Chard pesto – eat your greens

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Sitting in back of a car last night looking at pics on my ‘phone with my niece, Charlotte, she says (re above pic): Wow, that looks nice.

Really? I say.

Charlotte enthuses when I tell her what it was: a made-up quick supper dish brimming with health. Thus I am encouraged to share:

Chard pesto for pasta

Traditionally, pesto uses garlic, basil, pine nuts and parmesan. This one replaces the fifth ‘umami‘ (pleasant savoury) taste of parmesan with anchovies. I used Fish4Ever anchovies because they are truly carefully caught and conserved which shows in the taste. And conserved in organic oil a) because organic farming saves the sea by not polluting coastal waters and b) authentic (mechanically not chemically-produced) olive oil.

I replaced the basil usually used in pesto with a pack of freshly-picked organic kale (from Radford Mill Farm shop which by-the-by is having a Frack-free festival in May) – or organic chard on another occasion. You could also use freshly picked nettles.

Then I blended the greens etc with my hand-blender (a £20 kitchen equipment must-have). By blending it into a sauce, it made eating healthy greens into effortless, comfort food.

I poured the green sauce on to a bowl of freshly-cooked pasta. You can use any pasta but I used Sweet potato and buckwheat pasta which is wheat-free (as wheat, an argumentative fellow, rarely agrees with me).

Method

Fry about 4-5 anchovies in their oil so gently they…melt

Fry half an onion sliced, also gently

Add sliced/chopped garlic – as much as you want – I like lots! (and do not overcook so I can have more of garlic’s immune-boosting qualities)

Finally, add a pack of chopped organic greens with (half a cup?) water – enough water so the chard/kale cooks down quickly but is not over-watery. Simmer for 5 minutes or less.

Takes about 15 minutes to cook pesto and pasta at same time (in different pans).

Apologies for my unscientific amounts. As my grandmother used to say when asked for precise amounts in a recipe: “Vifil nemen” = As much as it takes.

 

Carrot and coconut salad plus literacy

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Handwritten notes – clearly of importance because they hang around for years – yet they exist on scraps of paper, with no proper home.

OK, time to give two of them the attention they deserve.

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George Cooper (who gave me the recipe on the above note) has since published a book on nutrition with recipes. Be Your Own Nutritionist marries traditional (mid-Victorian healthy diet) and modern thinking. As an acupuncturist, he also brings ancient eastern wisdom. Practical information on nutrition at George Cooper’s website.

“Dr George dressing for grated carrots” (says the note)

3 tablespoon coconut milk
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon honey

Pour dressing over grated carrots. Above amounts worked for three big carrots to serve 2-3. I grated ginger with the carrots too. (Carrots were organic, from local organic farm shop, Radford Mill Farm).

Delicious – now I see why I have hung onto that note for eight years. The cumin adds a special taste.

Next up…

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My note says:

“UK
one of the lowest literacy
in developed nations
and highest obesity in Europe.

(Sunday Times)”

Is there a connection between the two?

The importance of digestion

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Food lovers talk about taste in the mouth but what about the next bit, digestion?

My own digestion preoccupies me. It rules my life.

There is much confusing data about what foods are good for you. I base my decisions on how food feels after I have eaten it.

It is worth paying attention to how food feels as it travels through your gut. (I will stop there on the peristaltic journey).

I have recently been re-reading an old favourite, Three Men in the Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome.

Published in 1889, it was a hit from the start. I love Jerome K. Jerome because he gently mocks human folly in a hilarious way.

You know when you find someone attractive and it increases when you find you share similar values? Well, I recently learned Jerome K. Jerome hated poverty and oppression. “His early political instinct was radical socialist” and he later joined the Fabian Society, according to the editor of my (charity shop buy) 1998 edition, Geoffrey Harvey.

Jerome K. Jerome also thought digestion important.

He wrote (in Three Men in the Boat):

“One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal – so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, ‘Work!’. After beefsteak and porter, it says: ‘Sleep!’ After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, ‘Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!’

…We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgement.”

Christmas coleslaw

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After seasonal excess, I crave a dish to revitalise my innards and reboot my digestion.

“Oh, herbacious treat! ‘Twould tempt the dying anchorite to eat…”

I love new age raw, as in for instance Kate Magic.

And coleslaw is a classic.

Ah, the classics never let you down. Tried-and-tested, refined by human habit, a classic endures for good reason.

Coleslaw traditionally uses cabbage, a seasonal winter vegetable brimming with goodness.

I use organic ingredients to get maximum nutritional benefits. Plus its farming practices save the soil and the bees.

Coleslaw recipe

Basically grate, grate and shred, shred as finely as possible. (How I bless my power-tool, the food processor) then cover liberally with luscious dressing.

1lb 8 oz (680g) each of grated carrots and white cabbage

1 pint (0.6L) well-blended dressing made truly-tangy with lemon juice and crushed garlic
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- Juice of 1.5 lemons (organic lemons are more juicy because growth is steady not boosted by artificial fertiliser).
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- olive oil (organic ensures authenticity)
- balsamic vinegar
- natural yogurt (or replace with additional oil and vinegar)
- seasoning.

Thanks to nudge from John (below): I estimate for 500 ml dressing 300 ml yogurt + 250 ml olive oil with remaining ml: balsamic + lemon juice. I would squeeze the lemon juice and then add balsamic to taste (a good slosh).

Put the copious amounts of grated scrubbed/peeled raw carrots and finely shredded cabbage. Add the dressing, mixing well.

Versatile, serve it solo or with all manner of dishes including curries and hey – that left-over Christmas roast.

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Raw date and lemon cake

I am writing this post on my iPhone so a mini-experiment. So is the cake.

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Many thanks to The Rawtarian for the Lemon Cheesecake recipe.

Mine differed in several ways. I used date syrup which made the base dark (pinky!) rather than white; I did not have fresh cranberries or enough dried ones (for the topping) so supplemented with extra dates and drained tinned mangoes (try pomegranate seeds next time); and finally I spread the base too thinly on too big a serving dish. Never mind, the taste was great – lemony, coconut-y and very refreshing.

The ingredients (such as raw coconut oil) were a bit costly – although healthy – but I saved money on cooking fuel.

However, not a low-tech cake, as you do need an electric blender and a freezer.

Lemon-y base

2 cups cashews
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 lemons)
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar for white base – date syrup added darkness)
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 tablespoon lemon zest.

It really does all whizz into a smooth liquid. Pour it into serving dish, cover and freeze for 15 – 30 minutes. The coconut oil hardens as it cools so it turns into a firm base.

Fruit topping

2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dates

First pulse dates (no need to soak). Stop blender every now and then to swoop down escaping date mixture with a spatula so everything gets properly blended.

Spread topping on frozen base and freeze again for five hours.

Measurements

I found this useful conversion chart at Doves Farm.

Luckily, my measuring device does American cups.

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It really is a handy (low-tech) measure for dry ingredients.

Grateful for all these devices that make life easier.

Including this WordPress App on my ‘phone. It halved the time it takes to post a blog because I could upload pics straight from my ‘phone. And I made cooking notes on the Notes App as I went along. Brilliant.

The Night is Long Without a Home

Blanket in doorway by EW

The Night is Long Without a Home is an exhibition of photographs by Ian Usher, documentary photographer and artist of homeless hostel residents and workers – in their own words.

In fact, the title is from a description by John of the loss and sorrow of homelessness.

The exhibition is organised by a few of us on behalf of Bristol Foundation Homeless Residents’ Association.

Due to drastic council cuts, the hostel residents may lose their hostel homes, and be made homeless again.

How many people would you say are homeless in your city?

According to Bristol city, only nine (this sometimes rises to 11).

This does not make sense. Alan Goddard, who runs a soup kitchen feeding about 600 every day in Bristol, says the number must be over 100.

I see evidence of people sleeping rough every day. Image

I remember before the 1980s, the only people you saw sleeping rough, were tramps – gentlemen of the road. But since then it has all changed – we see young people on the streets.

How can this happen in one of the richest countries in the world?

The UN makes visits to two countries every year to report on problems. This year, it was the UK’s turn because of its housing crisis. Here is the UN rapporteur’s report.

Empty offices lie empty, testaments of investment – while our youth sleep in doorways without prospect of employment or home.

If ONLY our society believed in kindness.

If ONLY our society understood that prevention is more effective (and less costly) than cure.

Give vulnerable people a stable home and a bit of support, and you cut down on other, more expensive, services, such as hospitals and prisons.

How we treat our homeless tells us all we need to know about the world we live in.

What has this to do with food? I mean, this is a food blog, right?

Plum compote and yogurt with expresso at Canteen by EW

Well, here is a breakfast (stewed plums and granola and yogurt with an expresso) I had last week at The Canteen in Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, Bristol.

OK, quick diversion as I explain link between Hamilton House and homelessness.

Hamilton House was a defunct office block the council planners wanted to demolish – now turned into a groovesome hub of creative activities run by Coexist. (I am proud to say my office is here, along with 200 other tenants, including Afrika Eye Film Festival, and Tribe of Doris).

Hamilton House’s visionary social landlord, Connolly & Callaghan, is also the key benefactor of Bristol Foundation Housing homeless hostels.

Bristol Foundation Housing houses and supports single people who would otherwise fall through the net, people who need support to break the homeless cycle but are not considered sufficiently ‘high priority need’ for emergency accommodation by Bristol City Council.

Working with the Probation Services and others around Bristol, BFH has reduced re-offending rates by more than 50%, probably saving the taxpayer some £20 million each year.

These are the hostels that had their funding lifeline cut in August. This (free) photographic exhibition features BFH hostel residents and workers, in their own words.

Hope you can get along to the exhibition in Hamilton House, Stokes Croft, BS1 3QY which opens tonight and runs until 9 pm, 5 November.

And please do sign the Bristol Foundation Homeless Residents’ Association petition at Change.org.

THANK YOU!

Courgette Cake

Squash at Better Food, Bristol

‘Tis the season of squash. Here are organically-grown squash at Better Food Company, Bristol.

Courgettes, or zucchini, are part of the squash family. Squash are one of the Three Sisters (along with maize and beans) planted by Native Americans.

Squash contains gentle soluble fibre, immune-boosting vitamins and minerals plus complex carbohydrates for slow release energy.

This recipe for Courgette Cake is from Make More of Squashes, which I co-wrote with recipe-writer, Patricia Harbottle, and her son-in-law, organic gardener, Peter Chadwick.

The book and its companion, Make More of Beans & Peas, are part of the Make More of Vegetables series – with some non-vegetarian recipes but all with veg as the star. And with instructions on how to grow from seed too!

Make More of Beans & Peas

Buy here from the blog Pete set up with Sue Richardson.

Peter Chadwick died in August. Rest in peace, Pete. This post is for you and your lovely wife, Sue Richardson, who helps people write the right book.

Courgette Cake

Using vegetables in cakes makes wonderfully moist cakes (so butter cream filing is optional). If you do not have self-raising flour or baking powder, experiment with adding two more eggs to lighten the mixture instead. If so, allow cake to bake a little longer in the oven.

Ingredients

Cake: 250g (9oz) coarsely grated courgettes + 2 large eggs + 120g (4oz) caster sugar + 120ml (4fl oz) rapeseed or sunflower oil + 225g (8oz) self-raising flour + 1 tsp baking power + pinch each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg and salt + zest of one large orange (keep 1 tsp for icing). Grate orange to get its zest. Or try lazy method. I use a potato-peeler on the orange, then snip the strips of peel – gives strong orangey taste.

Filling: 120g (4oz) softened unsalted butter + 225g (8oz) icing sugar + 1 tsp orange zest (from large orange above) + juice of half of the large orange.

1. Put grated courgettes in colander and drain for 30 minutes. Press down with a saucer or use hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. Beat the eggs and caster sugar until the mixture thickens, then beat-in oil until amalgamated and creamy, like thick double cream.

3. With a sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into the beaten egg, sugar and oil mixture. Beat well until really well-blended. Stir in the courgettes and orange zest.

4. Grease and line two 20 cm (8 in) cake tins. Pour mixture into prepared tins and bake in 170C (150C for fan oven) or Gas Mark 3 oven for about 30 minutes.

5. Keep oven door closed for first 25 minutes then test cakes with your finger tip. Cakes should be firm to touch. If not, bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Leave in their tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool.

6. Optional butter cream filling: Beat butter and icing sugar and stir in zest and orange juice to make light butter cream. When cakes are cold, spread the filling over one cake and sandwich the other on top.

This cake keeps well in an airtight tin. Try it with lemons or limes instead of the orange.

Hope you like this seasonal recipe.