Widgets Blog - Emma the Gardener

Review: Waitrose Makhani curry paste

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Waitrose Makhani curry paste

My cow’s milk intolerance makes it quite difficult to shop for processed food – once you start reading labels it’s amazing how many products milk (or a milk derivative) makes its way into. In an ideal world we’d all be cooking every meal from scratch, from fresh ingredients, but it’s not always possible. I haven’t yet mastered the art of making a decent curry by hand, for example.

Curry sauces can be particularly problematic, so I’m glad to have found one that’s almost dairy-free (it contains some clarified butter) and that I really like. Waitrose Makani curry paste is £1.65 for a 200g jar (avoid the ready-made jars of Makhani sauce if you have a problem with cow’s milk, as they contain double cream). Each jar contains enough paste to make 2 or 3 meals, depending on how many people you’re serving, and how strong you like your curries. Once the jar is opened, it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks. If you don’t have a local Waitrose, you may be able to order online via Ocado.

I have three go-to options for using the paste, which is best added at the start of cooking. The first is the simplest – simply stirring it in for a dryish curry. You may need to add a little water to stop the sauce from sticking.

The second involves adding a tin of chopped tomatoes – you get a milder, saucier curry, with plenty of healthy vegetable content.

The third is my favourite, and by far the most decadent. I use either coconut milk or coconut cream to make the sauce. Again, the result is a milder and saucier curry – it’s divine, but you may want to factor in the extra fat content.

All three versions reheat nicely, if you find yourself with leftovers. Your home will smell like an Indian restaurant for a little while – it smells like a ‘proper’ curry!

This is, to date, the only curry paste/sauce I have found that I like and that I can eat, and I have been buying it now for several years. I am a genuinely satisfied customer, so if you’re a fan of the occasional simple curry then I recommend you give it a go :)

Posted in Blog on Jun 23, 2014 ·

Tags: food & meh!.

Recipe: Nutella Frozen Yoghurt

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The ice cream experiments continue, with a spate of frozen yoghurt trials. I have never been a big fan of chocolate ice cream, but something I read online (and a half-empty jar of Nutella) prompted me to give Nutella frozen yoghurt a go!

As you can see, the base for this one was a sheep’s milk yoghurt. I’ve had it many times, simply served with maple syrup stirred through it. It has a distinctly different mouth feel to cow (or goat) yoghurt, which I enjoy, and it’s nice to be able to have a cow-free dessert now and then.

In the mix

And so the yoghurt went in to the bowl with 3 dessert spoons of Nutella and 3 of caster sugar, and I blended the whole lot together. Sheep’s milk yoghurt is quite firm when it comes out of the package, but after blending turns pretty runny. After tasting the mixture, I added the rest of the Nutella, which was only about another dessertspoonful. The nice thing about making your own ice cream is that you can make it to your taste, you just have to remember that the mixture needs to be slightly too sweet for you before it gets frozen, as the cold makes it less sugary.

Ready to go

Here it is, all mixed up and ready to go in the ice cream machine. It came out slightly soft (as usual), but nice enough to eat there and then. Once the leftovers have been frozen they set very firm and you have to leave them to warm up for a few minutes to be able to get a scoop into them.

This recipe has an unexpected tang to it, which I’m guessing comes from the sheep’s yoghurt rather than the Nutella. Some people might find it unpleasant, but I didn’t. And that lovely sheep’s milk mouth feel translates very well into ice cream.

I might make this one again, if there was Nutella kicking around, but it’s not something I normally buy and so the experiments will move on to the next flavour. I need to recreate the best one I’ve found so far, which is absolutely divine and the closest I’ve come to ‘real’ ice cream – I forgot to take any photos! Still, I like to leave you guessing :)

Posted in Blog on Jul 12, 2013 ·

Tags: food & meh!.

Dairy-free hot chocolate

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When I was at the Eden Project with my classmates in December, I splashed out and bought a few things in the shop. One was a big block of drinking chocolate, 100% cacao with nothing else added. It’s a solid lump of 250g of Columbian chocolate. You know, the good stuff. You have to try these things when you’re an ethnobotanist, it’s compulsory ;)

(That photo is borrowed from the Eden Project shop; I took one, but it disappeared in the hard drive crash. I am working my way through the recovered files gradually….)

The block breaks up into chunks that make one cup of hot chocolate each. You melt it down in your milk, or chosen milk substitute, and add whatever you want. I am still trying to find the perfect recipe. You do need a whisk or a blender – the chocolate melts into small pieces, but they don’t blend into the milk nicely without some help.

I had some Oatly oat milk leftover from the strawberry ice cream experiment, and so I thought I would give Oatly hot chocolate a go. In the end I added some cinnamon, to give it a bit of spice. The recipe I used was:

1 cup* of Oatly
1 chunk of Eden chocolate
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar

*I measured it in the mug I was going to drink from. You need to use slightly less liquid than fills the mug, because you get a lot of froth if you use a blender.

Cinnamon hot chocolate

I didn’t want to overheat the milk, but by the time I’d done blending, my hot chocolate wasn’t quite as steaming hot as I like it. And it was pleasant, but I wouldn’t say it was the perfect recipe. I’m still working on that. I have tried it with goat milk, but when you heat goat milk its ‘goatiness’ becomes much more pronounced, and the chocolate doesn’t entirely hide it. I have a litre of hazelnut soy milk that’s lined up for the next experiment….

What’s your idea of the perfect cup of hot chocolate?

Posted in Blog on Jul 2, 2013 ·

Tags: food & meh!.

Dairy-free strawberry ice cream

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Desserts are a problem when you can’t digest (or don’t eat) cow’s milk. Restaurants and ready-made versions are all but impossible, and a certain amount of creativity is needed to make them at home. A lot of the time, I don’t bother – I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth.

Ice cream, by its very nature, is a tricky one. I’ve had goat’s milk ice cream, which is only available in vanilla. I don’t like the soy milk versions, and am wary to try any of the other vegan versions as they are expensive and if I don’t like them…. Earlier this year I was thrilled to find a stall selling buffalo milk ice cream at the Edible Garden Show – it was the first ice cream I’d had in over a year.

Recently I have had access to an ice cream maker, and so I have been experimenting with making my own, cow-free ice cream. My first attempt was based on a recipe from the Oatly website, for easy strawberry ice cream. What you end up with is more like a sorbet than a true ice cream, but it’s delicious!

Strawberries and Oatly

This recipe only has 3 ingredients – 400g strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar (about 100g) and 266 ml Oatly. If the quantities look odd, it’s because the Oatly recipe called for 300g strawberries, and my carton was bigger. It would be even nicer made fresh with homegrown strawberries from the allotment. Maybe next year!

Ready to blend

I washed the strawberries, cut the stalks off and then everything gets blended together…


Once it has been through the ice cream maker, it looks like this:

Oatly strawberry ice cream

It really smells – and tastes – like strawberries, it’s heavenly. A nice treat for Wimbledon week – a little lighter then strawberries and cream! When it was first made, I found it a little on the soft side, but if you have the time you can pop it in the freezer for a little while to harden up. I’m still getting the hang of the ice cream maker, so that might make a difference. If you freeze it overnight, it sets solid – you’ll need to give it a few minutes to warm up before it’s scoopable again. I suspect it would make nice ice lollies though :)


If you’re reading this post via Google Reader, then you need to find a new way of doing so before the end of the month – Google Reader is being retired on 1st July 2013. I have swapped over to Feedly, but if you’d like a run-down of more options, Veg Plotting has a good post on this topic.

Posted in Blog on Jun 26, 2013 ·

Tags: food & meh!.

Vote for Me in the Best Bleats Award!

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Capricorn Best Bleats AwardsIf you enjoyed my cow-free cheesecake recipe the other day, then please consider voting for this blog in the Capricorn Best Bleats Award. Every month the blog with the highest number of votes receives a year’s supply of Capricorn Somerset Goats Cheese – something that would come in very handy around here :)

Voters are entered into a prize draw, so there’s a chance for you to win some cheese too!

Last month’s well-deserved winner was the Chocolate Log Blog, which has been talking about goats cheese and chocolate recently, apparently a very tasty combination! I’m sure Choclette will use her prize to bring us some more tasty recipes in due course.

Posted in Blog on Jun 5, 2013 ·

Last modified on Jun 5, 2013

Tag: meh!

My First Cheesecake

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It started with an idle question in the pub, as so many things do. “Can you make a cheesecake base with Amaretti biscuits?” I pondered. It turns out that you can, and there are some recipes online. I choose this one as a guide, but there’s a slight complication in that I have problems digesting cow dairy, so mine had to be a moo-free version. I had to visit two different supermarkets to put together the ingredients.


That’s nearly everything the original recipe called for, but in the end there were ingredients I didn’t use as they were just for decoration. For the cheesecake itself you need:

  • 150g amaretti biscuits

  • 75g butter

  • 225g cream cheese

  • 125ml or 125g double cream, whipped to soft peaks

  • 1 lemon, grated rind and juice only

  • 50g golden caster sugar

  • 2 tsp lemon curd

The recipe starts with the base. It involves crushing Amaretti biscuits (actually easiest done by hand) and mixing in melted butter.


The recipe called for individual metal rings as a mould; I used a big cake tin with a removable bottom. The base is then popped in the fridge to set.

The next bit is fun, because you beat the cheese until it’s soft and smooth, then add the cream, lemon juice, rind and sugar and mix well. This results in a slightly too runny mixture that you won’t believe will ever set. But it tastes divine, so unless you have great restraint it doesn’t last that long anyway. If you can keep yourself from eating the whole bowlful then you spread this mixture on top of the base. And then you decorate the top with lemon curd – something I found very hard to do artistically.

Just chilin'

And then it goes back in the fridge to set. The recipe doesn’t give any guidance on how long this takes beyond ‘a few hours’; I can tell you that 3 hours isn’t long enough – the first slice was a little bit on the sloppy side, although I had no problem getting it out of the cake tin cleanly. By the following day the leftovers had set very nicely; I would start in the morning if you want to eat this in the evening.


Having never attempted a cheesecake before, this was a fun (but slightly time-consuming) project. The result might not have looked perfect, but it was really, really tasty. It’s not often I get to have dessert these days (especially cheesecake!), and I will definitely make this one again. Although not too often, as clearly it’s a heart-attack waiting to happen.

I am posting this today as part of VP’s Blogger’s Cut for the Chelsea Fringe 2013. Now that there is cake I am supposed to show you round the garden, but it’s looking a little sorry for itself as the plants are slowly moving out. This morning I took everything out of the Grow Dome, as it is nice enough for them all to live outdoors now. That includes (rather aptly), my lemon plant:


Long-term readers will remember that I grew it from a pip, way back in 2007. Since then I have almost lost it over a couple of winters (it has been in the Grow Dome, not the house), and it has been very hard pruned a couple of times, but still comes back to life in the spring. As yet it hasn’t flowered, so hopefully if I treat it a bit more kindly in future I will be making cheesecake with homegrown lemons in years to come :)

If you’ve enjoyed reading about my cow-free cheesecake, please consider voting for me in the Best Bleats Award so that I can win some goat cheese and make more lovely stuff with it!

Posted in Blog on Jun 3, 2013 ·

Last modified on Jun 5, 2013

Tags: food & meh!.

Sweet potato and coconut soup

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Sweet potato

When we were shopping in Waitrose last week, Pete spotted giant onions (officially known as ‘extra large’ onions, but they’re complete monsters). They occasionally have things like this that are outside of their normal criteria (ugly strawberries for making jam, mis-shapen mushrooms for soup, etc) which is nice because it makes a feature out of their oddness and makes a break from endless uniformity.

Since Pete is a big fan of onions, and they were pretty impressive, we brought one home. It weighed nearly a kilo. We have been pondering how best to make use of its immensity. This morning Pete walked an entire circuit of the town we live in – 6 miles – and so to celebrate (and replace the calories he used up) I invented this soup for lunch. I should say now that the only reason I weighed everything was so that I could write the recipe down for you – left to my own devices I just bung things in.

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 giant onion (500g! by all means use less :), chopped
750g sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 heaped tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground coriander
1 litre hot vegetable stock
160 ml coconut cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Veg oil for frying

I tend to prepare my vegetables while I’m cooking, which means I start by sorting out the onions and garlic, then set those frying in a little oil while I chop everything else up. You may prefer to have everything ready to go before you start. Either way, step 1 is to fry the onion and garlic until they start to soften.

Then add in the carrots and sweet potato and fry those for a couple of minutes, then add the spices. Pour in the vegetable stock to cover the vegetables, then leave them to simmer for 10 minutes or so.

If I want a smooth soup then at this point I turn off the heat and let the vegetables finish cooking in the residual heat as the pot cools down. Once it’s cooler I put the soup in the blender (have you ever had the lid come off the blender so it sprays boiling hot soup everywhere? It’s not fun). Then I reheat the soup to serve.

If you want your soup chunky (and we’re a 50:50 household, because I like smooth and Pete likes chunky and he won today because of time constraints) then simmer until the vegetables are cooked right through.

If you stop here, and just make sure the seasoning is right, you have a perfectly nice sweet potato soup. I stirred in a can of coconut cream, which combines with the spices to bring it to a whole new level – but of course if does add considerably to the calorie count. Yummy, though :)

Serves 4-6 people, depending on whether it’s a main course with a hunk of bread, or a starter. We have leftovers, they’re going through the blender later :D

Posted in Blog on Oct 23, 2011 ·

Last modified on Oct 23, 2011

Tags: food & meh!.

Low salt entertaining

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First carrots

We had a visitor over the weekend, and I had to plan a meal for Saturday evening that covered a mixture of dietary requirements – vegetarian, low salt*, cheese and moo-milk free. I came up with an Indian-inspired collection of dishes, so that there was some choice if something turned out to be unsuitable. The end result actually turned out very nice and everyone ate everything and leftovers were few and far between. These were the dishes I chose:

Onion flatbreads
I made my onion flatbread recipe, but I used the bread machine to make the dough so that I had my hands free to clean the house :) The dough setting works just fine; in my bread machine I have to put the water/yeast/oil mixture in the bottom of the pan and then pile the flour on top of it. I used about 0.5 teaspoons of salt for a low-salt version; there’s probably enough flavour in the onion flour to leave it out entirely.

Basmati rice boiled with just a sprinkling of salt.

Cumin potatoes
I made a simpler version of my original cumin potatoes recipe, by parboiling some homegrown new potatoes earlier in the day and then allowing them to cool. When it was time to make dinner I simply sliced them and sautéed them in sunflower oil with cumin seeds. I could have made about twice as many and they would all have been eaten – just like roast potatoes, it appears you can never have enough!

Warming carrot and chickpea casserole
I intended my ‘main course’ to be a vegetable curry, but in the end it turned out more like a casserole with an Indian flavour – it was very nice, so it didn’t matter.

To make it I simply chopped and fried onion and garlic, then added sliced carrots and the spices (garam masala, black pepper, cumin seeds, ground coriander, cinnamon and some paprika). After frying for a few more minutes I added a tin of chickpeas and one of chopped tomatoes. This concoction simmered until the carrots were cooked through, and then I adjusted the seasoning. I didn’t add any salt, and once I’d added enough spices it wasn’t missed.

*I am not qualified to say that this level of salt is low enough for any particular diet. All I can say is that this collection of recipes contained a lower amount of salt than I would normally use, and avoided processed foods that may have had far higher salt levels. It was an appropriate meal for us and my guest, but I am not a nutritionist :D

Posted in Blog on Oct 10, 2011 ·

Last modified on Oct 23, 2011

Tags: food & meh!.


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