My grandmother’s beetroot soup

Cup of purple coloured soup pictured from above against big pink flowers

Image: Michael Caplan

I ring my mother. She is 92.

“Do you use beef stock to make beetroot soup?” I ask.

“No,” Fay says, “we never used beef stock. This is how we did it,” said my mother. “This is my mother’s recipe.”

Sarah’s beetroot soup

Slice the beetroots.

Cover with water. Simmer for about half an hour until tender. 

Drain the sliced beetroot and keep the beetroot stock. 

(You don’t use the sliced beetroot for the soup. My mum says: use them in a salad with sour cream with sliced onions). 

Beat 2 eggs with the juice of one lemon.

Add carefully- or eggs will curdle – to some of the warmed beetroot stock.  

Once the beaten eggs are incorporated into this small amount, tip it into the main soup.

Reheat carefully – very carefully – so the eggs don’t curdle. 

Add sour cream if desired.  

Thanks, mum.

This purple-looking healing soup, which I make with organic ingredients for extra quality, health and taste, enables nourishment to slip-in unsuspected via its beetroot-sweet, lemony lightness.

My grandmother Sarah died when I was 16. She was warm, earthy and wise, with fierce opinions I did not always agree with. Born in 1899 in London, her parents were migrants from anti-semitic Tsarist Belarus and Lithuania. I think of her so much in my heart.

My mother says the older she gets, the more she thinks of her grandmother, Jesse, (Sarah’s mother).  Jesse died when my mother was ten years old.  My mother says: “I talk to her every day. I call to her by her Yiddish name, Yeshki. She used to read the Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s plays.” (I only learned that bit yesterday when reading out this blog to my mum).

My mother repeats stories endlessly so we remember them. My mother’s recollection of her grandmother are imprinted on my DNA since childhood so I have absorbed Jess’s “live each day as if it were your last” philosophy.

My mum again:  “Jesse used to say: I am not frightened of death,’ and pointing over to the window, she would say: ‘It’s as if I’m passing to the other side of that net curtain.'” 

So, eat beet soup, and enjoy this precious life!


Gut gastronomy beef broth

A bowl of beef broth

Beef broth soothes the digestion and produces easy-to-absorb minerals including calcium. Made with bones, it is a low-cost way of sustaining your health. 

“A good broth will resurrect the dead,” is an old South American proverb. I can believe it.

Read more about broth’s healing powers at the Weston Price Foundation and the way broth also delivers easy-to-absorb broken-down material from cartilage and tendons that might help arthritis and joint pain.

I bought the beef rib bones from Sheepdrove Organic Farm for £2.50 per kg. 

Why organic? Because I want to eat meat from an animal which has not been given routine antibiotics, which has chewed fresh grass in the fields as nature intended (not convenience-food grain that gives the beast a belly-ache), and can follow its natural animal behaviour. 

I used a recipe from Gut Gastronomy by nutritional therapist Vicky Edgson and Grayshott spa chef Adam Palmer based on the spa’s health regime. Published by Jacqui Small, this fine book with beautiful images by Lisa Linder is filled with highly nutritious recipes to help increase digestive health, and repair and nourish the body.  

The Gut Gastronomy recipe uses beef marrow bones. 

Here is the recipe slightly adapted. 

For four: 3 kg (6lb 10 oz) beef bones cut into 3 cm pieces 

Chop: 4 carrots, 3 large onions, 4 celery sticks (optional)

Add: 2 bay leaves, 10 whole peppercorns,

If you have some, half bunch of thyme. 

I also added dried chilli for extra hotness. 

roasted bones and pan with carrots and onions

Roast the cut bones in a large roasting dish for 30 – 40 minutes at Gas Mark 7. 

Drain 2 teaspoons of the fat from the bones into a large saucepan and sauté the veg.

(There was no fat from my rib bones so I omitted this stage and added the carrots and onions at the next stage.)

Add the bay leaves, peppercorns (and dried chilli), sprigs of thyme and roasted bones and cover with 5 litres (8 3/4 pints/ 20 cups) of cold water. Skim any fat as you bring it to a simmer. Gently cook for 5 – 6 hours. 

Broth is served clear, strained of meat and vegetables. Strain to make consommé, and cool before freezing. I shredded the plentiful meat from the bones and made several servings of delicious broth with meat (see top pic). 

I swear I cured my poor inflamed gums thanks to this healing soup.

Fellow blogger, Annie Levy at Kitchen Counter Culture, suggested I used some of the broth for borscht, which I did, using my grandmother’s recipe.

And that is for the next blog post. 

Rhubarb Kimchi

Elisabeth Winkler:

I never know what to do with rhubarb (don’t like all the sweetness needed to make it palatable) so this is a welcome recipe from Annie Levy’s Kitchen Counter Culture blog.

Rhubarb grows plentifully now in the ‘hungry gap’ when the UK’s productivity of fresh produce is at its lowest.

Since Annie Levy introduced me to kimchi via a jar of plum kimchi sent by post, I make it regularly . This Korean condiment combines two fine attributes: zingy-taste and digestion-soother. Now with rhubarb, a third quality can be added: super-seasonal.

Rhubarb kimchi is the answer!

Originally posted on Kitchen Counter Culture:

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La la la la la la la LA LAAAAAAAAAH.  La la la la la la la.  LA.  LA.  LAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

Sing along with me, the Rhubarb Kimchi Song.  As Plum Kimchi heralded autumn, Rhubarb Kimchi will greet the spring. La La lalalalalalahhhh.

I pulled some stalks from a perennial bed I’d made last year.  Everything’s come up again, which is satisfying for a not-great gardener like me.

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Removed the poisonous leaves, and sliced them.

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And added some sea salt, some orange zest, and juice of that orange.  And some spring onions.

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And massaged the mix with a paste of chilli powder, garlic, ginger, onion seeds (kalonji/ nigella), and a little sugar.

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And smushed it down in a jar.  (The jar doesn’t need to be covered with a lid actually.  And I’ll keep it on a plate, because in the next few days the fluid is going to rise and fall.)

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Rhubarb Kimchi Recipe

Mix together:
12 oz/…

View original 169 more words

Bristol Metrobus protest protecting trees and soil

Makeshift field kitchen with two smiling cooks      

Instead of running away to join the circus, I would join a protest camp: outdoor places of learning and purpose, infused with community spirit and love of the land, they give me hope. 

I visited the Rising Up camp on Friday 13 February 2015.

The camp is protecting land and trees from a destructive and unnecessary road-and-bridge building scheme to create a bus route (Bristol needs more buses but not new roads).  

The soil at stake is part of the Blue Finger with prime agricultural soil. It is irreplaceable. Soil takes centuries to form yet can be lost in no time. 

Look at the timing: the destruction of these Bristol soils takes place in the year the United Nations has launched the International Year of Soils 2015 to alert the world to the destruction of a resource on which we depend for over 95% of our food. 

Look at the timing: The University of Sheffield has found UK’s soils are so degraded, there may only be enough for 100 more harvests, it warned last autumn.

Look at the timing: the destruction of Bristol’s soils takes place in the year that Bristol is European Green Capital 2015

In other words, one part of the system is aware of the importance of protecting our planet, while the other part of the system is intent on destroying it.

It is not only the trees and land of the allotments at Stapleton allotments and Feed Bristol that will suffer.

Here is the Metrobust 2015 calendar of city-wide destructionmetrobust-calendar-4

The Metrobus scheme received final planning approval on the 27 August 2014 from Bristol City Council planning committee, despite two years of protest. 

The following are worth reading: 

Court order for immediate possession

On Thursday 12 February 2015, Bristol City Council went to the High Court to evict the protesters and, surprise surprise, with the aid of top lawyers, Burges Salmon, (and supporters of Bristol Green Capital) won a court order. Above and below is a copy of the council’s possession order.

Court order for immediate possession

Court order for immediate possession delivered

A man (who gave me permission to take his photo but would not say where he was from) handed over the order on Friday 13 December 2015.  

Tree top camps Bristol

The tree top protestors hope to halt the felling of these irreplaceable trees.

Tree top camps Bristol Metrobus protest

Treetop protest Metrobus Bristol

Protected trees sign

The trees are protected – read the notice!

Bailliffs' steel fence and spotlights protest camp Metrobus Bristol

 At the edge of the protest camp, bailiffs set up flood lights last week which are kept on ALL NIGHT. 

Bailiffs' spotlight Metrobus Bristol

Which side of this steel fence would you rather be on?

Compost toilet Metrobus Bristol

Back in the protest camp, a beautiful village has sprung up including with a compost loo (above).

Field kitchen Rising Up camp

The field kitchen under canvas cooks healthy meals.

Lentils for the pot Rising Up protest camp

Leanna wields a packet of nutrition-laden red lentils.

Mishappen parsnip Metrobus Bristol

Leanna shows me a cosmetically-imperfect but perfectly-healthy parsnip – the kind of produce that would be rejected by a supermarket.

Cooking pot field kitchen Metrobus Bristol

Leanna who is studying nutrition tells me how she and Jack made the communal stew: Chopped onions and chilli coated in coconut oil and fried with spices to hand including turmeric and coriander spices, with water added to stew to cook the lentils and rice (providing all 8 essential amino acids) and parsnips and carrots (once muddy now scrubbed and cut), with fresh tomatoes and cauliflower and cabbage and fresh garlic added at the end.

Stew served at log table Metrobus protest Bristol

Stew is served on a log table.

Rising Up poster

The Rising Up notice (above) says, this situation:

“reveals the crisis of our systems and our leadership. If our Mayor cannot call for the design to be altered, to stop the destruction (and he says he cannot) who has the power to bring the beast to heel?

Perhaps it is only us“.

This Rising up camp shows people of spirit and principle proclaim a stand against the might of a mindless system that turns a blind eye to its own destructiveness. 

The brave protestors await the bailiffs to descend at any moment to remove them from the land and trees they are trying to protect.

Please sign this petition to show your support

– currently only 1,500 signatures away from 5,000! 

Coconut benefits banana bread

Banana bread

Funny to think that, as a child, I thought of coconuts as fairground shies, or Bounty chocolate bars. Yet coconuts are far more versatile than that. 

Coconuts produce coconut oil, coconut flesh, coconut milk, and coconut water, naturally and healthily.

Like hemp, coconut is nourishing, health-giving, and practical too. Think coir matting

Coconuts act as body moisturiser, teeth-cleaner, digestion-soother, rehydrater. And more. 

Coconut even sorts out head lice, according to Dr Mercola’s wondrous list of coconut’s varied uses.

If you love scientific facts and opinion with lots of swear words, check out Shannon’s Kitchen on coconut’s versatility and health reputation.

My coconut musing is prompted by a hamper full of coconut joy sent by Cocofina.

Cocofina coconut products

Cocofina have been cracking coconuts since 2005. The name says it all: Cocofina is made from fine young coconuts picked at their peak when its water is at its most plentiful.

To add to my joy, Cocofina is certified organic (by the Soil Association), which is shorthand for healthily-grown food, with no chemical fertilisers/pesticides to pollute soil, air, crops, wildlife and farm workers.

Cocofina’s big triumph is to produce delicious on-the-go nutrition energy bars. I sampled them with various energy-snack (and coconut) lovers, and their praise was unstinting.

And I love its coconut nectar – low-GI slow-release sweetness without that crazy thing that happens to my eyes (as if they are being squeezed) when I eat sugar.

(Pause to reflect on sugar – how it drove slavery, and now makes mental slaves of us all via obesity and the money markets).

To celebrate coconut happiness, I made banana cake, substituting sugar with coconut nectar, and coconut oil instead of butter.

Along with pre-soaked sultanas, this recipe produced a light, healthy cake, its bananariness lifted by nectar and complimented by coconut.

Banana bread

If you don’t have self-raising flour, add an extra egg. Keep the baking powder/bicarbonate of soda to a scant teaspoon – just enough to lighten the flour but not too much to impart its strange fizzy taste. Or even (boldly) omit and rely on beaten eggs instead.

2/3 large mashed ripe or over-ripe bananas (up to 500g/1lb)

125g (4oz) butter/coconut oil, softened

125g (4oz) caster sugar/4 Tablespoons coconut flower nectar or honey

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork until frothy with air

250g (8oz) self-raising flour (or ordinary flour with extra egg) I used gram flour made from chickpeas because wheat (argumentative fellow) does not agree with me.

1 scant tsp baking powder/bicarbonate of soda

Optional extras: sultanas soaked in water and drained, walnut pieces, cocoa nibs/lemon rind.

Oil 2lb loaf tin and line its base and sides with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

Rub in the oil/butter/fat into the flour (+ lightening agent if used) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sweetener and mashed bananas and lightly beaten eggs beating it well.

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Turn into the tin and bake for about 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean, covering if necessary so the top does not burn. 

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas. 

Happy eating! 

Diana Henry’s salt beef

Salt beef is a perfect meat for taking to a feast because it can be be prepared in advance and travels well.

It is ideal for a stress-free Christmas – no sweating over a hot stove all day.

Tender and aromatic, it can be served hot or cold with vegetables or salads. Or, traditionally, as a sandwich with mustard and pickles.

It is called salt beef because it is preserved (pickled) in salt a week before cooking. The brine is washed off so the meat is not salty. The joint is pressed, refrigerated, packs down neatly and should ideally travel in a cool box.

Carving the (pink-coloured) salt beef

Carving the salt beef

An animal lost its life to feed us so the least I can do is make sure it was well-looked after while it was alive – so the meat had to be organic.

I bought tied and rolled organic brisket from Sheepdrove Organic Farm where the animals graze on herb-rich pastures, live in family herds and express their natural behaviour.

 

I bought two briskets totalling 4 kilos (9lbs) in weight, and cut one in half so it would fit in my pans. This fed ten people for three meals.

I have never preserved meat before and, I won’t lie, it was nerve-wracking: would the meat go mouldy and thus ruin Christmas festivities? In the end I trusted my sense of smell to assure me nothing was amiss.

Reader, I nailed it. My 91-year-old mum said it reminded her of salt beef from her childhood, and my sister praised its subtle flavours.

Salt beef is not exclusively Jewish but “it is the Jewish community that has kept up the tradition,” says cookery writer, Xanthe Clay.

There are two main stages to salt beef: preserving in brine, then simmering in fresh water and vegetables.

The challenges to preserving:

  • Time: the raw meat is soaked for seven days in a salty solution
  • Maths: working out the right salt/sugar solution for the weight of the meat
  • Receptacles: they have to be non-metallic and deep enough to take the joint covered with water
  • Ingenuity: You have to keep the joint under water. I used bottles of oil etc (see pic below) to weigh down the meat.
Meat in brine weighed down by bottles lying sideways

Preserving the meat in brine

Salt is an ancient way of preserving food. (I have been using it to make gut-friendly sauerkraut and plum kimchi.)

The salty water (in which the food is soaked) is called brine. Salt beef traditionally uses saltpetre, too, to preserves the meat’s red/pinkness (otherwise it would be grey) and also to kill the bacteria that causes botulism.

Luckily, my sis’s boyfriend, Paul of 80s Rock Pics, had some saltpetre – nowadays hard to find – but available online.

There are health issues with nitrates but as I hardly eat bacon and other cured meat, I figure a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

Once the meat is preserved for seven days, the salty brine is washed off the meat.

The meat is then simmered in fresh water, carrots and onions for several hours. This produces a flavoursome broth. Keep the broth to heat-up the meat (if you want to serve it hot), use it as a stock or serve as a soup – it has the most amazing taste.

Meat in colanders under kitchen tap

Washing off the salt/sugar brine solution

Brisket in broth

Brisket simmering in fresh water and vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

After being drained, press the meat again (we used large plates with smaller bowls on top weighed down with heavy books to provide an air-tight press).

Wrap the meat well, and refrigerate. I used parchment lined-foil from Lakeland and secured it with gaffer tape.

My oracles were Evelyn Rose’s The Complete International Jewish Cookbook, that my mother gave me decades ago. Reliable and practical, it is much-used and loved.

My other main text was a recipe from Diana Henry, another favourite cookery writer.

I now hand you over to Diana Henry for her salt beef recipe.

Here is the ratio of salt/sugar to meat for the brine solution (in the preserving stage) to save you any brain-numbing calculations.

Ratios for brine

For each kilo/lb of beef

110g (1¾oz) of sugar

140g (2 1/4 oz) of salt

22g (1/3 oz) of saltpetre (optional).

Diana Henry’s salt beef

For the brine
275g (9¾oz) soft light-brown sugar
350g (12oz) coarse sea salt
2 tsp black peppercorns
½ tbsp juniper berries
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
55g (2oz) saltpetre (optional).

For the beef
2.5kg (5lb 8oz) piece of beef brisket
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 leek, cut into large chunks
1 bouquet garni
½ head of garlic

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a very large saucepan, pour in 2.5 litres (4½ pints) of water and gradually bring to the boil, stirring to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Once it comes to the boil, let it bubble away for two minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.

Pierce the meat all over with a skewer. Put it in a large, sterilised plastic box or bucket (something non-reactive) and cover the meat with the brine; it must be totally immersed. The best thing I’ve found for weighing it down is two massive bottles of vodka. Put them in on top of the meat and it will stay below the level of the brine. Leave in a very cool place (a cellar or a room that is always freezing cold – most houses have one). Leave it for seven days.

Take the beef out of the brine and rinse it. Roll and tie the meat and put it in a pan with the vegetables, bouquet garni and garlic, adding enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to simmering point, then leave to poach gently – I mean gently – for two and a half to three hours. Cook until the meat is completely tender (check with a skewer).

Season’s greetings and a happy shiny new 2015!

Brisket being pressed

Cooked brisket being pressed by weighty tomes

Three birthday cakes

Blue elephant with three red balloons

Artemi had given a clear brief for his birthday cake – an elephant with three balloons.

Like a good designer, I quizzed my client about his vision.

What colour for the elephant, I asked the soon-to-be three boy? And the balloons?

I paid a visit to a rare place (but lucky me on my very own high street): a traditional sweet shop, Scrumptiously Sweet, where the staff are trained to be kind and patient while customers agonise about icing, marshmallow fluffs and liquorice boot straps.

I baked the sponge in two circular cake tins, one bigger than the other.

I researched elephant cakes on Pinterest, then sketched my own elephant, first on paper, then with food icing gel on to the top of the cake – then carved out of sponge.  I felt like Michaelangelo.

I stuck faithfully to tried-and-tested cake and icing recipes (see below).

Melted blue chocolate drops melted covered the elephant.  Balloons were almond drages; eyes were white sweets with a blob of gel.

The elephant struggled to look like a proper elephant but none the less, he makes me smile.

Certainly Artemi said ‘elephant’ (or “éfant”) in recognition when I showed it to him.

A week later, I had my next commission, from Tayda.

Soon-to-be-six Tayda wanted a rainbow with clouds and a sun.

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She clearly detailed the seven colours. Help, I thought – this is going to take up most of my weekend. I baked one large rectangle sponge to split, and a smaller round one (sliced off at one end) to be the rainbow.

 

We scoured the sweet shop, and returned with booty. And cheated with the rainbow strips (only five colours!).

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Tayda relented on rainbow quality control and pronounced herself pleased. Phew.

Last year I made a Peppa Pig cake, and that deserves to be recorded too.

I drew the shape, then cut round the sponge.

Shape of Peppa Pig in sponge

Looks nothing like a pig, does it? The icing (in next pics) add pig-like detail.

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Here are the utterly foolproof recipes from my Hello Kitty cake – they made the above three cakes possible.

Recipe for Foolproof Sponge Cake

No need to cream butter and sugar. Instead, sieve the flour and mix in the other ingredients. I used organic ingredients for health of people and planet, and butter not marge. It seems strange to cook a sponge for a whole hour – but it works. Brilliantly. 

Serves: 12

340g (12 oz) self-raising flour | 280g (10 oz) caster sugar | 280g (10 oz) butter (or margarine) | 5 eggs |3 tablespoons milk (or soya milk) |

1. Grease and line two 20cm (8 inch) square or round tins and set aside. I used an 8 inch square tin and an 8 inch round flan tin, and did not skimp on the greaseproof lining paper.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 150 C / Gas 2, or 140 C for fan ovens.

3. Sieve self-raising flour into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and butter, then the eggs. I used my electric hand-blender, adding one egg at a time, blending after each one, until all ingredients were amalgamated. Once blended, some extra fast whizzes. The result: a thickish smooth batter.

4. Pour into the tins, place in centre of oven and cook for about 1 hour 15 mins, to 1 hour 30 mins. All Recipes says test with skewer: if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Honnie Mummie Perfect Butter icing

250 g / 8 oz butter | 500 g / 1 lb icing sugar | 4 teaspoons milk

For base (not Hello Kitty face), we carefully added drop-by-drop red colouring for a pinky effect, and mixed before adding the next drop.

PS There was a bit of drama last night when I realised I had only 300g (not 500g) of icing sugar and it was too late to get to the shops. But if you don’t experiment, you never learn, and now I know that 300g + about 150g butter and 1.5 milk/plant milk both fills (thinly) and covers a cake fine – in fact now I think of it I do always icing sugar left over…