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10 June 2015

Nepalese dining

Trying out recipes for Nepalese pop up restaurant, this Friday at CHAMP on Horfield, raising funds for Secret Garden Disaster Relief. Curried banana and aromatic rice...
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10 May 2014

Vegan Day 3

Good day of good food. I met an old friend for lunch and had a tasty butternut squash, pumpkin seed and chickpea salad with a delicious lapsang tea. Dinner was our regular store-cupboard favourite: kidney bean curry. (You can make it half an hour and one tin of kidney beans and one of chopped tomatoes serves 2). Also had an unusual evening talking to a WI group in Gloucestershire - apparently they've never had a debate before.......

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9 May 2014

Digging for victory

Admittedly there is nothing more in the war-time theme here other than the title - except perhaps for the fact that gardening was something my grandfather did during the war and passed on to my father who passed it onto me. I will be forever grateful of growing up in a home where having flowers to admire was equaled by having vegetables to enjoy all year around. Since moving to Bristol I have tried my hardest to maintain a kitchen garden, and fortunately given the space I have out back I have previously had a glass greenhouse and now several smaller polythene houses and tubs. When I first moved here I was delighted to find that the city was ostensibly a good place to think about growing your own food and buying locally grown and produced food (see image 4). I got on board and have been eating my own vegetables and herbs ever since including potatoes, carrots, mangetout, tomatoes, cucumbers (image 3), spring onions, radish, lettuce, courgette, turnips, as well as basil (green and purple), mint (English [image 1], spear, and chocolate), sage (green and pineapple), oregano (green and variegated), coriander, fennel, dill, Vietnamese coriander, lemon balm, parsley, and rosemary. While shopping at a well-known supermarket I noticed that a polythene wrapped back of herbs was 90p for around 30g. An entire plant was £1.50 – I sprung for the whole plant, with a view to planting it somewhere in our herb patch. However, by this logic my entire garden will be a herb patch by the end of the summer, so how can I prioritise? What herbs are most useful or practical to grow? Although I enjoy gardening I tend to attack the job in much the same way as my cooking, read the instructions, and then just have a go. Either it works, or it doesn't. Admittedly, I won't be running a farm (well) anytime soon, but it tends to work fairly well for me, but herbs? The bane of my life! Some I plant one year and the seeds never emerge from the soil, the next year I plant up the same thing and it grows and spreads ferociously (c.f. this years bountiful coriander, image 2). In the end I've resolved to plant herbs where I can without worrying too much about, while keeping in mind those that are a little more sensitive. If there's any advice I can give (and take myself) moving forward: mint should always have it's own pot (like potatoes it dominates and strangles other plants); and basil emphatically does not grow as well on this continent as it does in the Americas, don't put it outside, definitely don't put it outside before July, in fact probably keep it inside and nurse it like a child. Images: 1 - Preparation for mint julep cocktails, and perhaps more importantly, mint julep cupcakes 2 - Still trialing macarons, these from Stokes Croft with the soft green backdrop of our herb patch behind 3 - Cucumber seedling, grown from seed with a propagation table and hardening off in the greenhouse 4 - Bristol Food Connections talk at the Canteen, Local Food: Pollyanna or panacea?

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8 May 2014

Vegan Day 2

I think I made a mistake getting Oat milk, so it was muesli and water again. I also had olive oil spread on my toast, but the taste is not the same as butter - I probably shouldn't expect it to be the same........ Lunch Challenge: Bristol City Council sandwiches between a site visit and planning meeting. Yes there were hummus salad sandwiches and some deep fried samosas that had vegetables in. So good marks to BCC kitchens ! Supper: Spring Cabbage, Broccoli and Pasta Fairly seasonal spring cabage with pasta and garnished with garlic and fresh ginger fried. I spiced it up with some chilli and lime pickle...... Found it impossible not to have a mini egg and some raspberry chocolate from the cupboard........

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8 May 2014

May Day continued

@bishopstonsupperclub on Sat night where the talented Danielle is more than willing to cater for my allergy and without giving me anything that looks or smells significantly less divine that what everyone is having - hurrah! Four courses of amazing food with great company saw Sat night finished off in style. The less said about the trip to a random and pretty ropey bar in Cotham, the better! Home to bed at 2.30 happy and certainly not hungry! Sunday, not surprisingly, saw a rather more gentile start to the day who a wander down to Park Street to see 'Park and Slide.' In fact, all I could see from the top of Park street was the sea of humanity all the way down Park street and the massive throng on College Green - what a difference a day makes! Another wander round the Ark marquee and the marquees at Millennium Square provided me with some lovely sweet fresh English asparagus as well as a couple of different cheeses from local producers and some stunning looking lamb from a rare breed beastie with those pretty impressive horns! Can't wait to get time to cook and enjoy them (although quite a bit of the asparagus hasn't survived long enough to cook - so sweet that eating it raw is also a delight!)

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6 May 2014

Day 6: Local Food Tastes Better

I have done zero revision today and instead of feeling exceptionally guilty I actually feel great! I had two lectures so had no time to think about making an extravagant breakfast this morning, so porridge again but I added an extra twist by putting walnuts on top. It was great because this added to the creaminess of the porridge but also gave me an early morning protein boost. With lectures from 11-1 done I was about to head home until I remembered I had to pick up a report on Owl Pellets that I had completed last term. I think this is where today’s drive for revision died! I miraculously managed a first and after having a celebratory high-five with a course mate (so cool), I walked home with a spring in my step. I had another portion of my spaghetti bolognese for lunch and there is still yet another portion to go in the fridge! Instead of returning to my room and reading more exciting things about how plants have adapted to life on land, I spent the entire afternoon watching catchup TV on my laptop! Felt very cheeky. And the revision front didn’t improve after this… By 6 o’clock I had to go to my weekly Zumba class and revision time was disappearing fast! But with the combination of moves like ‘jazz hands’ and ‘milking the disco cow’ I had forgotten all about the need to learn more about plants and the only thing now on my mind was supper. This came in the form of roasted and pan fried chicken leg with roasted peppers, swede, onion and potato with some steamed broccoli on the side. Amazingly tasty! Chicken on the bone is so flavoursome. Think it also has something to do with buying it from the butchers – another reason to support our local food shops.

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6 May 2014

May Bank Holiday in Bristol

So the may bank holiday is finally over and what a weekend of food and fun filled Bristol brilliance it was! Started Saturday morning with a walk down to the ARK food market on college green which at 10.30 was calm and serene and gave me a great chance to talk to some of the amazing producers in the marquee, as well as to line up what I planned to buy on my way back up the hill! Then it was onto SS Great Britain and the market there organised by the ever lovely Sophie from @mullioncove. Any then back across the harbour (thanks handsome man in the ferry!) to the Food Connections marquees around the harbour and the BBC tents too. What a lovely collection of food goodness and what food envy I had at the street food stalls in Millennium square. Having a food allergy sucks most of the time but REALLY sucks when you see all this amazing food just waiting to be tried but can't do the trying! :-( So instead, into @Bristol to listen to one of the lectures organised by @Bristolconnections. 'Starting a food business' was a great hour of listening to local foodie wonders talk about how and why they started their businesses. Each one seemed to involve luck, inspiration, serendipity and a hell of a lot of hard work! The panel included Laura from @hartsbakery, Elly from the Pear Cafe, Nathan of The Milk thistle, Hyde & Co and the new (and booked on Sat til some time in June) The Ox restaurant, as well as a chap from Bagel Boy (supporting his appropriately corporate t-shirt) and the lovely (and ever young) Jenny Chapman as well as a PR chap and a lawyer. All led by the delightful and flowery languages Tim Haywood. A full audience listened intently to each story and asked some good questions as they strive to start their own dream in the food world. Back up through College Green (much busier by now and with the wafting smells of some stunning pizza - garlic allergy now a real pain) to head home. But the day was not done.

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3 May 2014

Increasing food efficiency - having your cake and eating the leftovers too

Currently I am practicing macaron recipes in preparation for a friends wedding at the end of May. For a day of celebration that is every bit in their character we are going to be partying in a Yurt somewhere south of the city with no wedding cake, but a tower of biscuits and cookies supplied by the guests! I once made macarons for a friend several years ago with a perfect turn out (if I say so myself) on my very first try. Now, two attempts in, and I've still got cracked domes, hollow shells, and too much buttercream filling (quelle horreur!)... BUT, this makes for an interesting conversation about food efficiency. Macaron shells are essentially meringues that require only egg whites, almonds, and sugar, leaving behind a good deal of unused egg yolk. Stuck with what to do about this I researched the fillings for macarons. A traditional buttercream filling is just that, creamed butter with powdered sugar; however, if I had taken this route I would have been left with a bowl full of egg yolks that I would inevitably put in the fridge and forget about. Instead, I found a recipe for French buttercream filling (apparently a variation on Italian buttercream filling, who knew?) that involves warming egg yolks with sugar over a bowl of simmering water and then whipping with soft butter. The result is a glorious (and, of course, dangerously calorific) bowl of thick, shining buttercream - the perfect filling for macarons. Having said this it transpires that if you use 6 egg whites to create your macarons, 6 egg yolks will make roughly two times as much buttercream as you need to fill them (hence my over-filling issues).On my second attempt this left me with 3 egg yolks doomed to a short life on the top shelf of the fridge before a swift slide into the trashcan afterlife. But all is not lost, since if you happen to be making these close to, or on, the weekend as I do, you can turn those egg yolks into a homemade Hollandaise sauce by similarly whisking over a bowl of hot water until they thicken before taking off the heat and whisking in some melted butter. Pour over poached eggs and bacon for a Benedictine breakfast! And remember to put your egg shells into food waste recycling, whether that's your own or the council collection service (you can request one for free here http://www.bristol.gov.uk/page/bins-recycling-and-street-cleaning/order-new-bins-boxes-and-nets).
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28 April 2014

Shopping at independent shops (when working all hours)

Working in a community cookery school has its perks - not least delicious lunches from our students. I am very lucky. I should cook from scratch and shop ethically - after all I have the skills and know lots of great local producers and independent retailers. BUT working long days/evenings/weekends means I don't always manage it. During the Bristol Food Connections Festival I pledge to only shop at independent food shops/stalls/markets. Perhaps this is madness, after all its the busiest 11 days of the Square Food Foundations calendar - but then again there will be loads of amazing food available in Knowle West and wider Bristol.... if not now, then when?

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