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Learn to Make Your Own Garam Masala

Spice up your cooking with this gorgeous, aromatic concoction, a world away from the dull pre-packaged variety found in the shops.  It’s easy to make and even better if you use some of your own ingredients.

Did you know that coriander, sown in July and given some cloche/greenhouse protection, can keep producing delicious leaves into December?   If it bolts (produces flowers) it is a fantastic food source for insects and particularly those hoverflies that will eat your aphid foes.  Once finished, the flowers will set seed that you can leave on the stalk to dry until it is brown and use in your own curries and soups.

Have a go at growing cumin or turmeric to include more of your own ingredients.  Our Master Gardener volunteers are always happy to help novice growers learn new skills. Unfortunately, even they can’t help you to grow nutmegs and cinnamon in the UK!

Garam Masala recipe

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Slow Bread For Busy Lives: Have a Go at Baking Your Own

After the response to our ‘Slow Bread For Busy Lives’ workshops at the annual Community Volunteers’ Conference at Ryton last week, I thought I’d post something here about bread making.  It’s not strictly food growing, unless you count the massive numbers of tiny yeast cells that you have to carefully cultivate to get a good loaf!  Good bread though, is something that is easy to make, once you understand the basics, and like growing fruit and veg. the end results are far better and cheaper than anything you can buy in the shops.  All it takes is a little know how and some practice.

I have made all my family’s bread for the past 15 years after a long period of frustration at finding that the shop bought offerings quickly turned blue (due to very high levels of sugar), tasted like dust, and turned to play dough on my tongue.  I also heard an edition of Radio 4’s Food Programme in which bread guru Andrew Whitley described how bread manufacturers (I can’t call them bakers) often use pig enzymes in their bread but don’t have to include this in their ingredients list as it is considered a part of the process and not an ingredient!

If you want to find out more about this side of the bread industry and to understand more about the science of bread making, have a look at Andrew Whitley’s book ‘Bread Matters’ (ISBN: 9780007298495) and his website.

People often don’t make bread as they think it takes a lot of time.  It does, but often not enough!  Most recipes include enough yeast to have you waiting around for an hour for your dough to rise,which is not a lot of time in which to do anything else.  In fact, if you significantly reduce the amount of yeast, you can leave dough to prove for hours before needing to shape it and bake it.  I manage to fit my bread making around  a full time job, two children and a husband who often works away by:

  • Making the dough up in the evening, proving it overnight and making up the loaves in the morning once the family uproar has died down.
  • Alternatively, making the dough up first thing in the morning while they all hunt for their schoolbags/shoes/complain that they have to make their own breakfasts, leave it to prove all day and make the loaves up in the evening once they are fed and dispatched to homework/Minecraft.
  • Making enough dough for 6 loaves at once and filling my oven to capacity.  It doesn’t take any longer to make 6 loaves than 1 and bread freezes brilliantly, as long as you wrap it well to keep the moisture in.  That way I only have to bake once a week.

As well as being easier to manage if you can leave your dough to get on by itself for a few hours, slow bread tastes much better as the starch in the flour has been broken down into sugars and other compounds by the yeasts, which also alter the structure of the gluten.  Both make the bread more digestible.  There is increasing evidence to suggest that the explosion of gluten intollerance/allergy may be due to the speed with which bread is produced (4 hours from flour to wrapped loaf) and the massive amounts of yeast needed to achieve this.  Industrial bread is more a set yeasty foam than bread!

I produced a handout for the workshop with some basic information and recipes for the everyday loaves my family eat and how to make your own sourdough bread with a culture unique to your own kitchen.  Have a go, eat the disappointments and have another go until  one day you’ll find your family complaining if they have to eat bought bread.

Slow Bread For Busy Lives – Handout

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Cooking With Herbs

Cooking With Herbs

Herbs are great for growing in small spaces and making the simplest meal something special.

This is French Tarragon, a delicious addition to salads or an omlette, which goes fabulously with chicken or mushrooms.

MasterGardener Malcolm Brown has put together this guide to a delicious range of herbs and how to cook with them

.The Culinary Use of 11+4 Herbs

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Find out more about healthy eating and cooking here:

Try Love Food Hate Waste for tips on using up those leftovers and reducing the amount of food you throw away

Find out about FLIC, the Family Lifestyle Club that helps families learn abut becoming healthy and managing their weight here: FLIC leaflet001

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Make a Home Grown Gooseberry Sauce Cake

Make a Home Grown Gooseberry Sauce Cake

This is another regular favourite at Master Gardeners training days.  It is based on the better known American apple sauce cake idea and comes from Sophie Grigson’s book, Country Kitchen.  You can replace the gooseberries with any other fruit puree.

280g (10oz0 self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (I usually miss this out)

110g (4oz) caster sugar

110g (4oz) demerara sugar plus a little extra for sprinkling

110g (4oz) melted butter

2 eggs

300ml (1/2 pint) unsweetened stewed gooseberries (or apples, strawberries …)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F Gas 4
Line the base of a 23cm (9in) cake tin and grease it
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and 2 sugars in a large bowl
Mix the fruit puree, eggs, butter and vanilla extract thoroughly
Add the wet mix to the dry mix and combine
Pour into the baking tin
Sprinkle with Demerara
Bake for about 45 mins until golden and a skewer comes out clean
Cool for at least 15 minutes before turning out.

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Make a Delicious Home Grown Carrot Cake

Make a Delicious Home Grown Carrot Cake

This is a regular treat at Leicestershire Master Gardeners induction and in-service days.  It is moist and spicy and is taken from the old Cranks recipe Book, which is still available as a ‘vegetarian classic’ ( The picture is of Susan, our Warwickshire MG coordinator, taken at the annual ‘Masters’ conference at Ryton).

Cranks Carrot Cake

175g (6oz) carrots (parsnips make a fragrant and unusual alternative)

2 eggs

100g (4oz) soft brown sugar

75ml (3fl oz) vegetable oil (hazelnut gives an interesting additional flavour)

100g (4oz) self raising flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

50g (2oz) dessicated coconut

50g (2oz) raisins (extra walnuts are nice too)


Orange icing (Alison’s version)
40g (1 ½ oz) cream cheese

75g (3oz) icing sugar

grated orange zest

walnuts to decorate if desired


Pre-heat oven to 190C 375F, gas 5
Grease and line an 18cm (7 inch) square cake tin
Finely grate the carrots
Whisk the eggs and sugar until creamy and thick
Whisk in the oil slowly
Add the remaining ingredients and combine evenly
Spoon into the tin
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean
Cool on a wire tray.
Combine icing ingredients and spread when cold.

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Learn to Cook for free with GoLearn!

Once you’ve harvested all those delicious crops, what do you do with them?  If cooking is a mystery to you, help is on hand from GoLearn!, Leicestershire County Council’s Adult Learning Service.  Basic Cooking Courses are held around the county so give them a call and find out what’s cooking near you.


FREEPHONE 0800 9880 308

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Winter Squash Soup

Winter squashes, e.g. Butternut, Hubbard, Uchiki Kuri, are fun to grow and come in a range of colours, shapes and sizes. Most have a sweet, nutty flavour and make delicious curries, risottos and soups. Once harvested, squashes keep well for a few months in a cool, frost- free room.
I made a big pot of soup for supper today and have enough leftover to freeze for future pack-up lunches.

Ingredients (serves four)
500 g peeled and cubed winter squash
500 g peeled and diced potatoes
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, diced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
850ml hot vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of single cream or creme fraiche (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions on low for two minutes stirring constantly so they don’t catch.
Next, add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Stir in the potatoes and squash and cook for three minutes.
Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Use a stick blender or food processor to puree until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the cream or creme fraiche.

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Make your own Mincemeat for Christmas with Windfall Apples

This recipe makes a tangy and fruity mincemeat, much less sweet than the shop bought variety and an ideal way to use up your bruised windfall apples.  Add your choice of alcohol if you like.






1600g Peeled and cored apples (doesn’t matter if they go brown before mincing)

570g Currants

120g Raisins,

450g Sultanas

120g mixed candied peel

900g Sugar

170g vegetarian ‘suet’ (Atora do one)

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 nutmeg


A sharp knife for peeling and coring

A mincer or kitchen blender

A couple of large bowls for the apples and dried fruit

Another large bowl for the minced mixture

A bowl to catch the drips from a mincer and maybe some newspaper for the floor!

A nutmeg grater

A lemon zester

A lemon juicer

A Mixing spoon

glass jars

sterilising tabs/Milton



  1. Sterilise your jars. I heat them from cold  to 220 degrees C on a tray in the oven and let them cool before filling.  Immerse the lids in boiling water for 20 mins.  Alternatively, you could use a bucket full of a weak solution of Milton or some steri-tabs and then rinse the jars and lids well. This can be done in advance if the lids are screwed on tight until they’re used.
  2. Mince the apples together with the dried fruit into a large bowl. This can be messy as it generates a lot of juice but is fun. I use the hand mincer but it works just as well in a kitchen blender, as long as you stop while it’s still lumpy and don’t make a puree.
  3. Pare the zest off the lemon and chop finely
  4. Juice the lemon
  5. Add the sugar, spice, zest, juice and ‘suet’ and mix really well.
  6. Transfer into sterile jam jars and store in the fridge. Allow at least 24 hours before use. Lasts for 2-3 months.



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Like Foraging? Try Loughborough’s Fruit Routes


Loughborough’s Fruit Routes is an artist led initiative, created by Anne-Marie Culhane working with the Sustainability Team at Loughborough University.


Fruit Routes started in 2011 as an invited proposal to RADAR (Loughborough University Arts). It was then passed on to the wider University. Fruit Routes aims to develop the university grounds as an edible landscape anchored around fruit tree planting, increasing the foraging opportunities on campus and sharing knowledge with the university and wider community through creative events, participation and mapping. Fruit Routes aims to create a legacy of several hundred fruit trees on site which will bear fruit for years to come for people to harvest, share and enjoy.


Click here for links to a Fruit Routes map, recipes and much more

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