Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday cookbook is one of my favourites. Even Jerry has been known to compliment a meat free meal made from it's pages (no small feat). Several of his recipes call for pearled spelt, but I have never been able to track any down. Pearled spelt is dehulled, but then goes though an extra process to scratch the surface of the grain to facilitate water absorption (and therefore dramatically reduce cooking time as well).

Recently one of my net-buddies has started an online food store, The Mindful Trader*, and she invited customers and potential customers to request items we would like to see stocked in the store. Sensing the opportunity to set a challenge, I nominated pearled spelt. Lo and behold a few weeks later a supplier was found and it was in stock. I placed an order.

My first cooking with pearled spelt attempt was Speltotto - like risotto but, you guess it, with spelt. I've linked to the swede version of the recipe, but I made my speltotto with kale. Basically follow the recipe, but ignore the swede part, and in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking add shredded kale. I served with a few slices of poached chicken breast, loads of cracked black pepper and some grated chilli peccorino. Heaven. Honestly folks this leaves regular risotto for dead. The spelt has a lovely nutty/wholegrainy flavour, and retains a good grain texture as well - no glugginess. It also reheated brilliantly the following day.

Jerry was as verbose in his praise as it is possible for him to be about a meal with very little meat. He agreed it was much tastier than regular risotto, and said he would be happy to eat a lot more speltotto in future. Once the weather cools down a bit I am keen to try a version with roasted root vegies. I suspect it will be equally delish.

*Disclaimer: Although I know the owner of the Mindful Trader, I haven't been asked to write this post, nor have I received any benefit (financial or otherwise) for doing so. I just really like pearled spelt :-)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Berry bonanza

Yep, it's berry season again, and it's going to be a cracker!

So far we have picked 10kg of berries (raspberries, brambleberries, loganberries), plus just over 2kg of redcurrants. Blackcurrants will be picked before Xmas. I've frozen some berries, but today to sheer volume decreed that jam making was in order.

Out with my jam bible - Marguerite Patten's the basic basics series book on jams, jellies and chutneys. I spied a variation in the loganberry jam section for loganberry and cherry jam. That sounded pretty good, and I happened to have a kilo of cherries in the fridge.
Half an hour later 2kg of fruit and sugar became 10 jars of jam (I made a double batch). Looking forward to trying it once it has set (it tasted pretty good warm!). It has an amazing colour.

Recipe from Marguerite Patten's the basic basics series book on jams, jellies and chutneys
  • 450g loganberries
  • 450g cherries (weight when pitted)
  • 900g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Put the loganberries and water in a pan and warm on a lowish heat until the juice just starting to run. Add the cherries and heat until the fruit is soft. Add sugar and lemon juice and stir over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Turn up the heat, and boil until setting point reached. Leave to stand a few minutes and stir to distribute fruit. Put into jars and process as per your normal method.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dining spanish style....and longing for salads!

Spain isn't the best holiday destination for vegetarians....there is a decided lack of salad or vegetable offerings However, as Jerry's favourite things are meat, cheese and potatoes he was in heaven - although after two weeks of green-free eating even he was feeling nostalgic for some vegetables or salad. Here's a sample of some of our holiday meals.

Apple stuffed with beef and lamb mince - I must try this now we are home as it was delicious. I followed it with cheese and quince paste at Origens in Gracia. We ate here twice and really enjoyed the food, wine and service.
 Tapas for lunch in Barcelona ...again :-)
Tapas Madrid style - croquetas, meats and ceviche, followed by mojitos. But not just any mojito, I ordered the regular one, but we also tried the watermelon and (award winning) banana version. The banana one was the hands down winner. Amazing
 The best chocolate pastry of the whole trip (and I tried a LOT in at least 4 countries!) in Madrid
 Meat and potatoes, Madrid style
Relaxing at Alhambra in Granada with tapas: eggplant and honey, and more croquetas

More Granada tapas, and finally churros and chocolate...not the healthiest breakfast :-)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Yes, I still have a garden!

But it is going to be a lot smaller this year, as we were away until October so missed the main tomato/chilli/eggplant/capsicum seedling raising months. I did buy some plants at a local charity market, but not as many as I would normally grow from seed. It feels really weird to only have one bed of tomato plants!

I will probably only have about half of the beds in production this year for several reasons
  • work plus study means I have to scale back my garden ambitions
  • it will take a few more months to weed and rejuvenate some of the other beds
  • we are planning to move a few things around in the autumn, and redo the fruit cage so I'm deliberately not doing anything with some of the beds
To fill in the gap we're getting a weekly organic veg box again this year from a local CSA (community supported agriculture) family farm about 10k away. Can't argue with those food miles!

This overgrown mess is what almost all the beds looked like when we came back from holidays...although the garlic beds were looking in better shape!

New plantings - eggplant, chilli and capsicum, and lettuce and basil, with a few sugar snap pea seeds that hopefully will germinate soon.
The tomato cages are back in use again. This year I have planted tommy toe, black russian, mortgage lifter, another beefsteak variety, and two paste type tomatoes whose exotic names I can't remember!
Cucumber, herbs and a zucchini. On the right is the red table grape - this is the best it has ever looked in 5 years, and it has loads of fruit on it.
In spite of some curly leaf (I wasn't around to spray in time), the veg patch yellow peach tree is laden with fruit. Lovely! The other white peach in the mini-orchard is far less impressive. To the right are the raspberries and brambleberries - both promise to give us a good few months of berry delights.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Train food

While in Europe we took trains everywhere - far more relaxing and scenic (thanks to the man in seat 61 website for excellent train travel advice). The train from Paris to Barcelona was particularly enjoyable. We left Paris on a Sunday afternoon, so in the morning we went to the local market and bought a fabulous rotisserie free range chicken done with some magic herb mix, baguette (of course), tomatoes and lettuce.  A couple of bottles of wine and there's a perfect late lunch / early dinner while watching the scenery whiz by.
The next train trip long enough for a meal was from Madrid to Granada, a 4 hour trip arriving after 9.30pm so it made sense to pay the extra 20 euro to go first class and get a meal. Menu card and drinks card below. Dinner included an apperitif (cava for me) and a 250ml bottle of wine and three courses plus gazpacho. I wasn't hungry when I finished, and I've certainly had worse meals on airlines. The the little bottles of oil and vinegar for the salad that came around separately was a nice touch.

The most amazing thing about this train trip is that about half way to Granada the train goes from the main high speed line to a regional line - which has a different gauge. No mucking about changing trains though - the train goes through a shed where the undercarriage is adjusted, pop on a new engine and off you go, at an albeit more sedate pace!

I also travelled form Paris to Munich and back on theTGV to see friends - The smoked salmon blini was a bit much to stomach at 9am, but no complaints about the rest of brekkie (croissant, yoghurt and muesli, bread). Dinner on the way back was washed down with a light rose - menu below. This meal was particularly good, again consumed at 300+kph.
I really wish our trains were half...or even a quarter this good!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Brunch of champions

Literally...well, my german isn't fabulous but it translated into something like super healthy and yummy :-)

If you happen to be in F├╝rstenfeldbruck (near Munich) then I recommend the restaurant, Vierwasser (water view, I'm guessing!)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Aaaah Mr Slater, you make exceptionally fine cakes

Well, technically I made the cake, but it was Nigel's recipe...Nigel bills it as a 'pudding cake' of honey, cinnamon and plums. Jerry and I aren't big fans of cinnamon, but I thought ginger would work so I used that instead and it was perfect. Gave it a rich gingerbreadlike taste that really complimented the plums. The recipe calls for fresh fruit but I used home grown canned plums from last year.

I served it cool with some extra thick cream, but custard would also be very good on a cold evening (or, if you're Jerry, on any evening!).

The recipe is from Tender Vol 2,  and because I'm lazy you can find it here or here. I think the muscovado sugar really adds to the rich spicyness of the cake, so I encourage you to use if it you can get your hands on some.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Normal-ish service will resume soon!

Back from our outrageously long holiday, having had a lovely time catching up with friends and family in Europe. The grass was knee high apparently (THANK YOU to the lovely neighbour that mowed our acre (!!) of grass down to walkable height before we returned) and I almost couldn't find the veg patch under the overgrowth. Time for a radical redesign I think!!

In the meantime, here are some highlights from my week in Paris.

All good breakfasts should involve chocolate.
Goat cheese and bacon "bruscetta" - french style at a cafe just near the Theatre de La Gaite, and fabulous pea patties with a fennel and grapefruit and a beetroot and quinoa salad at Merci (fabulous place with a heart).

After lunches out this is the ideal dinner - baguette, cheese, cheese, more cheese, and some salad for balance (oh, and wine, of course).
Technically not Paris - a fabulous duck salad (breast and gizzard) followed by strawberry tiramisu (delish) on a day trip to Lille. Added bonus for this lunch was the excellent cello player busking about 2m away on the footpath. The other dessert is pain perdu (forgotten bread / french toast) with salt caramel ice cream.
Duck pate and goose pate with champagne jelly, strawberry chutney (must try and make some) and balsamic reduction. Followed by the most expensive chocolate eclair EVER (with gold dust). It was amazing, and I never need to eat another eclair again because it will never be that good. My waistline will be grateful!
 Coffee and macaroons at the Grand daaaahlings...and some of the best frozen yoghurt and blackcurrant icecream ever
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