Saturday, 30 May 2020

Reflecting and eating Rainbow Chard Pakoras

I've had a busy week working from home made harder by the racism both here and in America,. The racism is not new, it's continual, its painful and its gut wrenching, its real. I've cried these tears before, now I cry for young people who have had to witness the brutality against black bodies replayed over and over again. I know that pain. Black Lives Matter.

One of the reasons i started my blog was for my mental health and wellbeing.  It was my escapism. My space away from those racial  microaggressions in everyday interactions as my work evolved around discrimination and prejudices and social justice, I consciously made a decision not to write about those things here, because I did not want this space tainted by ugliness of other peoples behaviour, but people have become more emboldened in recent years that even i cannot pretend anymore.  
Subtle racism has even seeped from some food bloggers in the past. I often noted as a non white vegetarian food blogger that started ten years ago, I was often excluded from the collaborations that thrusted some white food bloggers into the 'limelight', they would never extend the invitation to me and in some cases 'actively' exclude me.  It still happens. They know they have this power, privilege and influence, but they would never admit that racial bias played a part in their interactions with me.  I know it did. I will write about that some other time. Today is not that day.

As the only brown face in white spaces there were no safe spaces for me, so Blogging became therapy from both overt/direct and covert/indirect racism.  Growing vegetables was therapy.  Cooking was therapy.  Baking was therapy. 
So without further ado here are some Rainbow Chard Pakoras aka Onion Bhaji's that I made last weekend.  I am missing seeing my family, my father and mother (who are shielding), my brothers and sister in laws, my nephews and nieces - my intergenerational family.  I look forward to joining them again to sit down and eat pakoras and samosas.  I don't make Pakora aka Onion Bhaji's that often partly because I do not have a deep fat fryer and partly it's something my sister in law will knock up for me when I got over, so Pakora's like Samosas always feel like a treat for me.  But the hankering for fresh pakoras got me motivated and it was perhaps one of the best recipes I've made with the last of the Rainbow Swiss Chard (that had begun to bolt in the garden).  I shallow fried the Swiss Chard Pakoras in a wide pot.  They were delicious, crisp and mildly spicy. 

Still as much as the Rainbow Chard Pakora were delicious, I long to eat again with my family and know that they are all safe, not just from coronavirus that is disproportionately affecting Black and Brown people in the UK, but also from the racism that constantly ripples in our lives, we are always on edge for the tirade, the racial tsunami ...

Monday, 25 May 2020

Blooming Roses

I've had a busy working week, so I was grateful for the long weekend.

It gave me time to do some cooking, baking and gardening, as well as reflecting and resting. 
Shelter from the bright sunshine
So here are some photographs of progress in my vegetable garden plot.
Progress on the carrot box.   I will thin these out at some point. 

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Lunch: Lemon Balm Drizzle Cake and Indian Inspired Potato and Chickpea Salad

Some of my colleagues and people I am meeting through Zoom are saying that they are losing track of days, but I am like - Is it Friday yet ? 

I have been busy at home during a crisis trying to work.  In fact, I think I am sure I am working harder from home more than i ever did in the office, unless it feels that way from staring at the computer screen for hours on end. But on balance, working from home means my lunch has never been so good.  

There always seems to be cake of my own making of course! 
I  teased some of you with a glimpse of this Lemon Balm  Drizzle Cake in my In My Kitchen blog post, but here it is in all its golden gorgeousness. 

Lemon Balm also known as Melissa Balm is a lemon scented perennial herb.  I often infuse the  lemon balm leaves (like mint) in hot water and drink like a herbal tea.  It can also be used in a number of recipes  like ice-cream and custard, but here I added it to cake. 
The 'Lemon Balm - Lemon Drizzle Cake' was splendid, with flecks of green lemon balm running through it, I even topped the outside with lemon balm leaves for adornment. Only comment, perhaps it could have been a bit more lemony, but I know whay that was - I did not have enough lemons, so made do with what I had.

Also a change from sandwiches and pasta salads, I made a Indian inspired Chickpea Salad Potato Salad smothered in mild spices and mango chutney.  I don't think my mother would approve, but I know my nephews and nieces would.  It was still warm when we ate it and I liked that as often my salads at work are cold or just room temperature. 
This lockdown potato salad recipe comes from The Guardian to which we subcribed to about a month ago. To be honest we should have subscribed to it a while back as it perhaps the only online newspaper that I consistently read for news, not just recipes. 
And the 'Lemon Balm Drizzle Cake' comes from Mary Berry which you can find online.  I substituted lemon balm for Lemon Verbena Drizzle Cake.  
I am sharing  this Indian Inspired Potato and Chickpea Salad with Kahakai Kitchen, for Souper Sundays,  a space where bloggers can come share together to share homemade comfort foods like soup, salads sandwiches.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Garden Springing into Life and Tuscan Rainbow Chard Ragout

The allotment garden plot is beginning to burst into life.  

So here are some selected pictures.
 Chive Blossoming, just waiting for the bumble bees to come by.
Wild strawberries and strawberries flowers under the apple tree.
The border looks good with natural wood fell that I dragged back with D.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Forest Bouquet and Chilli Peanut Carrot Soup

Exercise for me has been by green prescription: being in the garden, weeding, toiling and sowing seeds in the sunshine.  I know i am lucky. 
I have not ventured far from the house or garden though, but yesterday I left the house for 'exercise' reconnecting with nature, but also to collect some 'sticks' to build bean frames for the vegetable plot.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

May 2020 In My Kitchen

I haven't been to the supermarket once since the pandemic became a reality in Britain and lockdown commenced.  D however has been going every 10 days or so, and bringing back most of what I've scribbled on the shopping list of needs, rather than wants.  So My Kitchen this month is very much like last month it not filled with exciting new ingredients or shiny bright new things, but with vegetables and fruit much of it transformed into edible goodness.  So instead I am going to share some of what I have been cooking whilst in quarantine.  

Clay Pot  Bulgar Wheat and Vegetable Stew - I normally make this One Pot dish with root vegetables, but this time it was with butternut squash and leeks. 
We have been eating lots of soup recently to turn sad limp vegetables into something vibrant and good such as a Broccoli and Horseradish and a stunning Orange and Carrot Soup.  This one is 'Chilli Carrot and Peanut Soup'. I will be sharing the recipe in the next couple of days, especially as we are expecting temperatures to drop tomorrow in expectation of frost.  
We have also been making bread, sadly none of it by hand but in the bread machine.  A change from slathering toast with butter or jam or melted cheese, I made a  'Chorizo' flavoured Pate made with tinned kidney beans, it was really delicious. I am hoping to make it again, I think i prefer it much more than homemade Mushroom Pate.  
I have made Vegan Shepherds Pie with Basil Mashed Potato Topping
I have made this One Pot Vegetable Oven Bake with whatever vegetables I had in the house, including Rainbow Swiss Chard from the garden.
I also made Johanna's Whole Cauliflower Cheese, though my cauliflower in comparison to hers was small and it did not look as amazing as hers. As recommended by Johanna, I served mine with roast potatoes to mop up that unctuous cheesiness.  It was a proper vegetarian's comfort food.
I think every week I have made a cake of sorts.  I will definitely be returning to the workplace heavier than when I left it in March.
My most recent cake bake was this 'Lemon Balm - Lemon Drizzle Cake'.  It was splendid, but more about that later.
I also made this Orange, Almond and Honey Cake two weeks ago, I think.  It was sticky and very moreish.  
Whilst doing a bit of tidying up and going through kitchen cupboards, I came across 81% dark chocolate.  

Of course it was crying out to be eaten.
So I made Nigella Lawson's 'Chocolate Brownies'.  

Of course these were shared, there is no way we could have even the quantity made between us. 
I also stumbled across this flavoured extra virgin oil collection in the cupboard under the stairs.  I had bought it last year, or the year before for my Secret Santa, but completely forgot about it.  Don't worry, my Secret Santa still got something else - I think it was coffee flavourings. So this unexpected gift is now for us to use and I am delighted as we are starting to see good growth on our lettuce and salad leaves growing in the greenhouse, so these will be welcomed indeed.
I mentioned bread making earlier.  We have always been in the habit of bulk buying, hence why we have this large bag of strong white flour. It was purchased last year and we are now beginning to run low, but I am not complaining yet and know I have been fortunate compared to other people who have not been able to get their hands on flour for a while. 
Sherry  from Sherry's Pickings kindly continues to host the In My Kitchen series in these difficult times and its goods to be able to participate and continue to support the event. Sherry also  has a cheerful new logo too which the vegetable grower in me adores. 
Please go on by, I am also looking forward to seeing what you have in your kitchen cupboards in these quarantine days. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Portobello Mushroom Ragu

was attracted to the photograph in the cookbook.  

The Mushroom Ragu pictured in the cookbook was serves with polenta.

I served mine with plain Basmati rice, but on reflection I think it would have been better served with brown rice. 

The Mushroom Ragu was really quick to put together, close to 30 minutes and it was ready to serve, but that is me not including the soaking time for the dried mushrooms, some of which were textually 'meaty'. 

D said he did not mind it, but found the flavours a bit low key, even though I had added 1/2 teaspoon some paprika. I agree with him. I also found it a bit watery, even though I cooked it down to thicken. It may be one of those dishes that is better the following day.  You can find the original recipe for Mushroom Ragu here. Adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly.