Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Berry Oaty Bars – very Scottish

On Sunday, I picked about 500g raspberries from plot 11. These are not like the supermarkets ones, that will last a few days in the fridge, these are so fresh, that a couple of days in the fridge and they’d go mouldy. So the question was how to enjoy them.
Well create some more oaty delights in the form of a soft flapjack filled with fruit. These are very Scottish, even if I don't so myself. Now all you need with it is a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
Raspberry oat bars
I used an 7 x 11 inch tin
300g jumbo rolled oats
170g brown sugar
100g dessicated coconut
100g plain flour
300g butter (or for vegan alternative, substitute with vegan margarine)
300g fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to gas mark 6 and line the baking tin with parchment paper.
Put the oats, sugar, coconut and flour in a large bowl and combine thoroughly. Form a well int he centre. Melt the butter, pour it into the well and stir until evenly distributed.
Press half the oat mixture into the lined baking tin. Next, scatter the berries evenly over the base. Now cover the layer of berries with the remaining oat mixture and press down firmly, these will be firm enough to be bars you can hold and eat, rather than eat with a spoon.
Place oat bars in oven and bake for 30 - 35 minute until golden brown. Cool in tray and then cut into bars.
These can be kept for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Red hot pokers - natures lamp posts

A couple of weeks ago, I was complimenting the neighbours little girl below, I want to take it all back (well I feel like it). This morning when I opened the door to be warmly greeted by the beautiful red hot pokers that had recently emerged like natural lamp posts with their orange fire glow, brightening the dull grey front view, but now they were all gone.
The beautiful red hot pokers that were attracting bees from all over had all been snapped off. This had happened last year and D had put it down to kids walking by and snapping them off, but later we found out it was the neighbours below. The bees are obviously ‘bothering them’ fear of being stung. But bees are generally friendly and will not sting unless feeling under threat, they are not interested in human beings, but the pollen of the plants nearby. I am so angry at them, but nothing I or anyone else could say to them would make a difference, if the bees are bothering them, they’d rather not have them near them, and they were growing in their section of the front garden drive, so there was very little I could do, except loudly vocalise that it was a shame that such beautiful plants had to be snapped off.
I had taken these pictures of the red hot pokers about a few weeks, so glad I managed to capture some before their demise at the hands of the human.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Vegetarian sausages with puy lentils

I didn’t realise that Toscana di Nero kale had so many names, such as Cavolo Nero (which is what most people know it by), but also Dinosaur kale, Tuscan Kale, Palm Tree Kale, Palm Tree Cabbage and even Black Cabbage. They are all the same vegetable with slight variations being primarily in the shape and texture of the leaves. Interesting don’t you think?

Toscana di nero tastes so different from the curly kale I’m used to eating. 'Which one do I prefer?', I like them both, but it I had to choose, I think I would opt for curly kale. For me it has more flavour.
This recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson Italian Sausages with lentils from Nigella Bites. I have substituted the meat sausages with vegetarian ones, plus added toscana di nero. It worked out not too bad actually.

Brassicas and me

Yesterday, I spent two hours at Plot 11 while D tended to the tomatoes. I planted some more cabbages: hispi; greyhound and red marner and natalino cauliflowers. All the ones I had planted early last month, had either been munched by the slugs or the pigeons, hence needed replacing.

I have not been very successful at growing Brassicas, namely cabbages and cauliflowers. I feel like I am the only one having this problem as other fellow plot holders, have them growing well, albeit amongst the weeds and uncovered. Perhaps, I have trouble because I go for the lesser known varieties and they stick to tried, tested old fashioned brassicas. Perhaps…..Anyway, after looking at some of my fellow plots, I decided not to cover them with netting, just sprinkled some organic slug deterrent.
This coming weekend, D will have to build me a climbing frame at plot 11, for the runner beans that are literally dying to get out of their pots.

We also harvested some more potatoes, Toscana di nero, three rainbow carrots, 500g of raspberries, some strawberries and a handful of pea pods, that were consumed straight from the pod at the plot.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Delicious Oaty Biscuits

I am not a person who eats biscuits, I'm a muffin or a flapjack kinda girl, but I wanted to try these for two reasons. One it was straightforward to make, no cookie cutters required and secondly, I had a load of rolled oats sitting in a jar. I am so glad I did. These for me were absolutely delicious, really. This recipe for Oaty biscuits comes from I'm not a Tree. From April 2009 until April 2010, I'm not a Tree (sorry I don't know what her name is) has made the decision 'Not buy things she doesn't need for one year'. She writes 'since when did life become one long episode of Supermarket Sweep?! So I'm stopping. Waving goodbye to my consumerist self and welcoming the Slower, more conscious me. It's a two fingers up to manipulative, greedy, ruthless, very clever indeed, corporate capitalism. For one year. I'm going to be that person annoying friends with homemade biscuits and handmade cards'. I think its a excellent idea as it gets you to reflect on your behaviour as a consumerist, but also makes you think do you need this, I mean really need it.

Do check out her blog in which she records her daily account of how she spends her time and money over the next year.
I'm not a Tree Oaty Biscuits
Makes about 16
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
175g rolled oats
125g butter
100g light brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
Optional extras
Handful of raisins, peanuts, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, about an inch of ginger root, peeled and grated to taste.

Preheat oven 180º Grease 2 baking trays

Sieve plain flour and bicarbonate of soda into bowl. Mix in the rolled aats and the extras you want. Mix thoroughly in the bowl

In a small saucepan add butter, sugar, syrup and 1 tablespoon of water and gently heat until they're combined together.

Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl and stir until well mixed.

From the bowl pick up some of the mix and form into little balls about the size of a walnut.

Put the balls of mix onto the baking trays and put in oven for 16 -18 minutes.

Take out of oven when they're a medium toasted colour and leave on trays or wire rack to cool down. Then transfer to an airtight container.

I'm not a tree recommends melting a bar of dairy milk chocolate to give the biscuits. Next time I think I will.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Some tasters from the Royal Highland Show

What a lovely day. The rain stayed away while we were at Ingliston, near Edinburgh for the Royal Highland Show. Although I enjoyed myself, it was much of a muchness from last years experience, all the usual stores were there, including the supermarkets!

I was quite selective with my purchases this time. I came home with some chocolate (see below), two bottles of fizz: Pink Ginger and Dandelion and Burdock; and Mrs Bridges chilli jam, beetroot and orange chutney and banoffee curd. Unfortunately they did not have any blueberry curd. However, the nice man at the stall noting my disappointment, did inform me that you could purchase these via the web. This made me smile, as I thought they had discontinued it.
I did sample a lot of Scottish specialities, including cheeses (Stathdon Blue now being one of my favourites), oat biscuits, shortbread, handcooked crisps, strawberries, ice-creams and preserves. I did not take many pictures as I had hoped, it's quite hard in a busy and pushy environment.
Plenty of candy! fudge, macaroons and liquorice in many artificial flavours.
These coulis were quite tasty, I tried the mango one, it was thick and rich. It was served with GG vanilla ice-cream which I especially liked, made from black and white Holstein Friesian cows. I must try and track some down in my area.
A food demonstration in the Food Hall. I spotted the Scottish famous chef Nick Nairn.
These are organic hand crafted chocolates made by The Chocolate Tree.
These were especially pretty. Like decorative tiles. I bought a couple of bars.
A popular Chocolate Fondue Fountain nearby. Part of the joy of fondues are having to dip your own fruit under the fountain, here though it was done for you. Not my kind of thing, but its pretty to look at.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Highland Show and Shiitake Mushroom Log

Other than tending to my allotment plots, I don’t often do much in my weekends, but when I hear Scotlands Highland Show is on, I get all excited. I have been going for a few years now, it’s the one thing I do look forward to in the year.

Unfortunately, last year it was taken over a lot by supermarket retailers, giving you cut pieces of cheddar cheese and plastic bags full of glossy leaflets, even a certain burger chain 'restaurant' had a marquee there showcasing its green credentials and healthy eating options, a good thing I guess.
Anyway, I have noted that the price has increased. These days it costs about £22 per person, but I have justified it as it is something that I don’t do that often, plus it will be a good day out.
In the past I would originally go just for the food fair. The Food Hall has almost 100 exhibitors and allows you to indulge on free samples on some of Scotland’s larder. However, I also found myself enjoying the farmers displaying their cattle with pride, and some of the handmade crafts, so I do keep going back.
The one thing I was excited with last year was a shiitake mushroom log. Although it was amazing to watch grow, I did find it a bit of a palaver. First, shocking the log in water and then covering it with cling film for a few days for the mushrooms to develop. The other food produce I definitely get from the Highland Show are Mrs Bridges preserves. D likes the beetroot and orange chutney, and I am quite partial to the blueberry curd. They are especially good with home-made waffles. So more news tomorrow of my visit to the Highland Show 2009.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby

This is the biggest strawberry I’ve ever grown – A real beauty
Ida the West African woman who has a plot opposite mine, gave me a bunch of ‘rape’ this afternoon in exchange for some lemon balm.
This is what ‘rape’ looks like, its quite tough and fibrous.

I previously blogged that my mother wanted me to acquire some seeds from Ida, to which Ida kindly obliged. My mothers seeds are growing along nicely. I think my mother is going to be making saag with it, but my skills and patience does not extend that far in the kitchen. I simply steamed the leaves, and then added it to olive oil and garlic for a few minutes until it was well covered with the garlicky juices.
We ate the greens alongside boiled maris bard potatoes and a ready made vegetable country pie, one our work standbys, when neither of us has the energy to cook after a long day at work.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Summer is here

When I first planned to grow broad beans, D snugged his nose and told me I would be eating them all on my own. His memory of broad beans like many were of school dinners where they would come straight out of a tin and tasted quite vile. But when he tasted one of our home grown beans, straight out of the furry pod, his eyebrows raised. I think he like.

Since then I have been cooking them in various guises, including spring risotto with baby carrots, broad bean pilau and even broad bean cakes. He was truly converted.

This year I have grown Super Aquadulce, they are a little bitter, but still good.
I can hardly call this a recipe, its just boiled potatoes, with broad beans, some raw (the smaller ones) and some blanched (those the size of a thumbnail) for a couple of minutes to reduce the bitterness, seasoned with salt and pepper and shredded fresh mint.

Truly feels like summer is here.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

So chive tonight

A short entry today, I’ve had a long day at work and I’m quite tired.
I have had to snip off the heads of my chive flowers both at home and at the plot, as they have become dried out by the sun and are starting to look rather sorry for themselves. Plus the bees are no longer interested in them either, they’ve moved onto the borage flowers and lavender heads. Still, it’s nice to have them around.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Tamari asparagus spears

I hate to admit it, but today at work I’ve snacked on a lot of junk, for breakfast: hash browns and baked beans. For lunch: a cup of soup with a bag of crisp, and then later as a snack: latte with a brownie. All that grub is really unusual even for me. So this evenings relatively light meal, was welcomed and it made me feel positively virtuous about myself.

This is the last of the British seasonal asparagus that we will be eating.
Tamari asparagus spears
Serves 2
350g asparagus
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoon of tamari (or soy sauce)

Lime wedges to serve

Toss the asparagus in oil, then put on to a hot griddle pan and wait until the asparagus is charred on all sides.

Add the garlic slices only when the asparagus is nearly ready. Stir n the sesame seeds and toss, then add in tamari (or soy sauce) just before removing from the heat.

Serve hot, straight from the griddle pan.

Recipe adapted from Nadine Abensurs The Cranks Bible

Low lights at the allotment

because of the low lives nearby ...

Since September 2007 when things started being stolen from our and other fellow holders plots, we decided to put a lock on our plot gates, but the one we had on Plot 11 had become weather damaged and we have not had the opportunity to replace it. Over the weekend, we noticed that someone had trespassed on plot 11 (above), there is nothing to steal there now, only fruit and vegetables when they grow.

Mind you the lock on the gates hasn’t really stopped the trespassers, they’ve managed to jump over the fence, or even break the locks as I have experienced more than once. Everyone here who has had something stolen know who the culprit is: a jack the lad and his family who live nearby. The family have a plot on the site which is treated as an extension of their house. He comes into the site with friends and family either early hours of the morning or late in the evening, when noone is around. Not to toil or tend to the land, but to 'feast their greedy eyes' on other peoples plots. How do I know, I have witnessed aspects of this unsavoury behaviour, not just from the individual concerned, but by the committee members too. Hence the reason why the committee is not interested in addressing this 'real issue'. They are more interested in victimising those that do not agree with them; or stealing from the dead, literally.

One way to catch the thieves in action is to put up CCTV cameras, but that is not going to happen in a million years, so this chapter will continue for years on end.

I have just read fellow Drooling Vegetable blog who has had all his ripe gooseberries 'taken'. It's a shame what some allotment sites have become. It's times like these when I wish my allotment was in my backyard.

You don’t just worry about trespassers from outside, it the ones on the inside that you have to worry about, as they cause the most damage: emotionally.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Summer Solstice Strawberries

How lucky am I?!

No recipe needed.
Just add (own grown) strawberries, raspberries and fair trade bananas with a touch of cream.
Juicy and delicious. And look at those shades of red.

Fizzing Elderflower champagne...not yet!

It been nearly three weeks since I bottled my 'elderflower champagne'. I went to have a look at the bottles that are in the garden shed.
Absolutely no sign of bubble or fizz. There was segment sitting at the bottom of some of the bottles, but no fizz. Not sure what's gone wrong. I will leave them for another fortnight.

Kulfi, falooda and jalebis

Growing up in the UK, I would often hear about Melas being held in parts of England, namely London, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester, cities that had a large diverse population. The word ‘Mela’ has different meanings to different people. Originating from Sanskrit and meaning ‘to meet’ or ‘gathering’, in Hindi or Urdu the word also means ‘fair’ as in funfair. Nevertheless, the concept of Mela has developed across the world to represent a coming together of many peoples, from varied background and cultures, meeting in celebration of their shared cultural diversity.

There was nothing happening in Wales at the time. During my university years in the mid 1990s, I used to live in Glasgow and there was hardly any mention of a Mela, except what was happening in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Mela was originally founded in 1995 by members of the city's South Asian communities who wanted to celebrate significant religious events like Eid, Holi or Diwali and acknowledge the diversity within them. What started of as small low key annual indoor event developed into a grand outdoor spectacular sensations, since then the Edinburgh Mela has grown into one of Scotlands leading celebration of cultural diversity through the arts.

What I as a non-Scots person (without allegiance to either city) have noticed and have found quite amusing is that Edinburgh and Glasgow are always competing with each other, in relation to showmanship and tourism.

Anyway, according to some of the Glasgow websites, Glasgow Mela was created in 1990 for city’s European City of Culture status, apparently well before the West End festival which is in its 14th year. However research shows me that although there was a Mela type event held at the Tramway in 1990, this did not mean that Melas were being held thereafter in Glasgow. So I don’t know if history is being rewritten, but I did really think that Edinburgh Mela came before the Glasgow Mela. For me awareness of the Glasgow Mela came in 2000 and it was rather disappointing affair and did not live to my expectations. I heard from some community group representatives there that the Glasgow Mela was only in its second year so it was still having teething problems in establishing itself. So much so that many of the Glaswegian South Asians I knew would travel to the Edinburgh Mela as it was much more developed, vibrant and lively in comparison.

These days the Glasgow Mela runs alongside the West End festival and Scottish Refugee Week. These events combined attract thousands of visitors. This year the Glasgow Mela took place at the leafy Kelvingrove Park in the city's West End.

These are some of my limited pictures from the day, all with emphasis on food, of course. If you have a seriously sweet tooth. Here are some South Asian sweet delights: Kulfi and Falooda stalls
Freshly made Jalebi - a syrupy deep-fried swirly sweet.
As I left I did hear someone grumble 'bogs, burgers and booze' - I feel better to know that I am not the only one discontent with the mela. But thumbs up, that there is something like this happening in the city for the locals to enjoy. Things can only getter better.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Simple lentil and turnip leaves soup

These were supposed to be purple top Milan turnips, but each and everyone of them had gone to seed. I am unsure what has happened...maybe it's the weather. Its been hot one day, then raining another. Anyway, rather than compost the whole lot, I decided to strip some of the turnip leaves to eat.
When I got home, the first thing I did was check the web to ensure that the turnip leaves were edible, phew they were. Then it was what to do with them?

It crossed my mind that the lovely Jacqueline (also known as Holler) at Tinned Tomatoes was hosting No Croutons required this month. No Croutons Required is a monthly food event, that is alternately held between Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes. The theme for this month is 'leaves'. Leaves of any type could be used in the recipe, as long as the final dish was either a soup or a salad. I decided to give it a go, that is of course if I ain't missed the deadline. It will also be a nice way to read of other food bloggers.
Simple lentil and turnip leaves soup
Serves 4
175g split red lentils
200g turnip leaves, shredded or minced
2 pints of vegetable stock made with 1 tablespoon of bouillon powder
50g butter (or olive oil)
salt and pepper to taste
In a pot, add lentils, vegetable stock and cook on low heat until the lentils begin to disintegrate. Then add turnip leaves and cook for a further 15- 20 minutes, then add butter or oil, salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further few minutes before serving.
'No croutons required' that's for sure! Enjoy!

First Harvest of 2009

Here is my first official harvest of the 2009.
From left: sage and mint leaves; lollo rosso salad leaves; strawberries and raspberries; one sad looking purple top Milan turnip; maris bard new potatoes; broad beans, and at the back: a bag full of turnip leaves.
D tending to his tomatoes in the greenhouse. While I sowed some more seeds. We spent about 4 hours at the plot, even though the plan was to spend an hour or so.
These are my alliums, I think I said early in the week that I had snipped off their heads as they were beginning to bolt.
However, I am allowing these leeks from last year, to go to seed for the wildlife. Plus they're quite pretty to the eye.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Buckfast Cheesecake – och no!

I know over the past few days I have been in a reflective mood. This evening, I thought I would be light-hearted and share this recent story with you relating to food, but in order to do so, I have to give you a brief background, so please bare with me, hopefully it will make you smile or maybe even cringe a little.
Buckfast Tonic Wine is a fortified wine produced by Buckfast Abbey in Devon, south west England. The wine was first produced in the 1890s by the Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey using a recipe brought over from France. The tonic wine was originally sold in small quantities by the Abbey itself, as a medicine with the slogan "Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood". Please note this slogan most certainly does not apply today.

Buckfast is a popular drink amongst some sections of the Scottish community. It is what cheap nasty Cider is to the English, and Thunderbird is to the Americans – gut rot. Stop and ask any person in Scotland of their Buckfast memories and they will more often than not, associate it with drunken, disorderly and anti-social behaviour. You are more likely to see a smashed bottle or empty bottle floating on streets of Scotland, than a person ordering a glass in the local pub. Aside from 'Buckie', other names for it include 'Commotion Lotion' and 'Wreck-the-hoose (house) Juice'.
But let’s not be too harsh, Buckfast has recently been given a makeover in the carnation of, wait for it ‘Buckfast Cheesecake’. You may go, what’s the big deal, well think really cheap Cider Cheesecake and you may just understand some peoples reservation towards it – thick, sickly sweet and like cough syrup (apparently). The idea for this boozy dessert came from the mind of pastry chef Debbie Fuller in Lanarkshire to compliment the restaurants Scottish menu which already includes whisky and haggis fritters and Irn Bru sorbet.

James Perrie, executive head chef, said he wasn't surprised at the cheesecake's success. He said: "It’s very rich, very, very rich, but the mascarpone cheese dulls that down so it’s quite a mellow flavour in your mouth.”

This Scottish delicacy will now sit next to the 'Deep Fried Mars bar' and 'Irn Bru ice-cream'. It’s a novelty that will surely take off, and will no doubt be found on Scottish menus for the tourists and the curious to try for the many years to come. I am sure these Scottish culinary delights will later be joined by 'Irn Bru Crème Brulee' and 'Buckfast jelly', but I truly cannot see any of these creations being made by a Scottish ma or pa for afternoon tea canae? Yet it will become part of Scottish culture, for the tourist eh!

If your interested in seeing this dish on a plate, the link can be found here to BBC Scotland. Enjoy!

We are all foreigners somewhere

Few more days to raise awareness of Refugee Week in the UK.

I like how Shami Chakrabati's, Director of Liberty defines 'refuge'. She said 'we are all foreigners somewhere'. And it is something we tend to forget when we go on abroad for our holidays, or even when we move overseas and become fondly known as 'ex-pats', rather than '(im)migrants' or 'foreigners', a label that some of us are too keen to give to 'economic migrants', 'refugees' and 'asylum seekers', but rarely use ourselves.

We must remember that refugees and asylum seekers are people like us, with 'stories' to tell. If you have not had a chance to check out the Refugee Week website, please do. I won't say anymore on the subject now. Promise - I know it's supposed to be an 'allotment to kitchen' blog.

So to be true to the blog, I relate it to the 'kitchen'. If you are a food blogger check out this site, Cook a dish from another country. It may inspire you further.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus is in its final days, so I will be making the most of it in the next couple of days. I have just enjoyed a plate of simple 'asparagus risotto' drizzled with olive oil.
Right now I am also listening to the BBC national news in relation to climate change and how it is affecting the U.K, particularly Devon in England. Apparently we will be seeing more of banana and olive trees growing in peoples gardens, this may sound really lovely and even appealing, all that warm weather, but it is not good. This also means that there will be a decline of some of the traditional British crops and an increase in extreme weather conditions causing landslides and flooding. It sounds all rather depressing really.

Refugee Week - Different pasts, shared futures

Refugee Week is a UK wide programme of events which celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK. The theme in Scotland this year is 'What does Home mean to you?' It coincides with the Scottish governments 'Homecoming Scotland' initiative which is aimed primarily at Scots abroad. I wholeheartedly support admirable initiatives like 'Refugee Week in Scotland', but at the same time I donot want it to be a gimmick that people only participate in one week of the year, without thinking about the reality refugees and asylum seekers face on a daily basis.

Anyway, I just thought I would quickly share some work that occurred in the late 1990s in the UK when refugees and asylum seekers were first being dispersed to Scotland and negative attitudes were arising. This project involves refugees and asylum seekers in relation to the natural environment.
In 1997, refugees and asylum seekers from the rough estates of Glasgow had been actively engaged in improving the Scottish landscape by planting trees – a universal symbol of hope – on a mountain overlooking Loch Lomond. Cashel Forest is one of many Millennium Forest for Scotland projects, with the ambitious collective aim to restore something of the unique ecology of the Caledonian Forest. It was also the setting for an exciting partnership project, involving BEN, BTCV and the Scottish Refugee Council, which aimed to give excluded people a chance to use their skills, as volunteers, to contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of the environment in Scotland, and thereby to aid social integration.

This approach has been used by many other organisations since, as it benefits not only the volunteers themselves, but also the people in local communities with whom they come into contact. If you want to read more check out Cashel Forest. Its a little outdated but the principles remain and have since been adopted by other environmental organisations.

Unfortunately many of the issues such as racism and intolerance towards migrants and visible minority ethnic communities continues (direct and indirect), but projects such as these, and the work of the Refugee Council continue to challenge and dispel some of the 'untruths' spread about displaced people, not just for the week but each and every day.

I leave you with Paul Robeson, a black American actor, singer, civil rights campaigner who moved to Britain in the 1920s singing Loch Lomond. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Can't wait to start eating my own

and I think this weekend maybe the start.

These blackcurrants are teasing me.
As usual after work, I went over to the allotment to feed and water the plant, no need to water anything outside its been raining all -day, thank goodness. The strawberries are starting to redden beautifully, I have covered them with netting. I don't want the birds getting to them before me. There were even some ripening raspberries. The allium family are all beginning to bulge, I had to cut off the some of the leafy greens, as some of the plants were starting to bolt.

The lettuces in their many varieties are starting to look leafy and crisp. Some are ready for picking I think, but I will give it a few more days to bulk up even more.

Most of the potato plants at Plot 45 are starting to flower also, D suggested to start lifting the potatoes this week, as we have so many to through but I am not too sure.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are looking really good too, some of the tigerella's are beginning to fruit.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The ‘locavore’ and the 100 mile diet

I had come across a project known as the Fife Diet about two years ago, but skipped reading the article any further as I associated the word ‘diet' with the body conscious calorie counting kind.

It was only recently after reading that the Fife Diet had gained national recognition in the Observer Food Monthly for best ethical award that I decided to look into it further. The Fife Diet is based in the East of Scotland. The idea behind the Fife Diet is to live off local produce from within the area as much as possible, and to help reduce the food miles and carbon footprint of the average daily meal. The Fife Diet project was begun by Mike Small, who was inspired by green activists James B MacKinnon and Alisa Smith in Vancouver, Canada where they attempted to source food within a 100 mile radius, hence the ‘100 mile diet’. This diet has seen the emergence of a new term ‘locavore’ a person who eats locally sourced food.

The Fife Diet project now in its third year has been a resounding success boasting over 600 people now following the diet.
Although in the West of Scotland we have some organic farms and vegetable box schemes, I think we still has a little way to go in relation to local produce. Fife is at an advantage in that you can get flour milled in Kirkaldy, organic vegetables available throughout the year, reputable breweries, sparkling non-alcoholic drinks from Bouvrage and some of the best diaries. Even if the West of Scotland was to be on equal par to the East of Scotland in relation to regional produce, I as an individual would still not be able to commit to a ‘locavore’ diet and eat food only from the area for a number of reasons, but I will share only two.

Firstly, I am a vegetarian, and occasionally have to rely on vegetarian and vegan substitutes like soy, tofu, nuts, pulses and specialist ingredients like agar agar. Mikes wife Karen used to follow a vegetarian diet, but gave this up in order to remain true to the Fife diet, as her vegetarian diet could not be supported by produce grown in Fife, namely soy. However, I will not be giving up my vegetarian diet.

My second reason: as a South Asian British woman my diet has always consisted of spices, grains and pulses. Such food is an essential part of my ethnic and cultural identity. These ingredients, namely chilli, coriander, cumin spices, chickpea powder, rice and lentils are near impossible to source in the U.K, forget about locally. I would find it really difficult, in fact impossible to give up these tastes, textures and flavours. I suspect my Scot-Italian friends would find it so with olive oil and Scot-Greeks with olives and feta cheese; or if the situation was reversed, imagine a Scot living in South Africa without oats in his/her diet. Some things are just part of your cultural heritage.
So although, I admire and support the principles of the 100 mile diet, it is not a realistic possibility for these two reasons that make me who I am. But this does not mean I have rejected the idea, far from it. The 100 Mile Diet and Fife Diet have both made me reflect on the absurdity of importing food that can be grown locally such as strawberries (from Spain), green beans (from Kenya) or herbs like coriander (from Israel).
Such grassroots projects are valuable as they remind us of where our food comes from and what food is really about - to survive. They also allow us to inspect our own attitudes towards food. From buying food because it is in vogue (swirly creamy dyed cupcakes), or those endorsed as a power foods (such as the pomegranate, goji berry and blueberry), to drooling over food porn in glossy magazines and cookbooks, (which I must admit I have been guilty of a number of times), rather than looking at food as a necessity to survive. Such environmental initiatives including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have made me reflect on these unhealthy attitudes, as well as the packaging and cost of convenience food.
In the next 5 to 6 months, I think I will be following about 60%, maybe even 70% of the 100 mile diet, for example much of what I will feast upon will come from my allotment plot, I am far from being self-sufficient, but the plot will provide enough to feed a very small family, but even this has its limits. To some extent I am able to preserve some of the produce I grow in jars: as jams, sauces or pickles. I am also learning how to store onions, shallots and potatoes in sacks, but because I live in a small flat means I have little space for storage, especially in the kitchen which is 7 foot by 4 foot, which also means I do not have space for a small deep freezer where I could perhaps freeze some of my excess organic produce: rhubarb, berries, green beans and broad beans and so on that would last through the hungry gap. Instead when the hungry gap approaches, I heavily rely on my store cupboard ingredients (some of which are listed above).

I wish I could support this initiative wholeheartedly, but the regime also does not sit comfortably with my real life circumstances, and just because its local does not necessarily mean its competitive, for example that slab of Scottish churned butter from the ‘farmers market’ will cost around £2.50, but at the supermarket £1.09p. Nevertheless, I have adopted many of the principles of think global, eat local and seasonal. I buy Scottish local milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, crème fraiche and even bottled water (when necessary). Then I buy British, asparagus from England and shiitake mushrooms from Ireland. For goodness sake my salt sometimes comes from Maldon in Essex or Anglesey, North Wales. But my spices, grains and pulses still and will continue to come from overseas countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

To end, I do not think we can confine our eating habits to just local produce, we still need to import bananas, oranges, black pepper, coffee and tea (part of the British identity), not just from developing countries, but also developed countries that boast the best wines and cheeses in the world. We must also remember that Scotland as a nation heavily relies on exporting its whisky to the world, if everybody in the world just consumed what grew or was made on their door steps we would all miss out on the tastes, flavours, textures and smells of other countries rich cultural diversity.

These are just my personal thoughts on it. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. Let me know.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Grand Show of Prize Vegetarians

From Punch magazine 1852 (Courtesy of IVU). I have discovered that Punch had an earlier vegetarianism cartoon in 1848. If anyone has the earlier image (entitled 'The Vegetarian Movement') I would be delighted to see it.

Nature influences kindly

The chatty, curious and confident little girl who lives in the flat below us, has inadvertently been influenced by our growing and bird feeding antics. She watches D from the window when he fills the bird seed feeder, bird bath with water or hangs out fat balls from the cooking apple tree in the garden. So much so that she has persuaded her parents to start pegging fat balls on their washing line, so that she can attract and view the small birds in her garden, rather than ours.

Then there are days when she is watching me from the window: potting, planting or weeding something. She recently got her mother to buy some containers in which she and her younger sister planted some seeds that are awaiting germination. Sweet really. I'm kinda touched.

However, I don’t find it sweet first thing in the morning when her little sister screeches, and I mean screeches for attention. Over the past few weeks it has got worse, so much so that she has become our wake up alarm call in the morning, but I better not grumble too much, it could be much, much worse. Ah the joys of living in a flat.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Pyramids in my plot

A long day at the allotment today, so much is starting to grow, the strawberries are in that in-between colour from green to yellow-red and the broad beans are filling up, unfortunately I don't have pictures of them.
But I do of my first lot neckar tomatoes, a good few weeks away from being edible.
Blackcurrants are starting to ripen too. D covered one of the blackcurrant plants with netting, it looks rather hideous, but it has to be done, other wise the hungry birds will gorge on them. I peeked under the gooseberry bush netting too, the 'goosegogs' are fattening up, but I am waiting to hear from my fellow blog growers of when theirs are ready to pick, as those of us in the North, especially in Scotland are probably about two weeks behind.
These pretty red flowers are hestia buds, a dwarf green bean plant which should really be planted in pots. In my eagerness to plant out climbing green beans, I later realised that I had planted the dwarf beans out in error. Now it's going to be a mix and match frame, but they will still be green beans.
These are fennel, finally happy to be in the ground. Aren't the leaves beautiful, like peacock feathers but vibrant green.
This is the carrot box, doing just as well as the carrot plastic tub. The only thing looking sorry for itself are the marigolds, they seem to be twiggy.
This is the courgettes and squashes bed. The green netting behind covers some of my brassica plants: sprouting broccoli in this case and under the yellow netting is the blackcurrant plant I mentioned earlier.
I had some perspex pyramids recycled from somewhere or other, I decided to put it in good use and cover the squash family so to retain some warmth. I don't know if it will work or even if its necessary, but it looks good and has been amusing some of the other plot holders.