Monday, 30 November 2009

Clapshot and Vegetarian Haggis

For St Andrew's Day.

Although I treated my nephew to a haggis samosa over the weekend, I wanted him to try the real thing, no not the meat version, but the vegetarian version which apparently is much better than the traditional haggis; so I have been told. My nephew snug his nose, but said 'i'll eat whatever you feed me'. I had to convince him it was not something I ate everyday, just now and again. In fact the last time I had a similar meal was for Burns Night Supper.

Here was my humble attempt at celebrating St Andrews day: home-made Clapshot and Macsween of Edinburgh's vegetarian haggis.

Neeps and tatties are the traditional accompaniment to haggis, but I decided to make clapshot for a change. So what is clapshot? Clapshot is a Scottish dish similar to Northern Ireland's champ and also to colcannon. Clapshot differs by having the potatoes and turnips - called swede in England and Wales, and for short, neeps in Scotland, instead of the chosen green, whether its cabbage, leeks or spring onion.
Some of you may have read early in the year, that the origins of haggis have recently been disputed. There are records of a similar 'sausage' in Greek writings, according to the famous Scottish cook, Clarissa Dickson Wright the origins are more likely to be Scandinavian - a legacy of the Viking raids. However shrouded in mystery the history of the haggis may be, there is no disputing the fact that Robert Burns brought it into the limelight through his poem 'To a Haggis'.
Our Scottish meal was warming and comforting, and I am pleased to report that my nephew enjoyed it, though he did sprinkle a lot of black pepper on his clapshot.

For sweets, I was going to make a cranachan, I like the pinhead oatmeal texture, but decided it was too cold too, maybe next time. Next year I intend to make my own vegetarian haggis too.

Happy St Andrew's Day for those of you celebrating it.

Serves 6
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped
500g turnip (swede) peeled and chopped
50g butter
Put vegetables in two separate pots of cold salted water, then cover and bring to the boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Return them to the pan, cover and shake the pan over a very low heat to dry them off completely. Then mash the vegetables together with the butter, season with salt and pepper.

I said Piccalilli

I made this piccalilli about a month or so ago being prompted by a recipe I saw on Matron's blog Down on the Allotment. As recommended by Matron, I wanted to add some green nasturtium seeds to my piccalilli, but had not got round to picking any, so had to make this without. But if you get a chance to collect some and you may just be able to, then by all means please do add them to the piccalilli, I am sure they add a certain piquancy.

I was introduced to piccalilli quite late in life. It was never part of my childhood, but also perhaps because it is something that tends to accompany meat dishes, which I was never fond of either. As someone always willing to try new flavours, I sampled it for the first time at a friends house a few years ago and thought to myself that it would be good served with some home-made vegetarian scotch eggs and vegetarian 'not pork' but snork pies, so that was my motivation for making some.
As you can see, we have already eaten quite a bit from the first jar. D said to me that my version was 'a little too chunky', but other than that he thought it was much nicer than the shop bought variety he has tasted in the past.

I know it is such a long list of ingredients, but look at it this way, how often do you make piccalilli? Once a year or maybe twice a year, well in that case, don’t you think it is worth making your own. You know then exactly what has gone into it. You will need about 3 sterilized jars x 425g
Turmeric Infused Garden Vegetable Piccalilli
200g green beans and runner beans, topped and tailed and chopped in half
1 small cauliflower, divided into small florets
8 small onions
2 medium carrots, chopped thickly
75g sea salt
1pint white malt vinegar
2 bay leaf
½ tsp black mustard seeds
10 black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 garlic cloves
25g plain flour
1 tbsp English mustard powder
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
100g golden caster sugar
Place all the vegetables in a large bowl. In a large bowl dissolve salt with two pints of water, then add all the vegetables to the bowl. Cover and leave in a cool place for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
Meanwhile, place the vinegar, bay leaf, mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds and garlic in a large pan. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for the flavours to infuse.
In a bowl mix together the flour, mustard, turmeric and ginger, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of the vinegar and mix to a paste. Strain in the remaining vinegar, then pour back into the pan. Add the sugar and bring to the boil t thicken slightly, stirring constantly. The sauce should be glossy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Drain the vegetables and rinse briefly under cold water. Add to the hot, spiced vinegar sauce and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until just tender. Spoon into sterilized jars and cover immediately. It should be ready in about three weeks, but apparently the longer you leave it, the flavour matures.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Flying Greenhouse

Most weekends D and myself go over to the allotment to work, harvest or even just check on progress, which was the purpose of today's visit. When we got there, our hearts sank. In fact we were both gutted. The greenhouse that we had lovingly relocated in April (see below) from plot 11 had been thrown from its location.
upside down to the strawberry bed opposite. It was kinda peculiar really, almost like someone had lifted it and toppled it over deliberately, but it was the recent high winds.

We have had no luck with this greenhouse, it is flimsy for the weather conditions in Scotland. This greenhouse was originally in our garden at home, but on New Years eve in 2007 the high winds had got it, it was mangled and we lost a load of panes and clips. I went ahead and ordered a load more to repair it. D decided to dismantle it and take it over to plot 11 where he rebuilt it. Then in 2008, the wind got it again, so D decided to glue the flimsy panes with mastic sealant. And because it cost us so much to buy additional panes and clips, as well as labour to repair, we decided to relocate it from plot 11 which we had decided to give up to plot 45. This year, again...the wind has got our greenhouse, but instead of losing the panes, it seems like the high wind had caught it and toppled it over, damaging and buckling the frame.

I do not have a photo of what it looks like today, as my intention was just to check things over at the plot, not harvest or work. But it is pretty bad. Thankfully with the help of my nephew we moved it back into position, but we will not be repairing it until next year. In fact, we may even decide just to dispose of it all together, we have not had any luck with this greenhouse and it has been quite costly, financially and emotionally...we are really gutted.

Mallow Snowmen and a Haggis Samosa

As the skies were promising to keep the rain off parts of Scotland, yesterday I decided to take my guest (nephew) into Edinburgh.
He has been to Edinburgh and played tourist before, so yesterday was more about shopping and spending 'quality time' with his Aunty, rather than checking out Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.
Princes street is really chaotic at the moment with road works, so other than stopping in Jenner's where we mused at these 'snowman; and 'Christmas tree' pasta shapes, we decided to check out the back streets and alleys.
We stopped at a popular fast-food bakery and picked up a couple of mallow snowmen to nibble on. Above are a few eateries in Edinburgh that I would recommend to vegetarians for flavour and value for money (from top left to bottom right: The Mosque Kitchen; Henderson's; Susie's Wholefood Diner; and Kalpna). In the early afternoon, we actually had a bite to eat at Henderson's Bistro. I had a Moroccan Stew served with couscous and my nephew had enchilada. For dessert we shared a cherry pie. The food was good, the only thing I did not enjoy was my espresso, it was very bitty.
We walked down South Bridge and Nicolson Street, which is just off the tourist track. On this street, you will also see a lot of student life, the diversity of the locals and a bit of 'real Edinburgh'. In this area, is one shop I like to visit now and again: Jordon Valley where I have bought fresh home-made halva. Unfortunately, when I got there we were greeted with a sign in the window 'we will be closed this Friday ...for Eid al-Adha'. Like many Americans celebrating Thanksgiving, Muslims around the world were celebrating Eid al-Adha. Eid Mabarak. While roaming the streets and shops, one of our first snacks was a 'vegetarian haggis samosa' from The Baked Potato. It was spicy and tasty. I like looking in charity and thrift shops and stopped at most of them, hoping to find a bargain or two. I don't send many Christmas cards, but decided to pick up half a dozen to send to family and friends abroad. I also stopped at one of my favourite independent bookshop called WordPower and picked up an unexpected early Christmas present to myself: Love Soup by Anna Thomas.
After our meal at Henderson's we walked back to the train station, taking a detour at the Continental Christmas Market that had set up in the park. These continental Christmas markets come into the cities almost every year selling crafts, hot dogs, stollen and hot mugs, in our case a plastic cup of gluwein. It wasn't particularly nice. Anyway, all in all we had a good day out, but I tell you my little feet were really sore from all the walking, that I was so glad when we got home.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Novelty Gifts from Wales

My oldest nephew arrived last night to spend a long weekend with his favourite Aunty (it's true) and Uncle.
He came bearing some gifts. How sweet and kind of him. Amongst them: a chopping board, chocolate and a non-alcoholic Welsh Punch. Today we travelled into Edinburgh. I will share aspects of my trip tomorrow as my little toots (feet) are quite sore from all the walking and I want to rest.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Cauliflower imitating 'rice' served with tofu Thai curry

Yes, cauliflower 'rice'. It is actually quite a simple idea where the cauliflower is grated so that it resembles grains of rice, then cooked briefly in boiling water.

I would love to take credit for this but it is actually adapted from a recipe by Rose Elliot, the Queen of vegetarian cuisine in the U.K. Cauliflower has a low carbohydrate content and because of this it is often used as a substitute for potatoes in a Low carbohydrate diet. Apparently there are only 20 calories in a 3.5 ounce serving and no fat, so cauliflower can be enjoyed in abundance (but to be honest how many of us would eat it in large quantities?!).

Cauliflower has many health benefits. It is a good source of vitamin C, an important antioxidant vitamin, one that helps strengthen the immune system, promote wound healing, and prevent skin-aging. It’s also a good source of the B vitamins and folate. It also has small quantities of potassium and magnesium, minerals which help maintain normal blood pressure. Cauliflower belongs to the cruciferous family, so it has the same anti-cancer fighting properties of broccoli, kale, and cabbage.

Although the cauliflower was not grown by me, the spring onions and sprouting broccoli were home grown. I am sorry to say that this is the last of my calabrese for the year. However, its not all bad I am due to get some white nine star perennial broccoli and hopefully a second burst of PSB, as it was extremely early this year.

The cauliflower 'rice' actually reminds me other another dish: cauliflower couscous, an idea popularised by El Bulli Restaurant.
Anyway, this is another dish that is so easy to quick to put together after a long working day, especially if you use a ready made Thai green curry paste (make sure its suitable for vegetarians and vegans).
Cauliflower ‘rice’ served with tofu Thai curry
Serves 4
For the Tofu Thai curry
2 tablespoons olive oil
Packet of plain tofu, cut into cubes
4 spring onions, sliced
100g broccoli. I had a mix of PSB and sprouting broccoli.
2 tablespoons of Thai green curry paste or to taste
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander
For the cauliflower ‘rice’
1 large cauliflower
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Put in the tofu cubes and fry. Keep turning until the tofu is golden on all sides. Add the broccoli and cook for a few minutes with the lid on as it will spit. Then add the spring onions, coconut milk and curry paste, and season with salt to taste. Leave to cook gently for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the cauliflower ‘rice’. Grate the cauliflower or chop it in a food processor, so it looks like rice. Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain well and season to taste with salt. Finally stir the coriander into the curry and serve with the cauliflower rice. Adapted from Rose Elliot's The Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet Cookbook

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Oriental treats

One of the students where D works (now and again), had graduated and left some treats in the kitchen as Goodbye and goodwill gesture. Because these savoury sweets were unusual to him, D decided to bring a handful back home for me to try.

I didn't want to eat any of them as I thought they were very cute in their individual wrappers.
But at the same time I was curious to see what they looked like underneath and how they tasted. So there we were, slowly unwrapping them and then inspecting them closely – they were actually pieces of Japanese rice crackers stuck together duh. Then we took a bite, our brains somewhat thinking that the soy sauce or tamari coating was somehow going to taste of popcorn caramel, well for anyone who had had rice crackers will know that the taste is completely different. For me they are a bit of an acquired taste, but like this they are very cute.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Soup for squally weather

So why make this soup, well tis' the soup season and do I really need an excuse, just look outside of my window. It's raining and blustery. And to be truthful, I will soon be running out of homegrown produce and raiding both my small freezer and store cupboard.

For now though making this soup gives me the excuse to use both store-cupboard and home-grown ingredients (chard and onion), little though they may be.
Three types of lentils: puy, brown and green lentils in soak with garlic and bay leaf. The lentils look quite pretty like polished pebbles.

This is my first ever contribution to My Legume Love Affair, a popular bean-centric event created by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Sra of When My Soup Came Alive.
For those of us who are new and wishing to participate in the event, this is what Susan has to say: 'For those new to the event, your choice of recipes is very broad. As much as legumes are most commonly known as fresh or dried beans, peas, lentils and pulses, they are also the sometimes edible pods that contain these seeds. Add to the list alfalfa, fenugreek, peanuts, carob, tamarind and other members of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family, as well as derivatives such as tofu, and you'll have a hard time focusing on just one. All courses and cuisines are welcome, as long as legumes are the dominant ingredient. (Please note: In France, vegetables of all sorts are known as légumes, and are not included in this event.)'. So if your interested in participating check out her blog for further information.
Spiced Lentil Soup with chard
Serve 4 – 6
1 ½ cups lentils (I used green, brown and puy lentils)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
8 stems of coriander, tied together
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, finely minced
1 generous teaspoon ground cumin
4 chard leaves, finely chopped
Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the lentils. Put them in a large pan with 7 cups, thats about 2 1/2 pints of water, along with the garlic, bay leaves and bundle. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered until tender for about 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and herb bundle, add salt to taste. While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and cumin and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to soften then brown. Then add to the simmering lentils. 10 minutes before you want to serve the lentil, add the chard and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste and serve. Adapted from Deborah Madisons’s Vegetable Soups

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fading colours at the plot

It was a swift visit to the allotment plot today because of the weather (rain, rain, rain and strong winds) and to be honest I think this may be the beginning of my short visits, and when I mean short visits it will be only to harvest, not to toil the land.

A quick up-date of the plot before I go. The patch up job for the leaking hut seems to be holding up. I think it will be good until next year, when we really get a chance to mend it properly. Unfortunately the fenugreek I had planted for dual purpose: as green manure as well as for eating, well I will not be for harvesting any of it for a meal as the bed was waterlogged and the tender leaves bashed. The chard that I had moved from one plot bed to another, is looking really sorry for itself. I know for next year, not to do this. The sprouts are still very small, to be honest I don't think they will be bulking much either, but I hope. I didn't harvest anything today, as we still have some vegetables, including cabbages and carrots from last weekend and a load of potatoes in storage.

Here are some pictures taken last weekend of plants with some colour, but they are fading very quickly.
Cardoon flower head. Purple clematis, dandelion and two others whose names I cannot remember are still giving us some colour.

Chive Potato Balls

Most of us are familiar with the herb chive. Chives have that delicious pungent flavour which can only be associated with herbs of the allium family. The others being garlic and onions.

There are a variety of chives. The most common variety of chives is allium shoenoprasum and these chives have the beautiful purple - pink globular flowers and the green stem is mostly used for culinary purposes. This particular chive is perhaps the most versatile and the most delicate. They give a light, fresh hint of onion to whatever they garnish. The flower heads are also edible and often served as garnish on soups and salads. Then there is Chinese Chives, Pink Chives, and garlic chives also a hardy perennial, with white flowers in the summer.
Chives are very easy to cultivate and make a wonderful addition to the herb garden but equally, chives can be used as border plants and will create a very attractive feature, especially when the chives flower with pink in the summer. They are also ideal to grow in pots. Another great benefit of growing the chive is it attracts beneficial insects such as bees to your garden. Bees are essential for pollination of our fruit and vegetables.

In my student days I used to buy a lot of dried herbs, especially ones for soups that contained dried carrots, onions, and chives. I have to say that I don’t think dried chives do the real flavour any justice. So now would strongly recommend using fresh chives both for flavour and the colour. A good few years ago, I picked up a handy tip to preserve chives (or any other herb) longer. If you chop them fresh and freeze them in ice cube trays, they can be available at any time for cooking, but to be honest I have never ever done this, mainly because my freezer space was and still is limited.
As a vegetable and herb grower, one of the best tips I learned was to occasionally divide the chive plant, this would rejuvenate it every year, after all it is a perennial, and everything we can do to make it stronger and taste better is a bonus for the kitchen cook.
These chive potato balls were made with fresh chive growing in my garden plot. There were even a couple of lilac flowers still blooming. I think these chive potato balls would be great as buffet food. You could make a tray full, then reheat in the oven for 10 minutes.
I am submitting this recipe into this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging#210. This weeks host is Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen. The weekly food blog event showcases information and recipes about herbs, vegetables, fruits and other plant ingredients. WHB was first initiated by Kalyn's Kitchen, it is now organized by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once.
Chive Potato Balls Aka Little Green Potato Balls
Makes around 12 - 15
675g potatoes
8 tablespoons of chopped chives, or a combination of chives and parsley
4 tablespoons of seasoned wholemeal flour
1 egg, beaten
Dry breadcrumbs as necessary for coating
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Boil the potatoes in their skins in lightly salted water until they are tender. Peel and mash them while they are still warm. Beat in the herbs. Make the potatoes into small, round balls about the size of a gold ball. Roll them in the flour and then coat them in the egg and then the crumbs. Allow to set in fridge for at least an hour before deep frying them in hot oil until golden. Adapted this recipe from Gail Duffs Vegetarian cookbook

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Modes of transport

It is extremely wet today, with the rain showing no signs of stopping. So we gave the allotment a miss and decided to visit one of the city's Museum. The Museum of Transport. Now I know what you may be thinking, transport - vintage cars, motorcycles and bikes what's that got to do with an allotment or food blog, and the truth is nothing. I can't even say that I am into fast cars or motorbikes because I am not, though I did go through a phase in my teenage days of liking motor bikes, but that was only because I had the eyes for a biker boy then.

Anyway, the reason we decided to go to the Museum of Transport was twofold. We wanted to get out of the flat, but it was raining, so it had to be indoors and second it was free. Actually it wasn't too bad at all. Plenty to see if your into cars, trains, aeroplanes, ships, cycles and so on, but I promise I won't bore you with too many transport photos. I left those for D and selected a few I liked that may be of interest.
This is a painting of the Glasgow Underground fondly known by the name of 'Clockwork Orange' because of its carmine-red colour. I was struck by how much the image looked like a poster advertising a movie. Some of you may be wondering why is it called 'The Clockwork Orange', its origins are split between the infamous Stanley Kubrik 1971 movie adaptation of a book with the same name, and a one-liner made by the then chairman of British Rail, Sir Peter Parker, who referred to the system as "the original Clockwork Orange". Which is true, who knows?
This is a painting depicting a bustling city scene of when there used to be tramways and the Scottish weather - do you see the lady in red with the umbrella? Some things never change.
Here are some actual Glasgow trams. Alongside the old modes of transport were vehicles from other parts of the world, or depicting those found in other parts of the world, such as 'rickshaws' and this van.
Its not actually from Pakistan. It's been designed by students from the Glasgow School of Art in the traditions of 'pakistani art'.
What I liked about this particular vehicle was the stickers glowed in the dark, now that appeals to the kid in me.
Faslane caravan. I liked the message.
Elegant women on bicycles. Oh there were even some prams displayed - well it is a mode of transport for the little ones.
There were a few old signs dotted about.
I came across a section that moved away from showcasing transport. It showed a street called Kelvin Street. It definitely was atmospheric.
It was perhaps my favourite part of the museum.
This Continental cafe actually reminds me one of one called the University cafe on Byres Road when I was a student in Glasgow.
I liked these boxes too.
Lipton Tea boxes.
Some familiar, some unfamiliar food jars and boxes displayed in one of the windows.
When we got home I made a quick dish of cauliflower pasta bake. Most people have a good cauliflower pasta bake recipe, so I won't be posting recipe, but the one thing I did do slightly differently was add a generous pinch of cayenne pepper to the sauce. It was just what we wanted after a rainy cold day out.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Marrow cream petals and more

A little while ago, I made a jar swap with Nic of Nip it in the bud. I had not opened my marrow jar and lovely Nic has been asking me have I tried it yet? what do I think? and do I like it? I have a small kitchen with a small fridge that was bulging, so I was waiting for one jam jar to empty and make room for another, well it finally happened. I was able to open and taste the marrow cream and I was not disappointed.
It is thick, spreads like butter, luscious and zingy. The mild citrus flavour lingers in your mouth for awhile. I absolutely loved it. Thanks to Nic, I will be growing marrows next year, only to make some of my very own marrow cream.
Also after reading Anns comments to my most recent gift exchange, I also decided to open a jar of the mulled wine plum jam, and oooh it smells like the Christmas season. I got the idea to make these tartlet casings into petal shapes using a cookie cutter after seeing a savoury version of them on another bloggers blog. These little tartlet cases are so versatile, you can even fill them with cream and curd or both.
By the way, when I came home from work this evening, guess what was waiting for me?! This little chicken may not lay eggs, but I adore her. Thank you Ann.
By the way Ann is willing to swap some other lovely home-made gifts with home-made delights, so check out the basket and follow this link if your interested. Both the crafts pictures are taken from Ann's blog Calico and cards.

For the mulled wine plum jam and the marrow cream recipe aka lemon surprise spread, please follow the links.
Petal tartlet cases
Makes about 10-12 small tartlet casings
180g plain flour
90g softened butter
50g icing sugar
a egg yolk
Combine the flour, sugar and butter by hand as I do (or in a food processor) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg yolk, then a little water to make a firm dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut into circles or require shape. Line individual tart tins. Prick the bases all over with a fork, then bake at 4 - 5 for about 15 minutes until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling with your choice of jam, curd or flavoured cream.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Parsnip potato cakes

Look at this strange twisted specimen I pulled out from the soil over the weekend. In case your wondering what it is, it's actually a parsnip.
To my eyes it looks like a 'dirty' toy soldier wielding some kind of sword. Can you see it? Or am I just looking to hard.

Anyway, I made these parsnip potato cakes. I have made them many times before. So knew they would go down well and be good after work food, plus it's very seasonal.
Normally I serve these with garlicky borlotti beans, but today it was with the remainder of the white beans.
Parsnip and potato cakes
340g potatoes, cooked and mashed
340g parsnips, cooked and mashed
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely minced
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped, coriander (or parsley)
30g cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Flour for shaping
1 egg, beaten
Dried breadcrumbs
Sunflower oil, for frying
Mix all the mashed vegetables together in a bowl, add the herbs, garlic and cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well. Divide into 8 even- sized pieces with floured hands, shape into round cakes. Chill. Dip the cakes first into the beaten egg, then coat evenly with breadcrumbs. Chill until ready to eat. Heat enough oil in a frying pan to come up halfway up the parsnip cakes. Fry the cakes on both sides until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. To keep warm put in oven at low temperature. Adapted from Leiths Vegetarian Bible.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Garam Masala Swede aka neep soup

This months 'No Croutons Required' is being hosted by Lisa of the Lisa’s Kitchen and she challenged us to create a soup or salad with root vegetables. I really like the theme of this challenge, as there are so many seasonal root vegetables around that I feel spoiled for choice, especially with my home grown vegetables. I could have made carrot soup, turnip soup, parsnip soup, even Jerusalem artichoke and ginger soup which is what I was actually going to make as I had dug up some Jerusalem artichokes from the plot this weekend, but I changed my mind as I had half a swede (grown in Perth, Scotland) left over from for the white chilli bean I had made earlier in the week.

Instead I decided to make a belly warming neep soup with some South Asian influences and why not. Here in Scotland, we have vegetarian haggis samosa and haggis pakoras here, so why not garam masala neep soup aka Swede soup with warm spices. One thing cooks should know about garam masala is you can add it the pot whilst the vegetables are cooking, or use it after as a garnish, or both – which is what I have done with this recipe.
Swede is a very plain looking vegetable but upon cooking it becomes almost golden. It is a close relative of the turnip and for this reason their names are sometimes used interchangeably. In America, Swedes are called rutabagas and in Scotland neeps. When I first moved to Scotland I made the mistake of assuming that neeps was a derivation of the word turnip as in turneep, but I was later informed by a fellow Scot that neeps were actually swede but were commonly known as Swedish turnip.

Some of you may be thinking, why didn’t I use my own home-grown swede. I don’t often eat swede that often, so I made a decision not to grow it. However, if someone had given me a dozen seedlings to plant, I would have happily taken them, as that amount would have been sufficient for me.

Anyway, back to the soup, the idea for this garam masala neep soup was heavily influenced by one of my favourite soups: curried parsnip soup made by the cookery writer Jane Grigson. I did surf the web for a similar recipe made with swede, but couldn’t find one, so decided to make my own version. I was pleasantly surprised with the result and found it actually very rich, creamy and filling. I think the soup would be delicious with a side serving of swede crisps with some garam masala and a touch of salt sprinkled on top, who needs croutons?!
I am submitting this to Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen who is hosting Novembers 'No Croutons Required' challenge.

Garam Masala neep soup
Serves 4 – 6
1 small swede, about 400g peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
1 red chilli, sliced
1 tablspoon of garam masala
Salt to taste
1 ½ pints of water or vegetable stock
Extra garam masala for sprinkling
Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan, add the onion and garlic if using and cook for a few minutes until translucent but not coloured. Add the swede, garam masala and chilli and cook for a few minutes, then add the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer until the swede is soft. Turn off. When cool, blend the soup, adjust the seasoning, reheat and serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of extra garam masala if desired.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A2K Fellow plotholder huts

On Sunday, after D had completed temporarily patching up the leaky hut, he disappeared on for me for about an hour, whilst I got on with the weeding. When he got back to the plot, I asked him where he had been he smiled and says ‘doing a little project for your blog’. Then he proceeds to show me digital photographs he had just taken.

He had taken a photograph of nearly every hut on the plot. Now there must be about 55 plots on the site, but not every one has a building. I think he managed to get 32 photos.
I know they would have been more interesting in colour, but to reserve anonymity we decided to go for black and white. The majority of the huts, sheds and greenhouses are made from recycled material, and each plot holder has put his/her individual mark on it in relation to decor. See what you think. Click on the image if you want to take a closer look.

Monday, 16 November 2009

White Bean and Cabbage Stew with a Scarlet Salsa

I made this dish only for two reasons. One because I had to use a cabbage picked last weekend (I think) and two, I have been hearing a lot about 'White Chilli Bean' dishes amongst British celebrity cooks. White Chilli Bean dishes have been around for awhile, a decade in fact, but they have only become popular in the U.K recently.

Anyway, I was curious to try out a white chilli bean, so I flicked though one of my American cookbooks and decided on a recipe which contained winter vegetables including swede (also known rutabaga). On serving, this White Chilli Bean to my eyes looked more like a Cabbage Bean stew with a vibrant salsa. It did not have the spice kick, the allure of vegetables such as colourful peppers, or the deepness of black or brown beans ' vegetarian chilli'. However, the salsa was pleasant. It made the stew come alive with its smoky undertones and the zing of the coriander.
I am not saying that I did not enjoy this dish, I did, it just didn’t meet with my expectations of what a 'vegetarian chilli' should be like (an oxymoron I know), hence I have renamed it. I will at some point try out another 'white bean chilli' recipe.
The resulting quantity of this dish gave us three, maybe even four meals: in a bowl as we had yesterday, in a wrap as we had today and with rice or even potatoes later in the week.
White Bean and Cabbage Stew with a Scarlet Salsa
Serves 6
For the White Bean Stew
200g dried cannellini beans, cooked and drained or two tins.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 green cabbage, chopped into quarter, then finely sliced
1 generous teaspoon dried oregano
1 potato, cut into ½ inch cubes
½ swede, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Scarlet salsa
1 ancho pepper
1 chipotle pepper
2 tablespoons of sun dried tomato in oil, minced
1 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
Juice from 2 limes
Bunch of coriander leaves, minced
Salt to taste
MethodFor the beans
In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, and sauté them until they soften. Add the garlic and cabbage and cook on low heat until cabbage is translucent. Add to the pot 4 cups of water, the oregano, the potato and swede cubes. Season with salt and cook for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the beans and mix well, then add a further 2 cups of water and cook until thickened.
For the salsa
In the meantime make the salsa. Soak both the ancho and chipotle pepper for ten minutes, cut open and remove seeds. Then mince finely. Place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, including salt to taste. Leave aside for the flavours to combine. Serve in large bowls with a spoonful of salsa on top. Adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Late Autumn day

The rain stayed away, so we spend a couple of hours at the plot. One of our priority jobs was to work on the hut where the rainwater was getting in, so D focused on that whilst I did the exciting job of weeding and harvesting.
Here's our harvest of the day. There are also some Jerusalem artichokes in there somewhere. I decided not to pick any chard today. I thought it would be better to pick it when we needed it and we have plenty at home in the garden plot too.
As well as being dry, it was relatively warm too.
I pulled out some purple haze carrots, this is the first one I have come across that has not grown straight.
Although the little Brussels sprouts are starting to plump up, I don't think they will be as 'fat' as those you find at the supermarkets, but I don't mind.
I can't remember the name of these cabbages and think they should really be harvested, but decided to leave it as we have enough to be getting on with for this week.
This is what the fenugreek looks like, all battered. I hope it grows a bit more...otherwise no fenugreek meals for me.
These are really small finale fennel. They seem to have self-seeded from the previous lot. A bonus for the winter!
I chopped of part of the leeks leaves, as some were getting to heavy and getting damp and soggy. If you look closely, you can see that they are all varying in size. I haven't harvested any yet.
This is the PSB from which I managed to harvest some more stems to eat. Oh yeah, that's me in the back too - weeding. I also cleared part of the strawberry bed. It really is a mess.
This is the last of the colourful lupins. I actually cut them all back today, as they have a tendency to self-seed. Oh the next picture is not a particularly pleasant one, so if you are of a nervous disposition or get squeezy easy, I would say stop reading. If not, please go on...
Whilst weeding and lifting stones up, I came across a number of slug eggs....eewwwww....I know...I don't them either, but this is a brilliant photograph take by D. Look closer and you can see some of the eggs cracked open. Amazing or what?!
This is my home-made compost bin. This is the first time every it has been overflowing. It will rot down eventually.
Okay that was my afternoon. Now I am off to enjoy the rest of the weekend or what's left of it.