Saturday, 31 January 2009

Tofu and mushroom stroganoff

The weather was lovely today - there was barely a raindrop. But we decided to give the allotment a miss today, and go tomorrow. Instead we visited The Dogs Trust in Uddingston. We have been thinking a while about giving a dog a home. Other than sponsoring Blagger with the Dogs Trust a few years ago, I have no experience of keeping a dog, but would so much love one. But I do have to be realistic about this commitment and the responsibility this would entail. So the thinking continues.

We registered our interest with the Dogs Trust, and came back home eyeing the space where the dogs bed would be if we did decide to go ahead.

Now onto food. We have eaten tofu and mushroom stoganoff twice this week - honest. I don't often eat tofu, but marinated this way. I find it moreish. This is actually an adaptation from Cranks Fast Food. Nadine Abensur uses red wine to marinate her tofu which does give it a more robust flavour, but I only use tamari.

It's another one of my working week standbys and takes about 30 to 40 minutes to make.

2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
250g firm plain tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, left whole if small or sliced if you prefer
120ml double cream
200ml vegetable stock made with 1/2 teaspoon of bouillon powder
sprig of tarragon or 1 tablespoon of dried
salt and pepper to taste

Place tofu cubes in a dish and spoon over 2 tablespoons of tamari and tablespoons of veg stock. Set aside. The longer you leave it the more it will absorb.

In a pan, heat one tablespoon of oil. Add onion and garlic and fry over medium heat until soft and golden. Add mushrooms and continue to saute for about 5 minutes until cooked through.

In a frying pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the tofu. Be careful it may spit for a couple of minutes. The tofu must brown on all sides so keep turning it gently until this is done. Then remove from the heat.

Add vegetable stock and the tarragon sprig to the mushrooms, allow it to gently boil. Then turn the heat down. Add the cream and let it simmer for a few minutes until well combined with the vegetable stock.

Finally, add the fried tofu, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with plain basmati rice.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Pretty green box

Why? Other than it being quite pretty.

Because it has joyful farming and harvesting theme.

The box actually contained some well appreciated Christmas presents. But now that it is empty - maybe it will become a seed storage box. Oh no it won't - its still too new and pretty for that. So it will remain in the bedroom for now.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Confused…Is it Plot 45 or Plot 11

In late 2006, I was given my first ever allotment Plot. I was ever so excited.

It had its own shed and quirky greenhouse made from recycled windows, some raspberry canes, strawberry plants and rhubarb crowns.

However, there was much work to be done. With Ds support and labour, and the help of a couple of friends along the way, we managed to get it up to a respectable, if not very good standard.
We lugged concrete slabs, bricks and heavy recycled wood and much more from which we built raised beds from recycled wood, a compost bin and a herb box, a base for the greenhouse and bricks for the make shift cold frame. We painted the shed and greenhouse vibrant yellow, and even built bird boxes and a wildlife pond. So much labour, sweat and love went into the beautifying of plot 11. It was also very productive - rewarding us with lots of fruit and veg.

So about a year later the decision to give it up was not easy, but I had made up my mind

Some of the reasons why I came to the decision to give up plot 11. I found it a bit isolated. As the only woman working at the back of the allotment site, which is on the edge of an industrial estate and a cemetery that is often used as a short cut by people. I often found myself working alone, unless other allotmenteers or my wonderful neighbour Fitzy was about. There were many times, especially in the evenings, that you would find kids lobbing stones over, and hurling abuse – and even setting fire to the illegally dumped material behind the site. So I was beginning to feel unsafe, and beginning to find it all getting a bit stressing and uncomfortable at what I may face from one day to another. This was not what I thought an allotment plot to be. With the good, sometime can come a lot of headache, and this was a place I did not want to be.

During this time (late 2007), an allotment plot in the centre of the site came up. I went over and had a good nosy round. You could see it was once a loved and cherished plot. The structures were all in place, it had a great green house, a potting shed and a hut painted in baby blue – a shelter for when it rained. This was a luxury that I did not have at Plot 11. This plot was overgrown and neglected now and the wood around the raised beds were starting to rot needing replacing. I thought to myself, a bit of commitment and hard work, I could restore it back to it back to some of its former glory. So I had decided to register my interest for a transfer with the committee. Over the telephone I gave the Secretary my genuine reasons why and put my name down for this new plot. She told me a number of other people had also registered interest in taking it over, and chances were I would not get it. A long, long wait and month later I was notified that I was the proud owner of Plot 45. I was so delighted.

During this interim D realised he had developed his own green fingers, a passion for digging (not), and growing vegetables (oh Yes). D decided he would keep on Plot 11 and could grow things that did not need that much tending, like potatoes and berry fruit such as redcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and so on. This was before we got married (which was only this October), and were still seen as two separate individuals, rather than a couple. This was accepted by the committee as we had both proved ourselves as hardworking individuals, responsible and proud plot holders - unlike some of the unkempt plots there. Tut Tut

Now you know the story of my move from Plot 11 to Plot 45.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Cookie dough and buttermilk

Ds been a bit stir crazy recently. Last week he decided to strip down the hallway wallpaper, something we should have done when we moved in three years ago, but kept putting off. It’s done now.

Over the weekend, we went to a local DIY store and I picked out some paint samples to try: Cookie dough; and Buttermilk.

Mmmm was food on my mind when I picked these colours, or was something else happening in my head?!

I must amuse myself somehow!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Chinese New Year

2009 is the Year of the Ox, which is also known by its formal name of Yi Chou.

These are zodiac signs from the Chinese calendar. The illustrations made me smile, so I thought I would share it with you.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

On our table for Burns Night Supper

There was no Cock-a-leekie soup on our Scottish themed table. Cock-a-leekie soup is traditionally made with chicken (which I do not eat), and prunes (which D doesn't like).

Instead we went with a Leek and potato soup with a hint of warm spices.

Vegetarian Haggis (McSween of course)

Warm with Tatties (mashed potatoes)

Bashed neeps (Mashed Turnip) - hence the Tur neep, or Swede as it is also known by. I don't know why? Do you?

Scottish Nains Oatcakes and selection of cheeses

Tunnocks for the sweet toothed amongst us

A Tassie o’Coffee with cream - no dram of whisky. Some of us have work to go to tomorrow.

PS The leeks in the soup were the only vegetable from our plot.

Vegetarian Burns Supper

Presently, we are weekend allotmenteers. The ground is so sodden with rainwater that I don't have the motivation to do anything

I did pick up a few more parsnips and leeks. Other than the weeds of course, there was some sign of new plant growth, the shoots of my daffodil flowers are starting to emerge.

250th Anniversary of Robert Burns

Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years ago as a means of commemorating Robert Burns, Scotlands best loved bard.

The ritual of celebrating Burns Night was started by his close friends after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory. Traditionally the format for the evening begins when the chairman invites the company to stand and receive the haggis. A piper dressed in the full Scottish regalia then leads the chef carrying the haggis to the top table. The chairman then recites Burns famous poem To a Haggis with great showmanship. When he reaches the line ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. It is customary for the company to applaud the chairman, then stand and toast the haggis with a wee dram (glass) of whisky.

Well you might see this in an episode of Monach of the Glen or at the homes of well to do Scots, but I won’t be doing any of that. What I will do is have a Scottish dining experience in the honour of Rabbie Burns this Sunday.

A typical Burns Supper menu or Bill o’Fare would be

Cock-a-leekie soup
Haggis warm reeking, rich wi’ Champit Tatties
Bashed neeps
Typsy Laird (sherry trifle) or Oatcakes and cheese
A Tassie o’Coffee with a drop of whiskey

At my home, everything will have a vegetarian slant, so please come and join me for a Vegetarian Burns Supper later this evening.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Brunch veggie burgers

Not one but two veggie burger recipes.

I have never been a fan of veggie burgers, especially shop bought ones that resemble cup coasters; and those offered at cafes, do not fare any better. Below are two veggie burger recipes that I don’t mind to make now and again, especially if I have family staying with me; or friends coming over.

Easy pinto bean burgers - Easy because you don’t need any gadgets and it takes about 30 minutes to 40 minutes to prepare, cook and eat.

Makes 4

400g can of pinto beans, drained and washed
100g mushrooms, minced
1 small onion, finely sliced and chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
2 – 3 tablespoons of vegetable or sunflower oil

Gently mash the beans and mix in all the ingredients, except for the oil.

Shape the bean mixture into four medium burgers.

Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, put in the burgers gently – the oil should sizzle as you put in the burgers. Fry for about 5 minutes until that side is brown and crispy. Gently flip over with a wide spatula, until that side is also crisp.

Then serve in pitta bread which is what we did with homemade tomato sauce and mixed leaf salad or crusty bread.

NB Please do not cook these burgers in the oven, they will only disintegrate. I know I tried once.

Chestnut mushrooms and pinto bean burgers
You could also make these with borlotti beans
Makes 6 - 8
1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 large onion, sliced
125g chestnut mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
100g cheddar cheese, grated
150g canned pinto beans, drained and washed
100g fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon cornflour

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, salt and thyme until softened. Let it cool.

Transfer onion and mushroom mix to a food processor, add the cheese, beans, breadcrumbs, cornflour and freshly ground pepper to taste. Process until mixed, but don’t overdo it. It should have texture and not be smooth like pâté.

*If the mixture is too wet, add another tablespoon of cornflour. If it is too dry, add one small whisked egg to the mixture.

Shape the mixture into 6 – 8 burgers. Chill until ready to eat.
Put onto baking tray and brush the tops of the burgers with the extra oil, and bake in preheated oven at Gas mark 7 for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve either in crusty bread or as part of a breakfast with toast.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Nutty lentils and braised cabbage pilau

Over the working week, we've consumed the kale, sprouts and parsnips. I am keeping the leeks back for Sundays Burns Supper cock o leekie soup. I have to think a bit more what I want to do with the jerusalem artichokes. But tonight is the turn of the cabbage and here it is - Nutty lentils and braised cabbage pilau.

This dish does not take long, about 45 minutes including preparation. So I think its a good one to keep in mind for after work suppers. Its simple, heart warming food especially on a day like today with the rain being as cold as ice. I think snow is forecast for the weekend. Another short visit to the allotment...

I really like the nuttiness of the lentils and the texture of the cabbage. To make more of a meal of this dish, I sometimes like to serve alongside the the Pilau natural yogurt with grated carrots stirred through it. You could call it carrot tzaki if you wish. Please try this dish at least once. It’s another way to eat and enjoy winter cabbage.

Nutty lentils and braised cabbage Pilau
Serves 4
Start of with the rice
1 pint/550ml vegetable stock made with 1 teaspoon of vegetable stock powder
200g of uncooked rice, washed
100g dried brown or green lentils, washed
½ teaspoon salt to taste
1 teaspoon tarragon or ½ dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

Braised cabbage
2 tablespoons of olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 medium onion finely slices
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A small Savoy cabbage thinly slices, outer leaves discarded and core cut out
100ml of water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Add rice, the lentils, salt and tarragon. Bring to a boil. The turn the heat low and cover the pan and cook for 25 – 30 minutes. Do not lift lid or stir during this time, as this will turn it to risotto consistency, rather than soft fluffy rice.
In the last 5 minutes, lift lid, give it a stir and check if the rice and lentils are tender and the stock has been absorbed. Give it a few more minutes if it still has some stock. When the stock has been absorbed, turn off heat.

While the pilau cooks, start the cabbage. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, stirring frequently until they have softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, the cabbage, water and salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let the cabbage cook for 10 minutes, checking from time to time, to make sure the pan is not scorching. Remove the lid, and let the cabbage cook for a further 15 minutes or so over medium heat, stirring every five minutes until the water has disappeared and cabbage looks glossy. Turn off heat

Stir the braised cabbage into the rice, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Spicy Parsnip cake

I do struggle to grow parsnips, look at the specimens harvested this weekend. Although perfectly edible, they are always forked or twisted. But this has not put me off them. I will continue to try growing them, this time in sandy soil.
Forked and twisted parsnips
Spicy parsnip cake
You will also need an 8 inch baking tin (preferably one with clip, but not essential as you will be able to prise it out with a spatula)
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
3 - 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped into even sized cubes
1 tablespoon of garam masala
2 red chillies, cut into slices
Salt and pepper to taste
First do the parsnips
Boil them in enough water until tender enough to mash, but do not mash to a puree, you still want it to have some texture.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil, then add onions and cook for 8 minutes until nice and soft, then add chilli and garam masala and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add mashed parsnips, add salt and pepper to taste and mix together until well combined. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to Gas mark 6
When cool enough to handle, put mix into baking tin, flatten mix evenly. Put on middle shelf and cook for 25 - 30 minutes until lightly golden on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes, before prising out.
Cut into slices and serve as part of roast dinner.
Sorry its not a great picture - we are getting a belated wedding present from both sets a parents, so clearer pictures soon.
PS the sprouts on the plate are ours too.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I just want to smile today

The diversity of vegetables - in their colours, flavours and smell.
Rainbow swiss chard
Courgettes: in its many colours
Rainbow carrots
The diversity of people can be just as beautiful.

Monday, 19 January 2009

About Homecoming Scotland

You may already know this, but in case you don't - In Scotland, 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth and is the inspiration behind the year of Homecoming. The tag line to encourage Scots abroad and tourists to visit Scotland reads "Come home to the home of Burns in 2009 and celebrate his life and work at one of the many Burns-related events during the year".

As a long-term resident in Scotland (just over 10 years in fact). I will be celebrating Burns Night by having a Vegetarian Burns Supper this Sunday. It's the one time in the year I eat haggis, that's vegetarian haggis by the way. And guess what I don't mind it at all.

Also, please forgive me for uploading old photos of my allotment plot, but there is a reason. Honest. I should have started blogging a couple of years ago. But I was timid, and not sure about how to go into blogging world. I thought it was going to be too technical, too time consuming and most of all complicated. However, it’s been smooth sailing so far and you have all been kind visiting now and again.

So the uploading of old images is my attempt, to try and quickly bring you all up to speed before the 2009 allotment2kitchen adventures begin at Plot 45. So I hope I am forgiven?

By the way, there will be sprouts on my dinner plate tonight.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Winter harvest

I don't want you thinking that a little bit of rain would stop me from venturing to the allotment. So this is the first thing I did this morning while it was still dry. And I am so glad I did.
Look at my winter harvest.
Wow - leeks, kale, cabbage, sprouts, turnips, jerusalem artichokes and parsnips.
Winter roast vegetables for dinner - what do you think?
We dug up some fuseau jerusalem arichokes, pulled out some musselburgh leeks and tender and true parsnips. I also picked some more dwarf curly kale, brussel sprouts and a cabbage. Nestling in the cabbage plot I also found some bonus veg, that I completely forgot I had planted - purple top milan turnips.

We also took a wander over to Ds Plot 11. His plot is not looking so good. Other than being a permanent mud slide. His green house panes have come out, pots were all over the place and part of his fencing has come down. When the winds picks up, chances are the damage will become much worse. He will be lucky if that greenhouse makes it in one piece.
I am so glad we went to the allotment when we did, as by the afternoon it was snowing. But an hour or so later a rainbow came out. Ah Nature.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Good things to come

The wind is howling outside, and the rain is crashing hard on the window panes. My hopes for a visit to the allotment may have to be postponed if the weather continues like this tomorrow.

To cheer me up and may be you too, here are some more pictures from my allotment last year. More good and delicious things to come.
scarlet runner beans - really pretty and delicate flowers
Tower sunflower
Sweet lightning pumpkins plants - from this to this.
Gorgeous. They were absolutely delicious!
Broad bean plants
Now ready to podded and eaten

Friday, 16 January 2009

Quick Thai Green curry

Coconut milk, thai green curry paste and shiitake mushrooms were all new ingredients to me about 10 years ago, now this dish has become a standby favourite, especially with shop bought thai green curry paste.

Steaming hot

Serves 4
3 tbsp vegetable oil
300g cauliflower cut into even sized florets
300g carrots peeled and sliced into ½ inch thick coins
150g fine green beans, topped and tailed (lucky me I still have some of my own in my freezer)
125g shitake mushrooms kept whole or halved if large
200ml vegetable stock made with bouillon powder
400ml unsweetened coconut milk
1tsp tamari
4 dried or fresh kaffir lime leave
Coriander to taste

Green curry paste
For it to be quick, it has to be from a jar. Use 3 - 4 tbsp of shop bought brand. I often do. Or if you do have time, make your own.

2 stalks of lemongrass, remove tough outer leaves and chop the rest very finely
2 shallots, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
4 – 6 green chillies depending on your taste buds
11/2 tsp each of freshly ground coriander and ground cumin
5 cloves of garlic
80g coriander including stalks
2tbsp of grated ginger

To make the curry paste, put all the ingredients into a food processor, or do it the old fashioned way in a pestle and mortar (but that won't be quick). The paste will yield a little more than necessary, but you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks for another meal. For the above meal, you will only need 4 tbsp of the paste or 5 tbsp if you like it spicier. I do.

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add cauliflower florets. Cook them in the hot oil for 10 minutes, until they begin to brown and soften slightly. Check by inserting a fork. Add the carrots and cook for 4 minutes, then add the green beans and cook for a couple of minutes. I do like my vegetables to have a bit of a bite.

Then add the shitake mushrooms and sauté for a minute of so. Now add the coconut milk and half of the stock and 4 tbsp of green curry paste, the tamari and the Kaffir lime leaves.

Simmer for a few minutes, then add the remaining stock. Stir gently until blend.

Serve with lovely plain basmati rice or in keeping with the Thai theme – Thai Jasmine rice.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Last seasons planting

It’s that time of year that I begin looking backwards and forward – to last seasons planting and crops which didn’t do so well; to the coming year and the hope that we will overcome whatever the weather throws at us, and still have a healthy return for our efforts.

Despite the problems with the weather last year, like many gardeners we managed to produce some fabulous specimens from our plot. Please do take a look.

Turnip purple top milan
Rainbow swiss chard - good in tarts and quiches
Tomato san manzano. Good for pizzas and paninis.
Rainbow carrots - no carrot fly. Yay.
Broad beans, calabrese, nint, courgette ronda di nizza, tri-colour and goldie.
yellow french beans neckar gold
Climbing green beans. I also grew purple climbing french beans blauhilde. Sorry I don't seem to have photos of them. On cooking the purple beans turned green. Tasted fine.

I have quite a lot of seeds left over from last years purchase, but this has not stopped me from flicking through the Organic Gardening catalogue where I order most of my seeds.

MMmm now what else would I like to grow...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

You’re knitting what? A tea cosy!

I promise I won’t make a habit of this, but it is kitchen related, so I think I can justify blogging about it.

During my childhood, my mother tried to domesticate me in the art and skills of cooking, baking, house cleaning, sewing and even knitting. The only thing I had ever knitted then was something that should have been a scarf, but it was never completed because I never had the patience to master the technique of casting off a knitted item. But things have changed now. I have seen some wonderful creations that have inspired me to pursue this art form. I want to create original garments and accessories for myself and close friends.

Therefore, I have decided to refresh those undeveloped knitting skills. It will also be something different for me to do on these dark evenings or rainy weekends. So I have enrolled on a two week knitting class where we, the students will knit a tea cosy. Yes a tea cosy! And you know what’s crazy? I do not even own a teapot, let alone drink tea. But this isn’t about the final knitted product which I am sure will be delightful to the eye, it’s about the basic skills and techniques to get me started.

Am I turning into my beloved nanny (maternal grandmother)? Of course not, apparently knitting has become a cool hobby – a lot of the A list celebrities are doing it. I have never been a follower of fashion. I am only doing this because I’ve seen this beautiful multi-coloured wool at a reputable store in the city centre that I want to purchase and transform into a tank top. Then I saw these pattern books for fingerless mitts, a woolly hat… Oh the things I could create once I have got the basics mastered. As you can probably tell, I am very much looking forward to this.

Here what I was given: the knitting instructions, wool (in grey/blue - not a colour I would have chosen) and needles made from sustainable harvested domestic birch hardwood.

Okay the next time I blog about this tea cosy will be only to show you what the final product looks like. Will it be as pretty as the one above? We shall have to wait and see.