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HARVEST TIME-HELLO AUTUMN

Posted on 20th September, 2021

As I write the weather has temporarily forgotten it’s Autumn and is bathing North Wales in warm sunshine. If you’re fortunate enough to have a garden, an allotment or even a few pots then I’m sure you will have been busy harvesting. Maybe you’ve frozen some of the surplus, or made extra meals to freeze or made chutneys or pickles. There’s something satisfying in reaching into a freezer or a cupboard to find something you’ve grown yourself. Sometimes the reward doesn’t match the outlay or the effort but pulling a few carrots, potatoes or beetroot is joyous however few there are to collect. Spooning runner bean chutney onto your dinner or spreading freshly made jam onto fresh bread or a sponge cake beats anything you’ll buy at the supermarket and is cheaper by far.

RUNNER BEAN & COURGETTE CHUTNEY

 

As I write there are plenty of stories about fresh food supplies and the lack thereof but with a little planning we can plug at least some of those gaps by growing at home. Why not make plans for next spring, there are many websites out there which will help budding gardeners whatever your plot or pot size. It’s not too late to sow winter, there are several winter lettuces and greens that can be sown or planted now, with the warm daytime temperatures it won’t be long until thee leafy crops are germinating, if you have a greenhouse or a cold frame all the better.

 

My tips for filling the freezer are:-

Make extra sauce when making any pasta dish and freeze what you don’t use. Don’t forget to mark the containers as everything looks alarmingly the same when frozen.

Cooking for 4? It’s just as easy to cook for 8 and freeze the extra 4 portions of most things but curries and chillies work very well.

Surplus of soft fruit? All so soft fruits freeze well and can used to make sauces etc. Harder fruits such as apples are better cooked down to a pulp rather than freezing whole. Ideal for desserts over the winter.

Do you have any tips of your own you can share? Follow me on social media or add a comment here. You can always ask my advice if you’ve grown something but have no ideas on what to do with it.

 

Happy cooking. Stay safe.

SPRING RAMBLINGS

Posted on 17th May, 2021

Well Spring 2021 has literally been a damp squib. A few glorious weeks when we were lulled into thinking the good weather was here to stay only for May to blow in with heavy rain, frost by night and almost perpetual wind. On top of the surreal periods of lockdown my creative energies have been absent. I’m used to working from home but using the desk for work then trying to use it to write blog posts, stories and most important of all an ongoing writing project, has been difficult. Of course I’m still cooking from scratch every day, foraging for anything that shows its head above ground, and sowing seeds ready to plant out but I’ve found writing words more like rambling through treacle than a pleasure. I’m hoping with lockdown easing and sunnier weather on the horizon we start to feel a little more normal, well a new ‘normal anyway.

 

Anyone who has previously read this blog or checked out any of the recipes on this site will probably be aware I don’t do ‘takeaway’ very often but this week, for the first time since before restrictions came in, we had an Indian takeaway from a local restaurant. Safe to say it was so huge it lasted 3 days but was delicious and a rare treat. We also ventured to beautiful Anglesey to dine on an outside terrace, it was windswept but the rain kept away and it was rather fun. It was Covid safe and the meal was wonderful. Am I ready to join the people desperate to get back to the pub or eat inside with other diners? No not really but I’m sure as the situation improves that will change. Well I hope so.

 

We all have days when we can’t be bothered and lockdown compounds our negative thoughts to the point where we have to just get on with it hence this blog update. Needing something uplifting to write about I made a cheesecake yesterday for the first time in years and as I finished it I thought how simple can a dessert be plus it started the creative juices flowing. No cooking, easily available ingredients and a it’s a bit of luxury on a Sunday. I felt better having made it, it felt ‘normal’.

 

While it chilled  in the fridge I ventured into the garden to plant out vegetables that have been sitting in the cold frame waiting for their chance to put bigger roots down. The weather has been so unpredictable, too cold, too wet, too windy that they’ve been in their pots way too long but now I have sweetcorn, borlotti beans and  runner beans in their final positions just in time before another thunderstorm swept through. Peas and broad beans are already in the raised beds and now it’s slightly warmer they are taking off. I sowed lettuce, rocket, chard and a few other leafy salads a few weeks ago but they’ve been sulking and are only now showing their faces.

 

Follow the link to the cheesecake recipe I used which isn’t vegan (I’ve linked another site here for a vegan version).

I hope you give it a try and I also hope this exercise will restore my creative equilibrium.

Happy cooking.

 

 

 

AUTUMN VIBES IN 2020

Posted on 17th November, 2020

This year has been tough, there's no doubt few of us if any will remember anything like it and as at this moment there's not much proverbial light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. For some of us in this time under lockdown,  tier restrictions or the general limitations we now face in order to keep everyone safe, the time alone or with loved ones has been welcome. It's given some a chance to strengthen relationships, take time to review lifestyle, decide what's important going forward when this pandemic is over. For others it's been a lonely, stressful, worrying time that has cast a shadow over relationships, thrown lifestyles into disarray & bank accounts into the red. Some will have coped well with working from home, being able to ditch the commute to spend more time doing the things they love, creative things, or reading more, or catching up with the zillion box-sets they've missed. Others though will have had all creativity stifled by financial worries, health concerns, both Covid & non-Covid, all of which seemed unassailable.Whichever camp you fall into I have no doubt that cooking & eating will have figured large in the new normal. 

 

I find cooking relaxing, I've never found it stressful but I imagine that if you've been faced with ingredients you're not used to due to that initial phase of panic buying or swaps to your online grocery shopping then you may well have stressed over what to cook. Apart from the strange ingredents there's also the necessity to make the shopping and the basic larder ingredients, such as lentils, stretch further, be that due to reduced economic income or simply because you can't get out to replenish supplies. Will this unusual situation make you change your cooking habits? Will you carry on cooking from scratch if you have been doing that these last few months? Will you continue to experiment with that odd assortment of spices, pasta shapes, different types of ricetins of random beans and wonky vegetables & fruit? What about that bag of flour (or several) that you bought when news spread of a flour shortage? Did you make bread or couldn't be bothered with the time involved. Have a look at this simple soda-bread, a quick & easy way to use up some of it anyway.

 

Have you followed the much vaunted advice and batch cooked meals to store in the freezer? Has the mantra of reducing food waste featured in the weekly plan? Using leftovers effectively or making sure every part of those vegetables and fruits are used instead of throwing them in the bin or compost heap. In short has this period of encorced introspection changed your habits for good? Or will you revert to takeaways (why not have a bash at making your own street food), eating out and buying ready meals when this is all over?

 

I hope there have been some changes that you'll contine to embrace. Freshly cooked meals from scratch more often or cooking double so there's a home-made ready meal available in the freezer (clearly marked of course) and looking at ways of using up things like broccoli stems (they still taste of broccoli), potato peelings, overripe fruits and leftover rice for example. Make a few promises to make life that little bit more sustainable, growing a few chilli plants, salad leaves, microgreens and herbs in pots on the window sill for example. Small changes that may have sprung from these long months of restrictions can be continued when 'normal' life resumes. 

 

Feel free to drop me a line on social media or via the contact form. 

 

Have a browse through my recipes and see if there's anything that inspires you, I'd love to see photos of your results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS IS IN THE AIR

Posted on 4th December, 2019

As we plummet towards Christmas I’m sure you’ll be looking at economic eats in the buildup period so you have slightly more pennies to play with over the holiday. If you’ve been frugal in the last few months and intend to go on a food shopping spree with your savings then well done. If, however, frugal is the norm, simply because economically you aren’t in a position to splash out despite the constant pressure exerted by TV, the Internet, leaflets through the letterbox and garish ads plastered on bus stops and billboards, then there are some hacks you can use to make Christmas special. Before we head down that route though we still have a couple of weeks in which to practice economising.

 

Winter vegetables tend to be cheaper, traditional root crops such as carrots, turnips, swede and parsnips as well as potatoes make the ideal vegetable stew or soup or why not try this easy one dish comfort food supper. The addition of lentils adds protein for an extra few pence although any of the tinned pulses will do the same for not a lot more money. Buy whole veg rather than ready prepared because this can save pounds, retain the leaves and stalks on broccoli and cauliflower, both ideal for soup and they still taste of the vegetable. Follow this link for some great ideas on storing vegetables to avoid waste. Invest in a large pan, check out charity shops for kitchen bargains, or ask on Freecycle in your area, it’s surprising what people want to give away. With a large saucepan or stew pan you can make a large amount of soup, easily stored in smaller containers and kept in the freezer for using later. A bowl of warming soup with bread is a satisfying meal in itself so don’t think of it as a starter, nutritionally it can be a substantial meal depending on its ingredients. Your imagination is the only limit on what goes into your soup, whizz it up if you like your soup smooth or leave in chunks for a more rustic look. The addition of herbs, spices, leftover salad leaves, a glug of ketchup in a tomato based soup adds a bit of oomph as does a teaspoon of mustard to root vegetables. Why not drag out that jar of horseradish, bought once and barely used, and add it to parsnip soup. Parsnip’s smoky sweetness can handle the heat of horseradish it’s just a matter of taste. Get experimental with those jars that are littering the far reaches of your fridge and who knows what family favorite’s you’ll invent for almost no cost.

 

Anyway back to Christmas. I really hope you don’t get sucked into the over-filled trolley mania that pervades the supermarket aisles at this time of year. Why not I hear you cry! Well I feel there is definitely a movement towards a more sustainable Christmas this year and the drive is obviously on to reduce single use plastics and people appear to be ditching the glittery cards because of the environmental impact. There’s a trend for crafting presents rather than spending the earth on unwanted gifts too, knitting, sewing, cooking, bottling, stapling, pinning, gluing or composing, writing and painting, personally made gifts touch people more because it shows care.

 

There’s room to have a thoroughly enjoyable celebratory period without breaking the proverbial bank. Of course one of the benefits of vegetarian or vegan recipes is they are naturally cheaper, quicker to cook and often very easy to prepare. One of my cooking heroes is Jack Monroe (The Bootstrap Cook) and I am tempted to try her Vegan ‘Ever Festive Nut Roast’ which feeds 8 people at 42p per portion. This certainly fulfils the description ‘special’ so you, your family and guests don’t feel deprived of that main element of their Christmas Dinner. Obviously you can serve your favourite vegetable selection to accompany it and dress with a vegetarian gravy. If that doesn’t float your boat then she also has a ‘Chestnut, Apple & Stilton Roast’ (you can replace the stilton with a vegan cheese alternative to make this a vegan dish). Personally I have often fallen back on a filo pastry parcel. Crisp filo wrapped around a large Portobello mushroom which in turn is filled with a traditional herb and onion stuffing which can be bulked out with a different variety of chopped and sautéed mushrooms. Or try making a nut, lentil and vegetable mix and placing this in the centre of multi-layers of filo pastry, drawing the circles up and making little crispy purses. If you make these small enough they can be used as nibbles for pre-dinner canapes. On this note why not mix cream cheese with herbs, add a little sautéed chopped mushroom, a few crushed walnuts spread onto filo pastry and roll into little cigar shapes, tie each end with chive leaves or spring onion leave so they look like Christmas crackers.

 

Mince pies are synonymous with Christmas and while they are reasonably cheap to buy why not make your own using home-made or shop bought shortcrust pastry? Mincemeat is often fully vegetarian these days and with a tot of brandy or rum (or the dregs of last years sherry) added to liven it up, even a very inexpensive jar of mincemeat becomes special. Or steal the idea of filo crackers from above and use mincemeat, thin strings of liquorice can be used for tying them up.

 

Christmas cake and Christmas pudding has become a  bit take it or leave it, it seems that these once staple Christmas offerings have fallen out of favour but it needn’t be expensive, or even traditional. There are lots of ideas out there for shortcuts, alternatives or cheats versions. Once again Jack Monroe comes to the rescue with a simple 4-ingredient cake and again there are cheats versions of the traditional pudding that can be whisked up at the last minute if you haven’t prepared one earlier. I’ve included links for a few. I’m not the worlds best baker, I can rustle up cake or a easy pudding if I have to but I’d never win ‘bake-off’ 😊

Not a fan of Christmas pudding then why not turn to trifle, slightly more extravagant but if you can stretch your purse then it's worth a try.

As well as looking at Christmas meals, recipes and food related ideas why not get creative and make some of your own decorations too? Or cut up old cards to make gift tags? Doily angels for the tree, faux crackers from toilet rolls and leftover wrapping paper, my effort is below but your imagination is the limit. Get the children involved, bake biscuit decorations to hang on the tree or tie onto pine boughs with ribbons or find a suitable small log and make a Christmas candle holder for the table, I've attached a photograph of one I made earlier using a log I had in the log-basket, a strand of ivy, hawthorn berries and holly leaves, a couple of tealights and some all-purpose glue, it's simple and fun to create. I also put together an easy to make floating tea-light table centre. Simply collect winter leaves and berries (I used hawthorn betties, rosemary and ivy) put them in a glass, a sundae dish or similar, top up with water and float a tealight or 2 (without their aluminium covers) and there you have it. Five minutes to collect the bits together and a couple of minutes to make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try and make sure your Christmas is fun and stress-free, it’s not a competition, it’s not about how much you spend or how big your gifts are, it’s a time to spend in each others company but that doesn’t mean you have to invite everyone to lunch or everyone to tea. Enjoy it your way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRIFTING INTO AUTUMN

Posted on 17th October, 2019

 

Well Autumn has truly arrived. Misty mornings, dark evenings and plenty of rain wreaks havoc with any established routine. To be honest I’m sure we’ve all arrived home after a day of work, college, shopping etc and thought ‘what the hell am I or we going to have for dinner’, yes even me. You’re tired or wet and thoughts of stopping for a takeaway are tempting because you know there’s not much in the house to cook. It’s a difficult time and sometimes I’m sure the takeaway wins but I hope that more often than not you gather up what’s left in fridge or cupboard and you knock up a great meal from not a lot of ingredients.

 

I know I rabbit on about keeping a few stand-by items in the cupboard, fridge and freezer but it really is worth it. How easy is it to cook a batch of rice? I often make enough for two evenings but make sure the second portion is completely cool before covering and putting in the fridge. What can we make to go with rice? An easy curry, dal is a simple favourite and there are many recipes out there, I’ll share my own soon. Or a veggie chilli, always a winner. Or an African Stew goes well with plain rice too.

 

If you keep the ubiquitous tinned tomatoes, tinned beans, stock cubes, spices and herbs you have the base for many recipes. The introduction of fresh or frozen vegetables to a spiced tomato base can become a pasta sauce, a curry sauce, a chilli sauce or even thinned down to make soup. The addition of different spices or herbs is all you need to convert a plain base into any of the above. Best of all none of these things will take long, no hours slaving over a hot pan and that’s got to be a good thing when all you want to do is eat.

 

For those people who’ve followed my food and garden ramblings will know this years harvest hasn’t been the best, in fact I’d say the beneficiaries of my labours have been the slugs and snails. No matter I’ve harvested some courgettes, a few patty-pan squashes and quite a lot of runner beans so the freezer isn’t as empty as I thought it might be.

 

Do you have any hints or tips to share? Your own easy to make vegetarian dinner, your fall-back recipe that always works? Do let me know through the comments on here or via Facebook or Twitter.

 

The Beginning of Autumn-a Dessert Dilemma

Posted on 1st September, 2019

September 1st, the first day of meteorological autumn but really we’re still in summer, late summer granted but summer nevertheless. Which means there’s a natural conflict between wanting a dessert or yearning for a pudding, the dilemma between making ice-cream or making a warming fruit crumble with custard (it’s a British thing!).

 

Anyway we have plums in the garden, we actually had so many we had to freeze them en masse in carrier bags so they weren’t wasted (shudder), so I could make the ever popular plum crumble and custard or I could wander down the lane near the house and forage some blackberries to add to it, they seem to be a bit behind this year but there was enough to fill a small container.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a couple of handfuls of  plums plus a a couple of handfuls of blackberries I decided to chop and de-stone the plums and stew them with the blackberries, both are quite tart so probably need more sugar than you think but let’s be honest this is an occasional treat not an everyday occurance. Now you could use ready made custard but I had a pot of cream in the fridge from last week, bought to go with raspberries but I’ve been eating these as they are rather than slathering them with cream, so I made a simple custard with an egg, sugar and vanilla.

 

Here we are then, we have stewed fruit and a simple custard, but with the idea of crumble firmly to the fore I decided to make a crumble topping. Flour, butter or margarine, sugar and a sprinkling of oats and cinnamon. With the sun streaming through the window and dinner to be eaten out in the garden I plumped for blackberry and plum crumble ice cream. I’m nothing if not inventive when it comes to ice cream ideas. It’s a happy marriage, the satisfying aroma of a fruit crumble with the gorgeousness of creamy ice cream.          

 

This should be the time of plenty in the garden but this year it’s been a bit hit and miss, a continual battle against slugs and pigeons plus the choking effect of oxalis around the peas, rocket, spinach and chard. No sooner do I pull it up it’s back so it really is a losing battle. Oxalis is invasive, it spreads by tiny bulbs and if you spread it accidently from one bed to another you’re doomed. I might have to be brutal over the winter to avoid the same thing next year.

I do have plenty of runner beans and the courgettes and squashes are getting there now so hopefully I’ll be sharing some ideas of what to do with these two vegetables soon.

 

Back to the ice-cream, below is the basic recipe I created but as always you can swap or switch ingredients depending on what you have to hand.

Fruit compote (posh for stewed fruit!):

Around 8 good sized plums, chopped and stones removed

Couple of handfuls of blackberries

Sugar to taste, I prefer it slightly tart but add more if you prefer super-sweet

 

Place in a heavy base saucepan with only a spoonful of water, cook until soft. Set aside to cool completely.

 

Crumble:

Equal parts flour to fat (I used a couple of handfuls of each)

Pinch of salt

A couple of spoonfuls of porridge oats

Sugar, again to taste but this doesn’t need to be overly sweet.

Sprinkling of cinnamon (leave out or replace if you’re not a fan)

 

Rub the fat and flour together until they look like fine breadcrumbs, stir in the porridge oats, the sugar and cinnamon. Spread onto an ovenproof tray and bake until golden, forking it through to make sure the colour is even. When done set aside to cool.

 

Custard: (I cheated I’m afraid, I had no time to make a classic crème anglais)

1 egg

¾ pot of double cream

Sugar to taste

Vanilla paste or a vanilla pod

 

Pour the cream over the well beaten egg, mix in the sugar and the vanilla paste or the seeds from the vanilla pod. Heat gently, it needs to be gently to avoid scrambling the egg, as it heats it will thicken and all you need is a consistency that covers the back of a wooden spoon. Add a little arrowroot or cornflour if it doesn’t thicken enough (instructions on the packaging)

 

Set aside to cool.

 

When all three elements are cold you can stir the crumble into the fruit and amalgamate thoroughly. Then stir in the custard, as you stir you’ll see swirls of custard through the fruit crumble mixture and I left it like this before pouring into the ice cream maker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There we have it, Plum and Blackberry Crumble ice-cream the answer to that late summer dessert quandary. Give a try before the weather gets too cold for ice-cream (does it ever?). Happy cooking and let me know how you get on.

                                  

 

SOMETHING FRUITY IS GOING ON

Posted on 7th August, 2019

Well the weather never ceases to amaze me, blazing sun so hot we couldn’t be out in it and now pouring rain so fierce everything in the garden looks like it’s been flattened by a herd of goats. My poor vegetable patch is struggling but the runner beans have started to flower and the rocket, at least, is looking OK. The plum tree is so full of fruit the branches are heading earthwards so there will be a plethora of plum recipes soon I’m sure, providing the wasps don’t get it all.

The raspberries are in stasis, the summer fruiting plants are looking very sorry for themselves, with a few edible berries appearing every now and then, but the autumn fruiting varieties are starting to appear now. I’ve picked a lot of the summer variety, frozen some and used some in or with ice-cream but a few weeks ago week there were so many I struggled to use them or freeze them.

 

If you have bought or picked raspberries (or other soft fruits)  one way of using them before they go off (which is usually very quick) is to put them in a blender with fine sugar or honey and sieve the seeds out to make a fruit coulis. Sounds very cheffy because you see it on menus, but a coulis is nothing more than a smooth fruit puree. You can pour over ice cream, serve with plan yoghurt (think Mueller corner) or add to milk (or milk alternative) to make raspberry milkshake. You can add a few teaspoons of a fruit liqueur to the coulis if you’re trying to impress dinner guests.

 

What about the other fruit you bought with the intention of eating fresh but now find it’s just about to go over? Well don’t bin it because it’s all usable.

Apples can be simmered with a little sugar for apple sauce, or baked apples with the core removed and filled with brown sugar, or sliced into a fresh green salad to add a sweet crunch, stewed with a little sugar or sweetener to make apple crumble, apple pie (eating apples require much less sugar than traditional coking apples for this) or Eve's Pudding.

Peaches, nectarines and plums can be roasted with a little spice such as allspice or cinnamon and served with cream, mascarpone, plain Greek yoghurt or even a traditional custard. They can also be peeled and the stones removed and blended into a smoothie with yoghurt or yoghurt substitute, sweeten with maple syrup or honey.

Oranges are best juiced but can be peeled (remove the white pith as well) and sliced into an oriental style salad. Why not make an orange drizzle cake? Or an orange polenta cake? Slice them and add to a summer punch (alcoholic or non-alcoholic).

Pineapples are lovely roasted, again with a touch of spice and served with lashings of cream but can also be used in salads, juiced or blended with other fruits to make smoothies. Or why not try a traditional pineapple upside-down cake.

 

The possibilities are endless but the real point is if you buy it, grow it or are given it fruit should be used not binned. Ignore the use-by date because your eyes and nose will tell you if it’s alright. Happy experimenting!

 

SPEEDING THROUGH JULY

Posted on 22nd July, 2019

I rather cleverly scheduled this post after writing it on a Sunday-however the weather gods intervened so bear with me until the end of the piece as it’s been amended accordingly.

 

 

We’re speeding through July at a rate of knots, yet it feels as if summer has passed us by. Earlier in the year we had scorching temperatures but since then it’s been a combination of dull, almost chilly, days and plenty of rain. I hear a rumour this will change for a few days next week but as it stands it’s just a ‘meh’ day here. This state of affairs can play havoc with meal planning, although let’s be honest here I am no planner when it comes to food. I’m lucky in that the choice is generally mine so what I fancy usually goes.

 

One of the most common questions I get asked when people discover I’m vegetarian is ‘what do you have for Sunday dinner?’ I’m sure I’ve blogged this before but the answer invariably is ‘whatever I like’. Of course I’m not bound by the vagaries of feeding a family, my brood fledged many moons ago, so I’m not governed by who will eat what, who doesn’t like this, that or the other. I cook, serve and we eat. Simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On that note, under miserable grey threatening skies, I decided to use up half a cauliflower and make soup. Soup is simple and not just for Winter, I’ve shared several soup recipes on this site before. We always have onions in our larder don’t we? If not why not (unless you’re allergic of course). Onions are always a basic ingredient in any soup I make, I’m sure there are exceptions but I can’t remember what they are. So onions, cauliflower, a few potatoes (remember how I’ve said before they act as a good thickener to most soups. Then the only other thing I had to hand was celery. A great choice to add a depth of flavour to soups and stews. So far so good. Just a case of chopping all of these ingredients up (including the cauliflower leaves), sautéing them off in a little olive oil (or oil of your choice) in a large saucepan, adding enough water to cover plus a little more. Add 2 bouillon cubes of your choice, or home-made stock if you’re that organised and simmer until everything is al dente, not so soft it falls apart but not hard either or it won’t liquidise well. When cooked, allow to cool a little and either hand liquidise or use a blender. Remember the trick I’ve mentioned before, which is to set aside around a third of the soup and blend the other 2/3rds, this adds a little texture. Add the 1/3 back in before seasoning to taste and serving. Don’t like texture? Liquidise it all. Don’t like smooth soup? Make sure your vegetables are chopped fine enough and don’t liquidise at all. Before serving mine I crumbled in a handful of cheese that had been sitting in the fridge, in this instance Stilton, but any hard cheese will do but obviously omit this step if you’re vegan or have vegan guests.

 

Pesto Bread

Nothing goes better with soup than fresh bread, I have a bread machine if the urge comes along to make a quick loaf, although I just as often make bread by hand. Today there was no time for that. I’ve had a jar of Genovese pesto sitting, opened, in the fridge so remembering a basil bread I’d had years ago I experimented with pesto bread. How hard can it be? Very easy as it turned out.

For a medium loaf I used

240ml warm water

460g mixed bread flour (as always there’s never enough of one type so this was a mix of French Bread flour, rye flour and spelt flour-approximately a third each)

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. sugar

Around 85g pesto

2 1/4 tsp dried yeast

 

In a bread machine the ingredients are placed into the bowl in this order and I used the ‘rapid’ programme which is 2 hours start to finish. (I planted shrubs while it was doing its thing).

 

Enough soup for 3 days although I doubt if any of the bread will be left given it has already had a chunk cut off and devoured.

 

So here comes the weather related amendment, I can almost here your screams of horror that I should blog about soup on what is potentially going to be the hottest day of the year, not quite that hot here but hot enough. The good thing about this soup is that it’s just as lovely when chilled, so if you fancy chilled cauliflower soup my suggestion is-

Let it cool completely, place in the fridge for a couple of hours, swirl in some ice cold cream or if you need it vegan try a dairy-free plain yoghurt, silken tofu or full fat coconut milk, bearing in mind it has the distinct smell and flavour of coconut. To chill quicker place the soup in a large bowl and stand in a bowl of ice. Sprinkle the soup with chopped herbs or finely chopped wild rocket.

 

Serve with any bread, or try making corn muffins follow the link to a great site I've found. This is a simple conbread recipe so do have a go. You could also serve crackers, open sandwiches, oatcakes etc. A chilled soup is a wholly different experience to hot soup. Experiment, try your own combinations, roast the cauliflower first, add a little spicing, the possibilities are endless

 

Happy days, I hope the sun hangs around for a few days so I can make a fresh salad with the lush salad bowl lettuce from the garden. Let me know what you think. Happy cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the weather all over the place the garden doesn’t know what to do. While some things are growing like triffids others are languishing, either waiting for a bit of warmth or hoping for some rain. Well they’ve had rain by the bucketful these last few days so hopefully the sunshine will follow. This time last year I was cutting salad leaves, pulling radishes and almost picking strawberries but apart from a few sad radishes there’s nothing ready to harvest. Yes my natural impatience expects miracles but it is June after all. There are signs of things to come, a few mixed lettuce leaves, a few strawberries appearing, although weeks off ready yet. The raspberries may be good this year and the bees are happy as there of plenty of flowers on the canes to keep them happy. The plums look good this year, yield is dependant on good weather early on when it’s in blossom so there may be a glut of plum recipes later in the year. They’re also good to freeze if you have too many.

 

The flower borders are fairing better, huge voluptuous oriental poppies, delicate field poppies, blue geraniums, alchemilla mollis, campanula all bursting into flower, very pretty but we can’t eat those…

 

If the rain holds off this weekend I have sweetcorn to plant, the plants are nice and strong so I’m hoping for a cob or 2, remember if you’re tempted you need to plant them in a block as they’re wind pollinated. The potatoes are starting to show now but they’ve been slow too, the rocket has fallen foul of pigeons, I fear the 1st sowing will struggle now so I’ve sowed a 2nd row and will probably sow a 3rd later on to overwinter. I hope.

 

I’m looking forward to the real salad days of summer, the odd BBQ, foraging and camping trips to the wilds of Ynys Mon. I’ll endeavour to keep the blog updated with ideas and recipes but feel free to ask me anything you’d like to know about using leftovers, making something from nothing and growing your own veggies. Roll on summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring into free food

Posted on 22nd April, 2019

 

Spring’s in full swing and apart from the urge to get outside to sow vegetable seeds and tidy up the plot it’s a great time to forage wild greens. OK so I’m lucky as I’m in North Wales, plenty of rural, off the beaten track locations to choose from but really wherever there’s a scrap of land wild plants will take off. Obviously in well-manicured parks, graveyards and roadsides you need to be wary of over-enthusiastic councils spraying anything that is deemed to be a weed nevertheless there is still scope to find common plants that are not only edible but nutritious.

Why bother I hear you ask? Well it’s a way of re-engaging with the natural world, it’s seasonal, it teaches children about nature need I go on? I’m sure you have a picture in your head of a forager, bearded, scruffy, open-toed sandals, crumpled hat…well here’s the thing you’d be wrong. There are professional foragers out there these days with their own special places, places where the best mushrooms are, places where they can collect nuts, leaves, samphire. You name it, if it’s edible they’ll collect it. Yet few ‘ordinary’ people have a go and I’m not sure why. I guess it’s a mix of fear of being poisoned and disinterest, yet there is a movement back towards real food, slow food, natural food so it’s worth a try (the link is to a website created by Wild Food UK Team-they do courses too). For example, you’re camping (glamping, caravanning & motor-homing all count) and you’ve got the ubiquitous burgers, sausages (veggie or otherwise) but the campsite has no shop and the nearest village is too far to walk and you’ve already started on the beer/wine/gin so driving is out of the question. Why not take a walk around the campsite, along a footpath, along the seafront or through the woods and see what you can collect?  Some leaves are great as salad leaves, others may need a little cooking but it’s fresh and free.

 

This Easter weekend we have been really lucky with the weather and I collected ‘Hedge Garlic’ (Jack by the hedge) and white deadnettle to add to a few leaves of rainbow chard and a handful of chives that have started to sprout in the garden. The chard has overwintered really well and the chives have sprung up since the weather has warmed up. The joy of a vegetable garden is that some plants survive and provide when there’s little else growing, chard is a great example. The first veggie BBQ of the year then was accompanied by steamed greens, wrapped in a foil parcel and cooked in the coals.

 

Follow this link for a more in depth look at what you can and can’t collect across the seasons in the UK and I hope you’ll have a go.

 

This isn’t a recipe as such but if you collect your greens, wash thoroughly, chop into medium sized pieces you can pile into the centre of a foil square, sprinkle with wild garlic puree (simply wash wild garlic add a little oil and seasoning and whizz up in a food processor. Put into sterilized jars and keep in the fridge), I added a little lemon juice but be aware hedge garlic is sometimes a bit bitter and lemon accentuates this. Season with a little sea salt. Bring the edges of the foil together and scrunch together to seal the parcel, make sure there is space for the moisture to create steam. A few minutes in the hot coals, while the burgers etc are cooking will be enough time.

  

Hedge Garlic (Jack by the hedge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve added photos of the plants in situ, plus the selection I used and the parcel before and after. Enjoy, experiment, don’t be afraid. But have fun 😊