Last Minute Shop Update!

How is the season treating you? We are getting so close to our seasonal break, I can almost taste it…well, when I’m not breathing in sawdust from making spoon blanks, that is. The kit shop has been so delightfully busy, I can’t thank you enough for all of your orders. I’ve spent the last few days packing like a demon, getting everything ready to go out into the world.

After today’s packing, I did a quick stock take and there are a handful of kits ready to ship on Monday in time for Christmas. All of the kits will go out via Royal Mail for delivery before Christmas

In Stock Kits

Everyday Sourdough- Online Course And Kit
from 30.00
Online Course Included:
Flour Included?:
Quantity:
Add To Cart
Wooden Spoon Making Materials
Quick View
Wooden Spoon Making Materials
from 25.00
Blanks, Knives or Both:
Quantity:
Add To Cart
Intro to Cheesemaking - Online Course and Kit
from 35.00
Online Course Included?:
Quantity:
Add To Cart
Kit for Natural Home and Beauty
from 32.00
Online Course Included?:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

Online Courses

We have a range of online courses that make great gifts as well. If you order before Monday, we can post out printed vouchers for opening on the day, but we also have email vouchers that are sent out automatically for printing for the very last minute givers amongst you.

On Farm Workshops, Meet the Goats and Bread Delivery!

If you or your loved one can make it to the farm, we also have spaces available on our upcoming courses, our meet the goat visits and in our new Sourdough Bread Subscription service! All of these can be delivered as vouchers, so you can give something a bit more unusual this holiday season.

If all else fails, we still have gift vouchers ready to go. These are all emailed and instant - perfect if need something VERY last minute.

 
Gift voucher
from 35.00
 
Kat GoldinComment
Sourdough Pizza Crust
IMG_6320.jpg

Sourdough pizza is, in my humble opinion, the master of all pizzas. There is something about the umami flavour of the dough that pairs so perfectly with cheese. The only thing that would make this pizza better is if I had a wood fired pizza oven, but I hardly miss the smokey flavour with a crust this good.

We have a couple of versions of pizza dough that we make. Personally, I like a bit of wholewheat or cornmeal in my pizza for a bit of bite, but using a pasta flour here gives the base a clean taste that shows off the other ingredients. This is THE base we use when we have some nice homemade cheese in the house.

Pizza Dough:

(makes 4 25cm pizza bases)


Ingredients:

100g starter

200g water

350g Tipo ‘00’ flour (or add 300g ‘00’ flour and 50g wholemeal or half plain and half strong bread)

20g oil

10g salt


Method:

1. The night before, mix the ingredients. Do a few stretch and folds and then refrigerate.

2. About 2 hrs before baking, remove the sourdough from the fridge.  Shape into 4 balls and roll out as pizza bases. To achieve a nice crispy pizza crust roll the bottom thin and oil under it and over it before you put on the toppings.

3. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours and then top. Cook the pizza at the highest temperature, about 220C, for about 25 minutes or until it has browned enough. Ideally you want to use a preheated pizza plate to bake the pizza on, but if you do not have one you can also use a preheated cookie sheet.

4. Tuck in!

To launch our new intro to cheesemaking course, we are offering a special discount if you buy both the Everyday Sourdough and Intro to Cheesemaking course together (because what goes better together than bread and cheese?!?!?!). Use the code CHEESEANDBREAD at the checkout to get £15.00 off your order.

Everyday Sourdough- Online Course And Kit
from 30.00
Online Course Included:
Flour Included?:
Quantity:
Add To Cart
Intro to Cheesemaking - Online Course and Kit
from 35.00
Online Course Included?:
Quantity:
Add To Cart
sourdoughKat GoldinComment
Happy Birthday to Mildred The Sourdough Starter (or how not to kill your sourdough starter)
IMG_0292-2.jpg

There was a big birthday in the house this week. Mildred, our beloved sourdough starter, turned 5 years old!! She is our oldest starter to date - having killed at least two previous incarnations in the years prior. In fact, we almost lost ol’ Millie earlier this year, when I contaminated her with some Kombucha starter and left her on her own for a couple of weeks.

Baking 2+ loaves of bread a day to feed a busy household certainly helps maintain Mildred’s activity levels, but more than that, I have learned that starters are a lot more forgiving than they seem. In fact, they are pretty hard to kill and if you do, it is equally easy to start again. So, 5 years on (and a couple of failed starts before that) here are my top tips for keeping that starter in tip top shape.

  1. Feed it regularly, but find a schedule that works for you. Bakeries like Tartine are feeding their starters 4+ times a day. You don’t need to be that disciplined but feeding your starter at a regular interval helps keep it going and helps you get into a routine with it. Ours is fed every night when I make the next day’s batch of bread. It then sits on the counter until we need it the next evening. While its true that starters are at their peak about 4-6 hours after feeding, if you don’t have time to feed it 4-6 hours before you make your bread, don’t sweat it. A good active starter can be left longer than that and still make beautiful bread.

  2. Think outside the bread box. It can feel overwhelming to make bread every day or every couple of days or it can feel wasteful to throw away part of your starter when you feed it. The good news is starter can be used for many things like pie crust, pizza base, scones and even cake. Search “sourdough discard recipes”. These sourdough english muffins are some of our favourites.

  3. Store it in the refrigerator. If you aren’t baking every day, store your starter in the fridge. It slows down fermentation and extends the life of your starter between feedings. Try to remember to take it out and feed it at least 12 hours beforehand or if you forget, build a levain (see below)

  4. Build a levain. One way to get a more active starter or to build up your starter amount if you only keep a small bit is to use a step called building a levain. You simple build a separate starter about 4-6 hours before you bake, using a small amount of your starter and flour and water. For example, if my recipe calls for 200g of starter, I might add 50g of a sluggish starter and 75g each of flour and water to build a levain of that 200g of starter I need.

  5. Use only a small amount of starter. Some of the most active starters you can use are ones that have been created with a small amount of starter and then flour and water. When I say small, I mean the scrapings of the jar small. This is a great way as well to recolonise a starter that is looking a bit off. Throw most of it out, then add 100g each of water and flour and see what grows back. In all likelihood your starter will reinvigorate.

  6. Give it a good stir. Yeast loves oxygen, so if you are seeing a lot of liquid build up on top without many bubbles before that, give it all a really good stir when you mix in your flour and water. I know some people who whip their starters with a whisk.

Seeing the Wood for the Trees (and the tree for the wood)
IMG_4185.jpg

On the same day that I blew out my birthday candles and blew into a new decade of my life, Storm Ali came and blew a 150ft beech tree over into our sheep paddock. I'd received an email the night before, telling us that work on our fencing for the sheep was scheduled to begin in 3 weeks time. We'd celebrated, the end was in sight.  No more chasing sheep across the fields they weren't supposed to be in. No more leading bad goats out of the rose bushes and into the field they jumped out of. No more 'chats' with our neighbour who is oh so very sick of seeing our sheep in his field. And then, just as quick as we could dream of this easier life that awaited us at the end of October, we watched as the storm took out 20ft of the wall that was going to be used for the electric wire, as well as the back door and lintel to the dying studio that we'd worked so hard to set up. As we stood surveying the damage, Kevin and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

There are days where I walk around and all I can see are the things we need to do. The overflowing compost, the veg garden that desperately needs sorting for autumn, the laundry that seems to perpetually be the size of a small island off the west coast, the fencing, the trees needing pruned, the apples needing processed, the emails needing written, the kittens needing rehomed, the hay needing ordering and so on and so forth ad nauseam. It is literally endless, and, except in the few moments of absolute exhaustion that pop along from time to time, rarely feels burdensome. 

The sheer work of this place, of this life we are trying to carve out for ourselves here on this windy hill has shaped us in ways I wouldn't have predicted. As someone who likes to tick things off a list, I would've expected myself to be felled like that beech tree by the unrelenting effort it takes to keep us afloat. I am a runner - things get hard and I am the first to walk away. Somehow though, it's those aspects of myself that have worn away in the last five years.  We've cultivated a keen sense of the ridiculous and learned to always choose to laugh when given the option of laughing or crying. 

We turn up, do the work and choose to see both the hole in the fence and next year's wood pile in that fallen beech tree.  

Kat GoldinComment
The Famous Gartur Salted Caramel Brownies
salted carammel brownies-7.jpg

Okok, they probably aren’t famous, but above any other recipe I have ever been asked for, this one has been requested the most. They are long perfected, years in development brownies that hit that exact spot of sweet and salty and rich and sticky that brownies really should be. They are what we bring to every single bake sale and retreat and workshop and and and…so finally, I will let you in on the secret…

salted carammel brownies-8.jpg



Makes 1 9x9in tray of brownies.


For the brownies:

300g butter

500g sugar

165g powdered cocoa

4 eggs

120g flour

2t. vanilla


For the Caramel:

300g sugar

200g double cream

1T. sea salt flakes


salted carammel brownies-5.jpg

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/360F

  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar and cocoa. Mix well.

  3. Leave to cool until it is just warm. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

  4. Add flour and mix.

  5. Pour into a lined 9x9 pan.

  6. In a clean pan, melt the sugar for the caramel. You will need to keep an eye on it and stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn.

  7. Once melted, add the cream slowly. The mix will steam and bubble, so mix with a long handled spoon.

  8. Add a pinch of salt to the caramel and mix.

  9. Pour the caramel on top of the brownie and swirl it in with a knife, leaving it mostly unmixed.

  10. Bake for 35 minutes. The brownie should be just set. Sprinkle the rest of the sea salt over the top.

  11. Leave to cool completely….if you can.


cookingKat Goldin Comment
Trying Not To Skip A Season
IMG_2624.jpg

I saw my first Christmas decorations at the supermarket the other day. There I was, minding my own business when I turned down an aisle and *BAM* there they were - snowmen and trees and the colours red and green.  Not being a huge fan of that particular holiday or the colour red, I immediately turned heel and ran...grabbing a bottle of gin as I went, of course. 

Not only was it an affront to my Grinch like sensibilities, but I hate how the rush towards the C-word seems to skip over a whole season of the year.  We seem to go straight from summer BBQs, pool parties and iced drinks to mass consumption of Baileys and Cheese - not that I particularly mind either of those things, but we are missing an essential period of the year - Autumn. 

Having a birthday in the middle of September and pie being my favourite food group, always made me feel that Fall was MY season. The turning of the leaves, the fires, the harvest (have I mentioned pie, yet?), I love all of it.  The only thing I don't like is that I have to wear proper shoes and socks as the days get colder, but that is a situation that I can be distracted from as I spend every free moment foraging for mushrooms in the woods. 

And while the supermarkets seem to want me to forget that Autumn exists in the race towards the Holidays, the farm keeps us firmly grounded in the here and now of harvest.  A bumper year of apples and brambles have me working in the kitchen day and night to get things put up for the season.  The wetter days mean my floors have taken back their grit layer and the house has the underlying smell of wet dog and wood ash. And I am here for it...all of it. But especially the pie.

Kat GoldinComment
It's autumn and I am excited!!

Hello, I am Kerstin, one of the newest members of Gartur Stitch Farm. I joined Kat and Kevin in the business this summer and I am the Farm’s Development Manager. What does that mean? Well, I deal with the administrative side of the business and I help develop and implement new ideas. But I am also an avid gardener, baker and cook, beer brewer…like Kat, I like making things and autumn is a wonderful time for making things.

I know, the days are getting shorter, colder, and a bit wetter.....but there is a big BUT.  Everything is in a glut. The vegetable garden is having its last push before the winter. The courgette plants are still going strong, I have harvested my first perfectly orange and round pumpkins, the beetroots are jumping out of the ground, the cabbage is filling out its perfectly round heads. There is spinach growing, leeks, chard, kale, and the early signs of a promising Brussel sprouts harvest. 

But it is not only the vegetable garden that is in its full glory, so is the orchard and the hedgerow. Elderberries, brambles, rosehips, hawthorns, seabuckthorn, wild apples, mushrooms, nuts, etc,etc.

So it is a wonderful time of year and the earlier evenings give us the time to do something with all this wonderful harvest that is on our doorstep. Jam making, pickling, beer brewing, wine making, creating new teas, chutneys, pies and casseroles, soaps, and salves, and candles, and so much more.

Come join as we work our way through the autumn harvest. We have foraging courses for all four seasons of the year. We are developing a brand  new series of food preservation courses online, starting with fermentation. We have workshops and retreats for sourdough bread and cheesemaking. We also have courses for turning your wild harvest into soaps and salves and other home and beauty products. And we can help you make a natural homemade Christmas - stun your family and friends with fragrant beautiful gifts and holiday decorations.

Have a look at our website and come join us make the most of this autumn. First up on 6 Oct we are making wild inspired beauty and household items - from soaps, to salves and candles and more - at our Natural Home and Beauty workshop.

 First of the autumn harvest….

First of the autumn harvest….

Kat GoldinComment
The To Do List
IMG_2511.jpg

I'm writing to you from week 2 of the school year. The excitement and euphoria of week one has worn off and I am on my 4th cup of coffee, rushing through a mammoth to-do list and watching the clock until I have to drop what I am doing and run down the road to collect the children. Last week, those 6 hours a day when they were safely at school seemed to stretch into be an almost obscene amount of time to work in. I blasted through the work, even scheduling in naps, giddy with the sheer luxury of working without three children constantly needing feeding/entertaining/a fight breaking up/ feeding again. This week, I am dragging myself through the day and the list - tired already from the routine of getting kids out the door in the morning and feeling the squeeze of 'only' having 6 hours to do all the things. 

No matter how I feel about it though, that to do list still needs to get done. My mantra on these days where it seems like I am wading through it all is simply to "Turn up and do the work". There is no productivity app, no life hack, no cute acronym for achievement, just showing up, rolling up my sleeves, doing what needs to be done and forgiving myself if my list was bigger than I could manage that day.

I am learning that this last point is simply a reality of this 'life in the making' that we lead...the list will always be too big. We will always cross one thing off, only for 3 more to be added to the bottom.  As someone who loves a blank page to start from, to say I find the unending nature of our life 'hard' is an understatement.  But I am learning to develop the vision that allows me to see the things we have done, not just the things that lie unfinished. 

Rosebay Willowherb Tea
IMG_2322-2.jpg

A few months ago when out with the dog, Kevin and I were chatting about our upcoming foraging workshops and he mentioned that he had read something about using Rosebay Willowherb as a tea. I'd never heard of it before, but a quick google and a deep dive into some of my older herbology books showed that he was indeed correct.  

IMG_0028.jpeg

Rosebay Willowherb, known in North America as Fireweed, is a tall perennial, easily recognised by its purple, almost flame-like, flowers.  It favours waste ground and is a first coloniser plant, so is often seen on roadsides, plantation forest edges and disused building sites. Its American name comes from its colonization in fire-disturbed areas.

IMG_1884-2.jpg

The tea, called in some places Ivan Tea or Koporye Tea (after the area of Russia where it originated), used to be an alternative to Chinese tea.  With willowherb's nature of growing in disturbed or unused ground and its spread all over much of the Northern Hemisphere, it was a cheaper alternative to 'proper tea'. While it doesn't have caffeine, it is oxidised in the same way that black tea is - letting fermentation make its magic to create a deeper, more fruity flavour. It isn't caffinated and has become my bedtime drink. Apparently you can also eat the young shoots like asparagus, so I am looking forward to trying that next year. 

I've done a few batches of the tea now and I am finding the whole process so magical, on top of having a great tea - there is this moment on about day 2 of fermentation when all of the sudden the smell of the tea changes from grassy and green to deep and fruity.  It is such a rewarding process and you get a good amount of tea, quickly...always a bonus when foraging.

Harvesting: 

The leaves are best foraged when the plant starts to flower.  They have quite a long flowering season, so its nice not to have to rush about collecting all of it at once. You want to simply pick the leaves, leaving the flowers for pollinators.  You can do this quite quickly by grabbing the top of the stalk under the flowers and sliding your other hand down, stripping handfuls as you go.

Fermenting:

Once you have the leaves you need, simply leave them in a cloth bag or basket overnight to wilt.  This helps start the oxidation process.

After they have wilted, you will take a few at a time and roll them to help move on the fermentation.  Then pack them loosely into a glass container for 2-3 days.  Once they start to smell fruity, make a cup to check you are happy with the flavour.  Add a few leaves to hot water and steep like you would any other herbal tea.

IMG_2331.jpg

If you are happy with it, then you need to stop fermentation by drying the leaves.  I simply emptied my jars onto baking trays and dried them in a low oven until they were completely dry (about 20-30 minutes). For added visual effect, try drying some of the flowers along with the tea.

Store in a sealed container.  The taste improves over time, so letting it rest a few weeks will enhance the flavour. 

IMG_2340.jpg

 

 

The Middle of Everywhere
first fleece.jpg

The road that comes up to the farm is 1.5 miles long.  The first half mile has 4 houses and a holiday cottage along it, but the last mile is empty and straight, stopping at a dead end at our gate. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a call from a visitor, asking if they are on the right track as that last mile seems to stretch on forever. 

When we first moved out here, a neighbour expressed concern about me being here alone all day every day "I worry about you being alone way out there. Don't you get lonely?" I laughed. When we first moved here I had envisioned working all day in my PJs, not seeing anyone for days and building a reputation for myself as the Recluse of Gartur.  However, the truth is that rarely a day goes by that someone doesn't pop in, come for a visit, spend a night, take a class, drop something/some child off, pick something up, take a look around or stay for a meal. And despite my initial desires for the kind of isolation that meant I never had to wear a bra or brush my hair, the reality of a bustling homestead makes my heart so full. Because while I wouldn't have chosen this jam-packed life for myself in the past, the truth is that in the busyness of every day life I seem to have found my thing. 

In pretty much every self help book, there always seems to be an exercise where you imagine your perfect day - mine was always reading in bed with coffee, but now when I close my eyes I see friends and family around my old battered table, eating food from the farm, laughing together. We fill the house with people - from guests to workshop participants, family and friends.  This summer we have so many people staying that the tent has made a permanent feature in the garden so we can squeeze them all in. There is always something going on - extra kids building forts in the playroom, friend and family working at the kitchen table, Kevin giving goat milking demonstrations to anyone that asks. It catches me off guard some times, how different life is from what I imagined, but not even that, just how happy it makes me. 

And with this realisation, we have changed the farm to suit - we are putting the finishing on the studio this week to seat 16 and the refurbished dye studio fits 24. So, I've had to retire the idea of the Recluse of Gartur and instead am adopting the title of Party Director. 

Kevin's Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
IMG_0379-2.jpg

When Kevin and I lived in Windsor, Sunday mornings were for long lie-ins, thick stacks of newspaper and a special breakfast at our favourite coffee shop.  In this life, Sundays start pretty much at the same time as every other day - early - and consist of the same routine as every other morning.  Our one nod to that previous life is a special breakfast, served with a big pot of coffee and lingered over a little longer than the goats would like. 

Most Sundays, Kevin is the one to get up early, switch the oven on and pop in the sourdough cinnamon rolls he made the night before. Sourdough cinnamon rolls are quite different than their commercial counterparts  - a bit denser and they have a lovely depth of flavour lacking in their very sweet counterparts. He's become the pro in our house and has graciously shared his recipe here (possibly in hopes that I will be the one to get up this Sunday and make them). 

Ingredients:

  • 200g starter
  • 160g whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 1T sugar
  • 360g bread flour
  • 10g salt

For the Filling:

  • 200g brown sugar
  • 1T ground cinnamon

For the Icing:

  • 60g icing sugar
  • 2T orange juice

Method:

Method for Cinnamon Rolls:

1. Mix all ingredients until no lumps remain

2. Rest in a warm, covered spot for 3-4 hours, doing 3-4 stretch and folds in that time.

3. Roll out dough into a long rectangle.

4.Spread 200g of brown sugar and 1T of cinnamon all over the dough.

5. Roll up from the long edge.  Cut into pieces 5cm in length. Place in a lined pan.

6. Refrigerate over night.  

Baking:  

1. Bake at 180c for 35 minutes. 

2. Serve with icing. Our favourite icing recipe is about 60g of icing sugar with the juice of one blood orange. 

New to sourdough baking? We've launched an online version of our popular Everyday Sourdough workshop.  You can find the details here. 

10 Things To Do (Now That The Goat Ate My Garden)
8b573aa7-85cc-4a22-bbab-9dabc8853916.jpeg

Last Thursday, we said goodbye to Freya the goat. She and her daughter Cinnamon were taken to live in a field with cows to keep a billy goat company on a lovely hill farm in the Ochil Hills. In the lead up to her going, I did wonder if I would feel sad. She'd been with us for 2 years, since she was 8 weeks old. I was always her favourite...she would lean up against me for scratches, sniff my pockets for the biscuits I knew she liked and always kept tucked away for her. 

As she pulled away, rather than regret, I felt that she had gone one day late. You see, the day before she ate the entire contents of my veg garden.  In the blink of an eye, 3 goats (freya and het two kids) pushed open the garage door, ripped up 2 meters of chicken wire and inhaled a year's worth of dahlias, peas, yarrow, kale, lettuce, beans, pumpkins, comfrey and lupins. I am not going to lie, I cried angry hot tears and used more swear words than I even knew I knew.

Once the red mist of anger cleared, I decided to see it as an opportunity. Rather than mope away the rest of the summer, I put pen to paper to make a list of everything I was going to do with this gift of time I'd been given

This summer, I am going to:
1. Learn the ukulele.
2. Go wild swimming and not feel guilty I should be weeding.
3. Read the stack of books I have by my bedside table and not feel guilty I should be putting up garden produce. So far, I have read Skinful of Shadowsand the Beekeepers Lament (both excellent) and have started the Immortalists.
4. Pick wild berries and not feel guilty that I have veg just sitting in the garden waiting to be harvested.
5. Repaint and floor the studio, kitchen, kids' rooms and playroom.
6. Watch TV and not feel like a lazy slob who neglects their garden.
7. Replant my front garden and window boxes with confidence that they won't get eaten.
8. Really dig deep into my foraging skills to make up for the veg they ate.
9. Have clean fingernails for the first time since March.
10. Explore the 11.2 million ways to eat courgettes...because they were the only plant that wasn't eaten.

Chicken Fried Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

Chicken of the Woods is one of those treasures of a wild mushroom hunt.  Its tasty, easy to identify and there is a lot of eating on them when you do stumble across one. It gets its name from its chicken like taste and texture, and not in the usual way every protein of an unknown origin 'tastes like chicken', this mushroom really does. 

IMG_1859.jpg

Identifying the Chicken of the Woods:

When identifying mushrooms, always check with at least 2 sources before ingesting. If you have doubts, don't eat them.  Even mushrooms that may be considered safe to eat, can still cause poor reactions in some people, so be aware.  Also the general advice is to always ensure that your mushrooms are well-cooked before eating as this helps to neutralise any potential toxins. 

Chicken of the Woods is one of those mushrooms that once you identify it clearly the first time, its hard to mistake for anything else.  In the UK at least, there are very few mushrooms that can be confused with it and those that can, the Dryads Saddle or the Blackening Polypore, are both safe to ingest (and really don't look much like it any way). It is a bracket fungus that grows mostly on oak trees, but can be found on other hardwood and yew trees, so will be found without a stem, growing in a clump off of a tree or stump and it does not have gills.  As a young mushroom, it starts off apricot in colour and then fades to white as it ages.  Like most mushrooms it is best eaten fresh and can be frozen, but this does change the texture. 

Fresh, my go to recipe is the same for all wild mushrooms, fry in lots of butter with garlic and finish with a bit of creme and thyme.  However, you an harness that chicken-like nature and use it in recipes that call for chicken. We've made tacos, stir fry and pasta with our mushrooms and all were lovely.  

This recipe for fried chicken of the woods was inspired my my friend Jeni who loves to batter and fry all the things.  I simply brought my love of fried chicken to the mix and even the kids couldn't get enough. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large section of Chicken of the Wood Mushroom (about 1kg)

For Brine:

  • 920ml/ (4 US cups) water
  • 3T salt

For Batter:

  • 240g (2 US cups) of plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 230ml (1 US cup) of ale
  • 2 cups of crushed corn flakes (if you want to substitute bread crumbs here, do, but corn flakes really do give a superior crispiness to the batter).
  • 1t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1t salt
  • vegetable oil for frying

Method:

  1. Clean the mushroom, ensuring you remove all tree bark from the mushroom, especially if it was found on a yew tree.
  2. Cut off any dry or flaking bits at the edges and slice into pieces roughly 1cm thick.
  3. Mix up the brine and let the pieces soak for about 5 minutes while you mix up the batter.
  4. Add all the ingredients for the batter to a bowl, except the corn flakes.  Mix into a smooth, thick batter.
  5. Crush the cornflakes and place in a shallow pan.
  6. Remove the mushrooms from the brine and pat dry.  Dunk each piece individually into the batter, then coat with bread crumbs.
  7. Heat about 1cm of oil in a frying pan. Working in small batches, lightly fry off the breaded mushrooms, roughly 2 minutes each side to seal. 
  8. Once browned, place mushrooms on a tray and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180c/360F
  9. Serve with garlic mayo or in a wrap or taco. 

 


Upcoming Foraging Workshops at Gartur Stitch Farm

 

 

My Happy Place
IMG_1756.jpg

I seem to have spent my life tromping around the woods with a badly behaved dog by my side.

The other day we were all arguing about what we were going to go do.  Some of us wanted to go swimming, others needed to work and one, rather stubborn little boy quite didn't know what he wanted.  After running through a list of just about every activity I could think of, I asked him to lay down with me, close his eyes and imagine what his best day would look like. Where would he go? What would he do? Who would be with him? What would he eat?

After a few minutes of silence, I asked him what he had been thinking of. As it turned out, his perfect day involved watching Netflix in bed alone eating crisps in his pants...not quite the wholesome activity I had been hoping for. We laughed and then he asked me what I had been dreaming about. I told him that what I most wanted to do that day was to wander in the woods with my dog and a basket, foraging for dinner.

For as long as I can remember, rambling through the woods with a badly behaved canine at my side has been my happy place. The dogs have changed, as have the woods and what I am looking for, but the essence of the activity has remained the same. One of my favourite memories of my childhood summers was that my mother sliding the glass back door closed and sending us into the woods for the day.  My Scottish Terrier, Snickers, and I would head out into the woods with a small flower identification book and I would spend my day searching for flowers to classify then press in the pages of my book before Snickers would tear away towards the road to chase some unknown (and probably squirrel shaped) threat.

There is something deeply meditative about focusing wholly on one thing - whether it be looking for North American wildflowers, small yellow mushrooms unfurling on the ground, scanning the hedgerow for berries at exactly the right shade of red or purple, gathering up the greens that add an extra bite to a salad or reaching into the trees to compete with the birds for the juiciest berries. Foraging requires a special kind of focus, not dissimilar to those magic eye pictures where if you look at it correctly a sailboat appears out of the jumbled mess of colour, but in the case of foraging, it is the infinitely more useful dinner that appears. 

I have come to recognise that this is my kind of meditation. Where apps and guided audio fail me, walking out in the woods helps quiet my mind and ground me fully in where I am, the season we are in and the nuances of my surroundings. As someone who struggles to "do nothing" the productivity of gathering items that can be of use in our kitchen, medicine cabinet and dye pots helps me to justify this precious act of self care in a way that I probably wouldn't without that utilitarian aspect. Step by step, through the woods, always watchful of my surroundings...

Until the dog runs away towards the road, of course. Because some things never change.

Some of the things we are foraging at the moment:

  • Cherries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Yarrow
  • Sorrel
  • Nettles
  • Raspberries
  • Blaeberries (also known as Bilberries or Huckleberries)
  • Chickweed
  • Fat Hen
  • Cleavers

My favourite foraging book is Food for Free by Richard Maybey

We have a couple of spots left on our August Wild Kitchen course as well, if you want to trop around the woods here with me (badly behaved dog will be staying home).

Kat GoldinComment
The Weight of Responsibility
bees at gartur

I wasn't going to add any more animals to the farm, so I added 10,000

We all sat at the front door from 10:55am.  Our postman, Jim, has always been a punctual sort of fellow and we can set the clock by his 11:10am arrival on the farm. The waiting isn't uncommon  - in turns we have all been known to watch the windows for our much awaited deliveries from the back of his red van - for me, cookbooks and yarn, for Kevin  - new saws and blades for carving and the kids seem to forever be waiting for a package from Grammie. 

That day, though, we were all waiting together, guessing at every passing sound if it was Jim bringing us our much anticipated parcel. Our 15 minute wait dragged on for what seemed like ever until finally, the crunch of tyres on the drive were his.  He climbed out of his cab and slid open the side door as we stood back and watched him pull out the small white box marked "Highland Bees".  We laughed about how his job was never dull, chatted about our plans for honey and he put his name down for the first jar.

As he handed me the box, I was struck by the weight of it.  In retrospect, I don't know what I expected from 10k+ honey bees, their brood, frames and honey, but I definitely expected it to be lighter.  The physical weight aside, there was something else heavy about the box...

I have been responsible for lives other than my own for the last 11.5 years.  I remember the moment the tiny 5lb baby Ellis was placed in my arms and the following realisation that his life was literally in my hands.  I thought there must be some mistake - how could I be in charge of such an important thing, I had barely kept a houseplant alive in the previous 27 years. 

Two more children, a dog, 3 cats, 5 goats, 17 sheep, 16 chickens, 3 geese, 5 ducks, 2 turkeys and a peacock later, you'd think that I would be well used to the role of caretaker, but there was something different this time and it wasn't the sheer number of lives contained therein. Bees aren't like the hobby sheep I keep to cut the grass that could as easily be done by the mower or the goats I milk for cheese that I can find in shops, there is something a bit more urgent about stewarding these little lives that simply wouldn't exist without beekeepers.

And just like those early days with my other babies, I keep checking that they are ok - watching them come in and out of the hive, just like I had watched little chests rise and fall in their sleep, leaving them for longer in between visits, trusting that they will be OK. 

Mama's Super Magic Cream (aka Yarrow, Comfrey and Plantain Salve)
IMG_1779.jpg

The first time I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I laughed hardest at the dad who sprayed Windex on every problem. Not only because it was funny, but because I had grown up with a mother who had her own particular panacea for all that ailed us - Bag Balm.  Got a big bite? Bag Balm. Sunburn? Bag balm. Infected nose piercing you weren't supposed to get? Bag balm. Despite not having used it in 20 years, I still remember the acrid smell and sticky consistency that sat in the top shelf of her bathroom cupboard in its green tin throughout my childhood. 

This salve has replaced Bag Balm in my own kids' lives, so much so that they often fetch the jar before they come to me crying with scrapes and bites. The making of this salve has become one of our early summer rituals for years and we always have some tucked away for whatever we might need it for. I start scouring the hedgerows as soon as its warm enough, stockpiling jars to last us throughout the year.

The balm is based on yarrow, comfrey and plantain infused olive oil and thickened with beeswax.  This process of infusing and oil and then thickening it with wax is a great technique for making all manner of balms. We also make a lovely calendula balm in a similar manner.

The Herbs:

From Left to Right:

Yarrow: a hedgerow relative of the sunflower, its scientific name Acheallia Millefolium  relates both to the invulnerability powers it supposedly gave Achilles and its highly segmented, feathery leaves.  It has a peppery smell and likes dry environments.  It has a range of uses, but in a salve it helps stop bleeding and has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Comfrey: Large, green furred leaves with purple flowers. Its used for healing wounds and broken bones, in fact traditionally it was called "knit bone". It has been shown to enhance cell production and is mildly astringent, helping to kill bacteria.

Plantain (both narrow leaf and broad leaf plantain): the long veins in this plant are the key identifiers.  Plantain is great to stop itching and is known as a sort of hedgerow panacea, with antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Used together, these three hedgerow powerhouses are my favourite blend for the scrapes, brusies, bug bites, nettle stings, scraped knees, sunburn and chapped lips. 

Note on picking from the hedgerow: To harvest herbs responsibly - never take more than 10% of a plant and look to harvest in areas that aren't heavy in traffic and haven't been sprayed. You may well find all of these in your garden, I know I can. 

The Salve

Ingredients:

  • 50g of freshly picked comfrey, plantain and yarrow leaves 
  • 250g olive oil
  • 200-250g of beeswax (I buy beeswax pellets from here)
  • (optional) a few drops of rosemary essential oil

Method:

IMG_1782.jpg

1. Place your herbs in a glass jar and cover with olive oil. Let it infuse for 4 weeks in a warm spot.  Ensure your herbs are fully covered in oil as anything exposed to the air may grow mould.

IMG_1741.jpg

2. Strain off your herbs and compost them. Place the oil in a small saucepan.  Add beeswax (more makes a firmer ointment, less makes it looser - start with less if you aren't sure what you would like and if it sets too soft, reheat and add more wax)

3. If you would like to add essential oils, do it once the pellets have all melted.  We don't use essential oils and don't miss it from this salve. 

IMG_1763.jpg

4. Pour into jars and let cool.  Label and save.  We like to have a couple of small jars for handbags and backpacks and one large jar that just sits on the counter. 

We are running a new Natural Home and Beauty course this autumn if you want to learn more about making your own cleaning and natural beauty products.

 

Goatus Interruptus
IMG_3757.jpg

Goats seemed like such a good idea...

Earlier this week, a friend shared a comment she'd seen about Instagram stories. The poster was recommending her favourite accounts and added me to that list (thank you, if it was you!!) and writing that I speak to the camera well but always seem to be looking for my goats. 

While I can't particularly comment on the first bit, the latter is not actually true, because I don't really have to look for the goats any more. If they aren't in their field, I simply need to consider where in the vicinity they could get into the most trouble and there they will be.  I hear our neighbouring farmer driving up? Without a doubt, they will be in his field grazing with his cows. Next door's holiday cottage door is open? They will be in the kitchen eating the holiday maker's dinner (true story). Have I bought new houseplants that day?  Unquestionably they will have broken into the house to eat them. While the sheep just escape, the goats plot.  
 

On Thursday morning, I woke up early to water the garden before the heat of the day. As I turned the corner to the veg plot, I saw 5 goats happily munching away at my peas, dahlias and raspberry bushes.  They looked up at me quite innocently as I screamed at them to get the *&^* out of my garden, unperturbed by my flailing arms, tears and cuss words. If goats could wear facial expressions, theirs was one of utter astonishment...as if they couldn't believe I hadn't grown the whole garden just for them.

Of course I threatened all sorts of ends they would meet (meat), as I led them out into their field.  Curry was mentioned, as was a rug or 5.  I locked the door behind them and stomped off back to the house to compose myself with coffee and breakfast.

That breakfast was an omlette - eggs from the hens, spinach from the garden and the best feta you will ever eat, made from the milk of those horned ravagers of vegetable patches.  I softened by bite one and by bite five, I sort of forgot why I had ever been mad at them in the first place. The power of a good cheese.

Feta & Quinoa Patties
feta and quinoa patties-3.jpg

Fact: things in 'burger' format are 267% tastier.  Maybe its the fact that the outsides are fried? Or that they are easily slipped into bread and carbs are life?  Who knows, but quinoa mixed with cheese and then fried turns this 'health' food into something even my kids like.  

I've used my homemade feta here, which is a bit less crumbly than the store bought kind that uses calcium chloride to help firm it up. 

Ingredients:

300g Quinoa (Ive used Lidl's multigrain quinoa here, but plain works well)

200g feta cheese - crumbled or cut into chunks

2 eggs - beaten

2 Tablespoons of flour (GF is fine)

25g finely chopped herbs. I love chives in mine.

Method:

1. Cook quinoa according to pack instructions.  Usually this involves boiling it in 1 part quinoa, 3 parts water for 15-20 minutes, until the spiral germ separates from the seed. Leave to stand for 10 minutes then drain off extra liquid.

2. Once its cooled, add the rest of the ingredients.  You may need to add a bit of extra flour to get it to stick together. 

3. In a frying pan, heat 2TB of oil.  Once the oil is hot, shape the mix into patties slightly smaller than your hand and place in pan.  

4. Fry for 3-5 minutes on the first side. Don't flip too early or it will fall apart.

5. Flip and brown on the other side. 

Serve with a salad and homemade chips. 

Want to learn to make your own feta?  Its covered in our Intro to Cheesemaking class. 

Any Green Pesto
carrot top pesto

In summer, at least twice a week, we have "Stuff on Bread" night.  It really is that simple - we rummage around the cupboards or the garden and see what is available.  Some veg get roasted or grilled, there may be a bit of leftover meat or egg mayonnaise from earlier in the week, and there is almost always cheese. If we are low on toppings, out comes the food processor and some form of pesto is added to the mix. 

I've used carrot tops in the recipe below, but really you are only limited by what is in your fridge, garden or hedgerow here.  We use this same recipe with ground elder, nettles (don't forget to blanch them first), spinach, rocket, chard, young kale leaves, beetroot greens and wild garlic.  Sometimes we leave out the cheese, if you leave a bit of water on the greens from washing or blanching them, the liquid and oil will emulsify nicely to form a creamy base.  

Carrot Top (or any Green) Pesto:

A big pile of carrot tops (from a bunch of carrots, this is usually around 200g)

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup (50g) nuts - I like walnuts

1/2 cup (60g) parmesan

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

Using a food processor, chop the nuts until they start to stick together. Coarsely chop the garlic, carrot tops and cheese and add them in. Blend until finely chopped and start adding olive oil to form a paste.  Salt to taste.

Serving suggestions:

Mix into whole wheat pasta with sautéed courgette (zucchini), red onions and pecans with oregano sprinkled on top.

Put onto sourdough bread (homemade goat's cheese an added bonus!)

The Power of Doing it Yourself

A few months ago, Scotland came to a standstill.

The "beast from the east" came and dumped snow upon our normally green land, then blew it into drifts large enough to grind the motorways to a standstill and leave most of us able only to travel for as far as we could walk safely.

Living at the end of a 1.5 mile single track road, we expect to spend some part of the winter cut off and prepare accordingly, keeping a couple of dairy goats and plenty of flour on hand so at the very least we can have bread and cheese (I won't go into the fact that we'd under prepared without enough coffee and tonic water to get through - rookie mistake, Goldin), but my uncharacteristically Facebook timeline was filled with my more urban friends who could make it out of their homes and to the shops only to find them empty of bread. Scotland had run out. 

A few weeks previously, I'd run my first Sourdough Bread making workshop. Our informal class had taught a handful of people the skills necessary to make bread with the most basic ingredients - flour, water, salt - in their own homes. As the majority of my timeline filled with folks mourning their lack of toast, these students were posting pictures of their homemade bread.

I count that as one of my best moments in my working life. Of course, not that the country had come to a standstill or that people couldn't get out of their homes to get basic necessities, but that some how in a world where we are so dependent on systems that don't always serve us, I had given a handful of people the skills to do it themselves and provide for their families.

The times that I have felt most creative and then empowered are those where I have HAD to be creative. Maybe we didn't have enough money to buy a finished product or couldn't find something we were looking for and we had to make it ourselves. I started baking because we moved too far out and my love of a baked good wasn't enough to get me to drive the 20 minutes to the nearest cafe. I had to figure out how to do it myself on a budget that ensured we could continue to pay the rent. And once you get into that mindset, its addictive.  I look around at all of the things that need to be done in our kitchen or around the farm and I instantly start singing "I Can Do That" from A Chorus Line**.

Making from scratch, figuring things out, embedding creativity into the most mundane things, taking back a tiny bit of power in a world that wants us to hand it over with our cash...yep, pretty much the reason I get out of bed every morning. Well, that and coffee. 

**In our next instalment, Kevin lists the DIY projects that fall into the "Just Because You CAN, Doesn't Mean You Should" category. ;) 

I've put my favourite sourdough recipe on the blog, if you fancy giving it a go. If you don't have a starter, I recommend this method, or you can always buy one from the shop.

I also have spaces available on my upcoming sourdough workshops!!