plum and lemon verbena clafoutis

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I love train journeys. I don’t hang around railway stations with video cameras or anything (I’ve seen this. It’s a Thing), but I do enjoy watching the mist evaporate off the fields whilst other, more mad, people battle down the M4 at rush hour. It allows me to feel slightly better about having to spend hideous amounts of money every month just to get to work.

I particularly love taking the train through places I don’t know. For me, there’s no better peek into a country than winding my way up through its countryside as the locals start their mornings; or changing lines on the Italian/Swiss border, between the efficient silence of the Swiss trains and the Italian ones packed full of animated, chattering groups.

At home, on my usual journey, my favourite thing to do is to peer into people’s back gardens from my (not so) secret vantage point. People aren’t generally doing anything very interesting in theirs before breakfast, but halfway to work the track passes right by a little allotment plot, and I’m always delighted by the contrast between the neatly regimented plots and the straggly unkempt ones.

If I ever get to the top of the allotment waiting list, I know for sure which kind mine will be. I mean, I’ve tried my best to bring some order to my vegetable patch, but each year it seems like the plants hold a council among themselves – humans not invited – and decide who gets to survive and who doesn’t.

I’ll admit, this hits me hard. I was crushed when my borlotti beans were eaten by slugs overnight, and elated when the fig tree made it through the winter. However, regardless of the impact on my mental health, I’ve ordered a plum tree, among others, and I really hope it survives. Then I will eat this, all the time.

As long as the lemon verbena lasts the winter, anyway.

Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

blueberry lemon verbena pie

blueberry lemon verbena pie

I often find the beginning of autumn a bit of a downer. I mean, I like crispy leaves and winter boots as much as the next person, but the unavoidable fact is that the short pretty bit announces the beginning of months of gloom, drizzle and getting home from work in the dark.

This year, though, I’m happier about it – it’s nearly time to plant fruit trees, and, finally, I can be excited. At long last we’ve got around to clearing the corner to put them in; I’m plotting raspberries and plums, but mostly some more blueberries. Our bush at the moment yields enough for a handful every so often, as you walk past, but nowhere near the amount I need to feed what probably ought to be called my blueberry habit. Especially not now I know about this pie (and this cobbler).

The lemon verbena I’ve got sorted – the 79p pot I bought last year miraculously survived the winter and is straggling away happily in a corner. Its leaves are a perfect match for blueberries, which can be a bit sweet, a bit one-note on their own. The lemon verbena replaces the lemon zest you might ordinarily put in your blueberry baking, but is more floral, more herby (and, importantly, more delicious).

However, if you don’t have any, don’t forgo the pie – that would be foolish; just replace it with a few zestings of a lemon, or some lemon thyme. If there is a 79p pot lurking in a corner of the garden centre, though, bring it home and find it a corner where you can run your hands through its gorgeously scented leaves every time you walk past.

Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

peach blueberry sour cream cobbler

peach blueberry sour cream cobbler

I did think perhaps I ought to write about something that’s a little less alcohol or sugar-heavy – you know, more dinner-friendly – than cocktails and ice cream. But, unfortunately for your (and my) healthy eating plans, it’s July. I wait for months for it to be July, for there to be strawberries and peaches and cherries all at the same time at the greengrocers, and for the sun to finally, reluctantly appear.

I don’t want to spend July in the kitchen. In the few weeks of warmth and blissful 10pm sunsets granted to us, I want food that I can throw together in five minutes, ten at the most, then ignore completely while I get on with enjoying summer.

In the fullness of time, then, I promise you salads and things (there’s a nectarine, tomato and mozzarella one in Diana Henry’s new book that I’ve eaten twice already and can’t stop thinking about, for starters), but in the meantime I give you Nigel Slater’s peach, blueberry and sour cream cobbler. Do I even need to tell you how delicious this is?

Recipe after the jump. Continue reading