Replanning the herb garden

I took advantage of a brief sunny period mid-week to go out and rearrange the herb patch.

Sadly I don’t have a very good before photo, but this one from this time last year is a reasonable representation:

Herbs in pots against a fence

This is what it looks like now:

Herbs in pots, in different configuration (see text)

Left to right: strawberry tower (transplanted the strawberries this morning); slab stack with empty pot (for basil), oregano, 2 lavender cuttings, empty pot, another lower empty pot, & a big pot of sage; bay tree at the back; another slab stack with parsley, chives, empty pot, and mint lower down; and a thyme trough at the front.

I moved the concrete slabs very slightly so they’re right back against the fence, and reorientated a couple of lower ones to provide an extra ledge for a plant pot, to make more use of the vertical space. I also repotted the oregano and bay into bigger pots, and the thyme into a shallow trough. I’ve since added a few more empty pots, for a total of 9.

My wanted herb list is:

  • Basil (lots)
  • Oregano (lots — will take a couple of root divisions now it’s in that larger pot, although this is not the ideal time for that)
  • Thyme (want another couple of plants)
  • Sage (will take cutting in the spring to fill up that big pot)
  • Chives
  • Winter savoury
  • Mint — will probably take cuttings for another pot to go at the other side of the patio, as well
  • Parsley (lots, which is fine as it has self-seeded EVERYWHERE)
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Strawberries (OK, not actually a herb)
  • Bay
  • Rosemary — over the other side of the garden, in the ground
  • Lavender — also planted on the other side, in the ground

With nine empty pots to fill, I make that: basil x 2, another oregano, possibly another parsley, dill x 1, winter savoury x 2 (it’s hard to buy), coriander x 1, and one spare pot in case something else takes my fancy. I’m tempted to try ginger, although it’s not cold-hardy. Any other culinary herbs you think I’m missing out on?

Winter cooking

The rosemary in the back garden is doing well enough that even at this time of year, I could go out and hack four decent-size sticks off it with no concern:

Four rosemary sticks and a pile of rosemary leaves on a chopping board, knife next to them

When I took that, I’d already put half the leaves into the roast potatoes; I’m going to leave the rest to dry on the back of the worksurface.

They were for this somewhat unusual in-season recipe: Swede On A Stick. I promised to find something interesting to cook with a seasonal vegetable. I forgot to soak the skewers, but hey, it’s been raining off and on for weeks so they were pretty damp anyway. It was very tasty! Not entirely worth the hassle (assuming you like swede anyway, which I do, and would happily just eat it plain), but a nice change.

Swede chunks on rosemary skewers in a heavy orange griddle pan on the stove

Also used from the garden, thyme for this bean and leek recipe (kidney beans worked fine instead of white beans, for the record, and conveniently we had a half-empty bottle of white wine mouldering in the fridge), and a bit of parsley to sprinkle on top. We had roast potatoes with it (is it too soon after Christmas? I thought not.).

Excellent in-season eating all round. Then I left someone else to clear up and went to have a nice bath.

Vegan lentil loaf

I have been making this at Xmas for well over 10 years, and every so often someone asks me for the recipe and I spend ages digging through my email for it. So here it is, for future reference. It is based on a Rose Elliot recipe, but hers had egg and cheese in, and fewer tasty things like garlic and Marmite.

Lentil loaf: serves 4-6 as part of big roast dinner

Ingredients
6oz split red lentils
8 fl oz water (may need to add more)
1 bay leaf
1 medium-sized onion, peeled & finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
2oz mushrooms, washed & finely chopped
1.5 oz fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
splash soy sauce (to taste)
herbs to taste – thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano are all nice, depends what you have on hand.
Marmite (to taste)
Nutritional yeast to taste (optional)
1 tbsp soy lecithin or egg replacer (optional)
Marg & dried crumbs (optional) for coating tin

Method
Put the lentils, water, & bay leaf in a saucepan & simmer gently until lentils tender & liquid absorbed. Add more water if necessary, but only a little & as needed or the loaf will be sloppy. Remove bay leaf.

Meanwhile, fry onions, mushrooms & garlic gently until onions are transparent.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Prepare 1lb loaf tin by putting long narrow strip of greaseproof paper on base & up narrow sides. Grease tin with marg, & sprinkle generously with dried crumbs if using.

Mix lentils, onions, mushrooms, garlic, & rest of ingredients. Spoon into tin & level top. Bake uncovered for 45-60min, until firm & golden-brown on top.

Notes

  1. Nutritional yeast has a nice cheesy taste, but is non-essential. Soya lecithin/egg replacer helps the stuff to bind together, but we don’t use it for anything else so don’t have it in the house, & I don’t bother. It just means it comes out a bit less sliceable.
  2. It’s a very forgiving recipe, generally.
  3. It keeps well in the fridge. You can also make it a day in advance & heat it in the microwave, or make it as far as ready-to-bake, leave it in the fridge overnight, & put it in the oven the next day (which is what we do at Xmas).