The chaotic gardener, blogger food writer and River Cottage home girl (she creates recipes for HFW) is full of witty ideas for grown-ups. Thereâ€™s delicious stuff to eat, pampering gunks, home remedies and lifestyle inessentials. The focus is on the recipes but Robertson also tells you how to grow the ingredients (many of the ungrowables come from Londonâ€™s oldest herbalist, BaldwinsÂ and package the end results.
This is a gorgeous book, not least because it eschews icky pastel-ated nostalgia â€“ bar the odd gingham bow â€“ for earthy elegance. Just remember, gifts are for giving not keeping for yourself, however great the temptation.
Parsley dog biscuits
Parsley is famously good at sweetening the breath. Makes about 32 bones.
- A big bunch of parsley, about 120g, finely minced, stalks and all
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 60g Cheddar, or any other strong, hard cheese, grated
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 300g wholemeal flour
- 150â€“200ml hot chicken stock or water
Preheat the oven to 180ËšC/gas 4 and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment. Stir together the parsley, carrots and cheese. Trickle over the oil and mix. Place the flour in a separate bowl.
Tip the parsley mixture into the flour and mix everything up with your hands until well combined. Gradually add the stock or water, mixing until you have a good, stiff dough â€“ you may not need to use all of the liquid. Knead it together gently with your hands, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out until itâ€™s about 5mm thick. Cut out the dog biscuits, using a 6â€“8cm biscuit cutter, bone-shaped if possible. Knead the offcuts together, roll them and cut them out too. Lay them on the baking sheets. Bake for about 25 minutes until the biscuits are solid to the touch and turning golden around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Stored in an airtight tin, the biscuits will keep for a couple of weeks.
These look beautiful coated simply with the beeswax, but you can colour them red and green by grating in a couple of wax crayons, if you like. The essential oils are optional but add a lovely seasonal scent. Tuck in among the kindling before lighting the fire.
- 12 small pine cones
- Waxed wicks or garden string
- About 700g wax, either beeswax or paraffin wax
- Wax crayons, grated (optional)
- Essential oils, orange, cedar, sandalwood, clove, nutmeg, pine (alone or in combination â€“ optional)
If youâ€™ve gathered your own pine cones and they feel a little damp, place them on a baking sheet and dry them out in the oven at 180Â°C/gas mark 4 for 10â€“15 minutes. Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases. Tie a length of wick or string around the base of each cone, leaving a tail of about 8cm.
Gently melt the wax (and the grated crayons, if you want coloured wax) in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Donâ€™t leave unattended at any point. When the wax has melted, stir in any essential oils if youâ€™re using them. Hang the cones upside down by the wicks and dip them in the wax, making sure you dip some of the wick too. Place them in the centre of the muffin cases, draping the wicks over the sides. Carefully pour or ladle the wax into the muffin cases around the cones, letting it come about half-way up each case. Leave to cool and set.
Bought candlesÂ decorated with dried flowers and leaves make wonderful gifts which you can tailor to their recipients. Herbs and leaves look very good in minimalist rooms, while a host of petals and flowers suit a more feminine or vintage interior. Delicate, fine foliage works better than fleshier examples
- Paraffin wax is highly flammable, so choose a day when you can give the project your full attention. Select the dried flowers and leaves you want to use to decorate the candles and lay everything out before you start.
- Put the wax in the top of your double boiler and put some water in the bottom. Place the sugar thermometer in the pan. Heat gently, stirring with a long metal spoon from time, until the wax is completely melted. Paraffin wax has a melting point of 56â€“58Â°C/132â€“136Â°F. You can add a few drops of essential oils to scent your candles at this point if you like. Donâ€™t leave the melting wax unattended at any point, and when itâ€™s melted, remove from the heat.
- Dip the paintbrush into the wax and paint it around the parts of the candle you want to decorate. Gently press the flowers or leaves onto the candle, then brush a little wax over the top to fix it in place. Alternatively, carefully dip the leaves or flowers into the wax and place them on the candle, smoothing gently to fix.
- Hold the candle by the wick (you may want to use tongs to do this) and quickly dip the entire candle into the wax to set the decorations. Cool completely and then buff gently to a sheen with a soft cloth.