Saturday, 24 August 2013

Yellow Courgette Spaghetti and Is Raw Food That Good for Everyone?

Take one courgette....

Make it into spaghetti with a julienne peeler....

Grate some Gran Padano on top (god I love this cheese)...

Et voila, a nearly raw dish!

When I was reading about different people's recipes involving courgette spaghetti, I was surprised that no one cooked it. I mean obviously the raw foodies weren't going to, one? And they were all saying how it was JUST LIKE NOODLES, just as good if not better! YAY!

Well, I didn't personally agree. It felt healthy, and crunchy crispy vegetabley, but not that satisfying. And most importantly, it wasn't bendy enough to twizzle around a fork in a satisfying way!

So I remade this recipe, or one similar, but a cooked version:

I fried up an onion.
I added some runner beans and cooked them for a couple of minutes.
I added some fresh tomatoes from the greenhouse. Big ugly ones.
I let this accept the fact it was going to soon be a pasta sauce (only about 5-7 minutes).
I made another courgette into spaghetti with my julienne peeler.
I added the spaghetti on top of the sauce, put a lid on and let it steam for a few minutes.
I then mixed it up a bit, topped it with some medallions of mozzarella and grilled it.

It was divine. Although not as photogenic. I felt full, and like I'd gained some energy.

I'm coming to a place of reevaluation. Recently I've been getting into raw and unprocessed foods, and getting very excited about them, and reading up on the wonderful natural benefits foods contain. I've been having Earthsprout's Greenylicious Smoothie for breakfast, tasty salads for lunch and eating Sarah B's Life Changing Loaf of Bread in my lunches. I've been cutting out white flour and sugar as much as I can and trying to eat nuts and pulses instead of meat.

And I've lost weight. Which I know a lot of people would be happy with but I'm pretty skinny and I didn't want to and it doesn't look good. The thing about eating like this is that it reduces my appetite, but also doesn't make me feel particularly satisfied (but the thoughts of all the vitamins, minerals, omega 3s etc are very satisfying!). And it's made me remember what I knew before I got so into it - that different diets are right for different bodies.

Some people look voluptuous and healthy on a vegan diet. Some people look gaunt and awful on a vegan diet and their bodies could use some animal protein. Some people feel much better on raw food. I think I need a decent amount of cooked food and I need good amounts of CAARBS! With a decent helping of some sort of protein and fat to keep my blood sugar on an even keel. The way I feel after a big load of (gluten free) spaghetti with lentil Bolognese is amazing! I have so much energy and my brain works faster. They have the opposite effect on lots of people - a friend of mine says lots of them make him feel sleepy and lethargic.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up on raw food and soaking nuts and making smoothies - I've just accepted that it can't be the only stuff I eat.

...Although I suppose if in decades to come I need to shed some pounds, I'll know what to do!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Lentil and Mushroom Burgers with Halloumi

Ohhh yes. Thank you Sarah from My New Roots, a source of constant inspiration.
I altered this recipe - I used Portobello mushrooms instead of wild mushrooms, and I didn't have any olives so just omitted them and hoped. Plus I added grilled halloumi and some caramelised onion chutney, as I had a mushroom burger with those at a gastropub recently and it was really good.

Seriously seriously good food.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Colourful vegetables

Does it fade, this mild but genuine shock and amazement, when you've grown vegetables for many years?
Do you cease to look wondrously at the beautiful things that appear amongst the plants you put in the ground, that you can just take, like a child who doesn't understand how the world works?

I intend to find out.


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Blackcurrant Frangipane Tart

My mum is amazing! I came home to this - blackcurrant frangipane tart. She even did gluten free pastry.

It looks pretty and summery and it tastes like pure comfort food.

  • Pastry - see Coconut Cream Pie recipe 
  • 125g blackcurrants, washed, topped and tailed
  •  1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  •  170g sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 70g butter, room temperature
  • A pinch of salt
  • 170ml milk
1. Oven to 190°C. Butter a 24cm (9½in) round ovenproof dish.

2. Make the pastry case.

3. Blind bake it.

4. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy

5. Add the almonds, egg and egg white and mix

6. Stick mixture into the pastry case

7. Scatter blackcurrants on top

8. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and firm.

It is divine with some sort of creamy yoghurt, Rachel's Gooseberry Yoghurt was perfect.

Yes that is another home-grown runner bean salad...

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Purple Pepper

I have been looking forward to this moment since February, when I sowed many many seeds into trays of compost and tended to them on all the windowsills all over the house. Amongst other things, I was attempting to grow multi-coloured peppers, some of which promised to be purple! Who knew you could do that?!
And today, in that strange way large, seemingly conspicuous vegetables often somehow tend to do, e.g. sudden marrows, my first purple pepper just appeared from nowhere!'s black?

Are they meant to be black?!

Now it's gone er...whatever colour it is, I don't know how to tell when it's ripe. Is that it? Should I let it get bigger? I shall find out.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Runner Bean Salad

I picked my first little bunch of beans today!

And I knew just the sort of thing I wanted to do with them....and it turned out really tasty, so here's the recipe.

Ingredients (serves two):

Pesto ingredients:
handful of fresh basil
half a handful of pine nuts
half a clove of garlic
teensy bit of fresh chilli
olive oil
sea salt
wholegrain mustard (optional)

Main stuff:
some runner beans
some uber-tasty little tomatoes
leaves if you want them: lettuce, rocket, etc
half a handful of pine nuts

First, make the pesto: I used a pestle and mortar because it was far too small a quantity to put in the blender.
1. chop up the basil leaves finely
2. chop up the garlic and the little bit of chilli finely
3. mash up the pine nuts with a bit of olive oil...

4. Mash the whole lot together with some sea salt...

5. Chop the beans up a bit and blanch them in boiling water for 4 minutes - you want them to still have a crunch.

6. Strain and let cool for 5 - 10 minutes. Meanwhile dry fry the pine nuts to very very lightly toast them.

7. Mix some or all of the pesto into the beans, and mix the halved tomatoes in too.

8. Leaves, beans and tomatoes, pine nuts. Easy.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

It is exciting, growing vegetables.

  Yellow courgettes
  Tomatoes - they taste INSANELY good, had my first one yesterday
  Spaghetti squash, just starting to make off in every creeper direction

Monday, 15 July 2013

Almond Chicken Curry

The internet is the best thing that ever happened to me in the way of learning to cook. Don't get me wrong - I think with absolutely everything becoming digital, we can become disconnected from grounding, earthy things - we don't even need to speak or even message someone to find out what they're doing, let alone go and visit and hug them, we already know it all from their facebook feed. When was the last time you had a spare 15 minutes with nothing useful to do - did you ponder about life and death or draw something, or did you check your emails?
But I think cooking is a creative, come down to earth thing, and there's nothing that has helped me develop my passion and breadth of experience anywhere near as much as the internet. Have you noticed old people call it the 'world wide web?' If you call it this, you are old, and it's time to play on your eccentricities.
The thing is, the other day I knew exactly what I wanted to eat: chicken curry, with some sort of thick, a bit creamy, almonds-blended-up-into-a-paste, a bit cinnamony, not necessarily terribly spicy, sauce. Don't know where the craving came from, haven't eaten anything like that for ages, and only when someone wimpy orders something like it in a group takeaway. So, I knew what I desired, and I was very much up for spending an hour or two creating it. But if the 'web' wasn't in existence, how would I make it? I could ring round my neighbours and see if they'd got a curry cookbook. I could take one out from the library? But the thing with cravings is, you have to seize the moment, because if you hang about too long, it goes away, but if you catch it and feed it what it wants, nothing has ever ever tasted so good.
The other thing about getting recipes from the internet is, you can look at as many different people's takes on the same sort of dish, and decide what's essential, what's not, and what you might do differently. YEARS worth of cookery book learning, condensed into one or two meals.
I found a few recipes for the almond chicken curry I wanted, but this one was just perfect. It's from eCurry: 
I chucked in some prunes that needed using up, they were great. I've made this dish three times now, I absolutely love it.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

My Favourite Salad

My lettuces were ready for eating (i.e. about to get out of control, we're not talking baby leaf) today, so it was definitely salad for dinner. This is my favourite salad, which I'll be honest, takes a long time if you make a decent amount of it because of all the sweating and roasting of vegetables, but you could whip it up in 40 minutes if you made a small, unsweated batch.

1 aubergine
2 red peppers
1 courgette
some sort of earnest lentil
feta cheese
fresh mint
red onion
fresh salad leaves
tomatoes (if you like)
1. Sweat the aubergine and courgette by chopping them into chunks, sticking them in a colander and pouring tons of salt on them, and leaving them in the sink for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roast the red pepper chunks in a bit of olive oil at 200C if you're limited with oven space. Should take about 30 minutes.
3. Rinse the salt off the other veggies, and pat and squeeze them dry with embarrassing amounts of paper towel. Roast them for 30 minutes as above.
4. Meanwhile, cook your lentils. I use green speckly ones and they usually take about 35 minutes. Apparently you shouldn't boil them like hell, just simmer.
5. Leave the lentils to cool or even run some cold water through them if you're eating soon.
6. Chop up some feta, some red onion and some mint and bung everything together.
7. Eat with lots of fresh leaves. I chopped up some tomatoes and spread a bit of my homemade (with hazelnuts this time!) pesto on them as they were a bit boring.

I usually put the lentilly salad on the bed of leaves but my bowl overflowed...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Elderflower Champagne

It's that lovely time of year again, the elder trees are all suddenly going for it, blooming away. I am taking advantage of this. Off I went to collect the elderflowers in my new basket. The recipe says 25 heads of elderflower, which sounds like loads, but it only takes about 5 minutes to collect.

Recipe for 10 litres:

·       6.7 litres hot water

·       1.170kg sugar

·       Juice and zest of 7 lemons (I just peeled the rind off them, we'll see if it works)

·       3 tbsp white wine vinegar

·       25 heads of elderflower

1. Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.

2. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.

3. Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it’s not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.

4. Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilized screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential).

5. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for at least a week before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place

Monday, 10 June 2013

Homemade Summer Food Things

We had a sun-drenched barbeque and I thought it the perfect excuse to make a couple of things I've wanted to for ages. Get them under my belt. The first, PESTO.

I made the classic pine nut and basil version, but I ended up making the vegan version as I didn't have any parmesan.

3 handfuls washed basil leaves
1 handful pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
squeeze of lemon juice

1. Whizz up in food processor.
2. Add as much olive oil to get it to be a smooth paste.
3. Stir in plenty of sea salt, and some black pepper.

Tasty on fresh bread. I also made some salad dressing with it. More lemon juice, more garlic, more oil, more salt and peper. Was alright.

That flower you can see is from my one and only lupin plant that I managed to grow from seed and keep alive for a year and a half! I snapped it's lovely flower spike off when bumbling past it, and decided not to get very annoyed by this but to admire it in the kitchen - turns out they're excellent cut flowers, it's lasting for ages. I think I must be appreciating it much more now than if it was still in the garden. Hooray. Right anyway next food thing:

The cover girl cake! The cake on the cover of my new favourite baking recipe book: Honeybuns Gluten Free Baking, by Emma Goss Custard. That book is amazing. This cake - the raspberry and white chocolate cake - has no flour and intriguingly, no butter in it. It's made mostly out of ground hazelnuts. And you roast the raspberries in honey and cinnamon sugar. Everyone loved it.
Lastly, I did an impromptu elderflower cooler type drink. I only had a handful of elderflowers (they've only just started blooming round here), and not much time, so I boiled up a saucepan of water with some golden caster sugar, quite a lot really, not sure how much, peeled the rind off a lemon in strips, and added the flowers, lemon peel and hot sugar water to a big bowl and let it sit and think about things for a couple of hours, then added it to a big jug of icy water last minute. I didn't strain it, a. because everyone had turned up and it would take too long to find something resembling a muslin cloth and b. because I thought it looked quite exciting with all the flowers suspended in the mysterious murk. I provided a tea strained for people to pour it through instead. It was quite a hit.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Basket Case

I finally got to make a proper basket!
Mum knew I'd always wanted to so she booked us in on a basket-making day.
Very chuffed with my basket.
Soon it shall be full of homegrown veggies!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Coconut Cream Pie

I made my first ever coconut cream pie! Pete, Mum and I were dreaming about them so much I had to make one for us to eat.

Gluten-free, naturally. It was great! I have no pictures of the inside as it got eaten so quickly, but basically it's a pastry base, sweet coconut goo middle, and squidgey airy meringue on top. I read recipes for ones with whipped cream on top and I thought that sounded like the meringue version's rubbish cousin, but mine was so ridiculously sweet I can see why that would work.
Here's the recipe:
Turn the oven to 180C. Grease a 9 inch pastry tin.
  • 225g/2 cups gluten free plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 110g/ 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
Rub the butter into the flour and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sugar, then the egg. Try and make a ball of dough with it. Add a tablespoon of water if it won't stick together. And as many as you need until it does. You don't want it too sticky though. You just want it to come together.
Roll it out on some foil. Gluten free pastry should be seen and not heard so you want it quite thin - 4-5mm.
Line your tin. You can't do it all in one unless you're a superhuman. I consider myself to have done well if I've managed to get a piece to cover most of the botton of the tin and construct the sides on seperately.
Blind bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it's looking dry and before it gets brown.

  • 2 1/4 cups cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for the egg whites
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups dessicated coconut
1a. Put the coconut onto a baking tray and bake it in the oven for a few minutes, until it goes brown. This toasting gives it a better flavour.

1.  Put the cream and 3/4 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile mix up the egg yolks in a jug.

2. Pour the hot cream into the the egg yolks, slowly at first, stirring lots. If you stick it all in at once you'll get blobs of cooked egg. Leave a residue of cream in the saucepan.

3. Put the cornflour into the cream dregs in the saucepan and stir into a paste. Stir lumps out. Add the cream and egg mixture back into it, a teeny bit at a time, stirring to combine. When you've added enough that it's turning back into a liquid, add the rest of the cream and stir in.

4. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook it like this, stirring constantly, until it thickens, 4-6 minutes.

5. Take off the heat and stir in the toasted coconut and vanilla extract. Pour into your precooked pastry case and leave to cool completely.


6. Oven to 150C. Whip up the egg whites with the remaining sugar to form stiff peaks. Spread over the pie, right to the edges, and bake until it's going lightly brown on the top, about 30 -40 minutes. You can bake it at a higher temperature for less time. The aga's on low at the moment so I just stuck it in there.

It's so sweet you need to drink a gallon of water after a slice and you feel a bit funny. I have plans for the next one - I think I'll make it as above, but whip up some double cream and somehow inject it under the surface of the people inject jam into doughnuts.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Nettle and Dandelion Beer - Bottled

We bottled the nettle and dandelion beer!

We recycled old beer bottles and used a capping machine (sounds more sophisticated than it is, it's a bit like one of those big modern corkscrews with the two big arms).

Much to my amazement, it smelled very much like beer. We put a teaspoon of sugar in each bottle before filling and capping it, so that it will ferment a second time in the bottle, and get fizzy!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Nettle and Dandelion Beer

My brother is turning into a keen brewer, despite being too skint for much equipment, or indeed, ingredients. Therefore he was very excited to read about nettle and dandelion beer, something you can make from free and extremely abundant ingredients. Infuriatingly abundant for most gardeners.

The recipe says get a bin bag of nettles, a box of dandelion flowers (which is nice and easy as you don't have to dig up the roots and spend ages washing them), boil them for half an hour, strain off the liquor, add three and a bit kilos of sugar, cool it, add the yeast, done. Oh and some citric acid and yeast nutrient. Sounds easy as pie. So we picked a bag of nettles:

And a box of dandelions:

And then realised that we didn't have anything big enough to boil it all up in. People into brewing have big stainless steel pots and gas burner things to do it in, but we didn't so Pete spent all day boiling little batches in as many pots as we could find!

He does however have a big bucket to brew in, so eventually it all made its way in there and has now finished fermenting.

It didn't ferment for as long as we were expecting so the yeast might have died early. It might have gone horribly wrong! I'm not going to be the first one to taste it, that's for sure, it looks disgusting.

Its golden companion you can see there behind it is the mead! It's basically fermented honey solution. Isn't it beeyoitiful? It's been bubbling merrily for weeks now and shows no sign of settling down. I can't wait to taste that, but apparently I have to wait for a year, and then there's only that much of it! Honey is expensive.

Soon we shall bottle the nettle and dandelion beer....

Friday, 22 February 2013

Box Rooms

A box room is one that is smaller than you'd want to spend any length of time in, but big enough that it is possible to and not be at serious risk of starting to eat your knees. It is smaller than all the other rooms, but bigger than a cupboard. They are also distinguishable from cupboards in that they have a radiator and/or a window. If your guest bedroom has no window or a radiator, the reason no-one ever comes back is because you have been putting them in a cupboard when they visited.
I feel sorry for box rooms because people are invariably disappointed with them. Estate agents market them as bedrooms, and so prospective buyers, excited about the three-bed property at a surprisingly low price, open its door and immediately drop their brows and say, 'Oh. It's a box room. That's a shame,' and murmur consolatory ideas about storing their hardly-ever-used gym equipment and filing cabinets in it.
My bedroom at university was the box room. I ended up loving it - the door couldn't open completely because of the bed, and I had to keep most of my clothes in the study across the landing, but it heated up in no time, and it was so homely with my bunting strung across the ceiling and fairy lights wrapped around the bed frame. Yes, as soon as someone poked their head round the door to speak to me it felt crowded, and yes sometimes it felt frustrating to shuffle between the bed and everything else at once, but I think there was something remedial about its pared-down-ness. It was just a space to sleep in, and maybe read a book. You couldn't be distracted by anything, you couldn't be reminded of any jobs you had to do. It couldn't be messy or you couldn't get out again until you tidied up.
My room
I think box rooms just need to be given more dignity. Estate agents calling them bedrooms means people will be hoping for this:
...even though they know the dimensions are 6'x7'.
They should be called something that whispers of their potential: 'Interest Room,' or 'Creative Space Room.' You could give it a theme that you'd never take the risk of dressing the bigger rooms in your house in - a little six foot by six foot bonkers room. You could make it into a jungle, or a mad, tasteless leopard-print boudoir with a disco ball that you've secretly always wanted but know it's terribly naff.
Yes, you could still keep your gym equipment in it...
Today is World Thinking Day, and this year's thought theme is reducing child mortality, as well as box rooms. It is one of the World Health Organisation's and UNICEF's targets: to reduce child mortality by two thirds from 1990 to 2015. They've seen that schemes such as those in developing countries that provide vitamin A supplementation, oral rehydration therapy and vaccinations can save millions of children's lives a year.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Broccoli Pasta Recipe à la Emmerr


Philedelphia / equivalent
Slivered almonds (or just chop them yourself)
Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
1. Put pasta onto boil in salted water.
2. Halfway through pasta boilage, chuck broccoli florets into water with it.
3. Put almond slivers in a dry frying pan and heat to toast them. 
4. When spaghetti and broccoli are done, drain (hoik broccoli out if done before pasta).
5. Mix a dollop of Philedelphia in.

6. Add toasted almonds.

7. Finely grate some cheddar cheese over the top and grind some pepper over it too.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Street Art of Slinkachu

Slinkachu leaves scenes with little 1cm tall figures for passers by to discover.