Along the Grapevine


Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

DSC03246.JPGI have made more than a few recipes lately with the applesauce about which I wrote last week. All were good, but this one I particularly wanted to share as I thought it ideal for the fall season. It has the delicious, almost nutty flavour of buckwheat which makes it gluten free and is lightly sweetened and spiced. Once I was satisfied with the texture and flavour of this cake, I ‘tarted’ it up with an icing made from sea buckthorn berries, another ingredient I wrote about recently. Although I have made a few recipes with this superfood, this is the first where it was not necessary to cook the berries at all.

Rather than cooking before straining, I simply pressed them through a garlic press to extract the juice. You only need a small amount, so this is very easy to do. The flavour is perfect in an icing, tasting like a mixture of orange and lemon – but oranges and lemons don’t grow in my backyard so they don’t make it into very many of my recipes.

Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp ginger juice plus 1 tsp dried ginger (or if no fresh ginger is available, 2 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp soda

2 cups buckwheat flour

Cream the oil and add the sugar gradualy. Add the eggs, yogurt, applesauce and ginger juice. To make ginger juice, take about 1 sq. inch of fresh ginger, chop it and press it through a garlic press. Mix the dry spices, soda and flour  and add gradually to the wet mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F in a greased 9 inch square pan for 35 minutes.

Serve as is, or ice it once cool.

For the icing, soften 1/3 cup coconut oil or butter. Gradually add 1 cup icing sugar, and between additions add about 3 Tbsp sea buckthorn juice.

This recipe can be baked in different forms. I did some in small muffin tins, perfect for freezing for when emergency snacks are called for.dsc03223

Linked to Fiesta Friday #142, Foodbod, and O Blog Off


Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

DSC03243.JPGThis has been a great year for apples – so good in fact that I have heard pleas on the radio for people to do the trees a favour and pick the fruit because the branches are breaking from the weight. The fruit may be smaller than usual because of the horrific drought, but they are more numerous and, even better, sweeter than ever.

The problem is what to do with all those apples. Those I can’t use right away I preserve either by making applesauce, and when freezer space runs out I dehydrate the rest. For the applesauce I cut them in half to make sure the insides are not infested or bad, chuck them into a pot of water, seeds, skin, core and all and cook them until soft. Once they are pressed through a food mill they can be frozen. The rest get peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly) and dehydrated, while the cores and peel are used for scrap vinegar.


For my recipe this week I wanted to make a savoury dish so I did a search for soups. I read several tempting recipes from around the world, especially China and Eastern Europe, but either they called for ingredients I didn’t have or they were too sweet and better suited for a dessert. This one was perfect – a spicy Norwegian soup using juniper berries, a local ingredient I had just been collecting and drying and was keen to find a use for.DSC03219.JPG

If you don’t have any in your area, they can also be purchased at a good spice shop.

I altered the recipe somewhat, including using applesauce instead of chopped apples and then pureeing the whole batch. I liked my method because there is still some texture with the onions which I prefer, it being less like baby food. The combination of spices is not too strong, none overpowers the flavour but adds a subtle taste of exotica to the apples.


Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

2 Tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 inch ginger

1 Tbsp juniper berries

4 cardamoms

3 allspice berries

1 stick cinnamon

a few sage leaves

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup water

4 cups unsweetened applesauce (preferably home-made)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Fry the onion and ginger in the oil until soft. Add the stock and water. Wrap the other spices and herbs in cheesecloth and place in the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove  the spice bag, stir in the applesauce, salt and pepper and heat through.

dsc03241Serve hot garnished with sour cream or apple slices.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #141, Foodie on Board and Food for the Soul.


Cranberry and Sea Buckthorn Sauce

A delicious variation of the classic cranberry sauce, this recipe combines beautifully the tart fruity flavour of sea buckthorn with cranberries.

This Thanksgiving weekend in Canada I have been hearing lots of discussion on the topic of traditional dishes for this celebration. Among the things I have learned, cranberry sauce is a must, but few people actually like it. I suspect they are talking of the tinned variety, in which case the disdain is well earned, but cranberry sauce is arguably the easiest part of the menu, and making it with fresh berries is about as easy as boiling water. I usually just mix it with a little sugar or honey and water, and if available orange juice instead of water and some orange zest. It goes well not just with the turkey and dressing, but with any vegetarian alternative, with crackers and cheese, and best of all in sandwiches.

This year I decided to add some of my own garden produce – namely sea buckthorn which is now ripe and ready to be picked. If you are not familiar with this berry, please refer to this post. Although this berry is not native to here, it is making its way into markets as its nutritional benefits and sharp flavour are becoming recognized.DSC01282The best way to extract the juice from these berries is to cook them in a pot with a little water for a few minutes, then strain them. The less water you use, the better, but be sure to use enough the pot doesn’t boil dry.

For my cranberry sauce, I used 4 cups of fresh (or frozen) cranberries, 1/2 cup honey (or sugar) and 1 cup of strained sea buckthorn juice. Heat to a gentle boil until the berries start to pop and are all soft. Add more sugar or honey to  taste if you want a sweeter sauce.

DSC03235.JPGDon’t worry if it looks a little runny – it will thicken as it cools. Store any leftovers in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for at least 2 weeks. This recipe may even be the biggest hit of your festive dinner this year.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #140, Hostess at Heart and Fabulous Fare Sisters.


Chokecherry Chiffon Pie

100_1819Light and airy, sweet and tart, this dessert is based on a classic I have not made or even seen in a while. For some reason the strong flavour and colour of the now ripe chokecherries is perfect for this otherwise bland pie.

In the world of foraging, it is often either feast or famine. Berries and fruits in particular have a habit of not showing up at all, or appearing in such profusion it can be overwhelming. After all, if you find a fruit which only appears once every few years you want to make as much use of it as you can. In my six years on this property, we have only had one decent harvest of wild grapes, and this year is another bust in that department. However, I have discovered several chokecherry trees I hadn’t even known existed. My jelly I made last year was made from berries foraged on a friend’s property, but this year I have my own!

They are only just barely ripe enough for picking now – very dark red – not at all sweet, but when sweetened and cooked (not to be eaten raw) they have a deliciously tart cherry flavour. If you don’t have chokecherries in your area, you could use another wild fruit or berry with equally delicious results.DSC03177.JPG

This recipe calls for chokecherry juice. To make the 1 cup called for, I placed 4 cups of fruit in a pan with 1 cup of water, covered and simmered it for about 15 minutes until the fruit was very soft. I strained the juice through a sieve, only pressing lightly on the berries to extract the juice but careful not to crush them. I did not want it pulpy.

For this kind of pie, a biscuit type of pastry is often used because it is less likely to get soft from the mixture. I used a gluten free quinoa flour pastry made with coconut oil and a bit of water, so the pie will not keep as well, but then I don’t intend to keep it long.

Chokecherry Chiffon Pie

1 pre-cooked 9 inch pie pastry

1/4 cup water
1 tbsp gelatin
1 cup chokecherry juice
3/4 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
syrup or pieces of fruit to garnish (optional)
Dissolve the gelatin in the water. In a saucepan, combine the juice, sugar and egg yolks. Cook gently over a medium low heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon which occurs at 140 degrees F if you have a thermometer.
Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin until it has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool in a basin of cold water until it is about room temperature but not set.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until it starts to mound. Add the sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. The mixture should not be too dry. Fold the egg whites carefully into the chokecherry mixture and fill the pastry. Set in the fridge to cool for at least four hours.
Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla and spread on top. Garnish with pieces of fruit or a drizzle of syrup or softened jelly.

DSC03179.JPGLinked to Fiesta Friday #130, cookingwithauntjuju and Food, Eat, Love


Sourdough Soda Crackers


Sourdough soda crackers, some with za’atar, some just salt 

If you happen to make sourdough bread, you might find yourself in the enviable position of having an excess of starter. Recipes for sourdough always suggest you discard half of it, but that seems an extreme measure. I have managed to add it to all sorts of baking which, while allowing me to use up the excess,  does not make it a real sourdough recipe. So I was very pleased to find a great recipe for banana sourdough pancakes from Justyna at Garlic Matters. These are so simple to make, and the sourdough combined with the baking soda make the lightest and tastiest pancakes I have every had.

Of course, one good recipe often leads to another. As I was thinking of how to use even more of my sourdough, I decided to try this soda trick to make crackers. I have been trying to come up with a fool-proof recipe for a simple cracker, and as luck would have it, I finally succeeded with this one. Light, crispy and good for at least a week in a closed container, they are the perfect snack to have on hand. For my first attempt, I used plain salt on half of them and some za’atar for the other half since I was processing sumac at the time. I expect every time I make these, they will undergo some change of flavour depending on my mood.


1/4 cup water

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup sourdough starter

enough flour to make a workable dough, about 2 cups

salt, herbs, seeds or other topping (optional)


Dissolve the salt and baking soda in the water. Add to the sourdough and mix thoroughly. Use a large bowl, because the mixture will bubble up and almost double in volume. Gradually mix in enough flour to make a workable dough and knead it until all the flour is incorporated. Divide the dough in half and roll each half to about 1/8th of an inch thickness. I found a pasta maker at the widest setting worked well for this. If using any seasoning or salt, sprinkle it evenly over the surface, then roll it lightly again to keep it from falling off. Puncture the surface with a fork. Cut the crackers in whatever shape and size you want and place on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake at 425 F for 8-10 minutes, or  until the edges turn a golden brown. Makes about 6 dozen 1 inch square crackers.

Needless to say, there is no need to stick to this recipe. I repeated this same process using rye flour instead of wheat, added 1 Tbsp of dark molasses to the water and soda mixture, and sprinkled liberally with caraway seeds before baking. The next one might be cornmeal! So now my problem with excess sourdough starter is solved, and I am now faced with the problem of not having quite enough!


Sourdough soda crackers with rye and caraway seeds


From Lawn to Table

Even in times of drought such as we are currently experiencing in this area, the wild greens are flourishing and there for the picking. Our vegetable gardens are still struggling, and as I am not a keen shopper I am happy that our lawn is such a great provider. This recipe is another example of what you can do with some of those nutritious, albeit pesky weeds. And if you don’t have such a lawn, you can find all these in any good foraging spots such as meadows, hedgerows and abandoned areas – even in the city.

The main ingredient for this is lambsquarters. This particular weed is most prolific, and as I tidy up my vegetable plots I still have to throw out the bulk of it. I have taken to drying it for use in the winter – in the dehydrator, the oven (at a very low temperature) and even on the dashboard of any vehicle parked in the sun, the most economical method of all. But be careful – vehicles can get really hot, so I had to stir them every hour or so to prevent them from burning.DSC03112.JPG

I also used young goutweed leaves (top left) to give it a herbal flavour, and some plantain (on the right). The lambsquarters are below the goutweed. At the last minute, after taking this shot, I added dandelion leaves.DSC03168 All these mixed with some seasonings and topped with eggs made for an easy, inexpensive and super nutritious meal – and yes, even delicious! You can add more spices and herbs as you choose, and mix and match whichever wild greens you have growing. This is how I did it.

Foraged Greens and Eggs


3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped green chili pepper

1 tsp cumin powder

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups lambsquarters

1/2 cup goutweed leaves (only the young ones from plants which have not yet flowered)

a handful of dandelion leaves

1/2 cup plantain leaves

4 eggs


If using plantain, boil it in water for four minutes, drain and set aside. It is tougher than the other greens and will blend with them better if cooked longer.

Fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and chili and fry another couple of minutes. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. Add enough water to the pan just to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Stir in all the greens and cook at medium heat until they have all wilted completely and the water has evaporated. Break four eggs on top of the mixture, cover the pot with a lid and allow to simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the eggs have cooked sufficiently. Remove from the heat and serve. I sprinkled a little sumac powder on top for garnish.

DSC03169.JPGDSC03171.JPGLinked to Fiesta Friday #129; The Not So Creative Cook and Faith, Hope, Love and Luck.


Savoury Yucca Petal Biscuits

I am discovering that more flowers than I had previously thought can be enjoyed by almost all the senses – all that is but hearing. This season I have experimented with floral flavours, wild and cultivated, and in so doing have discovered that they add a whole range of tastes, colours and aromas to all sorts of dishes. It was only recently that I learned that one of my favourite plants, the yucca, has edible blooms. Not to be confused with yuca spelled with only on ‘c’ which is what tapioca is made of, the yucca is a perennial evergreen shrub of the asparagaceae family. It grows mostly in arid regions, which is no doubt why it is so happy in my parched garden. I have taken pains to grow some from seed, successfully so, only to find that it spreads quite well on its own. Still, you can’t have too much of this dramatic plant with its gorgeous spikes of white flowers.DSC03153

So far, I have only tried the blossoms. They should be young and not fully opened, as they tend to get more fibrous with age. The flavour is delicate, a little like artichoke. They should be parboiled before using, and avoid all but the petals. There is conflicting advice on this, but I am sticking with the safe and sure. I first tried them in an omelette, but there are lots of recipes out there already. So to come up with something a little more original, I thought of making them into a savoury biscuit. I probably could have used more than the ten flowers I chose. The flavour is very delicate, and you can remove a lot of these blooms before the the plant looses any of its splendour. DSC03156.JPGDSC03160.JPG

Savoury Yucca Petal Biscuits


2 cups flour, sifted plus extra for rolling

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp finely grated organic lemon peel

1/2 cup cold butter

petals of 10 yucca flowers

1 cup buttermilk, plus extra for brushing on top before baking


Separate the petals and discard the centre part of the flower. Blanch the petals in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and chill.

Mix together the first five ingredients. Cut in the butter.

Add the petals and mix to combine. Stir in the buttermilk. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly until the dough holds together. Pat into a rectangle about 3/4 inches thick and cut with a sharp cookie cutter. Place on a parchment lined baking tin and brush with buttermilk. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden at 450 degrees F.

DSC03161To be honest,  these biscuits would be delicious even without the yucca, and I will undoubtedly try them with other flavourings too. I wish I could tell you that the yucca blossoms are some kind of super food, but I have been unable to find any information on their nutritional value. Nonetheless, I managed to satisfy my curiosity, and at the same time add to my repertoire of garden recipes. If you know something I don’t know about this plant, or have a recipe you have tried, I would love to hear from  you.