There was a bit of a green-fingered rummage in the office on Monday as we gathered up some of the seedlings rejected for not being quite up to scratch for our Box to Grows. Some also go to local schools for their garden projects, and I hope the Totnes Incredible Edible scheme might get a few too; they plant unused spaces around the town with veg and herbs for residents to pick for free.
Those seedlings probably stand a pretty good chance of surviving, but for those heading for my garden, good luck to them! I only have a courtyard garden, but it’s amazing what you can fit in; even artichokes will grow quite happily in large pots. As I have such a small space, I only grow things I can eat, particularly herbs, as I use bucket loads of them.
My blueberry bush, which has survived my murderous attempts for 3 years now, amazes me each summer by offering up a bumper crop. Blueberries seem to grow really well in Devon; they even manage to grow them up on Dartmoor. Mine is only just blossoming, but we have the first of our blueberries available now. Plumper and sweeter than supermarket berries, they’re good with porridge or granola and yoghurt for breakfast. Or try this easy blueberry & yoghurt cake (below), delicately flavoured with a little almond and lemon. It can be made with gluten-free flour too, for those with an allergy.
I’m not a huge fan of meringues, but I love the delicate flavour of saffron, which pairs well in our recipe for saffron meringues with blueberry compôte (below). The meringues also go well with poached pears.
blueberry & yoghurt cake
prep: 10 mins cook: 50 mins serves: 12
If you want to make a gluten-free cake, Doves Farm make a gluten-free self-raising flour, although it isn’t organic, but you could use gluten-free plain flour with baking powder if you prefer.
you will need:
300g self-raising flour
pinch fine sea salt
175g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 large or 1 ½ smaller lemons
2 large eggs
150g plain whole yoghurt
125g unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra to grease the tin
1 tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter on a piece of kitchen paper. Line the base and sides with baking parchment. In one bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, ground almonds and lemon zest. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir together with the yoghurt, butter and almond extract. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredient bowl. Stir until all the ingredients are just combined. Add the blueberries and gently stir them in. Pour into the tin, level it and bake for 50 mins or until just cooked through and golden brown (insert a skewer or cocktail stick in the middle, it should come out clean). Let the cake cool in the tin for 15-20 mins then turn out onto a cooling rack.
saffron meringues with blueberry compôte
prep: 20 mins cook: 2 hours serves: 4
for the meringues:
2 egg whites
pinch of saffron threads
100g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
for the compôte:
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
juice ½ lime, more to taste
2 mint leaves, finely shredded
whipped double or clotted cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put the saffron in a small heatproof bowl. Add 2 tsp boiling water and leave to steep. Crack the eggs and tip each half of the shell from side to side over a small bowl to separate the whites from yolks (do this one at a time into the bowl, in case the egg whites and yolks mix together, transferring the egg whites to a large clean, dry bowl. Save the yolks to make mayonnaise or hollandaise. Whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until the eggs are stiff and have a satin looking sheen. You should be able to tip the bowl upside down without them falling out! Don’t over whisk though, or this will cause the egg whites to break down and the meringues will turn soggy in the oven. Strain the saffron liquid; discard the strands and keep the bright yellow liquid. Add this to the meringue with the cornflour and vinegar. The cornflour and vinegar help the insides of the meringue have a marshmallowy rather than powdery texture. Whisk until just combined. Use 2 dessert spoons to make 8 similar sized oval dollops on the baking sheet. Turn the oven down to 120C and pop the meringues in the oven. Cook for 1 ½ hours or so, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there to cool completely. This will stop the meringues from cracking.
To make the compote, put half the blueberries and the sugar in a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, about 4-5 mins. Add the lime juice and strain the mixture over a sieve. Stir in the rest of the blueberries. Serve the meringues sandwiched together with cream, with the blueberry compôte.