Spring

Roast Potato and Cumin Frittata with a Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

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Roast Potato and Cumin Frittata with Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad (Vegan)

I had a great time on BBC Radio Wales recently, a little thing they do called ‘Foodie Friday’.  It was the wonderful Eleri Sion show (although Tom was standing in) and we mainly talked about how accessible and incredible a vegan lifestyle is and coconut scones, but I did mention one of my very favourite dishes at the moment, a simple and really nutritious vegan frittata.  Plant power for all!!  I just had to share the recipe.

Tom mentioned that vegan food can be more time consuming to cook than a lump of meat with vegetables, which may well be true for some dishes, but this frittata is so easy and straightforward and as with all vegan cooking, substitutions can be made, things can be swapped, veggies played with, happiness unearthed, taste buds dance a merry jig.  It’s always easier when you’re done it, so lets do it!

This is a lovely light Italian lunch with a twist.  I just can’t help myself!  Cumin seeds are one of my favourite ingredients (along with gram flour) and they bring a subtle and deep spice to this dish.  I know that cumin is not exactly traditionally Italian, but I’m sure they’ll forgive me!  Especially if they get to try this frittata.  Molto delizioso! (Which means pretty dang nice in Italian)

Spring is taking its gentle hold on North Wales and the nights are lighter and the sun is making reappearance after a long winter.  Its such a beautiful time of year and we are naturally turning to lighter foods.

This frittata is a brilliant way to use up gorgeous roasted vegetables, either freshly roasted or leftovers.  The other night, after some very posh curry and chips (see below), I pondered how to use the leftover potatoes.  It’s been a while since our last Spain time and I know Jane loved Potato Tortillas so this was a no brainer.  I know the art of romance, surprise frittata!

Posh chips and curry sauce - a Beach House classic made with local organic roasted potatoes and a spicy masala sauce (recipe from Peace & Parsnips)  Yumah!

Posh chips and curry sauce – a Beach House classic made with local organic roasted potatoes and a spicy masala sauce (recipe from Peace & Parsnips) Yumah!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

Roasties!!!!!!!!

A tortilla is basically a Spanish name for an unfolded omelette.  Most people will cook this in a pan and then grill it (this is also called a ‘Frittata’ in Italy or even a ‘Kuku’ in Iran – confused yet?!) but I’ve made it easier, pop it in the oven and all is well.  In fact, omellete’s seem to be a staple in most countries I visit, from North Africa to India, the world loves an omellete.  Making it a vegan delight is quick and easy.  I’ve cooked this for many non-vegans and they love it, a few glugs of olive oil for richness and no one misses those strange oval chicken things.

Looking good with a plenty of fresh coriander (although parsley is probably slightly more Italian)

Looking good with a plenty of fresh coriander (although parsley is probably slightly more Italian)

THATS LUNCH!

Frittata is very happy when paired with a grain salad and some green leaves.  That’s lunch!  I’ve made a little Farro and Canellini Bean Salad, packed with crunch and the wholesome feel of the farro, served with some top salad leaves from our local organic farm.  When the leaves are this good, with amazing vitality, fresh flavour and texture, I just give them a quick rinse and tear them up with my hands.  Finely slicing amazing salad leaves just seems like a waste.  I love to see their shapes.

FUTURE SALADS

I am constantly blown away by the diversity of flavours in the plant word and salad leaves, sprouts and cresses are a real joy for me.  At the recent Discovering Vegan Cooking Retreat that we ran at Trigonos, we were privileged to try a load of different cress and leaves.  The flavours were all over the shop, many shocking and delightful in equal measure; some subtle, some full-on.  All suggested that in the near future, salads will be getting much, much more interesting.  Trust me, you ain’t tried nothing like this!

Crazy Cress!  Such a diverse range of flavours and colours all wrapped up in tiny, tiny leaves.  Very interesting.

Crazy Cress! Such a diverse range of flavours and colours all wrapped up in tiny, tiny little leaves. Very interesting.  Boom!!    

Recipe Notes

You can also use this gram flour mix for omelette’s cooked in a pan or as a filling for a vegan quiche or tart.  A baked gram flour pancake in Italy is known as a Farinata and its one of the best things ever.

For a lighter frittata, why not add 1/3 teas baking powder to the gram flour and then stir in the water.

Farro is basically Italian Spelt, meaning that some people who are gluten intolerant can handle it.  If you are off gluten, try using buckwheat or even quinoa.

Due to my intense love of veggies, this salad is light on grains.  I like a high veg ratio in any dish.

Farro and Cannellini Salad

Farro and Cannellini Salad – packed with crunch and vitality

The Bits – For 4-6

Frittata

250g roasted potatoes (or similar quantity of any roasted vegetables)

2 small onions

2 tbsp olive oil

¾ teas cumin seeds

½ teas turmeric

150g gram flour

225ml water

1/3 teas salt

Large pinch pepper
Garnish 

½ handful Fresh Coriander or Parsley (finely chopped)

½ handful Crushed Walnuts (optional)

 

Farro and Cannellini Bean Salad

100g faro (I use quick cook type)

1 small kohlrabi (finely diced)

3 handfuls leek (finely sliced)

½ yellow pepper (finely diced)

1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds

1 handful pitted green olives (sliced)

½ lemon (juice)

200g cannellini beans

4 radishes (sliced into thin batons)

1 handful parsley chopped

Couple of pinches of salt and pepper

Very simple salad, torn leaves.  No need to mess.  Delicious!

Very simple salad, torn leaves. No need to mess. Delicious!

Do It

Frittata

Preheat an oven to 200oc.

Grab a 10 inch non-stick baking dish, round looks good but you could always use a square one.  If you are not sure about the non-stickiness of the dish, line it with baking parchment.

Drizzle in a little oil, add the cumin seeds, onions and a couple of pinches of salt.  Toss together and place in the oven.  Roast for 15 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, stir, roast again for 10 minutes, by this time the onions should be nicely caramelised and golden.  Set aside.

While the onions are in the oven, in a large bowl, add the gram flour along with the turmeric, olive oil and a couple pinches of salt.  Stir together and then gradually pour in the water whilst stirring, until a thick and smooth batter forms.

Add your potatoes to the oven dish, mixing them in with the onions.  Pour over the batter and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the frittata.

Pop in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the frittata is firm and getting nice and golden on top.  Cut into slices and drizzle over a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of coriander/ parsley.  A few toasted walnuts are also delicious.

Can be served warm or cold.

Salad

In a saucepan, bring roughly 1 litre water to a rolling boil, add the farro and simmer for 10-12 minutes.  Until the grains are soft.  Drain and refresh with cold water.  Set aside.

Once the grains have cooled, toss everything together in a big bowl.  Serve with your favourite dressing and ideally, a nice big slab of frittata.

Vegan frittata - ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

Vegan frittata – ideal and super nutritious Spring lunch

My dressing for this was using pomegranate molasses, english mustard and sherry vinegar, with a light olive oil and a touch of salt and maple syrup.

My dressing for this was using pomegranate molasses, english mustard and sherry vinegar, with a light olive oil and a touch of salt and maple syrup.  Worked nicely!  

Foodie Fact

Did you know that potatoes are a good source of protein, iron, fibre and vitamin C?  I sometimes overlook how nutritious potatoes are.

Gram or Chickpea flour is another ingredient to get excited about (of you’re that way inclined).  I love using the stuff!  It makes for a brilliant egg replacer, when stirred with a little water, in baking and is sooooooooo versatile.  Helpfully, its also gluten-free and packed with nutrition.  High in

When buying gram flour, it may be called Besan (unroasted) or Chana (roasted) flour.  They both have slightly different flavours.  Chickpea flour has twice the amount of protein that wholewheat flour has and six times the amount of protein compared to white flour.  It is also very high in folates and healthy unsaturated fats and is a good source of vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.

Wales is so beautiful in early spring - taken at Trigonos, Nantlle Valley, North Wales

Wales is so beautiful in early spring – taken at Trigonos, Nantlle Valley, North Wales

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Lunch, Nutrition, Organic, photography, Recipes, Salads, Spring, Vegan | Tags: , , , | 4 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: , , | 4 Comments

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

 

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

An ideal, quick and easy side dish and we are quite partial to the odd parsnip at the moment!  Throw some grains into this recipe (like millet or buckwheat) and a couple oh handfuls of walnuts or hazelnuts and you’re looking at a fine lunch.

Don’t let the bristly stings put you off, nettles are one of natures greatest gifts to Brits, they come just after winter and are packed with brilliant nutrients (see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below) that will help us get over our long winter blues. You can make them into a soup, stew, smoothie, pan fry them as they are; in fact these prickly lovelies are good in most things.  Nettle cupcakes may be pushing it however!

Nettles have a lovely flavour, quite unique, a little like spinach but with a unmistakable nettle tingle to them.  Nettles really feel alive, they are certainly a feisty plant and grow everywhere when given the chance.  The worst  thing you can do with nettles is cut them and leave them on the ground.  More will grow!  This is a good thing for us but can wreak havoc on your Dahlias.

HARVESTING NETTLES

Harvesting nettles is so easy, just handle with care.  We have been walking loads at the moment, reacquainting ourselves with all the local flora and fauna.  We normally stash a plastic bags in our pockets and use it for nettle picking.  A rubber glove, like a marigold or garden glove, can also be very handy.  If you are walking on a path, where people walk dogs, pick high.  For obvious reasons!!!  Some people even pick the nettle bare handed, apparently if you grab them quickly, it doesn’t hurt.  We have obviously not mastered this technique. OUCH!

Jane feeding our neighbourly horses - mid Nettle pick

Jane feeding our neighbourly horses – mid Nettle pick

Nettle season is coming to an end, but it seems that there are still many tender young plants around the Beach House.  Just pick the first four leaves down, anything below will be a little tough and coarse.  As with most leaves, don’t eat nettles when they have started to flower.  Something happens chemically and they lose their nutrients and become tough on the belly.

Fill your boots.  Now is the time of year to get your last batch of nettles and dry them for later in the year.  You can use dried nettles in soups and stews, but its really best as a tea.  Nettle tea is packed with nutrients and tastes delicious.  Free food!  We’d be silly not to!!!!  You can also make a load of tea and then cool it, strain it and keep it in the fridge and drink throughout the summer as an awesome, chilled infusion and full-body tonic.  Trust us, nettles are magic and will keep you shining!

One of the easiest ways to dry herbs, if you don’t have a dehydrator (they are becoming cheaper and more popular), is to lay your leaves out in the boot (for estates) or seats of a car and roll the windows up.  On a hot summers day, your herbs will dry out in no time at all.  You can dry herbs in a warm oven, but this can be energy consuming and hit and miss.  Sometimes they can burn.  Ideally, you live in a hot and dry part of the world, where drying means putting things outside in the sun.  In Wales, we have to be a little more creative!

I like to add a little lemon juice at the end, just to lift a little of that intense sweetness.  It gives a bit of a sweet and sour finish to the dish.  If you love sweet things straight up, you don’t have to bother with the citrus.

The Bits – For 4 (little plates), 2 (big plates)

5 medium sized parsnips (lightly scrubbed, but not peeled.  Cut into 3 inch batons or as you like)

6-8 big handfuls young nettles

1 tbs rapeseed oil

2 tbs maple syrup

1/2 tbs lemon juice

Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Do It

Pick all the stems, insects etc off your gorgeous nettles (use your gloves for this), give them a good rinse.  We just want the small, tender, fuzzy leaves.  Get a small saucepan of salted water boiling.  Add the nettles to the water and blanch them for 30 seconds or so, then plunge into some cold water (keeping them vividly green).  Drain well just before serving.  If you want them warm, just blanch them before you serve the parsnips and don’t bother with the ‘plunge’.

In a large, heavy frying pan, warm the oil on a medium high heat.  Add the parsnips, toss in the oil and fry for around 7 minutes, until they begin to go golden and caramelised.  Then add roughly 2 tbs of water and cover with a lid, lower the heat to medium and leave them for 7 more minutes.

Then whip off the lid and turn the heat back up.  Pour over the maple syrup, gently toss the parsnips in the syrup and cook until you are happy with the beautiful, dark, caramelised glaze, a few minutes will do, then squeeze in a little lemon juice.

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

Serve

Stack the parsnips onto a nice plate, surround with a nettle ‘nest’ and tuck in.  You may fancy a little more salt and pepper.

Foodie Fact – Nettles

Nettles are actually more nutritious than Broccoli or spinach.  And they are free.  How cool is that!  I wonder how long until one of the big supermarkets starts to bag them up and sell them as a ‘niche’ product?

Eating nettles helps to keep our kidneys and adrenal glands up to speed.  Nettles are the perfect detox food, as they assist our bodies in expelling toxins.  These lovely leaves have also long been used as a diuretic and to treat joint pains.

Nettles are very high in Vitamin A (bones), K (blood clotting) and Calcium.  In fact, just 100g of nettles contains 1/2 your daily calcium requirement.  Calcium can help to alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, headaches, mood swings and bloating.

Nettles are also rich in minerals like Iron and Magnesium and are packed with dietary fibre.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Detox, Foraging, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Side Dish, Spring, Wild food | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Roast Asparagus, Lemon and Pesto Pizza

P1200066

Roast Asparagus, Lemon and Pesto Pizza

I love May, full of birthdays (my sister and I’s) and the green spears of asparagus decide to make a brief appearance.  Surely one of the finest vegetables with a flavour like no other.

I’ve always found asparagus season intriguing, it’s so short and makes the availability of British asparagus so appealing.  You are forced to save up all of your asparagus recipes for this one little window of the year and then POW!  Asparagus begins to appear on everything.  So to celebrate this asparagus-fest, we popped ours on a pizza, there is something special about the flavours of asparagus that lends it to Italian cuisine.

It’s not often that we get a pizza on the roll, the original idea for asparagus on pizza came from a lovely blog friend Margaret over at  Pachamama’s Beautiful Food.  If you haven’t been over to this wonderful oasis of food and nature, we highly recommend a visit.  Margaret is sure to brighten up your day!

The ingredients here are pan roasted off in a little balsamic before topping the dough, adding a nice sweet/ sharp tang.  This pizza also comes with an oil that packs even more flavour onto this already heavy-laden crust.  We’d serve it in a bowl separately and let people help themselves.

Pesto we had left over and thought it sounded like a right good idea, this does make it a very rich affair, but adds a tonne of flavour.  The pesto we used was your standard green pesto, plenty of parmesan and basil.  A regular tomato sauce would also be wonderful here.  Lemon zest is also a brilliant addition and really shines through here, not something you see often on a pizza.

GREEN SPEARS

Asparagus is one of the oldest recorded vegetables and is said to originate from the Mediterranean, it was much revered by the Greeks and Romans (and still is!)  Asparagus is related to the onion and garlic, also the daffodil and tulip.  Asparagus is one of those strange vegetables that actually take up more calories to digest, than they offer the body, making it a negative-calorie vegetable (celery is another).  A celery and asparagus could just be the ultimate ‘diet’ salad.

Asparagus must be served as fresh as possible, if not the sugars present turn to starch and it loses flavour.  Asparagus is best harvested early in the morning and kept in the fridge in a plastic bag, this will keep them tender and conserve the vitamins present.

SOCIAL PIZZA

All roads lead us to pizza at the moment.  We actually went out to a social gathering recently with the lovely people from work, Italian style.  The pizza was nice, a Welsh Rarebit with three different cheese and a salad with brown lentils, raspberry and local blue cheese. Nice stuff, it has restored our faith in all things restaurant in our area.

Normally I’m a brown flour chap, but a  little white does make things alot lighter and a heavy pizza dough is just no fun.  It doesn’t matter what you do,where you buy it from, how Italian the flour is; if you don’t make your own pizza dough, it just ain’t the same!  Give it a whirl…..

Roast Asparagus, Pesto and Lemon Pizza

Roast Asparagus, Lemon and Pesto Pizza

The Bits

Pizza Dough – equal quantities white and brown flour, live yeast, pinch salt, 1 teas malt extract (dissolved in warm water), 2 tbs olive oil, extra flour for dusting and oil fro brushing

Toppings- 8 stalks asparagus (tops cut in half length ways), 10 cherry tomatoes, 1/3 courgette (sliced at a 45o angle), 1 ball mozzarella (sliced into 1 cm slices), 1/2 lemon zest, handful of pitted olives (chopped), 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt, pinch chilli flakes, 2 tbs green pesto, fresh basil leaves, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar (for roasting veg)

Oil – 2 garlic cloves (crushed), 1/2 lemon zest, juice 1 lemon, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tbs white wine vinegar

Do It

Make your pizza dough. Combine ingredients in a large bowl, stir with one hand and add warm water with the other, gradually, little at a time. When it starts coming together stop and form a neat ball.

Jane on dough suty

Jane on dough duty

Lay on a floured surface and begin to knead dough for at least 10 minutes, give it some elbow grease here. The dough will become nice and elastic, rub with olive oil, place in a large bowl and cover with a cloth/ cling film. Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, it should double in size.

Get your toppings ready, in a small frying pan, add a little olive oil and begin to roast your asparagus with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, when they are beginning to colour they are ready. Repeat process with tomato and courgette.

Roll out your dough on an oiled surface and either use your hands or a rolling pin to massage the dough into a pizza shape (you decide what that is, rustic-ness always welcome).  It will be resistant and needs a little coaxing, but will eventually rest into a shape.  For a golden crust brush with a little oil.

Pre heat oven to 200oC.

The toppings

The roast toppings

Spread pesto on pizza, leaving a one inch gap around the edges then scatter your toppings with glee on your dough.  Be reckless and generous.  Finish with big blobs of yoghurt.

Pop in oven and check after 10 minutes, may need another 5 depending on the potency of your hot box.  The base of the pizza should be cooked in the centre (give it a little tap, it should sound gently hollow)

For the oil, simply add all to a bowl and whisk together.  This will keep well in the fridge overnight and may be all the better for it!

Serve

Hot out of the oven with a nice light green salad with a sweet-ish dressing.

We Love It!

Too easy to love this one, far too easy.  From zesty top to crispy bottom, its a all round champion!

Foodie Fact

Asparagus is a good source of dietary fibre and can help with IBS, they are also rich in the vitamin B’s and folates.  It also contains many minerals, especially copper and iron.

Two slices, lucky me!

Two slices, lucky me!

Categories: Recipes, Spring | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Spring arrives in a blizzard – The Beach House Garden

Spring  hits the Beach House Garden

Spring hits the Beach House Garden – Dark and Gloomy

Well Spring is here and we’re hanging on in the middle of a blizzard. The Beach House is a sturdy little cottage, but the garden is looking anything but spring-like.

The whole of North Wales, and Britain in general, is getting a good covering of springtime snow.  This day last year the temperature was 21oC.  You may be British, or know Brits, we talk about the weather alot over here, mainly because we have such interesting weather!  You never know what to expect, which doesn’t help a novice gardener.

We have planted a few seeds already, granted very prematurely and they are doing well on racks beside the fire!  Rainbow chard is beginning to sprout and I fear for these little things when they are thrown into the garden, open to our mountain elements.  Maybe we will have an indoor garden this year!

Last years gardening adventures, in sunnier times

Last years gardening adventures, in sunnier times

It is so cold at the moment, even our semi-wild cat Buster has come inside, to shelter from the winds (see below).  Buster is our gardening companion and an expert at getting in the way.

Last years attempts at growing had mixed results (to say the least). Slugs had a field day in the very damp conditions and we became more a slug diner than a organic veg patch. We had some success with a variety of potatoes and the occasional leek, but really, most things flopped.  We have new strategies and fresh energy this year to quell those slimy critters and hide our plants from the wind.  Our green beans ended up mainly in the opposite field last time.

This year we are going for alot of beetroot, some leeks, many potatoes, some green beans and greeen and red leaves (rocket, raddichio etc).  We’d also like to grow some squash and plenty of kale and chard.  We’ll let you know how it all goes.

Thankfully, we have little expectations this year and even in this small garden patch, are now fully aware of the difficulties of approaching a ‘self-sufficient’ lifestyle.  There is so much to learn and only so many seasons left…

Hope you are all nice and warm and cosy wherever you are.

Buster checking out the bin

Buster checking out the bin

More from Buster (the worlds coolest creature)

More from Buster (the worlds coolest creature)

 

Categories: Garden, Spring, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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