Herb Butter

I just had enough sage.

Original can be found here. You know this recipe, you’ve seen it dozens of times, there’s nothing new here, it’s just that I’ve never had a reason to make it before. Herb butter sounds great, but I don’t often use better when coking, at least not when I’m using herbs. But, I figured out a use. My mother makes stuffing and uses fresh sage, but often the sage isn’t ready when she’s making it, so since she fries her onions in butter I thought this would be an ideal solution. I did tweak it one way as you can see below. You’d be best to use freshly picked herbs, the smell of the fresh sage is intense, even for a older plant. I hate to make something like this without reason, last year I froze herbs in olive oil and struggled to use them, I think a fair few went into the bin, this is ideal as they’ll be used up fairly quickly. If you want really fast stuffing you can also blitz the onions and freeze them the same way. A quickie, but handy to know. See you later, dear reader.

Already popped and bagged.

Ingredients

110g Butter, Softened
1/4 Fresh Herbs, Chopped
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Can be frozen.

Method

1. Add everything to a bowl and stir together until Herbs have been evenly distributed throughout the butter. Scoop in a container, roll into a clingfilm log or fill into ice-cube trays.

Savoury Strawberry and Basil Sauce


Adapted and cut down from: Running To The Kitchen

There’s a reason I so rarely pair berries with eat, it’s because it’s disgu…oh, way, no, it’s the vinegar that seems to be prevalent in so many of the recipes that use berries in a savoury application. I can’t tolerate vinegar, as to why, ours is not to question why, dear reader, ours is to find recipes that we can use or tweak into usefulness. Now, first things first. I tweaked this by cutting it down, but also by adding double the basil and removing the mint, I’m just not partial to mint, I think I like it in hard-boiled sweets and that’s about it, I also topped it with Thai and Dark Opal, which of course you can’t skip, no, no changing recipes ever! I had it to hand, use what you have, I’ll be making this with yellow strawberries eventually. I’m just listing the sauce, you can use it on chicken, or whatever, just dribble it on everything. Or, don’t, people might get angry as you spread the sauce with a flourish if the wrist across their balding pate. I wasn’t sure how strawberries would pair with meat, so I opted for the all-in approach and even went with the classic paring of peanut butter (Amaranth) and strawberries. I’m as eating more of my yellow beetroot. This is really a from the garden type of dinner.

Now, how did it fare? Well, it was really delicious, the hit of the aniseed from the Thai basil was perfect to accompany the slight sweetness of the strawberries, which lost none of their fresh taste in being cooked down. It’s very mild and just adds a pleasantly fresh undercurrent to a dish. I thought it’d be like jam on top of meat, but it just had a subtle taste that I really enjoyed. If you like cranberry sauce then this is right up your alley, there’s no need for sugar in this as the strawberries are sweet enough in themselves and as there’s not much sweetness outside of them you avoid a cloying sweetness that would spoil a savoury dish. It’s simple, but a wonderful way to use strawberries. Okay, I’l be back later , dear reader, smelling faintly of onion. Mysterious, huh? Until then, take care.

Ingredients

50g Strawberries, Either Fresh or Frozen
1/2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Basil
1/2 Tbsp Orange Juice
Olive Oil to Fry
Fresh Thai and Dark Opal Basil to Serve

Method

1. Heat Olive Oil in a pot or pan and when hot add Strawberries, Basil and Orange Juice. Simmer over a medium heat until strawberries have released their juices and the Sauce has thickened. Pour over meat or vegetables and top with Thai and Dark Opal Basil.

What I’ve Learned in Three Years Growing Basil: A Rough Guide

 photo WP_20170618_005_e_zpsti6yl0nl.jpg

Absolutely nothing. I’m joking, but the temptation to just post that remains. Seriously though, I think there are a few pointers that I can share to growing many successful harvests of basil. These are just anecdotal tips from your forever friend Jack, nothing more than the summation of my experiences. The reason why every guide here is rough is because I’m constantly learning and the me sharing my experiences in the here and now will be a very different person in the future. There does have to come a point where I’ve learned as much as I can, but you can never be sure. So whether you’re new to basil an old hand or just vaguely interested in these little herb, here are a few tips, in the now ubiquitous list format, for getting a large, healthy and delicious harvest. I’ll even point out a few tips for pesto, I’m still new-ish to pesto, but now I’ll only make it using he freshest herbs, my own in other words. I never ate it before I couldn’t eat any commerical pesto so take my tips as you will.

 photo WP_20170618_004_e_zps5ycdqney.jpg

Basil Tips:

Not too Tall.

You’ll enjoy watching you basil get bigger and bigger, but one of the problems is that when it grows very tall is that it can get weak stemmed, if you’re not cutting it and letting it bush out the basil can end up wobbly. The other issue is that when it reaches it’s maximum height it will start to flower and as pretty as they are you don’t want them spoiling the taste of your basil. Either pinch them off or just cut below them. What you want is a basil that isn’t too tall, has no flowers and has leaves from everywhere on the stem.

Light prune, heavy prune.

Now this does assume you have basil ready, whether you buy it as a seed, like Jack, or you buy it from the shops and propagate it via cuttings, like last year’s Jack. The best way I’ve found is alternating between light harvests, small amounts taken with careful hand, and heavy harvests, large amounts taken with rough cuts. The idea is that you do need to keep basil pruned, removing the light, small leaves when healthy is great as you can use them, rather than letting them wilt, this will let the plant feed itself and grow. For heavy the best time is when there’s too much top growth, way too many leaves, you can just cut it down a few inches, at the growth node of course, and the plant should have sufficient leaves to grow again. The best way to determine the stage is by how many leaves are on a stem. If they’re mostly empty then you don’t want to take too much. All crowded and hen it’s time to take a heavy hand. Basil is tough, but smart pruning means you get more out of each plant.

Feed when scraggly.

Like you and me, dear reader, plants need to feed to grow. The thing about herbs is that they release their flavoursome oils when they struggle, the less for it to draw upon the better tasting it is. So naturally feeding isn’t advised, but you should do it. Huh? Bear with me. You want the basil to be at it’s peak when harvesting, just wet enough to be healthy, the smell will spread throughout any room,  it’ll taste best then. After a few harvests you’ll want to add a little plant feed, this will help the plant grow again and stay strong. The only issue is that the taste will be almost non-existent while the nutrients are in the soil so don’t over-feed it or use slow-release pellets. A little liquid feed is all you need.

Consistently Warm.

Now this pertains to Ireland wacky weather. I had basil last year in a plastic greenhouse that was just ready for harvest so I let it until the next day, the next day’s weather was a cold snap and the basil wilted and died. Now that I have a well insulated greenhouse that holds heat better, and keeps out some of the cold, there’s a world of difference in my basil. You might be best to keep your basil indoors if you don’t have a greenhouse. It’s very disheartening to see basil just die suddenly. I did find the Thai a tougher basil, but that may have been a fluke.

Pesto Tips

Not too smooth.

I use to blend my pesto to a smooth consistency and I feel that that’s a disservice to the basil. I find that a rough blend, where the nuts are just broken up and there are few shreds of leaf left gives  much better texture and even improves the taste. You’re not disguising stems or hiding poor quality leaves, this is your harvest and you should use it the best way possible. I don’t recommend using the stems, they’re okay when very young, but become rubbery in time and eventually woody when the weather changes to cooler temperatures.

Not too much oil.

This is more of a preference, but if you are freezing, and topping with oil naturally, then I find making a thick paste, topping it before freezing leads to a pesto that clings perfectly an doesn’t end up with pasta that’s floating in oil. I love oil and rich pasta dishes, but I think the freshness is where pesto shines, overwhelming the basil is a mistake I’m glad to say I no longer make.

Mixing and Match.

I’ve mentioned that I grow a few varieties of basil, the sweet is the most versatile, but the others offer a unique taste in dishes. The issue I find is that some overwhelm while others fail to stand out enough on their own. I’ve found that mixing the Thai (They call it cinnamon on the packet, but it’s Thai) with the dark opal gives the Thai’s aniseed a slight undercurrent of something sweeter, the lighter flavour of the dark opal is still present, more so thanks to the contrast in flavours. It’s also helpful if you just don’t have enough basil to make pesto, a little Thai with sweet is really fun and different ratios make really different pesto.

Coconut Basil Chicken

 photo WP_20160605_001_e_zpsj9hggcka.jpgSecond harvest. The cinnamon basil is coming on too. I can’t wait for that.

It’s hot and I’m starting to miss the days of rain based gardening. Joking of course, but a little light rain wouldn’t go amiss. Poor Jack is starting to melt slightly. I’m still pondering about the grow your own herb garden guide, problem being I keep forgetting to write anything down and consequently I forget it all. We’ll see how things go, no promises, but if I do it I’d like it done well. That all assumes anyone would be interested, there are no doubt an abundance of guides already available out there. I’d like to share a little something, nothing extraordinary, just a slice of life with multiple allergies and intolerances, not that I’m complaining, well I would if you’d let me. I was fortunate to win a voucher for Aldi and they happen to have a gluten free list on their website. Foods that happen to be gluten free but aren’t marked as such. There are barcodes and it’s kept up-to-date, really useful. You can imagine my choices were limited, I opted for nuts and sesame seeds. That should keep me in cheap nut and seed butters for a while. So I have to make the trip there by bus. Thus the “fun” starts. I can’t eat or drink, with the exception to some soft drinks and soda, so I have to plan ahead. How much time would I be spending up there? What should I eat before hand and how much of a drink should I bring? (I dehydrate easily) You can see how this goes. It’s a great deal of work and keep in mind this is just a bus trip to do some shopping. A holiday would be so far out of the question I couldn’t even think of it. It’s  a sad bit of truth, but it’s my life. I didn’t choose to be like this and thus I can only live as much as I can within my limitations. I admit I almost went on the defensive in this ramble, attacking the questioners, but why bother? Believe  it or not. The good will accept and understand as best they can., the others will, well, bite me. Okay, recipe time.

 photo WP_20160605_004_e_zps14ngu7fq.jpgIt’s so green! A nice green, not sno…erm…*Flees*

Now what can you do with basil? Why make pesto! Which I also did.I used Brazil nut for a change. They’re really delicious roasted. I had to use nine grams of parsley to bulk it up, but that’s why it’s handy to have a lot of parsley growing. It doesn’t seem to flower when left there. Then again, all pesto and nothing new makes Jack a dull boy, no comments about my already apparent dullness, snarky reader. So I looked up a lot of recipes and found this a straightforward recipe, that uses a lot of basil. I cut this down to a quarter and it still used a wealth of basil. (I keep calling it pesto like my nephew, he loves my pesto and asked me to grow “pesto” for him) The rest is fairly basic and it does seem like it might jar, it is eclectic,  but the end result worked really well. You can really taste every element while they also work in harmony with one another. It’s a little on the light side, I had no vegetables at hand that I could add in. The original uses carrot, but I’d have liked sweet potato. Maybe next time. One warning: Don’t use too much oil, I had to to fry the chicken, but when you add a lot to coconut milk it remains separate and is unpleasant. Also: Don’t boil it, the coconut milk may split and, again, unpleasant. I just used a blender to mix it all up, I rinsed it out with a dash of water, waste not want not profligate reader, and tossed that in too. So, if you can get, or do have this much basil to hand, or foot, I won’t judge, then maybe you’ll give this a try. I enjoyed it and if I end up with way too much basil, no such thing, then I may come back. I’m still searching for new recipes to use these herbs, still in the garden, too often these days, but the sun is unforgiving and plants need their nurture. I almost lost my sunflowers, thankfully they’re okay. So you’ll see me when you see me. I’ve also been notified that I’ve reached 100 followers and 1337 (Really? How old are we, WordPress?) likes. Um, wow, thank you everyone. This really means the world to me. I’m just one person doing my own thing, that it resonates with others on this scale is tremendous. Please stick with me, we’ve got a long way to go still. Until later, take care.

 photo WP_20160605_005_e_zps3kiwskrc.jpgThe coconut milk makes it surprisingly creamy.

Ingredients

2 Chicken Breasts, Cubed
160ml Coconut Milk
25g Fresh Basil
1/2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, Grated
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Lime

Spice Blend

1/4 Tsp Turmeric
1/4 Tsp Cumin
1/4 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/8 Tsp Sea Salt
1/8 Tsp Cinnamon

Method

1. In a bowl mix together Spices and Juice from half the Lime. Add Chicken and stir until completely coated. Place in fridge and marinade for an hour.

3. Blitz together Basil, Coconut Milk, Garlic and Ginger and the rest of the Lime Juice.

4. Heat 1 Tbsp Olive Oil in a non-stick pan on a medium heat. Add Chicken and cook until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

5. Add Sauce and let warm up (Don’t boil!). Stir everything together. It should take around 10 minutes to thicken and reduce. Adjust cooking time to preference.

 photo WP_20160605_007_e_zpscuqyyafn.jpgBonus: Basil (With a bit of parsley) and Brazil Nut Pesto. I got less than usual, but I did cut down the garlic cloves.

Teas

Turmeric and Ginger Tea (Single Serving) (From: Here)

Ingredients

240ml Water
1/4 Tsp Ground Turmeric
1/4 Tsp Ground Ginger
Milk and Honey to Taste

Method

1. Bring Water to the boil in a small saucepan, then add Turmeric and Ginger and stir to combine. Reduce to a simmer and boil for ten minutes.

2. Add Honey to a cup and strain tea using a fine mesh sieve, add Milk and stir to combine everything.


Cold Brewed Tea/Coffee (Single Serving)

Ingredients

1 Teabag (Or equivalent in loose Tea) per 250ml Water or 2 Dessert Spoons Ground Coffee

1. Place Teabags and Water in a jar and close the lid. Place in the fridge and leave for 12 hours. (Strain with Cheesecloth if using Ground Coffee)


Chai Tea Latte (Single Serving)

Ingredients

240ml Low Fat Milk or 120ml Full Fat Milk and 120ml Water
1 Tsp Black Tea or Rooibos Tea
1/2 Tbsp Sugar or to Taste
1/2 Tsp Chai Masala

Method

1. Add everything to a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes.

2. Strain using a fine mesh sieve into a cup and top with Frothed Milk if desired.


Basil Tea (Single Serving) (From: How to Brew Fresh Basil Tea)

Ingredients

240ml Boiling Water
2 Tbsp Fresh Basil, Chopped (More for a Stronger Tea)
Honey or Sugar if Desired

Method

1. Add Water and Basil to Teapot or Cup and let sit for 7-10 minutes.

2. When time is up, strain Tea into cup and add Sweeteners if using.

Sweet Basil Chicken Curry

Going Nightshade free isn’t the end of curries, it just makes it a lot harder. Not impossible though.

Ingredients

160ml Coconut Milk
1 Chicken Breast
1/2 Yellow Onion, Chopped Fine
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Tsp Ground Almonds or 1 Tbsp Almond Butter
4 Fresh Basil Leaves, Cut into Strips
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/3 Chicken Stock Cube dissolved in 20ml Hot Water
1 Tsp Curry Powder
1/8 Tsp Ground Allspice
Pinch Ground Nutmeg
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

Method

1. Heat Olive Oil in a pan and when hot add Onion and Garlic, mix and cover. Let cook for 5-10 minutes, on a medium heat, or until soft.

2. Add Curry Powder, Allspice, Salt, Black Pepper and Nutmeg and stir together, then add Chicken, stir and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add Coconut Milk, Chicken Stock and Ground Almonds and stir, bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes. When 10 minutes remain add the Basil and cook covered for the remaining time.

Smoothies

Smoothies: Just blend together unless otherwise stated.

Strawberry Mizuna (Adapted slightly from: Annluann)

1/2 Cup Packed Mizuna Leaves
100ml Water, More as Needed
85g (About 2) Frozen Strawberries
1 Small Frozen Banana

Cilantro (Adapted slightly from: Cilantro Smoothie)

240ml Water
1 Banana, Fresh or Frozen
1/2 Cup Cilantro
Juice of 1/2 Lime
1/2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Honey/Maple Syrup to Sweeten
Pinch of Sea Salt

Optional:

1/2 Cup Mango, Chopped
1-2 Tbsp Hemp Seed


Banana Cream Pie Small Serving (Tweaked From: Healthy Banana Cream Pie Smoothie)

1 Large Banana, Frozen
50g Greek Yoghurt
125ml Water/Almond Milk (Less if a thicker Smoothie is desired)
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp Nutmeg


Broccoli

75g Blanched Broccoli, Fresh or Frozen
150ml Water or Milk (Optional: Add 1 Tbsp Hemp if using Water)
1 Banana
Dash Maple Syrup


Spiced Butternut Squash

100g Butternut Squash
1 Banana, Frozen or Fresh
120ml Water (Optional: With 1 Tbsp Hempseed or replace with other Milk)
1/8 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
Dash: Ginger, Nutmeg, Allspice, Cloves and Vanilla Extract


Sweet Potato

75g Sweet Potato
1 Banana, Frozen or Fresh
120ml Water
1 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
Dash Maple Syrup
Pinch of Cinnamon


Frozen Banana and Blueberry

1 Banana, Chopped and Frozen
50g/1/2 Cup Frozen Blueberries
200ml of Milk, More if Needed
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
Optional: Add 5 Large Basil Leaves


Kale and Banana Smoothie

1 Ripe Banana
120ml Water
40g Kale
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup


Chocolate Avocado

15g Flaxseed/Chia Seed (Stir in after blending)
1 Ripe Banana
125g Plain Yoghurt
100ml Milk
1 Cold, Ripe Avocado
2 Tbsp Sweet Freedom or Sugar
2 Tbsp Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder