Monday, 31 August 2009

guivetch, red cabbage casserole

This is one of my favourite winter warmers, but I make it whenever red cabbage is around in the stores. Everyone who's tasted it has loved it. Guivetch sounds exotic: Red Cabbage Casserole doesn't have the same catchiness, does it?

This photo shows the main ingredients - well, most of them, anyway. I realise I've forgotten to put the garlic cloves on the cutting mat, and it wouldn't be the same without the garlic!!! Also missing is the parsely. Who stole the red cabbage? It was right there when I took the picture!!!!!

So, take:

3 large sticks of celery - chopped
1 large onion - chopped
6 cloves of garlic (or to taste, obviously), crushed
half a red cabbage, shredded
half a tin of sweetcorn, drained (or use fresh if it's around)
100gms chopped Brazil nuts
2 stock cubes (or homemade, concentrated stock)
15 ml horseradish paste (I use wasabi)
2 tsp harissa paste/powder
parsley - a good handful if fresh, 3 tsps if dried
salt and pepper

Fry celery and onion gently in a little olive oil. Add garlic and red cabbage and sautee for a few minutes more. Dissolve stock cubes in about half a pint of water and add to pan with the Brazil nuts, sweetcorn, horseradish, harissa and parsely. Simmer for quarter of an hour until just cooked, then season to taste.
Feel free to add more harissa or horseradish if it's not hot enough for your taste buds, or more parsley. Add other herbs if you like, or the rest of the sweetcorn. Stir in chick peas or butter beans for a variation on a theme, both work well, the nuttiness of the chickpeas complements the heat, and the butter beans add a creaminess.
The nuts help to thicken the liquor, so chop them finely. Having said that, now adjust so that the oveall mix appeals to you. Add a little more water if it's too thick - the liquid soaks into the potato or rice that you serve with it, and is delicious:)

Serve with jacket baked potatoes, boiled potoatoes, or over rice, accompanied with a green vegetable. I'll add a photo of the cooked dish once I've made it for dinner - be patient, be patient:)

I believe this to have been described as a Russian peasant dish when I came across it, about 20 years ago. Lucky peasants!!

Well, we enjoyed it with green beans, fresh from the garden, and a jacket potato. Here it is, lovely colours and a mix of textures. Scrummy.

Raw food, take two!

What an idiot I was not to have included the recipe for the "cheese" - sorry, everyone!

I blended a third of a cup of sesame seeds, and two thirds of a cup of brazil nuts with 15ml extra virgin olive oil, the zested rind of an unwaxed lemon, and its juice - adding a small amount of water until a reached a thick consistency. I added a grinding of rock salt until it was to my taste. You can see tiny flecks of zest in the close up - artistically it would have looked better on a dark plate, but all mine are white!

I still remember the flavours of cheese made from animal milk from before I became vegetarian, let alone vegan, and I can't say that this is anything like any of the cheeses I remember from way back then.

However, it is tasty, spreads well on crackers, and is very easy to make. I use a Bamix rod mixer, but I'm sure my old food processor would have made just as good a job of it.

Next time I make it, I shall add a clove of garlic - I do love garlic - and some green herbs, in the hope that I shall obtain something akin to the Boursin that I used to know and love. There is a company out there which makes a cream cheese with garlic and herbs, but it is very, very creamy, which I don't always want. This has more texture, though I would imagine that blending it for longer would create a creamier mix.

Worth trying with any variations you enjoy, such as red pepper, chilli etc. The important thing is to have a go:)

Happy blending!

Friday, 28 August 2009

old age, birthday party

My next door neighbour will be 98 in a few days, and her daughter is throwing a garden party for her at the weekend. My fingers are crossed for the sunshine to bless us with its presence, and not allow the heavy, fitful showers of today.

I've been cogitating - what on earth do you give as a gift to a wonderful lady of such an advanced age? She has everything she needs. Her sight is imperfect, so a book would be pointless, as would a picture. I suppose a fleece throw for round her knees in the winter is a possibility, a cheerful colour always helps when it's cold outside, doesn't it?

I gave her chocolates and flowers last year, so they're out of the equation. Unless I give her a plant - the carers could water it, and she could enjoy it, especially if it was scented. But I don't know if she has allergies.

I could give her bubbles for her daily bath - a splash of pleasure every day for a while. Or a small bottle of whisky to aid her sleep at night - I know she enjoys a small tipple every evening to help her to drift off.

A difficult decision. I rather think I'll bake her a cake. I know she likes chocolate - she usually has an open packet of chocolat coated fingers on her tray. To have something made espicially for one is a real treat, showing care and thought has gone into the gift, not simply grabbing something from a supermarket shelf.

I think she'd enjoy that - and at the end of the day, that's the reason for giving a gift - to give enjoyment.

Which reminds me, I must start to make her birthday card. More decisions to be made!!!

Raw food, easy raw "cheese" recipe, vegan

You might like to visit this blog to check out some raw food ideas:)

:: Big Raw Vegan Blog :: Living Food Goodness :: Green Leafy Vegetables ::: My Raw Vegan CHEESE Recipe

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

salad, lettuce, nasturtiums, rocket, spinach

Summer is, allegedly, with us. My sockless feet aren't convinced!!

Only two lettuces survived the slugs and birds, but don't they look great? They are a form of Iceberg, but can't remember which vairety. They are crisp, but not as tightly hearted. I pick just a few leaves at a time, and they carry on growing - great!

I always pick a few nasturtium leaves and flowers to add a touch of pepperiness and colour to my salad. Nature is fantastic - a forest of beautiful, glowing orange flowers, and green, lily-pad shaped leaves. The flowers have a velvety texture, which some people don't like, but as part of the salad plate, it's great. You can also eat the seed pods as they form, for a more concentrated heat.

For further colour I have some purple spinach. This shot shows the flower spikes, which are a delightful pinky, purple. You can see some of the heart shaped leaves through them. I always allow one or two of my spinach and chard plants to flower so that they provide seeds for next year's crops.

Monday, 17 August 2009

vegetable update, runner beans, broad beans

A brief update on the runner beans, which are running away lengthwise! I've been cropping every other day, but now, I shall have to increase to picking them every day - no point in letting them grow long and stringy, is there?

You can see them, dangling down in varying lengths. So far, the slugs have largely left them alone, thank goodness. And isn't it lovely to see the beans alongside the flowers? Pods ready for picking, and beautiful flame orange flowers promising further beans to come. Bliss.

The broad beans are also flourishing. The pods are swelling, and the embrionic beans are beginning to show as slight bulges through the soft lining of the pods. When young, the pods are small and erect, as they grow, they remain erect, almost upright, sometimes. Finally, they become flacid at the junction with the body of the plant, and begin to droop. all their youthful vigour has gone. They are best picked just before this happens, whilst still firm and relatively upright.
How delicious they are, steamed or boiled for a very short time, and served either nude, or with just a grind of salt/pepper, and maube a drizzle of oil, though they really don't need it, they are so tasty just as they are. Many people eat them raw, but I'm not too keen.
It's all a matter of taste, and luckily, there's no-one to judge us on that, is there? Enjoy your food however you like it - cheers!

free potoatoes update

A couple of weeks ago I had some potatoes that were sending up small shoots, chitting, in their basket under my hand-made kitchen trolley.

David was, at that time, carting carefully sieved top soil down to the bottom of the garden where all the hard core had been stored. It's amazing how much space had been taken up by the sprawling mass of broken bricks, concrete, tiles etc.

The top soil was in bags which had contained a ton or so of sand from the building of the vegetable beds. Huge things, about a square metre, I suppose - like giant's shopping bags.

In previous years I have tried the trick of planting one potato in a bucket in summer, earthing up the shoots as they appear for a few weeks until the bucket is full, then by Christmas, voila - a bucketfull of lovely new potatoes.

This time, the giant sacks of top soil are taking the place of the buckets - a huge experiment. The top photo is of the growth so far - quite impressive, I think you'll agree.

The second photo is of a further batch, in a second bag, with just a couple of shoots through so far, but encouraging, nonetheless :) It's surprising how dark the new leaves are, and how prickly their appearance.

As the grow, they become paler, and no longer look quite so spiky. I showed you a photo of their flowers in an earlier blog, but here it is again, for those of you who didn't read it. Such a pretty, star-like flower, these are pink, some are more white. The flowers will become berries - DO NOT EAT the berries, they are poisonous!

Isn't it strange that a plant that provides one of our staple foods, the potato, below the ground, grows poisonous foliage, flowers and berries above the ground?

I wonder if this is a protective measure on the part of the plant? If that which grows above ground is poisonous, it won't be eaten, and it thus protects the hidden tuber swelling below the ground - its own food-store for the next year. A mystery!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

tomato plants, flowers, free food, compost

I mentioned how to provide yourself with free potatoes in an earlier post. I've also got free tomatoes growing in the garden, which is looking quite lush, I'm pleased to say.

These free plants are courtesy of my "home grown" organic compost. Since I was a small girl, my mother has always had a compost heap - even when all we had was a back yard we kept a pile of tea leaves, egg shells, potato peelings etc in a corner, and the compost was used for plants in the small border.

Naturally, I too have always had a compost pile, or three! In my first small garden, it was about a square meter, and fed my tomatoes and potatoes - the only vegetables I grew in my first small garden.

In the large house where we lived for 19 years, we created compost bins out of pallets, so they were a very good size, and grew very hot - nighbourhood cats loved to settle themselves down on the top in the winter when it was cold.

Since my divorce, my garden has shrunk somewhat, but, as you've seen, David has built me three lovely raised beds to grow my vegetables in, and I have three largish compost bins to provide the nourishment that my organic vegetables need. .....................................................................................
Clearly, however, these bins are not reaching the same high temperature as the older ones did, as the seeds are obviously surviving - hence the tomato plants. The seeds have lain dormant in the compost until it has been spread onto the beds, and there they have sprouted along with the seeds I have sown.
So ............. more free food:-)
First the sunny, starry yellow flowers, then the tiny green fruits follow on. (You did know that tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables, didn't you?) See how tiny they are? They haven't ripened yet, as the beds weren't finished until summer was already upon us, but they will. Nature is abundantly kind this year:-)

vegetable, runner beans,

The runner beans are running away with themselves now that they are well established. Some of them are aiming for the stratosphere, sending twisting tendrils way above the supporting arches, which are, themselves, tall enough to walk under!

I've taken three croppings so far of tender, succulent young beans. Som much better than buying them in the market or supermarkets, where the available beans have been grown for length and proclivity rather than flavour.

As so many plants this year survived to adulthood, I am able to pick them whilst they are relatively short in length, at about six or seven inches, before they have formed the stringy bit that would normally need to be peeled out.
All I need to do is wash them, boil for a few minutes, then serve with a drizzle of oil and a grinding of salt and pepper. Delicious :-)

Monday, 10 August 2009

broad beans, flowers

I harvested my first broad bean yesterday. Not a very exciting piece of news, I hear you say, but the way I ate it was - at least for me!

My broad bean plants grow to about 3 feet in height. They are sturdy, and produce lovely white flowers with a black throat, as you can see in the photo.

If I'm lucky, and they are pollinated, the flowers blacken and melt away, leaving a tiny green bud - the new pod. This one, by my thumb, is quite new, but the flower has just about been washed away. At this stage is is very firm, but could easily be dislodged, so I'm careful not to knock them.

After a couple of weeks, the pod has increased its size to the length of my thumb, and is developing a rounded wavy outline, where the beans themselves are swelling within the protective outer shell. You can see a few of them on this plant.

I've always taken the full, swollen green pod, when you can feel the outlines of the rounded beans through the pod, peeled back the soft, furry lined shell, and popped the beans off their yellow fixers, boiled and eated them.

However, the other day I read an article which suggested that broad beans could be eaten whole, like mangetout, pod and beans. This seemed a little strange to me, the insides of the pods are delightfully soft and furry, as you'll probably know from when you've podded the ones you've bought from the market. I couldn't imagine how they would feel in the mouth!

So, yesterday, I picked one pod. Yes, I know, it was wimpish, but I was really, really not convinced I would like it. I boiled it along with some mangetout for a few minutes, and bravely took a bite.

I didn't experience the shock sensation I was expecting with regard to texture, but neither was I blown away with excitement. It was a pretty neutral experience. There wasn't the depth of flavour that you get with the actual beans, and since the flavour of broad beans is what I love, I shall stick to my usual method of eating them.

Have any of you eaten them like this? what did you think? do you agree with me that the flavour is less pronounced?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

cars, problems, value for money

David bought an estate car after his previous saloon car had been written off in a car accident, which, incidentally, left me with a broken wrist. I'll never forget that Valentine's Day!!!

The idea of the estate car was to enable him to take more stock to the car boot sales he enjoys doing. To be, in effect, a workhorse. It has done sterling service, working hard not only for car boot sales, but collecting and delivering furniture to auction houses, collecting sand, cement, plasterboards, paint and other DIY paraphanalia from various emporia.

It's also ferried huge granite cobbles from David's house to mine without complaining once, nor asking for hay!

It has had to have the odd part replaced, and small parts have cracked, like the frame that holds the passenger door handle in place, or the courtesy light fitting. A pane of glass still needs replacing from when he bought it - the piece of plastic serves the purpose wonderfully, and it was never a thing of beauty!

About 3 weeks ago, there was a puddle of liquid under it, and the man at the garage said it was the power-assisted steering tube which was leaking. David tracked down a second-hand tube at a breaker's yard, and paid to have it installed. This week, the puddle returned.

The man at the garage was authorised to order a new part from abroad, and yesterday morning, it was fitted. All done, no more leaks.

Yesterday evening, I waved David off as he drove home - he lives about 40 minutes away. I sent him a text to say "goodnight", as you do, and received a reply. I wasn't sure if it was a joke, it said "car broke, serious engine prob, may be scrapped". You can imagine I was suddenly wide awake!!

Apparently he had been obliged to call out the RAC - we're both members, thankfully, and they had taken him home.
Poor David! One problem solved, and another raises its ugly head.

I'm waiting for further details to discover just what is the matter with it. It's only about 5 weeks ago that it passed its MOT with no problems, now it may be dying. How fragile life is, not only for humans, but for our possessions too.

It's an elderly car, a P reg, I think, and he's had it four and a half years. Would it have been better to buy a new car? Would that have worked out cheaper? Who can say?

I buy new, because, as a woman, I need to have a reliable car. Or that was the case whilst I was working. Now, my car is about to celebrate its third birthday, so will need its first MOT. It's only done just over 6000 miles, so you can see how little I drive now that I don't work.

I take a bus into town for uni, and walk back. It's cheaper and easier than finding suitable car-parking, and the walk home keeps me fit. I don't really need the car at all, but if I sell it, I'd probably never buy another one, and would lose the skill of being able to drive, along with the convenience of just being able to go where I want, when I want.

I consider myself to be quite a "green" person, so should I sell it? I really don't know. What do you think?