Chickens General Recipes

How to Make Rhubarb (and ginger) Cordial

We’ve had a great crop of rhubarb this year and I was wondering how best to use it… Last year it was less bountiful for some reason so we didn’t pick it at all and just took pleasure from seeing its red stems growing in the border and allowing the chickens to snack on its leaves.


Then I remembered hearing earlier in the summer a guest on BBC Radio Norfolk’s The Garden Party mention rhubarb cordial which sounded rather interesting …so I decided to give it a go and found a recipe on line by Kate McCullough. And I’m so glad I did, because it’s delicious, particularly when thoroughly chilled and as you see, such a pretty colour. The perfect refreshment when you come in after a couple of hours digging in the August sunshine.


I deviated from the recipe a bit and threw in some ginger because I love that taste combo, but in retrospect I think I was a little heavy handed with the ginger and the more delicate flavour of the rhubarb has had to take a bit of a back seat, which is a shame.




• 1.5kg rhubarb, roughly chopped
• white sugar
• lemon juice


1. Place the rhubarb in a pan with 75ml water over a low heat. Cook slowly until the juices start coming out of the rhubarb, then turn the heat up a little. Continue cooking until completely soft.2. Line a large mixing bowl with a piece of clean muslin and tip in the rhubarb. Gather the corners of the muslin and tie together. Hang the bag over the bowl for several hours to drain. (Bridget: I used a jelly bag which worked very well)
3. Measure the juice: for every litre add 750g caster sugar and 75ml lemon juice. Pour into a pan on a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat before it boils. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.
4. Serve diluted to taste – suggest one part cordial with three parts still or sparkling water.

Keep refrigerated and ENJOY – it certainly makes a refreshing change from rhubarb crumble! I’ve even heard mention of it going rather well with gin…

Rhubarb cordial

Cooking Recipes

Dandelion Marmalade, a recipe

Here I go again referring to River Cottage …I just can’t help myself. I started watching the series a long time ago and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (I can even write his name now without making a spelling mistake…) has been a great inspiration to us, moving out of the city and into the countryside. I dream of meeting people like Pam the Jam maker and John the Forager here in the Belgian country side and creating fabulous dishes and preserves which I then sell on the local markets.

Just as Hugh did.

Dandelion Marmalade

One episode in particular stuck in my mind. It is the the one in which John went to visit Pam the Jam maker with a pot of runny dandelion jam, or as he called it Dandelade or Marmelion. Together they made a new batch and I wished I could have been there in that kitchen making the dandelion marmalade with them.

Dandelions for dandelion jam

Setting Point

So last year when it was dandelion season, I headed out into the field and picked two buckets full of dandelions. I am not a great jam maker, in fact it was only my second time ever, so there I was waiting for setting point when my neighbour called me over to see her. Always, always stay with your jam when setting point is imminent, that’s my advice to you because I ended up with rock hard dandelion jam. You could not even steer a spoon through it…!

This year however, I bought a jam thermometer and set off out into the field again to pick dandelions and took my own advice not to get distracted. I ended up with lovely amber coloured marmalade with a wonderful bitter sweet and a slight sour taste.

If you want to try it out for yourself, here is the River Cottage Recipe;

Dandelion Marmalade:

  • 500g apple cores and peel or windfall apples
  • 500g citrus fruit peel (unwaxed lemon, orange or grapefruit) roughly chopped
  • 50g dandelion petals plus 50g to finish *
  • Granulated sugar

*the easiest way to remove the petals is to snip off just the yellow bits, leaving the lower whiter bits attached to the calyx.

Put the apple cores and peel, the citrus peel and 50g of dandelion petals into a large saucepan. Add sufficient water to cover (about 1.5 litres). Bring to simmer and cook slowly for 45 to 60 minutes – this softens the fruit and releases the valuable pectin. Turn the fruit into a jelly bag or muslin and leave for couple of hours or overnight to drip.

Preparing dandelion marmalade

Measure the strained liquid and weight 450g sugar for every 600ml juice. Return the juice to the pan. Bring to the boil, then add the sugar. Stir until dissolved then boil rapidly, without stirring until setting point is reached (about 10 minutes). Stir in the remaining dandelion petals.

Remove from the heat and stir, always going in the same direction, until any surface bubbles (or scum) have disappeared and the petals are well distributed. Pour into warm, clean jam jars and seal immediately with metal lids.

3 pots of dandelion jam

If the dandelion petals rise to the surface, wait until the jelly has cooled a little and is beginning to set then give the jar a sharp shake; you’ll find the petals will redistribute and stay put throughout the jelly.

Good luck and share your results here in the comment or on our Facebook page.


Plants Recipes

Amazing Tomatillos! YouCanGrowThat!

This year for the first time we are growing tomatillos at Sow and So. We are big fans of Mexican cuisine and I have been eagerly anticipating making my own salsa verde.

Green Fruits

Tomatillo 1Tomatillos (Physalis Philadelphica) are part of the nightshade family, bearing small round green fruits which are surrounded by an inedible paper-like husk. The husk opens up when the fruit matures. The fruits remain green or purple-green when ripe and they should be firm when picked. They have a tart flavor due to their high pectin content.

As with a lot of sun-loving plants such as tomatoes, chilli peppers and capsicum, tomatillos need at least 20ºC/68ºF to germinate. If you don’t already have a heated propagator then I highly recommend you get one. Sow seeds in February and March and plant out in April and May.

Pollinating Tomatillos

Tomatillo 3It is very important to grow at least two or more tomatillos together to ensure pollination – an isolated tomatillo will rarely set fruit. I have planted mine in pots in the conservatory, helping pollination by brushing my finger from flower to flower (we don’t get a lot of pollinators indoors!).

As I mentioned, tomatillos are used in a variety of  Latin American green sauces but they are also great as a replacement for green tomatoes in chutneys or stews. My tomatillos are still at the flowering stage so I can’t show you any photos of prepared dishes but I did find a few really nice recipes for you to see the value in growing them yourself. For those of us living in a temperate climate it’s probably too late to sow your Tomatillos right now but bear them in mind when you are ordering your seeds for next season…


Salsa Verde

Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Tomatillo Chutney


Plants Recipes

A fan-trained fig tree, You can grow that!

Our fan-tastic fig tree

Four years ago my brother gave us a very small (and rather desperate looking) fig tree in a ridiculously small pot. To be honest, the word tree is stretching it a bit. It was more of a dead-looking stick with a green shoot emerging out of the soil right next to it. In fact he and his wife were about to dispose of it when they saw the new growth – so, happily for us, they decided to continue to dispose of it but in our direction! We were very keen to give it a home as we had recently moved to the Villas and had a south-east facing white wall begging for fruit trees to be trained up against it…


First we dug a planting-pit directly in front of the wall, which involved removing and sieving several barrow-loads of soil. The finished hole measured just over a metre from left to right, just under a metre from front to back (we were restricted in this direction by some long since demolished outhouse foundations) and about a metre deep. Then, using broken paving slabs and brick rubble (of which we had plenty!) we lined the three open sides and back-filled the hole with the sieved soil mixed with some well rotted garden compost, planting the fig at the same depth as previously grown.


Fig Tree at theVillas

We decided to grow it as a fan rather than an espalier. This involves training the branches into a flat fan shape against the wall, with the two main branches growing outwards at around 40 degrees. The following Spring, rapid growth occurred with shoots coming off the two main lateral branches, so we selected outward growing ones only (to form a spreading fan-like pattern) and removed all the others. At this stage we started using the horizontal wires that Michael had rigged up. At first the training was fairly loose but as the growth continued we progressively tightened the ties to the wire grid, thus encouraging the branches to grow parallel to the wall rather than in a pointing away from it towards the garden.

General Recipes

Homemade Roasted Tomato Sauce

This is a foolproof roasted tomato sauce recipe. Once you’ve tasted it, you will never want to go back to ready made pasta or pizza sauce again.

Tomato sauce One thing though – use good quality tomatoes. Last time I bought a kilo of cheap non-organic tomatoes because the organic ones were so incredibly expensive but I regretted it later on. The cheap tomatoes contained so much water that the sauce was watery and not half as tasty. Oh how I ready I am for my own tomato harvest!!

Interested? You’ll need:

  • 1 kilo of good quality tomatoes
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • a bunch of fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary and basil
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven (200 C, 400 F or gas 4)

tomato sauce Cut the tomatoes in half and place them cut side up in a roasting tin. Slice the garlic cloves and place them on the tomatoes. Chop or shred the fresh herbs and scatter across the tomatoes.  Pour the olive oil over it and give the tin a shake to distribute the oil. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and place the tin in the pre heated oven for about 30-45 minutes. They are cooked when the tomatoes are soft and slightly charred. Then rub the tomatoes through a sieve and voila – what could be simpler?!

If you have any left-over sauce, you can preserve it in sterilized jars and use it for homemade pizza. Enjoy!


Cooking Recipes

Recipe: Easy Pumpkin Soup

I never really liked pumpkins. A while back I tasted this soup in a cafe and asked the owner what was in it. She laughed and said that this is probably the easiest soup she has ever made.

So here it goes;

1 pumpkin ( about 1kg)

1 can of coconut milk

Thai red curry paste ( either ready made or you can make it yourself, here is a recipe to do so)

Cut away the skin from the pumpkin and clean out the seeds, cut the pumpkin in small dices, cook them in about a liter of vegetable stock. When the pumpkin is cooked, puree it in the vegetable stock. Add the can of  coconut milk and ad as much Thai red curry paste as you like. I like my pumpkin soup hot so I put a LOT of curry paste in it.

That is it, really really simple and so good. It is great with warm garlic bread.