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A Herby Update

I spent last night with a group of my favourite people. My girlfriends threw me a mini Vegas-themed hen night and I had so much fun! I didn’t want a proper hen weekend and instead have seen groups of friends separately for various things which meant I have had several mini hen nights without having to dress up as something ridiculous or see a single inflatable penis!

I have to give my party planners 10 out of 10 for decoration. I’m not sure why I have never thought of playing card bunting but it worked perfectly with the whole Vegas thing and I will definitely be copying the idea in the future!

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We had a lovely BBQ sat al fresco, played several highly hilarious games, drank champagne and had a good giggle! Thank you ladies for being so thoughtful and so much damn fun!

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Anyway, onto today’s post which has is about both food and gardening.

At the beginning of June, I wrote a post about some herbs I planted and the mini flags I made out of washi tape to label them with. I tried to grow basil, mint, thyme and coriander and have had a mixture of success and failure!

First up, the failures…the mint and thyme sprouted some green shoots and then not much else happened. My auntie who is somewhat of a gardening guru told me the thyme should have been outside and she was right! I was surprised at the lack of growth from the mint as I always thought this was quite a tough and hardy plant but maybe I should have started the seedlings off indoors and then moved it outside? Answers on a postcard please!

Luckily I have another mint plant growing in the front garden so my mojitos haven’t been completely mint-less!

Now, onto my successes…

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The coriander and basil grown on my kitchen windowsill have done really well and I have been using them nightly in my meals. As I said before, fresh herbs make such a difference to your cooking and I have enjoyed my fresh coriander in my guacamole and my basil in several pasta dishes.

The coriander in particular has loved this hot weather and I found this week that it had grown so much it was struggling to stay upright and was also starting to sprout flowers.

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A quick Google and check in my gardening books advised a trim so I sat tonight and spruced up my coriander plants (not a euphemism!) which will hopefully result in bushier and healthier plants…watch this space!

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How To…Make Mini Washi Tape Flags

I spent all of yesterday afternoon outside indulging in a spot of gardening. I had collected quite a few packets of herb seeds so decided to get them in some soil ready for salads and cocktails in the summer.

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Whilst I do use dried herbs in my cooking, there is no substitute for fresh herbs and rather than continue to buy the fresh pots at the supermarket which last about a week, I decided to create my own little collection. I already have two healthy parsley plants on the go and yesterday I planted thyme, basil, mint and coriander seeds in various planters.

First up was a lovely wooden herb planter I picked up last week that contained everything you need to grow basil and thyme. I also got one of these for my friend Hannah’s birthday a few weeks ago. I have to admit that I have a really bad habit when buying presents for people where I also pick up one for myself too! I think this shows that I have good taste in presents and I buy my friends something that I would use too but it can get expensive!

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This planter set was really simple to use and I think these ready-to-go sets are great for those who don’t have a lot of room at home to garden or the less confident gardener.

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Armed with my trusty Cath Kidston gardening gloves and a cup of tea, I planted these seeds, watered them and then set them up on my kitchen windowsill in the sunlight. (Excuse the hideous windowsill picture…we are mid-tiling!)

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Next up was mint. As this is a very invasive plant, I wanted to keep this in a planter on its own so it wouldn’t be able to spread or take over any other nearby plants. I popped the mint seeds into some freshly packed compost and placed it in a shady spot in the garden.

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Then I planted up my coriander seeds (which smelt lovely and lemony)…

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…and some more basil as we can get through lots of this in salads.

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So that was all the hard work completed and I will do a post in a few weeks to see how these seeds have got on and some recipes that I use these different herbs in…maybe I’ll have a ‘Herb Week’ on the blog – wait and see!

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I was left with several pots but no labels to tell which was which. I know it is fairly obvious to see once the herbs start growing but I decided to attempt a little DIY craft session to make my own planter flags.

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These are so easy to make and could also be used in cocktails or as cake/ cupcake toppers too.

If you haven’t come across washi tape before, it is Japanese fabric tape which can be used for almost anything. Just Google it or have a look on Pinterest and you will see lots of cool ways to use it (my favourite is the Washi Tape Bicycle!) but it is also great for present wrapping with plain brown parcel paper.

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I got these from ebay for about £1 each and I had to be very restrained only buying three rolls as the patterns are all so pretty!

To make these flags, you will need:

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  • Washi tape
  • Scissors
  • Cocktails sticks
  • A pen

Cut the washi tape to size and peel off the backing paper (excuse my grubby fingers and the soil still under my nails!)

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Place a cocktails stick in the middle of the tape

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Fold it across as evenly as you can

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Write on your message/ herb and then cut a small triangle out of one end to make them look super cute!

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And here they are in action…no herbal confusion in this house now…I just need to keep my fingers crossed that these all start growing!herb14 herb15 herb8 herb9 herb11

These are also on my kitchen windowsill now and loved the sunshine we had today!

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Recipe – Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Pasta with Crostini

Time for a recipe I think!

There are some food combinations that just work; lamb and mint, pork and apple, salt and caramel, eggs and bacon, port and stilton…I could go on.

One of my favourite salads is the very simple tomato, basil and mozzarella served with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper; simple yet pretty perfect.

I had all the ingredients for this salad but fancied something a little heartier which is how this recipe came about. I believe that as long as you don’t add too many new flavours or mess around too much with the initial ingredients that these classic combinations can work well in a variety of different dishes and this pasta dish was easy to make and full of flavour.

I have also included a quick recipe for a tasty accompaniment; crostini which I believe roughly translates to ‘little toasted breads’. This is a perfect way to use up an old French stick and you can top it with whatever you fancy. I just kept mine simple and drizzled over some olive oil, seasoning and herbs.

Ingredients

A glug of olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 can of chopped tomatoes

Enough pasta for 2 people (I used spaghetti)

A handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

A ball of fresh mozzarella, roughly torn

How to make it

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onions. Lightly fry on a low heat until they have started to soften
  • Add the chopped garlic and cook for another few minutes
  • Pour in the chopped tomatoes and allow the sauce to thicken – this should take 15-20 minutes with the occasional stir
  • Meanwhile, cook your pasta until al dente
  • Add the basil leaves and stir through, leaving a small amount aside for serving
  • Now add the cooked pasta to the pan and ensure it is well coated in the tomato sauce.
  • Add the mozzarella to the pasta just before serving and sprinkle over the remaining basil leaves

For the crostini:

  • Place your bread slices on an oven tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and a pinch of dried oregano
  • Put the bread in an oven at about 140°C for 20 minutes until crisp and golden…simple!

This pasta dish is also very tasty cold the next day although I recommend you eat the crostini whilst warm.