Tag Archives: herbs

Syros – Herb Central


Walking around Syros is like tramping through a herb garden. We have been exploring the island, driving to the north of island as far as the road goes and then heading off on foot. It’s not only beautiful but smells delicious too. We’re sure all the goats that graze are self marinating!.


There are swathes of thyme, rosemary, fennel and sage and carpets of camomile with lots of bees buzzing happily about their business. There are plenty of hives dotted around the countryside and the honey is delicious.


The paths lead down to hidden beaches, it can a bit of a clamber but the destination makes it worth it.Lots of hidden coves that are deserted and clean blue sea. The sea is cold. Too cold for me to enjoy swimming but I keep trying!


Capers are growing on the rocks. This is all news to me – I have to admit I had never considered where capers did grow, but there you go – little bushes sprout out of craggy rocks with capers on the end of the branches and very funky flowers. Apparently June is the real caper picking and pickling season but they are beginning now. No wonder so many dishes are served with capers here.


We had delicious basil and caper pesto the other day, drizzled over goats cheese.
Very simple and very delicious. It’s certainly worth a try and I’d say it’s equally delicious served with fish.
Here’s the recipe

Basil and Caper Pesto

1 cup basil
1 cup parsley
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1tsp Dijon mustard
2dsp capers
approx 150mls olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into a food processor or blender and buzz to a paste then drizzle in the olive oil. Don’t add salt , the capers are salty enough

Eat with whatever you fancy – cheese, pasta, fish……

Happy Courgettes


Contrary to my firm belief that courgettes love sunshine I now realise they equally love the rain. We watered our courgettes every day during the heat-wave and although the plants looked super healthy there weren’t very many courgettes. Since the weather has returned to a more ‘normal’  warm rain/sun showers they are thriving. I swear they are growing before our eyes. Each day we pick a bucketful, which means the courgettes are at least doubling in size each twenty four hours.

Here’s a recipe that we enjoyed the other night. It is called Firinda Kabak and it is an old Turkish recipe. In English this translates to a courgette and herb bake. We have tweaked the recipe over the years and this version uses polenta instead of flour, It gives it an interesting texture and makes it suitable for coeliacs and people with wheat intolerance. If you prefer to use flour just substitute flour for polenta. Use small courgettes if you can as they will have the best flavour.



6 small courgettes

3 eggs

6 spring onions- cleaned and chopped

a generous handful of chopped mint

a generous handful of chopped dill or fennel

a generous handful chopped parsley

75g grated Gruyere, Comte or Emmental cheese

75g feta

100g polenta

50g butter

12 black olives

Pre heat the oven to 180c

Line a 9”/23cm tin or baking dish with parchment paper.

Grate the courgettes coarsely, gather them into your hands and squeeze gently to extract excess water then put them into a bowl.

Add the eggs, spring onions and chopped herbs and both cheeses. Mix well. Then add the polenta and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin.

Scatter the olives on top and dot with little pieces of butter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the bake is golden on top.

Cut into wedges or squares and serve hot or cold.

The Latest and Grated Beetroot Tabbouleh

Our quinoa ( keen-wah) is growing fantastically. It’s an experiment, I’ve never grown it before. It has become very popular recently and has a reputation as a superfood, it’s low in fat/high in protein/gluten-free and has lots of calcium. After reading an article that said all us greedy Westerners eating the quinoa was putting the Bolivians under financial duress I though I should make some effort to see whether it was possible to grow it here. It’s doing well after an initial hit and run by the chickens. The surviving plants look very healthy and flowers/seeds are appearing.


Of course there are always two sides to every story and I recently met a journalist who had just returned from Bolivia and she told me that the Bolivians are delighted that there’s a market for the quinoa, they just need to grow more to address the shortage. Apparently it grows like a weed so cultivating it isn’t a problem. This makes me happy, as I was feeling a little guilty about all the quinoa that we use.

The quinoa seems to be quite content growing here, but then who wouldn’t after the stunning weather that we have had in July. The real work begins with the harvesting and drying of the plant as there is a bitter coating of saponins on the grains that needs to be removed before consumption. I haven’t got that far yet and am only researching the next step but I’ll keep you posted.

Our latest craze in the shop is Beetroot and Mint Tabbouleh salad. It’s obviously not a true tabbouleh as it’s made with quinoa and not wheat – but it’s a very interesting, and it’s stunning to look at. We have two versions that we make, one where the beetroot is cooked and one where the beetroot is raw. At the moment we’re on the raw beetroot hit. We are have lots of ripe beetroots in our garden, there are three varieties, the standard purple, a golden beet and one that’s called Choggia which is a pink stripy number.


When they are grated they look beautiful.  Use any young beetroots that you can get your hands on to make this recipe. If you prefer to eat the beetroots cooked, just boil them until tender without peeling them, peel them when cooked and substitute them for the raw ones.


Beetroot and Mint Tabbouleh

200g Quinoa

300mls water

3-4 beetroots

100g peas – fresh or frozen

1 small cucumber

1 red onion

a large handful of chopped mint

a handful of  chopped parsley

the juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp Dijon vinegar

100mls olive oil

salt and pepper

Put the quinoa and water into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and turn to a low simmer and cook for ten minutes. Take the quinoa off the heat and leave to rest for five minutes then tip the quinoa into a bowl and leave to cool completely.

Put a pot of water to boil and cook the peas for two minutes. Drain and run under cold water then put aside.

Peel the beetroots and grate on the fat side of the grater.

Peel and chop the onion.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise then chop into an equal sized dice.

Put all the vegetables into a large bowl together with the quinoa and chopped herbs.

Put the Dijon mustard into a small bowl and whisk together with the olive oil and lemon juice then pour this over the salad. Toss everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cucumber Taste Experience


The fine weather has been doing it’s magic. The garden is happy and the vegetables are growing.

We are at the delightful stage of eating the ‘first’ of everything. Beautiful big artichokes eaten with a little vinaigrette to dip the leaves in, squeaky bright green French beans and cucumbers were all in last nights dinner.

The cucumbers are amazing. They taste just as they should – like cucumbers. There are no other words to describe cucumber flavour, unlike wines which can be likened to an amazing variety of things, cucumbers are fairly unique and taste of themselves. Unfortunately the cucumbers bought in the shops, cling wrapped or not, are well travelled and don’t deliver this taste impact. If I ever need reminding why we go to all the bother of growing our own vegetables I just have to think of this.

Now is the time to get down to the farmers markets and buy yourself a homegrown cucumber. You will appreciate what I am trying to say when you take the first bite.

We have fifteen cucumber plants growing in our tunnels and soon we will be awash with them. Our general plan is to be self sufficient in cucumbers until, hopefully, October. I have already picked the first bucketful and delivered them to the shop for the salads and all going well we’ll soon be tripping over them.

They’re not the easiest plant to establish. Cucumbers are like Princesses – rather fussy. They don’t like drafts and they don’t like to get their stems wet. They do like to drink a lot so we plant them in their personal mounds and water around them. The plants grow pretty tall, anything up to eight or nine feet high so they are trained up a piece of twine to stop them collapsing in a heap. One cucumber plant will produce about six or seven cucumbers a week so there’s plenty of eating to be done.

In celebration of the new season cucumbers I’ve sorted out some easy recipes ideas. Cucumbers are the fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world so the choice is global. Here’s a Turkish cucumber and tomato salad, a Lebanese yoghurt and cucumber salad and the classic French crème fraiche and lemon juice combo. I might also mention that cucumber and Marmite sandwiches are the business, I was bought up on those!!


Turkish Cucumber and Tomato Salad

About 500g fatty tomatoes –  beefsteak style are best as they can be diced

1 cucumber

1 small green pepper

half of a smallish red onion

a handful of flat leaf parsley

a handful of mint

1 tsp sumac = optional but very nice if you have some


about 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

about 3 tbs lemon juice

Peel and slice the red onion, cover with cold water and leave aside for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with more cold water and put aside. This gives a milder and crisper onion.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise  then chop into an equal size dice – about 1cm

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices – about 1cm thick then chop into an equal size dice.

Wash the green pepper, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Cut the pepper into slices , then dice.

Chop the parsley and mint.

Put all the vegetables and herbs into a bowl, sprinkle over a little salt, one teaspoon of sumac, olive oil and lemon juice and gently toss everything together.


Lebanese Cucumber Salad

Half a cucumber

200mls full fat natural yoghurt

1 garlic clove = peeled and crushed

1 tbs chopped mint

1 tbs chopped parsley.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise then thinly slice.

Put into a bowl with all the other ingredients and mix well.


Cucumbers with Crème Fraiche

1 cucumber

200g creme fraiche

1 tbs lemon juice

a handful of chopped dill

salt and black pepper

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out of each half using a spoon and discard the seeds.

Slice the cucumber quite thickly, toss with a little salt and put into a colander or sieve. Leave aside for 30 minutes then pat the cumbers dry with some kitchen paper and put into a bowl. Mix the crème fraiche with the lemon juice and chopped dill then pour over the cucumbers. Toss everything together and season with salt (if needed) and a little black pepper