Local food

Summer Rose Syrup

IMG_0501.JPGSummer roses…

This recipe captures the scent, fragrance and wild essence from your garden rose into a syrup so gorgeous and simple you’ll want to keep making it over and over.

In the UK we’re blessed with many herbs and flowers that give food such an extra special unique taste. Elderflower season has come and gone, and this year’s cordial is now frozen into ice cubes for coolers dressings and cakes to be enjoyed well into the summer.

Over the years I’ve been fascinated by cooking with wild-plants that I find in the hedgerows and gardens near wherever I’m living. For some people it is a way of life and the ultimate expression of seasonality.

In America last year I was fortunate enough to meet a herbalist who made her own herbal vinegars, flower coolers, infusions and tinctures. When I tasted for the first time in my life a vinegar made of yellow dock that was so punchy fragrant and utterly indescribably bittersweet, it added such an unique flavour to our roasted vegetable dish, and added so many health benefits I vowed I would make it some day… but right now the roses are in bloom.

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This recipe is so utterly simple and delicious it will put the magic of summer into whatever piece of toast, pancake, yoghurt or waffle you drizzle it over. It makes a lovely icing for a cake.  Full of sugar, just like jam, this doesn’t pretend to be healthy. But as a vegan sweetener or jam equivalent, rose petal syrup can be used in moderation, made in small quantities and appreciated for what it is. I feel it’s a valuable and gorgeous addition to your cupboard.

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CHINESE ROSE

Recently when we were in China, travelling in the South in Yunnan, we came across a rose delicacy that blew me away and got me very interested in learning more about cooking with roses. It was a Moon Cake, a ceremonial and local delicacy, made with a flaking light pastry filled with chunky rose jam. Served warm and fresh out of a linen-lined basket by a crinkly faced apple-cheeked local. We stood there blissfully at the stall (despite it being close to a main road for passing trade) immersed in rose-heaven…a taste so blissful I want to go all the way back to China just to taste it again, it blew my mind!

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Rose sweeties…

Ever since Lee and I volunteered on an organic lavender and rose farm in Turkey in 2014, I became fascinated with the colossal copper vats where literally tons of freshly harvested rose petals would be made into essential oil. All around Turkey, roses featured highly in every market place in the form of soaps, tea, jams, sweets, and as rose-water, traditionally used by woman and men as a hand spray to lightly scent the skin after a meal.

rose sultan

“What is the scent of the Rose? The breath of reason and intelligence, a sweet guide on the way to the eternal kingdom.” Rumi

The Damask rose is as revered in Turkish society today as it was in the Ottoman times for it’s edible petals and delicious scent. Imagine a scene at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul in the Ottoman times where sultans sip rose sherbet in their thrones, Ottoman woman laze around in rose-scented baths applying oils and creams to their skins. Roses, known as ‘The flower of Heaven’ were a symbol of divine beauty and were used extensively in spiritual ceremonies. Medicines, syrups and sweets made from roses were and still are used every day. It’s all very romantic.

If it’s good enough for a sultan it’s good enough for us too, right?

This recipe was requested by a friend of the BHK, super Simon over at the Heart Kitchen.

Here’s the recipe!

Enjoy, Jane:)

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The bits

1 cup of caster sugar

Half a cup of water

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups of freshly picked rose petals

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Do it

Shake the rose petals well outside after picking to free the tiny insects. Warm the sugar, water and lemon juice on a low heat until it’s dissolved into a thick syrup. Add the rose petals and stir them in the sugar solution for about 5 minutes or so, then take off the heat and keep stirring for another ten, until the rose petals have gone see-through and the syrup has changed colour.

Strain the syrup through muslin into a jar.

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Serve

This is one of the world’s most delicious drizzles to be enjoyed with pancakes, toast, waffles, ice creams, cocktails, in tea and even in salad dressings!

Articles referenced in this post are here and here

Photograph of Sultan was originally taken by Nurhan Atasoy.
Categories: Desserts, Foraging, Infusions, Local food, photography, Recipes, Sauces, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Healing Power of Nettles

Nettle tea - 2015 vintage

Nettle tea – 2015 vintage

After a strong nettle tea this morning, I feel supercharged and inspire to share the wealth of our green and bountiful friend.  The nettle plant is much misunderstood, yes it stings a bit, but there is so much more to nettles than that.  It is one of the healthiest plants that grows in temperate areas and is something we could all benefit hugely from incorporating into our diets.   Nettles are one of natures multivitamins (and the rest)!!

We love drinking nettle tea, its a complete health tonic and ideal first thing in the morning. The way we start our days is so very important, what we choose to put into our bodies after many hours sleeping can have a huge effect on our day and health in general.  Nettle tea is the perfect start!  It’s just one of those infusions that you know is doing you the power of good. Then you read a little into it and you’re certain. Nettles are packed full of pure plant power.

Nettles have historically been regarded as a superbly healthy food in many different cultures.  Milarepa the famous Tibetan sage and saint ate them when meditating for ten years in a cave, eventually turning green and gaining the ability to fly (I love these legends).  Sometimes I think we feel like exotic foods, with cool names, are our only source of sparkling nutrition.  However, there are so, so many super foods on our doorsteps (or nearby).

Milarepa - Green after a few too many nettles

Milarepa – Green after a few too many nettles

The nettle picking season is just around the corner and we’re very excited. Hopefully a few will be ready before we head over to the States. North Wales is quite a tough place to grow things however nettles love it and we go on massive picking sessions each year, drying them in our dehydrator or in the boot of our estate car (on very warm days). We can then store the leaves for tea and adding to soups and stews throughout the year. You can even pan fry the leaves or use them fresh, just like spinach. Its a way of stocking up on essential minerals, vitamins and a whole host of sparkling nutritional properties, not to mention that the tea tastes wonderful. Its in the realm of green tea with a few added nuances. Some say its an acquired taste, but I think most are?! When the leaves are fresh, they have a lighter flavour. Free wonderfoods fresh from the hedgerow, now you’re talking!!

Nettles grow prolifically throughout the temperate areas of the world.  They actually thrive on the waste we produce and interestingly, large patches of nettles may be used as sign of previous settlements that are now long gone from our countryside.

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles Recipe

THE POWER OF NETTLES
One of Jane’s teachers, Susan Weed, is a firm advocate of all things nettle and writes about them extensively.  Nettles are also known as the devil’s leaf and even wild spinach, they are certainly equally delicious and even more nutritious.  There are literally hundreds of health properties attributed to this wonder plant, here are a few:

  • Nettles strengthen the kidneys.  Their Greek name is Urtica Dioica, ‘Uro’ meaning urine.
  • They are a powerful tonic, anti-anaemic, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, anti-arthritic, laxative, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, expectorant……..the list goes on and on.
  • Nettles are ideal for women, especially during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.  Nettles help with menstrual cramps, nausea and bloating.
  • A general relaxant that helps with hypertension.
  • Fresh nettle juice is antispetic and can be used as a kitchen spray, for washing skin.
  • Nettles infusions can be used to wash hair, leaving it shiny and thick.  They are also said to prevent hair loss.
  • Helps with gastrointestinal diseases, IBS and constipation.
  • Cures the common cold.
  • They can also help with hormonal, adrenal and energetic imbalances and the circulatory system.
  • They can be taken as an anti-histamine, which over a period of time, can cure ailments like hayfever.
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouthwash.
  • Nettles are known as a digestive restorer and consistent use of nettles strengthens lungs, intestines, arteries and kidneys.
  • Even the nettles sting has been shown to alleviate joint pain!
  • And many, many more……

It’s even been said; 

“The seed of nettle stirreth up lust……”

Gerarde-Johnson 1633

You can definitely say that nettles are an all-rounder!

It is worth mentioning that if you are taking certain pharmaceuticals, you should seek a doctors advice before taking nettles regularly.

NUTRIENTS

Nettles are especially high in calcium, vitamin C and iron.  They are also high in protein and fibre, a whole host of minerals and many more vitamins.

The whole plant is basically a powerful medicine, from roots to seeds.  It is especially good for ‘pale and pasty types’.  I like this little rhyme:

“If they would eat nettles in March and drink Mugwort in May, so many fine maidens would not go to the clay” (Funeral song of a Scottish mermaid)

We seem to have lost touch with so many of natures gifts that surround us throughout every season which are there to give us health and vitality.  I believe that in each environment we can find the nourishment we need to thrive, that is, if we have the knowledge and are inspired to seek them out.

Brewing nettles for tea

HARVESTING NETTLES

Nettles are easily identified by most, we’ve all had a little incident with them as children.  Like any plant, if you are not completely sure, don’t pick it.  There are many different types o nettles, this is especially true if you’re traveling to other countries.  Some have a very nasty sting.

We travel with marigolds and bags in nettle season and when we see a good patch, we harvest.  For eating fresh and drying, take the tender, young leaves from the top of the plant.  The first four is a good rule of thumb.  Like many plants, the growing energy is concentrated in the upper plant, this is what we after.  Nettles become more fibrous as the season goes on, so get in there during early spring although some young paler nettles will grow in shaded areas until late summer.  Always pick nettles, and any edible plants, away from man made signs of poisons and ground contamination.  This means away from roads, railway lines etc.  Many foragers also avoid plants near popular dog walking areas, or at least pick above leg cocking height!

COOKING NETTLES
Nettles are easily transformed into a delicious edible green leaf vegetable.  Simple blanch them in boiling water, this breaks down the formic acid which stings.  You can leave them to steep to make a lovely tea or use as you would any leafy green.  Try a Nettle Aloo or Nettle Soup.  We love them in smoothies and iced teas.  Nettles make for a great pesto and can be used in place of basil and we especially like nettle hummus an stirring the leaves into hot pasta.

NETTLE JUICE

Rinse young leaves and stalks in water, place in a mechanical juicer or place leaves in warm water and leave to steep for 30 minutes.  Place in muslin cloth and wring out the bright green juice.  The juice will keep in a fridge for one day.

RUTH’S NETTLE SOUP

Recipe here.

NETTLE TEA

Recipe here.

PAN FRIED NETTLES

Blanch the nettles leaves in just boiled water.  Save the water as a stock or drink it.  Strain the leaves well.  In a frying pan, add some oil and garlic followed by the leaves.  Fry for a minute and served topped with pine nuts or almonds.

TINCTURES

Jane also makes a wonderful nettle tincture, basically pop lots of leaves into a kilner jar and cover with vinegar (you can also use alcohol like vodka or gin).  You should use young leaves,  dried or fresh are both fine.  Leave for a month or more (the longer left, the stronger the tincture) and then strain with muslin cloth.  Place in small bottles and use the tincture for eczema, psoriasis, allergic rashes, rinse in hair to treat dandruff, taken internally it is known to treat hayfever.  Take 1 teas poon every morning as a preventative or three times a day to treat ailments.

Glorious nettles!

Dry the leaves without blanching them.  As I mentioned, you can do this in a warm car with a couple of windows slightly opened.  On a very sunny day, thinly lay out the nettle leaves on news paper.  Leave for a day and check that the leaves are nicely dry and crisp.  If you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator at home, dry as you would kale or other leaves.  It won’t take long.

The strong fibres of the nettle plant have been used to make paper, sails, bags, cloth (think a silky linen) and makes a very strong string or rope (fifty times stronger than cotton).  Nettles have been cultivated in Mexico for 8000 years for these purposes.  Nettles can also be made into a dye, the leaves for green and the stalks for yellow.

Nettles are a gardeners delight.  They are hugely nourishing to the soil and are amazing on compost heaps.  They can be brewed into a homemade plant fertiliser packed with nitrogen compounds (this stuff stinks by the way) and can be grown as a companion crop with tomatoes and aromatic herbs.

I still think that it’s incredible that nettles are not sold in greengrocers or markets.  It is a shame that more people are not benefiting from this stunning plant.  I’d say if you’re taking multivitamins, why not try nettles instead.  They’re perfectly natural and free!

Drinking nettle tea and eating fresh nettles in stir fries, soups etc will ease and energise the circulatory, immune, endocrine, nervous and urinary systems.  Like I said, an incredible overall tonic and they literally grow on trees (or in small bushes).  If we all used nettles wisely, pharmacies would go out of business!  Nettles are good for us in ways that we don’t really fully understand yet.  The nettles season is coming, don’t miss out!

If you are interested in foraging or taking courses in the UK, www.wildforage.co.uk is a good place to start.

Categories: Detox, Foraging, Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Local food, Nutrition, Recipes, Spring, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

People Food Music – Permaculture in rural India using community, food and music

LEARN AND CONTRIBUTE HERE

I spent time at Solitude Farm in Auroville, Tamil Nadu (India) a couple of years ago.  I was writing Peace & Parsnips at the time, something I did in six different countries whilst travelling around the world.  In a strange way, the more I travelled and spent time with local, proactive farmers, the more I realised my passion for ‘local’, ethically produced food.

Wherever you are in the world, local food plays a critical role in so many ways; it connects us with our local environment, it maintains our health and provides our bodies with all they need to thrive and it can help us build stronger communities, sharing knowledge and working together in positive projects based around an ethical approach to life and society.

Solitude Farm Thalis - All organic and from the land (even the rice and wheat)

Solitude Farm Thalis – All organic and from the land (even the rice and grains)

Krishna was always very kind, Solitude Farm is a place of action and energy, but I occasionally spent late afternoons in my little hut keeping up with the book submission deadlines.  Outside of my typing, I spent plenty of time harvesting papayas, watering and tilling the parched Tamil earth, learning from Krishna about the incredible flora and fauna and cooking.  I did loads of lovely cooking.

I cooked in the Solitude kitchen with local women, who after weeks still referred to me in Tamil as ‘the tall beardy man’.  We prepared the dishes over wood fired stoves with a whole host of exotic ingredients; radhas consciousness (a flower), varagu (like millet), green papaya, plantains, banana flowers, red amaranth leaves……so many wonderful ingredients that we picked freshly every morning.  The food was naturally and effortlessly vegan.  It was an awesome experience!

I have never seen such fecundity, in one small field we had a diverse range of fruits, leaves, nuts and roots to eat.  One small field could provide many, many people with a diverse and nutritious plant-based diet.  At Solitude Farm I saw a vibrant window of what farming could be, when we turn our attention away from the industrial and towards more sustainable, sensitive and enriching practices, namely permaculture and the teachings of Masanobu Fukuoka.  The earth provides us with all that we need and nature is perfect!

Soltitude Farm was such a fertile place to write and be, a place of inspiration in so many ways, much of which hit the pages of Peace & Parsnips.  The sense that when we pull together, anything is achievable and that the future is bright when we turn to the earth and watch, learn and most importantly, act.  The answers to all of our problems are here; in people, food and music.

I hope you get the chance to read more about Krishna’s wonderful project and help to support it, allowing the people of Tamil Nadu access to invaluable training and knowledge that can transform lives and communities.

There are only 12 more days to go to contribute towards this important project and there are some inspiring ideas for last minute Christmas presents.  Really unique and precious.  Embracing and learning about local food is at the heart of a better tomorrow and I thank Krishna for his constant dedication to spreading the seeds of positive change, from the heart to the plate.

Learn more and contribute by clicking below:

PEOPLEFOODMUSIC

  

Categories: Environmentalism, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Inspiration, Local food, Music, Organic, Sustainability, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Griddled Ruby Grapefruit and Beetroot Salad with Toasted Cobnuts and Aronia Berry Dressing

 

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot, and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot, and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

We’ve had a real foodie time of it recently and this salad reflects that.  Not only have I picked up some amazing produce at Ludlow and Beaumaris Food Festivals, but I have also been inspired by the chefs I’ve met.  This is a salad that is caught between summer and autumn, quite apt in September.  It’s also caught somewhere between a restaurant table and home kitchen.  Do not fear, all of the these ingredients are easily interchangeable and there is only a few, quick, prep steps.

This dish is a looker and is something you could serve at dinner party and it would go down a treat.  Its full of bold flavours and the Aronia berry vinegar really lights things up.  Like all salads, its a perfect way of expressing gorgeous produce.  We have made these portions main course size, but you could easily scale things down and serve as a starter.

Some of the special bits; cobnuts (from Ludlow), organic beetroots from Tyddyn Teg and Aronia Berry Vinegar

Some of the special bits; cobnuts (from Ludlow), organic beetroots from Tyddyn Teg Farm and Aronia Berry Vinegar

I think this is the best way to cook beetroots.  Although my mind does change often. I also love charring citrus.  Aine Carlin reminded me how cool charring citrus can be with this simple and delicious dessert recipe ‘Cashew Cream and Griddled Oranges’.  Check it out on youtube.  Aine’s new cookbook is out soon, which is very exciting news.

WHAT’S A COBNUT THEN?

Basically its a hazelnut.  This is the perfect time of year to pick them up and when they are fresh and young, they are plump and have a light, creamy taste and a texture similar to coconut.  They are lighter than a hazelnut when roasted and something that is well worth a try.  Cobnuts were only introduced to the UK in the 19 th century and they are famously from Kent.  In this salad they bring crunch and richness.   Use them as you would use a hazelnut.

Cobnuts -de-shelled and soaked

Cobnuts -de-shelled and soaked

ARONIA BERRIES

We met a lovely group of people at Beaumaris, Beri Da, who are growing Aronia berries in the next valley from us.  Incredible to think that these things are happening so close and you miss them!  We have tried a lot of food and nibbles over this weekend, but some really stand out.  Beri Da is certainly one of them.  Everything they produce is delicious and something a little different.

Beri Da is a small family ran business and you can read more about their story here.  Aronia berries are like blueberries but more intense and packed with even more antioxidants and good stuff.  They are native to North America but are increasingly being grown in the UK.  They are thriving near Mount Snowdon and the guys have just planted even more bushes at the base of the mountain.  A very scenic place for superfoods to grow!

The Aronia vinegar we bought is very intense, fruity and fragrant. A little goes a long way.  We also have some chutney made with beetroot which is just too good to eat right now.  We need to hide it away and dream about it for a while.  Its fair to say that Aronia berries are going down well in the BHK.  We are hoping to pop over and help with the next harvest, I’m not sure how many berries are going to make the basket!

These beetroots were so good looking, I love that crazy, deep purple.

These beetroots were so good looking, I love that crazy, deep purple.

I’m going to write more about the brilliant producers we met over the weekend in our next post.  I’ll also let you know how our first cooking demo’s and book signings went at food festivals.  We started at one of the biggest and surely one of the best, Ludlow.  It was a blast!

VEGFEST 2015

If you haven’t voted in Vegfest 2015’s massive vegan poll, tututututututututttttt!  There are loads of vegan products, authors, suppliers etc to be voted for.  You’ll find ‘Peace & Parsnips’ in the ‘Best Vegan Cookbook’ catergory along with a host of other excellent plant based cookbooks.  The Vegfest is like the vegan Oscar’s and we’ll be down there doing a cooking demo.  Is going to be HUGE!  Exciting stuff.

Lets get cooking……

Recipe Notes:

When frying the beetroots you can use any fruit vinegar, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry etc but all will be different.  Some sweeter, some more potent.  You just need to taste and adjust accordingly.  For frying the beetroots you can also use balsamic vinegar and save your precious fruit vinegar for the dressing.

If you chargrill the grapefruit for too long, they will begin to fall apart.  Keep it to roughly a minute each side, we’re just looking for a few nice griddle marks to add a smokiness to the citrus flavours.  Its well worth the little extra hassle.

I have added avocado for a little bit of richness, but you could easily use cashew cheese or even well drained and marinated tofu.

Our Aronia berry vinegar is very potent, you may need to add more fruit vinegar to balance the dressing nicely.  It should be quite tart with good acidity and a nice twist of sweetness.

The rapeseed oil we use here is good quality, single press, made like olive oil-type stuff.  The flavour is sensational and we are loving Blodyn Aur or Bennett and Dunn.  Both excellent and part of a new wave of quality rapeseed oil producers in the UK.

This recipe makes just enough dressing.  Double the quantity if you’d like extra to be served on the table.

Nicely caramelised beetroots in Aronia berry vinegar - the smell was sensational!

Nicely caramelised beetroots in Aronia berry vinegar – the smell was sensational!

The Bits – For 4
6 medium beetroots (scrubbed and trimmed)
1 small cucumber (peeled and cut in 1/2 moons)
1 ruby grapefruit (peeled and cut into 1cm slices across)
2 handfuls de-shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts (toasted)
8 big handfuls beetroot leaves or spinach/ chard leaves (finely sliced, chop the stems too and keep separate for garnish)
1 avocado (peeled and cut into small chunks)
2 radish (thinly sliced)
2 big handful basil leaves
1 tbs rapeseed oil
2 teas aronia berry vinegar or other fruit vinegar (balsamic will do)

Aronia Berry Dressing
2 teas aronia vinegar (or other fruit vinegar)
3 tbs rapeseed oil
1/2 lemon juice
Pinch salt

Do It
In a saucepan, cover the beetroots with water and add 1/2 teas salt, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Pop lid on and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the beetroots with a slotted spoon, keep the cooking broth to drink or use as a colourful stock. Pop the beets back in the pan and pop the lid back on.

Make the dressing by whisking everything together (with a fork if you like) in a small bowl.

Grab a griddle pan and very lightly oil, place on a high heat. When hot pop the grapefruit slices on. Leave to cook for a minute, they don’t take long. Flip them over using a thin spatula and cook for a minute on the other side. Now do the same with your cucumber slices. One minute each side. Set aside.

Peel the skin off the beetroots (you may like to wear clean marigolds or other plastic gloves for this job). Using a teaspoon helps to bring the skin away from the beet. Cut the beetroots in half lengthways and then each half into four even pieces. Warm the oil in a frying pan and fry the beetroots for 10 minutes, turning them regularly. You should get some nice colour on them. Add the vinegar and toss the beetroots to cover with vinegar, this will help them caramelise nicely.  Cook for 2 minutes and they’re ready to go.

On large plates, scatter the leaves and top with grapefruit, cucumber, cobnuts, beetroots, avocado, sprinkle over the sliced beetroot roots, radish and basil, drizzle liberally with dressing.

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

Chargrilled Ruby Grapefruit, Beetroot and Cobnut Salad with Aronia Berry Dressing

Serve
Best served when the beetroots are still warm. We had ours with some steamed whole grains (millet, green lentils and buckwheat) tossed in a little lemon juice and rapeseed oil.

Foodie Fact

Nuts are good for you.  Very good for you.  Little nutritional powerhouses they are.  Cobnut kernels contain 17% protein by dry weight, and about 15% fibre.  Cobnuts are rich in vitamin E and calcium. They also contain vitamin B1 and B6.  Not bad!

Our foodie weekend salad with all the trimmings

Our foodie weekend salad with all the trimmings

Categories: Autumn, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Recipes, Salads, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad – Original Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad - Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

Fragrant Wild Rice, Curly Kale and Pistachio Salad – Recipe from Peace & Parsnips

A rich, zesty and highly nutritious salad that is ideal for an early Autumn lunch.  This is packed with ‘superfoods’ although I think most plant-based foods are superfoods (bar maybe the Jerusalem artichoke, which I love, but lacks much nutritional oomph).  So plants are all superfoods and it seems that being a vegan, no matter what you choose for dinner, your body and mind is going to thrive on it!  That is of course if you keep things natural and whole food.  We are what we eat and I don’t want to feel like a processed vegan hotdog.  Ever.  Just doesn’t appeal!  Radiant health is just one of the coolest things about being a plant muncher.  The other benefits are well documented, many times on this blog.  But I’m a cook, so lets talk food…..

This salad is a filling centre piece dish and can be made even more so by the addition of tofu/ tempeh or even a scattering of pulses/legumes.  To be honest, that’s a little OTT.  This fragrant number is already loaded with nutrition; protein, calcium, iron, vitamins, healthy fats….  For this reason, it is very satisfying and filling.  I love dill, its such a distinct herb that is seldom used.  In this salad it is not overpowering, but mingles in with the other strong flavours.

I love to create salads and toy with texture, colours and flavours.  Salads are the perfect medium to express the freshness and vitality of seasonal produce and tomatoes, carrots, kale are bang on season up here in the wild Welsh hills.  We’ve had a poor year weather wise (you may have heard me mention many times over!) but we’re hanging in there are getting some beautiful cavolo nero and curly kale and down on the Trigonos farm, we have a massive poly tunnel laden with a variety of sensational tomatoes.  Some of which weigh over 1 kg!  All are bursting with sweetness and fragrance.  Experimentation on ways of preserving tomatoes is under way, our own sun dried tomatoes lack one very important element.  So we are going to slowly dry them overnight in the oven, it will take several nights.  Needless to say, this time of year is filled with jar hunting, lots of roasting and creative twists and freezers fit to burst.  I’m a lucky fella to be cooking with such produce on a daily basis.  Thanks to Judy and team for producing the most amazing vegetables and fruits.  A cooks dream!

That's what I call a tom!

That’s what I call a tom!

KALE! WHATS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

As mentioned above, we’re in a ‘sea of green’ kale at the minute and not dreaming of complaining.  As we all know, many times over, eating greens is the quickest and most effective way of becoming a super happy wonder being.  It is (sort of) that easy!  Kale is a star for so many incredible reasons:

  • Kale is high in good fats.  Omega 3’s that is.  Good for the heart, brain and can reduce Type 2 diabetes.
  • Kale contains a huge amount of vitamin A.  The highest of any green leaf.
  • Gram for gram, kale has more calcium than milk.
  • By weight, kale has twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange.

Eat your greens, live the dream……………

Sea of green. Kale harvest is going very well at Trigonos.org

Sea of green. Kale harvest is going very well at Trigonos

“HEY, WHAT’S HAPPENIN’?!”

(Any Marvin Gaye fans out there?)  The BHK is, of course, not just solely about food.  We do other things and like to keep you abreast of what’s happening in our lives up here on Bryn Teg (Fair Hill), North Wales.   We are going through renovations of the cottage and have recently built a deluxe wood shed, which could comfortably sleep a young family.  We need a lot of wood over the winter!  We have also been building a slate path out the front, all from local slate that we have scavenged and traded for.  Its looking like something out of the Hobbit at the minute.  Quite rustic, but very cool.  Add to that, loads of painting, gardening, oh working for a living and wandering around the hills, our summer has been packed.

We are now starting food festival season and this weekend we have two, Ludlow (Saturday 12th) and Beaumaris (Sunday 13th).  We will be doing cooking demonstrations, all recipes from Peace & Parsnips, and then book signings.  We are really looking forward to kicking things off this year and will be attending a load of food festivals around Britain.  Maybe see you there! (See ‘Contact and Press’, top right of the screen, for more details).

The Nantlle Valley, where we wander and work (looking great with the new heather growth, everything is going purple!)

The Nantlle Valley, where we wander and work (looking great with the new heather growth, everything is going purple!)

We have been sharing a much more on Twitter and Facebook these days and this has meant a few less BHK posts.  Its nice to mix things up a little!  Although Instagram is a step too far at the moment (I don’t have a mobile phone!)

This recipe has also recently featured in Your Healthy Living Magazine and posting it was inspired by Janice over at the wonderful Nourished by Nature blog, celebrating plant based food and natural health magic!  Thanks Janice.

This salad is great warm, just don’t let the rice cool fully and watch all those flavours come to life!  You can play around with the veggie components of this salad and keep it seasonal.  We are using sorrel loads at the moment, it growing in patches all over the garden and even likes to grow in the cracks in or front garden slates.  I can think of worst ‘weeds’.  Sorrel is delicious.  ‘With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue, the only thing I ever got from you, was …….’

Sorrel. Our favourite weed.

Sorrel. Our favourite weed.

The Bits – For 4-6

•250g wild rice
•1 carrot, grated (if you have any carrot tops, finely chop them and add)
•5 leaves of curly kale, cut from the stems and very finely sliced
•3 tbsp raisins, soaked for two hours and roughly chopped
•½ a handful of roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
•6 radishes, trimmed and finely diced
•6 sun-blush or sun-dried tomatoes, including any oil, finely chopped
•4 spring onions, finely sliced
•½ a handful of fresh dill, chopped
•½ a handful of chives, finely sliced
•A handful of sprouted mung beans or green lentils

For the dressing

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
•3 tbsp olive oil
•Juice of 1½ limes
•Zest of ½ lime
•½ tsp sea salt
•½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the garnish: •A handful of roasted pistachios
•3 tbsp chopped fresh dill

Do It

Rinse the wild rice in cold water a number of times until the water runs clean. Place in a pan, pour in water to cover by 3cm, then bring to the boil and put a lid on the pan.

Reduce the heat to its lowest possible and cook for 45-50 minutes, until the rice is soft and all the water has evaporated. Fluff up gently with a fork and allow to cool fully. Spreading the rice out on a plate will help here.

To make the dressing, whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to mix evenly. Add the dressing, spoon in the rice and combine well.

Serve

In shallow bowls, garnished with the extra nuts and herbs.

Foodie Fact

The fats in this salad (oil) and the citrus (lime) will help the body to absorb the nutrients available.  They work in harmon together and carotenoids (part of the Vitamin A family) are fat-soluble and the high levels of iron in the kale are made more available by the acid in the lime.  Not only are they tasty, but all these ingredients are working together to keep our bodies shiny and happy.

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Salads, Superfoods | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices (Yummy, easy and don’t cost the earth!)

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

Banana, Buckwheat and Walnut Slices

A nice slice of proper, old fashioned cake here. I love baking these traditional style cakes, you can’t go wrong with them.  Its so quick and easy to get together and it is also very cheap.  I doubt you’ll be able to cobble a cake together for much less.  This recipe is a request from one of our lovely guests at Trigonos, Debbie. It is a Trigonos classic and a variation on Ed’s (long serving chef and all around superhero) recipe that has been served to many thousands of artists, meditators, yoga students etc over the years. One of the best things about it, is its ease in preparation. Never a bad thing when working in a busy kitchen!

I was going to make Jack Monroe’s awesome looking Extra-Wholesome Banana Loaf and will be soon as I am always open to adding coconut oil to cakes.  I think its the closest we vegans can get to butter in baking and certainly adds richness and a fuller texture to your favourite slab of sweet happiness.  The extra-wholesome element in this cake is the buckwheat.  Adding great nutrition and a depth to the flavour of the cake.

PLEASE EAT MORE CAKE:)

Afternoon tea at Trigonos is always a highlight for most of our guests. It seems that this tradition is fast disappearing, maybe Great British Bake Off is reversing the trend a little, but a nice sit down with a cup of tea is a British institution that is dwindling due to our now fast paced lifestyles.  I think eating cake is essential to a balance, healthy, blissed out existence.  A little sweetness brings a smile.  Even if its a piece of fruit or one of the vast array of healthy cakes out there now; no sugar, gluten free etc.  We’re making one today actually, something revolving around polenta, garden blackberries and gram flour.  Watch this space (idea pinched from the brilliant Laura at Whole Ingredient blog!)

THE LUCKIEST CHEF ALIVE!

Trigonos is rocking at the minute with local produce.  I’m the luckiest chef living to be able to cook everyday with glorious organic produce.  Its all thanks to Judy and Owain who work their socks off year round to make the conditions right for these summer gluts.  The team have just podded over 200lb of peas alone, the sun has been out a little recently meaning the tomatoes are finally going red and we’ve a whole poly tunnel of them to munch, roast and/ or jar up.

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

Lovely to see the Ruby Chard back on the Trigonos Menu

As a cook, its a busy time of year, but a wonderfully satisfying one.  Our freezers are beginning to burst at the seams with blanched and fresh veggies, prepared for the more leaner months.  Our guests at the retreat centre really appreciate the fact that a lot of the food they eat was grown on the land, it certainly adds to the dining experience.  You can’t beat the flavour and vibrancy!

The courgettes are just taking off and that’s always interesting, overnight they can turn into something resembling a canoe crossed with a marrow.  They just blow up!  Sometimes these are great stuffed, as a real centre piece.  Basil has also ran wild this year, meaning many pesto/ pistou’s.  An abundance of basil is always a rare gift.  I’ve been loving Toasted Cashew and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, hopefully I’ll get the recipe on the BHK soon.  Jane and I are also doing a few house renovations and working on plenty of Beach House/ Peace & Parsnips based projects.  More news of those to follow soon.

Overall, I’m consistently amazed at how the Trigo guys eek out such abundant harvests from what is quite a damp and overcast part of the world with fairly dodgy volcanic soil. Its taken 17 years to get it to this stage.  I think that is the main lesson with organic farming/ veg growing.  Patience.

Gorgeous summer peas - post pod

Gorgeous summer peas – post pod

This recipe makes roughly 24 slices. It comes directly from my Trigonos recipe book (a cluster of precious, undecipherable scrap paper) where recipes are normally fit to serve 20-30.  Please feel free to scale it down a little.  I’ve also made this with added tahini and sesame seeds (no walnuts) and it becomes even richer with a nice chewy texture.  You may also like to add seasonal berries to the cake.  Raspberries and blackberries, for example, work beautifully.  As ever, use this recipe as a base and go wild!  Feel ever free to experiment…………  Use any oil you like, of course unrefined is much better, preferably with a neutral flavour.  If you don’t have buckwheat flour, you can use all wholemeal.

IDEAS FOR REPLACING EGGS

The bananas here act as a egg replacer.  Other vegan options for helping to bind things together when baking are apple sauce (cooked apples), silken tofu, mashed sweet potato/ squash, ground flax seeds……there are loads of healthy and effective plant based options.

This one’s for you Debbie!!!!!!!x

Trigonos farm - looking a bit misty yesterday.  We're having a pretty good year with produce, but unfortunately, much less sunshine than last year.

Trigonos farm – looking a bit misty yesterday. We’re having a pretty good year with produce, but much less sunshine than last year.

The Bits – 24 Slices

Do It

11 oz (310g) self raising wholemeal flour

5 oz (140g) buckwheat flour

10 oz (285g) unrefined brown sugar

 

1/2 pint (285ml) sunflower oil

1/2 pint (285ml) soya/ rice milk

4 ripe bananas

3 oz (85g) crushed walnuts

 

Do It

Oil and line a 10 inch x 14 inch (roughly) pan with baking parchment.  Preheat an oven to 375oF (190oC).

Sieve the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl.   Mash your bananas in a seperate bowl with a fork, until smooth.  Make a well in the flour and sugar, gradually pour in your oil and milk followed by your bananas.  Stir until all is nicely combined (not too much).

Pour into the baking pan and pop in the oven for 40-45 mins.  Until your trusty skewer comes out clean when pressed into the centre of the cake.

Turn out onto a wire rack (removing the baking parchment) and leave to cool for 20 minutes.  Devour at will.

Banana. Buckwheat and Walnut Slices - This recipe makes a load, but don't worry, it freezes well!

Banana. Buckwheat and Walnut Slices – This recipe makes a load, but don’t worry, it freezes well!

Serve

Big cups of tea with your neighbour or granny.   Cats are also nice to have around when eating good cake.

Foodie Fact

Buckwheat is a great, gluten free alternative when used as a flour or grain.  Buckwheat is classed as a whole grain but is actually a fruit and is related to sorrel and rhubarb.  Buckwheat is a good source of magnesium and has other properties that promote good cardiovascular health.   Fibre is so important in a well balanced diet and buckwheat, being a whole wholegrain, is full of it.

I use buckwheat, both flour and grain, loads in Peace & Parsnips, things like Buckwheat Pancakes, Toasted Almond Buckwheat Crumble, Kasha with Rosemary, Apricots and Walnuts…….  It’s such a nutritious and tasty thang.

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Local food, photography, Recipes, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Umami Flax Seed Crackers and Veg Box Salad (Raw/ Vegan/ Gluten Free)

Umami Flax Seed Crackers

Umami Flax Seed Crackers

 

These crackers came out of the blue, as an afterthought, they appeared in a bowl, I stirred them, decided to dry them and hey pesto!  Umami Crackers came into the world.  CRUNCH!

The real reason for these flax crackers was the desire to make a superbly healthy cracker, something to idly munch on without care.  Jane and I can put away vast quantities of oat cakes/ crackers at one mid-sitting, its something to do with the texture.  Most crackers aren’t exactly packed with nutrition, we’ve found that after a couple of these we are sated.  Its all the good stuff in them we reckon.

Flax (or Lin) Seeds are a special little thing, one of the finest things for our digestion.  When you pop a little water on them, you’ll see why.  Flax takes on a gooey, emulsion-like property which the belly and below loves, this is the exact property that makes these crackers ‘gel’.  Just add a little water to flax, leave them for a few minutes and they become a vehicle for all sorts of flavours and once dried/ baked they make crunchy biscuits to get excited about.  There is absolutely nothing negative about these crackers, nutritionally, they are food for super humans (that’s all of us then!!!!)

Umami is the fifth taste, along with bitter, sweet etc.  Umami means ‘yummy’ in Japanese and the Umami spectrum was opened up by a Japanese fellow.  Umami is a delicious savouriness, think MSG but natural.  MSG is not the baddy that many think, it is present naturally in foods like parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms.  Added to this, umami just sounds like alot of fun!

I used a splendid Halen Mon product here, Umami powder.  Its a mixture of their awesome sea salt (from the Menia Straits just outside the Beach House) and some seaweed and dried mushrooms.  Seriously savoury and brilliant for perking things up, stews, risottos, soups…..you get the picture.  Its a wonder condiment.

The Veg Box Salad is a Jane speciality that we enjoy on numerous occasions per week (especially when Janes cooking/non-cooking).  It consists of loads of veggies and other special bits from the fridge and larder (seeds, olives, dried fruits…..), you never know what to expect from a Veg Box Salad, but you know that it will be massive and super tasty.  The exhaustive list of ingredients of this particular salad are below, but feel free to empty your own fridge or veg box into a bowl and enjoy the spoils!!!!!   There is an alarming amount of awesome veg to be found here.

A good salad is all about combining textures, flavours and colours, all topped off with a kickin’ dressing.  Ingredients don’t matter here, this is free-flowing fare, changing with the seasons and your whims.

Crackers

Makes around 10 crackers

1 1/2 cup flax (lin) seeds, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sunblushed tomatoes (finely chopped), 1 teas umami powder, 2 tbs black sesame seeds, 2 cloves garlic (crushed, minced or mashed up)

Umami Flax Seed Crackers (Raw/ Vegan)

Umami Flax Seed Crackers (Raw/ Vegan)

Do It

Mix water into flax seeds and leave for 10 minutes, the seeds should be sticky, but not too wet.  Add the rest of your ingredients and stir well.  Spread out onto dehydrator tray or baking tray, oiled.  1/2 cm thickness is good and any shape that take you fancy.  Cracker size!?

Dehydrate for 6 hours until crispy, bake for 10-15 minutes at around 1800C or until crispy.

Be gentle when handling the finished crackers, they are sensitive little guys.  Use a flat spatula for the sake of a decent sized cracker.

Veg Box delights!

Veg Box delights!

Veg Box Salad

One massive bowlful 

3 stems swiss chard (finely sliced), 1/4 green cabbage (shredded), 1/2 white onion (finely chopped), 2 stems celery (chopped), 2 handfuls chopped parsley, 1 avocado (roughly chopped), 1 green apple (diced and cored), 1 small courgette, small cucumber, small broccoli (all diced), 2 handfuls of olives, 2 handfuls of pumpkin seeds, 3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes (optional but very tasty)

Dressing

1 handful of fresh mint, 1 handful of fresh basil, juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup fruity olive oil, 1 cup soya yoghurt, 1 teas sea salt, 1 teas bharat (spice mix, or garam masala), 1 tbs apple juice concentrate (or honey), 1 tbs white wine vinegar

Blend all together in a food processor, adding the olive oil slowly to for a good emulsion.

Serve

We broke up some of the crackers and added them as a topping which worked out nicely.  Big bowls.  BIG bowls!

We Love It!

Every Thursday (that’s today) we pick up our veg box and are consistently surprised by the wonderful veg produced by the magical John and Pippa.   There is no better way to celebrate good vegetables than very, very simply.  Salad style definitely works here.

The flavours of these organic vegetables light up the bowl, a dressing almost seems like overkill.  The crackers make a decent accompaniment to such a bounty of veg goodness.

Foodie Fact 

Flax seeds are unique in many ways.  Firstly, they provide the highest levels of Omega 3 oils found in a vegetarian diet (hundreds times more than the nearest competitor!) and these abundant oils are not altered by cooking at high heats.  Which is great news!

Flax seeds are also insanely high in lignans, which act like fibre and have antioxidant effects on the body.

As mentioned above, flax seeds have mucilage properties, which means they form a ‘gum’ like substance in the body which helps the absorption of many nutrients in the intestines.

Some Beach House leaves picked yesterday

Some Beach House leaves picked yesterday

 

Categories: Local food, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Black Prince Tomato & Coriander Soup (Raw)

Something like a Black Prince Tomato

These little toms are mind-blowingly tasty and light up this fabulous raw soup recipe.  We believe they are called Black Princes, but cannot be sure.  If they are Black Princes, they originated in Siberia but we picked them up from the wonderful John and Pippa in the small village of Bethel (a couple of valleys away). They are stunning tomatoes to look at, purple and dark green inside and mottled with emerald patches on the outside.  The most surprising thing about these tomatoes is that they have been grown organically in Wales (the land of the shy sun).  How is this possible?  I put it down to great expertise and poly tunnels, 20 years of growing experience also helps!  We are so very grateful to the brilliant Pippa and John for eeking out the best of the conditions of this, the wettest and worst summer on this grey island for over 100 years.  Can you imagine what they’d do in Spain!  Jane and I are almost addicted to these little gems, even scoffing them like popcorn whilst watching a samurai movie recently.

So whats all this about a Black Prince anyway? 

Well, the Black Prince (apart from just having the most epic name of any tomato we have encountered) is one of the most popular black tomatoes in the world (more dark green than black to be honest).  These toms are classed as an heirloom variety in the U.S. (see the foodie fact below) and have a wonderful deep, rich and fruity flavour.  The Black Prince is known as a ‘true Siberian tomato’, which makes it perfect for growing in cooler climates like our little grey island.

They say an Indian summer is coming to these parts, having experienced a couple of these myself in India, I am not sure that this is an accurate description of the potential weather situation.  We can however hope for some late summer sun which makes for a perfect raw soup climate.  But raw soups are not just for the summertime.

One of the things we both struggled to imagine prior to our month of raw food eating in June, was sitting down in front of our fire in mid-December, all wrapped up warm with thermals on and tucking into a cold soup with a salad.  We now know that this would work out just fine.  Although the temperature outside is chilly, the effect this kind of soup has on body and mind is seriously rejuvenating and they are absolutely jam packed full with the vitamins etc. that your body needs come the darker months.

This soup really does the black prince toms justice, it’s refreshing and not shy of a few flavours.  Whether you feel like sparkling some more, or are getting over a good old-fashioned beer garden adventure, this soup will get you zinging in all the right places.

Recipe Notes

The juice in the recipe replaces a traditional stock.  We have been experimenting with this juicy method and have had some brilliant results in mainly raw soups and stews.  No stock can live up to the vibrancy and freshness of a raw juice, especially for a chilled soup like this one.  We picked only the freshest flavours here and the combination of the tomatoes, peppers, oranges, chilli, coriander and ginger……well you can imagine!  With all those colours in a bowl, expect fireworks!

We like to use a little of the orange zest, it gives it even more pizzazz. The dates are essential to balance the saltiness of the miso.  You could use agave syrup or the like if you fancied, but there is something wonderful about adding dates to savoury food.  Avocado is perfect in soups, but does mean that it must be eaten within a day.  The avos add creaminess without the cream and are a great little raw food trick.

If you don’t own a juicer, just buy some fresh carrot juice instead.  You could also use the same quantity of water, but it would be slightly lacking.  You may also omit the sprouted mung beans and still produce a wonderful bowl of happiness, we just had a glut of them to hand.

Black Prince Tomatoes

This recipe is enough for two big bowlfuls with ample seconds.

The Bits

10 ripe black cherry tomatoes (or the best cherry tomatoes you can get your hands on)

3 ripe tomatoes (the bigger variety)

1 avocado

1 big handful mung bean sprouts

250ml carrot and celery juice (that’s roughly 4 large carrots and 1 stick celery)

1 big handful chopped coriander

1 yellow pepper (chopped)

1 tbsp flax oil (or good olive oil)

2 tsp miso paste

2 cm cube ginger (finely chopped)

1 clove garlic (mashed)

1/2 red chilli (or 1/2 teas chilli flakes)

Juice of 1 orange (with half the zest)

3 finely chopped dates

 

Do It

Make your juice first and then placed all ingredients in a food processor.  Blitz and add the juice gradually.  We think a minute or so is enough, maintain a few chunks, a longer blitz means a smoother soup.

Pre-blitz

Serve

Just not quite chilled and with a good handful of freshly chopped coriander (cilantro) as a topping and a scattering of sprouted mung beans.

We Love It!

Our favourite raw soup yet!!

Black Prince Cherry Tomato and Coriander Soup

Foodie Fact

In America ‘heirloom’ veggies are all the rage.  The Black Prince is an ‘heirloom’ fruit, which basically means that they are pure seeds and have not been touched by any GM crops.  At local markets in Britain, it is great to see people growing our indigenous varieties again, all mis-shapen and knobbly, with real flavours and textures.  Many people are single handedly keeping these varieties in existence and passing on these heirlooms to future generations.

Categories: Local food, Raw Food, Recipes, Soups, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

Purple Joy Juice

Lovely farm produce

This is the ultimate juice for us at the minute. Beetroots don’t come anymore vivid and radiant than the ones we are getting from the farm. We are buying them by the bunch, with their long tasty leaves still on. It is a real treat to be able to use such amazing produce.

You cannot mess around with juicing. There are no textures to confuse the palate, there is nowhere for poor produce to hide. If you juice something grown in mass barns by machines (possibly) you won’t get any flavour and little colour. There will be no joy in your juice. You can see by the photos, this juice was brimming with purple joy.

Juiced beetroot is quite potent and a powerful elixir for the body.  They have discovered that its boosts athletes performance, according to the Independent newspaper.  So much so, that beetroot juice is being called the new super fuel for athletes.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see some ‘purple joy’ being cracked open at the Olympics this summer.

Beauty beets

There is a new brand in the UK shops called ‘Beet It’, an organic beetroot juice that is really getting this message across.  Its good to see this type of juice alongside the sugary, from concentrate brigade that you normally find.  So much rubbish can be hidden in most fresh fruit juice cartons.

There is no getting around this, to juice, you need a juicer.  Sorry….. (get a red Magimix like ours, they’re ace!)

The purple joy juice is so sweet and is really revitalising, after a few minutes you are buzzing in the nicest possible way.  Full of energy, like a bee.  If you need a pick me up, hit the beets…..

The Bits

3 vibrant beetroots, 4 carrots, 1 big juicy apple, small piece of celery.

Do It

Juice the beetroots first, we don’t peel anything, just scrub it a little and trim off tops and bottoms when necessary.  Then the carrots, celery and apple.  Leave the juicer on for a while to catch all the precious dribbles.

Purple Joy Juice

Serve

We like ours out of jars, but glasses will do just fine.

We Love It!

We are drinking this everyday at the moment and a friend warned that too much beetroot juice actually turns you purple!

Foodie Fact

Beetroots contains lots of Nitrogen Oxide and scientists have only recently discovered how wonderful this stuff is for the body.  It is a regulator of blood pressure, controls blood flow to certain organs, is a stamina enhancer via oxygen usage efficiency and is a weapon against infection.

Categories: Juices, Local food, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Sweet Pepper and Pomegranate Antipasto (Raw)

Raw Sweet Pepper and Pomegranate Antipasto

We felt like a little starter, something to nibble on.  Nibbles seem to be the new thing, judging by the snack section in our local supermarket.  We seem to becoming a nation of rampant nibblers (dipped in hummus of course).

Italians are the kings of the nibble, tied with the Spanish, but they tend to make it more of main meal, a la tapas.  Antipasto (translated as ‘before the meal’) is always the perfect accompaniment to nice glass of chilled something and good conversation as the sun is beginning to settle down.

This raw June (just passed) we have been mainly having large salads for dinner.  We didn’t manage to arrange a dehydrator for the month, which would have meant many dried, crisp goodies.  Instead we have normally opted for large bowls of salad, normally a green leaf based salad, a dip/ hummus/ raw cheese (something with a creamy texture), olives/nuts/pomegranate etc and one salad that is made of primarily harder fruit and veg (like this antipasto).  All this served with a lovely dressing.  The combination of these salads is tantalising!  We cannot get enough of them and have decided to extend raw June in the future……………our rawness may never cease!?

This is a clean and citrus antipasto dish that boasts fresh, fresh flavours.  The ideal pre-dinner plate to get the palate zinging.  The combination of sweet pepper, tomato and pomegranate is a taste explosion that is difficult to match.  If this little plate doesn’t liven up a dinner party, your friends may be comatosed!

The asparagus here was the last of the season from our local farm shop and very much relished.  It is not essential to the dish, but a real treat non-the-less.  The subtle flavour and crunch of raw asparagus will be missed until it re-emerges next year.

You can serve this with other antipasto favourites to make a platter, olives, artichoke hearts, chunks of cheese, marinated mushrooms etcetc.

Organic peppers and tomatoes will make all of the difference to this dish and your salads in general.  The organic veg flavour is infinitely better.

Thanks to Mimi Kirk and the brilliant ‘Live Raw‘ book for inspiration here.  If you live on a drab island like ours (where June resembles November) it is wonderful to leaf through the pages of this book and see the Holywood lifestyle and sunshine!  How I miss the sun.

Sweet, sweet tomatoes

The Bits

Antipasto 1 red pepper (sliced thinly), 1 yellow pepper (sliced thinly), 1 bunch of asparagus (cut into batons), 1 small pomegranate (seeds (or arils as they are called) only, no pith), 1 big handful of the sweetest plum tomatoes (we used red and yellow ones here)

Marinade – 4 tbs good olive oil, handful of fresh basil leaves, 1-2 cloves of garlic (crushed), a pinch of marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil, juice of 1 small lemon, 2 teas capers, pinch of sea salt and cracked pepper.

Do It

Whisk your marinade then combine all ingredients in a tupperware and mix together gently, don’t break up the asparagus and tomatoes.  Make sure all is coated with the marinade.  Leave in a fridge overnight or for at least a couple of hours to infuse.

Sweet Pepper and Asparagus Antipasto – So colourful, its worth a second look

Serve

On a nice big serving platter with whatever accompaniments you prefer.  You may like to add a little torn basil leaf as a topping and of course, some nice toasted ciabatta drizzled with olive oil if it takes your fancy.

We Love It!

It is so full of crunchy flavour and pomegranate in a salad is a revelation.  I’m not sure if my Italian friend would agree with such an addition, not proper antipasto they would say, but they only know what mama taught them!!!!  (Sorry guys)

Foodie fact

Most of us are aware that pomegranate is good for us.  You can buy it in juice form all over Britain, it is most definitely a super fruit of note, packed full of the antioxidant punicalagin which scavenges free radicals from our bodies.  Hooray!  One of my favourite pomegranate products is the pomegranate concentrate, it adds an incredibly intense flavour to anything it touches.

The worlds finest pomegranates are grown in southern Afghanistan, although I heard that Iraq had some tasty arils also!

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic

Organic produce

I find it quite alarming that most fruits and vegetables grown that are not classed organic are covered with all sorts of chemicals which are of detriment to our health.  With long term exposure to such chemicals, namely pesticides, we can develop serious illness.  They cannot be washed off or peeled away, they absorb into the fruits and veg and then into our bodies.  The elderly and young are most effected by this.

I realise we cannot all be super healthy, uber organic munching beings.  We normally lead hard lives in a difficult situations and mostly live in very polluted cultures/societies, this relates to physical pollution (the air we breath, what we choose to eat and drink….) and also the mental pollution that we tolerate and consume via the media and skewed social norms that do not promote health, love and vitality.  Many of these social norms seem to be leading us away from happiness and our connection with nature and each other.

A few people have mentioned to me that man only developed into a sophisticated being (that’s what we are!?!) when he began cooking and eating meat in prehistory.  So why revert to a plant based diet?  I believe we have come a long way since then!!!!  We certainly have more choices than a caveman would, more science at our disposal and a better understanding of nutrition.  What we eat affects our entire being, it is not just fuel for the body to feed of, it can be an inspiration experience, a opportunity to be creative.  Food, and the enjoyment of it, is a life long passion that can brighten every day.  Eating food that is made with love is a huge step towards a healthy existence, this food must also be grown with care and love.

We will all get ill at some stage of life, this is for certain.  The choices that Jane and I are making now are not only based on a more vibrant lifestyle and a greater sense of vitality, but on putting a few extra miles on the clock.  Giving ourselves a better chance of enjoying our later years and experimenting with our bodies whilst we are young and in our prime(ish).

I may sound like a broken record here, but it is VERY important.  We are what we eat…….   Industrialised farming techniques and major pesticide corporations are definitely not your friend.  Moving to a vegetarian diet is a step in the right direction for the environment (plant based foods, on average, us five times less land and generate ten times less CO2 emissions than animal based foods).  It can also be a great choice healthwise.

The next major step that we face is trying to control our own food supply.  If we can take control of the food we buy and educate ourselves about how it is produced, we begin to change the way that we eat and view food in general.  We make a statement to the food producers that we will not tolerate substandard food that harms us and has little or no nutritional value or flavour.

Seasonal, organic produce has a greater concentration of nutrients, meaning less is more!  You only need a smaller portion and your body is satisfied.  Non-organically produce foods can have as much as 50% less vitamins and minerals present as organically grown ones.

If we accept rubbish produce, they will keep feeding us rubbish produce.  If we demand better, we will inevitably get better.  This is the wonderful power that us modern day consumers have.  Demand the best for yourself and the planet.  Most people take better care of their cars than their bodies!  Give yourself the best fuel possible and you will run on and on and……………

The way that we spend and direct out pounds/dollars/yen/rupees makes all the difference.  It is one of our greatest methods of influencing our societies which are increasingly controlled by large, profit hungry corporations/governments (the difference has become negligible).

This post is not designed to put anyone off eating vegetables and fruit!  It is a platform for information, produced by an independent research body, that will assist you in making an informed choice the next time you hit the market or shop.

I found the below information useful when trying to balance the cost of shopping organic with the potential moral and health factors of not buying certain organic produce.  The truth is, in our location, we cannot always buy organic, it is too costly and sometimes unavailable.  We don’t worry about some non-organic produce slipping onto our plate, life’s to short!  But we much prefer the ‘good stuff’, mainly due to the ethics of the people who decide to produce organically.  They are our kind of folk.

Below is a list of produce that you should try to buy organically, due to the high levels of pesticides used to grow them by non-organic means:

Fruits

Apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, strawberries

Vegetables

Bell peppers, carrots, celery, lettuce, all root vegetables.

And here are some foods with lower amounts of pesticides:

Fruits

Avocado, kiwi, mango, tomato, papaya, pineapple, watermelon

Vegetables

Asparagus, broccoli, corn, cabbage, aubergine, onion, sweet peas.

(Taken from the raw food book ‘Live Raw’ by Mimi Kirk)

I genuinely believe a good diet is one of the primary steps to making the world a better place to be and buying organic (or demanding organic!) is a choice well worth making.

Wishing long and healthy lives for you allXXXXX

Categories: 'The Good Life', G.M. Food, Healthy Eating, Local food, Nutrition, Organic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Purple Sprouting Broccoli & Broad Bean Salad with Hazelnut Pesto

Local veggies

We live on Bryn Teg which translates to English as ‘Fair Hill’.  I call it tiger mountain because of the stripes, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on in these parts.

So Fair Hill it is and this salad reflects what is growing near our little home.  Things are beginning to come into season and our local farm shop’s shelves are beginning to fill (thankfully).  We bought what they had and this delicious salad was born.  The combination of flavours worked surprisingly well with the pesto and it was even better the day later after having a good marinate in the fridge.

Broad beans (Fava beans) are special in any salad, they add a unique, nutty texture.  Texture is one of the key ingredients to a brilliant salad and ingredients should be selected accordingly.  Limp leaves are not the way forward!  Fresh and crunchy is the key, something that is exciting to in the mouth and on the taste buds.

We have been discovering the art of salad making this raw month.  Ingredients and dressings take on a completely different flavour when combined and subtle changes in flavouring can make all the difference.

Making a vegan pesto is tricky, without the pungent cheese, you just cannot recreate that unmistakable flavour.  I think this is a decent attempt, matured cheese is something that vegans just have to give up on.  You can buy those yeast cheese flake things.

You do end up using quite a bit of herb in the pesto, but it is well worth it.

The Bits

Salad

1 cup shelled broad beans

3 handfuls chopped sprouting purple brocolli (leaves as well)

1 sweet potato (peeled and grated)

1 courgette (1/2 grated, 1/2 cubed)

 

Hazelnut Pesto

4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed

1 cup fresh parsley

1 – 2 tsp sweetener of your choice

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup hazelnuts (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed)

1 – 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

 

Do It

Salad – Separate your broccoli florets from the stems and leaves, chop up.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Pesto – Chop the basil and parsley until reduced to 1 cup basil and 1/4 cup parsley, blend all ingredients except hazelnuts until smooth.  Add hazelnuts gradually and continue blending, adding more olive oil as needed for desired consistency.  Check seasoning.

Thin down the pesto a little, a thick dressing and mix into the salad.

Serve

Dress with a few of the broccoli leaves and a few more spoonfuls of the thick pesto.  Maybe a few leaves of parsley or basil if you are feeling extravagant!

Raw pesto salad

We Love It!

The glory of pesto!  Mix it in yoghurt for a tasty side dish, thin with oil for a dressing, mix with hummus to make the finest hummus ever!  It really is one of the finest things you can have lurking around the fridge.

Foodie Fact

Sometimes referred to as the horse bean (!), broad beans like all legumes are a high in protein and low in fat.  A really meaty legume!  They are packed with vitamins, fibre and have a high iron content.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Side Dish, Vegan, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Apricot, Avocado and Kiwi Smoothie

Apricots

Today’s smooth one came out rather nice. The richness of avocado and the zing of kiwi, with the touch of sweetness from the apricot. A well-balanced cup of goodness.

Jane and I had just taken a long walk down to Trigonos Organic Farm in the nearby Nantlle valley.  It has been an absolutely stunning day in the hills.  We popped down to see Pete and the gang and also managed to pick up some delicious little onions, carrots and potatoes.  Pete grows some really interesting, rare varieties.

Down on the farm, Trigonos (taken in April with snow on the hills)

It is all go down there at this time of year, as it is in our own garden and we are picking up many tips from the wise bunch at Trigonos.  Today we learnt to always water your seedlings at night, especially when sunny.  There seems so many do’s and dont’s when it comes to gardening, I have just been sticking seeds in pots and the earth and hope for a bloom.  We shall see…

Nantlle Valley and a black pony

So smoothies.  We needed something filling, I was shooting off to work , so this is a nice thick one, reminiscent of a milkshake with its creaminess, but without all that fat.  Avocados are excellent for this, creaminess without the cow.  I’m sure all vegans will agree!

Happy blending!

The Bits

Makes enough for two cups:

1 avocado (seeded and scooped out), 4 apricots (de-stoned), 2 kiwis (peeled and quartered), 1 cup of soya milk (or milk of your choice)

Do It

In the blender, blitz for a short time until smooth.

Serve

In the nicest glasses available, will also make a delicious smooth topping for a fruit salad or dessert (ie CAKE!), you may need to add a little something sweet to the mix, maybe honey or dates would be nice.

Foodie Fact 

Avocados are technically berries and are sometimes called alligator pears.  They contain a wide range of vitamins and fat (good fats, they’re full of fibre), which is actually a good thing for raw foodist.  We will be needing alot of avocados in a few days (see raw June)!  Avocados actually help your nutrition absorption by up to 300-400%.

Apricot, Avocado and Kiwi Smoothie

Categories: Desserts, Garden, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Raw Food, Recipes, Smoothies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wild Garlic (Ramson) and Walnut Pesto

Ruth’s hand mid forage

Another hedgerow classic via our Beach House brother, Dan. This recipe was originally taken from the great book, ‘Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me’ by the brilliant Dennis Cotter. I haven’t read it, but will hopefully be acquiring it soon.

This is a cracking little recipe, nice and quick to get together and you gain the infinite pleasure of cropping your own bunches of wild garlic (or ‘Ramson’ in some parts of the world), that are free and absolutely delicious.

The amazing thing about pesto, like most good things, it gets better with age (to a point!). An overnight stay in the fridge and POW, the flavours leap out at you.

We will be trying it tonight with almonds (we have a walnut shortage) and mixing it into some wholewheat penne. Yum!

Thanks and hugs to Dan and Ruth for their constant inspiration.

The Bits

100g wild garlic leaves, 50g shelled walnuts, 200ml olive oil, 40g Parmesan, salt, pepper

Do It

Add all ingredients to a blender and give it a good blitz.  A small food processor is best here, like the ones you would use to grind coffee.

Wild garlic and walnut pesto

Serve

We have pesto spread thinly on toasted oatbread, or mixed in with wholewheat pasta.

Foodie Fact

Interestingly China in the largest producer of garlic in the world, at 13 million tonnes of the stuff, followed closely by India (800,000 tonnes), then comes Egypt and South Korea.  France is not even in the top ten!

Dennis Cotter is an Irish veggie chef who owns the ‘Cafe Paradiso’ in Cork. His cookbooks and approach to all things veggie cooking are always fresh and very delicious.

Heres a link to a great little garlic producer in Scotland, the really garlicky company.

Categories: Dressings, Foraging, Friends of B.H.K, Local food, Recipes, Sauces, Snacks and Inbetweens, Wales, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Homemade Nettle Tea

Nettles

Nettles are here and we are loving them.  They are like a cross between mint and spinach and one of the first green leaves of the summer.  Some call them weeds, we call them feed!

Nettle leaves can be dried and enjoyed later in the year, or just thrown straight in a pan of boiling water.  They can also be stir fried to great effect as a spinach substitute.

Nettle tea can also be made for your garden, it makes great plant feed.  You just need a load of nettles in a large container covered with water.  Every day, stir them.  This will stink after a while, keep going for 4 weeks and you have some seriously good feed that can be used on tomatoes.  Great natural fertiliser.

You can even throw some nettles leaves in a bath of hot water, it apparently helps to relieve aches and pains.  We haven’t tried this one out, please check that the sting is long gone before diving in!

Brewing the nettles

For the drinking variety:

The Bits

Nettle leaves (1 cup of leaves makes 2 cups of tea), Water

Do It

Boil water in a pan, add leaves.

Homemade Nettle Tea

Serve

In your finest mug.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (well bushes).

Foodie Fact

Nettle is a natural elixir, invigorating the body in preparation for the busy summer time. It is a strong blood purifier and helps to dissolve kidney stones.  It is ant-inflammatory and can help with arthritis, high blood pressure and helps to clean out the digestive system.

Learn more about nettles and sustainable living on this great site, earth easy.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Budget, Detox, Foraging, Garden, Healthy Living, Infusions, Local food, Recipes, Tea, Vegan, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Beach House Egg Benedict with Asparagus

Morning bluebell

This is our version of the famous Waldorf Hotel breakfast dish.  It was originally created by a man named Benedict (surprisingly!) who wanted something to cure his hangover.  I have almost completely changed the dish, made it a healthier delight, and served it for supper.

That seems to be the BHK style, take a classic and meddle with it until it is almost unrecognisable!

Asparagus is a very beautiful thing, so fleeting, which makes you appreciate it more. I have recently looked into growing them and it really is a labour of love. They are quite tricky and only give you good spears after a few years. Hootons Homegrown have been selling some delicious packs of asparagus, so we’ve been using it in many recipes. Simply pan-fried is my favourite and topped with a local egg makes it something rather special.

This is a gorgeous light dinner or lunch and quick to prepare. The layered effect and combination of creamy dressing, runny egg and crispy vegetables give it a ‘complete’ restaurant dish feel. We added a little toasted oat bread for some ‘packing’. We’ve been in the garden for most of the day, doing loads of seeding and planting; transplanting and spreading of horse manure. We needed a good feed.

We loved to use the last of our wild garlic here, picked from the roadsides of Anglesey. The extent of our foraging consisted of opening the car door and leaning out. Not exactly Ray Mears, but just as satisfying. Who doesn’t appreciate a little free food?

Broccoli Florets

The Bits
Glug of olive oil, half a handful of pumpkin seeds, 1 big handful chopped wild garlic, 1 big handful chopped mint, half a large head of broccoli, 5 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, splash of water.
Bunch of whole asparagus spears (take of the tough tails, normally one inch from base)
Mixed salad leaves
2 free range, organic eggs (with vivid yolks)
For the Dressing
(these measurements are slightly larger than a teaspoon)
1 teas honey, 1 teas dijon mustard, 4 teas olive oil, 1 teas white wine vinegar, salt + pepper (s+p), 4 teas creamy natural yoghurt.

Do It
Make dressing, add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix together thoroughly. Taste and adjust to how you like it (sweeter, saltier, not quite mustardy enough, more bite, smoother etc).
In a large saucepan, on a medium heat warm the olive oil then add your pumpkin seeds, roast for a few minutes until slightly golden, then add the cherry tomatoes and scorch a little, then add the wild garlic then broccoli.  Add a splash of water (roughly 2 tbs). Season with s+p. Cook for a couple of minutes then add spinach and mint.  Put to the side with the lid on, keeping warm.  This will steam the broccoli.
In a separate small saucepan, bring some salted water to the boil with a splash of white wine vinegar and poach your eggs (crack them into a tea cup and pour low and gentle into boiling water for a neater shape).
As that is happening, heat a glug of olive oil in a small frying pan and flash fry the asparagus spears for three minutes. Do not overcook, they should be nice and crunchy. You may add a splash of truffle oil here, if you are feeding people you love very dearly. It’s a decadent touch.
Give your salad leaves a quick wash and drain.

Beach House Benedict

Serve
Place a flat pile of green salad on your serving plate, add the broccoli and wild garlic fricassee (posh word for something fried), then spoon over the dressing, top with a neat pile of asparagus spears and place the egg on top and season with a little s+p. We had it with a piece of toasted oat bread.

We Love It!
Jane loved it so much she actually licked the plate clean! It wasn’t pretty!

Foodie Fact

Asparagus has been enjoyed by folk for thousands of years and has also been used for its medicinal properties.

Asaparagus is brilliant for digestion and helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.  It also contains very high levels of Vitamin K.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, Garden, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Recipes, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Ricotta with Wild Garlic and Mint

Wild garlic and mint

I realise that I write regularly about making my own cheese.  It is something that I am quite fascinated by.  I have tried yoghurt and using live cultures etc, but it is difficult, especially due to the fluctuating temperature of our cottage (we only have a wood burning stove for heat) and the temperamental weather (British weather is utterly mental).  Live cultures etc don’t seem to like this, they are sensitive sorts.

Making ricotta requires non of this effort.  It is a fail safe method of making your own gorgeous cheese.  Not complex or pungent, but super smooth and creamy.  Every time.

This is a simple technique.  I would advise you seek out good quality, organic milk for best results.  Once you try it, you will not want to go back to the shop bought variety.  This is a real homemade treat that takes no time at all and actually saves you money.

I have mixed a few fresh herbs in here.  We had just picked some wild garlic, we took a wrong turn on Anglesey and ended up driving through a field of the stuff! The mint is beautiful looking, grown by the good people at Hooton’s Homegrown.  I walked into the kitchen this morning and was greeted by the wonderful aroma of these two and could not resist combining them with the cheese.

Ricotta means ‘recooked’ in Italian and is a so versatile.  It goes well in savoury and sweet dishes.  I love it with some warm oat bread and honey and it makes a delicious base for pasta sauces, we have also used it with dark chocolate for dessert (see here).   This ricotta recipe is excellent as it can be stirred directly into warm pasta.  It is basically a great thing to have in the fridge.

I am sure that this is one of those cooking techniques that you will use again and again. You can even make paneer, just use the same method but use a semi skimmed milk (the ricotta uses whole milk).  See a recipe here on the brilliant Kolpona cuisine blog.

There is no waste here.  After the curds have formed, drink the whey.  This is packed full of good protein.  It’s the same stuff those muscle bound freaks buy for inflated prices (and biceps!).  The whey can also be used in cooking, its great in stews, soups and even breads.

Cheesecloth had always eluded me.  I had heard of this mythical fabric but never owned any.  I have resorted to all sorts of strange methods to compensate for it.  I mentioned this to Jane and in her ever thoughtful fashion, she bought some in a little shop somewhere in Yorkshire.  I am now the proud owner of a metre square.  Thank you honey!

The Bits

1 litre of good whole fat milk (makes enough for a decent sized ball), juice of 1 lemon or 2 tbs cider vinegar (or any distilled vinegar), 1 teas sea salt, 1 handful of wild garlic, 1 handful of fresh mint, 1 piece of muslin/ cheese cloth.

Homemade ricotta with wild garlic and mint

Do It

Heat the milk in a pan gently until it is steaming and small bubbles are forming around the edges, do not boil.  Add the lemon juice of vinegar, then stir a couple of times to mix.  Take off the heat and leave for 5 minutes, allowing the curds to form.  Line a medium sieve with your cheese cloth and place over a bowl.  Gently pour the milk/ cheese through the sieve and allow to drain.

Making the cheese

The longer you leave it to drain, the drier the cheese.  Think about what you would like to us it for.   I recommend leaving it for around 10 minutes.  Cool and cover, place in the fridge, it be good for around a week.

When the cheese is fully dried, chop your herbs finely and mix in with the cheese.  If it is proving to be too dry, mix in a little olive oil to get things lubricated.  Taste the cheese, add more salt if you like.

Using vinegar will give a cleaner flavour, lemon will make it slightly lemony.  Again, it depends on how you would like to use the cheese.

Serve

We had ours mixed into roasted root veggies, with our Sprouting Spring Salad.

Roasted root vegetable

Foodie Fact

You can use goats milk for the ricotta, it will be more tangy.  In Italy they use alot of sheeps milk, which is very smooth and creamy and of course the famous buffalo milk, which is equally as good.  It is fun to experiment with different milks.  I have to say, I like the ricotta we get from local Welsh milk.

Calon Wen Milk

Pickled Part

You can’t beat a crisp dry white wine with a fresh cheese like ricotta, something to cut through that awesome creaminess and get your palate sparkling.  We had a lovely Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which worked a treat.

Categories: Local food, Organic, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Wales, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

May’s Coffee Challenge – Welsh Coffee

We love Wales and feel that the local produce and suppliers just don’t get  the credit they deserve.  There are some amazing producers, doing amazing things with amazing ingredients!  In a way, we are lucky, because many of these Welsh gourmet types are not well-known.  We have them all to ourselves!  One such producer are the good people at Welsh Coffee.

Welsh Coffee

Welsh Coffee are a company from South Wales, producing fair trade coffee in small batches.  They pride themselves on intense coffee that is ‘roaster’ fresh and superior quality.

This month I am dedicating myself to transforming my dining area into a bijou cafe, serving the finest roasts and if I am lucky, a warm piece of Carrot and Bean Cake (see following post).  This is going well, a little Parisian music in the background, some attractive flowers, a nicely cushioned chair, there is just one thing missing, other people.  The atmosphere is a little subdued.

So ‘Builder Steve’ came over yesterday to look at our gable end (we are having damp issues) and I invited him to join me in the newly opened Beach House Cafe (not dissimilar to our dining area with a few bags of coffee scattered around the place) .  He’s a good coffee drinker and likes it black, which to me, is always a good sign.

‘Builder Steve’ is a local legend and one of the most philanthropic folk you are likely to meet.  I decided to crack open some special beans that I’ve been saving for just this kind of moment, our Welsh Coffee Aur (Gold), dragon roasted in Wales from 100% Arabica beans.  I had a feeling this was going to be one hell of a brew…..

Nicaraguan and Panamanian Beans

I ground the beans up, they were dark and shimmering and formed a lovely almost black powder.  The smell of fresh coffee filled the hours for hours after.   The beans for the Aur (Gold in Welsh) coffee are sourced from farmers in Nicaragua and Panama, two countries that we love.

I left it to brew for 5 minutes in our trusty orange cafetiere, the smell was intoxicating.  This dragon coffee is powerful stuff!  It produced a coffee with a deep colour and incredible aroma.  It is medium bodied with a balanced and smooth aftertaste.  This is the kind of coffee that can be enjoyed at any time, anywhere, anyhow!

(A short Welsh language lesson.  Coffee is Coffi in Welsh.  Which is one of the only words I can easily remember.  My Welsh speaking in developing slowly.  I also know the word for Taxi, which is Tacsi.  Poor show really.  I hope to get to some classes soon.  The first Welsh I actually learnt was via a band named  ‘Ffa Coffi Pawb’ (translated ‘Everthing’s Coffee Bean’), this was Gruff Rhys, lead singer with the Super Furry Animals, second band.)

‘Builder Steve’ and I chatted for a while, we talked of wrestling sheep, nuclear war heads being stored in the next village and the sin of damp rendering.  It was almost like a normal cafe experience.  Steve agreed that it was a ‘seriously good’ cup of coffee and a definite step up from the Nescafe he normally drinks on site.  I took this as a glowing reference for these lovely Welsh roasted beans.

Welsh Coffee – Aur (Gold)

Categories: B.H.K Reviews, Local food, Wales, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The B.H.K Garden Photos – Spring and Seeds

We hit the patch. 4 types of potato in furrows, blue, white, red and knobbly.

April in the B.H.K. garden has seen much activity.  Mainly we have chopped wood for next year, but we managed to squeeze some gardening in also.  

We are following organic practices , with a little biodyamic thrown in (new moon and all).  The veg patch has been turned several times, with piles of local horse manure from the adjacent field and four different types of potato have been planted.  Pete at Trigonos Farm, Nantlle, kindly donated the seeding potatoes (some just sprung to life in our veg basket!).  We have blue, red, white and knobbly.  One day I will learn the names of them.

The front garden is full of herbs and four different types of latin american bean.  We hope for great things from the latin bean patch this year.

We also expect lots of flowers, some wild strawberries and the regular marjoram infestation.  The slugs are happy, but we plan on trapping them in underground cups with beer in.  Slugs like beer!  Get them tipsy and they seem to lose interest in plants.  Probably opting for a kebab instead.  

The newts have returned to the pond and the frog spawn seems to be wriggling even more.  Bring on the frogs!

We have a dodgy looking gang of sheep hanging around our back wall, but we have reinforced the defenses and hope to keep them out this year.  Apparently they like to walk along the walls and eat all things green.  The are also very dim and noisy.  

Breaking news – beetroots, green beans and leeks are rumoured to be on the way.

We are keen amateurs at best in the garden, any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s hoping for zero food miles soon! 

Happy plantingX

Beach House herb garden circa April '12

Our seed trays (formerly traffic cones)

Jane puts her back into the spuds

The local beige tree frog

Happy cook with the sun on my face.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Garden, Healthy Living, Local food, Organic, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Red Onion & Beetroot Tatin, Green Lentil Stew, Orange & Mint Dressing

My Dad is visiting, he likes his food meaty, hearty and tasty. This dish seemed to fit the bill (even though it had no pork chops in it!)

We had a thorough beer tasting before dinner, sampling the full range on offer. This got my inspiration well oiled for cooking dinner. Like almost all of the BHK food, this required little thought, preparation and execution.

The tatin works a treat with the sweetness of carrot, onion and beetroot being lifted by the touch of balsamic and orange. You can do the tatins individually, but one large one is easier and much more impressive when you flip it out (queue a few ‘ooohhhhhhsss!)
The green lentil stew would be better with puy lentils, but they were expensive. Your humble green lentils still have a nice bite with some earthy flavour. The stew is rich with addition of coriander.

The orange and mint dressing is an added dimension of flavour that balances the sweetness of the tatin.

I’m not a huge pastry fan at the minute, but this was a real treat. Dad happy munched away, without mentioning sausages of chops for at least half an hour. A major breakthrough!

We are so lucky that all of these veggies come from Hootons, the organic farm down the road.

The Bits

Tatin
Puff Pastry (we bought ours, make your own if you prefer, enough to adequately cover your dish, needs to be snug)

1 chopped carrot

1 red onion

2 beetroots (veg should fit snuggly in your dish after cooking, so add around a 1/4 more initially and allow for shrinkage)

Small glug of balsamic vinegar

Glug of cooking oil (we use sunflower)

1 knob vegan butter/ margarine

2 teas of fresh thyme

Zest of 1/2 orange

Juice of half an orange

2 teas light brown sugar.

 

Lentil Stew
3 cups of green/ puy lentils

1 finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves

Big handful of chopped cherry tomatoes

1 carrot

Zest and juice of half a lemon

Handful chopped coriander

1 bay leaf

1 glug olive oil

1 teas thyme

1 teas chilli flakes,

Good veg stock.

 

Dressing
Zest and juice of half a orange

1/2 cup of good olive oil

Handful of finely chopped mint

1/2 teas dijon mustard

Touch of sweetener (to just slightly sweeten)

Alittle lemon juice (if your orange is super sweet, needs a little sourness in the dressing)

Salt + Pepper

 

Do It

Preheat an oven, 200oC.

Lentils

Cover the lentils with water and bring to a simmer in veg stock, add bay leaf, herbs (not coriander), veggies (except toms), chilli (monitor chilli level depending on who’s eating!).

Cook for half and hour, or until tender.  5 minutes before serving, add toms and olive oil, stir well and just before serving stir in the lemon and coriander.

Tart

Roughly roll out and measure you pastry, should be slightly larger than the dish you are using, prick well with a fork, keep in fridge until needed. We used a heavy bottomed oval casserole dish.

Tatin Pre-bake

Heat dish in the oven for a few minutes, then take out and add your oil, veggies, sugar, vinegar, thyme and season.  Mix well and bake in the oven for half an hour or until caramelised.  Then take out dish, squeeze on orange juice and a splash more oil.  Stir the veggies around to loosen and coat with the oil, make sure the veggies are packed in nice and tight (and flat), then carefully lay on your pastry case (brush top side with some olive oil), tuck in at edges, should fit nice and snug.  Put back in oven for 20-25 mins, or until pastry is nicely golden brown…..

Prepare dressing.  Add all ingredients to a bowl (small blender would be good for this) and mix vigorously together.  Check for seasoning and make sure its nicely citrus, to balance the sweetness of the tart.  Perfect when drizzled on all over the tart.

This is a good time to throw a green salad together.

P1150134

The Voila! Moment

Take tatin out of oven and grab a serving plate that fits over the dish, place on top and skillfully using your oven gloves/ cloth, hold plate and dish together and flip over.  There should be a nice gentle thud, your tart is turned! Take off dish and viola!  A steaming, beautifully caramelised tatin in all its sticky glory.

Green Lentil Stew

Serve 

We chopped the tart up and served everything family style on the table with a nice glass of beer (flavoured with elderflowers!) and a green salad (rocket, romaine lettuce, cucumber and more mint).

We Love It!

This was a proper feast for St Georges Day.  The patron saint of England (I am English) and countless other countries, including Syria, Serbia and the Isle of Gozo.  Strange day really, celebrating the slaying of a dragon?!

Foodie Fact

You know we love our beet!  The greens of beetroots contain more nutrition than the roots and a higher iron content than spinach.  Beetroot is a great blood cleanser and builder for the blood.

 

Categories: Baking, Dinner, Dressings, Local food, Organic, Recipes, Special Occasion, Welsh produce, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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