Spicy Rhubarb and Strawberry Chocolate Cobbler

Ever heard of a chocolate cobbler?

No?

Neither had I! That’s why I decided to make one!

What a brainwave that was! I’ve recently discovered that rhubarb and chocolate go beautifully together (Nutella ravioli and strawberry rhubarb sauce), and with a few strawberries thrown in for extra sweetness this experiment was a hit! Ten out of ten for flavour!

Spicy Rhubarb and Strawberry Chocolate Cobbler

Chop 600g rhubarb into 2cm pieces and stew gently with 200g strawberries, 100g sugar and 1 tbsp water. Add 1 to 2 tsps allspice and 1 tbsp cornflour. The rhubarb should be just tender, keeping its shape. Transfer to a baking dish.

Sieve 100g wholemeal and 125g self-raising flour, 2 tbsps cocoa powder and 1 tsp baking powder. Rub in 30g vegan butter/margarine, then stir in 30g brown sugar. Add 150 ml plain soya or other non-dairy yoghurt and mix to form a soft dough. Roll out to 1cm or 1  1/2 cm and cut out rounds with a cookie cutter. (I got 16 small rounds)

Place the rounds on top of the fruit, sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar, and bake at 200°C for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with vegan crème fraîche/cream/ice cream.

By the way, this chocolate cobbler recipe could be made with other fruits too! How about blueberry, peach, blackberry and apple, raspberry, plum, cherry…….

Chocolate goes with just about everything!

😀

Spicy Allspice

Pimenta dioica

Allspice

(Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

Allspice is a berry which comes from the Pimenta dioica tree.

The reason for its name Allspice is simply its taste, with hints of clove, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg. The English named it for its flavour, while the Spanish named it Pimenta (pepper) for its appearance, since it resembles black peppercorns.

This is another of those great things Christopher Columbus and his expeditions brought back to Europe after his travels in the “Americas”! And it quickly became popular as an ingredient in sweet dishes in England, although in Jamaica – where it was first found – its uses are much broader. Sometimes called Jamaica pepper, it gives their sauces/chutneys and marinades for meat that distinctive warmth and spice. The English loved it, and in some Middle Eastern countries it was also adopted. But allspice has not really been embraced further east, possibly because of the abundance of other aromatic spices. In Germany it is not well-known, and is often referred to as “English Spice”…

The allspice berry is picked before it ripens… the plantations in the West Indies must smell absolutely heavenly at this time! These green berries are then dried in the sun until they shrivel and turn black, just like peppercorns. Jamaica still provides most of the world’s supply – and apparently the best quality – having protected the plant from export early on. They can be bought whole, or ground… like mine… 😀

Allspice can aid digestion and can be used to relieve arthritis, rheumatism, stress and anxiety. It has even been used as a deodorant! (Soldiers in the Napoleonic wars put it in their boots for its warming effect and the side effect was sweet-smelling feet!)

I use it in baking quite often… like in these spicy rhubarb muffins here

New recipe coming up tomorrow! 😉

And They Called It…Poppy Love

Poppy Love

In the autumn of 2006 about a dozen home-grown poppy seedlings were carefully planted into an almost bare rockery. The following year they all flowered! (I’m always surprised when things survive a cold winter, snails and slugs, mice, etc!)

Rockery, May 2007

Since then they have become a well-established feature throughout the garden. Reliably hardy plants are so welcome in my garden… especially drought-resistant ones!

Rockery, May 2012

The bees love them…

I wish I could shrink to the size of an insect for a day, just to see things from their angle… Imagine climbing into a huge orange-red armchair with a purple cushion in the middle!

And the last two years I have also had pink ones, which are very effective planted near chives or irises, and are also pretty tough.

This year I will have to divide some of them again… anyone for poppies?!

Corydalis lutea

In the spring I showed some of the corydalis that grow in our woods and in my garden.(See here)

This one is a summer-flowering corydalis. It will flower right through to the first frost and will seed itself around profusely!

Corydalis lutea

It loves our alkaline soil… after all, it originally comes from the southern Alps. And it flowers from early May, adding colour to my spring corner as the tulips have faded and distracting the eye from the yellowing foliage of other spring flowers.

And it probably won’t stay where you plant it, in the recommended semi-shade, as it has a mind of its own…

By the way, Corydalis comes from the Greek for crested lark, which is so apt and pretty that I refuse to use the new name Pseudofumaria lutea! 😉

Summery Flavours: Lemon Verbena

Yes, “summery”… I’d say summer has arrived!

Aloysia citrodora

(also known as Lemon Verbena or Lemon Beebrush)

This aromatic herb has been well-known in Europe since the end of the 18th century. Botanists and Spanish sailors brought it back from their travels in South America, and it became popular as a lemon substitute in both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as in tea. When you rub the leaves there is a wonderful scent of lemon… I would say it smells and tastes just like sherbert lemon bonbons!

In its native habitat it will grow up to 3 or 4 metres high, but is usually only a short shrub in Europe. It is hardy only to -4°C, so wouldn’t like our winters!

I have planted two in containers for the summer, and may try to bring one through the winter indoors. However, if it drops its leaves, as it tends to do when it is too cold, I will use them like lavender in my drawers and cupboards.

The other herbs in my “tropical” container are Orange Thyme, Lemon Thyme, and Pineapple Sage. I also have some Orange Mint.

I’ll post about them another day.

The Lemon Verbena leaf is delicious in salads, or with sweet dishes such as rice pudding or fruit salad, but use it sparingly as it has quite a pungent flavour. The distinct clean citrus oil aroma is retained when the leaves are dried, so it can be stored for some time without losing its appeal!

Here is one way of retaining that fresh tangy flavour for a hot day…

Lemon Verbena Sorbet

  • 1 cup lemon verbena leaves
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 cups water

Whizz the cleaned leaves and sugar together in a food processor. Then add the lemon juice and whizz again, and then add the water. Whizz until it is combined into a beautiful lemony green syrup! Strain, to remove any bits of leaves, and then either freeze or churn in an ice-cream maker and then freeze. Take out of the freezer to stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve this refreshing sorbet alone or with strawberries or other early summer berries.

This took us back to our childhood… just like those lemonade ice lollies we used to get on sticks! But this sorbet has a very natural flavour, and no bitter aftertaste like some lemon ices.

Leaves and Herbs

The other day I harvested the first tender salad leaves from my containers which I sowed exactly a month before… baby rocket and spinach, Japanese mustard spinach and red and green mustard leaves.

It’s great eating food you’ve grown yourself… Fresh and full of flavour, with that added bonus of knowing exactly where it came from and what went into it. Mixed with a simple vinaigrette with parsley, chives, mint, thyme and lemon verbena – all out of my garden and herb pots – this made a tasty dish of sunshine!

Add to that some grilled cheese and a simple salad of couscous with spring onions (not my own yet!), lemon and parsley…

… If you don’t have any fresh herbs, you still have time to sow some… Parsley is easy to grow, and so versatile. Coriander too. (Coriander flowers taste divine!) And  I have just sown a whole forest of basil! Basil is the main ingredient for my favourite summer dish – pesto – and is very happy in small containers on a covered balcony for example, where it is protected from heavy rain or cooler night temperatures. A sunny windowsill is also ideal. I barely cover the seeds when sowing and keep them moist by putting plastic or glass over the pots, then they germinate within a couple of days. I resow regularly till August, so we have plenty to harvest!

Do you grow herbs? And what’s your favourite one?

I’d love to hear your herby tips or recommendations!

Good Things

The good things in life right now, in no particular order, are:

My garden, strawberries, poppies, dogs, favourite people, peonies, sunshine, Karel Capek’s book “The Gardener’s Year”, and blogging!

I am so lucky to have such accommodating plants in my rockery that flower every year without fail, attracting wonderful wildlife and giving bursts of colour just when needed.

And I’m so lucky to be nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award by Gina from Professions for PEACE !

Beautiful Blogger Award

Thanks Gina!

Gina’s blog offers inspiring thoughts on making life more fulfilling, living each moment to the full… and she’s a gardener too!

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All I need to do now is:

~Thank the person who nominated me and link back to them

~Nominate 7, 6, or fewer blogs that I enjoy

~Post a comment on each of these nominees’ blogs with a link to my page for the details

~Paste the Award image somewhere on my blog, if I wish

~And, continue blogging!

Since I don’t follow so many blogs I will just nominate three outstanding ones that I have followed now for some time, and stress that accepting this award is purely a matter of choice – there is absolutely no obligation! (I know some bloggers are put off by the rules.)

  • One of the most beautiful blogs I follow is Strawberryindigo. Her prose and photography are wonderful and her inner beauty shines through.
  • The first blog I ever followed was The Iris and the Lily. Bonnie’s garden is in many ways like mine, although we live miles apart! And her photography is absolutely beautiful, examining plants and nature from a different angle.
  • My other favourite is The Teacup Chronicles. Danielle’s blog is beautiful and magical. Her photos, recipes and her style of writing calm and inspire me.

Thank you all three of you for your beautiful posts!

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I hope some of you will take a few moments to look at their blogs, and share their love of nature.

Have a lovely day everyone!