Sunday Telegraph "The leaves were exceptionally good".
Anneka Rice on Radio 2 - "Almost too beautiful to eat"

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Spicy Flower Canapés


Fudges Fiery & Flavoursome Jalapeño Melts  - or similar spicy cheese biscuit
(I'm not on commission I just love them). 
A good quality goat's cheese - a log rather than a round one;
Homemade wild garlic, nasturtium and mustard pesto;
A selection of savoury and spicy edible flowers. Here we used wild garlic, spicy radish, rocket, cress and mustard flowers. 

Rocket flower

Slice your goats cheese into thin slices and add to the cheese biscuits.

Add a generous dollop (technical term) of homemade wild garlic pesto.

Scatter with a selection of savoury and spicy edible flowers - from your garden or from here. Buy savoury and spicy edible flowers

Mustard and wild garlic flowers

Radish flower

Perfecting Pesto

Wild garlic and 'friends' pesto
Photo by Marcus Bawdon

At Maddocks Farm Organics we make our own pesto in the summer due to the massive glut of various basils that we get. Basil can be a bit slow getting going so we always plant far more than we need but once it's up and running it is hard to keep up with and we always end up with far too much by the end of the season.

For me the main bonus of pesto is that it is extremely easy and quick to make and all the ingredients that you need are either in the garden or items that you'd have in the store cupboard or fridge.  A necessity at the end of a long day's picking or planting. Also, it is extremely versatile. Apart from stirring through pasta, we bung it on flat breads and pizzas, slather new potatoes with it and dollop it on meat, fish or veggies. It also pretty good in a sandwich with a freshly picked tomato.

We've now extended our pesto making to other seasons and other ingredients and this time of year is perfect with wild garlic in abundance which forms a lovely base to be partnered with a whole host of spring time additions.

Wild garlic in the rain at Maddocks Farm Organics
This weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited by Darts Farm to do a demo at Exeter Food Festival with the lovely Matt Mason from The Jack in the Green pub in Rockbeare. I'm very lucky to have been working with Matt and his lovely team for a couple of years now and they are a joy to supply because they all are passionate about good local seasonal ingredients and unfailingly good humoured. Part of our demo comprised Matt cooking a 'big boy' steak accompanied by wild garlic, nasturtium and basil pesto and served with a selection of our spicy salad leaves and edible flowers. I'm sure it was delicious but I will never know as the audience descended like a swarm of hungry locusts leaving just the bone rattling around an empty plate. So when I got home I announced to Long Suffering Stu that we were having steak and pesto for supper.

Given the glut of ingredients outside and being too knackered to head to a supermarket I decided that basil 'was for girls' and made my pesto out of 1/3rd wild garlic (leaves, flowers, stems the lot); 1/3 nasturtium leaves and 1/3 giant red mustard - again leaves, shoots and flowers. Don't be afraid of adding quite spicy leaves. Our giant red mustard at this time of year brings tears to the eyes and an acute burning sensation to the nostrils but when added to the pesto it settles to a gentle warmth.
Wild garlic, giant red mustard, nasturtium leaves and edible flowers all heading for the pesto.


100 grams of pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds or almost any nut that takes your fancy)
100 grams of good quality parmesan cheese (the best quality you can afford and in a block not the ready grated stuff)
200+ mls of really good quality olive oil
a couple of really large handfuls of your selected leaves (wild garlic, nasturtiums, mustards, spinach, herbs, rocket - you name it!)
If you are not adding wild garlic then add a couple of cloves of garlic.
Sea salt and pepper to season.

Roughly chop the greens by hand until they are quite fine. Grate the parmesan and add with all the remaining ingredients.

Hand grated parmesan has a much better flavour that the pre grated that you can buy in supermarkets.

Blitz all the ingredients either in the food processor or with a hand blender until you have a smooth green paste.

This should produce a relatively firm pesto to which you can 'feed' additional olive oil depending upon the recipe that you have in mind. For example for spreading on bread or smearing under the skin of chicken this dryer version is better. For tossing through new potatoes or on pasta then a couple of additional glugs of olive oil will be necessary. 

Wild garlic pesto with new baby new potatoes.

Goats cheese canapés with wild garlic, mustard and nasturtium pesto.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Rosemary Cake

This cake recipe is based on Nigella's Rosemary Rememberance Cake. Nigella made it in honour of her maternal grandmother who was called Rosemary. The sentiment behind this struck a real chord with me as my paternal grandmother cooked extensively with flowers when I was a growing up and she unwittingly became a real influence in my later career even though sadly she was no alive to see it.

The cake mix is made in two set parts and two optional extras. It does have a strong rosemary flavour as this is what I like but it can always be tamed by using less.

Oven gas mark 3/ 170º/325º

For the filling:
1 eating apple
2 spring rosemary
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon of butter

For the cake batter:
225 grams butter
150grams of caster sugar
3 large eggs
300 grams plain sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder.

My optional twist for the rosemary syrup:
2 sprigs of rosemary
50mls of golden caster sugar
50mls of water
grated zest of half a lemon

Cream Cheese Frosting should you want it:
100 grms of butter (at room temperature)
250 grms of cream cheese
100grms of icing sugar (sifted)


1) Peel, core and roughly chop the apple and put in a sauce pan with the other 'filling' ingredients. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 4-8 minutes until the apple is soft.

2) Leave to cool and then pull out the rosemary sprig when it is cold.

3) Put the filling in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Then add the cake batter ingredients and process to a smooth batter.

This recipe will make a cake perfect for a 1lb cake tin which has been buttered and lined. For the cake here, I doubled the ingredients and split them amongst three round cake tins. If cooking in a 1lb loaf tin then cook for approximately 50 minutes. If using round cake tins then it will take less time depending upon the diameter of your tins. The cake is cooked when it comes away a little from the edge of the tins and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

When Nigella makes her cake in a 1lb loaf tin she lays a long sprig of rosemary lengthways along the top of the cake for the oil to infuse as the cake cooks. For this more celebratory cake, I made a light rosemary/lemon sugar syrup  by gently heating 50mls of water with the sugar, lemon zest and rosemary sprigs until the sugar has disolved. I left this to cool and then fished out the rosemary. When the cakes were cold I pierced the sponges with a skewer and poured over the syrup to make a lovely moist fragrant sponge.

To make this celebratory cake, layer and cover with the cream cheese frosting as detailed above,   garnished with sprigs of rosemary and scattered with rosemary flowers.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Edible Flowers: Bellis Confetti for cocktails

Edible flowers make a lovely additions to cocktail glasses and none more so that bellis daisies. These little beauties are amongst the first edible flowers to appear in the Spring and continue to produce flowers for months to come. Their confetti like petals are very popular with the chef fraternity who love to sprinkle them on a range of sweet or savoury dishes.

To create a petal rim to your cocktail glass mix the petals with some caster sugar. About 1/3rd petals to 2/3rds sugar.

Turn your glass upside down and carefully dip the rim of your cocktail glass in a shallow dish or saucer of sugar syrup or cordial (we like elderflower). Lift it out and hold it there for a moment or two to ensure that the syrup has dripped off and is not going to run down the glass when you right it. Then carefully dip the glass into the petal/sugar mixture so that it sticks to the glass.  Shake off any surplus and right your glass.

One of the nice things about this recipe (yes I know I can only very loosely describe this as a recipe!) is that it can be done literally hours in advance and the petals will continue to look great.

If you are serving tequila then you could rub the rim of the glass with a squeeze of lime juice before dipping the glass in a mixture of salt and petals instead. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Tulip Icecream Bowls

Whilst there are many complicated ice-cream recipes which require expensive machines or much whipping and churning you will be pleased to know that this is not one of them. 

It involved three simple ingredients and takes about fifteen minutes to make (excluding freezing time). 

The first ingredient is Tulips. 

These must be from your garden (if unsprayed) or bought organically. For eating do not buy from a supermarket, florist, garage or garden centre. This is not me trying to drum up business but a proven fact that the vast majority of cut flowers are fed or sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides and fungicides in order to prolong their shelf life. These chemical do the plants no visible harm but are most definitely not designed for human consumption and could make you very ill indeed. 

8 tulips
500 grammes of frozen summer fruits (I used 400 grms of raspberries & 100 grammes of blackcurrants which I froze in the summer). 
A 397grm tin of condensed milk (Just an aside - is there a reason they don't round it up to 400grms?)

Allow the fruit to defrost ever so slightly and then blitz with a hand blender to break up into a frozen slushy consistency. If you worry about these things (or are including fruit with a lot of big pips) then push through a coarse sieve at this stage to remove the worst. I generally do, as my own frozen fruit from the garden seems to usually include the odd leaf and stick as well for some reason! 

Pour in the condensed milk and mix quickly. Pop in a covered freezer proof dish and freeze for approximately one hour. After this time, do give it a quick stir but given that the fruit was already partially frozen at the start of the process and the mixture doesn't use fresh cream then there isn't the issue of big ice crystals forming at the sides of the dish to worry about and you end up with a smooth ice-cream. 

You should only need to remove this from the freezer for about 10 minutes before serving. Use a sharp knife to remove the stamens and carpel of the tulip (i.e. the inside bits which aren't petals) and cut the outer stem level with the base of the petals. What you should be left with is a ring of petals 'just' held together at the base with a slither of green stem. Tulip petals are quite stiff and in an ideal world you'd like to be able to pull on a petal and have it detach from the base so you can use it to scoop up ice-cream.  

Hold the petals open and fill the 'bowl' with the ice-cream mixture. Serve at once with a delicious floral dessert wine. You will be amazed at how sweet tulip petals taste. 

A note of caution…..

Whilst the general opinion is that all parts of tulips are edible, there is controversy about eating the tulip bulbs and care and research should be taken if you want to eat more than just the petals. (More information can be found at )

I should also add that in rare cases (and like with other foods) some people are allergic to tulips. So if in doubt, nibble a little bit of the petals, spit it out and wait for 30 minutes or so to see you develop any symptoms such as flushing, dizziness, rashes or feeling sick in which case avoid.