Category: Seasonal recipes

From the Witch and other Cooks whom the Witch admires


Have you felt a bit of end-of-summer tristesse this year?  A twinge of dread at the thought of the nights drawing in, and the coming of the cold months?

Take heart! It’s not that time yet. Late summer/early autumn is its own time, with its own leisurely rhythm.  We don’t have a name for it, but in the pagan year it falls between Lughnasadh, the first harvest celebration on August 1,  and Mabon, the celebration of the second harvest and autumn equinox, on September 23 this year.

I have just started dipping my toes into the waters of paganism, and I rather like the Wheel of the Year.  It marks out time in a way that is both grounded and special.  It feels intuitively right to me.

A beautiful Wheel, by an unknown artist, whom I would like to acknowledge if I only knew their name.

So this time is the time of misty mornings, late roses and spiders, of runner beans and sweet corn, of the first tinge of gold on the green leaves of summer, and the time of early apples.   But above all it is the time of blackberries.  And you still have time to go foraging for them, because this year Nature has been truly abundant.

Ripe blackberries

Here is a recipe for the time of year.


Serves 6 – 8


For the fruit filling

  • Cooking apples – 3 medium/large
  • Black berries – enough to fill a coffee mug to the top, more if you like
  • Sugar – 2 TB

For the crumble

  • Butter 100g
  • Oats – 2 handfuls
  • Hazle nuts – 1 handful
  • Plain flour – enough to make the crumble mix up to 200g

To make

You will need a large oven proof dish.  I used a Pyrex one with a lid.

  1. Heat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas Mark 6
  2. Wash the blackberries gently.  A surprising amount of stuff comes off.
  3. Peel, core and slice the apples into a bowl.  Mix in the sugar.
  4. Chop the hazle nuts coarsely.
  5. To make the crumble, rub the butter into the flour, then mix in the oats and hazle nuts.
  6. Put the apples into the oven proof dish and gently mix in the blackberries.  Scatter the crumble mix evenly on top.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit.  You want it hot, but not incandescent.
  9. What to serve it with?  Vanilla ice cream? Custard? Cream?  A delightful dilema, which I leave to you!

Note: the trick is to be generous with the blackberries


The courgettes are upon us, or zucchinis if you are Italian, American or Australian.  Their huge, startling yellow flowers have been fertilised by the bees, and the plants are producing courgettes in glorious abundance.  Green, yellow, or stripey, to my mind they are best picked when they are young, tender and still fairly small. Then they can be fried, dry fried or barbequed a la plancha, but NOT BOILED!  I say glorious abundance, but frankly, they are one of the veg that tend to glut, and I often find I have more than I know what to do with.  Also, if  not picked promptly, they lurk under their blotched leaves growing bigger and bigger until they resemble Sperm Whales and before you know it, they are not courgettes any more, but MARROWS!  So here is a cunning and delicious way to use the larger courgette.


An American recipe in which the ingredients are measured in cups, not by weight. Measuring cups are easy to use and readily available: I bought mine at Lakeland.

It also uses the combination of buttermilk and baking soda as leaveners.  This has a magic of its own, as the acid from the buttermilk combines with the alkaline from the soda, producing carbon dioxide which makes the muffins rise. Buttermilk is low in fat, and can be found in most supermarkets in the milk or cream section.

Makes 12 -14 large muffins

Dry ingredients

  • Plain flour: 2 cups
  • Baking soda: 2 tsps
  • Salt: 1/2 tsp
  • Ground cinnamon: 2 tsps
  • Light brown sugar: 1 cup

Wet ingredients

  • Buttermilk: 1/2 cup
  • Eggs: 2 large
  • Oil (rapeseed, or sunflower): 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla essence: 2 tsp
  • Juice of half a lemon

Additional ingredients

  • Courgette: grated, 1 & 3/4 cups
  • Raisins: 1/2 cup
  • Mixed seeds (optional but nice): 1/4 cup

You will also need muffin tins and large paper muffin cases

To make

  1. Heat oven to 180C, 350F, Gas Mark 4.
  2. Put the muffin cases in the muffin tins.
  3. Coarsely grate the courgette.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients together, ensuring the soda and salt are thoroughly distributed in the flour.
  5. Break the eggs into a large jug or bowl and whisk well.  Mix in the rest of the wet ingredients.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients.  Fold together with a large metal spoon, until JUST COMBINED AND NO MORE. This is important: muffins are not cakes, so don’t beat the mix until smooth, or they will come out tough and unappetising.
  7. Fold in the additional ingredients.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, about 2 TB in each, filling the cases about 3/4 full.
  9. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
  10. Remove from oven, cool on wire rack, and then … enjoy!

    Courgette muffins
    Courgette muffins


Now is the season for fresh beetroot, so here is a beetroot cake recipe, from Nigel Slater’s wonderful book, Tender vol. 1.

It’s a bit like a carrot cake, only with grated beetroot instead.  The beetroot is quite discreet, and the cake went down well with the beetroot-hater in my house.  It uses oil instead of butter, so it’s also dairy free.  A cake I make often.

BEETROOT SEED CAKE (serves 8 – 10)


  • self-raising flour, 225g
  • bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 tsp
  • baking powder, a scant tsp
  • ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp
  • sunflower oil, 180 ml
  • light muscovado sugar, 225g
  • eggs, 3, separated
  • raw beetroot, 150g
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sultanas or raisins, 75g
  • mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame or linseed) 75g

for the icing

  • icing sugar, 8 TBS
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

To make

  1. Heat the oven to 180 C/Gas 4.
  2. Lightly butter a large loaf tin (20 x 9cm measured across the bottom, and 7 cm deep), then line the base with greaseproof paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  4. Coarsely grate the beetroot.
  5. Beat the oil and sugar together, using a hand held blender, until well creamed.  Add the egg yolk one by one, and continue to beat.
  6. Fold the beetroot into the mixture, then add the lemon juice, sultanas or raisins and the mixed seeds.
  7. Fold in the flour and raising agents.
  8. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until light and almost stiff.  Fold gently but thoroughly into the mixture, using a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out).  Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 50 – 55 minutes, covering the top with a piece of foil after 30 minutes.  Test with a skewer for doneness.  The cake should be moist inside but not sticky.  Leave the cake to settle for a good twenty minutes before turning it out of its tin onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add enough lemon juice to achieve a consistency where the icing will run over the top of the cake and drizzle slowly down the sides.  Drizzle it over the cake, and leave to set before eating.

Note: Nigel says to scatter poppy seeds over the top, but I don’t.


Sweet and earthy, they taste like no other vegetable.  The colour, somewhere between purple and blood, can be offputting. If you find it hard to deal with, there are other beetroot varieties of gentler hue to try: Burpee’s Golden (golden with a hint of pink), Albina Vereduna (white) and Chioggia (pink, with concentric white rings).  The shape of Cylindra, long and cylindrical as its name suggests, is good for grating and stops you grating your fingers off.  Personally, I like the intense colour, so good old Boltardy is the one for me.

Beetroot varieties L to R : Boltardy, Burpee’s Golden, Albina Vereduna, Chioggia

To cook beetroots, I cut off the leaves, being careful not to cut into the skin, as it will leach magenta juice when it cooks. Then I wrap them loosely in foil and cook them in the oven for about an hour and a half.  If I’m being efficient, I put them in when a cake or a casserole is cooking.  When they come out, I let them cool, and then the skin slips off easily.

And beetroot stains, so I wear an apron.

Below are two great recipes for beetroot salad, the first with cooked beetroot, the second with raw.



  • Beetroot, 2 largish ones, cooked
  • Feta cheese, 2 fat ‘fingers’
  • Red Gem lettuce
  • Mixed seeds, 2 TB
  • Fresh herbs of your choice, a handfull (I like golden marjoram, parsley and a bit of mint)
  • Balsamic vinegar, 2 TB
  • Cold pressed rapeseed oil, 1 TB
  • Sea salt and black pepper

To make:

  1. Arrange the lettuce leaves in two bowls.
  2. Slip the skin off the beetroot, slice and arrange on top of the lettuce.
  3. Sprinkle the seeds over the beetroot.
  4. Crumble the feta roughly over the seeds.
  5. Season with sea salt and plenty of black pepper.
  6. Chop the herbs roughly and scatter over the top.
  7. Mix the balsamic vinegar and the rapeseed oil together, and pour over the salad.
  8. Enjoy!



  • Beetroot, 1 large (or 2 smaller) raw
  • Carrots, 1 large
  • Alfalfa sprouts, two handfuls
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Avocado, 1
  • Orange, 1 large
  • Marigold bouillon powder, 1/2 tsp

To make:

  1. Arrange the lettuce leaves in two bowls.
  2. Grate the beetroot finely, and the carrot finely, and arrange in two mounds on the lettuce.
  3. Make a third mound with the alfalfa sprouts
  4. For the dressing: peel and mash the avocado till smooth, put in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of the orange and mix with the avocado.  Add the bouillon powder and mix to taste.  You should have a pale green, slightly sludgey, but nevertheless delicious, dressing to spoon over the grated veg.
  5. Enjoy!

A is for Abundance


I am sat in the sun, on an allotment brick, next to my strawberries.  They dangle over the edge of the bed, all glistening and scarlet in the sun, or lurk under the leaves, both provocative AND available.  These are the fat fruit of summer, all luscious, warm and sweet. And I have hundreds of them! I love all this wanton abundance.


So once we have all eaten our fill, what to do with them all?

Well, I have made the best strawberry conserve ever, see recipe below.



  • Sugar 450g
  • Strawberries, small to medium size 450g
  • Lemon juice 2TB
  • About 4 jam jars with lids, plus waxed discs, selophane tops & rubber bands to seal

To make:

  1. Prepare your jam jars by washing them in hot soapy water, then standing them on a small baking tray in a very low oven. I put an old tea towel under them so they don’t jostle or crack.
  2. Remember to put a small plate into the fridge for when you are ready to check for setting point.
  3. Wash and hull the strawbs.
  4. Put the sugar and lemon juice into the pan, on very low heat, and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, and you have a syrup. Remove from the heat.
  5. Add the strawberries and stir gently until they are all covered in the syrup. Let them soak in the syrup for 20 – 30 minutes.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and cook steadily for 5 – 7 minutes, until setting point is reached. (Put a dab of jam on the chilled plate, and push the surface gently with your finger. If it wrinkles, then setting point has been reached.)
  7. Allow to cool a bit, stir to distribute the fruit, then spoon into the hot jars and seal down.

Intriguing variation: Marguerite Patten (‘Jams, Preserves, And Chutneys’, from The Basic Basics series) suggests using 4TB of redcurrant juice instead of the lemon.  Press the redcurrants through a nylon sieve, then strain, to get clear juice.


  • Makes 750g of conserve.
  • The conserve is rather loose and full of fruit: perfect for scones & cream, filling Victoria Sandwiches, etc.
  • Strawberries have no natural pectin, which is why you add the lemon juice.
  • The method works well for all berries, as it prevents the fruit breaking up.