakery every day were baked fresh seasonal muffins, pear, pumpkin and feta, roasted veg. Before this I knew muffins from travelling on business in the US – horrible sweet factory made junk. I was converted.. I bought this little book by the New Zealand doyenne of muffins Alison Holst called Marvellous Muffins(http://www.holst.co.nz) and have adapted a few recipes below for you.

Let me share with you some recipes for savoury muffins to have with soup and some sweet muffins to have with friends. If you have kids bake them with them. If not share them with friends who will be so delighted to get something home baked as so few people bake now.

Avocado, cheese and sundried tomato(or bacon) muffins
250 g of plain flour sifted
4 tsp of baking powder
pinch salt
grated black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
pinch cayenne or 2 of paprika
110g grated mature cheddar
4 scallions chopped
3 rashers bacon chopped (or use about 75g sun dried tomatoes)

75g butter
1 egg
1 cup full fat milk
1 avocado
juice of half a lemon
pumpkin seed (optional)

Sieve dry ingredients into a bowl. Add cayenne, grated cheese and chopped spring onion and stir well. Cook bacon in pan with no fat or grill and then chop finely.
Melt butter add eggs and milk and beat. Halve avocado, skin and cut into cubes, Sprinkle with lemon juice. Add to liquid mixture with bacon or sun dried tomatoes. Fold two mixtures together.

Put into either muffin papers in a muffin tray or into a silicon tray (optionally adding sprinkle of pumpkin seed)and bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for ten minutes or until the muffins spring back when pressed with a finger.

This recipe can be varied… chunks of roasted parsnip with rosemary and feta and a parsnip, rosemary, olive and feta soup. crunchy chunks of celery mixed with ham and blue cheese, Roasted squash, feta and pumpkin seed… Roasted red pepper, roasted tomatoes… Go for it !

It is nice to put in a little wholegrain or spelt flour but beware. These flours go off fast so buy in small quantities and use fast.

If the weather keeps up serve this soup chilled with the hot muffins.. Really great. The soup is very low cal so makes up for the cheese and butter in the muffins.

Tomato, apple and celery soup.

25g butter
140 g onions peeled and roughly
1/2 head celery about 200 g trimmed and with the strings removed. Reserve the green fronds at the top for garnish (dont worry if yellow that is from blanching the celery while growing)
200g apples
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 400 g can tomatoes
150 ml apple juice or cider
225 ml veg stock
pinch sugar
salt and black pepper

Melt the butter in large heavy bottomed pan. Add onions and celery and cook for ten minutes stirring until onion soften.

Add apple and crushed garlic and cook for 5 minutes then stir in chopped tomatoes, apple juice and veg stock. Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes
Cook soup slightly then puree til smooth (if you are very fussy then sieve but if you destringed the celery you are fine)
Then if serving hot bring soup back to the boil add sugar and season.
If being fancy put on top a dollop of yoghurt or creme fraiche and some of the chopped reserved fronds and finely chopped spring onion greens.

This recipe is adapted from a great book called Eat Well Stay Well by Good Housekeeping (http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/). I highly recommend this as a cookery book and also as a great resource for cooking for special diets. This soup is suitable for low fat, low cholesterol, low calorie and diabetic diets (and gluten free if careful re stock).

For those of you on vegan diets put a handful or red lentils in when adding the tomatoes to increase the protein.

If you want to make this a more substantial meal have some salad after: something green and some
potato salad with chopped scallions, mayonnaise (I mostly use bought), a tbsp of whole grain mustard and a squeeze of lemon and maybe stuffed devilled eggs (with or without anchovies). Hardboil eggs remove yolk mash with mayonnaise and paprika, Add chopped scallions and maybe some anchovies.
If you have courgettes in your bag this week this is a good opportunity to roll out the marinated grilled courgette recipe I gave you last week.
Another lovely option is celery sticks and carrot batons with hummous (can of chickpeas pureed with lemon juice olive oil and garlic and tahini with lots of chopped garlic on top) or with a blue cheese dip. Hope you have some left to juice !!

Carrot/Parsnip and Walnut muffins
Cane sugar has always been imported to Ireland. In the days when it was more expensive and scarce people made use of the natural sugars in root vegetables to bake cakes. We continue this by using carrot, parsnip and beetroot in our baking. It is also a great way to get children to eat veg. Try this its nicer than you think


100 g flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice (or use 1/4 ground cloves and 1/2 ground ginger)
160g brown sugar
50g chopped walnuts
handful sultanas (optional)
125ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
100g grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
100g grated parsnip (about one medium parsnip)

Icing (optional as you may find they get eaten before cold enough to ice)
50g cream cheese
25 g icing sugar
juice half lemon

Sieve the first 5 ingredients into a bowl. Add sugar, walnuts and sultanas and mix.
Beat the oil and eggs together and add carrot and parsnip

Mix two mixtures gently.

Bake in muffin tins at 190 degrees C for about 15 minutes

When cooled beat all icing ingredients together and ice

Savoury muffins are great for a lunch box and will keep for a few days in a tin.

Sarah will be back next week but in case you miss her here is a link to a posting on scallions she did for a veg box recipe site in the UK. http://blog.vegbox-recipes.co.uk/2009/03/09/marchs-third-veggie-in-the-spotlight-over-wintered-spring-onions/ for Panfried Spring Onions with Goat’s Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts.


Carrots and mushrooms

April 20, 2009

From Margaret …some Carrot recipes

Carrots go well with cumin and orange and thyme. They are good cut into batons then put in tinfoil and oven roasted with cumin and butter and orange juice (or white wine or stock). They need about forty minutes in a moderate oven. Serve as a side dish.

Another nice idea is carrot, cumin and orange soup. At this time of the year I like to grow lovage and add some but thyme is also good.
An Indian style salad with popped mustard seed, grated carrot, chile, oil and raisins is always welcome. If watching the carbs substitute fine strips of carrot or courgette for pasta or noodles.

I roasted some carrots with onions blitzed them and made a risotto. This recipe would be good with any root veg (roasted parsnip with rosemary) or with roasted peppers (and a basil maybe) or butternut squash(and thyme) or aubergine (add plenty of lemon and cumin). If you are having a busy week roast the veg in advance at the weekend when you have the oven on anyway. Puree while still hot and use for risotto or as a side dish or a souffle or in a veg tart.




roast carrot risotto
400g of carrot peeled and sliced thinly
1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
50 ml olive oil
1.2-1,5 l veg stock
150g butter
2 cloved garlic peeled and finely sliced
400g risotto rice (I prefer carnoroli)
1 bay leaf
4 tsp fresh thyme leaves(or dried)
2 tsp fresh tarragon leaves (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
finely grated rind and juice of two lemons (optional)
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 200. Put carrots onion and olive oil in roasting dish and roast till golden – about 25 minutes. Finely chop or blitz in food processor. In a heavy pot saute onion and garlic in butter stirring gently till softened. Add rice turn up heat and fry for a minute stirring well. Add herbs and season, then carrots, lemon zest and juice and mix well. Then start adding stock bit by bit as normal for risotto and cook until the rice is done.
Serve with parmesan. If you are a forager like me add some wild leek/garlic to garnish (you will spot in the parks and in gardens now a white star shaped bluebell type taste …unmistakable)

Serve with salad

This is adapted from a Peter Gordon recipe for arancini

Arancini is leftover risotto made into balls dipped in breadcrumb and egg and fried . Personally I would never make a risotto from scratch for arancini but if you have the patience… Make extra and use leftovers….

This week coming my risotto will be with wild garlic, nettles and courgettes… yum and very healthy. Nettle tops are full of vitamins and minerals and make a good tonic. Get those gloves out and get picking !! Once the leaves are boiled the sting is gone. Puree and put thro’ risotto.

For a light supper or a lunchbox try carrot fritters.

For 2-3 people
3 medium carrots grated and then squeezed in a clean tea towel
1 egg beaten(or use 2 tbsp chickpea flour and water)
1 tbsp plain flour or potato flour
teaspoon cumin seed or cumin and caraway mixed (lightly toasted on dry frying pan)
black pepper
chopped red chile (optional)
Heat oven to 150
Put the finely grated carrrot into a bowl and season with pepper, Mix in all other ingredients. Roll into small balls with your fingertips. Or make into patties if easier.

Heat oil in a wok at about 3 inches depth. Carefully brown fritters on all sides then remove and dry on kitchen paper. Put on a roasting tray in the oven for 15 minutes.

Then make a sauce to have with them with either sour cream or greek yoghurt a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander or parsley or dill…. Whatever beckons. They can be varied with added grated courgette or shredded spinach or pakchoi and eaten straight out of the oven with an indian style tomato sauce.

In your bag this week is also chestnut mushroom which would be good sauted and then on a pizza or veg tart with some goats cheese. Mushroom are also good cooked and mixed through a salad with greens and pine nuts…Or mushroom on toast with butter and grated parsley and a rasher.. or mushroom stroganoff.

Another option is to wilt some pak choi in a little oil then cook lightly with rice vinegar, sake and fish sauce (or oyster sauce) adding the mushrooms and a little water.