Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Brazil Nut Banana Muffins

Well this is week three that I along with many other people in the world have been in social isolation and working from home.
Its the first time I have been fortunate to work for an organisation, that has permitted me to work from home. Its not always been like this, a couple of years ago I worked for an organisation that pressured me to come in from my rural location to the city when we had 'The Beast from the East', even though all public transport from where I lived had been cancelled, afraid of being stranded I ended up taking annual leave that period. I am thankful that I now work for a considerate employer, I know that not everyone has that.  
In fact both D and myself have been working from home.  Its easy to get distracted with all the homely comforts, but we are disciplining ourselves.  D works from one room and I work from the other, the only time we cross paths is for lunch or in the kitchen for a cuppa.  And please don't be impressed with our expresso machine above, we have hardly used it! Its become more ornamental than useful. 

This brings me onto my Brazil Nut Banana Muffins.  I made these in the first week of social isolation.  The recipe is adapted from Heidi Swanson of 101 cookbooks from her Super Natural Cooking.  I didn't have all the ingredients to hand, for a start  I only had one leopard spotted banana. So I halved the recipe quantity and topped off with brazil nuts as I did not have the recommended pecans.  These were surprisingly good, especially the crunchy Brazil nuts which I haven't had in a long, long while - felt like a treat!  

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Sticky and Fiery Crystallised Ginger Cake

Hope your all keeping well.

Other than the garden, I have not stepped outside of the house since we were advised to stay (and work from) home to protect ourselves and the NHS and save lives.  As I am not having to commute to and from work, I am finding that I have more time on my hands (and energy) in the evening, so am trying to find some distractions to remain upbeat, one of which is doing some baking with whatever ingredients we have in the house. Here's a Crystallised Ginger Cake I made last week, but more about that in a moment.
I  was also was thankful the good weather as it permitted me to go and finish off the weeding and digging.  As many of you will know, the past few weekends and months in fact have been dreary, wet and damp, so I was  little pleased that I was able to spend most of my Saturday and Sunday in the garden tidying it up for the next lot of planting .  

Here are some pictures of the garden. I know I should have done a before and after, but I wanted to get stuck in and get my hands dirty. 
I have cleared the whole plot of weeds, clumps of grass, removed last year climbing bean frames and wigwams.  What you can see above is the plum tree starting to bud.  Below it is our strawberry patch and in the corner you can just about see the rhubarb coming into its own.   
Every gardener knows gardening is a never ending job, but I was pleased with my achievement as I looked back - no weeds.   
The Rainbow Chard is still growing strong and is giving the garden colour.  I have harvested Ruby chard leafy stems for a Cheese Quiche filling, but have decided to leave the rest in the ground until I come to cook with them in the upcoming days (and possibly weeks) that way they will remain fresher, then the ground will be dug over and free for the next lot of incoming plants. 

I also dug out some potatoes (not shown), and still wondering if they are okay to eat?!
The above picture shows our pear tree. The invasive mint, Artichoke and raspberry patch which is in need of some weeding.   I am sharing this blog post with Dave over at Happy Acres who hosts Harvest Monday every week.

Now back to the Crystallised Ginger Cake.  Ginger as we know has many health benefits, one of which is its good for colds and flus, so it can only be good for us especially at this time. 
This cake has double the dose of ginger: ground ginger and crystallised ginger (and could have taken a triple dose with freshly grated), but I thought I'd hold back this time round.  It was spicy with a little bit of fiery and proper sticky topping - reminisce of old fashioned Jamaica Ginger Cake.  I don't know if it was doing us any good medicinally, but it was hitting the happy spot.  D liked it so much that he said I can make it again.  By the way if you do bake this, the crystallised ginger may fall to the bottom, but you can flip the cake over.
Other Ginger Recipes
Beetroot and Ginger bread Muffins
Gingerbread Pancakes
Fresh Ginger and Carrot Muffins (vegan)
Vegan Chocolate Ginger Cake (vegan)
Orange Gingerbread Slices
Rhubarb and Ginger Loaves
Rhubarb and Gingerbread Loaf

Monday, 23 March 2020

Sowing Seeds and Burning Deadwood

So yesterday - well most of the weekend, I took advantage of the dry weather and spent much of it in the garden plot
D got round to fixing the greenhouse and replacing the missing panes, and I was grateful as this meant I was able to sow all of the seeds that arrived late last month. I will up-date my Growing and Sowing Seed blog page by the end of the week, so you can see exactly what it is I am growing.
Despite having been scratched and scraped and scrammed from the thorny bramble wires that had crept into our garden plot from the neighbours, I was rather pleased with my achievements. 

My neighbours with the Jack Russell also had the same idea regarding their garden and did their fair share removing the sharp brambles, most of which were stemming from their side of the fence.  We had some interesting conversations around the state of the world and the predicament we find ourselves in, all the time maintaining our 'social distance'. We also spoke about how fortunate we are to have a garden at this time, as many people including some of our colleagues live in city flats without even a balcony.

By late afternoon, we had started trying to burn some of the dry dead weeds, spent raspberry canes and dead tree wood that had broken off by the force of the winds, but the flames were just not catching - instead smoke was bellowing from our compost bin.  I caught sight of a neighbour three doors down give us a disapproving look as the smoke wafted in the direction of their clothes hanging on the drying line since the morning, it was now way past 6.00pm.  

We still have a long way to go to get on top of the garden, but I am pleased with what we managed to accomplish in the first dry weekend in a long time.  I have some annual leave to take by the end of the month, so there will be a few more days in the garden, as we are not going anywhere far from our front door like the rest of the world.  I will enjoy my garden and am grateful for my little green space.  The only spoiler is the other neighbour with the constant barking sausage dog whose noise pierces and spoils the quietness of the place, but it could be much worse -I know...

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Lemon Drizzle Cake for Optimism

Neither of us like supermarket shopping at the best of times, so we have always been in the habit of doing a big bulk shop (tinned tomatoes, dried beans, lentils, grains, as well as flours) in the long-run its often works out much cheaper for us. Unlike other people around us, we haven't bought any additional toilet rolls since the panic! I did however pick up some hand wash the last time I went in to work in my lunch break.  

We are however beginning to run low on fresh fruit and vegetables, so we will have to venture out at some point this week. We are doing our utmost to take individual responsibility for our actions and will buy only what we need, and try and not be influenced by the madness that surrounds us.  

Perhaps this time round, I will use what now seems like 'luxury' ingredients at the back of my kitchen cupboards that often get overlooked, and not waste them like the black quinoa, black rice, pumpkin puree, red velvet chocolate curd and purple yam spread  which may already be well past its sell by date, seeing that I blogged about it first in 2015.

Anyway, you know the saying, when life gives you lemons make lemonade !   That may be the case in hotter climates but not here.  I checked out the thinking behind this phrase, and its often used to encourage optimism and a positive attitude in the face of adversity.  Lemons represent a sour or difficult stage in life and thus, making lemonade transforms them into something more palatable and therefore bearable.  Well in the UK, we make Lemon Cake!
Actually I made this Lemon Cake early this January.  The recipe came from Emily who blogs at A Mummy Too. Its a good Lemon Drizzle Cake. D was delighted with it and approved of the citrus tang!
Okay, I am off to do some gardening this weekend while its dry and the sun is shining. It looks like my neighbours have the same idea too!

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Squash and Thyme Soup

To be truthful, I don't feel like blogging much in light of what is happening around us all.

I'd rather be out in the garden getting the ground ready for growing, but every weekend the rain falls and the ground is too drenched to dig.  I haven't even started sowing my seeds that arrived early this month. Instead, I find myself resting at the weekends, as the working week is sometimes hard with the commuting.  I am thinking about working home for a couple of days, but that decision (due to the seriousness of coronavirus) perhaps will be made for us, sooner rather than later.
I haven't done much in the way of new or experimental cooking either, finding myself geting into reading both fiction and non- fiction books.  My most recent read was My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay. 
What I am sharing today is a bowl of Squash and Thyme Soup that I made early this year.  
Its not much of a recipe really: sauteed  a couple of onions, garlic and thyme in a little olive oil, then scooped out oven roasted squash wedges. Added some vegetable stock and simmered until thickish. Seasoned to taste. 
Topped off with some homemade croutons made from some left over bread. 
I am sharing this  Squash and Thyme Soup with  Soup Salad and Sammies hosted by Kahakai Kitchen

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Children of the World Plates and Pistachio Cakes

My Kitchen is very quiet at the moment, not a lot going on. 

I do however have something to share that I was very pleased with.  I picked up these gorgeous plates from a charity shop a little while back.   
These are a collection from Villeroy & Boch called 'Children of the World'.  A quick internet search showed me that there are 12 of them, but I am content with what I have. 
 I found some energy to make some Pistachio cakes over the weekend.
The Pistachio Cake recipe comes from Dina Begum's Brick Lane Cookbook: Food From Everywhere.  The little cakes were dense and flavourful and were absolutely delightful to eat.  D loved them.  They were meant to get a glaze, but I decided to give that a miss.  

By the way, I have been to Brick Lane - see here - it was mostly about the graffiti art.
Anyway, I  am sharing this simple blog post with Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen series, I look forward to seeing what you have lurking in your kitchen cupboards or to see whats new.  

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Jamaican Vegetable Stew with Spinners

Another recipe from the cookbook in my kitchen Original Flava Caribbean Recipes from Home.

The recipe this time was for One Pot Vegetable Stew - Jamaican style!
I've seen similar recipes made with gungo aka pigeon peas, but the recipe here used kidney beans. Other ingredients in this stew were spring onions, carrots, butternut squash, scotch bonnet, allspice, thyme and coconut milk. 

I've also been wanting to make spinners which are small long thinnish dumpling that expand upon cooking for a long while.  So was pleased with the final hearty dish, though I need more practice to make the spinners. 
This Jamaican Stew with Spinners was easy to make, especially with tinned kidney beans.