Nettle and Lemon Cake with Lemon Icing and Blackberries

I know what you’re thinking: ouch. But trust me, just don the rubber gloves and go rummaging in the hedges. Stinging nettles make a fabulous soup, they’re free and they’re good for you, properly good for you, and perhaps even better than spinach or broccoli.

Like kale’s best friend before kale got popular (grew boobs, lost the braces and announced that “on Wednesdays we wear pink”), stinging nettle has all the makings of your favourite leafy green, but because the supermarkets don’t stock it, and it, well, stings, many haven’t tried it. Funny that as the stuff really gets about.

Nettle and Lemon Cake

I’m sure you know where to find it, and obviously you’ll want to stay away from major roads to avoid pollution.  Nettle is best in the early spring so make haste and get foraging, choosing the top four to six leaves. This recipe calls for 100g or 3 cups, which is about a small shopping bag full. For a detailed description of how to forage nettles, take a look at this nettle guide.

Nettle Lemon Cake

Boiling the nettles gets rid of the sting, so don’t worry that this cake will be like eating popping candy. Instead it tastes very spring-like as the flavour of the nettles fades away beneath the zesty lemon.

One of my old best friends from school went camping with her family when she was 13. She went for a wee in the woods (you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?), and used stinging nettle’s evil cousin, poison ivy, as toilet roll. Hospitalised. *facepalm*

Nettle Lemon Cake

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Chia Che Bap – Vietnamese Coconut and Corn Chia Pudding

Chia Che Bap - Vietnamese Coconut and Corn Pudding

This is my take on the traditional Vietnamese dessert, chè bắp. But instead of tapioca, I’ve gone for chia seeds (Vietnam collectively gasps).

There are a few reasons for this: chia is healthy, I have some in my cupboard, and if I went to school in the 70s and had school dinners I would probably loathe tapioca, as well as gruel and rice pudding. But I didn’t have school dinners. And I didn’t go to school in the 70s. I just didn’t have any tapioca at home and couldn’t be arsed to go to the shop. Such is life.

I made the chia pudding part of this recipe twice. The first time I accidentally used poppy seeds. You don’t want to do that. I am obsessed with decanting everything into jars, but I am not obsessed with labeling them. Lesson learned; sharpie pen bought.

Speaking of lessons, how about some corn facts? You’ll thank me one day when these come in handy at a pub quiz.
1. Corn is grown everywhere except Antarctica (thanks Abel and Cole for that one via Twitter)
2. Bourbon Whiskey is made from corn. Get your cocktails on.
3. Corn can grow more than 20ft tall.
4. You can make microwave popcorn in a normal paper bag. Good news as those store-bought microwave bags sound rather scary. Whatever the truth, it’s cheaper to diy and you can choose your toppings – presumably you won’t be glugging palm oil over it like the supermarket micro popcorn makers think you want (high fives an orangutan).

Ahem, did someone at the back whisper “chia is a nutrient-powerhouse superfood packed with omega 3, protein, fibre and calcium”? No? Must have been the wind. Feet under your desks, no talking and turn to chapter seven of your texts.

This dessert is the unusual, but very tasty, marriage of sweetcorn, coconut milk and chia. A very simple, vegan, gluten-free dessert that is moreish and has a satisfying sweet pop of the corn kernels. This would also make a great breakfast if you omit the sugar.

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Swede (Rutabaga) Nutmeg Cake with Brown Butter Frosting and Salted Hazelnuts

Swede (Rutabega) Nutmeg Cake with Brown Butter Frosting and Salted Hazelnuts

This cake is subtly spiced and even with a great pile of swede in it the veg can’t be tasted. The moist, fluffy cake combines well with the nutty flavour of the browned butter icing and the crunch of the salted hazelnuts.

Snippets of my week:
1. Giles Coren, inimitable foodie wordie man,  spoke to me on Twitter. I take this to mean, in all seriousness, that we are to be great friends. We shall eat the food of Roman times, drink well-matched wines and laugh about the absurdities of life, while our children grow up, fall in love, and marry.
2. My Kale and Almond Biscotti was mentioned in The Province newspaper in Vancouver, Canada. Cool, eh?
3. Food52 featured my Pumpkin and Spice Dark Chocolate Bark via Instagram.
4. I failed my driving test. Teenage children whose mummies still make their packed lunches are allowed behind the wheels of cars and I am not. Okay, so perhaps I shouldn’t have gone careering across a junction like a maniac, nearly killing both myself and the examiner. Oops. *Dons cycle helmet*.

My mum loves her kale smoothies in the morning and grew huge cucumbers in the garden when we were kids, but when thinking about a vegetable for her Mother’s Day cake I thought of the humble turnip. That or spinach, I suppose. She doesn’t like cooked spinach but still I feed it to her with the regularity of a mum of toddlers who is used to soldiering on, re-offering spurned food frequently enough to wear the hater into submission. I always thought it odd that as a child she carved turnips at Halloween, so I suppose that is why I thought of it.

Turnips remind me of my mum, so here is a swede recipe, even though they are not the same thing. I realise that doesn’t particularly make sense. Expect the unexpected, people. Read: there were no turnips at the shop.

Swede (Rutabega) Nutmeg Cake with Brown Butter Frosting and Salted Hazelnuts

Before I head to the recipe, let me tell you a bit about my mum. She did something pretty amazing a few years ago. She moved to England from Ireland to help out and be a full-on Grandma. My son was one and my daughter was about to be born, so Grandma retired and moved to help my husband and I with the little ones and to be a big part of our family. She’s just across the road when we need her and that is so very very special. She’s my recipe tester, chocolate-provider and sanity-saver. Plus she doesn’t get annoyed when the kids create epic, totally tubular waves all over the floor at bath time or smear yogurt on her sofa, and she loves them dearly. That’s pretty special, too. Happy Mother’s Day, mum.

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Chocolate-Covered Beets and Sweet Potatoes with Lavender Beet Salt

Chocolate Covered Beets and Sweet Potatoes with Lavender Beet Salt

Gluten, you badass. You’ve disgraced yourself in public and now all of your mates are pretending they don’t know you. You’ve been shunned, excluded and if you were a character in an Enid Blyton book you would have been sent to Coventry while your friends supped great hulking bottles of wizard ginger beer at midnight.

Personally, I have nothing against gluten (snacks on a bagel), but this vegan, gluten-free, vegetable-filled treat is enough to stop anyone from lusting around the cake aisle.

Chocolate Covered Beets and Sweet Potatoes with Lavender Beet Salt

These chocolate-covered vegetable chips/crisps are so simple to make and I’ve given them a debonaire air through beetroot juice and lavender sea salt. Because salted chocolate is good. Very good. For your soul. And that is NOT an exaggeration.

Cut them really thin if you want, leave them thicker – make them however you like. There will be loads of extra lavender beet salt left over so try it on desserts, potatoes, eggs, vegetables…

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Kale and Almond Biscotti

Kale and Almond Biscotti

Biscotti is certainly not Irish, but it’s green and that’s close enough for me for St Patrick’s Day. My family is Irish so we’ve never celebrated an over the top US-style St Paddy’s, let alone with Guinness cake or green beer, but hey, it’s an excuse for a themed party so I’m all over it. Theme away, people, theme away. Even if it means donning a novelty hat and getting drunk on Guinness even though you don’t particularly like it.

If I were to really go for it, which I won’t because I’ll be busy galavanting around London with my sister (I’m sure we’ll find room for a wee half of Guinness somewhere) I’d start the day with potato farls and egg with a little brown sauce, lunch would be some sharp cheese on my mum’s amazing soda bread and for dinner a (vegetarian) stew with colcannon (mashed potato and cabbage) or champ (mashed potato and spring onions). After all that carb-rich food you wouldn’t want dessert. Not even one with vegetables. But you might be able to fit in a pretty green kale and almond biscotti. You’d probably need a little lie down first, though.

Indeed, kale and almond biscotti. You’re still processing it, I can tell. Let me shake you by the shoulders and squeal animatedly that YOU CAN’T TASTE THE KALE AND IT’S GREEN!!
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