fruit. booze. autumn.

allotment, growing, recipe

At this time of year, the warmth, the sweetness, the shine of summer is gone from the air, but now it hangs in berries and fruit, hedgerows and trees.

One of the best things about growing your own is picking food at the perfect moment. Supermarkets have to pick under-ripe, so it makes the journey from field to shelf without bruising or bleeding. In my own allotment, I wait til the fruit is almost bursting its skin with juice and sugar, before twisting it from the branch.

Damson gin

Booze is good and fruit is good and the two together are even better. You can make alsorts of fruit liquors by just leaving fruit and sugar in alcohol to slowly do its thing- but this is perhaps my favourite.

damson treeDamsons are in the same family as plums- but sharper and smaller. Their soft, huey purple is like the colour of the sky at night.

weighing damsons

750ml bottle of gin

500g damsons/plums/blackberries

300g sugar

Either give the damsons a light bashing or a little pricking (like a sexed up Mrs Beeton), pour them into a jar with the sugar, and then glug in the gin. Leave it for as long as you can. I have the first of mine at Christmas- its colour and warmth is perfect for an icy December day.

damson gin

lemon & limoncello cake

baking, fruit, recipe

The last days of September ended with a swirl of grey cloud and starred nights. With a feeling that every warm day could be the last of the year, I wanted something that would bring zing and warmth into the kitchen and our stomachs.

Lemons ,the colour of the sun in a children’s drawing, and limoncello, an Italian liquor made from lemon zest, were combined to make a cake that’s both sweet and sour.

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You can make this without limoncello easily, but if you do, you’ll have an incredible cake, but also be able to have a strong drink while it’s baking.

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The cake is adapted from a simple sponge cake- so its easy enough with equal weights of flour, sugar and eggs.

For the cake

180g self-raising flour

160g caster sugar

3 eggs

lemon zest from four lemons

For the drizzle

20g sugar

juice of 4 lemons

a good shot or two of limoncello

Beat the sugar and butter till light and fluffy, and then beat in the eggs bit by bit. I add a little flour with each egg to stop the mixture curdling.

Grate in the lemon zest and then fold in the flour with a large spoon. Spoon into a loaf tin and bake in an oven heated to 180C.

While the cake is baking, juice the lemons and pour in the sugar and limoncello.

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After around half an hour, when the cake is baked, pour over the zesty, punchy drizzle and then sprinkle with a little sugar. This will form a sweet, sharp crust above the soft sponge.

After a dinner shared with the grandparents, I tore up a handful of thyme over the cake, and sliced through the sugar studded crust and lemon soaked crumb.


apple, blackberry & damson tarts

baking, fruit, recipe

The two apple trees in the centre of the lawn are the heart and soul of our garden.

BeFunky_image (38).jpgThey are over half a century old, and they show their history- bark like an old man’s hands, moss, trunks leading to a hundred branches. As they have grown and developed, so has the life that they support.

BeFunky_image (37).jpgRight now, the trees are at the best. Just as the first leaves are falling, the apples are ripening to emerald and crimson under the September sun.

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Our crop of Discovery apples has been few, but the trees have been resting after their bumper crop last year. Just like us, sometimes the trees need to take a breather. And right now, in this brief September window, fruit trees and hedgerows are holding onto the produce of a years growth.

Just as the seasons change, I think the food on our plates should. These apple, blackberry and damson tarts are the kitchen’s idea of late summer and early autumn. All you need is some pastry, either shop bought or homemade (but whichever it is, all-butter), jam and fruit. And a spoonful of cinnamon. Each of the ingredients- damson jam, blackberries and the apples all offer sharpness as well as sweetness.


as usual- double flour to butter- 230g plain flour, 115g butter

30g caster sugar


4 apples

a couple of handfuls of blackberries

jam- blackberry, blackcurrant, damson or plum would all work well

If you are making the pastry, rub the butter into the flour or whizz together in a processor.

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When that’s done, add the sugar and just enough water to bring it together (about 2 tablespoons).

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Put the dough in the fridge, ready to roll out when the fillings done. For that, heat the jam in a small pan and squeeze in half a lemon. Lastly, peel and roughly chop the apples and mix the berries, apples and jam in the pan.

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Roll out the pastry into circles to match your tart tins or one big sheet, and then pour over the fillings. Bake until the pastry is browning around the edges.

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We all hear the message to eat seasonal, eat local, to reduce our food miles. But eating this way, from the garden to plate, is the way things are meant to be.

blackberry and almond cakes- a recipe

baking, fruit, gardening, recipe

Picking blackberries, like the berry itself, is bittersweet. Right now, it’s the height of summer, but by the time of the last of the berries, night will be longer than day, and the leaves will be falling to a bed of swirling fire.


Alongside the blackberries, in the hedgerows, the first elderberries are ripening to a pearlescent black. Both berries can be found along pretty much any path or track right now, making these cakes both seasonal and forageable. The cakes would work with any berry, so use whatever you can forage for, or just scatter on your no.1 berry.


There’s no beating needed here, and with just 10 minutes baking, the result is light and crisp.

180g butter

50g flour

160g icing sugar

90g ground almonds

5 egg whites

a couple of handfuls of berries

Preheat the oven t 180C/c and melt the butter.


Pour the icing sugar, flour and almonds into a bowl.

Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they form a light, floppy foam.

BeFunky_image[20].jpgMake a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, tip in the egg whites and butter and stir it all in. Then it’s ready to be poured into the muffin tins. 


Sprinkle in three or four chopped blackberries into each cake and bake for 10-15 minutes.


The berries stain the sponge with the blood of late summer. The texture is like a good brownie- soft, fudgy centre and a crispy coat.

BeFunky_image[12].jpgForage, bake, eat.


early summer and elderflower

baking, fruit, recipe

There are some things which mark the passing of each month, season and year. On the calendar- birthdays, bonfire night, Christmas, and outdoors- hedgerows bursting into leaf, and later on, blood-red, ruby and crimson berries ripening under the sun. Perhaps my favourite of these markers is the elder and its flower.

elderEvocative of early-British summer and most famous in cordials and cocktails, elderflowers are a fleeting moment of growth and scent and bygone days.

Here, we use them in alcohol, cakes and to simmer with sweet-sour gooseberries. We discovered elderflower gin last summer, crafted by the Edinburgh gin company.

This summer, we made our own.

BeFunky_Chromatic_1.jpgTwenty elderflower heads went into a glass bottle, along with a few tablespoons of sugar, and filled with gin. And after a week of gentle shaking and expectation, we tasted it… we’ll be sticking with the professionals next time!

The same evening, gooseberries were simmered in a heady mix of elderflower cordial and lemon juice. A sponge mixture was beaten up, topped with the gooseberries, and a crumble mix was scattered over the top.

We slid the cake into the hot oven. The air hung heavy in the kitchen with the scent of elderflower, citrus and homemade cake.

All cake is good cake, but this, this cake was perfect.



a risotto for midsummer

recipe, risotto

It’s July. The garden is bathing in a deep, midsummer light. The hens are dustbathing, honeybees are feeding on the wildflowers, and the peas are ripening in their pods. Tonight, its risotto- a pan of silky smooth rice, peas and flakes of pecorino. Sometimes, life is good.

BeFunky_peas1.jpgThe peas were planted indoors in March, and as the near-constant rain lashed down, the peas sprung up with a promise of summer and sweetness. A month or so on, they were dotted around the garden- in the borders, in tubs and anywhere-there-was-a-space. They grew up hawthorn, apple twigs and garden canes. The shoots and the snow-white flowers are as perfect as crunching into the first ripe pod of peas.

BeFunky_10352188_10204543537809469_1811135794742751499_n.jpgEight weeks on from planting those first peas in kitchen roll inners and a few inches of damp compost, the plants are a mass of emerald leaf, curling tendril and fattening pods.

BeFunky_10547449_10204543538169478_8799732549647781040_n.jpgTonight, they have been picked and stirred into a pan of risotto.

BeFunky_peasblog.jpgYes- you do have to stand for twenty minutes, stirring, ladling, stirring, but it’s a calming, soothing experience. Fry an onion and garlic until tender, pour in the rice (100g per person), stir, and then add a a ladleful of hot stock, stirring all the time. Once each ladleful of stock has been absorbed, the next is poured in and twenty minutes later, you have a pan of fragrant, silky rice.

BeFunky_peas3.jpgUse whatever you have to hand or is in season. I team up a vegetable with a herb and a cheese- tomatoes, basil, oregano and mozzarella, butternut squash, rosemary and parmesan, peas, mint and pecorino.

This risotto was finished with a few generous handlefuls of peas, butter, finely sliced mint and pecorino, and the plates with a few curls of the rich, grainy cheese. Dinner was served, and the auburn sun sank below the skyline as we ate and drank.