Grow your own food as Spring arrives…

If you’re looking for a way to improve your diet and get fit at the same time, gardening could be the answer.

As the nights get lighter, instead of heading to the gym, it might be a better idea to head out into the back garden. Spring is the perfect time to get out into the fresh air after work and get stuck into some digging and trimming.

As well as creating a colourful place to sit with your friends in the long summer nights, gardening could also be a great way to improve your diet. This week, why not make the most of a dry evening to have a go at growing some of your own fruit and vegetables so that you can use them to cook some fresh and healthy recipes?

Apples, blackberries and rhubarb are really easy to grow in the British climate and can be used to make a delicious crumble. Potatoes and carrots are also great starters for first-time gardeners, if you’re interested in having a go at this.

Not only will this be more economic but it is also a great way to make sure you know exactly where you food has come from and what has gone into it.

Here are some of my favourite recipes to make with homegrown fruit and vegetables:

Carrot and raisin tabbouleh

Ingredients
75g bulgur
1 tbsp raisins
200ml stock
1 carrot
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp hazelnuts
Juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
30g feta
Handful of mint leaves

Method
Place the bulgur and the sultanas in a bowl and pour over the hot stock. Cover with cling film and leave for 20-30 mins for the liquid to be absorbed. Once absorbed, run a fork through the grains to separate. Leave to cool.

Grate the carrot into the bulgur and add pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, lemon juice and rapeseed oil, crumble in the feta and season with black pepper. Mix together. Tear the mint leaves and scatter over the top.

Spicy roast carrots and goat’s cheese salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
500g carrots, halved and cut into chunks
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
juice ½ lemon
2 tsp clear honey
Bag of watercress and baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
200g goat’s cheese, diced

Method
Heat oven to 200C/gas 6. Place the carrots and chickpeas in a bowl, drizzle on half the oil and honey and add the chilli flakes and cumin and toss together so the carrot and chickpeas are well coated, than transfer onto a baking tray and season with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and add the goat’s cheese and return to the oven for a further 10 mins.

Mix together the lemon juice, remaining honey and remaining oil to make a dressing. Place the leaves in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Add everything from the baking tray and sprinkle with the pine nuts.

Blackberry and apple loaf

Ingredients
250g wholemeal spelt flour
175g butter
2-3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp each baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
2 apples
2 eggs
200g blackberries

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Butter and line the bottom of a loaf tin. In a large bowl, rub the flour, butter and sugar together with your fingers to make fine crumbs. Gently stir in the mixed spice, baking powder and bicarbonate.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl and coarsely grate in the apples. Add to the flour mixture and lightly stir in being carful not to over mix.

Gently fold the berries with a metal spoon, trying not to break them up. Spoon into the tin and level off. Bake for 1¼ -1 hour 20 minutes. Check after 50 minutes and cover loosely with foil if it is browning too much. When done the cake will feel firm, but test with a skewer.

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