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Read through my latest blog posts and feel free to comment on them if you like. Ask me a question or advice and I'll do my best to oblige.

 

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SUDDENLY IT'S SUMMER

Posted on 2nd July, 2018

Phew the heat is on, and on, and on...to be honest this 'heatwave' is playing havoc with both the garden and the kitchen. Crops sown in the Spring are at last coming into their own but it's a constant battle to keep some of them going. The radishes are doing well, rainbow chard is looking lush and at last the rocket is marching away from the nGlobe Artichokeever ending armies of slugs and snails. I'm watering, there's no option not too really, but we have large water butts and so far these are holding up (not sure for how much longer). The globe artichokes are looking fantastically structural too but I've faced the fact that OH isn't keen and it's a lot of work to prepare just for me so my plan is to let the globes flower, I believe they are pretty spectacular when they burst open. I'll harvest a few smaller ones but the bigger ones will be sacrificed for beauty. I'll post some more photos when the flowers emerge.

 

Salads of course are the go-to choice on blisteringly hot days but you don't need to stick to lettuce, tomato and cucumber play around with fresh young vegetables too. Young carrots add crisp sweetness, fresh uncooked cauliflower gives an interesting flavour and texture as does sliced radish or baby turnips. Instead of the ubiquitous cheese or hard boiled eggs, add drained chick peas or cannelini beans. Make up salad dressings using a good oil and wine/cider vinegar or lemon juice as the base. You can liven this up with a dash of spice, fresh herbs (finely chopped) a good dollop of Dijon mustard or a spoonful of wholegrain mustard. If all of these ingredients plus a pinch of salt and pepper are put into a clean jar with a lid you can shake them into a great dressing. I have mentioned this before so remember to hang onto a couple of jars when they're empty for this purpose.

 

Last but not least the raspberries seem to really enjoy this weather so there has been copious bowls of raspberries and cream to enjoy but also fresh raspberry ice-cream has made a regular appearance. More on that later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm afraid that writing up all the recipes I've made since I last posted will be a job and a half but I'll be back in full swing soon I hope. Holidays, weekends away and life in general seems to have brought this particular creative endeavour to the doldrums but I'll be back. Take a tour around the recipes and blogs I've posted to date, add comments and suggestions but most of all make food prep a fun thing, get the kids involved, share food and gossip, share recipes and tips but most of all enjoy.

 

 

 

 

SPRING HAS FINALLY SPRUNG

Posted on 2nd June, 2018

Sowing seeds, planting out vegetable seedlings and tending the globe artichokes, strawberries and raspberries have pretty much taken up my evenings and weekends for the last couple of weeks. However it does mean that peas, runner beans and borlotti bean plants are all now in the ground and responding well to the warm damp days. I’ve also sown rocket, what else!, and in 3 days there’s signs of green all along the row, it’s such a rewarding and easy plant to grow even if all you’ve got is pots on a patio. There’s still time to pick up salad leaf seeds, radishes and a host of other easy to grow seeds and plug plants so I hope you have a go this year.

 

I’m particularly pleased that I managed to get the borlotti beans in as these beans are so useful to freeze when ripe. I still have a few left from last Autumn’s harvest and as the weather has turned a bit wet and grey I decided to make a fresh borlotti stew rather than another salad. Fresh or frozen beans are much quicker to cook than dried beans but feel free to use a canned variety instead. This dish is cooked in one pan but stew always suggests hours of cooking so I suppose ‘stew’ is a bit of a misnomer but for want of a better description it has to do. I always advocate keeping tins of plum tomatoes in the cupboard as a standby, either whole or chopped, and along with onion, garlic and fresh herbs you’re pretty much there.

 

I have a really good clump of oregano in my herb patch and its vibrant green scented leaves shouts ‘Italy’ and any recipe with fresh oregano in it takes me back to those small bistros dotted along any Italian town’s back streets where you can smell the deep herby sauces before you reach the door. Again I would urge you to plant up a pot or two with Mediterranean herbs if you haven’t got a garden or if you have no space left in the garden.

 

Any simple Italian inspired dish like this one can be served with crusty bread, rice or polenta but as I only had white maize-meal rather than yellow polenta that’s what I used for the accompaniment.

 

Ingredients: Serves 4

Frozen borlotti beans  (about a handful per person)

1 medium onion-finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic-crushed (wild garlic is ideal

1 stick of celery-chopped

½ green pepper

Green leafy vegetable-I used finely chopped rocket and kale leaves but spinach would work.

A good handful of fresh oregano (basil would work here)

1 tin chopped plum tomatoes

Vegetable stock cube

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

 

Method:

Gently sweat the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic in a little oil. When the onions are translucent add the borlotti beans, tinned tomatoes and stock cube topping the liquid levels up with a little water. The vegetables need space to cook in the liquid but don’t add to much water otherwise the finished dish will be more soup than stew. The beans will need around 20 minutes if frozen or fresh (if you use tinned beans then you just need them to heat through) so simmer gently for around 10 minutes then add the shredded greens and chopped oregano. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, the sauce should have thickened by then. Check the fresh/frozen beans are cooked, they should yield but not fall apart.

Season to taste and serve with your chosen accompaniment. If using white maize-meal follow this link for the simple dish I made to go with an African Stew previously. Scroll down the linked page for recipe.

 

I hope you have a go at both growing your own beans and cooking this dish but as always you can swap ingredients to suit yourself. Let me know how you get on.

 

Fresh borlotti beansBorlotti stew

 

 

 

National Vegetarian Week

Posted on 15th May, 2018

It’s National Vegetarian Week from 14-20 May. I’m a bit late to the party because I’ve been gallivanting in Lebanon. This was a holiday with an idea of doing some food research at the same time and while we had some amazing authentic food I was saddened to find the cities, Beirut in particular, crawling with American fast-food joints. This was definitely to the detriment of  Lebanese food, partially because Beirut has a reputation for trendy eateries and fast-food is somehow seen as ‘cool’. However eating vegetarian, indeed eating vegan is pretty easy in Beirut and we sampled Manoushe, which is a flat bread covered in zaatar and rolled with vegetables, as well as great hummus, ful and some brilliantly fresh tabbouleh.

 

We sampled vegetarian Kibbeh in ‘Le Chef’ a long standing traditional café in Gammayze, Beirut. Owner was very keen we try them and they were lovely, definitely something to be tried at home. I’ll post recipes for all the great foods we sampled when I’ve done some experimenting soon.

 

Because the weather has suddenly heated up here in Wales I’m sad to say I’ve only managed to pick a few wild garlic leaves and flowers, I plan on making a pasta sauce so again when it’s tried and tested I’ll share it with you. In my absence the garden has exploded with weeds galore, some at least are edible so ‘jack by the hedge’ and ‘white dead-nettle’ have already featured in my kitchen but truth be told I’ve not had a chance to cook much since we’ve been home but hope to remedy that in the next few days.

 

In the meantime take a look at some of the recipes on here and experiment with some of the great fresh Spring vegetables that are now in the markets and shops.

Here are some links to enjoy and links to some of my recipes to get you started.

Pasta with spicy sauce

Hummus

Quinoa Salad

Pulao Rice

 

External links

National Vegetarian Week

Vegan Society

Vegetarian Society

Vegetarian Information

 

 

Holiday Wind-Down

Posted on 1st May, 2018

Running the cupboards and fridge down before a holiday is a good idea. There’s no chance of coming back to mouldy bread, rancid milk, soft vegetables and rotten fruits but it does mean you have to face the challenge of using what you’ve got left. With a fairly bare fridge, not much going in the garden quite yet and only a couple of cans of beans left in the cupboard I decided to make a variation on cauliflower cheese. A simple but tasty meal that really does tick all the boxes.

 

Last week’s food shop was a frugal affair because I wanted to make sure everything could be used up and while I’m pleased the supermarkets are selling fruit and vegetables that they would have rejected only a few months ago, I really wish they wouldn’t refer to this perfectly good food as ‘wonky’. Not so very long ago all of this produce would have been on sale as normal vegetables and fruit but the supermarkets decided in their wisdom that the ‘public’ wanted ‘perfect’! Safe to say the public want decent, affordable produce that rewards the growers and doesn’t get bulldozed back into the ground because it’s lumpy, bumpy, too big or too small. The only benefit I can see about labelling this perfectly good produce as ‘wonky’ is that the price can be half that of its ‘perfect’ cousins. To this end I bought a really big ‘wonky’ cauliflower for 50p!!

 

A cauliflower is always a great basis to a meal and with the addition of a can of mixed beans and a few potatoes we’re halfway there. I’m afraid this dish was produced on the hop because I was rather tied up with last minute arrangements so making a proper béchamel was out of the question, feel free to make the real deal if you have the time though. Nevertheless my finished dish was none the worse for the cheats version.

 

Try and explore the trend of selling ‘wonky’ produce because taste-wise there’s nothing in it, and realistically they usually get chopped up anyway so who is to know if was perfect to start with or not?

 

One of the downsides of a traditional cauliflower cheese is that on its own it’s not particularly substantial, inevitably you will have to serve something with it but this dish is a one dish meal. Cheap, tasty, filly and very quick.

Hearty Cauliflower Cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

Cauliflower

Potatoes

Can of mixed beans (borlotti or butter beans would work well)

Cheddar cheese or similar (swap for vegan cheese substitute if you’re dairy free)

Milk (or milk substitute)

Salt & pepper

Cornflour

Rapeseed or olive oil

Butter (if you like)

 

Method:

 

Cut the potatoes and cauliflower into medium size pieces and place in a baking dish, pour over sufficient oil to coat the vegetables but not so much that they’re swimming in it. Sprinkle a little salt and place in a medium oven for around 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and turn the vegetables to get an even colour. When the potatoes are soft enough to break when pressed, add the can of beans. Stir into the vegetables and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking grate the cheese, you need enough to add to the sauce (a good couple of handfuls) and more to sprinkle over the top.

 

Heat the milk (I tend to use a bowl in the microwave to stop the milk from catching on the bottom of a pan)  quantities will vary depending on how many you’re cooking for but I used around 300ml, add a knob of butter if required, a little salt and pepper (remember the cheese will contain salt too) and enough grated cheese to taste.  Add a couple of heaped teaspoons of cornflour to a little water and mix well, remove the bowl of heated milk and  melted cheese and stir in the cornflour mix. Return to the microwave, checking and stirring the sauce to make sure it’s thickening. When it coats the back of a spoon remove the bowl. Check the progress of the potatoes and cauliflower and if cooked pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and return to the oven for a few minutes until brown on the top.

 

You can add other vegetables if you have them. The choice endless and it’s yours.

 

I do hope you give it a go the next time you’re trying to use up those last few items before your holidays. Saves the waste, saves you money and as it’s a one pot dish it saves the washing up. Happy cooking.

 

VEGAN ICE-CREAM-WHO KNEW?

Posted on 22nd April, 2018

Today, while searching for something completely different (wild garlic recipe ideas) I stumbled across a brilliant vegan food blog https://thegreedyvegan.com/

The recipe that grabbed me, because of the recent arrival into my life of an ice-cream maker, was vegan ice cream based on coconut milk and fresh lemons. https://thegreedyvegan.com/vegan-homemade-lemon-ice-cream-2/

Such a recipe had to be tried and because today was a bit confused weatherwise it seemed like a good idea to get cooking. I had coconut milk in the cupboard and fresh lemons in the fridge (hot days demand a gin & tonic don't they?) so it was a simple task to follow the recipe and see what happened. Well I have to say it was a great success, maybe more akin to lemon sorbet but nevertheless a lovely light finish to a meal.

The recipe suggests sieving the grated lemon zest but I didn't and I think it added to the zing.

 

The addition of spiced cookies makes a more substantial dessert, however let's be honest ice-cream and cookies is an anytime treat.

 

I really hope you'll give this a try and if you don't have an ice-cream machine then I suggest whisking the mixture, 

in a freezer friendly container, regularly to prevent large ice crystals forming. This would spoil the end result.

 

My advice is to look at simple ice-cream makers, mine was under £40.00 online, because it's a fun piece of equipment to have. I'm in the habit of making sure the bowl remains in the freezer so that if I find a great recipe, like this one, I'm ready to go.

 

 

 

I hope you have a go at this and take a look at the link to the website. Let Gloria know if you like her ideas, let me know if any of mine light your candle. Happy cooking.

 

 

 

HELLO AGAIN

Posted on 14th April, 2018

Have you missed me? I guess not but I’m back anyway with a promise of getting back in the food groove. My absence is explained by a couple of weeks of family stuff plus a couple of weeks recuperating from a heavy cold. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about eating or cooking when you feel below par but we all know that good quality, healthy food helps us to get over illness so I haven’t reverted to ready-meals or takeaways but I simply haven’t been up to writing about my food inventions hence the silence.

 

Spring has sprung a little late in these parts so the vegetable garden is rather sad. However there is recovery showing on the broccoli which has survived both the weather and the mauling by wood pigeons, I hope to be picking purple sprouting tender-stem broccoli soon. The rocket is forcing its way out of the ground and I’m hoping a little sunshine will bring it on a bit. The Mediterranean herb patch is in dire need of pruning (this is not a job I relish in the wet and cold) but the rosemary is certainly usable as it the oregano, which is now sprouting good strong shoots. The mint is also showing itself and I’ve already cut a little to use in a herb marinade for olives and Manchego cheese.

 

I’ve also managed to sow a few bean and pea seeds in the greenhouse to start them off for when the time comes to plant them in the raised beds. Everything will be late but that’s the way it is and we’ll have to get used to the changing seasons by trial and error.

 

I’ve downloaded a few random photographs from the last couple of weeks, I’ll never win MasterChef with my presentation but when you’re cooking for family and friends do we really worry about an untidy pastry lid, a slightly burnt flatbread or a scruffy salad? Flavour is what we’re after here although as I’ve said before sometimes you may wish to jazz up the presentation if you’re entertaining and want everything to be a bit swish.

 

Now I’m back in the loop I’ll share my simple pie recipe which came about because I had half a cauliflower in the fridge plus a couple of sticks of celery. I rarely make pastry but it really isn’t difficult although the shop bought shortcrust is very good these days and is used in professional kitchens as well as in the home kitchen. However I used white spelt flour to make my own version of shortcrust pastry and on this occasion used rape seed oil instead of traditional butter.

 

 

 

Pastry:-

Ingredients.

 

300gr White Spelt flour (or a mix of white and wholemeal)

8/9 tbsp rape seed oil (or olive oil)

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Cold water-amount to be determined when making but around 1/3rd cup

Couple of tblsp finely grated cheese (this can easily be omitted)

 

Method.

Stir salt into the flour and add the finely grated cheese if using. Making a well in the centre pour in the oil, stir in lightly until amalgamated then use your fingers to gently rub the oil and flour together until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Be careful not to overwork it. Pour in half the cold water, pulling it together as you go (I use a blunt ended knife for this, a strange trick I remember from making pastry in domestic science classes at school a million years ago). Keep adding water carefully until a dough is formed, you don’t want it to be wet, just enough water to allow you draw the ingredients into a ball. Knead gently to get rid of any cracks and wrap in cling-film or cover the bowl with a damp cloth then place in the fridge to rest while you make the filling.

 

Ingredients for pie filling:-

½ cauliflower-cut into florets (you can use the stalk as well as long as you discard any woody bits-it tastes the same)

½ onion-finely diced

2 sticks of celery-diced

1 or 2 cloves of garlic-crushed (omit if preferred)

1 tin of butter beans (cannellini beans would be a good substitute)

Milk or light stock

Rapeseed oil

Handful of spinach or similar leaves

Fresh or dried herbs-I used thyme but tarragon would work.

Salt & pepper

 

Method:-

Lightly sauté the onions and celery in a little oil, add the crushed garlic and cauliflower. Allow the onions and celery to soften but not brown, we’re aiming for a light colour finish here. Add the drained beans and dried herbs (if using).  Cover with milk or milk/stock mix or just stock and allow to simmer until cauliflower is al dente. Don’t let it get too soft as it will continue cooking inside the pie. Add the leaves and fresh herbs (if using), check seasoning, adding a little salt/pepper as required. If the liquid is still a little thin then you can thicken with a little cornflour (mix a small amount of cornflour with cold water and add to mixture, the heat will thicken the sauce in a minute or so). Now in an ideal world we set this aside to cool.

 

world we set this aside to cool.

Meanwhile take the rested pastry from the fridge and cut around a third off for the lid and set aside. On a smooth surface sprinkle a little flour before rolling out the pastry that will line the pie dish (I have a shallow Pyrex dish I’ve had for years but as long as the dish isn’t too deep and is ovenproof you should be OK, improvise with what you’ve got before rushing out to buy a purpose made dish)

Rolling out pastry isn’t rocket science but needs to be done quickly and lightly, overworking it will just make it too hard. Pick the pastry up on the rolling pin and lay it over the dish. Using your fingers press it down lightly until the sides are covered. I blind baked mine in a preheated oven (around 160-180C). Now the cooks among us may have ‘baking beads’ and if so use these, on the other hand if you’re like me you won’t so I use dried black-eyed beans that are solely used for this purpose (I store them in a sealed jar just for baking). Bake the empty case for about 10-15 minutes, you just want to make sure it doesn’t go soggy when the filling is added.

 

Remove from the oven and pour/spoon in the pie filling. Roll out the pastry lid, laying this over the top. Now depending on the dish used you may need to crimp the pie lid to seal it however my dish has a lip so I brushed this with milk (water would do) to make sure the filling was sealed inside. Brush the lid with milk which helps the pastry colour while it’s cooking.

 

Return the pie to the oven for around 10-15 minutes until the lid is golden. Remember the filling and the base is already pretty much cooked so this is sufficient to have the finished pie ready to serve.

I served mine with a salad, but it’s a meal in itself and doesn’t really need any other accompaniment, however the sky’s the limit so serve with chips, mashed potato, green vegetable or whatever takes your fancy. You are in charge here so all of the ingredients for the filling can be changed to what you have, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

 

I’ll see you soon-keep cooking-keep experimenting and most of all make it tasty and have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TEN-MINUTE SOUP SAVIOUR

Posted on 11th March, 2018

The Ten-Minute Soup Saviour

 

We’ve all been there when the question of ‘what can I take to work for lunch’ comes up. Unless of course you’re the person who walks into a sandwich shop and pays through the nose for a ready-made sandwich, crisps and a can on a ‘meal deal’ (a word to the wise-it’s no deal). Obviously making said sandwich at home is the economic thing to do and if you need crisps then buy a multi-pack and take a bag with you, however sandwiches are A) dull and B) not suitable for moi as I don’t eat overly processed wheat. Some of you will be ‘lucky’ enough to have a canteen at work and, don't get me wrong, I’m sure some work canteens are havens of culinary treats but on the whole they’re not really are they? Plus even if it’s subsidised, it’s still a lot of money on a daily basis.

 

Generally, when I’m being organised, I retain a little of last night’s dinner (if suitable) and take that with me to re-heat in the microwave. I’m sure there are plenty of you that do the same but what if last night’s dinner wasn’t something you can re-heat or keep back? Well an interesting salad is always a good option, chopped up and dressed simply it can be great but, when it’s cold, for me soup is always a winner. Now again, and I’m sure we’ve all done it (I have certainly), we’ll pop into a shop on the way to work and pick up a chilled (plastic) carton of ready-made soup or grab a ring-pull can of gloop to re-heat at work. I have issues with both of these because A) the chilled option is extortionate and rarely has the flavour you expect and B) the canned option is usually either too salty or too bland and bears no resemblance to its glowing description. What’s the alternative then without hours of preparation and cooking time? How about a spicy tomato soup, prepared in minutes,  that cooks while you’re in the shower and is ready in as little as ten minutes? Doable? Yes it is.

 

Canned tomatoes are surely the basic stand-by in all store cupboards, whether you’re a vegetarian or not, and if you add onion and sweet peppers plus a good dollop of spice you’re onto a winner. Think about it, your own soup in a sealable container ready to pop into your bag in minutes. Ideal for those watching their weight too but particularly those watching the pennies, that’s all of us right?

 

Making soup requires no real cooking ability, it’s the simplest form of cooking in my opinion, and apart from the ingredients the only other requirement is a blender (a hand blender is ideal but a liquidiser is fine too).  Choose ingredients that you have available but make sure they are quick to cook. I used sweet peppers but tenderstem broccoli would work, courgettes too but the good thing about peppers is they really add a depth of flavour and they won’t muddy the colour either.

 

I’m sure some of you are thinking it’s a daft idea and 'who has time’ but really a few minutes chopping plus a minute blitzing is all it takes because it will simply simmer while you’re dressing or showering. Personally I didn’t take anything to go with my soup but you could take bread or crispbread if you feel it’s not enough.

 

Remember as always the recipe is simply a guide, an idea, something to get you started so I hope you have a go. Why not practice when you have loads of time to reassure yourself you can get it done.

 

Ingredients:

Small onion (or half a medium onion-you can use the rest for something else)

Small yellow pepper (or again half of a larger one)

Half tin of chopped plum tomatoes

Garlic (easiest is a ready to use tube)

Dried parsley (you could substitute with rosemary, not too much though, or oregano for a Mediterranean vibe)

½ slices jalapeno peppers (from a jar) or a few dried chilli flakes

A little oil

Paprika

Salt & pepper to taste.

 

Method:

 

Finely chop the onion and pepper and gently fry in the oil, add a squeeze of garlic, half a teaspoon of herb,  the chopped chilli or chilli flakes, a good teaspoon of paprika. Pour in the tomatoes, top up with a little water or stock. Set to a simmer and go and shower/dress/sort out the kids/have a cup of tea and by the time you’re done the soup will be ready to blitz. A hand blender means you can whizz up in the saucepan but pouring into a liquidizer really takes no longer. Add a little more water if too thick. Season to taste. Et voila it’s ready to put into a container (make sure it’s well sealed) put it in a carrier bag/plastic food bag to make sure any leaks don’t contaminate your bag and away you go. Microwaveable in a couple of minutes.

 

Don’t forget to share your pictures or add or a comment. Bon Appetite.

 

 

POST HOLIDAY COMEDOWN

Posted on 26th February, 2018

POST HOLIDAY SYNDROME-SOUP IS THE CURE

 

There’s no doubt a holiday in the sun, whether it be a few days or a few weeks, lifts your spirits. It doesn’t have to be an all singing all dancing all-inclusive holiday either. Interesting food, usually simply cooked using freshly bought ingredients, provides an insight into a country’s food culture and nowhere is this more obvious than Portugal. A recent break in Porto provided ample opportunity to sample staple local dishes. As a vegetarian I’ve spent many a holiday trying to explain ‘no meat, no fish’ but honestly, even in the most carnivorous countries, it’s no longer the issue it once was.

 

Riverside restaurants proudly display their vegetarian options and although these choices are usually salads no-one bats an eye if you ask for one of the main dishes ‘without meat/fish’. The markets overflow with fresh green vegetables and the obvious dish to use the vibrant local kale (couve gallego) is Caldo Verde. Now this is a warming, simple, frugal soup and is often served with slices of a chorizo style sausage or indeed with a local blood sausage, but as these options are added at the end most restaurants/cafes will omit this if asked. In fact on our last evening I had a steaming bowl of Caldo Verde overlooking the Ribeiro and the restaurant owner asked me if I would prefer it without the sausage, a nice touch I thought.

 

Back home I am suffering from that post-holiday comedown and although there is a beautifully clear blue sky the wind is bitterly cold and the weather forecast for the next few days is dire indeed. The cupboards and fridge have been suitably restocked, the intention being no more shopping for a month, however I feel the need for a bowl of Caldo Verde. I want to recapture the holiday feeling or at least try.

 

Now sadly I don’t have kale in the garden because the pigeons have kindly stripped most of the leaves while I’ve been away. This means I will have to improvise. You will find a simple green soup recipe on the website but this one differs in that it’s more substantial having a potato base.

 

Although I don’t have kale in the garden I do still have mizuna (a peppery green leaf similar to rocket but not quite as peppery), a few handfuls of rocket leaves (obviously!) and the ubiquitous chervil (it seems nothing is going to kill that off so come on frost do your worst!). I’ve also got a few cauliflower leaves, broccoli leaves from the garden and spinach so there’s plenty of green stuff available to provide the ‘verde’ to the finished soup.

 

Handful of garden greens

I’m not a purist, as I’m sure you will have realised by now, so this is my own version of ‘Caldo Verde’ not to be confused with the real deal enjoyed under starlit skies in Portugal.

 

Ingredients:

4 or 5 medium floury potatoes-peeled but retain the peelings because I’ll give you tip for those at the end

1 large onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic-crushed (or use ready prepared easy-garlic)

1-2 litres of water-to be authentic you should use water only but I add a couple of good quality bouillon cubes

Olive oil

Plenty of shredded kale or greens of your choice-don’t skimp with the green stuff

 

Method:

 

Gently fry the onion and garlic in olive oil, add the cubed potatoes and cook along with the onions for a few minutes. Add the water (or stock) and bring to the boil, lowering the heat to a steady simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are falling apart, if you use a waxy potato this won’t happen so you could try mashing them to break them up manually otherwise the texture isn’t right..

 

Shred the leaves and add to the pan, bring back to a steady simmer until the greens are cooked. Depending on the type of leaves this can be anything from a few minutes to 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper, add a swirl of olive oil for authenticity.

 

Caldo Verde

I’ve made a seeded spelt loaf to go with the soup but an added twist, because I can’t bear the waste, is to rinse the potato peelings and dry them off, coat with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and place on a baking sheet in the already hot oven for about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly but they are great served as a snack or alongside the soup.

 

The basic soup is fantastic but I’m sure you can think of your own twists that might remind you of holidays past. How about floating a large toasted crouton topped with cheese, or tomato and garlic if you’d rather omit the dairy aspect. Or small crispy garlic croutons sprinkled on the soup just before serving. The choices are endless but I hope you’ll give it a go, it’s too simple to ignore.

 

Bom apetite!

 

Seeded spelt loaf

 

 

Pancakes are for life not just Shrove Tuesday

Posted on 15th February, 2018

 

With days getting a little longer there are signs of life in the garden. Although it’s still too early to think about sowing seeds outside there are certainly some you can get going on the window sill or in the greenhouse if you’re lucky enough to have one. Rocket (of course), salad leaves, peas, broad beans and spring cabbage are all simple to sow in trays or pots ready to plant out when it’s a bit warmer. Rocket and salad leaves can be harvested from the windowsill either as micro-greens or when the leaves reach a decent size. It’s great to have a few fresh green leaves to hand and if, like me, you have raised beds in the garden there will already be new growth on the few rocket, mizuna, black kale and herb plants left in the ground over winter. Warm salads, one pot casseroles, curries and stir-frys will all benefit from a handful of fresh green leaves so get sowing or get picking the new leaves from your pots and gardens,

 

I hope this week saw you all having a go at pancakes from scratch, surely one of the simplest of recipes and one everybody can join in with. I made mine with white spelt flour and free-range eggs and served with traditional lemon and sugar (I am a traditionalist about some things).

However why we don’t make pancakes more often is a mystery to me and so I decided to share a couple of tips so you can make pancakes regularly and not just on Shrove Tuesday.

 

The range of recipes for ‘pancakes’ is staggering, the proportions of the 3 main ingredients, flour, eggs, milk varies so much that I basically ignore them all. Working with idea that pancake batter needs to be liquid enough to pour, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and rich enough to taste of something

I used:

Approximately 400 grams of spelt flour

4 eggs

600mls milk

A glug of vegetable oil

A good knob of butter

A tspn salt

(all of the above measurements are relative, if you have fewer eggs add more milk, if it’s too thin add more flour-eventually you will just get to know what makes a good batter-practice makes perfect)

 

You don’t need baking powder, you don’t need sugar in the actual mixture and you don’t need a food processor.

 

Mix the oil with milk and whisk in the eggs. Pour into the dry ingredients whilst stirring with a wooden spoon or whisking with a hand whisk. Make sure it’s lump-free and leave to stand. When ready to cook I pour the mixture into a jug as this makes it easier to get the right amount in the pan.

 

Melt the butter, add a little oil and swirl around a solid based non-stick omelette pan, pour the excess oil/butter into a saucer/dish as you will need to recoat the pan regularly.

 

The pan needs to be hot but not smoking. Pour in a little of the batter and allow it to coat the base, it takes under a minute to cook so keep watching the batter until little bubbles pop on the surface, now toss it (if you’re brave) or flip with a spatula. Cook the other side for about 20 seconds. Slide it out onto warm plate and put in a warm oven while you keep the production going. This amount of batter makes around 20 pancakes.

 

Serve with the topping of your choice, chocolate spread, peanut butter, fruit and cream, ice-cream…the combinations are endless.

 

Safe to say this week’s blog has taken an unexpected turn as my intention was to talk about making soft flour tortillas…so you’ll have to watch this space for that story.

 

Don’t forget to post your success stories or failures on Facebook or Twitter. Use the contact form if you have any questions. I won’t bite (promise).

 

 

 

MAKING THE MOST OF WHAT'S LEFT

Posted on 10th February, 2018

All in one pasta

 

 

February is the classic empty pocket/purse/bank account month. Catching up with Christmas bills, higher energy costs because you need to keep the house warm and the cost of booking those summer holidays because you need something to look forward to.

 

It’s a good time to look through the cupboards and fridge to see what’s lurking there, what needs using up and what odds and ends of packets are taking up space. There’s always odd bits of pasta in my cupboard, for some reason I never use the whole packet, and last night’s foray into the top shelf produced a couple of handfuls of penne and handful of spaghetti. The freezer provided a handful of borlotti beans, the fridge harboured a few sun-dried tomatoes languishing at the bottom of a long-opened jar, a lonely piece of broccoli and half of a red pepper (the other half used in a salad last week). Along with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a very small onion and a splash of chilli sauce the above few ingredients made for a quick pasta dish which was enough for dinner and two work lunches the next day.

 

Apart from trying to make sure I throw nothing away I like to use as few pots and pans as possible too, although there are occasions when the kitchen worktops looks like I’ve been cooking for the five thousand!! Taking a leaf out of the Italian’s book with the classic ‘pasta alla genovese’ where everything (apart from the pesto) is cooked together, I cooked the borlotti beans in plenty of lightly salted water then added the broccoli and the pasta for the last 10 minutes. The pan needs to be big enough so that everything has space to cook.

 

The sauce is made separately, not pesto on this occasion but a thick tomato sauce designed to coat the pasta and vegetables. In a good sized frying pan gently fry the finely chopped onion and pepper, add the sliced sun-dried tomatoes (if using), a tin of chopped plum tomatoes, a dash of chilli sauce (or fresh/dried chilli to taste), salt & black pepper. Let the sauce simmer while the veg/pasta cooks, it might need a teaspoon of sugar if it’s a bit too acidic, sometimes tinned tomatoes can be a bit sharp. As it cooks it will thicken to a deep and luscious texture.

 

Check the pasta to make sure it’s done, some of you will prefer it ‘al dente’ but I like it a little softer than that, call me weird if you like. Drain well and pour the sauce over, using a spoon to turn the pasta and vegetables over so the sauce and pasta amalgamate. Remember the pasta shouldn’t be swimming in sauce, in true Italian style the sauce just coats the rest of the ingredients.

 

Serve with grated cheese if required but actually it really doesn’t need it.

 

As an experiment I want you to raid the darkest reaches of your cupboards and invent a dish from what you find. Send me pictures. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter

 

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