Oat Risotto with Wild Garlic, Roasted Squash and Feta

I’ve called this a risotto but it’s probably more like a warm salad. Groats are the whole oat grain containing the germ and bran similar to wheat or spelt berries. Once cooked they have a satisfying chewy consistency. If you can, it’s best to soak the groats for several hours or overnight before cooking (don’t worry if not, although you might need to cook for an extra 5 minutes or so). I’m using groats grown just a few miles away produced by Grown In Totnes, otherwise, Hodmedods also sell them nationally.

I usually make this with spinach and garlic, but as we’re in mid wild garlic season here I’ve used that instead. (Wild garlic is definitely delayed this year by the unexpected snow we’ve had, the flowers aren’t even out yet in April!)



  • 1/2 medium squash (kabocha, crown prince or butternut)
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 200g oat groats, rinsed
  • vegetable stock or water
  • A couple of handfuls of wild garlic, well washed
  • 100g feta


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C
  • Scrub the squash, then cut into bite-sized chunks. No need to peel.
  • Place in a baking tray, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix. Bake for around 20 minutes until soft.
  • In a large pan heat some olive oil and gently fry the onion until nice and soft, 5-10 minutes is good.
  • Add the groats, coat in the onion and oil. Cover with vegetable stock and cook over a medium heat until soft, it will take about 20 minutes. The stock should mostly be absorbed.
  • Turn off the heat. Add the wild garlic and mix to wilt. Scatter over the roasted squash and dot with feta. You can put back in the oven for 5 minutes to warm through, or even better pop under the grill to lightly brown the feta.

A bit more…..

  • As the basic recipe is cooking the groats in stock like a risotto, you can add any vegetable or meat that you have to hand
  • Use chicken stock or add a splash of wine, even finish with cream if you like!
  • Leek and celery are good instead of or as well as onion
  • Replace the squash with roasted garlicky fennel, season with thyme and lemon zest
  • Use a locally produced soft goats or sheep’s cheese instead of feta
  • Any greens can be used, sturdier leaves such as kale may need a little cooking
  • Some lardons can be a good addition to the mix for non-veggies
  • Vegans can replace the feta with some capers and toasted nuts







Apple and Sloe Overnight Oats Cake

We’ve had a pot of sloes in the fridge destined for Sloe Gin but the requisite gin has yet to be bought. Needing to use them up, I wondered if baking would make these mouth-puckeringly sour fruit more edible.

So I added the sloes to an oat-based cake I’ve been trying out using Grown in Totnes oats. Surprisingly they lost much of their astringent sharpness and were a lovely addition to this cake which I’ve also made with blackberry and apple and roasted rhubarb.

If de-stoning sloe sounds way too fiddly, you could just use apple in the cake. Then make a simple syrup with the sloes and pour over the top. As the last wild fruit of the season, it feels good to use what we have growing around us.




  • 150g oats
  • 150ml milk (any kind)
  • 175g sugar
  • 175g butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 175g flour (I used spelt)
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 2-300g apple, chopped
  • 100g sloes, stones removed


  • Put the oats in a bowl and cover with the milk. Leave to soak for an hour or so, or overnight
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Cream the butter and sugar
  • Add the eggs and beat together
  • Add the flour and baking powder and mix well
  • Fold in the apple and sloes
  • Pour the batter into a large prepared cake tin (22cm). Top with sliced apple or sloes.
  • Bake for 1hr – 1&1/4 hrs or until a skewer comes out clean
  • Leave to cool slightly before turning out


A little bit more…..

If you’ve forgotten to get the butter out of the fridge, as I frequently do, you could also melt the butter with the sugar in a pan over a gentle heat first. Leave to cool slightly before adding the eggs then continue as above

Any fruit can be used, sharp flavours work well with the oats

Vanilla, cinnamon or ginger add lovely additional  flavours

This works well as a tray bake, halving the baking time to around 30mins





Pea, Apple and Sage Butter Pâté

Beans and pulses are nutritious, economical and I think they are delicious and incredibly versatile. But a quick look at my supplies reveals that my lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans and so on have been imported from far-flung places: USA, Turkey and China. Hodmedods was set up five years ago to grow indigenous pulses and packs of their UK grown carlin peas sit in my cupboard, too. But even better, local project Grown in Totnes has started producing dried whole green peas grown just down the road from me. I’ve been using them in lots of different recipes.

This pâté is delicious on some homemade oatcakes, and if you have a batch of cooked peas it is so quick and easy to put together. Otherwise, it’s a good excuse to soak some peas.



  • 200g cooked peas
  • 3-4tbs cooked apple or more depending on how much of a sweet note you’d like
  • 40g butter
  • 15 sage leaves


  • Melt the butter in a small pan until sizzling
  • Add the sage leaves and cook, swirling the pan to coat the leaves until crispy, for around 4-5 minutes. Reserve a few leaves and tablespoon of butter to garnish.
  • Blitz the peas, apple, butter and sage in a blender, keep adding a little water (or cooking water from the peas) until you achieve a soft consistency
  • Season well with salt and pepper
  • Top with the reserved butter and leaves

With the exception of the salt and pepper, I made this with 100% local ingredients, peas from Dartington, apples from my neighbour, butter from Riverford and sage from my garden!

A little bit more….

  • Replace the butter with olive oil and add nutritional yeast for a vegan version
  • Include some gently fried until soft onion, celery or leek
  • Raw apple could be used in place of cooked
  • Add some more herbs when blending, a little parsley, thyme and/or marjoram
  • A little soft cheese in the mix is lovely
  • If using freshly cooked peas, this freezes beautifully



Oat Berry Salad with Mayo Yoghurt Dressing




During the summer term at St John’s Primary School, I ran a Friday afternoon cookery club based around cooking with vegetables. Food in Community is a local charity that collects surplus organic produce, mainly from Riverford, and redistributes it to community groups and organisations. They kindly donated a box to the cooking club each week.  This means what we cook depends largely on what we get.

Initially, the box came on a Thursday giving me a day to plan for the Friday club. Then it changed arriving on the day, about 30-40 minutes before we started, so I really had to think on my feet.

One week I decided we’d make something using oat groats or oat berries from Grown In Totnes. When cooked they have a wonderfully soft, chewy texture which works really well with lots of crunchy veg in a salad. To make it a little more appealing for the children I created a competition, with the winning recipe to be published online (ie here…).



We had a lovely mixed box of veg that day and a variety of ingredients to make a dressing. I encourage kids to cook without a recipe and to experiment with flavours. We’d been looking at the five tastes and thinking about these when we cook as well as different ways to cut and prepare veg.

The three teams came up with a tomato dressing, yoghurt and mint and yoghurt and mayo combos, all were delicious. We called on Mrs Connolly to do a blind tasting and choose a winner! It was incredibly close but the winning recipe was…..

Oat Berry Salad with Mayo Yoghurt Dressing

Recipe by Jaz Davey and Poppy Bastin

Salad Ingredients

  • 300g Oat groats
  • 400-500g vegetables: they used tomato, pepper, carrot, broad beans, finely chopped cabbage and spinach, and celery

Dressing – quantities very approximate

  • 3 tbs Olive oil
  • 1 tbs White wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs Mayonnaise
  • 2 tbs Natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbs Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey or sugar
  • Salt and Pepper

(Had garlic come in the box, they would have used that, too!)


  • Cook the oat groats in a pan of water for about 30 mins until soft. Rinse, drain and leave to cool.
  • Cut or chop your vegetables. Blanche the broad beans and slip them out of their skins.
  • Add the dressing ingredients to a jar, whisk with a fork to combine.
  • Put the oat groats in a large serving bowl with the vegetables. Pour over the dressing and gently mix.








Raspberry and Elderflower Drizzle Cake


I never once encountered Elderflower in Japan so it was a delight to be reacquainted with these beautiful frothy heads of pollen and pretty little blooms.  I recently made some elderflower syrup, with only Rapadura sugar to hand the resulting syrup is earthy brown in colour and not as delicate as it could be. My kids weren’t too impressed, so I began to think of alternative ways to use it.

This is a twist on my favourite lemon drizzle adding summer raspberries and using elderflower syrup on top. It’s what I call a ‘saucepan cake’. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar first (which requires you to be organised enough to take the butter out of the fridge in advance) the butter is melted with the sugar in a pan. I then use the same pan to mix the other ingredients (I even stick it on the electric scales to weigh the flour) meaning just the pan and baking tin to wash up at the end.

My children were much more impressed with this.


  • 200g butter
  • 180g sugar (I use Rapadura)
  • 200g self-raising flour (or plain spelt with baking powder)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 punnet raspberries
  • 3 – 4 tbs elderflower syrup


  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Melt the butter and sugar in a pan over a gentle heat
  • Take off the heat to cool slightly
  • Add the lemon zest and one tbs of elderflower syrup, crack in the eggs and beat well
  • Add the flour and mix to make smooth batter
  • Break the raspberries into smaller pieces
  • Pour a third of the cake mixture into a prepared loaf tin
  • Sprinkle over some raspberries pieces, repeat and finished with raspberries on top (they mostly sink but some might remain)
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean
  • While still warm prick all over with a skewer or fork and spoon over the remaining elderflower syrup
  • Leave to cool in the tin









Photograph: Elena Heatherwick for the Guardian

Omuraisu is favourite with kids in Japan: fried rice with chicken, seasoned with ketchup served in an omelette covered with more ketchup.

I do it slightly differently adding different vegetables, using tomato puree or passata in the rice and saving ketchup for a token drizzle on top. You can add any finely diced vegetables and use brown or white rice. Tofu or tempeh is an easy sub for chicken.

I also sometimes use passata or puree with a little soy sauce and honey in a squeezy bottle in place of ketchup. And I’m experimenting with a fermented version at the moment!

But sometimes a little ketchup is OK and my kids enjoy squirting different shapes and making little flags to stick in as they do in Japan.


This recipe was a winner in the Guardian Cook’s kid issue.

·      1 onion
·      150g chicken, diced 
·      2 carrots, finely chopped
·      ¼ red pepper, chopped
·      4 mushrooms, finely chopped 
·      2 spring onions, sliced
·      50g peas
·      400g cold, cooked rice
·      2-4 tbs tomato puree
·      4 eggs
·      Ketchup or more spring onions to serve
Serves 4
·      In a large pan heat some oil over a medium heat
·      Sauté the onion and chicken to brown
·      Add the vegetables and cook for a few minutes
·      Add the rice and stir for 5 minutes to heat through
·      Add the tomato puree, season with salt and pepper and mix well
·      Turn off the heat and put to one side
·      In a frying pan, heat a little oil over a medium heat
·      Beat one egg in a bowl and season 
·      Add to the pan and swirl to spread evenly in the pan
·      Cook until just set, slide onto a plate
·      Place a quarter of the rice on half the omelette
·      Fold over the empty side over to cover the rice and let your little ones squirt ketchup on top
·      Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs
·      Grown-ups may prefer a sprinkling of spring onion

From Hanami Live to Tatami Live

Two years ago we had the most incredible evening which stemmed from a crazy idea that blossomed due to the generosity of all involved.

The Todd Wolfe Band, a blues-rock band fronted by Sheryl Crow’s former lead guitarist was touring Japan in April 2015. The tour manager happened to know Peter Barakan, a well-known English DJ and promoter of foreign music to his Japanese followers. After the success of our Philip Henry and Hannah Martin gig, who’d appeared on his radio show, Peter suggested he contact us about doing something in Ayabe. The band were up for it, but we needed a venue.

We were about to move on from Ayabe Yoshimizu guesthouse, and potential venues we looked at were not working. My husband had the crazy idea of hosting a live gig under the cherry blossom at the onsen (hot spring) park, calling it Hanami Live  – hanami, cherry blossom viewing and live meaning a live gig.

And it would be free….. we’d collect donations and the band could sell CDs, but the concert would be free for the whole community.

Hanami parties are hugely popular in Japan, especially in the milder regions but given that the beginning of April in Ayabe can be chilly at best and in the thick of snow storms at worst it was quite a gamble for both us and the band.

To our amazement, the Todd Wolfe Band agreed. We had a few short weeks to pull it all together. Again, Gekkiken theatre NPO supported the event providing the lighting, a sound engineer was found, publicity printed and volunteers recruited. Ayabe Onsen donated accommodation for the band.


In the days leading up to the event there was warm spring sunshine but on the day storms lashed and the strong winds made setting up the lighting dangerous. Quick decisions had to be made and within an hour my husband had secured the restaurant in the onsen park as an alternative venue. Online events pages and local radio let people know the gig was still on, but instead of Hanami Live, it had turned into Tatami Live. The band were to use a small Japanese style room as the ‘stage’, tatami is the Japanese straw matting on which shoes are never worn. The band joked that playing a gig in their socks would be a first.

It was an amazing night that came together beautifully. Over 300 people came: from the local Ayabe Kanbayashi community and all over Kyoto There was a Swedish/UK film crew, foreign guests from Yoshimizu, a 4 months old baby and older locals – all together rockin’ the night away. I loved seeing an 80-year-old Baachan dancing (who’d just put her hip flask down) with our dear friend Tracey, a local Canadian potter.

Everyone left on a real high. There was a real sense of a shared experience which had brought different people from all over the world and of all ages. Many of the older people said they’d never been to a gig in their entire lives and were queuing up to shake Todd Wolfe’s hand. The band made more that night in donations and CD sales than other paid gigs on the same tour.

Posts and messages from the Todd Wolfe Band two years on show how memories of this special night live on for all.

Miles to Go




Very popular in Japan right now are onigirazu, a flattened onigiri (rice ball) sandwich. These were introduced more than 25 years ago by manga artist Tochi Ueyama in his ‘Cooking Papa’ series, which we just happened to have copies of in the guesthouse where we lived in Japan.
More substantial than a simple rice ball, the filling possibilities are endless, egg, tuna mayo, hamburger, tonkatsu matched with any cooked or raw vegetables.Cut open, they look lovely lined up in a box. This is one of my favourites. 
Salmon and Avocado Onigirazu
  • 4 sheets of nori
  • 4 bowls of recently cooked Japanese rice (short grain)
  • 4 tbs gomashio (ground, toasted sesame seeds mixed with a little salt)
  • 2 fillets of poached salmon, cooled (grilled works fine, too but will be drier)
  • 2 avocados, sliced long ways
  • 6 cm piece cucumber, finely julienned, 3cm long
  • 4 – 5 lettuce leaves, roughly torn
  • 4 tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp ume paste, optional
Makes 4 (8 halves)
  • On a chopping board lay out a large square of cling film and place a nori sheet on top, turn so it is in a diamond shape
  • Place the equivalent of half a bowl of rice in the middle and shape into a rough square; flatten. You should have a small square with four triangles of nori showing
  • Sprinkle 1 tbs gomashio over the rice
  • Flake half of one salmon fillet over to cover the rice
  • Layer the avocado, then cucumber on top
  • Mix the mayo with the ume paste and spread a quarter over the cucumber, then cover with lettuce leaves
  • Cover with the remaining rice, keeping the square shape as much as possible
  • Now, fold the two opposing triangles of nori in over the rice, then the final two to make a small, square parcel
  • Bring the cling film corners over to wrap and secure
  • Wait till the rice has cooled before cutting in half with a sharp, wet knife
  • Repeat and place the onigirazu halves filling side up in a box

A little bit more…

  • You can use either brown or white rice, but it needs to be short grain. Pudding rice works well if you can’t find regular Japanese or sushi rice
  • The other fillings pictured are smoked mackerel, red pepper, and rocket with mayonnaise, and shredded egg, wakame and fermented ginger carrot
  • The difference between sushi and onigiri and onigirazu is the rice. Sushi rice is seasoned with vinegar, salt and sugar (or alternative) whereas onigiri or onigirazu uses plain rice. 
  • Cling film/saran wrap makes them easier to assemble and transport but I just use a sushi mat or clean tea towel to wrap them in


Roasted Cauliflower with Pear, Walnuts and Stilton


A very easy comfort dish to make on a cold winter’s day and the winning recipe in the Guardian Cook, this week.

A little bit more…
I used purple skinned turnips as that’s what I had to hand, and for a little colour. Any root vegetable could be substituted, Jerusalem artichoke or celeriac, in particular, would be good
I used a local Devon Blue rather than stilton
This works equally well without the cheese. I’d add a drizzle of white miso mixed with a little water, as a salty contrast to the pear 

Winter Velvet Soup


This is a soup my mum always used to make on Boxing Day with generous amounts of cream and brandy but is equally good without. I used a local cheese called Blue Bay made in Sharpham, Devon but any blue cheese will be fine.


  • 1 medium celeriac (about 700g), chopped
  • 1 large potato (about 200g), chopped
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
  • 500ml milk
  • 100g soft blue cheese, eg Cambozola
  • Brandy, splash or glug (optional)
  • Cream to drizzle on top (optional)
  • Sage leaves, (fresh or fried in butter) to garnish, (optional)


  • Gently fry the onion for 5 minutes or so
  • Add the celeriac, potato, onion, celery, leek, and garlic, give it all a good stir then pour over the stock
  • Cook on a medium heat until the celeriac and potato are soft, about 20 minutes
  • Add the milk, 90g of the cheese and brandy, if using, and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Blend with a food processor or hand blender
  • Pour into bowls, crumble the remaining blue cheese on top with a swirl of cream and sage leaves if using