Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Ready, Steady, Cook mid-September mid-Wales

My lovely friend Vicky left this for me on my doorstep. She gardens very beautifully and gives gifts from her abundance. It’s very moving to receive these gifts and reminds me to be grateful that we all have created the space and time for gardening and cooking in our lives. Of all my friends, she is the true fan of my fermented beetroot bubbly, and I love making it for her. So we kind of have a barter situation going on, but I always feel i get the better deal. (Not that it’s about precision in any economic sense.)

Here were four Bantam eggs, some sorrel leaves, jerusalem artichokes and a hunk of a fresh turmeric rhizome. I could not resist presenting the photo on my Facebook as a Ready, Steady, Cook type invitation to ideas.

SNM: Some kind of egg drop soup with greens? That’s one of my favourites.

VW: Jerusalem artichoke and sorrel sauted with a little turmeric, and poached eggs on top??

VW: Parboiled, sliced and saute the j-artichokes till golden brown. Mix finely-diced turmeric and shredded sorrel with hard-boiled egg yolks and replace in halved egg whites. Serve in bed [with husband who was trying to make out with her].

CM: Is it ginger? Looks like galangal. Either way, I’d make some sort of Asianesque soup, but would need some thin chicken stock, too. Would have two eggs leftover and a humongous quantity of the root as well. What’s the green? Not arugula, not a brassica. Yes?

CM: Oh, sorrel! Tres bien. A nice, lemony Asian soup.

Me: Oh fun everyone! My thoughts would be– a really nice Richard Olney gratin of hard boiled eggs with sorrel, and would add some grated turmeric and serve the sunchokes on the side, roasted probably. Or, an artichoke (pureed)/ grated turmeric/ sorrel souffle, or frittata, or tortilla, with the artichokes slivered… But love the soup ideas too… Anyone else? x

Z: I would make an omelette and give the arties to someone else!

TH: I was going to say Tortilla.

Me again: I’ve long wanted to serve them at a dinner party and see if everyone could get comfortable with farting if everyone was doing it…. Actually I only rarely like them too, but thinking about it I think the sour sorrel and the fragrant turmeric could actually improve them… And they’re nice carmelized…

AH: I had them ONCE and the pain was unbearable! Everyone at the table was farting………and in pain!!

OT: Great way to eat J’lem artichokes: mash them up into mashed potatoes. It makes a lovely creamy mix.

CM: That sounds really nice. Maybe mix them up with mashed parsnips and/or rhutabaga [swedes] as well. (I do potato/parnsip/rhutabaga mash and it’s really good. Lot’s of butter, though.) I love artichokes, and have never had the issues mentioned. They do have a chemical effect of making water that you drink just after chewing an artichoke taste sweeter. Has anyone noticed this? I have. It seems that phenomenon might have a genetic component.

CM Jeruselem artichokes, or what are called “sunchokes” here [the US], are not artichokes but rather the bud of a plant that’s in the sunflower family. (I think I’m correct about this, but I’m too lazy to fact check.) Could they be the cause of the flatulence, rather than artichokes? Just wondering.

OT: I think it is technically considered a tuber. In any case it is a “root crop” like potatoes or parsnips, and yes, a kind of sunflower. They also are notorious as “fartichokes”.

LMcH: Omelette x


Well, in the end, sadly, I just put the sorrel in some soup, we used the eggs for breakfast, the J’artichokes were roasted for another meal, and the turmeric got grated into a lentil dish and we still have lots… Good uses, but would have been really fun to find them in one meal. Maybe next time. What would YOU have done with this particular set of foodstuffs, Dear Reader?

UPDATE 2 October 2013: Next time I have sunchokes (as I called them in my native land) I will excitedly put them in … Kimchi! This idea evolved from looking at the amazing tubers that are Szechuan Pickled Vegetable. And apparently fermenting them really reduces the flatlentia that seems to plague so many tummies and so many of us with juvenile humour find so funny…

The Bramble and The Rose

I was picking rose-hips in the car-park of the church next door, and there were some blackberries too, and of course, what should I do but sing The Bramble and the Rose, a song I really loved for so many years…

I am hoping to make something very easy and full of Vitamin C– a rosehip syrup, the easy way. Chris of Ipso-Phyto told me this — simply layer the ripe rosehips in sugar, and wait several months (score them if they are not ripe) — the sugar draws out the goodness. Then you don’t have to mess with the boiling and the hairs — this is my first time doing anything with rose hips. Hooray for knowing nothing because then there is so much to learn!

(just had a teeny peek and realize that lots of people recommend waiting until after the first frost to harvest rose hips– I guess the frost breaks down the hard shellish-membrane? I will think of this as a Raw-rose syrup… 🙂 Anyway, always good to learn by experiment and even error…

I often have mixed feelings about using (especially white, heavily processed) sugar (stay tuned for a post on jam-making) but alas, it has fantastic uses for preserving, in moderation. I just couldn’t get the motivation to do anything time-consuming with the rosehips so am trying this… Writing here, I’m wondering if there are great old WW2 type instructionals to pursue…

Check out Chris’s website.




Postscript the following April — here’s a piece I wrote that describes how I used this syrup and a verdict on the easy method– good, but next time will try  the post-frost boiling method….



Flowers and Onions and Black-eyed Peas

One more post then must-get-crackin’ cleaning this messy house!

Chives are great. Wikipedia is telling me they are the smallest species of edible onion. (I bet there’s a smaller one, waiting to be discovered by an intrepid forager somewhere, but hey-ho.) In a garden, they are apparently a good pest deterrent, though the flowers are attractive to bees– a wonderful combination. I love them because even as a novice gardener I am able to have them thrive, and because the “scapes” or leaves are so useful as a garnish and a flavour, and because my pot has flowered on and off, through the summer, on into now– late September.

That purple visible in the photo is a beautiful colour, and it’s so fun to eat flowers! This is such a nice dish, was so simple to make: Boil, perhaps having first soaked, the black eyed peas, drain them and let their heat slightly wilt and mellow the raw slivered moons of onion, a nice vinagrette and rehydrated sun dried tomatoes which feel like a nice ingredient to have on hand for a concentrated tomato taste when fresh ones aren’t possible. Salt and pepper, and the flowers, because purple and black and white and green look so great.

When I was really teaching myself to cook (an odd statement, because I still feel I’m always learning, and actively self-teaching)– I had a wonderful and personally influential book called The Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin, who had a cooking school in New York City. (This book also has a very enlightening chapter on The “Five Phase Theory” –wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — in ancient Chinese philosophy as it pertains to cooking and eating. This is something I’d still love to get to grips with, at least intellectually.)

The Natural Gourmet has a recipe that I felt immediate prejudice against, for it’s mixing of world ingredients divorced from  their specific contexts. Nevertheless, I tried to make it, maybe that was 1992 (as the book came out in ’91) — and it’s become an important dish for me.   I’m always varying it but never not loving it, even as it’s morphed into something (usually vegetarian) Hoppin’ John that I seem to make every year, traditionally, on New Year’s Day. The dressing mixed flavours like whole-grain mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and tamari. And in the salad of the legumes she put sun-dried tomatoes. “A dog’s dinner,” I would have thought, had I at the time known the phrase. And how wrong I would have been, because it’s absolutely delicious. And to remind myself to fight one’s own prejudices, I like to use sun-dried tomatoes whenever I cook black-eyed peas.

Thank you Annemarie Colbin.  Here you are at a recent Ted Talk I just found:

Neither Snow-White Nor Eve Nor I Could Resist

What gorgeous, sweetly tart, nicely textured apples these are, though I don’t know their story at all. I gathered these as wind-falls from the ground under the tree in a park area adjacent to a town car-park, and just gasped with awe for their beauty when I got home and cut one open. Here’s a link to a US site, but I think there are additional elements to be learned for the British part of the story…

Or, here’s a link to growers in Wales who grow and sell I might guess the same variety called Severn Black:

A Love Song to Leo Dried Peas

(Rhythmic background singers quietly rapping Pease Porridge hot/ Pease Porridge cold/ Pease Porridge in a pot/ Nine days old) (Repeat until end of song.)

I love you Leo Dried Peas for being in a beautiful box and no one thinking to redesign you for decades…

I love you Leo Dried Peas for making it easy to misread “Steeping Tablet*” for “Sleeping Tablet” and having a lion there, who feels incongruous with the humble pea except in reference to the name “Leo.”

I love you Leo Dried Peas for making mushy peas and pea soup and pea hummus.**

I love you Leo Dried Peas to plant on the kitchen window sill and have pea shoots for salads and stir fries in the winter (see photo below)

I love you Leo Dried Peas for letting me cultivate you a little bigger to have large leaves to cook as greens

I love you Leo Dried Peas for growing for us, in our garden, finally, in the middle of September, after a series of abandoned experiments, three Proper Pea Pods, each with two fresh peas.

I love you Leo Dried Peas, love you love you love you Leo Dried Peas, a love that if it dies will regenerate as is the nature of the cycle of a plant from seed to plant to pod to seed…

I love you Leo Dried Peas for being 65pence for 250 grams of said seed, really, and available at my local greengrocers as well as at the Co-op.

And I love you Leo Dried Peas, I guess you could even be a leguminous nitrogen-fixing green-manure to help improve the situation in my raised beds–***

Leo Dried Peas, if you please….


*a bicarbonate of soda tablet to soften the pea-walls during soaking

**pureed, lemony, garlicky and add dillweed if possible

***comments from experienced gardeners welcome

Sprouting the peas-- a great nibble for a passerby, and soon to grow into a proper pea-shoot

Sprouting the peas: a great nibble for a passer-by, and soon to grow into a proper pea-shoot.

Sept 2009 – Sept 2010

A while back I had a different blog in which I mused on aspects of the hugeness of climate change, from a very personal point of view. Sometimes I wrote about food too.  I stopped writing because it all felt so humourless, but reading back I think I was trying to explore some ideas that are still very important. So I’m posting the link here, because why not?

I should say I don’t necessarily identify or agree anymore with everything I once said — opinions and responses change, one tries to be flexible in one’s thinking 🙂 …

Thanks to anyone reading for your patience as I try to figure out how to blog.  People who know me know I love fermenting vegetables, vinegars, crazy bubbly drinks and more.   I got my start with Wild Fermentation, the amazing book by Sandor Katz.  Here’s a review I wrote for his next, even more momentous fermenting book.

Three Sisters

Last night I stayed up late baking for this morning, three cakes for the launch of a community kitchen venture I will write about soon. I’d been inspired by the idea of the Three Sisters of Native American growing– corn and beans and squash.

A cornmeal (or polenta) cake with blackberries my family picked; Vegan Black Bean Brownies that were equally delicious and weird– hard to get a grasp on; and a moist, dense Pumpkin and Apple Cake, that I made with gluten-free flour and roasted, very orange and dense squash that I pureed through a food mill. The internet is so vastly full of ideas when you need them. Ask me and I can give you any particulars…

I am entranced by the idea of cakes with vegetables– of course carrots and courgettes and marrows, and all the chocolate beetroot cakes — though I want to try the squash cake above with that rosy beet instead, to play and shine the earth of beet rather than hide it behind the dusky sweet chocolate. Parsnips too intrigue, and there’s that world of sweet pies and tarts that have spinach or swiss chard with raisins and custard, or not… and would love to try these with nettle leaves some day. You could imagine savoury cakes and loaves too, playing with the sweet form with usually salty ingredients, but what I feel like exploring first is just how far you can take veg into a sweet cake. Going to do a little research– I’m sure there’s loads to be discovered.

IMG_0173Gift Economy

Thank you to our neighbour, who carefully packs the apples from the trees in his back garden, puts them in bags on the street for passers-by, and knowing how much I like them, each year seems to bring a big sack to me. Last year I made him some chutney, this year I may make a cake– maybe I’ll just ask him! He’ll say, oh, I don’t need anything, but I want to show him how deep my appreciation runs.

I so enjoy gifts of bounty. And I am equally moved by the anonymous gift, by the way this man just puts his gifts on the pavement, for anyone. I remember on a particular street in Oxford, the doors to an incredible hidden orchard that was gardened by nuns one never really saw. In front there, one year, was a big bag of golden plums that seemed there just waiting. I felt so lucky to be the one to take them, made a jam that was a jewel-yellow. I wish I’d left a jar of that jam by the door of their garden. Maybe I need to just put a jar of something wonderful, another year, anywhere else at all.

Pickled Cascabellas

Grateful for the call: my husband found himself in Ridley Road Market in Dalston in Hackney in London, and did I want chilis, they were so cheap! Handfuls and handfuls for a quid. Of course I did! And how I wish I were there. I love city markets, that buzz of a globe’s worth of people in one place, the excitement of spices and cuisines and fresh and rot and fun conversations and always wondering , of course, about the journeys the food has taken (much of it kind of agribusiness off-cast) and the journeys and lives of sellers and customers too… Anyway, despite this blurry photo, which is a story in itself, I enjoyed slicing the peppers and putting them in a mix of my wild crafted rhubarb and pineapple vinegars, a little fresh marjoram (with flowers) as I’ve done jalapenos in the past. Yellow so pretty!  I did not enjoy the sting in my eyes having rubbed them, though I’d carefully washed my hands after chopping.   I’ve met someone who grows an array of gorgeous peppers in a polytunnel, in a nearby town, and I’m excited to learn all about what he does.  Local chilis!   These particular pickles I’m hoping to save for a pop-up Mexican feast coming your way — stay tuned…

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