Gardens: eat seeds and leaves

Even the tiniest urban garden or balcony can offer up a larder of edible treasures. One expert reveals her top easy-to-grow ingredientsSeveral years ago, I bought a peach tree, anticipating fruit dripping with golden juice come summer. One or two reached a sort of ripeness at times, but even they didn’t taste of much.I was on the verge of cutting the tree down when a friend mentioned that she’d read that the leaves themselves had a flavour. So when I got home, I boiled some into a hot, simple syrup. The strength of the sweet, almondy scent was astonishing and magical: here was a crop of flavour, not bulk, and there soon followed almond-flavoured liqueurs, panna cottas, rice puddings and ice-creams. The tree got a stay of execution, and the experience made me wonder what other garden produce holds similar hidden depths. Continue...

Look on the bright side: Yotam Ottolenghi’s turmeric recipes

Ground turmeric is a fixture on just about every home spice rack, but the fresh, knobbly root packs even more of a punchTurmeric is a rather unsung hero of the spice rack. Its distinctive colour (and alarming ability to stain anything with which it comes into contact) and leading role in the ingredients of curry powder tend to overshadow quite how interesting its taste is. It’s not as complex a flavour as, say, saffron, another yellow spice for which turmeric is often, and not always appropriately, used as a cheap substitute, but it does add an earthy, slightly citrus, bitter note to curries, pickles and all sorts of other dishes. Ground turmeric is made by boiling, drying and grinding turmeric root, which, like ginger, is the horizontal stem of a plant that grows underground. I use ground turmeric a lot, but it’s the fresh stuff, those little, finger-shaped appendages, that bring real delight. It’s long been available in Indian and south-east Asian food stores, and is now an increasingly common sight in larger supermarkets; you can also buy it online. Once peeled, that fragrant, shocking orange flesh is really quite something, and though it turns yellow when cooked, it still goes a long way to brighten any dish in both colour and flavour. Fresh turmeric keeps well in the fridge or freezer, so don’t worry about any knobbly roots left over: there’s still plenty of time to let them sing. Continue...

Claire Ptak’s passion fruit cream puff recipe | Baking the seasons

The tropical acidic zing of passion fruit makes for a balanced fruit curd, which in turn brings a welcome sharp note to these classic cream puffs I love flavours that are on the acidic side. I love lots of vinegar in my salad dressing and squeeze lemon or lime on just about everything. I am always searching out balance of flavour in my baking and that usually means adding a little acidity. Most fruits have acidicidy, so if you are like me, fruit-based baked goods and desserts are probably your favourite. Their flavour is perfect at the end of a meal – refreshing and bright. They balance the sweetness of sugar and the richness of cream. They remind you of exactly where we are in the world and at what time of year. In the UK, while we are waiting for strawberries and then stone fruits to come, spring ushers in passion fruit and mangoes from India and Pakistan.The colour palette of the seasons provides the inspiration for our buttercreams at Violet Bakery and so much of the baking I do at home. As we move deeper into spring, leaving behind the deep reds of blood oranges and the shocking pink of rhubarb, we get a burst of yellow from our tropical imports just as the daffodils fade and the trees sprout their first green leaves. Continue...

Readers’ recipe swap: Spelt | Dale Berning Sawa

The intensely wheaten flavour of this grain makes it the perfect filler for your salads, stuffings and baked goodsI’ll be honest with you: I can find little difference in flavour between wholegrain spelt and normal wholewheat. I wasn’t even sure if the flavour difference would come through in finer baking, so I made this week’s winning recipe twice: once with spelt flour, and once with plain flour. There was a slight difference. The latter gave what I can only describe as something softer. Which made me think that perhaps plain flour is vanilla’s wheaten equivalent: it is the perfect canvas for other, bolder flavours and is therefore most noticeable in its absence. Spelt, by comparison, has more to say: sweet and nutty, it is emphatically wheaty in flavour. Continue...