Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Caerphilly cheese and Welsh pakoras

As a welsh girl, I have to say a few words about Welsh cheese, and in particular Caerphilly cheese as I have been cooking a lot with it recently. This vegetarian cheese is made in South and West Wales. When young, Caerphilly has a moist, supple texture and fresh taste. However, with age, it becomes creamier around the edges and more flavoursome. This welsh cheese is less crumbly than its English counterparts such as Wensleydale and Lancashire.

If you get a chance try and get hold of a proper mature Caerphilly cheese. It really makes a difference from the crumbliness of a supermarket one. The real Caerphilly cheese has a proper rind with a soft yellowing edge and a creamy centre. Hence the famous Welsh rarebit, cheese on toast – you won’t get that lovely melty sheen with a crumbly cheese. Saying that I found it really difficult to track down authentic Caerphilly cheese in any of the local Scottish supermarket, I even tried I J Mellis: the West Ends best cheese monger who informed me that they no longer stock it, but had similar crumbly type cheese. Eventually I did track some down, but it was a supermarkets brand, not the real stuff, it will have to do for now.
You can make pakoras from any vegetable: aubergines, mushrooms as long as you make them with besan, also known as gram flour (chick pea flour). These pakoras are made with welsh flavours: finely shredded leeks and cubes of Caerphilly cheese. I served them with grated carrots stirred through natural yogurt , yes they are the carrots from the garden plot. I appreciate this may not be to everyones taste, but have a try at least.

Pakoras are not the easiest to photograph, they look rather messy, but let me tell you they are so delicious, you'll be going back for more.
Check Spelling
Traditional Welsh Pakora recipe
Makes about 12
Ingredients
100g potato, cut into small even sizes cubes
110g Caerphilly cheese, Wensleydale, Lancashire or cheddar will also work but the taste will be different, cut into small cubes
150g gram flour
1 leek, finely sliced
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 – 2 fresh green chilli, minced
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Cold water to bind mix
Oil for deep frying
Method
Place 150g gram flour in a large mixing bowl along with the potato cubes, leeks, cheese, fresh chilli, cumin seeds, chilli powder and salt. Now mix together. Add enough water to bind, you want to achieve a free form dropping consistency.

Heat the oil in a large pan or deep fat fryer, drop a few large tablespoons of batter gently into the hot oil, cook on one side for a couple of minutes until crispy and then turn over until the other side is crisp and golden too. Do this until all the pakora mix is used. Eat immediately, while fresh and crispy.

Allotment2Kitchen complete Seed List 2009

My seeds from the Organic Gardening catalogue arrived about a fortnight ago. Below is my complete seed list. Yes, I know there is quite a lot there, and I must admit I won't get round to planting them all, but I am happy in the knowledge that next year, I will have to spend less.

I have kept an allotment diary since 2007. My allotment diary keeps me informed what seeds need to be sown and what can be transplanted out. Without it I would be at all over the place. I also write down what had done well and what has not, so it's a good way to compare different seasons too.

BRASSICA
Cabbage
: Greyhound; Marner Early Red; Vertus, Minicole F1,Hispi F1, Pixie
Broccoli: Calabrese F1 Arcadia; Purple Sprouting Early, Sprouting White, 9 Star Perennial
Cauliflower: Snowball A, Romanesco natalino; Purple Cape, Violet Queen, Igloo
Kale: (Borecole) Dwarf Green Curled Kale, Redbor; Nero Di Toscana, Nero di toscano
Brussels Sprouts: Bedford Fillbasket; F1 Silverline, Rubine
PUMPKIN AND SQUASH
Courgette
: Albarello di Sarzana, Goldie; Rondo Di Nizza
Pumpkins: Blue Ballet; Golden Apple, Sweet Lightning Pumpkin
LEGUMES
Peas:
Cavalier; Ambassador
Runner Beans: Hestia; Scarlet Runner
Climbing French Beans: Neckar Gold; Blue Lake; Blauhilde,
Dwarf Beans: Dwarf Speedy, Ferrari, Purple Queen, Major
Broad Beans: Super Aquadulce, Masterpiece Green Longpod
ROOTS
Parsnips:
White Gem
Carrots: Kuttiger; Autumn King; Baby; Chatenay, Rainbow, Yellowstone,Purple Haze, Resistafly
Fennel: Finale
Beetroot: Barabietola di Chioggia; Golden Detroit, Golden
Kohlrabi: Olivia,
Turnip: Purple Top Milan
ALLIUMS
Onions:
Stutgart and Red Baron
Leeks: Prizetaker, Bandit; Pandora
Garlic
Shallots
Spring Onions: Red Beard
Radish: Bright Lights
LETTUCES, SALADS AND EDIBLE LEAVES
Chard:
Rainbow Chard, Bright Lights, White Silver 2
Marvel of four Seasons; Torale Ice Queen, Roxy; Paris Island Cos; Red Batvian; Veneziana; Rouge D’Hiver
Lollo Ross; Red Salad Bowl;
Salad Mix: Oriental Mix; Spicy Mix,
Strawberry Spinach
Good King Henry
Rocket
HERBS
Lovage; Dill; Garlic Chives, Chervil, Sorrel
Basil: Lemon; Dark Opal
COMPANION FLOWERS
Sunflower: Russian Mammoth; Autumn Beauty
Nastitium: Tall Mixed; Peach Melba
Dwarf Sweet Peas, Marigold and Calendula
GREENHOUSE
Tomatoes:
Gardeners Delight, Tigerella, Nectar; Ailsa Craig and Golden Sunrise

Monday, 30 March 2009

Plot 45 Crop Rotation Plan 2009

I've finally decided what goes where for this year. Below is a copy of my Plot Rotation plan.

Attached to it is also D's plot Rotation Plan. He had decided to work on half of it, as the other side is just too boggy to grow crops in. Saying that he has been thinking about having a mini orchard on the boggy side, and growing veg that require low maintenance such as brassicas and potatoes on the other.

I have been trying to convince him to give up Plot 11 and we can just focus on Plot 45 together. But after yesterdays hard digging, weeding and bringing it back up to scratch, he's become so enthused about plot 11 again, that feels he has the energy to work on it further. I am not completely convinced, but will see how it goes. One thing that we have agreed on is to move his mangled greenhouse over to my plot, away from those stone throwing kids.

Fresh carrots from a garden pot

Early this month, I was doubting the fact that carrots were still being grown somewhere in the UK. Then while pottering in the garden, I came across a small pot where I had planted some carrot seeds, and to my surprise unearthed some baby carrots.
Wow!!!
And the smell is so strong.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

In the bag: Welsh Glamorgan Pakora

As I mentioned yesterday, every month food blogger A Slice of Cherry Pie hosts a competition called In the bag to come up with a recipe using seasonal ingredients. The seasonal ingredient in the bag for March are leeks. As a Welsh girl how could I resist, as well as the fact that I have some growing at my plot. Also in the bag are some eggs and cheese. So here is my entry which also incorporates flavours from my South Asian heritage - Welsh Glamorgan pakoras.

Well why not, we have all heard of the Scottish haggis pakora, but not the Welsh Glamorgan pakora. So here it made with leeks, Caerphilly cheese and some spices. Enjoy!!!
I tweaked with the traditional Glamorgan sausage recipe, adding spices in place of the mustard powder, and instead of making sausage shapes, I formed the mix into small balls about the size of a golf ball, which are then dipped in a chickpea batter. Please, please don’t attempt to make those monstrous things called bhaji’s – the size of a baseball, they are never satisfying and most always tend to be raw on the inside. Not good for the belly either.
Welsh Glamorgan Pakora bites recipe Makes 12
Ingredients
150 - 200g Gram flour
Salt to taste
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder
Cold water

110g Caerphilly cheese, cheddar will also work well, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs
150g fresh white or wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 leek, finely sliced or minced
1 – 2 fresh green chilli, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne or chilli powder
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 large egg, beaten
Salt to taste

First make the batter: Add salt and cayenne or chilli to the gram flour, then add enough water until you achieve a good dipping consistency. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

In the meantime: make the pakora bites: Place 150g breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl along with the leeks and cheese. Then add the herbs, cumin seeds, minced chilli, spices and seasoning of salt. Now add the egg and stir to bind together. I tend to use my hands. Then divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and then using your hands roll each piece into the shape of a golf ball, squeezing gently to hold it together.

Now dip in batter

Coat the balls evenly in the gram flour batter.
Too cook the pakora bites, deep fry in a large pan for about 6 minutes till all sides are crisp and golden. These can be made in advance, and reheated in the oven

To serve: dip pakoras in natural yogurt. Yum - what a success! Why had I not thought of these before? So here goes, let see what you all think?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Muddy leeks in the bag

Everything was looking well at the plot earlier. I admired my daffodils for awhile, then watered what needed to be watered and potted the tomato seedlings.
Then I pulled out some leeks from the ground. Wow the smell. These are Musselburgh leeks also known as the Scotch flag. I put them in a the bag and headed off home.
I must admit I have been feeling a little creative recently. So when I read that Fellow food blogger Julia who runs the inspirational and wonderful A Slice of Cherry Pie, on which every month she co hosts a competition with Scott of the Real Epicurean to come up with a recipe using seasonal ingredients. I must admit I was tempted.

The seasonal ingredient in the bag for March is leeks, along with eggs and cheese. How can I resist?

Bumblebee identification, free seeds and soup

This morning D and me went along to an Allotment Forum held by the local council today in the city centre. It was okay. There were many stalls there, by the usual organisations such as: the RSPB, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Soil Association, Butterfly Conservation and many more. Plus there workshops on: organic gardening, allotment design, compost, raised beds and contaminated plots. Entry was free and the aim of the day was to promote allotment ethos. I was impressed with the growing with schools projects. Many of the kids were dipping their little noses into something called the smelly box. It was good to see that kind of engagement. It was also good to see some representation of local allotments (not ours of course), as well as view some displays of people posing with big smiles showing off their prize vegetables or plots with pride.
I managed to acquire some free seeds. Seeds that I probably would not have purchased, but may now grow, and if I don't use them, I am happy to give them to a fellow allotmenteer.
I also found some information on bumblebees, remember one of my earlier blogs I said I had to learn more about bumble bee identification, so this was a good discovery.

After a bit of a walk in the city centre, purchase of a DVD and a CD, we came back home for some left over rosemary, leek and potato soup, before heading out again, this time to visit the allotment.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Quesadillas with drunken beans

I made this recipe early this week, for a quick after work meal. Once the beans have been made the rest is pretty straightforward. And what a good way to end a working week.

Quesadillas with drunken beans
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 - 6 fresh red and green chillies, chopped
1 x 400g canned chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g canned pinto or borlotti beans
1 small bottle of light pilsner beer, you will only need 200ml
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
4 tablespoons of jalapeno vinegar from the jar
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
For Quesadillas
8 large tortilla wraps
4 spring onion, chopped
200g cheddar cheese, grated
Optional: Sour cream and Jalapeno peppers to serve
 
Method
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, and fry until soft and translucent. Add garlic, chillies and cumin and fry until fragrant, then add the tomatoes.

Drain one can of beans and add to the pan, then add the other with its liquid, along with vinegar, 200ml lager and slat and pepper to taste and stir well. Bring pot to the boil, then reduce and simmer for about 30 – 40 minutes, or until thickened. Taste for seasoning and stir in coriander.

You can eat it like this served simply in bowls with sour cream, but I take it a step further and make Quesadillas.

To assemble: Lightly oil a baking tray, then put on one tortilla wrap, spread drunken beans evenly, and cover with another tortilla wrap, sprinkle cheese and spring onions. Repeat the process for other tortilla wraps until you have four, then bake in oven for 10 minutes till cheese has melted and crispy on the edges. You may have to do this two at a time, if your oven is small like mine.
Although this recipe contains some alcohol it does evaporate on cooking.

Stereotype of an allotment holder

I often get wide eyed looks from colleagues at work when I tell them I have an allotment, they respond in bewilderment, ‘but you don’t loot like an allotment holder’. And I think to myself what does a allotment holder look like? Apparently the stereotype is either of a retired working class old man or middle aged man in a flat cap, braces and pipe with a healthy appetite for producing the largest root vegetable and using 'industrial' language now and again. Although this is a stereotypical and clich├ęd image of the past, it does to some extent still exist at some allotment sites.
However, things have definitely changed over the past few years. The profile of the allotment holder nowadays includes women, young families and schools who want to introduce children to both the seasonality of fruit and vegetables, as well as the provenance of food. Community groups highlight the therapeutic values of outdoor spaces and horticulture, as well as the social aspect of it. Allotments also allow people to be a bit more creative, get some exercise that they perhaps would not otherwise get. Some people want to simply grown their own vegetables as it tends to be much cheaper and tastier than shop bought ones. Others have eco green credentials and concern over environmental damage done by food miles. These are some of the reasons that allotments are enjoying a renaissance, but it is also a lifestyle choice as well. For people like myself who work five days a week, travelling to and from an office, and not doing much by way of creativity on weekdays, the allotment is my way of escaping the manic of a busy workplace, and getting some exercise, breathing fresh air and producing good food. However, my career demands mean I have to settle for being “a weekend allotmenteering woman” but the hours I do spend there, I thoroughly enjoy. I also get to dress down and get dirty, a good change from the smart office suit.

When I was a kid growing up in Wales, both my parents were keen vegetable growers. As gender roles would dictate, my father would always do the digging and my mother the planting and harvesting in our small back garden. My mother would grow simple food like green beans, peas, spinach, mustard leaves, mooli, radishes, tomatoes, herbs such as coriander and parsley, nothing too ambitious as she had limited space. It never occurred to her to get her own allotment plot I think because she never knew how to go about acquiring one.

I remember my Dad composting food waste; this was before compost bins appeared on the market. He would instruct us to throw any kitchen waste and cardboard in a corner of the garden and then throw an old carpet over it to exclude the light. I used to cringe, thinking my Dad was embarrassing us with his backward farmyard ways. But now on reflection, I know this was old fashioned method composting, a few months later, when he pulled up the carpet to reveal lovely rich soil converted from waste to lush rich soil. My father would get us all to take turns to dig the soil and my mother would encourage us to plant the seedlings into the ground and do the watering, but we’re we interested? Did we want to get our mitts dirty with grubby soil? Heck we did, I just wanted to get lost in adventure books and brothers wanted to play fight each other.

Now many years later, I finally caught the growing bug, I knew about allotments, I knew how to put my name on a list, and finally I got my own plot. My mother comes and visits me at least once a year, and she times it to coincide with the growing season usually between July and September. So she gets to relish in what I am growing. It makes me glow and so happy inside.
So what does this allotmenteer look like? Well she is female, petite and working full-time. I am of South Asian heritage. I do not follow any particular religion or belief. My diet is primarily vegetable and fruit based, complimented with wholefood ingredients such as grains, beans and pulses. I care about our environment and animal welfare. Yes, I am one of the many people whose face has changed allotment sites in the U.K, bringing much more than exotic vegetables, and ethnic cuisines; I also bring with me change.

Many allotments in England, especially places like London, Birmingham and Manchester are very culturally and ethnically diverse, but Scotlands allotments are still very reflective of its past, though some changes are being seen with community integration projects.

To end, last year I gave Pear Tree Wullie who must be in his eighties a courgette, but this was no ordinary green courgette, it wasn’t even a yellow courgette. It was a Ronda di nizza (a beautiful round courgette). He looked at it scratching his head and then said ‘I’ve been growing vegetables for over 40 years and I have never seen anything like this. What do you do with it?’ Ah the joys to come!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Leek, rosemary and chick pea soup

I made this wholesome and delicious soup with the leeks that I picked up from the plot early this week. The rosemary was from the garden border, and the chick peas from a tin in my makeshift store cupboard. A warming meal for a blustery rainy evening.
Leek, rosemary and chick pea soup
Serves 4 generously

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped,
400g leeks
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g potatoes, chopped into small cubes
200g cooked chick peas
2 pints of vegetable stock
2 sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
Method
Heat oil, in a large pan and cook the onions until soft. Slice the leeks in half length ways, wash them well of grit and chop them across into thin slices. Add the leeks with the garlic to the pot and stew everything together for 10 minutes. Then add the potatoes, chickpeas, stock and the rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove and throw away the rosemary sprigs. Then take out about one third of the vegetables. Use a hand blender or a food processor to blend the remaining soup in the pot. Put back the blended soup and vegetables you took out and stir well. Add seasoning and reheat gently before serving with homemade crusty bread.

PS Please don't be tempted to put in too much rosemary, it will begin to taste soapy. An adaptation from Paradiso Seasons

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Presto Pasta Nights Entry

This is my entry to Presto Pasta Nights which is now in its 3rd year. Presto Pasta Nights event has a very simple pre-requisite. The dish must have some sort of noodle, it doesn't have to be traditional Italian type pasta, it can be hot, cold, salad, soup, main, dessert, or anything else, but it must have some kind of noodle. Simple enough, isn't it?!

This weeks PPN event #106 is being hosted by Aquadaze at Served with Love. It runs between March 21st - March 26th. So you still have time to put in an entry. The round up will be done on March 27th. So good luck to you.

This is my entry. Spaghetti with spiced chick-peas. I often make this pasta dish as it is quite quick to put together, especially after a long day at work. And with March traditionally being called the 'hungry gap' in relation to local, seasonal produce, I rely on my well stocked kitchen cupboard which is full of good diverse ingredients including standbys such as tins of tomato, tins of chickpeas and spaghetti pasta.

Spaghetti with spiced chick-peas
Serves 2 - 3
Ingredients
250g dried spaghetti
100 ml olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tin of cooked chick peas, about 200g
½ tin of tomatoes, about 200g
½ teaspoon of turmeric1
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
Handful of freshly chopped coriander leave
Salt and pepper to taste
Method
Cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to packet instructions.
In a pan, heat olive oil and gently fry onion and garlic until soft.
Add turmeric, cumin and chilli flakes and cook for a few minutes, then add tomatoes and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced to a thick sauce.
Add chick peas, cook for about 5 minutes.Add coriander leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix the drained pasta to the spiced chick pea sauce and serve between 2 - 3 plates

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Roasted cauliflower with dukkah

This is the only image I have of a cauliflower snowball that I grew last year. I was so proud of it, it was the only one that I managed to harvest before it started to bolt. Is that the right term?Anyway, I still have some seeds left over from last year, so intend to grow them again, along with Igloo. Its a good small variety for a small family; or two hungry people.
Dukkah which originated in ancient Egypt is a dry dip made with a mixture of nuts and spices. I often make more than I need, as it is hard to reduce the quantities in this recipe. I tend to use dukkah mainly for snacks such as dipping crusty bread, first in good olive oil and then in dukkah. Very moreish. I have also used it over roasted potatoes and wedges.

Here I have used it to spice up a bland cauliflower. I simply parboiled the cauliflower florets till they were al dente, drained them and then lightly coated them with olive oil and the dukkah and then baked it in the oven till golden.

Dukkah (makes about 2 cups)
Ingredients
1/2 cup of each: sesame seeds; sunflower seeds; and pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of each: cumin seeds; and coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 tablespoon of paprika or to taste
Method
Heat the oven to gas mark 6.

First put the sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds into roast for 5 minutes, then add the cumin and coriander seeds and roast for a further 5 minutes, or until you can smell the aromas. Keep an eye on the oven, you don't want to overdo it.

Leave to cool, then grind with salt, paprika in a food processor. You may have to do this in batches. Thew final mixture should be grainy, not an oily powder.

Store in an airtight kilner jar in a cool cupboard. It should last up to three months.

Spot the difference

More pictures from this weekends hard work at the allotment. Now look and see if you can spot the difference?
This is a picture from a year and a half ago, look at the left side of the photo by the yellow hut.

Now look at the picture below from this weekend.
No fern tree. It was hard work sawing through the wood, but it served no purpose other than taking up valuable space. In this now vacant spot, I am hoping to move in our rescued mangled greenhouse that is presently located at Plot 11. I will have to bribe some friends with a good meal as I will need extra hands to lift and relocate the greenhouse, and then I will be ready to grow a lot more tomatoes and other exotics.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Allotment Committee meetings

The allotment site where I have my plot are having their first meeting of 2009 on Sunday the 5th April. The last meeting was in October 2008. So there has been a lapse of 6 months.

Some people, including myself turned up at 1pm in November 2008, some people wanted to pay their plot fees, others just wanted to voice concerns. We all believed there was a meeting, especially as we only had our Annual Open Day and had just voted in some new committee members (who were also keen to learn about their new duties). So we all waited patiently for the President who was there all morning with his wandering dog, but had made himself scarce an hour before the meeting, the Treasurer turned up albeit a little late and the Secretary, well she did not turn up at all, so the meeting did not go ahead. Members of the allotment including myself were most annoyed, so were the new committee members.

I have never known an committee have no meetings for 6 months. I know during December with Christmas upon us and even the New Year there may be genuine reasons to postpone a committee meeting, but what about the other four months. I have been told, apparently this is quite normal. This particular allotment association does not have meetings during the winter season because there are hardly any people around, but I don’t think this is acceptable, what happens when someone has something they are wanting addressed, they have to wait six months before they are heard. A lot can happen in six months and tensions can build up.

I appreciate people on the committee do this voluntarily, but these meetings only take place once a month and for only an hour. So I ask of those of you who may know different, how often do your Allotment Committee members meet? And is this quite normal?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

A2K Some cookbooks from my library

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Weekend allotmenteering

Another day at the allotment. You might have guessed it by now, that I am a weekend allotmenteer, as I am working full time, but whenever I do go to my plot, I do thoroughly enjoy it, especially now with the weather changing. Saying that, it was not as nice today as it was yesterday when the sun was blazing warm, but work had to be done. So I put on some layers and went down to the allotment.
Bees Welcome. Last year a lot of bees were entering a small cranny on the side of my tool shed. The bees would literally fly by an inch of my face to make way to this temporary home of theirs. Bees are relatively harmless. They only bother you if you bother them. I decided to name the tool hut beehive hut. Hopefully, I will get some visitors, they can be quite entertaining to watch. I saw another fuzzy bee today, it was hovering as if it were either drunk or sleepy headed. Either way I was both amused and excited to see bees again. I do need to learn the different varieties of bees that are out there. I can't just keep calling them bumble bees. Like humanity, there is also diversity amongst bees.
These baby daffodils are on the outside of my greenhouse, very welcoming.
These are the daffodils I wanted to show off on St Davids day early this month, but they had not opened their heads. Here they are now, in all their yellow glory.
Finally the potato seeds are in. D chose Maris Bard (First Early); Orla (Second Early); Desiree; and King Edward(Maincrop).
Tidy potato rows. Now lets take a peek at what's happening in the greenhouse.
These are broad bean seedlings. Sorry this is not a great picture, but there is a reason. Honest. In the past the mice have stolen my legume seeds, so this time I am well prepared and grow legumes under netting until they are about an inch or so high.
Leeks starting to emerge from the soil.
Cabbage Hispi coming up, they look almost like baby four leaf clovers. Ah.
Purple Top milan Turnips growing strong.
Trays of other seeds still to spurt into action.

For snacks this evening, we are finishing off the rest of the sweet potato coins aka falafels from yesterday. These will again be eaten in pitta bread with the last of my oriental winter salad from the greenhouse. See yesterdays blog for image.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Bumble bees and Sweet potato falafels

Spent most of the day at the allotment. Quite proud of myself. I have done quite lot of work today with a little help from D. I even saw my first two fuzzy bumble bees of the year, a sure sign of spring.

Now onto food - Ds not a fan of falafels, he calls them 'feel awfuls' as they sit heavy in his belly. I came across this recipe for Sweet potato falafels in Allegra McEvedy Leon. It is apparently one of the most popular veggie dishes served at Leons, loved by vegetarians and non vegetarians alike, so of course I had to try it out myself. Also a year or so ago, I purchased a falafel shaper, so was eager to try out my gadget and test out this recipe. The falafel shaper was a bit flimsy, but it did the job.

You definitely need something on the side to cut through the sweetness of the potatoes. We had them inside pitta bread with coriander yogurt sauce. I also think they would be good as part of a mezze. I have just tweaked the herbs and spices a little to suit my taste buds, and changed the name from sweet potato falafels to sweet potato coins, because that is how they turned out from the falafel shaper, otherwise the recipe is to the book
Sweet potato coins. Adapted from Leon. Makes about 20.
Ingredients
700g medium sweet potatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
40g fresh coriander, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
120g besan, gram flour also known as chickpea powder
Olive oil to coat the baking tray
Generous sprinkling of sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to gas mark 7 and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender (between 45 minutes to an hour). I tend to pierce the potatoes as I am paranoid they might blow in the oven.

When potatoes are cooked through, turn of the oven and leave them to cool until you are able to peel of the skins. Then put the potatoes, garlic, spices and fresh herb, lemon juice and flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash lightly until you have a smooth mix with no chunks. Put the bowl into the fridge to allow the mixture to firm up for about an hour.

Oil a baking tray. Turn the oven to gas mark 6. Using a couple of large spoons, put a well heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides. Or use a falafel shaper and put onto oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then flips oven and give it another 5 minutes until golden.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Greek flat mates and Spanakopita

In my student days, I lived for a little while in student accommodation. I shared the flat with three lads, two of whom were Greek (one from Athens and the other Thessaloniki) and the other Irish.

On one of the days, I made some vegetable pakoras containing simple ingredients: thin slices of onion, cubes of potatoes and shredded baby spinach with the obvious spices and gram flour. I made a large tray of pakoras for friends I was expecting over, and then left them in the oven on very low heat. Every time I went to the kitchen and checked the oven, I noticed that the tray of pakoras was slowly shrinking. The culprits were my Greek flat mates, who confessed and declared it one of the most delicious snacks they had ever eaten.

When we parted, one of the Greek lads took the recipe for pakoras from me. I took a recipe for spanakopita from them. A fair exchange I thought. But from the Greek girl downstairs who also came from Thessaloniki I got a recipe for both Moussaka and Spanakopita.

So this is what I made with the perpetual spinach from the garden plot from early this week.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Chestnut Mushrooms in deep red sauce

This is a good versatile pasta sauce. I use it for lasagne. I add veggie ‘meat’ balls to it too . I usually make it over the weekend, so that we have enough for two meals over the working week. Once the sauce is made, the rest of the meal really just takes minutes. This recipe requires cooking with extra virgin olive oil. I don’t often cook with extra virgin olive oil, its usually used as a dip or drizzle, but in this case I do think it adds a flavour, a depth that you cannot achieve with plain olive oil.

Versatile Italian Red Sauce
(makes about 375ml)
Ingredients
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 x 400g tinned tomato sauce
1 small carrot, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 celery stick, cleaned and halved
Sprig of parsley
2 whole cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
Method
Blend the tinned tomatoes in a food processor. Then combine all the ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat. As soon as the sauce comes to the boil, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Taste and add seasoning. If the sauce is too sharp for your liking add another tablespoon of olive oil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the aromatic vegetables with a slotted spoon and use the sauce as desired.
For the Chestnut Mushrooms
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small onion, finely sliced

Saute the onion and crushed garlic in olive oil, until caramelised. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are browned. Then add the tomato sauce. Stir well to combine the ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Serve with pasta or plain boiled rice.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A true vegetarian Irish Plate

Today I was working the early Shift. I am not so good getting out of bed so early, especially when it is still so dark in the morning, but it was good to be finishing at 2pm, then you have the rest of the afternoon to yourself. So what did I do with a few hours of my afternoon? I went into the city centre and visited a couple of High Street bookstores and scoured their shelves for Traditional Irish Vegetarian recipes. I flicked through the Irish Kitchen, the Irish Pub, The Celtic Cookbook and a few others. Other than the recipes I’ve mentioned in one of my previous blogs. There was nothing to support Traditional Irish Vegetarian cuisine. When I got back home, I also researched on some websites and blogs, and found countless veganized and vegified Irish recipes, such as Irish Stew, but none of these enticed me to recreate them at home.

So in the end I decided, why all the fuss of trying to veganize or vegify a classic Irish recipe. Why don’t I just keep this evenings meal pure, simple and still rooted in aspects of Traditional Irish Vegetarian food that promises to be both comforting and deliciously hearty.
So here is it, may I present to you Shamrock potato cake served with braised cabbage and carrots. No meat imitations or substitutes required. The shamrock is St Patrick's symbol, he used it to explain the concept of the Trinity.
And will I be having a pint of Guinness to wash down my hearty meal?. The answer is no. Firstly, Guinness is neither vegan or vegetarian as it uses isinglass (fish bladder) in the filtering process. I think there are other alternatives for both vegans and vegetarians, but I really wouldn’t know as I have not done my research in this area, and the reason I have not done my research here supports my second reason for not having Guinness tonight. And the honest reason is that I simply am not a beer drinker, never mind being a Guinness drinker. Oh McNulty would be so disappointed in me! But I hope he understands that my heart is in the right place.

To everyone celebrating St Patricks Day, I hope you have a good evening.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Allotment2Kitchen collage #1

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Bird feeders - how many do you have?

Yesterday while tidying up the garden plot, I couldn't help but notice how many bird feeders have. Quite a few.
This one is mainly for the Field fair.
This one is for the blue tits, coal tits and Great Tits, but also for the wrens and sparrows.
Is free for all - mainly small birds.
Bird Table is for the robin.
Although bought with good intentions, this one is purely decorative, but the coconut shell does sometimes hold a suet ball.

The magpies, blackbirds, thrush and gang of starlings tend to scavenge on the ground for seed droppings or suet ball bits, and if their really lucky a worm or two.

In the past, the garden bird feeders and apple tree has also attracted Waxwings and a Woodpecker. The RSPB or SRSPB would be proud of us!