Category Archives: organic

Carrot and coconut salad plus literacy

20140226-114020.jpg

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.

20140227-174153.jpg

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…

20140227-180226.jpg

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?

Christmas coleslaw

20131229-224259.jpg
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
20131229-231819.jpg
- 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.

20131229-230658.jpg

Raw date and lemon cake

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

20131130-205706.jpg

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.

20131130-210554.jpg

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.

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.

Community buy-out to secure biodynamic farm

Bluebell WoodThere was a time when the earth was free and belonged to all. People grew food and grazed animals, to eat, to live. Then the land grabs started. With legal stealth and physical violence, “enclosures” were enforced over several centuries in Britain. The commons – the earth and soil and woodlands used by peasants for farming – became the property of warlords who exploited the need to grow food for survival.

It does not need to be this way! We do not need to run the world for the benefit of might-is-right profiteers!

Fast-forward to the 21st century. One of the problems of producing food in the UK is the lack of available land. Who will be lucky enough to inherit? Most of the land belongs to a small percentage of the aristocracy.

Farming land is rare. Land is seen as an “investment”. Investors buy land to lock up their money, using it like a savings account. This means land becomes prohibitively expensive and makes it difficult for would-be farmers to find a foothold.

But I bring encouraging news. Community farm ownership seeks to break the “land-as-investment” deadlock, and make land accessible for farming.

Let’s take a closer look at this model by visiting Rush Farm in Worcester – which I had the good fortune to do as part of my work with Greenhouse.

Lleyn sheep Rush Farm

Rush Farm is an 150-acre mixed traditional biodynamic and organic family farm in the heart of England. In 2012, its current owners joined with the Biodynamic Land Trust to form Stockwood Community Benefit Society Ltd. The aim is for the Benefit Society to buy Rush Farm and its ethically-run 27-unit eco-property, Stockwood Business Park, from its current owners.

Pic below of current owners, Sebastian, Tabitha and Sophie, three siblings of the Parsons family.

Sebastian, Sophie, Tabitha_6269

In this way, the land can neither be passed down to the next generation as an inheritance, nor can it be sold. Stockwood Community Benefit Society ensures the land remains as a community-owned biodynamic and organic farm – for ever.

Is land a community resource for the benefit of many, or a commodity to be bought and sold to profit but a few? In his article Transforming Capitalism, Martin Large of the Biodynamic Land Trust argues that managing land as a community resource can alleviate the current economic crisis.

This is the mechanism: Stockwood Community Benefit Society is selling shares, from a minimum of 100 £1 shares (£100) to a maximum of 20,000 £1 (£20,000) shares. Unlike commercial shares, community shares cannot be sold. Instead, shareholders are supporting a sustainable enterprise.

IMG_0400However, it’s not all one-way – Stockwood Community Benefit Society anticipates paying-out 5% interest a year to its community share holders. Here is a pic of its stall selling shares at Rush Farm fete on the 3 August. The £1 million share offer was launched in May and has already raised about half a million pounds. Offer ends 31 October 2013 so invest now!

A bit more background: Sebastian Parsons, and his two sisters, Tabitha and Sophie, bought Rush Farm in 2005. Their parents, Anne and Adrian Parsons, have managed it as a biodynamic and organic farm ever since.

WOW. Thanks to these enlightened farming methods, the soil is revitalised, carbon-rich, and brimming with fertility. Its native Lleyn sheep and Hereford cattle are beautifully cared-for. The farm’s mixed habitats –  ancient woodlands, wetlands, herb-rich meadows and grassland – are nurtured and wildlife has returned, including bees, butterflies, lapwings and curlews.

IMG_0405

Demeter biodynamic-certified and Soil Association organic-certified Rush Farm sells meat and fresh produce, and also earns an income from the rental from its on-farm Stockwood Business Park (see my pic of a light industrial units) – a vital rural hub employing over 100 local people, and making it viable for them to stay in the countryside. The business park is full of groovy businesses, too.

teiner/Waldorf kindergartenStockwood Business Park even has its own Steiner/Waldorf nursery kindergarten. (Please can I be three-years-old again, and attend?).

Wrapped around a working farm with lush nature, the business park has to be one of the most blissful places in he world to work.

Sebastian Parsons

Sebastian Parsons is also the CEO and co-founder of Elysia, which includes the UK distribution of Dr.Hauschka‘s organic skin care products, and is based at Stockwood Business Park. The voluntary chief executive of the Biodynamic Association, Sebastian also applies Rudolph Steiner’s far-out but incredibly practical philosophy on the interconnectedness of everything (anthroposophy) to to Rush Farm, Elysia, and Stockwood Community Benefit Society.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Because everything is connected!

Photo 03-12-2006 07 01 49 PMSebastian’s grandfather was David Clement, a pioneer of Britain’s biodynamic movement. In 1933, Clement bought Broome Farm (also in Worcester) which became an agricultural research centre, and for half a century, the Biodynamic Association’s headquarters. But, sadly, in the 1980s, Broome Farm was sold  and lost to biodynamic and organic management– to the Parsons’ chagrin.

“My sisters and I never spoke about it at the time,” says Sebastian. “But much later we found that each of us had resolved to one day buy Broome Farm back. We never did. However, when we bought Rush Farm, we felt we had achieved our aim, and fulfilled our commitment to the land.”

More social history, this time about Rush Farm. Under its previous owners in the 1950s, Rush Farm inspired the writing of The Archers, the world’s longest-running radio soap opera.

Radio Times Nov 1951

Radio Times Nov 1951

Early episodes were recorded at Rush Farm and its nearby pub, The Bull, at Inkberrow, while Rush Farm’s fireplace featured as the Archers’ fireplace on a Radio Times cover (viz pic). And if that is not enough farm gossip, Olympic showjumper, Pat Smythe, used to ride at Rush Farm, when it was a stud farm in the ’50s and ’60s.

Now Rush Farm is in the limelight again, thanks to its Stockwood Community Benefit Society share offer to secure the biodynamic and organic farm’s future – for ever.

Community investors – be part of the solution! Invest in this worthwhile sustainable enterprise (with 5% return). Deadline ends 31 October 2013.

Best week in Bantry, County Cork

IMG_0114

I won a literary prize. Published in the 2013 Fish Anthology, and launched at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry  7 – 14 July 2013.

I do not usually go to literary festivals (preferring music/dancing ones) but hey, how many times do you win an award? I had always wanted to go to Ireland so I made a week of it.

And what a week. For a start, I hit the heatwave. Instead of being bent over laptop while sun shines, I was at leisure, in nature, by the sea. I could not believe my luck.

I had booked a hotel half-an-hour walk from the town. Built in the 1970s, the Westlodge hotel was the first of its kind with a spa. So I started the day in the hotel pool.

In the grounds, I found a place to meditate (word used loosely – basically try to to sit still for five mins.). Pic below.

IMG_0040

Then I found a hidden back-route towards town via the grounds of Bantry House (just visible in distance, below).

IMG_0165

Ancient trees line this magical route

IMG_0119                IMG_0163

as I headed past the back of Bantry House, a Jacobean statement of oppressive English might-is-right.

IMG_0080

I preferred its ruins, below.

IMG_0095

Or I could divert to the sea to a corner of the bay, beside the Abbey graveyard on a hill, where families swam every day in the Mediterranean-hot July.

IMG_0069

And friendly women to look after my bag, and give me the local low-down.

Food-wise. For breakfast, soda bread. Real bread.

Raw carrot salad in Bantry House cafe. Delicatessen take-aways from The Stuffed Olive to eat on the steps of Bantry Library in brilliant sunshine.

And joy of joys, an organic cafe and store.

Organico is one of Europe’s pioneering organic shops. Founded in  the 1990s selling wholefoods to hippies, it now caters for the increasingly mainstream demand for good food grown properly.

IMG_0044

Organico Cafe also had the latest copy of one of my favourite eco-magazines, The Land

IMG_0149

Tangent-alert as I praise The Land: a publication that believes social justice lies in access to the land, gives eye-opening history on Britain’s 500-year-old land-grabs, and reports on current efforts to access, and work the land, sustainably.

Back to food: fish and chips in the hot evening sun in Wolfe Tone Square. The Fish Kitchen looked nice but I never got there.

Festivals can be stressful if you suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). A lifetime of this disease has taught me coping strategies. I lie down a lot and breathe, and accept I spend my whole life missing out. Here is the West Cork Literary festival programme, a long list of events I missed.

When I did venture out, things happened: I made good friends, had four strangely synchronistic conversations about getting writing help with mentoring from Fish Publishing and/or a Creative Writing MA, and caught some great speakers including:

Executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, and the author of Beyond Belief - his story of sexual abuse by a priest, how he successfully sued the Roman Catholic Church, thus making way for fellow survivors to break their silence.

Colm O’Gorman was joined by a young man transitioning from the female gender he was born into, whose mum spoke from the audience, fierce with love for her son, causing some audience members to sniffle, so moving it was.

I also went to the best talk-ever on oceans ever by marine conservation biologist, Professor Callum Roberts. Clear, articulate and accessible speaker. Get his book, The Unnatural History of the Sea.

Callum featured in the powerful film on overfishing, The End of The Line, with eloquent descriptions of the destruction wreaked by the fish’s most efficient predator (us). Memorably, Callum had said: “The amount of fishing power we have at our command far outweighs our ability to control ourselves.”  Talking about bottom-trawlers which dredge the sea-bed:  “the signs of destruction brought up on deck by the trawl would make an angel weep.”

The high-point was Wednesday and holding a copy of the 2013 Fish Anthology in my hands. Thank you, Fish Publishing (thought-up by then-fisherman now publisher, Clem Cairns, hence its name).

It was a mixed emotional time because my winning memoir was about my late husband, the author Adrian Reid. He died 27 years ago, but love is not linear, and loss does not obey the passage of time.

On Friday, a sell-out talk by former president Mary Robinson – what a woman! I rose spontaneously with the massive audience to give a standing ovation. Yes, she has  privilege, but she is on the side of the angels, as far as I am concerned – including raising awareness of climate change. Mary Robinson said: Ireland must follow Scotland, and create more renewable energy - wind, solar, and especially tidal. 

In 1971, she told us, she campaigned for the legalisation of condoms, and was reviled by press and clergy. Archbishop McQuaid called her a “curse upon the country. Mary Robinson said: Nothing has been as bad as that experience. (Not exact quote as audience was asked not to use mobiles and I use mine for taking notes).

The interviewer was journalist Alison O’Connor – acute, sober, intelligent. More, please.

Then on Saturday (after the ferry ride to Whiddy Island and poetry) a talk by Jane Murray Flutter on her late mother, the author Rumer Godden whose books I read and re-read as a child.

I always meant to write to Rumer Godden and thank her for writing the book for adults, The Peacock Spring. Her compassion for a teenager’s unplanned pregnancy helped me when I was expecting my first-born – then, in late 1970s, I was “unmarried” and my child was “illegitimate”.

I do not take feminism – or indeed any respect for human dignity – lightly. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”, a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

My Bantry week  took place against the backdrop of the Irish government debating whether women whose lives are at risk should be allowed a legal abortion.

No one wants an abortion. I know from my own experience it can be devastating. But surely, this must make it more imperative to treat a woman who has an abortion with kindness.

Thankfully, the de facto practice (allowed but not legal) of abortion became law on Friday 12 July. Nevertheless women who cannot prove their lives are at risk will still travel to England to have abortions, and poor women will get into debt to do the same.

So many significant meetings.

Deirdre whom I met on the aeroplane from Bristol who drove me to Bantry even though she lives in Cork, taking me up-to-speed on Irish politics, giving me insights into a country’s painful past transmuting to healing; Bogusia, poet (thanks for quirky humour and pics!), and Debra, Core Process (Buddhist psychology and mindfulness-based) psychotherapist and life-skills mentor, who gave me a great swim in a deserted bay, a bed for the night (her bookcase had few books not on my Bristol bookcase) and drove me to Cork the next day. And Carole (Bristol connections), and her friend who told us about Alexander technique for swimming.

More memorable conversations: talking about abortion with an Irish farmer (he thanked me keeping my first-born), and a gentleman on the bus to Manch Bridge who explained how Ireland (unlike England) largely escaped invasion by the Romans, and the Anglo-Saxons, leading me to conclude: its Celtic roots more intact, maybe that’s why the church came down so hard on Ireland’s earthy spirit.

And to wind-up the roll-call: journalist, Paul O’Donahue, who MC-ed the open mike, a true encourager of writing (and author of this great line: “I long to be your kissed”) plus comic poet, Martin Daly who had the open mike audience in hilarity – and songwriter, Steve Millar…Gad the list continues.

Here is the last food I had in Ireland:

IMG_0248

Irish soda bread at Cork airport, just like I’d had every morning in Bantry.

One of the best weeks of my life.

Beetroot and Carrot Salad

Beetroot and carrot salad

I used to think beetroots had to be cooked. Now I am wiser, I know they can be  raw. And may be more nutritious as a result.

Grating beetroots makes crunching effortless while an oil and vinegar dressing adds luxury. Carrots, also grated, are a perfect companion.

You know what they say: eat for colour: orange, reds (and more), each colour containing different immune-boosting nutrients.

I first came across the beetroot/carrot combo at the Better Food Cafe about seven years ago, and copied the idea, working out a version at home. 

IMG_9406

Then turned it into a recipe for Grown in Britain CookbookI wish I had name-checked my inspiration so glad to be doing so now. My beetroots came from  the Better Food Company, too.

IMG_9403

I peeled the carrots and beetroots, above. Grown organically, slowly, biologically, they are chemical-free and needed only scrubbing, plus the skin has nutrients. (But I am not perfect and peeling is faster).

I was taken with the yellow, white and purple carrots, as they used to be before 17th century Dutch growers went monoculture orange to praise William of Orange. Poetically, these 21st century rainbow carrots were grown in Holland.

Bear Fruit Bear Pit
I had bought my Dutch rainbow organic carrots at the Bear Fruit stall (above) in the Bear Pit, Bristol.

The Bear Pit is, by the way, an example of urban regeneration from the grass-roots-up. A dingy subway on a busy city roundabout now transformed by locals into a lively market and meeting place.

Beetroot and Carrot Salad – ingredients for four

  • 600g raw beetroot
  • 600g raw carrots
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • Dressing: 4 tablespoon olive oil + 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • oil for frying/toasting + soy sauce for seeds
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, coriander) or snipped salad cress.
  • 1.1. Scrub/peel carrots and beetroot, and trim tops and tails. Keep carrots whole for grating. Peel the beetroot and cut in half. Grate the raw vegetables, using hand grater or food processor. Combine in large bowl and add olive oil and vinegar dressing.2. If not serving immediately, don’t add dressing yet. Instead, store covered in fridge. Remove 1 hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Then add dressing (below).

    3. For the vinaigrette, put the oil and vinegar in a screw-top jar, put the lid on tightly and shake vigorously.

    4. Gently heat olive oil in a small frying pan and toast the seeds for 3–4 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the soy sauce at the end of the cooking, if using. Most of the sauce will evaporate, leaving a salty taste and extra browning for the seeds. Store the toasted seeds in a jar with a lid if preparing the day before.

    5. When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs to the grated beetroot and carrot. Shake the screw-top jar with vinaigrette, then pour over the vegetables, and season to taste. Toss the salad gently until everything glistens. Scatter the toasted seeds.

Katie Stewart: Marmalade 2013

Photo shoot in snow

Oranges snow today

The cookery writer, Katie Stewart, died earlier this month.

There was an outpouring on Twitter from those including me who had learned to cook from her cookbooks.

Then Guardian food and wine writer, Fiona Beckett, suggested a Katie Cook (#katiestewart) day and others on Twitter took up the call, followed by Alex Renton in The Times. This is my contribution.

I have been following Katie Stewart’s helpful, practical recipe for making chunky marmalade since 1980 from The Times Calendar Cookbook. Having decreased  sugar bit by bit, I now use less sugar than fruit.

Katie’s original amounts: 3 lbs/ 1.1/4 kg Seville oranges | 6lbs / 2.3/4 kg sugar | 5 pts/ 2.3/4 litres water | juice of 2 lemons.

I use organic Seville oranges. They cost twice as much this year as non-organic ones because we live in a nutty world where wholesome food is more expensive than junk food. Still, added expense worth it because:

  1. Organic oranges have more pronounced taste because they are smaller and denser (basically less watery) than non-organic oranges
  2. More nutrients in organic too: “conventional farmers (drive) down nutrient levels via their pursuit of ever-higher yields,” says Charles M. Benbrook
  3. By paying the extra, I am doing my bit for healthier soils and water, and feeding the world. Think of it as a charity donation.

Talking of which, Katie Stewart’s family has asked for donations (rather than flowers) for The Kids’ Cookery School. The charity’s mission is to give every child in the UK an unique fun cooking experience to help them make informed choices about food. You can donate online.

My marmalade 2001 blog post talks about the young US soldier, Bradley Manning, Wikileaks whistleblower. Currently in pre-trial court martial proceedings, on Thursday he was refused the whistleblower’s defence: motive.

The marmalade: Katie Stewart’s recipe for Chunky Seville Marmalade, her invaluable tips, my amounts and spin on my Marmalade 2011. Apologies not metric – any help with converting amounts welcome.

Marmalade 

5lbs organic Seville oranges

4 lbs organic cane sugar

2 lemons

4 pts of water + 1 pt for extracting pectin

Top Katie Tips

  • Place a few saucers in freezer so boiling jam can cool quickly when testing to see it has set
  • Put weighed sugar in a preserving pan in low oven to warm
  • Clean jars thoroughly with hot water and dry them in oven
  • Add lemons at preserving pan stage.

Five stages of making marmalade

1. Clean oranges + simmer to soften
Washing oranges

Scrub non-organic oranges and remove stalks. Cook in a large pan or two smaller ones – with lids – in 4 pints of water and simmer heartily for about an hour until peel is soft. Orangey aroma fills room…

Drain cooked whole oranges and preserve cooking water as if it were a precious liquid (it is).

This process can be done earlier, or even the day before.

2. Extracting pith and pips for pectin

Pith and pips

Pith and pips (left)

Pectin, extracted from the insides of the fruit, is the setting agent. Cut cooked-and-cooled oranges in half. Scoop out with spoon the oranges’ insides – the pith and pips (pith and pips pith and pips - say it quickly) .

Add pith and pips to large pan with the 1 extra pint of water. Simmer for ten minutes then drain: this pectin-rich liquid will help jam set in Stage 4.

3. Slicing peel 
Slicing peel
Flatten softened peel with your hand, and cut up peel of oranges (and lemons), thinly or thickly, as you like.

4. Sugar boiling drama 

Fast-boil for imminent set

Fast-boil for imminent set

Add the sugar (warmed from the oven) to a preserving pan. Strongly suggest a preserving pan is good investment – otherwise use two of your widest pans.

Add the precious-liquid (stage 1), drained pectin-juice (stage 2), and cut-up peel (stage 3) in with sugar in preserving pan. Start boiling…

You must not overboil or you can lose that magic-setting moment. It really is as terrifying as it sounds. But you know what they say: the other side of fear is excitement.

It takes about 20-30 minutes to get it to boiling temperature and then you have to watch it like a hawk.

Start timing your 15-20 minutes when the jam is boiling like mad i.e. not just bubbling but when liquid goes into a furious fast-boiling glucky whirl – then start timing those 15-20 minutes.

So, after 15 minutes, take the pan off the heat and drop some hot jam on one of those icy-cold plates.

Let jam-droplet cool, tilting plate to encourage cooling, then push droplet gently with your finger. You are looking for tell-tale wrinkles and jelly-like character. (The opposite of an ideal lover? My 2011 joke).

If droplet is still runny, carry on boiling the big pan for a few minutes then test again. And so on.

Stage 5. Marmalade in jars

cooling marmalade

The marmalade droplets are now unequivocally set. Let jam cool in pan until not-too-hot nor too-set for pouring . Next, the sticky bit. Use newspaper to cover kitchen surface, use a ladle or a small cup. Good luck.

Recipes say use waxed discs to keep out condensation and mould but, cutting-corners-cook that I am, I have not not done so for years, with no adverse effects. Wipe jars from stickiness and proudly label.

Marmalade in jars

Celeriac salad

Celeriac

Celeriac’s brutish appearance belies its tender nature.

This winter root vegetable makes a fabulous nutritious raw salad in minutes.

Here is the celeriac peeled, its dirty shavings discarded and its whiteness revealed, ready for grating.

Celeriac - grated with ingredients

After grating it, I dressed the organically-grown celeriac with yogurt, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. All organic because I want less of the bad stuff, more of the good stuff.

Nigel Slater’s classic celeriac remoulade is made with cream and mayonnaise. He points out dressed celeriac goes soggy overnight so eat it freshly-made.

Celeriac salad goes well with many dishes such as fish

Celeriac - salad

- and is also just great on its own.

Organic nourishment from Neal’s Yard Remedies


As an organic fanatic, I apply the same quest for uncontaminated naturalness to skincare products as to food.

I don’t want to rub parabens (preservative linked to cancer) into my skin.

I don’t want my unctions laced with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (chemical used in paint stripper linked to skin irritation and allergies), thank you very much.

About half of what you put on your body goes in your body.

Thanks to campaigning, the European Commission is considering a restricted ban on parabens.

However, worrying evidence already exists. Which is why organic standards have already banned parabens.

This is what I like about organic standards: they are based, o so sensibly, on the Precautionary Principle.

Does this ingredient pose a potential health risk?

Is this risk necessary? If not, then…

– don’t take it!

Thanks to the Precautionary principle, organic standards have already banned, as I said, parabens, and Sodium Laurel Sulphate. (And many more).

Factory-made chemicals with potential health risks are cheap to produce – they are in the small print on the packaging. The beneficial ingredients are in bigger lettering, shouted on the packaging, sounding as if they make up most of the product.

Organic skincare products avoid ingredients with health risks and have more active ingredients than non-organic products.

I am always happy to promote products that are as honest as they can get.

I work in PR but I’m also a campaigner. And luckily (could it be any other way?) I do both.

I have been working with Neal’s Yard Remedies, a campaigning (my favourite type) brand.

Please check out its up-to-minute information resource: NYR Natural Health News now edited by previous-Ecologist editor and investigative journalist and author, Pat Thomas.

This blog describes Neal’s Yard Remedies’ eco-factory at Peacemarsh, Dorset.

Neal’s Yard Remedies was founded 30 years ago by pioneering Romy Fraser.

Determined the company would not fall to greenwashing corporates, she sold it in 2006 to environmental campaigner, Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm (which supplies Neal’s Yard Remedies with organic herbs). The organic products are now all 100% Soil Association certified.

Mini-digression: Romy Fraser makes soaps for Neal’s Yard Remedies, and runs courses on Trill Farm, her must-visit organic farm in Devon - with Daphne Lambert (for the-most-nutritious food education – and food).

Last month, we had a great evening at Neal’s Yard Remedies store in Bristol for Organic September.

We invited Bristol bloggers interested in organic products for babies.

Lovely people and what a great supportive blogging community. And yielding such fresh honest responses to the evening, such as from Tigerlilly Quinn’s night out, ShipShape’s review , Purple Ella, Knitty Mummy, and Circus Queen (moon cups and all!),

Brilliant to meet people previously only-met online. Despite being a social media maniac, I believe: Nothing. Beats. Real. Life.

Max from Neal’s Yard Remedies in Bristol gives Bristol blogger, Purple Ella, a hand massage.

Fantastic to have support from Neal’s Yard Remedies HQ in Covent Garden. Nicola Nolan gave a great talk about the company, and its Bee Lovely campaign to ban the lethal bee-harming and totally unnecessary neonicotinoid pesticides – please sign the petition.

Also, from Covent Garden, Jane Killingsworth.

Organic cheeses provided by Sheepdrove Organic Farm – its Butcher’s shop is just across the Whiteladies road.

The best of organic Mediterranean produce from artisan farms and cooperatives – breads sticks, dip-in spreads, olives. Thank you, Organico. (My fuzzy pic)

Me bee-hind the Bee Lovely campaign and Bee Lovely organic products stand.


Neal’s Yard Remedies is like an old-fashioned apothecary – rows of healing herbs and spices.

Thank you to all the Bristol bloggers and Tweeters.

Thank you, Nadia Hillman, for above fab photos – do credit her if you use them!

I took this one of Nadia!