Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Garden Going Green

Bit more progress on the garden front.

Since finishing the weeding, all we've done in the garden is build some wigwams and climbing frames for legumes and sweet peas. 
Everything else is flourishing lush and green; and why not - there has been plenty of rain and shine, albeit on and off. 
Here are some raspberry  bushes and dotted around it are strawberries.
 Here's the interesting thing, its still only April, well just - and I have strawberry flowers coming up.  Does anyone else have strawberry flowers?
Okay that the groundwork, here in pots the potatoes are doing pretty good too.  We have thrown some more soil into the pot to top it off.
 In the greenhouse, some lettuces, 
Peas (and broad beans - not shown) in pots screaming to be put into the ground, they may just get their wish on Sunday.
I tend to start of my beetroot in the greenhouse and then transplant them to the ground.  I don't know if this is the right thing to do, but I haven't had much problems in the past, other than they are quite small to medium roots.  What do you think?
Its not all been good in the greenhouse, we have had slug problems, but we think that has been addressed now.  We didn't have shelving in the greenhouse, so a lot of the seedlings were set on the ground, I know we are asking for trouble.  Anyway, at the weekend we picked up some of those three tier PVC greenhouse with mesh shelving (as well as Growing Success Slug Killer).  that should resolve the issue.  
Click on the above image and you will see a dead snail belly up.  I never said I was an angel.  

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Fennel and Black Olive Risotto

The weather doesn't know what to do with itself, one hour the sun is shining warmly on our  heads, the next the rain is falling on our heads.  

This unpredictable weather has got me wanting soothing comforting food - like risotto - twice in one month, what do you say to that?!.  I  picked up a  very expensive Florence Fennel from the farmers market at the weekend.  It was certainly a bulbous specimen, a female fennel for sure.  Yes, the vegetable fennel does have a gender, something I learnt a few years back from reading one of my cookbooks by Italian vegetarian food writer Ursula Ferrigno.  The taller thin bulbs are male.  

Anyway, as I was saying this fennel was quite expensive - it was sold by the weight, and my nephew happened to picked out the biggest!  So not to forget about it in the vegetable basket I made a point of making a meal of it sooner rather than later.   
Here is the finished dish - Fennel Risotto.  I decided to add some black olives to the dish for piquancy, as I felt the contrast with the fresh fennel aniseed flavour would work well and it did.  It's a naturally creamy dish too, I have added no cream or cheese to it, but if you wish to do so, please do - I would probably recommend a blue cheese.

Monday, 28 April 2014

True Lips Tulips

I'm not much of a flower person, unless of course they are a companion flowers for vegetables or edible ones like nasturtiums.  marigolds, borage, pansy, cornflower, violets, saying that I do like posy of scented sweet peas.

Today, I thought I would share a some flowers that are coming up in the front of our new house (not the back garden where we are planning to just grow vegetables).  Every other day, there is a new stem of colour that has emerged from the ground to surprise us, it makes me smile.  This has delighted me as I was going to (and probably still will) throw some wild flower seeds, as the garden romantic in me would like the bees and butterflies to flutter by and enjoy as they go by their merry business.  For now, I am enjoying seeing what different flowers pop up here and there, many I do not know the name of, but these I do - tulips.  The tulips have replaced the daffodils.
So why true lips, tulips ? 

One of my nephews just could not say the word tulips, so I said to him say true lips, he did.  I encouraged him to keep repeating it.  Then I said remove the R and try saying it.  He was able to say tue-lips and kept repeating it until it was natural - Tulips.  He smiled..  
I am enjoying the tulips while they stand proud, not for long as the rain is giving them a good hard battering.  

Friday, 25 April 2014

Rhubarb Crowns

My rhubarb is growing fantastically well.

I've got a few ideas of what I would like to do with it when it comes to harvesting, but one of the very first dishes I will be making is what has become a firm in our home - Celia's Rhubarb and Lentil Curry.   For the recipe follow this link.  The recipe is vegan, but we like to serve it with a dollop of natural yogurt on the side.  I am sharing Celia's Rhubarb and Lentil Curry because I think it is worth sharing with Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes for this months edition of Bookmarked Recipes #32.
Anyway, what will you be making with rhubarb?!   Come on, please share some rhubarb inspiration.  I am always looking to try some new rhubarb  sweet and savoury recipes.  Here's some to inspire you. 
One of the most popular recipes on my blog that has inspired fellow bloggers to create their own combinations was this Rhubarb and Rose Petal Butter,  closely followed by Rhubarb and Hibiscus Butter (pictured above).
Fancy some Rhubarb Scones
Rhubarb and Ginger Muffins in some of my treasured and cherished teacups and saucers.
Rhubarb, Rose Petals and White Chocolate Flapjacks cut out in a heart shape.  
Rhubarb and Rosemary Cookies.  
Pink Rhubarb Sorbet - one of the very first Rhubarb recipes to feature on my blog.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Chickpeas and Peach Curry

Inspired by Jack Monroe.

Many of you know that I have not been buying any cookbooks due to lack of income, and have been borrowing books from my library for the past couple of year.  I am patiently waiting for Jack Monroe doesn't seem to have hit the bookshelves there yet, unless some eager beaver already has his/her mitts on it. I've been told it has a lot of vegetarian recipes, so I am keen to flick through its pages.  But I am a little impatient, as the one recipe I have been hearing a lot about is the Peach and Chickpea Curry and its got me excited of sorts.  

One of my weekly university student budget standby dishes would be a Chickpea Curry with white rice.  I would often bulk up the Chickpea Curry by adding another vegetable, mostly a green veg like broccoli or a leafy green like spinach.  The last time I made a variation of Chickpea Curry was not too long ago, when I was experimenting with wild garlic and made a pot of Wild Garlic Chickpea Curry. Well this recipe is that very same recipe, except for a couple of changes.  In place of butter I have used vegetable oil and instead of adding the wild garlic towards the end, I have tossed in slices of peaches including its juices.  
I was never a fan of sweet and sour or even spicy combination, but over the years my palette has been more welcoming.  I've had curry dishes with hunza apricots, raisins and sultanas, but never peach, saying that though I did make Curried Peach Tartlets a while back, but I wasn't that keen on it.
This however, I thoroughly enjoyed.  I am also pleased in the knowledge that I ate some fruit (albeit from a tin).  I am very good at eating my vegetables, but terrible when it comes to fruit.  Tinned fruit might be the way to go for me, well at least in the autumnal and winter seasons.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Day of rest

I was hoping to do a bit of gardening today, but its been rather nippy and breezy that I did not wish to stay out in the garden too long, I fib, at all in fact and was chased back to the warmth of the indoors.

Its been a rather lazy day, really. But instead of sitting in front of the computer catching up with blog reads (namely because the Internet has been temperamental), I've been sitting watching DVDs, flicking through cookbooks for inspiration and listening to music.  

Food has been a lazy affair too.  
Pan fried gnocchi with sauteed kale topped off with some Gorgonzola cheese. 

Here's hoping tomorrow will be a better day and we can get some work done, like build those wigwams for the the sweet peas to start climbing up. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Vegan Mexican Tamale Pies

Since my culinary adventure came to an expected end, I did not completely turn away from the local food scene.  I have a food stall at selected food markets.  I have been keeping a foot in partly to stay focused and partly to earn a little income whilst hunting for full-time employment, but truth is I barely break even, still it keeps me distracted of sorts.  I am trying best to create original and different portable vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as cakes that no-one else is selling at food markets.   

Well one of the original pies that I have recently introduced has been these individual Mexican Tamale Pies.  There are lots of Mexican Pies about encased in pastry, but not like this one.  I've been describing these as a Mexican version of a Sherpherds Pie - soy mincemeat base with beans and topped off with a creamy cornmeal topping.  And to make them more appealing to the eye, I have topped them off with a dried red chilli.  Unlike my other pastry pies, I do-not advise on eating these cold or even at room temperature, but to take home and re-heat in the oven (or microwave if you so wish). 

Today, these sold out.  They sold out last weekend too! 
One of my customers is from Mexico and she has given it the thumbs up, saying she is neither vegetarian or vegan for that, but these vegan Mexican Tamale Pies mimics the real thing she is used to back home real good.  A good compliment don't you think?! 

If you wish to see the filling, please follow this link where I have made this very same recipe in individual serving dishes 
I am sharing some of these individual Mexican Tamale Pies with Vanesther at Bangers and Mash who is hosting Mexican Month on the Spice Trail - Ariba Ariba!.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Garden Dug

Early in the month I showed you my new growing space - click here if you missed that post.
Well let me show you some good progress 
I dug this front part up a couple of weeks back and out of nowhere raspberry stalks have sprung up.  Too many in fact, that I am trying to control them, as I want a vegetable patch, not a raspberry garden.
Here is the garden from the top end.  I started the weeding and digging, and D finished it off just a few hours back.  He's going to have a sore back tomorrow, its been a long while since he dug the ground.  Like me, he is very excited to be growing fruit and vegetables again, but for him - its the greenhouse - he wants home-grown tomatoes.  I think he will get some, but not in the quantities he's grown in the past (see here) - slowly slowly we will get there once again.   

You can see the greenhouse at the front.  Lots of seeds are sprouting, including tomatoes!
Below we have some sweet peas that are crying to come out of the seedling box.  We will be building wigwams tomorrow for them to climb up on. 
Oh something I did not show you in the previous growing space post, is our pergola, makes me feel oh la la.  I love it - but D has other ideas.  Because the strong gusts of wind early this year, the pergola has been given a good battering.  Its not straight, so he is thinking perhaps removing it next year. 
I hope not, as I am loving it and the climbing roses and clematis that is climbing all over it. are just going to look gorgeous when they bloom  
And finally, somewhere for me to hang my recycled lanterns - I brought these withe me when we moved from Glasgow. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Wild Garlic, Mushroom and Brie Quesadillas

Some of you already know of my home-made Garlic Mushroom and Parsley Pies, but another dish that makes the most of garlic and mushrooms are these Garlic, Mushroom Quesadillas.  This is such an easy peasy recipe knock up when the hunger pangs rumble.

I've used Brie cheese here, like cheddar cheese it tends to be in my fridge, but feel free to use whatever you like - a strong blue cheese would work well, as would oozy mozzarella.
Well early in the week, there was not much in the house to eat in the way of fresh vegetables, except for some mushrooms starting to look a little tired and an open packet of tortilla wraps that were beginning to go hard as I had not wrapped the packet properly.  So this is what  I made to eat as a light snack.  Except it not a light snack when you eat a whole one!
If you don't have any wild garlic, that's okay as the crushed garlic cloves in it would give you enough garlic hit.   I've used wild garlic here for two reasons.  One, I had some in the fridge and secondly for the green colour.  You must admit the colour of sauteed 'sluggish' mushrooms is not always the most attractive to the eye.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Wild Garlic Chickpea Pancakes

Last week I mentioned that I had foraged for some wild garlic, and I promised to share with you some new dishes that I have made with it. So here goes, today I share with you some little savoury wild garlic chickpea pancakes.   

I often describe these chickpea pancakes to people who have not had it before as a flat version of the South Asian onion bhaji aka pakoras. I decided to enhance my plain chickpea pancakes with wild garlic, but if you can't find wild garlic where you are, feel free to substitute with spinach, rocket or any other soft leafy green that takes your fancy, maybe even a herb like coriander, parsley, mint or chives!
These chickpea pancakes are shallow fried in a wide pan.  When I am impatient, I enjoy eating them, especially hot straight from the pan, but they are best warm dipped in a homemade chutney.  I must say though, they are not so good cold. For more wild garlic recipes, please follow this link on my blog for inspiration.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A mug of fresh mint tea

Seedlings are germinating, and the fruit trees are blossoming, herbs are growing -  other than that there is not really much growing in my garden and not much being harvested other than the mint that is running riot in the garden plot.  I am pulling it out, here and there and trying my best to control it.

My mother dries her mint herb on the window sill and when dried she rubs them between her hands, so to remove the dried leaves from the stem.  The dried mint herb is then transferred to a glass jar for when she wishes for some mint tea.  Well, I have mint tea today, but its fresh mint tea enhanced with a little honey. Simples.   

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mushroom Strogonoff with Garlic Chives

Although the sun has been peeking out, its been quite chilly today.

I made one of my quick suppers - Mushroom Strogonoff  - its featured on my blog before, but in place of double cream I used soured cream.  I also had some garlic chives that I picked up last weekend from a farmers market that I frequent every fortnight now.  So I decided to mince some of these down to put into the strogonoff and I kept some stems back for garnish.  
The garlic chives were new to me.  They were certainly garlicky in taste.  I found the some of the stems a tad tough sticking a little to my throat as I swallowed, so I would recommend mincing them. 
You can serve the mushroom strogonoff over bulgar wheat or pasta if you wish, but my preference is steamed or boiled Basmati rice.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Swiss Red Chard Tortilla

The thrifty and homely cook in me was able to create two dishes with the Swiss Red Chard.  

Today this Tortilla,  yesterday it was a vegan Tart.
I like this kind of dish, its almost one pot throw all the ingredients in and let it do its work and its done.  Its  also very good to eat warm on the plate with knife and fork, or cold for a picnic or finger buffet as it holds well.    I also like how the red chard stems studs the tortilla. There's quite a bit left over, so we will both be lunching on it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Vegan 'Salmon' Red Chard Tart

Remember that bunch of Red Swiss Chard I shared yesterday, well this is one of the dishes I made with it - a Red Chard Tart, except it looks very pink! 
What is different about that tart is the filling.  It is that it is made with tofu instead of eggs.  It looks salmon- like; and tasted a tad like sea-weed.  I mentioned this flavour of the sea once before when I cooked with Red Chard.  I served this simply with some new potatoes.

If you can't find red chard,  feel free to substitute with any other chard, or even spinach.  Oh I have to admit, in stead of making my own shortcrust pastry from scratch, this time I made use of shop-bought shortcrust pastry, still looks rather rustic.
I point one thing out purely for presentation reasons, it is perhaps best to eat this tart on the day it is made, as the following day it loses that pink tint colour and looks, well like cold quiche - a bit sunken and the baked brown comes through more.  But if that doesn't bother you, then it keeps for a couple of days in the fridge. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Harvest Monday - Swiss Red Chard & Wild Garlic

It been a few good years since I participated in Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne and Dandelions,that was when I had an allotment, but lots of things have happened since then that I would like leave in the past and move on.

Now that I have a new home with a new garden (please see here), I am really looking forward to growing my own organic fruit and veg again; and sharing what's happening in the garden with other keen veg growers.  Today though I am cheating a little as the bunch of Swiss Red Chard that I am sharing have come from my new neighbours  garden; and they were happy for me to have some as much of it was beginning to bolt.  Sadly they are moving to Luxembourg for the work, such a shame as I was looking forward to comparing notes and some neighbourly veg growing competition and banter!  

I've have a variety of Swiss Chard seedlings in the greenhouse that are beginning to emerge, so am looking forward to planting my own out soon. 
Oh yesterday I also went for a forage for wild garlic and came bag with a good bag full.  So expect some recipes from me soon, including Wild Garlic Quiche; Wild Garlic Hummus; Wild Garlic Oat Biscuits; along with some new ones. If you have some wild garlic recipe suggestions, please do share.  I am always very open to new recipe ideas.
I've given half the bag to my mother who has never had wild garlic.  She said she was going to make some Wild Garlic Pakoras!  Anyway, please come back later on to see what I made with this Swiss Red Chard and the wild garlic! 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

In My New Welsh Kitchen

Having moved back to Wales to years ago into rented abode, I have to admit, as lovely as it was I hardly cooked in the that kitchen. as my culinary adventures got me cooking in a little independent eatery that I got to make my own for a year.   Anyway, all that is past and I have moved home again, a little more deeper in to the valleys, but this time it is my HOME.  I don't know if it will be my forever home, but it is home for now and I am looking forward to spending some good years here.  

Today I am sharing some new things in my kitchen, as well as some old that I have rediscovered.
I picked up this handmade up-cycled scrabble board Home Sweet Home sign from a Craft Fayre last month for £3.  It hangs off one of the kitchen cupboards.  
At another Craft Fayre, I treated myself to some Welsh Bunting made with fabric - its about 12 foot.  I would like to use it the garden one of these days when I am entertaining family and friends.  
I also picked up a Welsh Apron.  I promise to take a picture of me wearing it in the near future.  
I'm trying to cut down on the morning caffeine, and have been trying to drink herbal teas, but recently I also sneaked in a box of traditional tea called  Murroughs Welsh Brew to try - stirring stuff!  
My nephew presented this Welsh Spoon with my name inscribed on it a few years back when I live in Scotland.  It has pride of place in my kitchen.  
This Welsh Dragon chopping board has featured on my blog before, the Welsh inscription 'Bara Cartref wedi ei wneud a chariad' translates 'home-made bread made with love'.
Above are some other Welsh gifts bestowed upon me by family over the past few years.  Welsh non-alcoholic Punch, Welsh Sheep Chopping Board, Welsh Sheep Money Box, Welsh Chocolate and Welsh Glitter Ball. 
In My Kitchen Series is hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  It is an opportunity for worldwide bloggers to share what is happening in their kitchen.  Please do go by and read about the other bloggers sharing what's going on in their kitchen - the heart of many homes!
Oh I mustn't forget the daffodils, some on my window sill and some in the front garden.