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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Crummy Brummie

A weekend break near Birmingham. A corporate event on Friday night and this was my place name card.

Great. They don't have my name but they do (more importantly) know that I'm vegetarian (although they couldn't spell it!) The meal was okay if not very adventurous; halloumi on lentils followed by a rather soggy filo mushroom tart.

The following morning at breakfast I watched a chef making omelettes to order. He had two on the go; one with ham and one vegetarian. The same spatula was used to stir both. I did challenge him about this and he apologised and produced a fish slice for the vegetarian one. I'm not going to name and shame the hotel as this probably goes on the length and breadth of the country in every B&B, hotel, pub and restaurant.

If you weren't vegetarian you wouldn't understand. My family know that utensils must be kept separate for meat, fish and vegetarian but only because I've brought them up that way. There is an element of "if you don't know it won't kill you" but I really think there should be some rules and regulations in place for working kitchens as part of the food hygiene training and certification. Raising awareness would certainly put our vegetarian minds at rest.

By the way, I didn't get to sample any of the Brummie culinary delights but can always eat some of the vegetarian foods which were invented in Birmingham. Typhoo Tea, HP Sauce, Bird's Custard and, of course, Cadbury's chocolate.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

As the glorious clear skies and sunshine of late autumn days turn to cold nights and frosty mornings, I see my rather sad looking herb garden. Where once there was an abundance of chives, oregano, marjoram, mints, basil and parsley, I am left with the hardier sage, thyme and rosemary. 

(My herb garden in June).

Luckily I have preserved some herbs for the months ahead:-

a) Freezing - basil, mint, chives washed, dried and stored in freezer bags.
b) Drying - marjoram, oregano and parsley tied at the stem & hung in a cool dry area.

This means they can be enjoyed during the winter months. They are never quite as nice as fresh but very useful in soups and stews where they just be crumbled in.

Herbs add a fresh taste to food. If I only had a small garden or a pot on a balcony I would definitely give it over to herbs. Not only do they look and smell amazing but it's a wonderful feeling to just go outside, snip a few home grown leaves and perk up a meal. 

After all, we are herb(ivores)!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Bon(fire) Appetit

November 5th in the UK is Bonfire Night. Back in the early 17th century our very own Yorkshire born Guy Fawkes was part of a gang aiming to assassinate King James I. They hid gunpowder below the Houses of Parliament and, basically, Guy Fawkes was caught and executed.

Since 1605 we have commemorated the event every year on November 5th. Now you might wonder why we celebrate the Gunpowder Plot. In actual fact we are celebrating the fact that it was uncovered and Guy and his gang were brought to justice. His effigy (the Guy) is burned on a bonfire and the fireworks signify what might have happened if the gunpowder had been lit.

It's a good time to have a bonfire with all the Autumn garden waste and debris. It's also a good time to eat comforting food whilst watching the burning guy and the firework display. Hot soups, jacket potatoes and chilli are followed (in Yorkshire) by a satisfying oatmeal cake called Parkin, Bonfire Toffee (treacle toffee) and Toffee Apples. 

Apples are abundant at this time of year and the tradition is to coat them in hard toffee or a sugar coating. A stick is inserted and they are eaten like a lollipop. When not standing around the bonfire, I prefer to bake my apple in the oven, again coated in melted butter and caster sugar for about half an hour. For the last ten minutes place a few pieces of toffee or fudge into the core-less centre until melted. Delicious served with cream, custard or ice cream.

It might not be the prettiest dessert, but it is scrummy.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Not on my (pumpkin) patch

Halloween this week and all things spooky, scary and sinister will creep onto the streets for trick or treating. It's an occasion for dressing up and having fun. The garden and house can be decked with spiders and cobwebs, witches and cauldrons, monsters and bats.

Pumpkins can be found in greengrocers and supermarkets, gardens and pumpkins fields. They are reasonably cheap and can be carved and displayed with a tea light inside to ward off bad spirits.

The best thing about pumpkins is actually the flesh and the seeds. It can be used in various recipes but my favourite at this time of year is soup.

- Chop the pumpkin into chunks, drizzle with oil and roast in the oven with onion, garlic and chilli
- Place in the liquidiser with vegetable stock and blitz
- Serve the soup with a soupçon of:-
- cream
- coconut milk
- olive oil
- toasted pumpkin seeds 
- fried sage leaves 
- dried chilli flakes
- nutmeg
- croutons

Pimp up your pumpkin!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Baby steps

I've touched upon it before. The fact that livestock production uses a third of the world's fresh water and that their emissions produce greenhouse gases. That, along with providing animal food, the land used to raise them and the transportation issues. Every time I read an article with these statistics it just blows my mind. Why? Why are we doing this to our planet? 

As vegetarians we probably do our "bit" but a bit could be bettered. Sustainability is the buzz word at the moment and we must all take responsibility for our actions to ensure the health of our environment.

Eating a plant-based diet which includes vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes is one answer. Sourcing these things locally, seasonally and sustainably is another. We also need to be mindful; eating smaller portions, shopping only for what we can use and avoiding food waste.

It isn't easy. I eat bananas but there is no way I can grow them or buy from local producers. I can buy Fairtrade and only buy what I can use. Small actions which can make a difference if we all do something

Recently I was encouraged to go back to having milk delivered. True, it is more expensive than the supermarket but at least I know it is produced locally so I am supporting local dairy farmers and not having it transported across the country. Also it is four days fresher than supermarket milk and it actually does taste nicer.

So let's jump on the sustainability trend and milk it for all it's worth!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Not mushroom for improvement

I've now become addicted to looking up the food significance of days in the calendar. Today, in the USA, it is National Mushroom Day. Mushrooms tend to have the Marmite effect, ie you love-em or hate-em. I am in the first group 'tho' don't like what I call funny mushrooms! Give me a button, chestnut or portobello but I'll pass on the rest. 

Many people find them a good replacement for meat because of the sheet meatiness of them. They are certainly filling and satisfying but I find some too slippery and slimy.

They are a good source of Protein, Vitamin D and Potassium.

I like them in omelettes, risottos, soup and cooked parmigiana style. 

However, you can't beat the simplicity of mushrooms on toast. My favourite method is to sauté them in butter, garlic and thyme, season with pepper and serve on toasted soda bread, topped with a poached egg. Divine.

Just got to hope you have a fun-guy joining you for brunch!

Sunday, 8 October 2017


Yes, today I have cause for celebration as my Blog has reached Ten Thousand reads! I am not on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media so somehow my little blog has grown all by itself. I love writing it each week and am very proud. Thanks to all of you, whoever and wherever you are.

Coincidentally it is also National Cake Week (2nd - 8th October) so, as if I needed an excuse, I have baked a cake. Embracing the fruits of Autumn I made Mary Berry's very best apple dessert cake. I forgot to add my 10,000 candles but they would have toasted the flaked almonds a tad too much anyway.

The cake was delicious but if that doesn't give you a sweet enough hit, it is National (USA) Fluffernutter Day (see Blog 27/8/17).