Tag Archives: food and drink

Nettle and Tomato Pizza

Nettle & Tomato Pizza

It’s Sunday and I’m skint – benefit day tomorrow – but I fancied something….y’know….different. Frustrating, as I only had the good old standbys in the house.

I set a batch of wholemeal bread dough to rise, went for a walk through my favourite, secluded (ok, “private”) woodland and picked a load of nettle tops that were still young and bright in the shade, thinking maybe nettle soup, or spicy gram flour fritters with nettles as a spinach substitute.

Back home, watching an old episode of “No Reservations”, the thought sprang unbidden – ‘Nettles? Spinach? Nettle pizza?!’

How could I resist?

I opened a can of chopped tomatoes, added 3 cloves of garlic (2 mashed, 1 sliced thin), a small chopped green chilli, a dash of balsamic vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and a glug of oil, brought it to the boil then left the pan on as low a heat as possible for about an hour, stirring once or twice.

The oven was whacked up to full – somewhere in the mid-200s – with a baking tray on the top shelf and left to get up to heat while I knocked back the bread dough, sliced off a tennis ball sized lump then left the bread for it’s second rise and the pizza dough ball on the worktop for 10 to 15 minutes.

The nettles I’d tipped into a colander over a pan, poured boiling water over and steamed for a few minutes, thus keeping their bright colour.

Then it was simply a matter of shaping the pizza base, laying a couple of curls of greenery around it and pouring over about half the tomato sauce, followed by a few shavings of parmesan and a final trickle of oil.

It only needed 10 minutes in the oven, if that, and it was good. Very good indeed.

The cost of the electricity probably outweighed the cost of the ingredients.

Which led me to another thought. A few months back I worked out that it costs .30p in electricity for me to bake bread. This is a fixed cost, of course, whether I bake one loaf or four. In fact, I reckon I could bake eight at a time. But I’m not about to bake lovely fresh bread then freeze it. What a waste.

So how would I go about selling it? Doubtless I’d be contravening countless tax and food hygiene regulations if I sold it out the back door, but I’m not concerned about that.

The problem is, I don’t know anyone locally, let alone know them well enough to ask, “Hey, want to buy some bread?”

So, what to do?

I’ll give it some thought.

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Mint and Rosemary Cordial – recipe

Mint and Rosemary Cordial

This time of year I start getting impatient for elderflowers. But if the weather stays as it has been, the chances are they’ll be late, low yielding and, even worse, the best days to pick – dry and sunny – will be few and far between.

So I began to look for alternatives and the first reference I found was for lavender cordial It may be very pleasant, but my few experiences with lavender in food and drink have been unsatisfactory. I found the lavender overpowering, although the strength varies according to variety.

Rosemary came to mind. Rosemary beer I’d heard of, but rosemary cordial? Sounds interesting but … too strong a flavour? Too oily?

I decided it was worth a try. Outside Derby’s Quad Gallery there are two places of interest – the bus stop that gets me home once a week and a public herb garden, which I regularly raid for marjoram, thyme and tarragon to chuck in a quick tomato sauce when I get home.

And there’s lots of rosemary.

I hunted around a little and found a recipe for mint and rosemary cordial on The Herbarium, who, in turn, had adapted the recipe from Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves Handbook

The recipe calls for 50grms mint leaves (that’s a lot) and 20grms rosemary leaves and flowers, but remembering John Seymour’s advice on cordials that I relayed in January’s elderflower post I used 20grms of each and it’s really tasty.

Next week I’ll try again, increasing to 30 or 40grms of mint. At a cost of around .50p per litre, which dilutes to 5 or 6 litres, it’s well worth experimenting.

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Carrot Chutney – recipe

Carrot Chutney

There seem to be a lot of cheap carrots around, maybe it’s the end of last year’s crop? I spotted a 600grm bag for .17p on the reduced shelf at Tesco last night. A good time to make chutney with them. I sought out several recipes, simplified things a bit and came up with this, which gives a tasty, sweet, bright result.

1lb carrots, peeled
1 pint cider vinegar
8oz sugar
12 peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seeds
Crushed seeds of 4 green cardamoms
2 tsp salt
2 or 3 dried chillies

Coarsely grate the carrot, or chop into matchsticks for more texture.
Bring all the ingredients to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer until it starts to thicken. The time will vary depending on the carrots’ moisture content, mine took almost an hour.
Leave to cool down a little then put in warm, sterilised jars and leave for a couple of weeks to mature. The chutney will thicken as it ages, so don’t make it too sticky before jarring.
I used black mustard seed but I think I’ll use white next time. Coriander seed and grated root ginger would make good ingredients, too.

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Nettle Beer


I took this recipe – and the photo – from the excellent Colour It Green website, lots of useful information on home livestock and crafts as well as an ever growing collection of recipes.

3 litres nettle tips – about half a carrier bag
2 litres water
8oz sugar
1 lemon

Pick only the top 4-6 nettle leaves. I didn’t bother stripping leaves from stalks.
Put in a large pan with water and the lemon peel, boil for about 45 minutes.
Strain on to the sugar, add juice of a lemon, stir to dissolve and cover until cool enough to add the yeast. I used a heaped teaspoon of wine yeast with nutrient.
Cover and leave in a warm place for 3 or 4 days.
Put in fizzy drinks bottles, e.g. sparkling water bottles, and leave to stand for a couple of days. Check the bottles daily and if they feel tight carefully unscrew caps to release a little pressure.

Less than a week from picking to drinking and the result is delicious, with a hint of ginger beer flavour. I don’t have a hydrometer but it seemed to be very low in alcohol.

I used the left over nettle pulp to make nettle pesto

As an added bonus I left an emptied bottle, with a little yeast residue in the bottom, on the kitchen worktop and the next morning, in full sun, the yeast had developed a good strong head, so I used it to bake bread. A happy accident.

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Dandelion Wine


Last week it was so hot the dandelions were going to seed – in March.

DSCF4708This morning I’m staring glumly out at the snow streaking horizontally past the window, adding to the 1 inch covering I woke up to at 7:30.

It won’t last.

3 or 4 pints dandelion heads
Juice and peel of 2 lemons
2½ pounds sugar
1 heaped tsp wine yeast

Cover the flower heads with boiling water and leave to stand for 24 hours.
Add the lemon peel, simmer for 15 minutes then strain into another pan containing the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, leave until cooled to blood heat and add the juice and yeast.
Cover and leave to stand for five days. As my house is quite cold, I sit the pan in a cupboard inside one of those cheap, insulated freezer bags from a supermarket.
Transfer to a demijohn, top up with warm water – roughly half boiled to half from the cold tap – cap with fermentation lock and leave to ferment.
Transfer to a clean demijohn. The recipe I had recommending leaving this for a year before bottling.

Fat chance.

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