by Nina Walsh
Before I forget, a couple of tweaks to those rather delicious cardamom, rose & ginger cookies I was experimenting with last month which, by the way, have gone down a storm at the plot. First off, a word of caution. Do not try substituting the raw cane sugar for white sugar (as I did when I realised my cupboards were bare!). They end up far too sweet. Secondly I recommend adding an extra ½ teaspoon of rose water for the flavour to cut through the cardamom. I also used self raising flour and left out the raising agent on one batch and they were perfectly scrumptious.
With a chalk board of delights including Gluten Free Beetroot Brownies, Mrs Beeton’s Honey Buns and Goat’s Cheese and Roast Pepper Croissants, the grand opening of The Allotment Kitchen was a great success. So much so that we are now extending our original opening hours that run the duration of the Archers Omnibus and Desert Island discs into Just a Minute and possibly beyond. It’s trial by error and largely dependent on the weather as we find our feet and our customers.
Luckily we had an unusually sunny day for the launch which brought with it a steady flow of gardeners, dog walkers and ramblers. A table reserved for one in Erick’s neighbouring memorial garden and mum’s fantastic Women’s Institute style bunting draped across both the truck and the garden, set the scene beautifully for a classic English summer afternoon of tea and cake.
Amidst all the activity was the added excitement of a Channel 4 film crew shooting their latest ident, which we are hoping will show off Fifi the kitchen truck in all her glory (even if it is for just a subliminal nano second). To our surprise one chap from the shoot, forgetting that we were not the location catering, did walk off without paying but was soon to return with a slightly sheepish look on his face and a palm crossed with silver. It was a pretty perfect day all round really, with a few familiar faces, as friends turned up on bicycles, new friendships forged between fellow plot holders and mum tending the herb garden.
The weeks following were not, however, quite so full of bustle and sunshine. Despite the Jubilee being somewhat of a damp squib, we were humbled with a brief visit from Queen Armorel and her lady in waiting Miss Madrigal, of renegade poetry / vocal jazz ensemble The Sibylline Sisters.
They were a welcome distraction from the constant downpour (and the ramblings of the Queen’s first cousin, Margaret Rhodes, crackling through the airwaves!) and sampled just about everything on the menu so made our day worth while. Miss Madrigal was also terribly naughty and sabotaged our efficient method of “packing up shop” by adding a certain sparkle that meant the whole process took twice as long but was twice as much fun. For that we thank you M’ lady.
Although I’m not too sure about the goat curry and kebabs, as yet all of the notes dropped into our suggestion box have been rather sensible and polite. I shall endeavour to report back should this change. People have been very kind and donations of garden tables, fresh herbs and plant tray cup holders are all contributing to this little hub that now serves the gardening community.
Bring on the sunshine!
Gluten Free Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies
This is a great twist on the ever popular chocolate brownie. The added beetroot not only gives these brownies an intensely rich mahogany colour but keeps them exceptionally moist without overpowering the flavour of chocolate. I have used gluten free flour for this recipe, which usually requires a little extra fluid so the moisture from the beetroot is perfect. However, these brownies work just as well with a good quality wheat flour.
3 medium sized raw beetroot
275g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
275g unsalted butter
85g pecans, broken into pieces
150g white chocolate, cut into large chunks or buttons
175g gluten free flour
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
325g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Wash and grate the beetroot and bake in the oven with a lid on for half an hour.
While the beetroot is cooking line a 12 x 8 inch tin with lightly buttered greaseproof paper.
Once the beetroot is cooked through turn the oven down to 170C.
Put the plain chocolate and butter in a large bowl, place over a pan of simmering water and allow to melt, being careful not to let the water in the pan touch the base of the bowl.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.
Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in the sugar.
Add the eggs and vanilla essence.
Fold in the flour, nuts, white chocolate and beetroot.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared tin.
Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
The top should be firm but the inside should feel soft when cooked. Allow to cool in the tin. Remove the brownies from the tin and cut into squares. This recipe will make about 20 brownies.
Mrs Bun x