Arriving in autumn (but known as ‘winter’ squashes), cold-weather squashes are set apart from their summer cousins by their thick skins, orange or yellow flesh and large, tough seeds. In her book Seasonal Food Susannah Blake invites you to try autumn squashes suggesting delicious recipes. Read on her vegetarian suggestion, a delicious Barley risotto with butternut squash.

There are many different types. The pumpkin, with its dazzling orange skin, is widely available, as is the creamy, smooth-skinned butternut squash and the smaller acorn squash, with its fluted dark-green or bright-orange skin. Less common are the hubbard, the onion and the Asian kabocha squash.

With their sweet flavour and smooth texture, all squashes are delicious sautéed, roasted, baked or steamed in their own juices and can be added to stews, pies and soups, used to stuff pasta or tossed into salads. Their natural sweetness also makes them ideal for using in cakes
and pies, pumpkin pie being the classic dessert served at a US Thanksgiving dinner.

Buy only unblemished squashes that feel heavy for their size. Avoid really large ones, as they often lack flavour. To prepare, halve or cut into segments, then scoop out the seeds, which may be roasted, cracked open and eaten as a snack. If sautéeing or adding to a soup or stew, cut off the skin; if baking or roasting, remove the skin before or after cooking.

Barley risotto with butternut squashrisotto recipe

Serves: 4
2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g/9oz pearl barley
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
80ml/21⁄2fl oz/1⁄3 cup white wine
125ml/4fl oz/1⁄2 cup vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
25g/1oz Parmesan cheese, grated


  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Put the squashes in a roasting tin, drizzle over about half the oil, tossing to coat, and
    season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking, until tender.
  • Meanwhile, cook the barley in boiling water for about 25 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and fry gently for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the drained barley, pour over the wine and stock, and leave to bubble gently for about 5–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Stir in the crème fraîche, sage and Parmesan cheese, then fold in the squashes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.


Susannah Blake
Seasonal Food
Available from Nourish Books



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Extract from Veggienomics by Nicola Graimes

This popular spicy Korean pickle is the classic accompaniment to the rice dish Bibimbap, but a spoonful will lift any Asian rice or noodle dish. The Asian radish, daikon or mooli is traditional but I find turnip is just as good, easier to find and more economical to buy.

Makes: 750ml/26fl oz/3 cups
Preparation time: 2½ days

165g/5 ¾oz/ ¾ cup salt, plus extra for sprinkling
750g/1lb 10oz Chinese leaves, halved crossways and cut into 4 wedges, tough stalk removed
375g/13oz turnip, peeled and coarsely grated
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp mild Korean red pepper powder, Aleppo
chilli flakes or mild cayenne pepper
2 tbsp gochujang (Korean hot chilli paste) or other hot chilli paste
2.5cm/1in piece of root ginger, grated (no need to peel)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
4 spring onions, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil


  • Dissolve the salt in 2l/70fl oz/8 cups water in a large bowl. Sprinkle extra salt between the leaves
    of the cabbage. Put the cabbage in the salty water and put a weighted plate on top to keep it
    submerged. Leave to soak for 3 hours, or until the cabbage leaves are pliable and do not break
    when bent.
  • Using a slotted spoon, scoop the cabbage out of the water into a large colander and add the turnip
    to the salted water. Rinse the cabbage well under cold running water (this is important or it will be
    too salty) and leave to drain for 30 minutes while the turnip is soaking.
  • Mix together the soy sauce, red pepper powder, chilli paste, ginger, garlic, sugar, sesame seeds,
    spring onions and sesame oil in a large bowl.
  • Squeeze the cabbage to remove any excess water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Slice the
    cabbage crossways into large, bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl with the flavourings. Drain and
    rinse the turnip well, drain again and pat dry in a clean tea towel. Add to the bowl with the cabbage
    and stir until everything is combined. Spoon the kimchi into a sterilized Mason jar (see page 11) and
    press down with the back of the spoon. Put the lid on and leave in a cool, dark place for 2 days before
    eating to allow the flavours to develop, then transfer to a fridge. It will keep for several months in
    the fridge.

Nicola Graimes
Veggienomics: Thrifty Vegetarian Cooking
£14.99, Available from nourish Books



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Extract from In the Mood for Healthy Food by Jo Pratt.

If you are not familiar with sprouts (and I don’t mean Brussels sprouts — they are a different thing all together!) then do read on. I must admit I didn‘t used to take that much notice of the tubs of loose tangles of pale threads with tiny unopened peas/buds at the top until I realized just how amazingly good for you they are.

There are lots of different types of baby plants and vegetables that are eaten in their sprouting stage and are a powerhouse of nutrients. They’re jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and enzymes that all have huge benefits to our health and wellbeing. When a plant or vegetable seed is germinated, its nutritional benefit increases anywhere between 300 and 1,200 per cent! So sprouted seeds are a pretty impressive condensed form of nutrients that shouldn’t be ignored. A little goes a long way in the world of sprouts so a mere handful of these ‘living foods’ included in your diet can give you a really healthy boost and leave you bursting with energy. What’s more, they can replace important enzymes in our bodies that we can no longer produce ourselves, as we get older.

Where to find them
When it comes to sourcing sprouts, they are becoming increasingly more available in supermarkets, grocery stores and, of course, health food shops, which is great news. However, your best option of getting to enjoy a variety of sprouts regularly is to grow your own – and it’s far easier than you might imagine.

How to sprout
You can buy all sorts of fancy sprouting seed trays and kits, but to get you started it can be as simple as using a fairly big screw-top jar (about 1–2l/35–70fl oz/4–8½ cups) and a lid with holes pierced into the top or a piece of muslin/cheesecloth securely attached to the top with a rubber band, for ventilation and drainage. I use a large Mason jar with a two-piece screw-top lid, replacing the metal disc with a piece of muslin/cheesecloth.

Details vary from seed to seed, but once you have some seeds or beans suitable for home sprouting sprouts(not planting) the general method is the same.

Put the seeds into your clean jar (fill no more than one-third full). Rinse with cold water, drain and then top up with fresh cold water. Leave to soak overnight (or less if the seed/grain package says so).

Rinse thoroughly, drain well (tip the jar upside down) and leave the jar on its side at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Rinse and drain a couple of times a day (I find at breakfast time and before bed is the most practical time for me) and after 3–5 days you should have fully sprouted seeds. Make sure they are well drained, then keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Like vegetables, each and every type of sprout has a different flavour. These are just some of the types of sprouts around:
» Fresh and delicate microgreens – the baby leaves of vegetables such as beets, pea, rocket/arugula, clover and cress. These are very mild in flavour and can really enhance the presentation of a dish when scattered over the top.
» Spicy and add bite – radish, onion, fenugreek, garlic, mustard.
» Nutty and wholesome – these will add texture and crunch to a dish: mung beans, lentils, chickpeas, aduki, alfalfa and split peas.

What to make
Here are a few suggestions on how to include some sprouts in your diet:
» Add to tossed salads or make them the star of a salad (mixture of any sprouts)
» Mix into coleslaw (cabbage, radish or clover)
» Scatter into wraps or sandwiches (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)
» Add to stir-fries (mung beans, aduki, lentil, cabbage)
» Add to sushi (radish, clover, sunflower, broccoli)
» Stir into soups, casseroles and stews (chickpea, mung bean, aduki, lentil)
» Mix into curries (chickpeas, fenugreek, lentils, mung bean, aduki)
» Blend into juices (broccoli, clover, alfalfa, pea shoots)
» Blend into hummus (chickpea)
» Garnish dishes (microgreens, alfalfa, onion, pea shoots)


Jo Pratt
In the Mood for Healthy Food
£20.00, Available from Nourish Books



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feat image

Enjoy Autumnal Celebrations in the City at the RHS London Harvest Festival on 6-7th October (Lindley Hall, Greycoat Street, Westminster SW1P 2PE), where Richard Hood and Nick Moyle (the Two Thirsty Gardeners) will be demonstrating how to make some of the recipes from their book, Brew It Yourself.

Just as the leaves begin to turn, the annual celebration of seasonal bounty that is the RHS London Harvest Festival Show returns to the heart of the city from 6–7 October, celebrating the abundance of produce that the autumn harvest brings.

Visitors have the chance to see, taste and buy fresh autumnal produce from some of the UK’s leading nurseries, growers and independent food producers. Among the range of colourful fruit and vegetables on show will be the astonishing entrants in the RHS Heaviest Pumpkin Competition, with professional and amateur growers competing for the top prize of £1,000.

This year the show has a special focus on one of Britain’s favourite fruits, the apple. The Two Thirsty Gardeners (Richard and Nick) will be on hand to demonstrate how to make homebrewed cider with recipes from their new book Brew it Yourself, which will also be available to buy at the show. As well as sampling the cider, visitors will be able to taste and purchase a range of delicious apple cultivars from RHS Garden Wisley and gain expert advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

On 6 October, the show stays open until 9pm when there will be additional pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, seasonal fruit cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary, food and live music – giving Londoners unable to attend the show during the day the opportunity to celebrate the harvest season in style.

Make sure you pop on down to taste some cider, and learn how to Brew it Yourself!




Nick Moyle and Richard Hood
Brew It Yourself



by Christine Bailey

Chia seeds are an amazingly nutritious dieter’s superfood, rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which protect these healthy fats from being oxidised. Chia seeds also provide plenty of fibre as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin and zinc. When chia seeds are added to water, they form a gel that helps to slow down the digestion of sugars, helping to stabilise blood sugar and keeping you feeling fuller for longer.chia seeds

Chia Coconut Breakfast Bars

These are perfect for when you need something quick to grab and go.
A delicious tropical combination of dried mango and coconut, these no-cook bars are simple and easy to prepare. Using chia seeds is a great way to boost your intake of omega 3 fats.

Soaking time: 10 minutes
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours chilling time
Storage: will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Can be frozen for up to 1 month
Makes: 18 bars

200g/7oz/1½ cups almonds
2 heaped tbsp chia seeds
125g/4½oz/2 cups dried
mango, chopped (soaked for 10 minutes)
juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp xylitol
4 tbsp melted coconut butter
pinch of sea salt
3 tbsp lucuma powder
40g/1½oz/½ cup
ground flaxseeds
120g/4½oz/1½ cups desiccated coconut


  • Grind the almonds to a fine flour. Grind the chia seeds to a powder.
  • Drain the mango. Place half in a blender with the chia powder, orange juice, xylitol, melted coconut butter and salt. Blend to create a thick purée. Finely chop the remaining mango.
  • In a large bowl, place the ground almonds, lucuma powder, ground flaxseeds, mango pieces and three-quarters of the coconut. Pour in the purée and stir until blended.
  • Sprinkle a little of the reserved coconut over the base of a greaseproof-lined traybake tin, about 30 x 20cm/12 x 8in. Press the mixture into the tin and flatten the surface. Sprinkle the remaining coconut on top, pressing down firmly. Refrigerate for 2 hours to harden. Cut into bars.


Christine Bailey
The Raw Food Diet


Made up almost entirely of water, the juicy, refreshing cucumber comes in many shapes and sizes, from tiny, knobbly specimens to long, plump, smooth-skinned ones – and, although they are subtle, there are distinct shifts of flavour between the different varieties.
Cucumbers are used the world over, especially in salads and relishes, their mild flavour often being used to carrystronger flavourings or to provide a calming accompaniment to fiercer seasonings, such as chillies and spices. They are frequently paired with yoghurt, soured cream and cheese – a tradition that spreads from the eastern Mediterranean right through the Middle East and into India. Chopped cucumber is a central ingredient of raita, a cooling, minty yoghurt relish for serving alongside spicy curries, while in Greece it is stirred with yoghurt and mint to make the dip tzatziki, and the similar cacik in Turkey and other parts of the Middle East. It is also popular pickled or marinated with herbs, vinegar and spices – a tradition particularly associated with central and eastern Europe.
When buying, look for firm cucumbers. Although the skin is edible, it can easily be removed using a vegetable peeler, if desired. You can also quickly remove the seeds by halving the cucumber lengthways and scooping them out with a teaspoon. The flesh may then be sliced, diced, grated or cut into batons, ready to add to any dish you choose.


summer recipe


  • Peel, seed and grate 1 small or 1⁄2 a large cucumber into a strainer and press out as much liquid as possible.
  • Tip the remaining flesh into a bowl and combine with 240ml/8fl oz/scant 1 cup of Greek yoghurt, 1 crushed clove garlic and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint.
  • Stir in salt to taste, then chill in the fridge until
    ready to serve.


Susannah Blake
Seasonal Food
Available from Nourish Books



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coconut oil 2

This article is an extract from The Vegan Cookbook by Adele McConnell.

Coconut oil has a fairly high smoke point (176°C/350°F), and so is suitable for frying. It can be heated without being damaged and oxidized, as other oils are. Oxidization causes oils to become unhealthy free radicals in the body. Choose organic, virgin and unrefined coconut oil, which is minimally processed.
Non-virgin coconut oil may be produced from dried coconut (copra) and will have lost nutrients as
well as being highly processed. Use coconut oil for baking, frying and in desserts or smoothies.
Alternatively, use olive oil (not extra virgin) for frying over medium heat.
Organic safflower oil is high in omega-6 essential fats and is my personal alternative for cooking if I am short of coconut oil.
Rice bran oil is rich in vitamin E and omega-6, and has a high smoke point at 232°C/ 450°F.
The only oil suitable for raw dishes, however, is coconut oil – for taste, nutrition and its ability to solidify quickly.

Crêpes with spinach & mushrooms

Serves: 4
Preparation: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour resting
Cooking: 30 minutes

Ingredients: 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup soya milk; 50g/1¾oz/¼ cup vegan margarine; 125g/4½oz/1 cup plain flour; 1 tbsp coconut oil; dairy-free yogurt and lemon; wedges, to serve

Spinach and mushroom filling: 1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil; 180g/6¼oz button; mushrooms, thinly sliced; 400g/14oz baby spinach; 1 tbsp lemon juice; sea salt and freshly ground; black pepper

Put the milk in a large bowl and add the margarine, flour and a pinch of salt, then add 170ml/5½fl oz/²⁄³ c up water at room temperature.

Whisk, or use a hand blender, until smooth.
Cover the bowl with cling film, and put in the fridge for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and put a heatproof plate inside to warm. To cook the crêpes, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in an 18cm/7in frying pan and add just enough batter to coat
the base of the pan, tilting the pan to spread the mixture.

Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, then carefully turn the crêpe over and cook on the other side until lightly golden. Put the crêpe on to the warmed plate, then cover and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining batter.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan over a low heat. Add the mushrooms and fry for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the juices are released.
Add 1 teaspoon water at a time if the mushrooms begin to stick to the pan. Add the spinach to the pan and reduce the heat to low.

Cook for 2–3 minutes until the spinach begins to wilt, then stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon 1 tablespoon of the filling on to one edge of a crêpe. Roll it up gently. Continue with the remaining crêpes, then put the filled crêpes in an ovenproof dish and reheat in the oven for
10 minutes. (Or serve them at room temperature, if you prefer.)

Serve with yogurt, and a lemon wedge.


Adele McConnell
The Vegan Cookbook


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Wild watercress can be seen growing in summer streams, although the vivid green bunches that arrive on the greengrocers’ shelves have been cultivated in special beds with piped running water and are available all year round.
The robust, peppery flavour of raw watercress is delicious in salads, or it may be shredded and added to cooked dishes at the last minute. Some people, however, find watercress too powerful on its own, and prefer it combined with blander ingredients or used more as a flavouring. The shredded leaves are excellent stirred into creamy mashed potato just before serving, or combined with milder lettuce leaves in a salad, in a similar manner to fresh herbs.
Spread savoury scones with thick cream cheese and top with a sprig of watercress, or shred a handful of leaves and sprinkle over an omelette while it cooks.
Choose watercress with large dark leaves and avoid any that is withered, limp or slimy. If a recipe requires only the leaves, simply pluck them off the stems. For salads, part of the stem is often trimmed off, leaving the more tender upper part and juicy leaves.

Watercress soup
Ingredients: 25g/1oz butter; 1 onion, chopped; 225g/8oz potatoes, chopped; 750ml/26fl oz/3 cups vegetable; stock; 175g/6oz watercress; 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup milk; 4 tbsp single cream; salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Melt the butter in a pan, then add the onion and fry gently for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the potatoes, pour over the stock and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, remove the green leaves from the watercress and roughly chop the stalks. Add the stalks to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the leaves, reserving a few to garnish, and cook for about 1 minute more.

Pour the contents of the pan into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return to the pan, stir in the milk and bring to simmering point. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, garnished with the reserved watercress leaves.



Susannah Blake
Seasonal Food
Available from Nourish Books


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The okra plant is native to Africa and its long, ridged seed pods are widely used in the cooking of that continent, as well as in the cuisines of the Caribbean, India and the Mediterranean. Okra is usually stewed, although it may be fried or steamed before combining with other ingredients. The seeds are coated in a slimy substance that is released into dishes containing chopped or sliced okra, giving them a somewhat gloopy consistency. This is relished by some and is often exploited as a deliberate characteristic of okra dishes. But if it is not to your taste, okra pods can simply be trimmed and cooked whole, so that the viscous liquid cannot ooze out. The end result will still capture the delicate but distinct flavour of okra and is truly delicious. When buying, look for small, bright-green pods that are firm and slightly springy when squeezed. To prepare them, trim off the stem without revealing the seeds, then either leave whole or cut up as required in the recipe.

Mediterranean okra and tomato casserole
This simple Mediterranean-style dish, mildly spiced with coriander, is the perfect way to enjoy tender whole okra. Serve it hot, warm or at room temperature – as a vegetable accompaniment or as an appetizer, with chunks of crusty bread for mopping up the juices.

SERVES 4 2 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, halved and sliced 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 tsp ground coriander 600g/1lb 5oz ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 125ml/4fl oz/1⁄2 cup white wine 4 tbsp water salt and freshly ground black pepper 450g/1lb okra, trimmed large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and gently fry for about 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander, then add the tomatoes, wine and water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir. Add the okra and gently fold in. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and leave to simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the okra is tender. Check the seasoning and serve, with the chopped parsley sprinkled over the top.



Susannah Blake
Seasonal Food
Available from Nourish




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This article is an extract from Mighty Spice Cookbook by John Gregory-Smith.

Also called ‘Indian Saffron’, turmeric is a very old spice that is native to India, which is still the major producer of the spice today.
It was first cultivated around 3,000bc by the Harappan civilization in the Indus Valley. The beautiful spice was used in cosmetics, cooking, medicine and as a dye, which all still remains the case today. The wonderful root has been praised in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as an important anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and vital aid to digestion. And as I discovered during my recent travels to India, often when turmeric is added to a curry, ‘for health’ is pronounced.

Turmeric is part of the ginger family, and if I am going to get technical, like ginger, it is a rhizome: a horizontal mass of the stem of a plant that is found growing underground.

However, the best thing about turmeric is its madly orange colour. If you are ever lucky enough to get hold of the fresh ‘root’, you’re in for a treat. The muddy yellow-coloured root, when broken open, reveals an intensely deep, bright orange-coloured root. It’s so amazing! In South East Asia the root is often used fresh, either grated or simply cut up and pickled. The flavour is very distinct – earthy and slightly bitter – and it provides the colour of a beautiful, deep orange evening sunshine to curries, stir-frys and curry powders. To make the yellow turmeric powder we all know, the root is boiled, dried and ground.

Due to the intensity of colour and flavour, turmeric should be used sparingly. I tend to buy it in small amounts, which can be kept for up to six months. To keep its flavour, store this golden spice in a dry, airtight container out of direct sunlight. If you are using turmeric in a spice rub, I strongly recommend putting on a pair of rubber gloves before you start.

Cha Ca La Vong
Vietnamese Turmeric and Chilli Spiced Cod with Rice Noodles, Peanuts and Herbs

Cha Ca La Vong is a famous restaurant in Hanoi that serves just one dish: ‘Cha Ca’ or fried fish. It is served with spring onions at your table in a frying pan, sizzling on top of a small barbecue.

Ingredients: 50g/1¾oz/1/3 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped •  250g/9oz rice noodles •  6 tbsp vegetable oil •  1 handful dill, chopped •  1 handful coriander leaves, chopped • 1 handful mint leaves, chopped •  1 tbsp turmeric • 4 tbsp plain flour •  4 cod fillets, about 200g/7oz each, skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces •  8–10 spring onions, halved and finely sliced lengthways •  2 tbsp fish sauce juice of ½ lime •  ½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped.

Cha Ca La Vong

1 Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the peanuts and gently toast, shaking the pan occasionally, for 2–3 minutes, or until the peanuts are a beautiful golden brown. Transfer the nuts to a plate to cool.
2 Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain and immediately refresh under cold water. Drain well then transfer to a bowl, dress with 2 tablespoons of the oil to stop them sticking and set aside. Put the dill, coriander and mint together into one bowl and the peanuts into another.
3 In a large mixing bowl mix together the turmeric and flour. Dip the cod pieces into the flour, making sure every piece is completely coated.
4 Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the cod, turning occassionally, for 2–3 minutes, or until the flesh turns opaque and is flaky to the touch.
5 Add the spring onions, fish sauce and lime juice and gently mix until well combined.
6 Scatter the red chilli over the top and serve with the noodles, herbs and peanuts on the side to mix together as you like.


John Gregory-Smith
Mighty Spice Cookbook



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-by Nick Moyle and Richard Hood

The long, hot days of summer (yes, both of them) are when the garden is usually enjoyed at its best. We like nothing better than lolling around on the lawn after a hard day hoeing with a cool glass of home made beer, cider or fancy cocktail, contemplating what to brew next. Happily there are plenty of potential ingredients ready for picking and turning into booze. Here are five of our favourites…

Few things say summer more than sticking a sprig of mint into a glass of booze and topping it up with ice. From a white wine spritzer to an ice cold sangria or even a heady, appley cider, a fragrant green leaf or two adds an unmatchable fresh twist to drinks. We, however, like to turn a simple twist into a full on minty boogie, which is why you’ll often see us reaching for the rum to mix up a mint packed mojito. But we don’t stop there. Our home made crème de menthe kicks into touch any bright green supermarket versions you may have encountered, and we even turn great handfuls of the stuff into a fantastically fresh mint wine.

No end of English folk are quick to declare the strawberry summer’s greatest fruit. And while it does a fine job of adding some fruity sophistication to a glass of Pimm’s, it lacks the versatility of our favourite berry, the raspberry. Being popular among the good people of Scotland you won’t be surprised to hear that it makes a fine whisky based liqueur. A vodka spirited raspberry liqueur is almost as impressive and a shot of the vibrant red liquid into a glass of fizzy wine makes a delicious ‘Kir Imperial’ – a redder alternative to posh blackcurrant cocktail Kir Royale. Raspberries are also our favourite fruit to add to beer recipes, with malty ales and crisp wheat beers all getting their berry bonuses.

Elderflowers are out en masse as spring gives way to summer, encouraging lots of people to have a go at the only alcoholic fermentation they’ll make all year – a sparkling drink often referred as ‘elderflower champagne’. But there’s no reason to stop there: a similar amount of effort (but longer waiting time) can reward you with a much boozier elderflower wine; or an elderflower liqueur (like St Germain) can be made by soaking the flowers in sweetened vodka. If you’ve already missed elderflower season, fear not, because there are lots more edible summer blooms that can be used for booze. Fancy some floral fizz? Give lavender a go. Want a winning summer wine? Try red clover. Got a penchant for a sweet, peppery aperitif? Then nasturtium liqueur could be right for you.

Suggest to wine connoisseurs that you can make a decent bottle of plonk out of muddy root vegetables and they’ll laugh you out of the wine cellar. But, mud aside, there’s a lot to be said for fermenting a rooty harvest – mainly the high sugar content and unique sweet flavours. We have often turned to carrots and parsnips for our demijohn antics, but perhaps the most interesting veg for beginners – on account of its robust, red colouring – is beetroot. Use it as a wine flavour on its own, or tickle it up a notch with a few carefully selected spices, and you’ll not regret it. What’s more, beetroot can also be fermented to make a magnificent Eastern European tipple: kvass. Na zdorovie!

You may think the last thing anyone needs during the hottest days of the year is the red raw heat of a freshly picked chilli bombing your glass of cold booze. But it’s time to think again. A blast of chilli flame prior to a cooling sip of cocktail is a marvellous thing – as anyone who has lined a margarita glass with chilli, salt and lime can testify. Another of our favourite summer drinks to get the hot rim treatment is Mexican ‘tepache’ – a quick and easy fermented drink made from pineapple. Bloody Mary fans should try infusing a chilli or two in vodka before plunging it into tomato juice, and anyone having a go at some home made ginger beer might like to follow Rich’s lead: he adds Scotch bonnets to the mix for an extra fearsome fizz.Brew It Yourself Single Page Hi Res-7

About the Authors: Nick Moyle and Richard Hood both grew up during the UK home-brew boom of the 1970s and 80s, with parents who regularly made their own drinks from home-grown produce, enlisting their help. This fired up a life-long obsession for the art of brewing and in 2008 they built their own cider press and have been producing cider for local pubs, beer festivals and deserving friends ever since. They started their Two Thirsty Gardeners website in 2012, which inspires thousands of loyal followers.

1002_original1-300x388  Nick Moyle and Richard Hood
Brew It Yourself
  ISBN: 9781848992276
  Available in July 2015

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The short season for purple sprouting broccoli begins in the depths of winter and continues through into spring. This highly attractive vegetable offers a wonderful alternative to the more commonly found blue-green calabrese variety of broccoli (and the less common bright green romanesco) that is found during the rest of the year. Purple sprouting broccoli has long, shooting stems with coarse green leaves and a purple tinge to its heads. With a more delicate flavour than the other broccoli, it makes a wonderful treat. Enjoy it lightly steamed until tender and served as an appetizer with hollandaise sauce or melted butter (rather like asparagus) or use it in tarts, gratins, soups, sauces and pasta dishes, as well as in stir-fries and salads. When buying, always choose firm stems with tightly packed heads and really fresh-looking
leaves. Avoid specimens that are wilting, soft or discoloured. Remove the leaves, trim the ends of the stalks and peel away any thick skin, then either steam or boil until it is just tender and still retains its bite and colour. If stir-frying, cut into bite-sized pieces. If a recipe requires only the florets, do not throw away the stems – when cooked, they are tender and juicy and have a marvellous flavour. Use them in another recipe such as a soup or stew.

Broccoli and spring onion salad

Ingredients: 2 bunches spring onions; 2 tbsp olive oil; 1.25kg/2lb 12oz purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed; shavings of Parmesan cheese for sprinkling (optional). For the Dressing: 1⁄2 tsp grated orange rind; 1⁄2 red chilli, seeded and chopped; 2 tbsp orange juice; 1 tsp lemon juice; 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

First make the dressing.
Put all the ingredients in a jug, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, and whisk together. Set aside.
Preheat the grill to hot.
Trim the root and tops of the spring onions and strip off the papery outer skin.
Arrange on a grill pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Grill for 3–4 minutes on each side until tender.
Meanwhile, pour about 5cm/2in of water into a wide pan and bring to the boil. Add the broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and pat dry.
Divide the broccoli and grilled spring onions between four warm serving plates, drizzle over the dressing and scatter with
Parmesan shavings, if using.
Serve immediately.

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Susannah Blake